Riverside Opera Lore: The Independent Alliance
What is the Independent Alliance?
Any exploration of the Independent Alliance must begin with the Accords.
In recent nights, the Camarilla and Sabbat have begun an era of aggressive expansion unlike any other in more than a century. What began with the overthrow of the Roman in Memphis escalated into displaced Sabbat members attacking Chicago, Louisville, and other cities, which begat the Imperium, which begat more Sabbat incursions. The problem hasn’t been isolated to the New World, either. In Europe, the Sabbat, fearful of the growing boldness of the Camarilla and desperate to grab as much territory as possible, began assailing Independent cities, including Bucharest, Kolkata, and Tehran. After all, the Sabbat leadership reasoned, they are occupied by independents, who have no sect to support and defend them, so there is little risk of retribution from outside forces.
To confront and halt this assault, the Giovanni invited the embattled Assamites, the angry Followers of Set, and the frightened Ravnos to Venice to negotiate an accord. In addition to large delegations of those clans, the Italians invited other vulnerable parties to Sabbat incursion—yet only their estranged cousins in the Samedi, the autarkis Tzimisce, and the Salubri made an appearance at the conclave. After months of bargaining, negotiation, and intrigue, the representatives from the gathered clans and bloodlines signed the Independent Accords.
Thus, the Independent Alliance was born.
Where the Sabbat consider themselves to be the Sword of Caine, fighting against the monstrous Antediluvians and the Camarilla considers themselves to be polite vampiric society and the Antediluvians to be little more than myth, the Alliance consider themselves to be the protectors of the old ways and hold their progenitors in high esteem. Some Assamites and Setites are even positively fanatical about the worship of their respective Antediluvians.
In fact, during the conclave to align the sect, many of the sticking points on such an alliance came down to religion. Each member clan and bloodline has dogma pertaining to the mysteries of the universe, and each has a rich heritage and cultural history that is uniquely their own. Finding common space in which all of them may exist was a challenge, but it became less so when, near the end of the talks, the most vehement critics of Article VI, the Assamite contingent who were a part of the Web of Knives, abruptly left the conclave and another representative from the Clan stepped forward in their place.
More than anything else, the Alliance is a sect where belief, the old ways, and the study of history and mythology are accepted and embraced. It is where those who do not wish to remain a part of the never ending conflict between the Camarilla and the Sabbat might find safe harbor. Even members of the Camarilla pillar clans may renounce their previous sect and pledge their allegiance to the Alliance, though it comes with the drawback of being a Probationary Sect Member.
The Independent Alliance is a sect built on honor, loyalty, and respect. Even the member bloodlines, which are often not provided the same rights and privileges in court as full clans, are considered to be full members of the Alliance and are afforded the same protections.
Perspectives on Other Clans and Sects
Though they claim to be independent, the Alliance does have some bias toward some clans and sects over others. Generally, they have an enormous distaste for and need to keep a healthy political distance from the Camarilla, but they loathe the Sabbat. While the Camarilla wears blinders to the truths of the Antediluvians, the Sabbat actively seek to destroy them, and that is heretical to a degree that no clan in the Alliance can abide.
While they don’t actively seek to convert members of any sect, the Alliance is sometimes open to the petitions of like-minded Kindred from the Camarilla or Anarch movement who renounce their Status and obligations to their home sect.
Positions and Prestige
Instead of Status, the Independent Alliance use a system of societal structure based upon Prestige. Roughly speaking, Prestige is a measure of the trustworthiness and honor of an individual Kindred. Kindred in an Alliance domain who have no Prestige are considered to be entirely untrustworthy and are not allowed to speak in open court or petition the Sovereign without the sponsorship of an Emissary.
Prestige can be granted or removed by a number of positions within the domain (outlined below), but one theme is constant throughout the Alliance: Prestige should only be awarded for service to the domain or the whole Independent Alliance, and it should only be removed when someone engages in conduct detrimental to the domain or sect. Prestige is not a popularity contest like Camarilla Status, is not as arbitrary and weak like Sabbat Status, and is not as fleeting and meaningless as Anarch Reputation. It is difficult to earn the respect and trust of elders, and Prestige should reflect that fact.
Prestige may be loaned just like Status, though ill-advised or poorly thought out gifts of temporary Prestige may draw the ire of the Chamberlain (see below).
As such, players in Riverside Opera may only by the Status Perk once if they are a member of the Independent Alliance.
Independent Alliance cities are not unlike cities held by the Camarilla, the Sabbat, and the Anarch Movement insofar as the eldest or most powerful Kindred claims Domain. The similarities do not end there, but the way the Independents view the details of those posts may be slightly different.
The city structure of an Independent Alliance city isn’t laid out in the Accords, though it ultimately derives from the Traditions of Caine and the exigencies of managing a modern domain. Cainites of Old Clan Tzimisce, due to their considerable expertise in holding Domains for centuries or longer, played a crucial role in establishing these structures as traditions (lower case) within the Alliance. The Magistrate was a concession to Articles III and IV of the Accords by these superannuated vampires; while they would have preferred Sovereigns to have absolute power, the Giovanni, Ravnos, and Assamites—due to their past troubles in Camarilla cities—insisted that issues that cut across member clans be addressed by a neutral third party, not some Prince analogue.
The Sovereign is analogous to a Camarilla Prince, Anarch Baron, or Sabbat Archbishop. They are the Kindred who is eldest or most powerful in a domain, and their word is law within the confines of the Independent Accords. The Sovereign must:
- Hold a regular court to address grievances and handle city matters, including Prestige;
- Uphold and defend the Traditions;
- Maintain an Emissary from each other member clan;
- Allow member Bloodlines the opportunity to act as Emissary for their bloodline;
- Obey, follow, and defend all Articles of the Independent Accords;
- Maintain, at their individual discretion, a Chamberlain, Enforcer, and/or Steward; and
- Recognize and defend all members of the Independent Alliance in good standing who introduce themselves within the Sovereign’s domain.
The Sovereign gains:
- Three additional Prestige traits: Acclaimed, Eminent, and Empowered;
- A special Prestige trait, Sovereign, which functions identically to the Prince Status Trait from the Camarilla;
- The ability to strip Prestige from or grant Prestige to any Kindred Recognized in their domain by expending one temporary Prestige, which must be done formally at court;
- The authority to freely recognize Kindred within their domain in open court, granting them the Recognized Prestige trait;
- The right to levy the Lextalionis (an antiquated term for the Blood Hunt) upon violators of the Traditions by expending four temporary Prestige traits in open court—one of which must be loaned by the Emissary of the offender, if one so exists within the domain—thus removing all Prestige possessed by the target and removing their protection under the Independent Accords;
- All powers of the Chamberlain, Enforcer, or Steward when those positions are vacant;
- The power to reverse any decision levied by their Chamberlain, Enforcer, or Steward at the cost of one temporary Prestige; and
- The power to make public pronouncements and decrees in open court.
The Steward is analogous to a Camarilla Seneschal, though the Steward has more responsibilities than their counterpart in the Ivory Tower. In addition to being the Sovereign’s chief adviser and right hand, the Steward also serves as the primary point of contact for all emissaries within the Sovereign’s domain. The Steward must:
- Hold court in place of the Sovereign in their absence;
- Act as ambassador between the city and emissaries from other member clans and bloodlines;
- Maintain amicable relationships between each clan and bloodline within the city;
- Obey, follow, and defend all Articles of the Independent Accords; and
- Bring all matters concerning breaches of the Traditions or transgressions against member clans and bloodlines to the Sovereign immediately.
The Steward gains:
- Two additional Prestige Traits: Honorable and Venerated;
- The powers of the Sovereign in their absence;
- The authority to sanctify and enforce boons between individual members of the Alliance and the domain as a whole so long as the Emissary of that individual agrees; and
- The ability to spend one temporary Prestige to remove one permanent Prestige from anyone who refuses to repay a debt owed to the Sovereign or domain.
The Emissary’s closest analogue in Camarilla society is a Primogen, but an Emissary is so much more than just the eldest of a clan in a city. Emissaries are their clan’s ambassadors, monitors, executioners, and chief negotiators in a given domain. They advise the Sovereign and lobby in the interest of their clans in the domain at large, negotiating inner- and intra-clan business.
Emissaries are the one position defined in the Accords, and as such, they are the most vital to the stability and success of the Independent Alliance as a whole. Each member clan is expected to field an Emissary in every city within the Alliance outside of Alamut, Egypt, Mumbai, and Venice. Just as each member clan and bloodline is different, so are the titles sometimes taken by emissaries in various domains. Assamite emissaries are often known as Pasha (which is an honorific that replaces any surnames the Emissary might have had); Setite emissaries are sometimes referred to as Heirophants; the Giovanni call their emissaries Consiglieres; and while the Ravnos do not often use titles other than Emissary, it is not unheard of for one of them to claim one of many different titles from Seer to Maharaj.
Unlike their Camarilla counterparts, emissaries are not empowered to eject anyone from their clan or bloodline. According to the Alliance, no Kindred may revoke the blood rights of any other Kindred—after all, one can no more stop being of their clan than they can stop being a child of Caine. However, they are allowed to (and sometimes do) adopt Caitiff or cast-off former Camarilla members or Anarchs into their clans or bloodlines—though the system by which those Kindred earn the right to join is left to the individual Emissary.
Each Emissary, regardless of clan or bloodline must:
- Advise the Sovereign and/or Steward in matters of the domain;
- Maintain proper discipline and control of their clan or bloodline;
- Act as ambassador between the city and the leadership of their clan or bloodline;
- Report notable activities within the domain to their parent clan or bloodline;
- Serve as judge when members of their blood have made transgressions against the court; and
- Ensure proper recompense when one of their blood is substantively harmed by another member of the court.
- Two additional Prestige Traits: Beloved and Trusted;
- The ability to expend one temporary Prestige to grant one permanent Prestige or strip one permanent Prestige from a member of their clan or bloodline;
- The power to adopt Kindred into their clan be expending three temporary Prestige and making a formal pronouncement at court;
- The discretion to dole out clan or bloodline resources as they see fit;
- The ability to formally petition the other emissaries for aid in open court;
- The right to grant another Emissary a permanent Prestige by expending temporary Prestige equal to the recipient’s permanent Prestige;
- The right to remove one permanent Prestige from another Emissary by expending a number of temporary Prestige equal to the target’s permanent Prestige;
- The power to reverse the decision of a Sovereign by expending one temporary Prestige, so long as emissaries from the Assamites, the Setites, the Giovanni, and the Ravnos all voice their open support for the reversal in open court;
- The ability to remove or grant a permanent Prestige to the Sovereign by expending temporary Prestige equal to the sovereign’s permanent Prestige so long as emissaries from the Assamites, the Setites, the Giovanni, and the Ravnos all contribute at least one Prestige to the effort; and
- The power to appoint Scribes, who act as their eyes, ears, and voices during their absence.
Where in Camarilla society, the keeper of boons and social decorum has significant checks on the powers of the Prince and is empowered by the Primogen, in the Alliance, the Chamberlain does not have nearly as much broad or sweeping power. The Chamberlain’s job is more akin to banker or accountant than their Camarilla counterparts, and as such, their power is distinctly limited in comparison. Further, the emissaries do not traditionally loan the Chamberlain status. The Chamberlain is still expected, however, to maintain proper etiquette in the use of Prestige and prestation, and they have a terrifying amount of power to do so. The social order must be maintained, and the Chamberlain is the one saddled with the duty of protecting it.
The Chamberlain must:
- Procure and maintain at least one permanent Elysium in the domain, including the determination and declaration of the boundaries thereof;
- Sanctify all boons between individuals and transcribe them in an official record in the domain;
- Monitor the use of Prestige in the domain to ensure that all Alliance laws are being observed;
- Ensure that boons are being repaid rather than filling up the ledger on both sides;
- Maintain fairness between parties when negotiating boons;
- Recommend a fair price for a boon if there is a disagreement on the value of said boon; and
- Enforce punishment on those who misuse Prestige or refuse to repay a boon.
The Chamberlain gains:
- The additional Prestige Trait: Just;
- The ability to sanctify any boon or written agreement between individuals as an official record of the domain;
- The power to, at no cost, grant the Negative Prestige “Boon Breaker” to any individual who refuses to pay, denies the validity of, violates the terms of, or otherwise attempts to renege on an officially recorded boon or agreement, so long as sufficient evidence is brought before the court (those who have the Boon Breaker trait may not petition the Chamberlain or Steward to sanctify boons);
- The discretion to remove the Negative Prestige “Boon Breaker” at no cost in open court;
- The power to, at no cost, grant the Negative Prestige “Capricious” to any individual whose use of Prestige violates the Accords or oversteps the bounds outlined by their position—provided a majority of the recognized emissaries in the domain proclaim, in open court, that they agree with the interpretation of misuse;
- The discretion to, at no cost, remove the Negative Prestige “Capricious,” provided that a majority of the recognized emissaries in the domain proclaim, in open court, that they agree that proper penance has been paid for the original transgression; and
- The right to expend a temporary Prestige to strip a permanent one from someone who ignores a just use of Prestige.
The Enforcer is the representative of the Sovereign’s law in the domain. Unlike the Sheriff in a Camarilla city, enforcers in the Alliance must also maintain peace on Elysium grounds in addition to providing protection for the denizens of the domain.
The Enforcer must:
- Provide adequate protection for the Sovereign, Steward, Emissaries, and Chamberlain;
- Protect the laws of the Sovereign and the articles of the Accords;
- Dispense punishments as levied by the Sovereign;
- Ensure the security of the Kindred within the domain from incursions from the Camarilla, Sabbat, or other malevolent parties; and
- Detain suspected violators of the Traditions, Accords, or Sovereign law and deliver them to the Sovereign for judgment.
The Enforcer gains:
- The additional Prestige Trait: Feared;
- The right to harass or detain any Kindred within the domain who has not been Recognized by the Sovereign;
- The power to take any Kindred into custody, so long as the Enforcer possesses a written order from the Sovereign or is a personal witness to that Kindred violating one of the Traditions; and
- The ability to expend one temporary Prestige during open court to strip one permanent Prestige from any Kindred against which the Enforcer has conclusive evidence of a violation of the Traditions or the Accords.
The last position in the Independent Alliance is one of the least often used, but it is also one of the most important. A Magistrate is only appointed when there is a matter of guilt or innocence that cannot be agreed upon or where punishment cannot be agreed upon by the Sovereign and the accused’s respective Emissary.
The Sovereign or any Emissary may call for a Magistrate to be appointed in any matter of wrongdoing by expending one temporary Prestige and openly stating their grievances in open court. After a Magistrate is called for, they are selected from among the Kindred in the city who have the most temporary Prestige. Generally, Kindred take turns openly pledging their Prestige to members of the court they find worthy of the position (though after having Prestige pledged, an unwilling candidate may then simply pledge all of their loaned Prestige to another candidate). Neither the Kindred who called for the Magistrate, the accused, the Sovereign, nor the Emissary of the same clan or bloodline of the accused may be selected to be the Magistrate, though those parties may loan their personal Prestige to another candidate if they so choose (as can any Kindred who is Recognized in the domain), before Prestige is counted.
Though the counting of Prestige may be delayed until a later time, the Magistrate must be selected in open court, after which point the trial begins immediately and is held in its entirety during the court in which they are selected. Individual Magistrates may hold their trials differently, but it is commonly accepted that both sides, the accuser and the accused, have an opportunity to present arguments and evidence before a verdict is rendered.
Before the trial begins but after the Magistrate is appointed, the accused may call for a Trial by Combat rather than a traditional hearing. The rules for a trial by combat are:
- The accused always challenges the accuser when a Trial by Combat is called for—if there is no definitive accuser or if there is no single accuser, the Sovereign is considered to be the accuser for these purposes;
- The Magistrate must define the arena of the Trial and may decide any special rules for the Trial before champions are declared;
- Both parties may select a champion to represent them in combat;
- Combats are never to be to the Final Death;
- Combatants who “accidentally” deliver the Final Death upon their opponents are immediately subject to the Final Death themselves;
- The victory condition for all Trials by Combat consist of one party surrendering or being rendered incapacitated;
- Victorious champions are automatically granted the permanent Prestige trait: Selfless (those who fight for their own cause do not receive Prestige);
- The loser of the combat and their champion (if there is one) both immediately lose a permanent Prestige; and
- The winner of the combat (and not their champion) determines the verdict, which then should be viewed as infallibly true by the whole of the Independent Alliance.
Once a verdict has been declared and the punishment has been decided, the Magistrate is forced to step down from their post.
Once appointed, the Magistrate must:
- Uphold the Traditions, the Accords, and the laws of the domain (in that order);
- Only hear and consider testimony and evidence brought forth during the trial;
- Determine guilt and proper punishment if guilt is found; and
- Act as referee for any Trial by Combat, if one is so demanded (see below).
The Magistrate gains:
- The additional Prestige Trait: Infallible;
- The power to strip temporary Prestige from any Kindred who speaks out of turn during the proceedings by expending one temporary Prestige;
- The authority to levy any punishment they deem appropriate as a punishment for a crime, up to and including the Final Death;
- The right to call for any Kindred present to testify or bear witness; and
- The power to expend a temporary Prestige to force any reluctant Kindred so called to testify—if the Kindred still refuses to bear truthful testimony, the Magistrate may strip one permanent Prestige from that witness (this power may only be used on an individual witness once).