If you search for an answer on Google, you will get the definition “the set of conventional rules prescribing social manners”.
Basically, that says it all. However, this is not helpful because you still don’t know what behaviour is expected of your character. Therefore, we will go into detail here and explain the basics of etiquette. You will be able to cope well with these in most situations.
Important: No rule without exception. Even if you learn the best manual on the subject by heart and follow it 1:1, this is no guarantee for success. But if you understand and have mastered the basic rules, you will get along much better in society than someone who works around on a whim.
Also important: Th etiquette lives and changes. The basic rules remain, but nuances vary from domain to domain. Likewise, there are always phases in which much more attention is paid to etiquette, and phases in which not many people care how you behave. So stay flexible.
But here goes.
Etiquette is the lubricant of society
In vampiric society, not only do personalities from the most diverse social classes come together, but also characters from different eras. Conflicts are inevitable.
Etiquette is a set of rules that guides everyone on what is considered good manners and what is not. And that benefits everyone – especially the younger ones. For they are protected because they know how they should behave towards the older ones so as not to enrage them. On the one hand, the rules are quite simple, so you can actually learn them quickly. Even those who have not received any training at court (and very few have) can move around relatively safely.
Some old Cainites may interpret the etiquette somewhat individually, adapted to their own preferences. Nevertheless, the basic standard is a very good basis for holding one’s own in society.
Etiquette is exciting because….
Ok, the Elders want you to behave well. That doesn’t lure every neonate out from behind the stove yet. But there are other reasons why etiquette is useful – besides your own integrity, because you don’t accidentally start wars:
Breaking rules deliberately
If you want to break rules, you have to know them. It is one thing to be the insufferably provocative Cainite who deliberately shows no manners. It’s another thing to be the dork who just doesn’t get it.
You see, it pays to know the rules of etiquette that you want to break 😉
You understand much more
If you know what basic behaviour is expected, you’ll notice when someone doesn’t quite follow these rules of etiquette. So, you can easily spot the clues that someone is (or is not) in the favour of a high-ranking Cainite. Pretty useful, isn’t it?
And how should you behave?
In a nutshell, the lower-ranking Cainite pays respect to the higher-ranking Cainite. This is the basic rule on which the whole etiquette is built.
How your character should behave towards other characters in terms of etiquette depends (also) on your character’s rank. You can forget about the hierarchy of human nobility for now, this is about status and possible positions within the Camarilla. Positions never override status. Thus, an Ancilla will be below an Elder even if they hold two or more positions. The only exception is the position of Prince.
Ancillae with office
Ancillae without office
Neonates with office
Neonates without office
So far, it’s actually quite simple, isn’t it? You can break down this list even further, but these subtleties are beyond the scope of this article. If you want to know more about it, you can contact your trusted herald in the game 😉
But now to the appropriate behaviour of your character:
As a child
- you bow slightly to a neonate
- you bow deeply to an Ancilla
- you kneel down before Elders and Princes
Should a child walk alone to an Ancestor or Prince and address them, the responsible guardian will hopefully also have a good explanation for this annoyance 😉
As a Neonate
- you bow slightly to an Ancilla
- you bow deeply to an Elder
- kneel before a Prince
It is not at all uncommon and required in some domains that Neonates also kneel before Ancillaries who are not Princes of a domain.
As an Ancilla
- you bow slightly to an Elder
- you bow deeply to a Prince
What is polite among humans is also part of the etiquette in Vampire Live:
- don’t interrupt conversations, and certainly don’t interrupt a higher status Cainite.
- ask before you join or leave a discussion group
- if a Cainite comes to a table and there is no chair left, the Cainite with the lowest status offers his chair.
- rise when a higher status Cainite comes to the table you are sitting at.
- greet the Cainites of relevance at the beginning of the evening.
The proper greeting
You want to greet another Cainite but don’t know how? No problem, this is also very simple. While as a Neonate you can approach most Ancillae on your own to introduce yourself, with an Elder it is quite appropriate for someone to introduce you. If you are already acquainted with a Cainite, you can also approach and greet them alone.
Important: When you greet someone, of course you also say goodbye at the end of the evening.
But now for the introduction. Curtsey or bow to your counterpart if necessary. The higher-ranking Cainite decides on the form of greeting: The Neonate does not extend his hand to the Ahncillae or the Elder. If the higher-ranking person decides to shake hands with you, it is not up to you to refuse.
Then you state your name, status, clan and the domain from which you come. This is the basic information that everyone is entitled to. Speak loudly and clearly so that your counterpart understands you well. This is especially true if you have a complicated name:
“I am x, Neonate of clan y, from domain z.”
If you already know your counterpart, you don’t have to list it again each time.
The kiss on the hand
Do yourself a favour and ignore what is commonly known as the kiss on the hand. This is because it is quite misrepresented in almost all films.
A kiss on the hand, contrary to the name, is not a kiss. The gentleman’s lips never touch the lady’s hand – unless he is being naughty as hell and/ or doesn’t know how to behave.
Moreover, the gentleman does not hold the lady’s hand tightly like a vice, but only supports it lightly with his own. The position of his thumb indicates how familiar he and the lady are with each other: His thumb next to her fingers is formal. The thumb on her fingers also indicates a long acquaintance and personal closeness. The thumb on the back of her hand is the invitation for later frivolities.
If the lady does not want a kiss on the hand and offers her hand to the gentleman as if for a normal handshake, he can use light pressure to see if he can turn her to kiss her hand. If she resists, however, he will never forcefully turn her hand around and pull it towards him.
By the way, the lady may remain seated if the gentleman of (the same) rank gives her a kiss on the hand.
Final tip: Ask the herald about etiquette
A very useful lesson that many makers teach their offspring is this tip: If you visit a foreign domain whose local customs you do not (yet) know, seek out the herald in charge and ask them to instruct you.
If they prove to be a bitch, their advice may cost you a favour. But this will save you from putting your foot in your mouth, which you don’t want to do. Besides, it’s their job to take care of etiquette. And last but not least, they are guilty of a faux pas if they have not informed you properly.
Tip: In some domains the office of herald is called something else. Nevertheless, almost everywhere there is someone who watches over etiquette. When it comes to the preferences of an Elder, their Ancillae are also good contacts.