A vampire living in a prince-ruled city must accept certain responsibilities for the privileges of security and stability. This stability is maintained only when the Kindred within behave in a proper manner, one dictated by a near-universal set of rules. These rules are known by the gentle-sounding name of the Six Traditions, although they are hardly polite suggestions.
For Camarilla Kindred, and the princes who enforce them, they are the law. A vampire may be assured that wherever she travels, the Traditions will be in force. They may be interpreted differently, but they remain. It is through the enforcement of these laws, and through the laws themselves, that princes receive much of their power. Obviously, then, princes are among the most zealous of the Traditions' enforcers.
The Six Traditions that form the laws of vampire society are believed to have been passed down since the wars that slew the Second Generation. They are rarely written down, but they have never been forgotten, and they are known by all Kindred in some form. Even vampires who scorn the Traditions know them; though their specific wordings may vary, the intent behind them never falters.
It is a popular Camarilla conceit that a sire recite the Traditions to his childe before that childe is recognized as a neonate.
Some princes stage grand spectacles to honor new childer's transition from fledgling to neonate, while others need not even witness the release, trusting the sire with the proper execution. Almost all childer learn the Traditions well before this recitation, but the act is accorded great symbolism and gravity in Camarilla affairs. Staunch supporters of the Camarilla and the Traditions maintain that a newly Embraced Kindred has not truly become a vampire until her sire speaks the Traditions to her. Obviously, the Traditions are quite a serious matter, and the sire is held accountable for the childe until, by speaking them to her, he makes her responsible for upholding the code herself.
Some vampires believe that Caine himself created the Traditions when he sired his childer, and that what modern vampires follow are their progenitor's original wishes for his descendants. Others, however, think that the Antediluvians created them to maintain control over their childer, or that they were simply a set of common-sense ideas that were upheld over the millennia because they worked. The Tradition of the Masquerade, for example, is thought to have existed in some form since the nights of the First City, but it changed in response to the Inquisition.
A number of young vampires, children of the modern world, see the Traditions as being merely a tool of the elders to maintain their stranglehold on Kindred society, and an antique tool at that. The times that produced the need for the Masquerade are over and done, ancient history. Caine, Gehenna, the Antediluvians - all myths with about as much substance as the Flood or the Tower of Babel, and all for the sake of controlling the younger generations. It's time to drop the Traditions and live in the modern age. The vampires of the Sabbat rabidly adhere to this reasoning, and their scorn for the Traditions is one of the primary motivations behind their constant attacks on the ancient power structures.
Most elders see the young as temperamental adolescents who think they know everything but who lack the wisdom and experience of age. As many of the rebels are anarchs and neonates, mostly powerless and without voice in Kindred society, it should come as no great surprise that they are so wild. However, not every elder takes such an indulgent viewpoint. Many feel that the reckless whelps who demand the Traditions be dropped may get their wish when they bring mortal society down on their heads. Natural selection takes care of a few of these, but such selection has occasionally been "assisted" by a prince exasperated beyond patience with a particularly recalcitrant young vampire.
What follows is the most common wording of the Traditions. Bear in mind that this is the phrasing used by elders and on formal occasions. The wording may change according to the clan, the age of the vampire speaking, or simple circumstance.
During a childe's presentation to the prince, she may be required to recite the Traditions as proof that her sire has taught them to her.
- The First Tradition: The Masquerade
Thou shalt not reveal thy nature to those not of the Blood. Doing so shall renounce thy claims of Blood.
- The Second Tradition: The Domain
Thy domain is thy concern. All others owe thee respect while in it. None may challenge thy word in thy domain.
- The Third Tradition: The Progeny
Thou shalt sire another only with permission of thine elder. If thou createst another without thine elder's leave, both thou and thy progeny shalt be slain.
- 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.
- The Fifth Tradition: Hospitality
Honor one another's domain, When thou comest to a foreign city, thou shalt present thyself to the one who ruleth there. Without the word of acceptance, thou art nothing.
- 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.
The Tradition of the Masquerade
This has become the foundation of modern Kindred society and the basis for the Masquerade that hides vampires from mortal eyes. To reveal vampires to the mortal world would be disastrous to both. While most people do not believe in vampires, there are enough who do that revealing vampiric existence would place all Kindred at risk. In older nights, during the Dark Ages and more superstitious ages, this Tradition was less strictly enforced, and vampires rode through the night with few cares for the mortal eyes who saw them. The Inquisition and Burning Times changed this drastically, however, as those vampires who could be seen were slain and tortured into revealing their secrets. While the youth may prattle about the Inquisition as ancient history, it is still very fresh in the minds of the elders who survived it. This is one of the greatest points of contention between the Camarilla and the Sabbat - the Sabbat sees no need to hide itself from the feeble kine, while the Camarilla knows the opposite to be true.
A breach of the Masquerade is the most serious crime a vampire can commit, and one of the easiest for a prince to fabricate if she wishes to punish an enemy. Depending on how strictly the prince upholds the Masquerade, anything from using vampiric powers in public to having mortal friends may constitute a breach. To stave off their immortal boredom, many vampires skirt the Masquerade as closely as they can, taking thrill from the forbidden rush that places their unlives in jeopardy. The world has acknowledged many artists, poets, writers, musicians, models, club habitues, actors and fashion designers who, unbeknownst to the populace, were vampires. Of course, many of these vampires saw their unlives come to abrupt ends, as other Kindred decided that their continued existences were threats to the Children of Caine as a whole. The Masquerade is a dangerous balance; ironically enough, the elders who support it most strongly are sometimes the ones who threaten it (albeit indirectly and without their recognition). An apocryphal story tells of a pair of vampire-hunters - a new recruit and her patron - on vigil in a nightclub. The patron said to his charge, "There is a vampire in this establishment. Find him," whereupon the charge immediately selected the thin, pale gentleman in 18th-century velvet and brocade. Sure enough, that was the vampire - a Ventrue envoy from a neighboring city.
The Tradition of Domain
Once, vampires staked claims to specific areas to use as hunting grounds, bases of power, or because they wished to take care of them. This Tradition was then used to enforce the idea of "domain," and a vampire could be justified in killing another because her domain was violated. Over the years, as societies changed, this became unacceptable. For the past 200 or so years, a city or region ruled by a prince became the domain of the prince upon his taking the throne, or at least in theory. The truth is, a number of vampires maintain domain, many times from the sheer weight of custom ("The sewers have always been the domain of the Nosferatu," or "A Ventrue has ruled this bank since its founding"). Of course, in modern nights, with some cities hosting vampire populations of 30, 50, even 100 or more, concessions must be made. As such, many vampires hunt where they will, in the communal hunting grounds of the city's bars, theaters and nightclubs, which are known collectively as "The Rack" in Kindred slang.
Younger vampires, and a number of older ones, often still attempt to hold bits of territory, protecting and using them as private feeding grounds. Some anarchs claim that these mini-fiefdoms are granted by the prince as reward, proof that only the lapdogs get the treats. This is incorrect - the Kindred who hold their bits of turf are violating the Second Tradition, and the prince need not stand for it. He often lets violations go, however, in the name of expediency; there are more important concerns than chasing after every petty would-be anarch who stakes out turf. He may entrust certain trusted allies with guardianship of particular areas, and grant them a few privileges for the burden of the job, but in the end, he holds domain over the city. This allows him to keep order, for he may, by the Second Tradition, punish interlopers with impunity.
For solitary vampires or small groups staking out their territory, domain holds immense value to them, even if the territory is an urban wasteland. Few princes actually grant territory, but they occasionally allow "squatters," provided the vampires there support them and uphold the law there. The downside to this is the turf battles that can arise between gangs of anarchs or coteries. These can spill over into the mortal world and threaten the Masquerade. Some princes have gone so far as to encourage such conflict, regardless of the danger, in order to set the troublemakers at each other's throats and distract them from the business of the city.
If nothing else, each Kindred may claim her haven as domain, making her responsible for the activity in and around the area. Some vampires take an active interest in their environment to ensure a secure haven, while others merely want a room where they can get away from the sun and to hell with the rest.
The question of what exactly constitutes domain is debated nightly. Does domain mean the physical territory and its concerns (such as hunting and haven), or does a domain also grant a vampire access to and influence over the mortal spheres within ? Most princes argue that domain is strictly an issue of physical "turf," but wisely realize that influence over mortal affairs comes with the territory, no matter how they might attempt to curb it otherwise. A vampire who keeps up domain at the docks cannot help but become involved in the nightly mortal business of shipping and unions, if for no other reason than to keep her haven secure (after all, a labor strike could be very inconvenient, particularly if her bolthole is on the other side of the picket line). Very few vampires stake a domain encompassing mortals they cannot affect in some way, which can be a help or a headache to their princes. A prince does, however, become inclined to step in when a particular vampire's power within and stemming from her domain threatens to eclipse his own.
As the nights progress and omens of Gehenna permeate Kindred society, more and more vampires fortify individual domains, holing themselves away in spite of princely prohibition. Only in this manner, these paranoid creatures reason, do they have a chance of surviving the Jyhad.
The Tradition of Progeny
Most princes insist that they are the "elder" of this Tradition's wording and, as such, require that any vampire wishing to create a childe obtain their permission before the creation. Most vampires obey more out of fear than respect; after all, the unlife of a childe is at risk. If a childe has already been created without permission, the prince may claim the childe to be of his brood, declare sire and childe outcast and throw them out of the city, or have both slain outright. At the prince's discretion, childer who are created and abandoned without being taught of their existence may be "adopted" by other vampires, who accept full responsibility no differently than if they had created the childer themselves. The Camarilla recognizes the prince's right to restrict creation, out of concern for overpopulation. Indeed, such is the Camarilla's concern for the increasingly strained vampiric population that, at a recent conclave, its leaders resurrected the institution of the scourge. Scourges patrol princely domains, finding Kindred created without permission and either expelling or destroying them.
In the Old World, this Tradition has several corollaries. The would-be sire's sire must be consulted, as must the prince who holds domain over the sire's haven (if there is one). European Kindred are noted for their complete lack of tolerance for those who transgress against this Tradition. Failure to gain the permission of any of these undead can result in the outright slaying of the childe, and possibly the sire as well. Disregard and lack of respect may be appropriate for American rabble, but they certainly do not belong in the Old World.
The Tradition of Accounting
If a vampire creates a childe, she is responsible for that childe, no differently than a mortal parent is for her child. If the childe cannot handle the burdens of vampirism, the sire must take care of the matter one way or another. If the childe threatens the Masquerade, either through ignorance or malice, the sire must prevent it. The sire must ensure that the childe is taught the Traditions and the ensuing responsibilities, and see to it that the childe will not constitute a threat to herself or the Masquerade upon her release. The sire is also responsible for protecting the childe. A prince is under no obligation to recognize a childe, and other vampires may kill or feed from a childe with impunity.
Before siring, a wise vampire considers the maturity of the childe-to-be. Will she be able to endure the changes to her body and soul? Will she understand what is being asked of her when the Traditions are recited? No sire wishes to be responsible for a childe forever (although a long childehood is not unknown), but releasing a childe before she is ready courts destruction.
Releasing a childe typically involves the sire introducing the childe to the prince who holds domain where the sire and childe live. The childe may be asked to recite the Traditions or provide other proof that she has been taught and understands them. If the prince, for whatever reasons, does not accept a childe, then the childe must find a new city. On occasion, a sire must also introduce the childe to his own sire, but this is not always required.
After release, the childe (now a neonate) is permitted to live in the city with full rights as accorded by the prince's law and the Traditions. The release is considered a major rite of passage, much like a coming of age for mortals, for the neonate is responsible for his own actions. He will be watched carefully in the coming months; his actions determine whether he will be considered an "adult" and treated as one.
The Tradition of Hospitality
Some call this the Tradition of "politeness": Knock before entering. This was done even before princes ruled cities, and continues to be done even if there is only one other Kindred in a domain. Simply put, a vampire traveling to a new city should present herself to the prince or other elder in charge in that city. This process can be frightfully formal, with a prince demanding some form of surety regarding the newcomer's status, politics and lineage, or as casual as meeting at Elysium and introducing oneself politely. Some princes require guests to announce their arrivals immediately, while others accept presentations weekly or within the lunar month. Certain very liberal princes even permit visitors to come and go unannounced as they please, requiring that a guest present herself only if she wishes to take up permanent residence in a city.
Those who choose not to present themselves take dangerous chances. If a city is currently facing Jyhad, a newcomer risks being mistaken for an enemy. A prince may invoke the Second Tradition to punish an unintroduced vampire with impunity. By the Fifth Tradition, a prince's right to question all who enter her domain is unchallenged, even if her power to expel may be thwarted occasionally. A prince also has the right to refuse entry to any who enter, particularly in the case of newcomers whose poor reputations precede them or who bring cumbersome baggage in the form of blood hunts, enemies or other potential threats to the city and Masquerade.
Such individual denials have become quite common in the modern nights, as princes grow paranoid and xenophobic in light of looming Gehenna. Some princes, when presented with a group of Kindred visitors, permit entry to certain members of the coterie while denying it to others, reasoning that, if the group is on some sort of sinister errand, its potential to harm will be lessened by dividing its numbers. Certain notorious Kindred may also find themselves unwelcome in some cities, while their companions are welcomed without reservation.
Not every vampire chooses to present herself. Vampires such as Inconnu, Methuselahs and even some elders refuse on the grounds that they do not acknowledge the prince's right and power over them, even if they are in her domain. Vampires of independent clans (such as the Ravnos or Giovanni) may prefer not to have a prince's eye scrutinizing them. Autarkis and anarchs simply sneer at the prince; they aren't part of the party, so why should they bother knocking? And vampires who were made, then abandoned - an increasingly common phenomenon - may be unaware of the necessity.
The Tradition of Destruction
The Tradition of Destruction is perhaps the most easily abused and the most hotly contested aspect of Caine's code. Few other laws have caused so much controversy in the halls of power, and this Tradition is forever under reinterpretation. Most believe that the original meaning gave a sire right of destruction over his progeny (which is upheld by Kindred law). However, if "elder" is interpreted to mean "prince," the Tradition covers its modern meaning, and one many princes claim gladly: Only the prince may call for the destruction of another Kindred in the city. The Camarilla has upheld this claim for the extra security it provides a prince's reign. It is a right which many princes cling to, and they enforce it with brutal strength if need be.
Murder of another Kindred by one who is not granted the Right of Destruction is not tolerated. If the vampire is caught in the act, it usually means the destruction of the murderer herself. Investigation of such murder is usually swift and thorough, although the status of the victim does have some impact on this. Generally, the higher the rank of the victim, the swifter and more thorough the investigation. While the murder of two neonates may cause consternation in a community, it might take the death of an elder before the wheels turn in a more timely fashion. Some ancillae have taken this to mean that anarchs may be slaughtered with impunity. This is dangerous to assume; if nothing else, the prince may order the murderer slain for attempting to usurp her Tradition-given right.
Turmoil in the streets is considered by many to be one of the best covers for kinslaying, but the punishment for getting caught is still severe. The only time when a vampire ranked lower than an elder might receive sanctioning to kill another is during a blood hunt.