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The Curia Covenant

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By Kismet Rose + Nathan Light

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Introduction

They say the Roman Empire fell long ago, but the undead know better: its spirit lives on in one of the few vampiric covenants with global reach. Of course, since the Curia assumes all vampires fall under its purview, its estimations are inflated, but it is the largest known sect. The Curia traces its origins to roughly 50 B.C., when Kindred traveled to Rome for a unique assembly. They were concerned about a tide of new leeches running loose in their territories. They also saw a need for the Empire’s structure and values in Kindred life. Using current customs as a guide, these elders agreed to reorganize supernatural affairs. Then, they spread their fellowship regionally, to the furthest reaches of the Empire. Over the following centuries, more tenets were developed for private and public life. These are the strict laws the Curia is known for in modern nights.

Curia vampires - known collectively as Curiae - are usually surrounded by humans and ghouls, since the sect promotes personal power and responsibility in the mortal world. After all, it’s in every vampire’s best interest to keep the city and its blood supply safe. Living connections also help Kindred keep up with the times and hold onto their humanity. And retaining one’s humanity is the key to staying in control, not just for one night but for centuries. The Curia preaches tight control of the Beast. Order and stability are paramount, and sanity is fragile. Since vampires tend to bring out the worst in each other, larger groups are discouraged. A sire, a mentor, and a few carefully chosen allies are the most a Kindred should need night-to-night, in ordinary circumstances. Their formality and repression give Curiae a stuffy reputation, but they tend to enjoy some of the wealthiest and safest havens around.

Despite being a long-standing sect with rigid organization and a lengthy history, disagreements occur about nearly every facet of its existence. Some argue that the Curia began in ancient Greece among philosopher-vampires, but they can never agree on which changes should be made to the Roman model. A few cities link Curia teachings to religious doctrines, which is allowed but rarely lasts long. In the era of the internet, young idealists foment rebellions that might actually shake things up, but they’re just as likely to lead to Blood Hunts and widespread destruction. Despite all arguments, the Curia and its ways remain largely intact, with local variations that don’t stray far.

Overview

The Curia spread with the Roman Empire at its height and became entrenched in Southern Europe and the Byzantine Empire during its decline. Princes began sending delegations to unaligned cities, which led to steady gains in the early Middle Ages. These ambassadors parlayed with local rulers, offering the same Compact of common methods, goals, and alliances in exchange for allegiance. Once sealed in blood, current leaders were left in place, at least for a time. They could request aid from regional Princes (for a price, of course, but less than they would have paid as strangers). A representative called a quaestor was sent to live in a new Curia city to teach the sect’s ways and monitor progress. If a city largely accepted and conformed to the Curia’s ways, it was fully accepted, and the quaestor could be sent on their way. If most Kindred rejected the system and the city became unstable, replacements arrived to take over or reinforcements were sent to support a swift, local coup. This basic process has not changed much over the centuries.

Curia territories have always been more vulnerable to assaults by outside forces than corruption from within. That’s as true in modern nights as it was during the invasions that weakened Rome. And the reasons for that are set into the foundations of the system: consistency, hierarchy, rewards and penalties. Princedoms change hands, but not often, which means customs stay in place. Consuls keep reading the pulse of local Kindred so they can stop schisms or tyrants from going too far. And what they fail to discover, Sheriffs often find. Anyone who deviates too far from what is expected of them is investigated, which helps root out spies before they get far. And the incentives for reporting misbehaving Kindred are usually generous enough to encourage snitching.

But Curiae can often be caught without the means to defend themselves, especially since they travel with few Kindred. Their ties to institutions are not always difficult to uncover, destroy, or use as leverage. The more brutal their enemies are willing to be, the worse Curiae tend to fare, if only because they care about the body count. Some say they grow soft from trying to be too much like humans, and that may be true, but it’s also plain to see that they have too much to lose. And the more outraged they become, the more they risk losing themselves to the Beast when seeking revenge. Firm command of police and military forces has been the saving grace of many Curia elders, but only if they were able to act in time. What’s worse is that the Curia’s key opposition, the Plague, has spent centuries devising new ways to attack. Violent raids might be exciting, but they are rarely the first tactic; they come after months or years of Plague spies preying on a city’s weaknesses.

Regulations

The Curia is founded on the Traditions, a set of restrictions formally known as the Ius Lamia. They are the most strict rules of the sect with the harshest penalties for violation because they provide the stability that all vampires need to survive. No one is above the Ius Lamia, and high ranking Curiae have been assassinated by the dregs of their cities for trying to hide their sins.

The First Tradition: The Separation

The First Tradition demands The Separation - that is, the separation of the mortal and supernatural spheres. Trusted and controlled servants may come to know about the existence of the otherworldly but they must never be let into secrets, able to prove anything, or allowed to share their knowledge with others. This not only includes knowledge of vampires but the secrets of other supernaturals. It is far too dangerous for mortals to know for sure that the supernatural exists.

It is the duty of all Kindred to pervert what is written, spread false tales, and ruthlessly squash rumors on the right track. Any records must be claimed and hidden or destroyed outright. Mortals must have their memories fixed, their reputations ruined, or their lives taken to protect the hidden world around them. There are no exceptions to this rule, and Embracing a troublesome mortal is usually seen as a violation, leading to an immediate Blood Hunt against the sire and their offspring.

The Second Tradition: The Domain

The Second Tradition, The Domain, follows ancient precedent about one’s home. Even the lowest vampire deserves a place to call their own. It might be a small parcel, but while a vampire is in their domain, their word is to be respected first and foremost (so long as it doesn’t violate other Traditions). Curiae are also held liable for what happens on their property, especially when it comes to protecting Kindred interests. Curiae must keep an eye on any land they have been granted by the Prince or Princess.

Likewise, the domains of others must be honored. A vampire is expected to announce their presence when they are in another vampire’s territory, regardless of status, and are expected to report problems to a domain’s master. This is meant to prevent hunting in others’ backyards and other intrigues that lead to violence. If a vampire fails to shepherd their domain or grossly violates that of another, they will lose their claim altogether. This Tradition also extends to vampires in a new city; they must seek the Prince or Princess’ leave to stay before doing anything else. Failure to do so could lead to exile before sunrise or, in hotly contested cities, immediate execution.

The Third Tradition: Family

The Third Tradition is that of Family and calls for responsibility over Kindred one has created or agreed to mentor. The local ruler must give permission to Embrace; unauthorized Kindred are usually destroyed. A vampire must announce to their Consul if they are taking on a ward. Either way, a younger vampire’s actions reflect on their elder. They must not be allowed to engage in reckless behavior, and their superior is liable for their messes. A vampire should only be released as their own master once they have proven they will follow Curia dictates. This means a sire or mentor can be tied to underlings far longer than they anticipated - and will likely be blamed if their students make grave mistakes in the first years following their release.

Related to this is a restriction on destroying fellow Kindred. Curiae must seek permission of the Tribunal to kill another member of the sect (other sects may be fair game, depending on the local ruler and relations). They must address the Prince or Princess if they believe a Consul or Sheriff should be executed. At any level, a petitioner must prove the target deserves to die and bring evidence of their crimes, and the ultimate judgment is not in their hands. A petitioner can be granted the sole right to hunt the offender, but another vampire may be given the task instead (often, the Sheriff).

If an offender is particularly dangerous or their crimes are egregious, a Blood Hunt will be instituted. Once proclaimed, a Blood Hunt gives the offender until sunrise to escape the city and invites all Curiae to join in the pursuit. Great prestige comes from bringing down the condemned. The offender’s domain, ghouls, mortal ties, and other resources are also open to attack (or can be claimed by others in the process), so long as they are not too public or important. In any case, the Princess or Prince usually has the final say; a Tribunal can overrule them, but this is rarely practiced.

Key Tenets

The Curia is rich in philosophy and advice to guide nightly life, but in truth, every parable and treatise is based on a few key tenets. These come directly from the mors maiorum, the “way of the ancestors” that guided Roman society. They have been expanded upon to account for the unique pressures Kindred face in the battle for sanity over the ages. The respect one gains for following them is largely the same, however, and the social penalties for being weak in these areas can be just as oppressive as they were in the ancient world. Younger Kindred have resisted these ideals more in recent centuries, as such customs have seemed increasingly out of step with the mortal world. The old ways continue to win - at least until dissatisfied Curiae jump ship to another sect, a violation which may or may not be forgiven by local rulers.

Pietas

Pietas is taught as dutiful respect, particularly for those above you but extending to all in the sect. Those in command should be obeyed, and fellow Curiae should be treated as distant relations in a family with noble heritage and high expectations. After all, one cannot claim to be superior without acting accordingly, especially with other vampires. At least a pretense of civility is expected at Kindred gatherings where violence is forbidden (which is to say, the vast majority of Curia events). Sires and mentors are to be given great respect at all times. Sires give the gift of eternity; mentors grant guidance even to those not of their making.

Gravitas

To practice pietas, one must cultivate gravitas - honorable self-control. This is even more difficult for Kindred, whose Beasts are always threatening to lash out. Therefore, in the Curia’s philosophy, gravitas represents a necessary, ongoing dedication to restraint. The Beast has no room for love, honor, or empathy; it cannot create or preserve. The release and power it offers lead to oblivion. Mortals fail to control themselves because of their ignorance and hurry to live while they can, but vampires can learn more than a century can grant. As such, vampires should strive to see the larger picture and avoid the stupid errors mankind makes repeatedly.

The bottom line of gravitas is this: Vampires should be better than human or Beast. The greatest gifts of the civilized world - art, community, love - should be used to strengthen a vampire’s hold on reality. These things only make a vampire weak if they lose control or give up responsibility. A Kindred who is too coddled by luxury to defend herself is not honorable; a vampire too kind to protect what they love does not deserve it. When the time comes for bloodshed, it should be logical, necessary, and swift. And if the Beast prevails, amends must be made. Above all, they must not keep giving in. Gravitas is the only way for a vampire to win their mind in the war against the ages.

Fides

The last tenet involves the concept called fides. Mortals might not expect a sect of vampires to espouse trustworthiness and reliability, but these ideals are as important as the others. This does not mean that vampires cannot have secrets or tell lies; the world does not allow for that. Instead, it means that in the most vital matters, Curiae will tell the truth and that can always be relied upon to work toward the greater good of the sect. They can be expected to keep their promises and will not hesitate to swear Blood Oaths, if the situation calls for it. They will have no other affiliations more important than the Curia. Members will not sell each other out to enemies and will not support intrigues that weaken the Curia. This includes serving other supernaturals, especially demons, since they go against pietas, gravitas, and fides by their very nature. Fides is what keeps the Curia strong in ways that other sects are weak. It maintains order and upholds brotherhood in the long night. Failures of pietas might go against elders and failures of gravitas might harm mortals, but violations of fides go against everyone and everything the Curia stands for.

 

Titles and Duties

Prince/Princess

In the beginning, a Curia city was led by two Consuls who were agreed upon by the local populace. These were usually the eldest and most established vampires in the city. But this often led to stalemates, so the office morphed into a single Imperator/Imperatrix. In medieval times, the office became known as the Prince or Princess, which continues into modern nights. While age is still important, what’s required to become the ruler is support from a majority of the Consuls and a confirming vote of their Tribunal. More younger vampires have ascended in the last 500 years than the previous thousand, which has led to smaller changes more than great shifts.

The Prince or Princess has broad powers over all other Kindred in his or her domain: doling out parcels of territory as domain, approving petitions to sire new vampires, and handling dire breaches of city safety or the Traditions. He or she can also restrict uses of powers or objects, access to particular mortals, and the creation of ghouls, but being too restrictive will cause backlash. In all but the most urgent matters, the Tribunal has a voice and can vote to override the ruler, but the Prince has the final say over anything that the Tribunal cannot reach a consensus about.

Consuls

Members of the local Tribunal are elected to represent and guide various groups of vampires. Consuls need a reputation more than anything else, so patience and popularity propel them more than age alone. Which groups have enough power to be recognized and vote depends on the city in question. Some Consuls represent strains of Kindred, particular lineages, life stages (neonates, ancillae, elders), powers, or eras. For instance, if a city has many Kindred who Turned* or were Embraced during the Roaring 20s, they could elect a member to send to the Tribunal. While a representative can be refused or ignored, that can be a dangerous mistake, depending on who stands behind them.

Consuls are diplomats, first and foremost. They are expected to learn the concerns of their group, dispense advice, and assign mentors to new undead (if none step forward). They gather intelligence about mortal or supernatural events that could impact Kindred and decide what is worthy of taking to the Princess. This often means that Consuls act as ambassadors to other supernatural creatures, assign vampires to influence mortals or institutions, and check up on the ghouls of their underlings. But if they really want to advance their agendas, they have to get to know other Consuls and seek to win their votes. Together, the Consuls form the Tribunal that balances the power of the Princess.

But Consuls are not simply advisors and politicians. They are responsible for punishing non-capital offenses if no sire or mentor has done the job, including seizing assets, restricting territory, or forbidding contact with specific people. An underling can appeal a harsh sentence to the Princess, but doing so can be a terrible error - whatever she decides is final, and the Consul will not be happy about being overridden, either way. There are cities without Consuls but they tend to leave the Princess overwhelmed with her duties. Likewise, there are areas with weak Princesses and all of the real power in the hands of the Tribunal, but they are usually plagued with intrigue between the Consuls. Regardless of the imbalance, the city suffers as problems fester before they can be resolved.

Sheriff

A few famous Imperators during the Empire had Prefects: warriors tasked with military matters in the territory. A Prefect was given permission to move freely, inspect any suspicious location, and take Kindred in for judgment. When a threat was imminent and grievous, a Prefect had the authority to destroy it. This position was rife with potential for abuse and did not work in many cities. In later times, a Knight was given a code of conduct by the Princess and the Tribunal ensured abuses were fewer and tolerable. In the 1800s, the post was renamed to blend in with law enforcement; a Sheriff in America is called by a similar rank in other countries. They patrol the area for significant threats to Kindred interests and investigate leads from other sources. They handle vampires lost in frenzy and witnesses to unusual events. Sheriffs can be ordered to guard particular Kindred and to act as an executioner. A Sheriff is appointed by whoever holds the most power - Princess or Tribunal - and generally loses their rank if their patron(s) are ousted.

Other Common Offices

Other officials may be appointed by the Princess or voted on by the Tribunal, depending on the city’s needs. Many cities have Messengers to deliver communications to other territories. Provisioners are also common: they keep track of clean blood and areas where prey is sparse, and their counsel is sought anytime new domains are considered. Places that value lore have Archivists, those with many Kindred events have Seneschals, and those that embrace mysticism have official Oracles. Particularly rigid courts have Oathmasters to track Blood Oaths and debts; decadent courts have Revelers to handle the lowest entertainments. Lesser offices, such as Morticians and Scouts, are filled as necessary by Consuls or Sheriffs.

Any of these offices can be chosen or appointed. While enterprising vampires can maneuver their way into power, they can often be stymied by opposition or lack of support. On the other hand, vampires with no political aspirations may find themselves with titles they did not want. Some are trusted to do the work; a few are widely adored or feared. Others are given duties as a kind of test or to put a check on their personal power. Few Kindred are able to turn down a title, especially one offered in at a public event. And much can be lost - either by refusing or doing the work poorly.

Members

As stated previously, the Curia assumes vampires are under their banner until shown otherwise. This includes the newly Turned, the ancient, and everyone in between. But it does not mean all cities and vampires are immediately granted privileges; it just means Curiae will be non-aggressive and offer membership when they meet unknown Kindred. They will also assume that other vampires want the civilization and order the sect provides. This assumption is seen as arrogance by many - and it’s certainly based on the belief that their way of unlife is best - but has led to more new members across the globe than violent overtures.

Adjusting to the Curia lifestyle is rarely as easy as it seems when the Compact is sealed. Even peaceful vampires balk at all the new rules, the presence of a quaestor, or the blanket denial of the Beast. Some Kindred resent being forced to rely on the living and give them so much of their time. Those from poor and disadvantaged backgrounds may find the dogged pursuit of wealth and influence over mortals to be distasteful, especially since mortals who disappoint Curia standards are so easily discarded. Some vampires desperately want the control the Curia offers but struggle to change their ways.

Another obstacle for many is how easy it has been for mortal prejudices to influence Curiae. Stereotypes and grudges other vampires disregard, especially after becoming undead, are more common in the sect. This has led to skewed Kindred demographics in some cities as the Embrace has been reserved for the “elite.” In areas where most vampires Turn on their own, they have faced more roadblocks to success. Historically, slaves have had to work much harder to earn regard and rank. People from various racial and ethnic groups, religious faiths, and women have to deal with this resentment, whether they are living, ghouls, or undead. Many persist, one way or another, but some move elsewhere or to other sects rather than deal with this added layer of unfairness.

Rituals and Observances

The Curia has not been known for mystical events. Cities are free to invoke whichever gods they like, and religious services were common in ancient nights, but few bother with occult matters in modern times. Instead, gatherings celebrate milestones and achievements like the following.

The Introduction

A vampire’s formal introduction to Curia society generally occurs after the Embrace, but for those who Turn on their own, it happens once a mentor and the ruler has accepted them. It is as close to a birthday celebration as vampires get, with as many Kindred as possible in attendance. Small gifts (usually minor favors and cash) are expected, but extravagant gifts are usually shunned by the initiate’s sire and mentor. Not only are they seen as suspicious ploys for the initiate’s affection, but they are also viewed as spoiling a vampire who must learn to strive for what they deserve. While Kindred can call on the new vampire after their introduction, it is only good form to do so through their sire or mentor. Trying to meet with them privately while they are freshly undead is a faux pas that could result in words with a Consul.

The Release

It is not every night that a young vampire is deemed worthy of becoming their own master and a member of Curia society in their own right. Thus, a ceremony is held to memorialize and applaud the work of the greater vampire and the attainment of the lesser. It is a highly ritualized service, and being present for such a solemn occasion tends to gain favor with elders. The sire or mentor is chained to their underling and must walk up an aisle barefoot over a path of hot coals, traditionally one foot of coals for every 2 years of the relationship. Those who show little pain during the process enjoy additional respect from the Kindred in the weeks to come. A participant who tries to escape the coals dooms the whole ritual, which cannot be performed again for another two years, adding another foot of torment to the walk.

If they reach the end of the coals, the appropriate Consul will announce the achievements both participants are known for and strike the chain apart with a sword. At that point, the service of the sire (or mentor) is finished and their childe (or ward) announces their name to all. Some younglings change their names to honor their guides or start new personas. As the feet of the participants are cleaned by ghouls, the guests rise and form lines to offer their thoughts and gifts. Once that is done, a reception follows. The participants’ wounds are not healed until the last guest leaves; their discomfort is a reminder that they must step carefully on their own in the nights to come.

Ascension/Descent

The rise of a new Prince, Princess, or Consul is celebrated as they see fit (generally, in grand fashion, for at least a night but sometimes as long as a week). Extravagant gifts and favors are welcome but any Curiae can attend, including fresh members with little to offer. The newly elected official can host the event entirely on their own or accept donations; there are benefits, either way. Being able to afford a bash without aid is seen as a sign of strength, while inviting the community makes donors feel valued.

On the flip side of the coin, the demise of a long-standing member is a blow to the community. As soon as it is safe to do so, the Consul who represented them is expected to hold a memorial. It is common practice for Consuls to include the input of childer and wards into the ceremony. The ritual itself can be a simple sharing of memories by those who attend or a religious service. If the deceased was a member of an obscure faith, the ritual can be quite odd, but guests are expected to bear it. Childer and wards work with Consuls beforehand to decide how to deal with the deceased’s estate. Any bequeathments are made at the end of the ceremony, including gifts to enemies, which are not unheard of. This can be a way to smooth old grudges, so it is common for enemies to stay through the entire service for those they loathed.

No matter the case, rituals which involve “lower” instincts and wild ecstasy - including drug-infused orgies, mass brawls, and the like - are heavily frowned upon. These activities cater too much to the Beast and are seen as dangerous and unnecessary risks. The Plague and Setites are also known to embrace such forbidden fruit, so urging Curiae to steer clear also keeps them from being seduced into jumping ship.

 

* This sect was created for our home games, in which vampires can Turn spontaneously for a variety of reasons, along with being Embraced. It is one of three widely popular factions that we've revamped, along with the Plague and Setites. [Return to Previous Section ^]

 

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