From WoD GothamCamarilla sect institutions and customs. Much of the content here should be used as background information as many neonates will only see a conclave a couple times over the course of their maturity into ancilla and elders. Many characters will not even be aware of the existence of Justicars, Conclaves, the Inner Circle, etc. Please read through this category even if you are a veteran VtM player as there is a lot of information about the Chronicle's specific interpetations of the sect that may help your player character survive as you start him out in WoDG.
The Camarilla: An Overview
The Camarilla is the largest sect of Kindred. It is a conservative body and it welcomes all vampires (theoretically). Indeed, the Camarilla expects all Kindred to be members of it, regardless of whether or not they want to. Only 7 of the 13 Clans were its founders and the elders of such clans control the governing bodies of the Camarilla. The elders who control it use it as a means to suppress and control the Anarchs and younger vampires.
The Camarilla does not recognize the existence of the Antediluvians. They are considered myths and any statements regarding them are met with derision.
This sect is steeped in Tradition and conservatism. They follow a code of laws called the Traditions whose origins are said to go back many millennia in Kindred history. Traditions are worded differently in different cities and they are interpreted differently. For more see The Traditions of the Camarilla.
Governing Bodies and Institutions of the Camarilla
The term "Prince" is simply that: a term. It is not a titular holding, nor a hereditary position. It is simply the name and the assumption of rights that a powerful vampire might achieve. The Prince does not rule over a city; rather, the position is akin to that of an overseer. Above all else, the Prince is the final arbiter of disputes between the Kindred in his city and responsible for ensuring that the Masquerade is preserved. The Kindred owe no oath of allegiance to the Prince, and must obey as much as their cowardice demands. When the rule of the Prince is questioned or thwarted, the Prince must use force to maintain control. If he does not have enough power, then his rule is at an end. Reigns of Princes vary from city to city. There are some Princes who do not understand the informality of the position and they reign as kings. Some Kindred find this intolerable, but do nothing as they feel these egotists are the only ones who would want this dangerous position. Traditionally, the Prince is among the eldest of vampires within a city. This is not universal. Typically, the Prince requires the support of the elders to take control of a city. These elders are collectively known as the Primogen. They serve as a council of advisors to the Prince and are among the most powerful Kindred within a city. The Prince needs their sanction in order to rule. There are advantages to princedom that make the position worth having. They are as follows:
- The Right to Progeny: The Prince is the only vampire who is able to freely create progeny. No others have this freedom unless the Prince grants it to them.
- Protection of the Elders: The Primogen will generally support the Prince as long as he is able to maintain the Masquerade and the Traditions of the Camarilla. It is in their interest to have a stable city in which to conduct their affairs.
- Political Power Within the Camarilla: The Prince has achieved status within the sect and is listened to by most elders.
- Mastery Over One's Domain: It is Tradition that when one enters the Domain of the Prince he presents himself. If he does not the Prince has the right to punish him.
- Freedom to Feed: The Prince is also able to limit the feeding of others. In name of protecting the Masquerade, he places restrictions on feeding. If the Kindred of the city disobey, he may accuse them of breaking the Masquerade and punish them accordingly.
- Power Over One's Enemies: The Prince has the authority to call a Blood Hunt, and thus possesses the power of life and death over those who cross him. He is not allowed to kill at will, but if the Prince determines that any have broken the Traditions, he may punish them accordingly. This is subject to much abuse, and thus provides a great deal of power. Currently, this Tradition is subject to much debate. However, most of the Camarilla support a Prince's claim to Destruction and most Princes will strictly enforce this right. Only after the Prince declares a Blood Hunt may he openly slay a Kindred.
Most Princes are advised by a group of elders who are collectively known as the Primogen. This body is extremely influential and serves as an important check on the Prince. Collectively, these elders can be considered the most powerful Kindred in the city. However, they are subject to much political plotting and bickering as all have their own personal agendas. Generally, they support the Prince as they have the most to gain from a stable environment. If you are at the top of the heap, it’s in your interest to retain the status quo.
These are areas within the city that the Prince has declared neutral zones. No violence of any kind is to be tolerated. Normally, these areas are often artistic centers and are therefore supported most strongly by the Toreador. No objects are to be damaged, nor is there to be any physical harm inflicted on any other Kindred or Kine.
This is on pain of Final Death. The Prince must enforce the Pax Vampirica in these areas or lose much status. Therefore, the Prince only declares Elysiums sparingly. There are three kinds of Elysium: permanent, temporary, and emergency.
When a vampire breaks the Traditions the rules are simple: he is slain. The vampire is hunted down and killed. This is known as Lextalionis or Blood Hunt. Every vampire is expected to partake in the Hunt, not doing so is viewed as an insult to the one who called it. The only vampire who may call a Blood Hunt is the Prince.
Many younger vampires support Blood Hunts vehemently because any who find the offender have the right to partake of his Blood. Lextalionis is not called lightly and once it is called it cannot be called off. Sometimes the offender survives the Hunt and makes it to a conclave to have his case brought before a Justicar. If the hunt is reversed, the Prince will lose much status. As one can imagine the Prince will lobby the elders of a Conclave vigorously to have his decision upheld. Therefore, a Prince will do his best to make sure the offender never survives the Blood Hunt and save his Prestation debts for another occasion.
Are important and potentially dangerous political events in the Camarilla. These are open to all Kindred, and they are the chief means in which the Camarilla operates as a sect. Tradition holds that they may only be called by a Justicar. Those who witness a Conclave are part of what is known as an Assembly. Members of the Assembly have the right to address the Conclave if supported by at least supported by at least two members of the Conclave. The Conclave is made up of powerful and influential Elders of each clan. Each member of the Conclave gets one vote and the Justicar serves as chairman. The primary function of the Conclave is to make recommendations on matters brought before it. Any Kindred may bring a matter before it, and most concerns involve the adjudication of grievances between Kindred. Essentially, any action that would be a breach of Tradition must be discussed and agreed upon by a Conclave in order to avoid future punishment by the Camarilla. The Conclave interprets the Six Traditions and may even establish new ones. It may also call Blood Hunts, even against Princes, who are otherwise safe from them. In times past, Conclaves have been convened for the sole purpose of removing a Prince from power.
The Camarilla has always maintained its right to vigorously depose the rulers of the cities. The Justicars themselves do not have this power, although they can convene a Conclave to do so. Any decisions made by the Conclave can be challenged by undergoing an ordeal. These ordeals can be of any sort and vary tremendously from Conclave to Conclave. There is usually something of a population explosion after a Conclave as the Prince rewards his supporters by allowing them to create Progeny. It is usually counterbalanced, however, as the losers pay the ultimate price. The Conclave in North America is held by the Gangrel Justicar, Xaviar, every three years in New Orleans.
These powerful kindred preside over the Conclaves. While the Conclave hears cases and makes recommendations, they are forbidden by tradition to pass judgment. The Justicars pass judgment for them. Justicars are the only true authority within the Camarilla, and over all Kindred with the exception of the Inner Council. They are supposed to hold a Conclave each time they wish to pass judgment, but over the years the Justicars have assumed more and more power and no longer feel the need to do so. The decision of a Justicar can only be challenged by another Justicar. If a major point of contention arises between Justicars, a Conclave is held where the Justicars resolve the dispute. These resolutions come by vote or by personal challenge. Justicars often have coteries of vampires who assist them who are known as Archons. These Archons serve as the eyes and ears of the Justicars and are often Blood Bound to them. Archons themselves do not hold any official powers.
This body is comprised of one member of the 7 Clans. It meets every 13 years in Venice, Italy. Only the representatives of each clan may vote, although anyone in attendance may speak. The representatives are made up of the eldest of each clan. The primary function of the Inner Circle is to appoint Justicars. These are the judges of the sect who deal with members who transgress the Traditions. As one can imagine much political positioning and intrigue occurs while choosing Justicars.
The Reality of Camarilla Practices
Most clans have their own institutions and/or customs in dealing with traitors, offenders of the Traditions, and the like. Many clans take care of their own problems without bothering the Prince or they completely disregard him. This is entirely dependent on a vampire's clan. An elder who operates within the Camarilla would more than likely ask that a Blood Hunt be called so as to dispose of the offender "legally". However, if someone should "disappear" there are those who follow a “don't ask don't tell” policy and a Prince may follow this policy.
For example, if a Tremere elder had one of his own "called to Vienna", the Prince would probably not even ask or give a hoot. These are theoretical rules, codes, and policies in the Camarilla. Just like our own governing bodies, things don't always work out like they do in political science textbooks. There is always a lot behind the scenes deal making and plotting going on, but the vehicles they use are the ones already described.
For many elders, it is better to have the opportunity to deal with their own offenders “in-house” to avoid any public embarrassment that can later be used as political fodder by their enemies. Like lords and ladies of the royal courts of Europe, they strike at each other in an endless game of political cat and mouse while always taking care to not allow their progeny to rise too far nor too quickly.
Finally, each Prince rules differently and many complete a declaration for the Kindred in their Domain. The above are standard policies throughout the Camarilla and ignorance of the generalities is no excuse for breaking the Traditions. If a vampire follows the above within any Camarilla city, he should be able to survive long enough to learn what the rule of the Prince is like and on what specifics he or she has ruled.
This declaration is known as a Prince’s Praxis.