The Riverside Opera Status and Prestation Guide

Status and Prestation Guide

Status

Status is an objective measure of one’s standing within the city and vampire society as a whole. Since one can expect to be listened by those with less Status—and to be respectful and even obsequious to those with more Status—keeping track of, protecting, and building one’s Status is critical to Kindred who want any freedom of will.

Status is always public knowledge. Those in possession of permanent Status beyond the basic Acknowledged trait must list their traits on a visible badge (signed by the GM) for them to apply in game.

Effects of Status and Status Challenges

Status has no mystical pull, but for those who desire the protection of the city, it sets out certain social restrictions. Primarily, those with lower Status will be respectful, flattering, and generally eager to aid those with higher Status. They’re under no obligation to do favors without demanding appropriate Prestation, but they generally won’t turn down requests for aid that aren’t suicidal without considering them. Additionally, minor tasks for which no Prestation would normally be required (fetching another Kindred or ghoul, getting a drink, and such) will generally be undertaken without question. While being so sycophantic may be distasteful to some, it’s simply part of the great Jyhad.

Conversely, those with higher Status are to generally protect those with lower Status (albeit in return for proper Prestation), to not demand unreasonable services from them, and to not force them into suicidal or self-destructive situations. They must also act in accordance with their Status in order for it to be respected; for example, someone who is Feared must attempt to evoke fear, while those who are Well-Known must keep themselves in the spotlight. Beyond that, they may act as they see fit. This freedom makes the acquisition of Status a key point in any Kindred’s life, as it lets him be the one disdainfully giving orders rather than the one (falsely) graciously receiving them.

In the greater scheme of Kindred society, those with greater Status are believed before those with lower Status, find it much easier to gain an audience with the Prince and with Primogen, and can speak more often at court.

To reflect all these issues, the Status Challenge mechanic is used. Whenever a person seems to be acting in violation of the rules of Status, or when a person wishes to force a societal issue (such as getting an audience with Prince over someone else, or getting the Prince to believe their word over someone else’s), a Status Challenge may be called. In such a challenge, the only traits that count and that can be bid are Status traits. The loser of the challenge must back down (by adjusting his behavior as desired by the winner, or by leaving the area in a melodramatic huff) or publicly declare that he’s ignoring the other person’s Status—an event that’s dramatic and has other effects (see Ignoring Status, below). Remember, the Status Challenge is always between the people with the dispute; if two people are vying for the Prince’s attention, they engage in a Status Challenge between each other, not against the Prince, as it’s not his Status that’s being called into question.

During a Status Challenge, other characters nearby may throw their Status (through a public declaration of support) in with either character. The characters involved may bid and count any Status traits they possess—even those on loan, assuming their owners don’t revoke those traits upon their being bid. Characters may retest a Status Challenge by expending a Status trait (which then doesn’t count when comparing traits in the result of a tie). It is important to note, however, that a character may require proof of loaned Status if it is to be used in a Status Challenge.

It’s possible to have mass Status Challenges, but generally those Challenges are best resolved by each side picking a representative and throwing their traits behind that representative.

Granting and Removing Status

Permanent Status represents your character’s relative standing in the city and is typically granted (and removed) by city officials. Permanent Status changes must generally occur publicly and dramatically—usually at court, so the whole city can see—and usually must be witnessed by the Prince. The person whose Status is being altered need not be present, though it’s something of an insult to not be present when one is being awarded Status.

Temporary Status is a different matter and is given and taken away much more freely. Temporary Status isn’t a measure of your personal standing in the city; instead, it represents someone granting you their favor and the ability to act in their name. Since temporary Status can be revoked at relatively any time by the grantor, there’s less of a trust issue involved in its transfer.

Anyone can loan any permanent Status trait away as temporary Status. Doing so disables the trait for its owner; while everyone knows they still have it, it cannot be bid or counted in Status Challenges, except by its current possessor. To give temporary Status, the grantor must either announce it publicly or give the target a letter or other token representing the traits transferred. If a token is used, the traits it is worth must be announced publicly or described in a written form that those who are to recognize the Status traits possess. Tokens and public announcements are often used for long term grants of Status; letters are preferred when the person possessing the Status is running an errand, or if the grantor wishes to keep the transfer a private matter between himself, the person he’s granted it to, and a small circle of other Kindred. Letters are commonly used when coteries, elders, or other factions wish to have a single representative act in their name with another faction or single Kindred. It’s important to note that, since Status is based on belief, those who have no reason to believe you possess the Status traits you claim may ignore them without serious repercussions (see: Ignoring Status, below).

Temporary Status can be revoked extremely quickly. A public pronouncement is all that’s needed to return the trait to its owner. Status granted via tokens or letters can be revoked publicly, but it’s important that those who might be recognizing the Status based on such hear the announcement. It’s perfectly reasonable that the grantor demand that the token be returned or any letters destroyed upon revoking the Status. When a temporary Status trait is returned, it is returned expended if its previous possessor expended it. Temporary Status can be revoked preemptively in response to its usage; if the grantor of the trait doesn’t agree with how it’s about to be used, he can recover it beforehand.

Expending Status

Status is generally expended through Status Challenges, although some city officials can expend Status for other effects. Both permanent and temporary Status can be expended; when a Status trait is expended, it can’t be bid and is no longer counted in Status Challenges.

One important Status expenditure that any character, or group of characters, can do is the removal of permanent Status. By bidding a number of traits equal to another character’s permanent Status and defeating him in a Status Challenge, a target can be stripped of one permanent Status. All the traits bid are expended whether the Challenge is successful or not. Doing this for any reason but a grievous violation of decorum (read: the Status system) is likely to raise the ire of the Prince and Harpy; doing so in the presence of any city official is a dire insult and challenge to their authority.

Whenever Status is permanently removed from a character, he gets to decide what Status trait is lost, unless the removal is such that the traits removed are selected for him (such as the loss of Status for losing a city position).

It is not uncommon for a character whose status it to be removed to be granted a Negative Status instead, especially in situations where a given offense is not so egregious as to warrant the stripping of a permanent Status, but there still should be some Status-based consequences (see: Negative Status, below).

Ignoring Status

A character is under no necessary obligation to maintain the Status system. He may, at any time, ignore someone’s Status by simply publicly (loudly and melodramatically, usually) declaring that he’s doing so. Ignoring Status can be used to negate the result of a Status Challenge and is, in fact, the reason one would generally do so. Such a negated Challenge is assumed to have been won by the person who is ignoring Status, with his desired result being to simply not do what was demanded by the winner.

This action has no necessary, immediate repercussions, unless a city official is nearby (or unless a group of proactive Kindred are nearby and choose to strip the character of Status). It’s a terrible breach of etiquette, however, and can result in one’s Status being stripped. Doing so in the presence of the Harpy, Prince, or one’s own Primogen almost guarantees the immediate loss of Status.

Having No Status

The last Status trait a character can lose is his Acknowledged trait. A character with no Status traits is no longer under the protection of the Prince or the city. He may not be killed without permission, of course, as that’d violate the Tradition of Destruction, but he can be abused, maimed, or even tortured—even on Elysium grounds—without any major problems. In fact, most Princes consider one with no Status kine, which means he can be slain without violating the Traditions (as the Prince has, in this case, given implicit permission to do so).

Position Status

Certain city positions grant permanent Status traits. These traits can’t normally be removed as long as the Kindred holds the position, but if any of these traits are stripped permanently, they’re immediately considered expended (although they’re not permanently removed). More importantly, the loss of such a trait in this way represents a loss of the city’s trust and prevents the vampire from using any of his position’s special powers until the beginning of the next game. In most cases, having a position-based Status trait removed is grounds for removal from one’s position.

Position status can’t normally be stripped until all of the character’s other permanent Status has been removed.

Negative Status

Whenever a permanent Status trait is removed, the Kindred removing it can choose instead to grant a permanent negative Status trait. This acts like a normal negative trait in any Status Challenge, with the exception that it’s public knowledge and therefore can (and should) be bid against its holder. Likewise, instead of granting a permanent Status trait (or restoring a permanent Status trait), a Kindred can remove a negative Status trait instead.

Naturally, negative Status can’t be expended as temporary Status or given as a temporary Status trait to another character.

Prestation and the Boon Economy Clarified

What do you get an undead killing machine as a gift for their help? What currency matters to immortals who can trivially take whatever they desire from the kine? Money is irrelevant to those whose cons are backed by supernatural might and to those whose investments can gather interest for centuries. Jewels and gold that would make a pauper cry and a king salivate mean nothing to the Kindred that control streets and thrones. A pretty little object of desire has no value to those of dead flesh, save as food – and blood is cheap in the teeming cities of the modern era.

Instead of material goods, favors are the currency of Kindred society. The semi-formal social code by which favors are traded is known as Prestation, and the favors themselves are known as boons. Whether Sabbat, Camarilla, or inconnu, all vampires participate in Prestation to some degree. Only the foolish, weakest, or most desperate vampires work for immediate material rewards; everyone else realizes that the value of a favor yet undecided is much greater among immortals than any mere stack of mortal currency or blood pack. Even in the Sabbat, Prestation is common. While individual packs may only trade favors informally, the game is deadly serious at higher levels and particularly among the Lasombra, whose Les Amies Noir are perhaps the most talented players among all of Caine’s progeny.

Because Prestation is a key part of vampiric society, particularly in the Camarilla, there’s little stigma to owing boons. In fact, while smart Kindred try to be owed more than they owe, they realize the value in owing a boon to someone else. Those who’ve “invested” in you by holding a boon from you have no interest in seeing their investment destroyed by your destruction or even exile, so they’ll often expend some effort to keep you safe. After all, by accepting your boon, they’re banking that you’ll be useful to them at some point – either as your power grows, or when you’re simply in the right place at the right time. Even powerful ancillae and elders will offer small boons to those weaker than themselves for minor services as another way of establishing loyalty. If you’re a mere neonate owed a boon by an elder, you’ve a compelling reason to keep that elder around and happy, since you never know when you might need their help.

The importance of Prestation explains why some Kindred take it as a personal insult when assistance is offered for free; doing so is essentially stating publicly that their future assistance is worthless. Likewise, a Kindred who fails to demand a boon for all but the most trivial favors is viewed as weak, inept, and uncouth. This is true even if the favor is ultimately self-serving or the vampire is truly altruistic (a rarity indeed).

Prestation, as a social game, is enforced through Status. For that reason, the Prince and the Harpy ultimately serve as the final arbiters of the system. Those who violate their sense of fair play, the rules they set forth, or the terms of any contract that the involved Kindred sign will almost certainly lose their favor and, thus, Status within the city.

Types of Boons

Very generally speaking, boons can be divided up into five different sizes, reflecting both the imposition of the favor for which the boon is owed and the size of the favor required to repay the debt.

  • Trivial boons represent minimal favors, such as using a single Discipline on someone, translating a letter, or spending a small amount of Influence (2 points or less).
  • Minor boons are more substantial, but still quite small, impositions, such as keeping a person away from a meeting by tying him up with a conversation, planting a small bit of evidence near someone, or spending a bit more Influence (3 or 4 points). Basic Rituals performed by the Tremere are often considered minor boons.
  • Major boons are serious favors that usually take more than one game to accomplish, such as making a large expenditure of Influence (5 or 6 points), arranging the grant of a Permanent Status trait, teaching one level of a Discipline, or performing an Intermediate Ritual.
  • Blood boons are favors similar to major boons, but are much larger in scale, involve violence, or require acting against the pronouncements of a city official. These include roughing up a member of another Clan, killing a ghoul or other kine, firebombing a building, bringing weapons onto Elysium if they’re not permitted, making massive expenditures of Influence (7 or 8 points), or performing an Advanced Ritual.
  • Life boons are favors so massive that they’re worth a trade of a Kindred’s unlife or entire Domain. This can include killing another Kindred – or preventing one from being killed, a truly gigantic expenditure of Influence (9 or more points), teaching a Clan-specific Discipline for which the penalty for teaching it is Final Death (such as Thaumaturgy or Obtenebration), backing treasonous moves against the Prince, blatantly breaking one of the Traditions, or engaging in the wholesale slaughter of kine.

Boons aren’t “fungible,” nor can they be split up or combined—at least not without the agreement of the person who owes the boon, the Harpy, or the Prince. Three trivial boons aren’t automatically worth a major boon, nor is a life boon worth five trivial boons. With that in mind, when trading or settling boons, the actual value is worth whatever those involved are willing to accept. A trivial boon from an elder might be worth a blood boon to a neonate, but merely a minor boon to an ancilla. Conversely, ten trivial boons from different neonates may be worth nothing to an elder—or they may be worth a blood boon, if that elder has a particular need for ten pawns.

Public and Private Prestation

Prestation can performed in private, in which case only the Kindred involved know about the boon. This sort of Prestation involves a bit more trust than most Kindred are comfortable with giving, as there’s no proof of the boon and no way to enforce it unless you happen to have more Status and can petition the Prince or the Harpy. However, very few Kindred will break a boon, even a private one; doing so invites retribution from you and your entire Clan, as well as anyone else you tell about the malfeasance. In fact, some of the longest running feuds in the Jyhad have started over broken private boons.

For Kindred who don’t trust each other, public Prestation is a more secure option. In this case, the offering and accepting of the boon takes in front of the Harpy, and preferably before multiple witnesses. In this case, the Harpy can sanctify the boon, recording it for reference and making it much easier for her to punish either party who breaks the agreement. While some Harpies may request a boon for this service, few Primogen will brook a Harpy demanding recompense for doing their job, making it rarely a costly way to ensure your boons are enforced. However, public Prestation is obviously inappropriate for anything you don’t want the whole city to eventually know about. The deal to use your influence to help a Toreador build a new nightclub is a perfect agreement to present to the Harpy; the deal to use your influence to help that Toreador overthrow the Prince isn’t.

For those who don’t even trust the Harpy, there are other ways to enforce boons. Dominate can require the execution of a boon, at least within the limits of its power. Allegedly, the Tremere have magics that can create mystical contracts with dire consequences for those who break them.

Trading Boons

You can’t simply give a boon you’re owed to someone else without notifying the person who owes you the favor. Proper decorum in the Camarilla requires that the one who owes the boon accept the trade, though if they’re particularly well-liked by the Harpy or the Prince, they may be able to get away with denying such a trade unscathed. After all, they’re not denying that they owe the favor—they’re just refusing to owe it to some other uninvolved vampire.

Of course, one can attempt to bypass the consent of the person who owes you the boon by going straight to the Harpy or the Prince. While they might demand a boon from you for the service, they can simply call in the other Kindred and inform them that the boon has been transferred. This strategy is particularly effective when done in public, as it forces the one who owes you the boon to accept the trade or potentially lose face before the whole city.

Settling Boons

Each level of Boon can be considered to have a numerical value, with Trivial Boons being “one point Boons” and Life Boons being “five point Boons.” Despite the fact that boons aren’t fungible currency, very generally speaking, a fair repayment for a boon is a number of services whose equivalent value equals the value of the initial boon. So, a fair repayment for major boon

(3 points) can be a service worthy of a major boon, a service worthy of a minor boon (2 points) and a service worthy of a trivial boon (1 point), or three services worthy of a trivial boon (1 point). Any payment that isn’t an equivalent exchange, however, is up to the discretion of the Kindred involved and the Harpy, either of which may permit or deny them as they see fit – since the only social rule about Boons is that they be repaid in kind.

Naturally, that means that the specifics of the repayment of a Boon are up to the Kindred to whom it is owed. Besides simply performing the task requested of you, one easy way to settle a boon is to acquire a boon from the Kindred you owe that’s of equal size as the one you owe to him. It’s then possible to declare them both settled, as you’ve at that point performed a service equal to the original boon. It’s sometimes possible to get out of a Boon by performing a service worthy enough to repay it at a remarkably fortuitous time, then demanding (usually publicly, preferably with the Harpy around) that the Boon be considered repaid, but again, nothing requires the Kindred to consider this a viable form of repayment, other than the degree to which he feels he can potentially lose face and his own sense of fair play.

Of course, since boons and Prestation are social structures, the court of public opinion is often a powerful tool to convince people to see things your way. Since Status is so important among Kindred, it can be used as a bargaining chip during Prestation. Having a contract that specifies the services rendered and the type and size of repayment expected – then having that contract sanctified by the Harpy – almost assures that the boon isn’t abused by either party. Announcing a boon at court, or demanding a boon be considered settled for services rendered in front of a large gathering of Kindred, is an excellent way to put either party on the spot; properly acted with just the right amount of melodrama, these sorts of scenes can force the other vampire to acquiesce or face a loss of Status for offending the sensibilities of the other Kindred there. This strategy can backfire, however, if the boon was originally kept private because it involved some rather unsavory activities. Finally, those with higher Status can often get away with more abusive actions with boons—as can those who are owed boons by the Harpy.

Prestation: Camarilla Clan Perspectives

  • Brujah: As much as they rail against it, Brujah typically recognize the value of Prestation to achieve their revolutionary ends. After all, it’s difficult to change a system from within if you have no power in it. That said, Brujah rarely engage in Prestation with their fellow clan members. Kindred in the clan are brothers and sisters; family don’t charge family for favors. Instead, Brujah simply deny assistance to deadbeats who don’t provide anything of value or who constantly demand help but never reciprocate. Even then, the clan will still rush to the aid of a member in dire straits, no matter what they’ve done in the past.
  • Gangrel: Gangrel rarely run into each other and so rarely have a need to engage in Prestation within the clan, but for all their independent ways, Gangrel are among the more strict enforcers of the system. Any Gangrel asking a fellow for a favor is expected to offer a similar service in return, though most Gangrel rarely hold boons but instead discharge them quickly—often with an equivalent service rendered immediately; boons only serve to tie down these wandering souls. While no immediate retribution will come to one who doesn’t follow the rules, a Gangrel who refuses to repay favors or offer boons to fellow Kindred of the clan is likely to find himself bereft of aid in lupine territory or in an open field come sunrise.
  • Malkavian: Many Malkavians profess no care or understanding for Prestation and instead aid other Kindred at their own twisted whims. The wise Kindred always bends the ear of the harpies when cutting deals with the childer of Malkav. Within the Malkavian clan, Prestation is extremely mercurial, with massive debts being repaid by seemingly trivial services. Recovering a lost toy might be repaid with a blood boon, while destroying another Kindred might be worth merely a trivial boon. In short, political power and boons within the clan are gained by being better able to comprehend the madness of one’s fellow Kindred. More lucid Malkavians capitalize on this to rapidly achieve dominance over their clan in the city.
  • Nosferatu: The tightly-knit Nosferatu use Prestation as a means of establishing a meritocracy within the city. For Nosferatu, information is currency, and no information is given without getting a boon or an equally valuable tidbit of data in return. Asking for information without offering a boon or a secret of your own is an insult, but offering information without expecting something in return is a greater one; you’re essentially saying your information is worthless, or that your associate is incapable of getting any information of value. Those Nosferatu who hold a large number of boons aren’t despised but are instead feted as among the clan’s most effective spies.
  • Toreador: While Nosferatu gather boons to prove their worth and Ventrue gather them as relationship-building, Toreador largely collect and trade boons to achieve their goals with the city’s kine. Artistes trade their works to poseurs for boons that they can use to fund their continued art, while poseurs trade boons to expand their influence and support their chosen mortal artists. Like the Malkavians, Prestation can be quite fluid within the clan, particularly where art is concerned; an original Manet may be worth a life boon to one Toreador and a mere scoff from another.
  • Tremere: Prestation is rarely performed within the Tremere clan in a given city, as its members are expected to act primarily to strengthen the clan as a whole. Instead, Prestation occurs between chantries and regions, with Regents and Lords swapping favors primarily to secure choice apprentices and territories. This game is permitted by the Council so long as it ultimately ensures the most politically adept rise to the top; the moment it harms the clan’s overall goals, the next highest authority in the Pyramid puts a quick stop to it. Within a city, while Apprentices will sometimes engage in Prestation with each other to get out of (or into) particular duties, it is still rare. Instead, most Tremere aid each other freely in order to prove their worth and strengthen the clan as a whole against its, and the Camarilla’s, many enemies. However, Tremere who abuse the largesse of their fellows are transferred away to less prestigious chantries or sent to Vienna, never to be seen again.
  • Ventrue: While the Ventrue are arguably more hierarchal than the Tremere, Prestation plays a much greater role. As consummate politicians, no Ventrue gives anything away for free, even to another Ventrue; you never know when a favor may prove useful, or even when owing one might prove useful by letting you get close to a more influential member of the clan. Among Ventrue, Prestation is a friendly, personal exchange among noble peers. No Ventrue would stoop so low as to involve the Harpy in a private deal, as Kindred of this clan should be better than to renege on their word; calling in the Harpy is tantamount to saying you don’t trust your own clan and is a severe insult. Most Ventrue owe and are owed a dizzying array of Boons within their own clan, each of which represents a “business relationship.” Most Ventrue consider it a serious insult to offer them assistance without Prestation, as that’s essentially stating their future services are worthless.

Getting the Keys to the Kingdom: Dirty Tricks for Enterprising Kindred

Through the ages, many Kindred have discovered ways to use the social structures of the Camarilla to their advantage. Here are some of the dirtier tricks they’ve used to gain power; these are included both to aid the devious and to help those in power protect what they have. They’re sorted roughly in order of complexity, risk, and sheer deviousness.

  • “Fall in love” with a member of another Clan. Use this connection to gather information about that Clan’s activities.
  • Sell information—true or not—about your Clan’s activities for small Boons. Use these small Boons together to demand a large service.
  • Whenever you catch someone doing something objectionable, demand a Boon from them to stay quiet. This means you should always be on the lookout for the sorts of private meetings in which evil acts are planned and executed.
  • Sell small Boons on city officials to younger, less powerful Kindred for massive Boons.
  • Arrange to get kicked out of your Clan. Then throw yourself on the mercy of another Clan so you’re taken under their wing. Proceed to sell their secrets back to your own Clan—preferably for Boons.
  • Never do any dirty deed yourself. Always use Boons to do them, so the crime is less traceable. Optimally, use a Boon to have someone else actually give the order so you have plausible deniability. For the extra point, make sure the person who gives the order is a city official, so you can blackmail a Boon out of them later when the instrument of your wickedness is caught (probably by your hand).
  • The Keeper of Elysium and the Sheriff aren’t immune to each other. Their roles also often conflict. Make sure they conflict as much as possible so that they’re either both tied up and not doing their jobs, or so that one tries to overthrow the other. After the decision to eliminate the rival has been made, you can then reveal (privately!) what you’ve done and offer further support at the cost of a Boon. Alternatively, you can go to the targeted rival and offer to expose the other’s improprieties to the Prince—for a price.
  • Are you the Harpy? Be sure to be capricious and unfair in your adjudication of Status. Favor those who don’t owe you Boons, so they’ll use your services often. You can then suddenly revoke your favor and demand a Boon to give it back. Be sure to abuse younger Kindred with less Status, then take them aside and request Boons from them to be nicer to them.
  • As the Sheriff, plant evidence of crimes on those who seem to be getting a lot of Status. Then dramatically reveal an “ongoing investigation” at court and subtly point fingers at those people. You can then demand Boons to stay silent. Those who don’t pay will have the evidence against them dramatically revealed at the next court and suffer the consequences.

The Independent Alliance

Riverside Opera Lore: The Independent Alliance

What is the Independent Alliance?

Any exploration of the Independent Alliance must begin with the Accords.

The Independent 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.

If your character in Riverside Opera belongs to one of the member clans or bloodlines, you may be a part of the Alliance for free if you so choose.  Characters from other clans or bloodlines may be a part of the Independent Alliance by purchasing a 10-point Perk (though they must still take the Flaw Probationary Sect Member as well).

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.

SOVEREIGN

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.

STEWARD

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.

EMISSARY

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.

Emissaries gain:

  • 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.

CHAMBERLAIN

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.

ENFORCER

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.

MAGISTRATE

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:

  1. 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;
  2. The Magistrate must define the arena of the Trial and may decide any special rules for the Trial before champions are declared;
  3. Both parties may select a champion to represent them in combat;
  4. Combats are never to be to the Final Death;
  5. Combatants who “accidentally” deliver the Final Death upon their opponents are immediately subject to the Final Death themselves;
  6. The victory condition for all Trials by Combat consist of one party surrendering or being rendered incapacitated;
  7. Victorious champions are automatically granted the permanent Prestige trait: Selfless (those who fight for their own cause do not receive Prestige);
  8. The loser of the combat and their champion (if there is one) both immediately lose a permanent Prestige; and
  9. 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).

Domains

See this page for a list of all canonized city affiliations in Riverside Opera.

The Traditions of Caine

The Traditions of Caine

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: 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: 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.

The Function of the Whip

The Function of the Whip

Hi, everyone! The Storyteller here, with another examination of political positions within the Camarilla.

Everyone has heard of the Primogen Council. They are the leaders of the Clans (or territories), and they have a large role to fill in advising the Prince of the city and giving their Clan a voice in the decisions in the larger scheme of things. The Prince wants to start a project to gentrify a portion of the inner city? The Primogen of Clan Nosferatu might take issue, since he has a few homeless folk and gang members who live there and feed him information. At the same time, the Ventrue might lobby for a set of high-rise apartments to be built, and the Toreador might push for a new arts center.

In a lot of ways, the Primogen is the servant of the Clan. If the Clan as a whole wants that new arts center, the Primogen is essentially duty-bound to push for its creation. And if the Primogen argues *against* said arts center, despite the Clan’s wishes, he may not be the Primogen for much longer.

So, then, if the Primogen is at the whim of the Clan, how does the Primogen affect change upon the members of his Clan? How does he control them? That’s where the Whip comes in.

Traditionally, the Whip is described as the Primogen’s second in command, a Kindred who spends their time acting as the answering machine for his boss while he is in meetings. But that isn’t what a Whip ends up doing in Congress, and that isn’t what a Whip ends up doing in Kindred society, either. A Whip is probably the most important tool a Primogen has.

The function of the Whip is to “whip votes” or convince everyone in a particular Clan (or other group they might be whipping) to think a particular way. The Toreador Primogen has a deal with the Ventrue to support the apartment building instead of the arts center? It becomes the Whip’s job to go to the rest of the Clan and convince them that the arts center isn’t the way to go. That way, when the apartment building goes up, they don’t come to the Primogen’s door with pitchforks and torches.

Secondarily, the Whip is responsible for making sure that all of their Clanmates show up to court. It is difficult to have a voice in what happens when the city when your presence isn’t felt. The Prince is *far* more likely to reconsider the gentrification project if the Nosferatu Whip is successful at getting 12 grumpy Nosferatu, who never come to court otherwise, to show up at Elysium. Whips also organize Clan meetings and communicate to the rest of the Clan in the event of announcements or rulings.

While the Primogen might have the status and the power, the Whips are the ones that get things done. The Whips are the ones that the Clan tends to trust.

Does your Clan in Riverside Opera have a Whip? Don’t you think they ought to?

Vampire Politics in Television

Examples of Vampire Politics in Television

So, I have gotten a ton of requests for a watching list—a set of TV shows that can help people learn how to play the political game that is such a part of Vampire LARP. Well, I decided (just ten minutes before I put pen to paper, even) to write out a list of shows that might illustrate exactly how Kindred politics work in the World of Darkness. Here we go.

Rome

Ventrue – Rome is one of those shows that really takes a bit of effort on the part of the viewer to get into, but boy howdy is it good when you do. There is backstabbing, lying, manipulating, and war all going on in this historical epic. It starts kind of slow, but the politics really get ratcheted up a few episodes in, and then it doesn’t stop. The last season moves really fast, but they learned they were getting cancelled about halfway through writing it and had a bunch more to include.

House of Cards (US version)

Ventrue, Lasombra, Nosferatu

Information is king in this political drama. The story falls Frank Underwood, a whip in the House of Republicans, as he seeks to lead his party to success. While it is open to debate whether Frank himself is a Ventrue, Nosferatu, Lasombra, or even a Malkavian, the protagonist (?) is sure to serve as good inspiration for how to manipulate events and information in your favor.

Game of Thrones

All of Them. Really.

Ah yes, the good old GoT. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch it. It’s really good. In my opinion, every Clan is represented in some way in this show.

The Faceless Men are very much Assamites, who like to sit in judgment of the other parts of the world but still act like common paid assassins if the price is right.

The Starks are all Brujah (for the most part). They let their passion and their honor guide them, and they hate the Lannisters with the fire of a thousand suns, just as the Brujah hate the Ventrue.

The Red Priests of the Lord of Light (Melisandre in particular) are very much like the Followers of Set. They have their own viewpoint on how the world came to be and where it is headed, and they don’t ever fail to try and peddle their beliefs where they won’t be persecuted for it. Though, Setites are not always as… devout as the Red Priests can be.

The Wildlings are very similar to the Gangrel. They don’t care much for your “civilization,” thank you very much, and they are content to hang out where no one else wants to be. That being said, they are not above alliances when it suits them.

While there isn’t a really close analogue to the Giovanni in the setting, the Iron Bank of Bravos comes the closest. They are very pushy with their business clout, and they don’t tolerate those who cross them. (To be honest, there are better analogues to the Giovanni in other shows.)

Petyr Baelish (aka Littlefinger) is a Lasombra if there has ever been one put to screen. He slinks in the shadows and controls the people around him, working his way into power where he can find it. If only he was a cardinal in the church, he would be a four corners match.

It’s often easy to find Malkavians in fiction; you just look for the crazy one. But it is harder to find one that is politically active and successful. Luckily for us, there’s someone in GoT that fits that description: Ramses Bolton. He is obviously unhinged, but he doesn’t let that stop him from gaining power. In fact, he leverages his insanity to get himself an even bigger share. Joffrey (coughLannistercough) Baratheon and Viserys Targaryen are other decent examples, but they were not very good at the politics thing. You could argue that Stannis is also a Malkavian, but that might be pushing it.

Varys (aka The Spider) is as Nosferatu as Nosferatu get. He is disfigured and secretive and moves on the outskirts of the leadership, but he is too useful (and well-informed) to kill. He’s also a man who has a natural talent for going unnoticed.

The Dothraki are a good example of how the Ravnos function, though the Ravnos tend to be a little less violent than their mongol-horde counterparts.  The Dothraki are all steeped in mysticism and ritual, and they are all very tightly knit, despite their own internal disagreements.  They treat outsiders with caution or disdain, and the more exuberant Dothraki are violent and nearly genocidal (just as some Ravnos on the Path of Paradox).

There are loads of good examples of Toreador in action in GoT, most of whom are Tyrells. Margaery Tyrell, Ser Loras (the Knight of Flowers), and even Prince Oberyn are all arguably members of the Clan of Roses, and they all leverage their beauty if not their art to advance their station.

The Tremere are a difficult one, too, but I think their best analogue is in the Order of Maesters. They are men of learning that dedicate themselves to every noble house, claiming to be above such petty squabbling, yet they advise those same rulers how to advance their stations. It’s not the best fit, but I think it works.

The Tzimisce are… really freaking weird. Though if you made me pick someone to match them, I would say… the White Walkers? The Tzimisce are very alien, and they don’t tend to want the same things that other vampires even in their own sect want.

The Lannisters are the Ventrue through and through. They scheme and plot and lead “noble” wars. They are always there to support the winning side in a conflict, but only if it is the winning side. And they get most of their heavy lifting accomplished through coin.

True Blood

Brujah, Toreador, Gangrel, Malkavian, and the Sabbat

First of all, only watch the first three seasons of this show; the rest are difficult to push through. Bill Compton is a wonderful example of a Brujah, where his counterpart Eric Northman is arguably a perfect (elder) Toreador. In season two, you meet Eric’s sire, Godric, who is a good example of a Gangrel (who is on the path to Golconda, no less!). In season three, you meet the best villain of the show, Russell Edgington, the (Malkavian) King of Mississippi. Throughout the show, there are less-civilized vampires about, too, who are decent examples of Sabbat packs.

The Tudors

Toreador

Now, I want you to watch this show not for King Henry, who gets really really annoying about halfway through season one. I want you to watch this show for Anne Boleyn. Not only does her storyline involve one of the hottest sex scenes ever in television, but she is also an excellent example of a Toreador who climbs her way to power. Also, there’s Cromwell, who works his way to power like a good Lasombra.

The Shield

The Camarilla

It’s hard to nail down the characters in the Shield into Clans, since they’re all defy stereotypes so much, but the social structure of the police precinct in the show is representative of a Camarilla city. Aceveda is the Prince, Mackey is the Sheriff, the various detectives are the Primogen Council, etc. All in all, the Shield is a treatise in “how to get away with murder.”

There are lots of other examples, including Deadwood, Sons of Anarchy, Borgia (not the Showtime show), and the Sopranos, and I didn’t even list movies like Chinatown, Memento, Hamlet, Lion in Winter, and Only Lovers Left Alive.

Elysium

Elysium

Elysium is not a Tradition of Caine, though it’s a tradition that goes back to even before the Convention of Thorns and the formation of the Camarilla. An Elysium is an area of the city—typically a building, but sometimes an area as large as a few blocks—declared to be a neutral ground for Kindred to meet and transact business. Since the tangled web of domains can result in even a brief chat in a corner coffee shop causing someone to take offense, Elysium serves a critical role in the Camarilla. It offers everyone, from powerful warriors to venal politicians, a place to interact without worrying about being attacked or violating someone’s Domain. Every city has at least one Elysium, while larger cities may have several.

No matter where it’s located, an Elysium is considered a part of the Prince’s domain that’s defined, openly declared, and administered by the Keeper of Elysium. Elysium has but two rules: no violence is permitted, and no destruction of art is permitted. The former rule is common sense, while the latter is a tradition largely promoted and enforced by the Toreador over the last several centuries.

As with all Kindred laws, of course, the rules of Elysium can be bent by enterprising Kindred. While some forms of violence are quite obvious—one simply can’t throw a punch in Elysium and expect to get away unscathed—more subtle forms, such as the application of Disciplines, may remain undetected. More importantly, though, the definition of “violence” is up to the Keeper of Elysium, who has wide latitude to decide if, for instance, using Auspex to detect those with Obfuscate is “violence” in a particular circumstance, or if a punch isn’t “violence” if it doesn’t cause any long-term injury. As for the prohibition on destroying art, if the Keeper isn’t a Toreador, the definition of what exactly constitutes art can be quite fluid. Some Keepers allow the Toreador to decide what is and is not art (at the cost of boons, of course), while others call all property on the grounds “art.”

While all Kindred recognize the value of Elysium, and most will readily act to preserve it lest they lose its protection when they need it most, Elysium is not an absolute. The most common means to break the laws of Elysium safely is to simply pay the Keeper of Elysium a boon to exclude certain nearby areas. Even if a building is Elysium, if its grounds aren’t declared as such, you may only need to lure someone outside to beat them senseless. In modern nights, the areas between an Elysium and its parking are themselves implicitly considered Elysium, but a crafty vampire of high status can sometimes argue otherwise.

Elysium can be generally suspended by the Keeper of Elysium or the Prince with a formal pronouncement, or if either give permission for an act of violence to occur there. A Keeper who regularly suspends Elysium or permits such violations risks losing her job for incompetence or malfeasance, however, unless these acts are at the behest of the Prince. In American cities, one typically isn’t considered to have violated Elysium if defending oneself from an attack or subduing someone else who is violating Elysium, though some Princes and Keepers are more restrictive in this regard (at least until boons come into play). The careful use of Dominate or other tactics can let you breach Elysium in “self-defense.” Finally, those who are unacknowledged or subject to the Blood Hunt don’t benefit from the protection of Elysium, though in the interest of fair play, most Kindred leave the unacknowledged alone if they’ve arrived to present themselves to the Prince.

The punishments for violations of Elysium are largely up to the Keeper of Elysium. The most common punishment is ejection and loss of status, but particularly egregious violations can result in violent retribution. It’s extremely rare, though, for a violation of Elysium to result in a Blood Hunt or execution unless you’ve already gained the Prince’s ire for other reasons. Repeated violators of Elysium are either banned from the city’s Elysium permanently or exiled from the city altogether. Naturally, anything more severe than ejection from Elysium requires the intervention of Prince, though most Princes have little love for those who threaten Elysium and are all too willing to take the advice of their Keepers on how to deal with them.