Kindred historians argue about when the first Crucible was, but the Fog of Ages and the lack of records from times before the Europeans arrived in America make that very difficult to determine. There is a moderate degree of consensus, with many – but not a majority – agreeing that the period of approximately 1550-1565 was some form of Crucible. The Europeans encountering this phenomenon, the alignment of mystical forces to prompt rapid action, even among the normally stagnant kindred, didn’t understand it well enough to document it though, so there is no way to be certain at this point.
Six Crucibles ago, Domains came together to form the Parliament, a common organization to craft agreed-upon standards for all kindred of the American colonies. They succeeded to some extent, and the new standards helped to usher in the “Halcyon Era.” Where a larger group of kindred might have failed, falling into squabbling, these founding fathers succeeded.
New standards came into accepted practice, most notably the absolute necessity of paying and owing Boons among kindred society. Those who did not were rejected, setting the groundwork for the basic rules that are accepted even to these nights for all reasonable and sane kindred. Anyone who did not participate in the system of Boons was considered untrustworthy, so to trust such an individual was negligent and naive at best, and treasonous at worst.
Domains were the path to power across the nation, and to be a serious contender for national political power, one had to be a Prince. Covenants were only slightly unnerved, since the vast majority of Princes were strongly loyal to a Covenant, so their power was not seriously threatened.
Five Crucibles ago, things changed. The era of revolution was a powerful one. The previously established standards had taken hold, but the structures were not so firm. Parliament continued to gain power, but the Princes became less and less dependent on the power of their Covenants on a national level.
Invictus Princes rejected orders from their liege lords, and Archbishop Princes cited the Testament’s empowerment of each city with ever-greater frequency. Covenants were rejected like the kings of England by the Americans. Covenants declined; this proved especially frustrating to the two Covenants with the most developed national structures: the Invictus and the Ordo Dracul. Even to these nights, those Covenants seek to reestablish Covenant dominance at the national level. They have not proposed a structure that has been widely accepted, though. If any structure that placed Covenants at the top of the system nationally were to be accepted by the majority of kindred, that could change… especially during a Crucible.
Four Crucibles ago, the power of Princes took another step forward, but the wisdom of the Halcyon Era and the relative unity of that period collapsed. Unity was shattered within the United States, and the kindred society reflected that shattered unity. A single leader took power, rising like a Caesar from the Senate to place himself over all others by late 1862. His power was short-lived, as the second Caesar assassinated the first within three years, just at the end of the Crucible.
This advancement by murder set the tone for the following decades, as Crucibles always do, and the period from 1865 to 1912 was a brutal one. Kindred prohibitions against violence outside of carefully-constructed rituals broke down, and assassinations were seen as a means to power. This was so devastating that the Masquerade was almost broken, repeatedly, especially in rural areas where legends of vampires were more readily accepted. Many of what mortals describe as lynchings were in fact the destruction of kindred, by both kindred rivals and by mortal Hunters who became very well-organized and powerful.
The early Ku Klux Klan had a secret mission to destroy kindred, spurred on by the rampant violence of the era, and the only salvation of the kindred was that the racist sub-group of the KKK took control of the Klan. Had hatred and racism not taken control of that group, they might be the most potent force of Hunters in the world tonight.
In those dark nights, Conspiracies formed, and kindred knew that this era of violence and destruction could not stand. No kindred, no matter how powerful, was safe, and incalculable knowledge and power were lost as enemies burned one-anothers’ histories, diaries, and journals, killed beloved retainers, herd and allies, and beheaded precious Childer or Sires. The horrors of this era cannot be overstated; hundreds of immortals perished and kindred society was almost destroyed in America by threats from within and without.
Kindred, as a whole, swore that they would never again allow violence to become the norm, for fear that it would escalate again as it did in these decades- and this time, kindred society might very well perish. Kindred looked back to the Halcyon Era for guidance, and re-created the Parliament. This time, rather than Princes coming to power, Conspiracies were the prominent force in Parliament. Cities had been burned, physical resources destroyed, allies slain- only information remained, and not much of that. Those with common goals and aspirations banded together to shape the new world.
Three Crucibles ago, things changed. Approximately 1912, American kindred felt a bit more idealistic, more focused on goals they could look forward to rather than fear. Hope began to overcome the exhaustion of the long era of fire, claw, and ash. Powerful kindred leaders met in Parliament, and they set common ground once again. They reaffirmed the commitment to the power of Boons, to the importance of the Traditions, and to the sanctity of Elysium. They exchanged grave vows to never again allow kindred society to try to settle its differences by vendetta or war, but rather to attack and defend socially through rumor and through catspaws.
Those who broke the rules were met with universal opposition. The only acceptable mass destruction was to end the unlives of those who broke the peace. After the troublemakers were destroyed, kindred returned to the Danse. Driven by the painful lessons of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, kindred created an ironclad set of standards that hold even to these nights. The power of their agreement began to weave its way into the magical “lay of the land”, the same undefinable forces that created Crucibles.
This was the beginning of the mystical effect we now call Cadence. Just as the power of the Traditions has become so inculcated in kindred that magical effects come from those Traditions, so it is with Cadence throughout America. By 1917, it was a mystically-enforced law that Clans, Covenants and Conspiracies would compete with one another, but never again would assassination, murder, and violence become the preferred solution. Those young, stupid kindred who tried to carve their path to power with claw and fire were summarily killed, even by their closest allies, as a threat to the overall peace on which the safety of every kindred depended.
Two Crucibles ago, Parliament disbanded as a formal body, no longer holding regular meetings, structure or agendas. The underlying principles had been set into the infrastructure of the country, locked into the minds and bodies of the kindred within the nation, and Parliament was no longer needed for that purpose. Rather than let Parliament become a potentially tyrannical body, it was voted Parliament be resolved. On one hand, that earned those kindred a tremendous amount of respect, as wise, self-sacrificing leaders, willing to place the good of kindred over their own power. On the other hand, it also marked those same leaders as idealistic, perhaps even naive, for sacrificing personal power for the greater good. They are both lauded and derided for that decision even to these nights.
Without a formal structure like Parliament, the Conspiracies became less structured, but perhaps more powerful. These nights, no one knows how many Conspiracies exist. Traditionally, open leaders of conspiracies have been accorded more respect by many kindred than Covenant or Clan leaders – this is in part because of their wisdom, and in part because their numbers and assets are unknown. Attacking a Conspiracy may mean undermining a handful of kindred, or it might mean starting a social conflict against hundreds. Kindred, risk-averse as always, are very wary of the Conspiracies, and give respect rather than risk unnecessary conflict. With the previous dissolution of national covenant structures, Conspiracies remain the primary way for ambitious Kindred to amass a national power base.
While the economy in the U.S. boomed, and the borders were becoming restricted, the citizenry began to take on a new view of heritage. They searched for their roots in order to better define themselves. This culture was reflected within the Kindred population as well. As early Crucibles forged power for the Covenant, city, then Conspiracy, the last Crucible returned focus to something that can’t change once embraced: Clan.
In this era, information networks and connections available through Conspiracies allowed family Dynasties and Lineages to be confirmed, created, or forged. Being able to define these kinds of pedigrees afforded several advantages – ties of loyalty to clan mates, information and teachings passed from generation to generation, and a support structure independent of Covenant or Conspiracy. Though the power of the Clans did not return as strongly as it was in ancient times, the Clan once again became an integral part of the Danse in America.
These nights, a new Crucible is beginning. Every structure has a history it can point to- Princes remember the Halcyon Era fondly, while Covenants (especially the Ordo Dracul and Invictus) support a restoration of Covenant power… even if it’s behind the scenes. Clans recall times from before the colonization of America, when family and blood were more important than Covenant political affiliations. Some Conspiracy leaders think their predecessors were foolish to give away so much power, and seek to re-create Parliament with the Conspiracies in control. This Crucible will determine what happens over the next several decades, and every partisan is eager to take advantage of the opportunity.