The Prince

For time out of mind, vampires followed Darwin's law: Only the strong survive. Those who had the mettle to seize power and the strength to hold it would rule, and so it was. Vampires styled themselves as warlords and nobles, controlling whatever territory they could hold, living in uneasy truce with their mortal and Cainite neighbors, and ever seeking to expand their holdings and herds. In the cities of the ancient world, this often proved disastrous, as vampires battled for trade and feeding grades.

In the elder nights, the strongest vampire in each city or region claimed domain over it and used whatever means necessary to keep his control over it. As time went on, traditions sprang up around this claiming and controlling, and certain responsibilities were either tacitly assumed or forcibly taken by the one in power. To put it simply, the Prince is the Vampire who has enough power to hold domain over a city, codify the laws for that city, and keep the peace. Such a position is typically held by an elder, for who but an elder has the necessary personal charisma and power to take and hold domain in a metropolis? The title "prince" is simply just a title given to formalize a role, whether that role is held by a man or a woman. There are no dynasties of vampires holding their cities for centuries on end, no hereditary ascensions. Sometimes a prince may be called by title native to the land he rules, such as "baron," "sultan," "count," or even the less formal title of "boss."

Contrary to popular belief, a Prince does not "reign" over a city, his role is rather that of an overseer or a magistrate than that of a monarch. He is the judge who settles the disputes of Kindred, he is the ultimate authority on the Traditions as they relate to his city, and he is the ultimate keeper of the peace. Above all, his concern is the Masquerade and its preservation. Whether this means he regularly scours his city for Sabbat or keeps a stranglehold on the wilder elements is up to him. Not every prince realizes or cares that his power is meant to be so informal; indeed, some demand that they be treated like the kings of old, holding "court" and requiring that their "subjects" within the domain attend them as they pass royal pronouncements. Such arrogance can rankle the populace, both disenfranchised youth and irritated elders.

The vampire denizens of a city owe their prince no oaths of loyalty or vassalage. Their obedience usually depends on their cowardice, as most princes make certain to have some means of reinforcing that cowardice. If a prince's rule is questioned, or thwarted, he may call in force to maintain control. However, if there is not enough force for the problem, or he finds himself without allies, his reign ends. If the kindred have followed the protocols demanded by the Traditions, most vampires can ignore their prince, or give him half an ear at best to make sure they don't miss anything that might pertain to them. Some elders, Iconnu, and those in a position not to care (such as justicars) find princely announcements alternately amusing and arrogant.

When all is said and done, however, the Prince is nothing to brush off. A Prince wields vast amounts of temporal power to achieve and maintain his or her position. Not only does she manage the Kindred affairs of a city, she usually has quite a bit of sway over mortal business. The police, the fire department, construction companies, hospitals, the mayor's office - all are extremely useful for putting down one's enemies or securing one's hold on a particular sphere of influence. Such influences usually capture the attention of those who might otherwise be inclined to thumb their noses at a prince. It is unwise to anger the one who could have your haven condemned by the zoning board or your phone line "accidentally" cut while a gas main is being dug.


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