Vampires observe a set of customs that exists somewhere between being coded into their undead natures and a social contract that’s ratified every night among the courts of the Damned. Not every vampire affords the idea of the Traditions the respect they deserve — the Sabbat in particular make bold claims about the flaws of the Traditions and the weak wills of those who hide behind them — but in practice, most vampires observe the Traditions to some extent. This is most true of the Masquerade, for as bold as the Sabbat or Anarchs may be, even they don’t have the concentrated might to stand against a world of mortals who learn the secret that the undead walk among them.
Interpreting and enforcing the Traditions is the privilege and responsibility of the Kindred Prince. In some domains, particularly those of non-Camarilla Sects, both the titles and the Traditions themselves may vary, but the core principle is found everywhere: That an undead authority makes the rules and woe to any who feel that they don’t have to heed them.
The First Tradition:
Thou shall not reveal thy true nature to those not of the Blood.
Doing such shall renounce thy claims of Blood.
The Second Tradition:
Thy domain is thine own concern.
All others owe thee respect while in it.
None may challenge thy word while in thy domain.
The Third Tradition:
Thou shall only Sire another with the permission of thine Elder.
If thou createst another without thine Elder’s leave, both thou and thy Progeny shall be slain.
The Fourth Tradition:
Those thou create are thine own children.
Until thy Progeny shall be Released, thou shall command them in all things.
Their sins are thine to endure.
The Fifth Tradition:
Honor one another’s domain.
When thou comest to a foreign city, thou shall present thyself to the one who ruleth there.
Without the word of acceptance, thou art nothing.
The Sixth Tradition:
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 First Tradition: The Masquerade
This is the most important Tradition, for its observance protects the race of Caine from discovery by a mortal world that would unite against them in fear and hatred. Many Princes and other Kindred authorities spend a great deal of time using their influence or wealth to cover up breaches of the Masquerade, for the greater good of the Damned who may not even understand the peril in which they place themselves when they breach it. The Camarilla tends to err on the side of the pragmatic, cultivating its power from the shadows, but the Sabbat longs for a time when the Masquerade is no longer necessary, when mortals are little more than blood-thralls born into the shackles of their vampiric masters.
The Second Tradition: The Domain
Of all the Traditions, Princes often employ the widest range of interpretations when it comes to the Second Tradition. Some Princes maintain that the Second Tradition applies only to those of their station, that a given city is entirely a Prince’s domain and that everyone in it owes him fealty and perhaps tribute. Other Princes are much more liberal, granting each (acknowledged) Kindred in her domain the power of sovereignty over their own territory. Most Princes fall somewhere in the middle, acknowledging that each Kindred makes his own fortune and has a right to authority in areas accepted as his, but not complete autonomy.
The Third Tradition: The Progeny
Many if not most Princes require that prospective sires seek their permission before performing the Embrace to create fledglings. However, some domains interpret “thine elder” to signify either the elder of one’s own Clan, or even one’s own sire. Note that such liberal domains are often the ones with the greatest Kindred populations, and often ones that come closest to jeopardizing the Masquerade due to Kindred overpopulation.
The Fourth Tradition: The Accounting
This Tradition imposes a twofold rule. First, a sire effectively owns her progeny until such a time as she deems them fit to face Kindred society on their own. Second, a wayward childe brings trouble upon his sire’s head, for the sire is responsible for the actions and consequences of her childe until the point at which she is emancipated. This Tradition is simultaneously at the center of some Kindred’s policy of making their childer earn their freedom through a long and arduous process, and other Kindred’s policy of, “Fuck it; you’re a vampire now. Don’t ruin it for the rest of us or I’ll tear your heart out myself. Good luck.”
The Fifth Tradition: Hospitality
A Prince has the right to dictate who may stay in his domain and who must leave or suffer punishment. This Tradition also imposes the responsibility on a traveling or relocating Kindred to present herself to the local Kindred authority and make herself known and accountable for any missteps. Again, this Tradition’s enforcement falls to the whim of individual Princes. Some are iron-fisted dictators who demand to know the comings and goings of all the Kindred in their cities, while others don’t mind so much as everyone heeds the other Traditions and doesn’t disturb the social order.
The Sixth Tradition: Destruction
The Blood Hunt — the Lextalionis — is the Princely decree that declares another vampire persona non grata. The right of Princes (or “elders,” depending upon the interpretation of the Tradition) to call the Blood Hunt effectively forfeits the hunted Kindred’s unlife; it is the ultimate punishment levied for the most grievous of crimes. Indeed, it is used so sparing and so severely in most domains that many Princes will even pardon those Kindred who perform diablerie on a vampire under the Lextalionis.