The Camarilla is the most organized of the vampiric sects, an elite club that favours tradition and control of the mortal populace from behind the scenes. Across their domains, they enforce six major Traditions, chief among them being the Masquerade. All clans have an individual presence in the Ivory Tower, though a select group of pillar clans make up the core of its membership. Once the Camarilla welcomed all Kindred who obeyed its laws, but recent events have caused the leadership to adopt more exclusive membership rules. No Anarchs, Caitiff, or thin-blooded vampires are allowed to exist within the sect.
In addition to preventing the growing mortals masses from discovering the existence of vampires, the Camarilla aims to maintain the status quo of Kindred society; as such, much of its structure and traditions mirror that of Cainite society in feudal Europe in the Dark Ages, and places it at odds with the agenda of the Sabbat and Anarchs, both of whom seek to overthrow archaic Kindred society.
The Camarilla's birth was grounded in the growing threats of the Inquisition and the Anarch Revolt, both of which were threatening Cainite domains throughout Europe. Though there had been attempts to form alliances in the past, a meeting of elders to seriously consider the idea of forming a league of vampires was not held until 1394. Little came of it, however, until a bold attack was made on the castle of the elder Ventrue Hardestadt led by the famous Anarch Tyler. The Founders-to-be recognized the need for a unified front and so banded together several of their most trusted childer and servants into a joint task force to use against the Anarchs. Though meant to illustrate what could be accomplished if elders pooled their resources together, politics and rivalries would continue to divide them even as the Founders slowly made preparations for their new alliance.
The formation of the "Camarilla" (a word that denoted both that it was a convocation of peers or comrades and that it met in session secret from mortal knowledge) was announced in 1435 as the Founders began openly rallying support for a coalition to protect vampires from the dangers of roving anarchs, the invading Assamites, and the increasingly dangerous mortal mobs. After all, the very Spanish word camarilla also means to mutually scratch one another’s back, a meaning that would be given expression in the convoluted workings of prestation throughout the sect.
War continued to rage over the next several decades and the Founders, now called Justicars, fought to hold the nascent sect together. In 1486 the first national conclave was convened, during which the justicars were given broader authority to punish vampires who violated the Traditions. A new body of agents was also formed to report to the justicars and free them to further develop the sect, creating what would eventually become the position of archon.
In 1493, the Convention of Thorns marked the end of the First Anarch Revolt and the birth of the Camarilla as it is known today. The Traditions were accepted as law. Representatives for the Brujah, Gangrel, Malkavian, Nosferatu, Toreador, Tremere, and Ventrue clans officially joined the sect, while those speaking for the Lasombra and Tzimisce, who were majoritarily anarchs, rebelled against what they considered an offensive ultimatum and went on to form the Sabbat in opposition to everything the Founders intended. While the Convention of Thorns was a significant victory for the Camarilla, it set the stage for the next five centuries of conflict between the two sects.
The New World
Over the next two centuries those Anarchs who refused to accept the Convention of Thorns coalesced into the Sabbat and struck out against the Camarilla's power. The organization and superior numbers of the older sect gave it a distinct advantage, however, and during the 17th century the younger Sabbat vampires began migrating to the New World en masse, leaving most of Europe to the Camarilla.
For a time there was some debate as to whether to pursue their enemy to the Americas, but eventually the idea of staking out new territories was accepted as a means of placating younger Kindred. Whereas it had seemed that the Sabbat might claim all of the New World, as their enemies fell into internal conflicts over dwindling resources the Ivory Tower consolidated power in the English, Dutch, and French colonies. The War of 1812 mirrored a renewed battle for the Atlantic coast where the Camarilla gradually lost city after city throughout the first half of the 19th century. As the war expanded to the American frontier the Camarilla was barely able to hold on its domains only because of civil war within the Sabbat's ranks.
In the 20th century, the Camarilla was greatly weakened by internal disputes as Kindred took differing sides in the mortal conflicts in Europe. This was especially true during the Second World War when many elders, particularly among the Toreador, Tremere, and Ventrue, supported the Axis Powers; the Inner Circle refused to take sides, and even individual justicars ended up working against one another. However, when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, it became deadly apparent how important preserving the Masquerade and global peace was, for mortals now possessed the power to destroy both themselves and all Kindred.
- Main article: Gangrel (VTM)#Final Nights
Following the Sabbat invasion of the East Coast, the Camarilla suffered another blow with the departure of the Gangrel. The reasons for their withdrawal are unknown; it is rumored then Justicar Xaviar went before the Inner Circle, uttered a single sentence, and left. Word spread through the clan, and over the course of a month the majority of the clan abandoned the sect and became independent.
- Main article: Assamite Schism
Ur-Shulgi rise from torpor led to a cleansing of all Assamites who do not follow the Path of Blood. Those that survive attempt to join the Camarilla. This includes virtually all of the Banu Haqim. They are led by Al-Ashrad and Tegyrius.
Many elders succumb to the Beckoning or enter hiding, and the rise of the Second Inquisition leaves the remaining sect leadership paranoid about relying on modern technology. A ban is placed and the Anarchs are blamed, as more elitist membership policies are levied and a prohibition on clanless vampires is enforced. Retribution is taken at the Conclave of Prague, when Theo Bell slays Hardestadt and the bulk of the Brujah finally join clan Gangrel in the Anarch Movement.
A large number of Banu Haqim vampires join the Camarilla following their schism and an agreement called the Odense Pact. Then, half of clan Lasombra and all of their clan leadership begin to join on a city-by-city basis, paying for their entry in service, staked Sabbat vampires, or more arcane prices. Chicago is the first domain where such a deal is attempted.
In general, much of the Camarilla's approach to maintaining order involve enacting the Traditions, which among other things means supporting a system of feudal domains and the responsibilities of sires for the conduct of their childer. The latter idea is often taken further to mean the sire has authority over the childe, and that elder vampires are intrinsically more deserving of respect and fit for leadership than younger vampires. Whatever the merits of that position may be, it has a tendency to instill great resentment among young Kindred and in the past has driven many to the Anarchs. Older vampires naturally support the social order which they have mastered over the centuries, and in fact much of the Camarilla's policies are designed to facilitate the activities of Kindred who have long ago lost touch with the mortal world.
The Camarilla's position in regard to mortals is simply pragmatic. In the Dark Ages the Inquisition and other mortal forces were responsible for the destruction of countless vampires. Now that the mortal population is counted in billions instead of millions and have created weapons stronger than the most powerful Disciplines, they could easily destroy most of Kindred society should their existence be revealed. Thus, the Camarilla ensures that mortal populations are not unduly harmed by vampire activities in order to protect the Masquerade, not out of any good will towards humanity. Still, Kindred are encouraged to blend in with mortals as best as possible and to retain the civility and composure that comes from holding onto one's human characteristics. Almost all Camarilla members are on the "Path" of Humanity, with Paths of Enlightenment being strongly discouraged and usually only practiced by elders.
Antediluvians and Gehenna
Hail Menele, Altamira, and UgaDugud, spawn of Troile! Hail Mithras, Hardestadt, and Orthinia, spawn of Ventru! Hail Mancheaka, Tegyrius, and Ur-Shulgi, spawn of Haqim! Hail Mictlantecuhtli, Enkidu, and Matasuntha, spawn of Ennoia! Hail Montano, Boukephos, and Sybil, spawn of Lasombra! Hail the Eater, Malakai, and Nissiku, spawn of Malkav! Hail Yima, Gorgo, and Azazel, spawn of Absimiliard! Hail Beshter, Helena, and Amarantha, spawn of Arikel! Hail Tremere, Goratrix, and Meerlinda, spawn of Tremere!
The vast majority of Kindred in the Camarilla are no older than a century or two and thus were not alive during the time when the Antediluvians were active powers in the world. Though they may be educated in the story of Caine and the creation of vampires, many regard such tales as myths having been raised in more scientific times. The leaders of the sect long made it a strict policy to deny the existence of beings such as the Antediluvians, or at the very least state that they all perished centuries ago. Similarly, talk about Gehenna was discouraged if not punished, if only because of the very genuine concern that such ideas may cause individuals to become paranoid, irrational, and even join a Gehenna cult. While very few Kindred would profess to believing in stories of the End Times, many also grow nervous upon seeing signs and portents that seem to appear with frequency in the Final Nights. The Camarilla's stance is one of the primary reasons the Sabbat claims that the Camarilla is in fact controlled by the Antediluvians and actively serving their interests. While it is perhaps unlikely that the Camarilla is directly controlled by outside forces, it does appear that even the most knowledgeable and powerful members of the Ivory Tower refuse to make any preparations for the possibility of Gehenna.
As of V5, questions of faith are more prominent inside the Camarilla, with various vampires following mortal religions, performing ancestor (or Antediluvian) worship, or joining a more arcane cult, heresy, or order. Further, some suggest that the Camarilla does not prepare for Gehenna out of disbelief, but rather the expectation that should the Ancients rise, they will favour the old and elitist sect.
The Camarilla is the sect in which the games of prestation are played most openly. Prestation is based on the simple premise that when a Vampire receives an important gift or favor, he is beholden to the bestower and honor bound to return the favor. When a fledgling is presented officially before the prince and released from the Jus Noctis and allowed as a true member of the domain, they usually engage in their first act of prestation in the process, although some Clans, like the Ventrue and Toreador, involve their progeny even earlier in the webs of social boons. As the Independent Clans (let alone the Sabbat) are in no way obligated to uphold a boon or promise to a Camarilla vampire in a manner that a sect mate would, most Kindred are extra cautious when dealing with those outside the Prestation system. Most dealings, if they happen at all, between these groups are the work of Elders on both sides.
Favours, boons and pledges of alliance circulate within the Camarilla like currency in the mortal world. As each boon and favour can only be called in on an individual base, there are no set rules and regulations for them. Often, debts are exchanged for other boons or debts, enabling a fluid system in which the lines between enemy and friend can quickly blur. The Harpies are the overseers of this byzantine system in common sized domains, while in greater domains, a Chancellor is in constant requisition to keep track of the nightly shifting web. Many neonates have found themselves in prestation traps by their older peers, who have played the game far longer than they and have much more experience (and usually don't die of infirmity).
The sanctity of the prestation system is very important to the Camarilla, especially to the elders who have spent centuries carefully accruing favors from others. If it suddenly becomes acceptable to welch on one's prestation debt, then suddenly those elders' stockpiles of favors become worthless. Needless to say, the elders in question don't intend to allow that to happen. Those investments in favors are valuable, major resources in the mini-Jyhads the elders play. As such, they have a vested interest in keeping the formality of the prestation system intact. Any offenders are viciously teared down, as the Elders use their considerable influence to undermine the rebellious vampire in every area of his interest. Even if the offender manages to survive the social onslaught, his reputation is tarnished for years, if not decades, and other Kindred will rarely, if ever, socialize with him or offer him boons.
As a side effect, Prestation also keeps Camarilla society stable. Few Kindred wish to lose a boon or debt and so watch out not to lose their assets. Outright murder against a person that you owe a favour has grave repercussions, usually a painful way to face Final Death, as it threatens the very fabric of the Camarilla. Also, if an Elder owes a favour to a neonate (by whatever means) he is obligated to honor his word. This helps to create the illusion of reliability and civility, and of normal, human-like interaction, that allows the Camarilla to pretend that they are not damned monsters.
The Red List
The Red List are a group Kindred often referred to as Anathema and classified by the Inner Circle as grave dangers and whose destruction is one of the first priorities, should they show themselves. Members of the Red List are often powerful, influential or otherwise expertised, although some have made the simple mistake of inviting the ire of the wrong Kindred. Specialized Archons called Alastors hunt the Anathema and anyone associated with them. Slaying an Anathema grants the responsible Kindred a major boon, a so-called Trophy.
To be put in the Red List, two Justicars have to agree to prosecute a truly monstrous action, preferably with witnesses or proofs of the deeds done. These Justicar bring the name before the next meeting of the Inner Circle and when all assembled representatives agree on the danger of the accused, the name is put on the list.
The Camarilla is a global organization that maintains and oversees a collection of feudal domains, particularly in North America and Europe. It is a loose alliance lacking a strong central authority or standing military. Individual Camarilla cities are almost always ruled by a prince with the assistance of the primogen, who either act as a council of advisers or hold their own measure of power. Other offices of a city include the Harpy, Keeper of Elysium, Seneschal, Sheriff, and Scourge.
Most Camarilla cities are fairly autonomous, and the broader Camarilla authority usually only becomes involved when there are concerns of a large Sabbat incursion, significant breaches of the Masquerade, or conflicts between a city's elders that could cause greater instability. In such cases one or more Archons are dispatched to look into the matter and either resolve the matter or report back to their respective Justicar. Whereas there are any number of archons that have been enlisted to serve the sect's leaders, there is only one justicar for each official clan in the Camarilla. These influential vampires represent the highest visible authority of the Camarilla and hold tremendous power to enforce the sect's precepts and call on its resources. They answer only to the Inner Circle, a secretive body of the Camarilla's eldest members that determines the sect's direction and policies.
In V5, titles were added such as Principal of Faith (advisors on matters of the soul), The Herald (who acts as the voice of the Prince, proclaiming decrees to Kindred subjects and carrying messages to and from other rulers) and The Shadow (formal advisor to a coterie, assigned by the Prince to shepherd them through the minefield of Kindred society).
Members in 5th Edition:
A further, if unofficial, differentiation is between the patrician Clans (the high society of the Camarilla, comprised of the Ventrue, Toreador, and Tremere) and the plebeian Clans (the low society, comprised of the Brujah, Nosferatu, Malkavians, and the Gangrel). Members of the patrician Clans usually hold more princedoms, although the general ranking of the Clans varies from domain to domain.
A Conclave is one of the biggest social events in Camarilla society. It can only be issued by a Justicar and is often used as a court for trials, announcements or similar reasons that affect all Kindred in a certain area. During a conclave, vampires of all bloodlines and classes of age can intermingle and voice their opinion. Every member of the line of Caine is welcome as long as they do not stand in open opposition to the Camarilla. The Justicar is responsible for the organization, accommodation and similar responsibilities, although he can draw on the staff of the local Elysium of the city he wants to hold the Conclave.
Conclaves have no planned schedule, each Justicar calls them as he sees it fit. The intricacies of Conclaves rely on codes of conduct that steadily evolve and are improved, but certain arrangements are always made; like the seating order.
- V5: Camarilla
|Vampire: The Masquerade Sects|
|Anarch Movement • Ashirra • Camarilla • Independent Alliance • Independent Clans • Sabbat|
|Inconnu • Lost Tribe (Black Hand) • Tal'Mahe'Ra|