Savannah was founded in 1733 and quickly got all of the basics of life, including a Masonic temple and a synagogue. It became a relatively important port city as well as the first colonial and state capital of Georgia. This led, a bit over a century later, to getting a railroad so they could continue being a major transport hub for American goods. The population wasn’t really enough to support much vampiric life yet, but more than a couple passed through as cargo.
More relevantly to modern (un)life, in 1846 Bonaventure Cemetery was founded. There’s lots of famous people buried there, and more than a few still haunt the place. The cemetery got a real work-out in 1854 when a yellow fever outbreak swept through the place, and there’s nothing like lots of people suddenly dropping dead to do wonders to the ghost population. The rest of the undead population was growing as well, and some petty Prince set up shop with his few friends.
The civil war didn’t immediately do that much for the ghost population, as everyone went elsewhere to die and Shadowlands transportation is terrible. (Ghost trains sometimes eat the passengers.) What it did more immediately was sent General William Tecumseh Sherman on a March to the Sea from Atlanta, most of the infrastructure of which had been torn down and burned on his orders, to Savannah. On the 73-day march, all militarily useful infrastructure along the route was destroyed and foraging devastated a broad swath of countryside and farms. Upon arriving at Savannah, the army was greeted by the city leaders, who wisely offered to surrender the city with no resistance as long as Sherman protected their citizens and property. This was agreed to.
Over time, the war ghosts started drifting back home, many of them congregating around the Confederate War Memorial built in 1880. (Later, other war memorials would see smaller gatherings of those ghosts who made it back or died at home.) The railroads were also repaired after the damage Sherman had inflicted on them, with a much better system in place by 1887. As the mortal population prospered, so did the vampires, growing into a proper Camarilla city, but it would remain in Camarilla hands for only another three-quarters of a century.
Fast-forward to the 1960s. A time of social upheaval in the United States, among other countries. The line of Sabbat control crept up out of Florida into southern Georgia and Alabama along with similar developments along the migration paths from Mexico. Forces operating out of Atlanta held the line for the Camarilla in Georgia, but Savannah was lost.
Nothing else of interest happened until the ’90s. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil came out in 1994 and spent what is still the record for the longest time on the New York Times bestseller list: 216 weeks. As a result, tourism to the city increased dramatically, with a special interest in the occult and ghosts. Then 1999 happened. You know, the year that the Red Star, invisible to mortals, showed up in the sky and we all thought it was the End Times, the Final Nights, the last miles on the road to Gehenna? The Sabbat went on an apocalypse-fueled offensive and took pretty much the whole state. Also, they had never bought in on the whole “Masquerade” thing, and with the world ending, their religious ceremonies got pretty bloody and blatant.
This state of affairs went on for several years. Then, one night in 2005, the hunters decided that they’d had enough of blood in the streets. One night. Literally one night. Every hunter organization showed up: Project Twilight, the Inquisition, maybe even whatever those things over at the Arcanum are, all backed by even more government black ops and a media blackout. By dawn, every vampire in the city was ashes. No exceptions. The Sabbat were rolling with an entire shovelhead army and their regional war command, and the only reason anyone knows what went down is that a couple of the Sabbat’s special ghouls managed to “play mortal” and resisted the government mind-wipes when it was all over. So now even the Sabbat doesn’t screw with the Masquerade.
Of course, nobody was going to let an opportunity like that go to waste, the Giovanni least of all. The economy was already primed to collapse, and all they had to do was wait for it to go and hunter attention to turn elsewhere. They weren’t the only ones, though; a group of Gangrel, now independent of the Camarilla, decided in 2007 that no-one would notice if they occupied the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge north of the city. Their leader was a real hardass by all accounts, and a few dissidents moved to Wassaw National Wildlife Refuge southeast of the city. When the Giovanni were ready, they paid a visit to both the dissidents and a mortal family member that owned a very nice mansion downtown and made each of them an offer that they couldn’t refuse.
On February 7, 2008, at 53 minutes past sunset, the Imperial Sugar refinery across the river from the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge exploded in flames so badly that the twelve counties, the state emergency management agency, and the United States Coast Guard had to get involved. By midnight, the Giovanni had declared themselves in control of the city with no opposition from the now-missing Gangrel leader.
Then, in 2009, someone cancelled the apocalypse. The Red Star disappeared, half the oracles went crazy as their prophecies couldn’t decide whether or not Gehenna had happened, the Camarilla and Sabbat stopped offensive operations, the whole nine yards. Savannah now serves as a kind of Switzerland, a neutral land surrounded by the Sabbat but hosting a fair number of members of other sects and Autarkis.
The Giovanni are a family, a clan of kindred, and the kindred government of Savannah (“Necropolis Savannah”). Each of these only partially overlaps with the others, and sometimes a Giovanni will have two separate yet functionally equivalent titles, one within the family and one within the city government, leading to confusion among kindred who have never been in a Giovanni city before. Here’s what you need to know:
Non-ghoul, mortal members of the Giovanni family are unaware of their family’s true nature, and it is strictly forbidden for outsiders to contact them. As for the rest, the Giovanni kindred supposedly report to clan HQ in Venice, but for the most part every Don and Dona run their own affairs and nobody interferes as long as the tithes keep flowing. Within a city, the Giovanni largely maintain a standard Mafia organizational structure. Anyone who pays basic attention to Savannah politics will have at least a vague idea of this structure, as it directly affects the governance of the city.
Dona Claudia Giovanni is the niece of the Prince of Las Vegas—it’s not clear if they mean by blood or by blood—and within the Giovanni she is the Dona of Savannah. She is also, of course, the Prince of Savannah. As a result of whatever it is that takes up a Giovanni’s time and the traditional mafia boss precaution of never getting too personally involved, she does not bother with the details of running Savannah’s government. Instead, she has two primary assistants who carry out most of the high-level government duties:
- The Giovanni’s Underboss (who is also the city’s Seneschal) is the #2 member of the organization, takes care of night-to-night matters, and supervises the other kindred and ghoul members of the family with the exception of the Consigliere.
- The Consigliere is outranked by the Underboss but reports directly to the Prince, acting as an advisor, devil’s advocate, emissary (in both the general and Treaty of Alliance senses), mediator, and occasional representative of the lower ranks.
Together with the Prince, the Underboss and Consigliere make up the official “administration” of the local Giovanni and by extension the city. The Prince does not necessarily attend meetings, as any agreement between the Underboss and Consigliere is usually sufficient, but the Setite Emissary (see below) often sits in.
Other Giovanni kindred report to the Underboss and may be granted Domain over a physical or metaphysical territory (e.g., “the river”, “enforcing the Prince’s Commandments”). Under a Giovanni are ghoul and wraith retainers who form their crew, plus mortal criminal associates. Regardless of whether or not these Giovanni are technically part of the city government, they’re still Giovanni.
Non-Giovanni are expected to operate in much the same way: “Friends,” allies, and even enemies can be granted Domain, sometimes against their will, and are expected to maintain it, run their own crews, clean up their own messes, and above all, kick back a percentage of the take, with a mandatory minimum in cash, boons, and/or wraiths usually being a part of the bargain.
This is how the Giovanni–Gangrel alliance works. The Gangrel get Domain over themselves and the National Wildlife Refuges and in turn support the Giovanni’s rule.
The major exception is the Followers of Set; they owe nothing to the Giovanni other than what is laid out in the Treaty of Alliance. The Setite Emissary also has the right to bear witness to significant business deals of the Giovanni, offer advice and counsel to the Giovanni, solve disputes with the Giovanni, and give testimony back to the Setites. Also, their Emissary has to sign off on the execution of a Setite. (The Consigliere functions as the Giovanni Emissary, with similar powers.) On the flip side, the Giovanni and the Setites have to back each other in defensive and offensive operations.
Court is held in the courtyard of 230 Barnard Street, which was built by a member of the Milliner family of Boston bankers who would eventually marry into the Giovanni. Rumor has it that the Giovanni have a private crypt underneath the courtyard. There’s no worry about being seen; the hedges and are high and warded and the Giovanni own all of the surrounding buildings except the First Baptist Church.