A group of select vampires who make decisions, police other vampires, and uphold The Masquerade
. They usually wear elegant and civilized outfits.
By the end of the 20th Century, the standard horror tropes of lone, disorganized vampires didn't make much sense. The rise of telecommunications and computers also coincided with the vampires getting their act together and forming tight-nit societies, often European in origin. They serve as a kind of a ruling organ which operates mostly behind the scenes, sometimes in conjunction with human agents or other vampire clans. With so many vampires cooperating with one another, the likelihood of world domination
is increasingly obligatory; yet Vampire councils are uniformly against taking such action. As a consequence, there is often one
council member who objects to all the secrecy, only to be swiftly slapped down.
(Originally titled Vampire Mafia, phrase borrowed from the Chiclets
- The various vampire "Houses" from the Blade film and TV franchise. The antagonist of the first movie, Deacon Frost, clashes with the House of Elbus over its allegiances with mankind. Frost suspects he's not the first vampire to question the status quo, just the loudest. He's overruled by the other members, who look down on him for not being pure-blood vampire.
- In Blade II, another coven enlists the help of Blade through their human ("Barely -- I'm their lawyer") agent, Karel Kounan, to stamp out a mutagen known as the "Reaper virus." It turns out the virus was accidentally created by the coven's leader, Damaskinos, while experimenting with replicating Blade's immunity to sunlight.
- The Vampire Authority in True Blood is the ultimate authority over all vampires and has spent many centuries working to monitor the whole race. Using state-of-the-art technology and a secret police, the Authority controls every aspect of vampire society by setting law and settling disputes. Defying the Authority is punishable by death; most vampires fear it, though Russell Edgington mocks the idea.
- Forever Knight has The Enforcers. We don't see too much of them, but they keep tabs on the other vampires and do what it takes to keep the Masquerade intact. The gentlest means they employ is hypnotizing humans to forget. Enforcers aren't as soft on other vampires, who face death for breaking the code of silence.
- Discussed in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The Order of Aurelius, led by The Master, pride themselves on being wholly divorced from the "human pestilence"; so much so, that Angelus mocks them for living in a sewer when they could be enjoying the finery of upper-crust England.
- Similarly, Dragon In Chief Mr. Trick keeps trying to interest his boss Kakistos -- an old-school vampire of Greek origin -- in the virtues of technology, such as ordering human dinners over the internet in the same manner as pizza. He eventually grows frustrated with Kakisto's lack of innovation and leaves him to be slain by Buffy.
- Twilight's Volturi are especially zealous and have adopted a salt the earth approach to maintaining secrecy. They often send agents to destroy renegade covens and eradicate all vampires and humans on the scene.
- S. Luk'yanenko's Watches also keep the vampires in check (by means of Equivalent Exchange, though).
- V. Panov's Secret City - since his Masan are an almost literal expy of Vampire The Masquerade, their Camarilla fits the idea.
- Y. Nabokova's series of vampire novels (think russian mash-up of anything vampire and urban from Anne Rice to Twilight) - same idea.
- Ref. Whitley Streiber's concept of a Vampire Parliament, where the world's vamps get together to discuss things like territories and breeding rights (breeding humans, that is).
- A Medieval/Steampunk example happens in The Elder Scrolls III Morrowind where there are three clans of vampires (Aundae, Berne & Quarra), at war with each other. Yes, you can join one of them in their fight.
- Also in The Elder Scrolls: One of the in-game books (Surfeit of Thieves) tells the story of a thief who was unlucky enough to end up trying to rob a meeting of one of these. Another of the books (Immortal Blood) tells the story of a vampire hunter who sought out vampires and was eventually sent after this sort of trope by his contact...who turned out to be a member and promptly fed on him ( he appears as a vampire lord in Skyrim, indicating that he was turned and became a vampire for at least a few hundred years.).
- Oblivion contains a subversion; the count of Skingrad is a vampire, but absolutely detests them. Similarly, it's an Open Secret in Skyrim that the court mage of Solutide is one, but she's a textbook Boomerang Bigot.
- One quest in Skyrim deals with a plot to turn the entire town of Morthal into this trope (with everyone in the town either becoming a vampire or a Sycophantic Servant/Cattle).
- Dawnguard, the first DLC expansion for Skyrim, will have this as a major faction which you can join or fight against. The trailer also hints that the bloodlines from Morrowind will be making a return.
- The Camarilla (particularly the Elders among them) of Vampire The Masquerade. They're the ones responsible for the Six Traditions (especially the Masquerade), have quite the established hierarchy stretching back centuries, and deal harshly with those that break the Masquerade and the other Traditions.
- Vampire the Masquerade also has the Sabbat, though they're a bit less concerned with maintaining the masquerade than the Camarilla, and the independent clan Giovanni, who draw their membership from one ancient inbred Venetian family and act like The Mafia.
- The "successor" game Vampire The Requiem has the five Covenants.