((Storyteller’s Note: This one is kind of long. Skip it at your own peril, though. It’s *super* important.))
Allegedly set forth by the supposed progenitor of all Kindred, the Traditions of Caine are the basic laws of Camarilla society. These laws tend to be the default because, if nothing else, they’re simple rules that aid vampires in surviving in world of numerous armed kine. Even among the Sabbat and Inconnu, the Traditions hold some sway, but nowhere are they more powerful than within the Camarilla. The Justicars and Archons expect all Princes to enforce them, and every Prince has a strong motivation to do so, as they serve as the bedrock of her power.
That said, cunning or arrogant vampires will sometimes bend or break the Traditions in their quest for power. It is a dangerous game, however, as the Traditions largely have but one punishment—Final Death.
—–The First Tradition: The Masquerade—–
“Thou shalt not reveal thy true nature to those not of the Blood. Doing so shall renounce thy claims of Blood.”
Common sense dictates that Kindred not reveal their existence to the kine. Humans vastly outnumber vampires and, by virtue of their ability to act during the day, could easily snuff out the whole species if they became aware of their existence. The Masquerade can be broken in a number of ways, ranging from telling mortal friends and family about what you are to using obviously supernatural powers in the presence of kine who survive to tell others.
A strict reading of the Tradition would seem to deny the ability to keep Blood Bound or ghoul retainers, but typically the Masquerade is only deemed broken if the kine in question aren’t fully under the control of their master. So, you can tell your mortal friends how great it is that you’re a vampire, so long as they’re your ghouls, Blood Bound, or Dominated into submission. While cold-blooded murder is certainly an option, most Camarilla Kindred, being proponents of Humanity, prefer subtle approaches using Disciplines, the Blood Bond, base blackmail, or threats.
The penalty for breaching the Masquerade is singular and severe: Final Death. The risk of Kindred becoming known to humanity is simply too great to permit a lesser punishment. Most Princes are willing to accede to lesser penalties if you take pains to repair the breach, however, even if you’re not wholly successful.
—–The Second Tradition: The Domain—–
“Thy domain is thy concern. All others owe thee respect while in it. None may challenge thy word in thy domain.”
No Tradition causes more battles in the Jyhad, confusion among neonates, and punishment of childer than the Tradition of Domain. In short, it means that any territory you declare as your own and that is known to belong to you is yours to control as you see fit—but you must defend it and maintain it. Those within your domain owe you the respect to follow your dictates.
The problem, naturally, arises in how one defines “domain” in the first place. In the Camarilla, the most common interpretation is that the Tradition by default applies only to the Prince: it serves as the basis of her power, allowing her to rule by dictate and squash dissent at will. A Prince’s domain is the city that she rules. Most Princes permit the delegation of domains within a city, so long as their masters ultimately follow her laws. In a typical Camarilla city, the Primogen of a clan considers the clan his domain. Each city official considers her sphere of responsibility her domain, and every Kindred can claim his haven, his property (including ghouls and his own person), and any hunting grounds to be his domain. So long as their dictates don’t conflict with that of the Prince and the Traditions, they can do as they see fit.
Unsurprisingly, it’s violations of domain that drive the Jyhad. A Nosferatu might poach a Toreador’s ghoul, violating her domain—perhaps even with the permission of the Prince. A particularly territorial Brjuah may feel that her domain was violated by a Gangrel simply passing through it without asking permission first. The Tremere often consider all of Thaumaturgy part of their domain and take considerable offense at others possessing it. Violating any edict of a Prince, or any Tradition, is always viewed as a violation of the Prince’s domain—but merely telling the Prince how to do his job could be viewed as a violation of his domain as well.
As the Traditions specify no punishment for the violation of domain, the best most Kindred can do is stew—and plot their revenge. Only the most piteous (or foolish) Kindred petition the Prince openly for resolutions of such disputes, since most Princes view coming to them about an issue of domain as an implicit statement that you can’t hold it and are therefore unworthy of it. As “thy domain is thy concern,” if you can’t defend your domain, you don’t deserve to have it, or so Kindred believe. City officials are much better suited to hold their own domain, as they can employ their power to cause considerable harm to those they feel are disrespecting it. Princes, of course, can simply exile or destroy those who offend them.
((ST’s Note: Many of you have heard during Riverside Opera that the Primogen of the various sections of Memphis have Domain in those areas, which is true. Having Domain does not, however, give them the right of Destruction (see below), nor does it take away the Prince’s right of Domain over the entire city.))
—–The Third Tradition: The Progeny—–
“Thou shalt sire another one with permission of thine elder. If thou createst another without thine elder’s leave, both thou and thy progeny shall be slain.”
It’s common sense that the number of Kindred in a city must be kept relatively low, lest the kine get suspicious about missing people, fang marks, and other signs of vampiric activity. The Tradition of the Progeny enforces this rule by requiring that your “elder” authorize the Embrace.
Within the Camarilla, the “elder” is commonly understood to mean the Prince of the city. Petitioning the Prince for the right to progeny is often a time-consuming, complex, and costly (in terms of Boons) process; many Kindred want the companionship or services of a childe, so the demand always outstrips the supply. Many Princes require at least a Blood Boon for the privilege, and some demand a Boon merely for considering the petition at all. Some Princes require detailed information about the prospective childe so they can decide on his suitability for the undead lifestyle, and most require whoever the head of your clan is within the city to provide their blessing as well (and this too will likely cost a Boon). Princes rarely, if ever, grant the right to progeny to Kindred of high generations, particularly the 12th and 13th generations, for fear of the blood of Caine growing too thin.
The punishment for violations of the Tradition of Progeny is Final Death for both you and your childe. Princes nearly always hold to this, since control of the right to progeny is a significant advantage (if nothing else because it keeps their enemies from raising a Masquerade-breaching army). The tradition itself doesn’t prevent some Kindred from siring childer without permission, though. Gangrel, Brujah, and Caitiff passing through a city are all known to Embrace childer, then leave them to their own devices. In most cases, Princes destroy such unfortunates before they can break the Traditions—both to enforce the Tradition of the Progeny and also on the basis that an untrained childer has already broken some Traditions—but some Princes show mercy, particularly if a Primogen is willing to take custody of the childe and adopt them into her clan.
—–The Fourth Tradition: The Accounting—–
“Those thou create are thine own childer. Until thy progeny shall be released, thou shalt command them in all things. Their sins are thine to endure.”
Once you sire another vampire, you’re expected to teach them the ways of the Blood. The Tradition of the Accounting seeks to ensure the practice by holding the sire responsible for all of their unreleased childer’s mistakes. Some Princes are more lenient—or, some would say, more bastardly—by applying the punishment only to the sire, leaving the childe unscathed. These Princes claim the punishment of the sire serves as an object lesson to a wayward childe, while their subjects often complain that it simply gives sires a reason to abuse their childer and childer a convenient means to lash out at their sires.
The exhortation that the sire “command them in all things” is typically interpreted as the right for the sire to treat their childe however they wish, up to but not including outright destruction. The childe is considered part of the sire’s domain, and her edicts are law.
Unsurprisingly, different clans approach childer differently. Brujah, Gangrel, and Toreador are notoriously lenient, often treating their childer more as protégés than property. Gangrel in particular often leave their childer to their own devices to study their behavior and provide corrections from afar as necessary. Conversely, Nosferatu, Tremere, and Ventrue are quite restrictive, delivering punishment in far greater measure than praise and keeping their childer on a very short leash (rarely literally, except sometimes by Nosferatu). Malkavians are notoriously capricious and imaginative with their treatment of childer, claiming this aids in their “enlightenment.”
Because a childe has no true rights, save protection from destruction and any other rights a Prince might grant, the wise childe stays quiet and keeps his head down while learning the ways of the Camarilla. Kindred have many effective means of controlling their childer; the Blood Bond is the most obvious, since every childe begins at least one step bound to their sire, but others include physical and mental abuse, staking, provoking them to frenzy, and abusing their friends among the kine. In extreme cases, Princes are often willing to permit the destruction of a childe at a very minor cost.
The release of a childe is also the responsibility of the sire, who must decide the point at which he’s ready to join Kindred society—or, conversely, is such a burden and annoyance that the sire would rather just be rid of him. Typically, the childe is presented to the Prince and the Primogen of the clan, who accept the release and acknowledge the newly minted neonate. The release is typically performed at court, before the entire city. It’s a significant social faux pas to keep a childe for more than a decade (or, in America, a year or two), and it’s a great insult to the sire for a Prince or Primogen to refuse to acknowledge the childe.
—–The Fifth Tradition: Hospitality—–
“Honor one another’s domain. When thou comest to a foreign city, thou shalt present thyself to the one that ruleth there. Without the word of acceptance, thou art nothing.”
Princes have a vested interest in knowing who the Kindred in their city are. As such, all Kindred entering a city are required to formally present themselves to the Prince, usually at court, and state their business. The Prince then provides his acknowledgement (and the Acknowledged status trait) or demands the vampire leave the city immediately. A vampire without this acknowledgement is “nothing”—he has no rights, no status, and no protection of the Prince. Most Princes have a standing edict that any Kindred will be rewarded for bringing unacknowledged vampires to them for punishment.
In particularly large or unstable cities, a Prince may even appoint a Scourge whose role is to hunt down and drag to court those who break Hospitality. The Scourge is still a rare position, however, since few Kindred have a taste for such things and most Kindred—even independents and elders –follow at least the Tradition of Hospitality.
While it only technically applies to cities, the Tradition of Hospitality is often extended to include other domains. It’s simply good sense to notify the holder of a domain when you choose to operate within or even pass through it, as Kindred are notoriously territorial. Failing to notify the master of a domain of your presence is at the very least an insult and will almost assuredly result in significant interference in your plans. Most Kindred require no payment for merely living in their domain (depending, of course, on its size), but very few will allow the building or exploitation of influences there without proper Prestation.
Violations of a Prince’s Hospitality are usually punished with a brutal interrogation and beating as well as negative status, but rarely will a Prince destroy those who hide from his gaze (unless he suspects other wrongdoing). Being dumped outside a city nude, penniless, and with broken limbs just before sunrise is the more likely consequence if the Prince is particularly offended by your presence, or should you refuse to depart peacefully when refused acknowledgement. Violating another’s Hospitality has no guaranteed consequence save attracting their ire and provoking retribution.
—–The Sixth Tradition: Destruction—–
“Thou art forbidden to destroy another of thy kind. The right of destruction belongeth only to thine elder. Only the eldest among thee shall call the blood hunt.”
Originally, the Tradition of Destruction was understood to allow sires to destroy their progeny, and to allow the Antediluvians and Methuselahs of a clan the right to order their clans to hunt down and destroy traitors. Since the Convention of Thorns, however, the Camarilla understands the “elder” and “eldest” in the Tradition as the Prince of a city. Only the Prince can authorize the destruction of another Kindred, and only the Prince can call for a blood hunt—the direst punishment that can be levied upon a member of the Camarilla.
The blood hunt, or lextalionis, is an ancient tradition that predates both the Camarilla and the Sabbat. No matter the name or who practices it, the process is the same: a powerful Kindred formally demands the destruction of a target, often offering considerable rewards to those who can prove they performed the deed.
In the Camarilla, all Kindred of a city are bound by honor to participate in the hunt. Even the squeamish rarely refuse, as the blood hunt is typically only called upon true villains who have both breached the Traditions and have few, if any, friends in the city. If nothing else, the offer of a boon from the city is usually sufficient enticement. A rare few Princes even offer those who catch the target the right to diablerie, though many Princes simply look the other way if diablerie is “accidentally” committed in the course of a hunt.
Violations of the Tradition of Destruction are normally repaid in kind. Princes hold nothing so dearly as their right to destruction, and their reactions to those who attempt to undermine are universally harsh. Merely attempting or plotting to destroy another Kindred can raise the ire of a Prince and provoke punishments ranging from public chastisement (and loss of status) to the removal of limbs.
Some Princes are willing to retroactively authorize the destruction of another Kindred, however, in return for proper Prestation or if they simply didn’t like the vampire in question. Many modern and younger Princes will overlook a violation of the Tradition of Destruction if it happens in self-defense; those Kindred who hail from America in particular are fond of this exception, as they feel it leads to a more “polite” society. European Princes simply tsk and shake their heads, but even they know it’s often best to ignore a violation when the entire city was clamoring for some vampire’s demise.
Of course, nothing in the Tradition of Destruction prohibits more creative punishments for those who vex you. While a Prince, Primogen, or Harpy can certainly employ their sense of propriety and fair play to reduce that status of those who, for example, stake members of other clans and bury them in unmarked graves in the countryside, the Tradition of Destruction doesn’t prevent such acts. It does, however, cover acts that are guaranteed to result in Final Death, such as putting a staked vampire in a building and burning it down, or leaving a staked vampire out in a field to greet the sun.