Guilds are companies of merchants who have certain legal protections that help them operate their field of business in an area. Many Guild Associations are very powerful in their region, and can command vast wealth and influence over current affairs. In its simplest form, a Trade Guild is a group of individuals who all agree on a certain set of standards and practices, and who have the legal right to forbid commerce of their kind by tradesmen who are not members of their guild.
What this means is that if a Blacksmith's Guild exists in a town, then no person may legally accept money for Blacksmithing goods or services within those walls without being a member. Being a member generally means paying regular dues to the Guild organization and also agreeing to follow their standards of commerce and production. This usually means not selling substandard goods, not breaking any local trade laws, not selling to criminals, and other protective restrictions, and also usually includes a standard price of given goods. When all members of a trade agree to fix their prices, it makes them all more profitable because they are no longer competing with one another for the lowest bid. It also means that anyone who attempts to sell goods without the permission of the Guild risks fines or arrest, depending on the local laws.
If a tradesman wishes to participate in more than one market, they must be members in good standing of all relevant Guilds, and that includes the ubiquitous Merchant's Guild, the Guild that is in charge of all buying and selling to the public in their area of authority. Anyone buying or selling anything to the public must be a member of the Merchant's Guild in good standing, which can at times be somewhat expensive to maintain, although the power that the group wields is often dramatic. Some individuals, unwilling to pay for Merchant's Guild membership, attempt to sell their goods just outside of the town borders, or to travelers along the roads, a profession called Peddling. Peddlers are those merchants who attempt to legally do business without such licensing.
Some Guilds are powerful enough, especially in Hestralia, that their network extends into whole regions, or has reciprocity with other like Guilds in neighboring areas. These powerhouses can command entire market-shares and often have agents in many places in the Throne to arrange their finances.
THE SILVER TIER
There are legal restrictions on the use of certain coinage by certain people in the Throne, and silver is the coin of Guilds and professionals. Contracts are always enumerated and paid in terms of silver coin, or at least credit representing a quantity of silver. By contrast, copper transactions are not regulated by guilds and not protected under Guild laws. This means that someone offering to pay for a good or service in copper coin can ask anyone to perform the needed duty, regardless of Guild affiliation.
This has a number of effects on economy. People who perform work or sell items for copper coin, called peddlers, can do so without fear of reprisal, and it allows a certain amount of fluidity within the economy, especially when it comes to small services and tasks - too small to go through the trouble of making a formal order and contract. It also means that professionals representing their Guild usually expect a certain minimum standard of both task and payment, as it is somewhat insulting to pay them in copper for their expert services and product.
Since anything worth more than 10 coppers makes somewhat more sense to be dealt with in terms of Silver, this also limits the overall size of such transactions, resulting in usually some combination of payment and barter should the amount of compensation exceed 10 copper pieces. For instance, an inn might pay a bodyguard 8 copper, as well as a hot meal and a beer at the end of their shift in exchange for their vigilant service. Transactions that are paid out with a great deal of copper, such as if someone offered 44 copper for some service, will quickly arouse the suspicion of the local Trade Guilds as a way to impinge on their rights.
Lastly, the interconnected nature of the Guilds and the relationships they must maintain with one another mean that all of the Guilds generally sell all of their professional services and products for silver as well. This means that generally ordinary people cannot, say, purchase a sword, sold for a price in silver, with copper currency. Such items would usually be sold to a mercenary or other professional, else purchased by a nobleman for distribution to their retainers.
Guilds arise when an individual merchant purchases the Guild Charter from the local Ruler (usually by way of their Master of Coin, the city's financial minister). They pay a rate that is negotiated between the two, and they own a legal monopoly on that trade for one year. At the end of the year, the Guild Charter holder has right of first refusal to renew that Charter, usually at a newly assessed rate from the Master of Coin.
Each Guild owns a little piece of the city's market as part of their rights as a Guild. This is usually put into terms of a specific in-game Skill, and making use of that skill outside of the Guild illegal. Sometimes this can be more than one skill, for instance most combat skills function more or less identically in terms of what they offer their buyer, so they could act as one trade. Conversely, there might be two distinct trades within a specific Skill, perhaps academic instruction being judged a different trade than the creation and copying of books. Ultimately, what constitutes a legal trade and its boundaries are the province of the city's Master of Coin.
If a character is discovered accepting coin in payment for their goods or services using that skill illegally, including using or fulfilling a contract to that end, the Guilds are within their rights to enforce their status against that person to the limit of the local laws - fines, imprisonment, or even death, depending on the temperament of the Ruler of the city. If no existing guild owns that trade, it is free to use without punishment - the Guilds have no standing to pursue damages because they did not lose any potential earnings since they weren't there to collect.
COMMERCE AND CONTRACTS
The primary way a character interacts with a Guild is through the acquisition and execution of contracts. Contracts are legal documents that are created using special language and legally bind the parties who agree to the terms of the document. The invention of the legal contract was an important step historically for the Merchant class because it allowed commercial interests to exist with the nobility. Ordinarily, as a Highborn noble may legally use and abuse any of their subjects as they wish, a noble could simply refuse to pay for a delivery or goods, or in any other way break faith on an agreement. Since only a noble may prosecute a noble who they believe has violated their interests, the merchant was left without recourse. However, with the advent of the contract, the noble affixes their sign or seal to the document, and in effect, agrees to sue themselves on behalf of themselves, as they clearly document their own practical or financial interest to be harmed if the agreement not be fulfilled. This gives the merchant a way to hold a nobleman to their bargains, and, after a fashion, helps the nobility as well as it makes merchants feel safer in a more reliable investment.
The Guilds receive large, special, or formal orders in the form of contracts. These arrive through Contracting Offices in the Guild Hall, and then the Guild Master assigns their completion to members of the Guild and provides compensation.
Guilds earn Prestige over time as an organization, and this is what gives them the gravitas and recognition to do business more and more successfully, and control more and more of the market. Guilds achieve Prestige milestones, and this public recognition allows them to create further improvements to their stranglehold over the markets.
Guilds can’t do everything. It takes a dramatically different infrastructure to run a mercenary guild than it does to run a performer’s guild, or a blacksmith’s guild. The way each of those examples earn fame is different as well. When forming a guild charter to be accepted by a city, the guild must choose which Classification most closely fits its purposes.
- Gathering Guild - This type of guild mostly concerns itself with the commercialized stewardship of one type of resource or another. They gain prestige by fulfilling resource needs of other guilds, cities, or nobles, as well as settling quests arising from their particular folkwise.
- Manufacturing Guild - This type of guild is concerned with one facet of manufacturing or another. In some cities, manufacturing guilds concern themselves with the practice of a single skill, such as blacksmithing, while in other cities, it is per item type, such as all weapons, or all armor. Creation and sale or donation of Masterworks is a method of earning prestige, as well as satisfying mass production contracts.
- Artistic Guild - This type of guild is primarily concerned with performances and creation of art. From Poet’s Guilds to Bard’s Guilds, and from Sculptor’s Guilds to Red District guilds, the arts performed by artistic guilds and many and varied. Prestige is earned through satisfying contracts, as well as making enduring artistic works that affect the cultural zeitgeist.
- Martial Guild - This type of guild encompasses mercenary factions, sellswords, and watchmen for hire. They fight for their contractors, and most make it a point of pride that their guild is a family of brothers in arms. They earn prestige through satisfying contracts, winning notable battles, and earning fame through their deeds on the battlefield.
Client Guilds, Independents, and Benefactors
Guilds can have relationships with one another which can help inspire and grow business for both parties, or they can go it alone, which is a riskier, but ultimately more lucrative proposition. Client Guilds and their benefactors tend to have an almost feudal relationship with one another, where Client Guilds pay taxes and work the occasional job for the Benefactor, and the Benefactor provides protection and succor when plans go awry.
- Independent Guilds are the default; they live and die on their own. Every investment is the responsibility of the guild, and there is no safety net if some venture breaks down or is sabotaged. The benefit, though, is no one but the independent guild can claim any of that guild’s profits, except of course the local rulers.
- Client Guilds are developing guilds (4th Class through 2nd Class) that owe their development to a Benefactor Guild or to a Patron. They often owe a monthly tax to their leading entity, and in return, the Benefactor Guild or Patron provides them with steady work, protection from hostile forces, and emergency succor if some investment or other venture goes sour. These contracts are negotiated annually, and how well the Client has met their Benefactor’s or Patron’s approval will likely be reflected in the next contract negotiation.
- Benefactor Guilds are large (1st class and Master Guild) organizations that have the resources to take Client Guilds under their wings and foster them through their early development. They provide money and supply, sometimes startup capital, and infrequently but most importantly, support when things go wrong. Reneging on a contract when problems arise can result in an infamy for the guild, and other guilds refusing to work with them. Any Guild can start looking for Client Guilds once they reach Second Class.
- Patrons are independently wealthy individuals who serve in much the same role as a Benefactor Guild. This may be a merchant separate from the guilds, or it may be some rich, enterprising noble with ambitions. They can often provide less support, and thus require less taxes, but they otherwise function identically to Benefactor Guilds.
Fourth Class (Collettivo de Cinque Famiglie)
The Ravenna family… say what you will about them, but they’re good people, and they offer fair prices. It’s a family business and they keep it small, but they manage to do enough work to keep our people warm in the winter. Maybe some day fortune will strike them, and they’ll go off to some city and build a guild hall, but for now, we’re enjoying cheap, well made clothing. I bet the only thing holding them back is being born in Hestralia. If they went to Gotha, they’d probably make a killing.
Fourth Class guilds are little more than a group of merchants who decided not to compete with one another. They tend to be more of a loose family or group of friends than an actual guild, and their production or services tend to provide enough for a small village or town. They have very few powers to call their own, and largely exist only to satisfy the legal requirements of doing business.
Third Class (The Dead Men of Kaldrklif)
Ever since that damn Guild Hall went up, it’s been hell around here. The Dead Men are always carousing and going on into the wee hours, and most of us have hard labor to do each morning! Even for us Njords, they carry on a bit much. What’s that? Chase them out of town? Are you daft? Their axes are half the reason our tribes have held out so long against the Rime Clans! I just wish they’d be a mite more considerate is all.
Third class guilds typically have built their own Guild Hall and started investing in the infrastructure that will lead on to great things. Once a Guild Hall is up and running, the Guild can begin constructing rooms that will help them achieve bigger and bigger contracts and earn more and more silver.
Second Class (The Dancer’s Guild/The Scarlet House of Scrow)
Right, sure, they’re ‘dancers’. Just like I’m just a---, er, what did ye call it? Right, enterprising self employed merchantman. I know it’s hard to think of, but yeah, there’s a brothel industry thrivin’ right here in Scrow. Personally, I blame lettin’ those dirty Shariqyn in. Them and their dancin and carryin’ on. Not that I mind, mind you. Anyway, foreigners come in, and all suddenlike, there’s evil in paradise. With all four mage’s Guilds here, it does a thriving trade, and hardly needs anyone’s protection any more. Hell, their ‘dancers’ are talked about all around Gotha, from what I hear. Some day, I’ll stea- er, save enough coin to spend the night in that Scarlet House, I will!
When a Guild reaches the Second Class, they begin to become a power in and of themselves. Their trade is lucrative enough that they can start branching out into trade routes throughout the country, without having to rely on the local leadership to organize it for them. Such Guilds are often a major part of the incoming taxes for any given city, but that never seems to bother them; they’re making enough money to afford it.
First Class (The Ironworkers of Blackforge)
You know the banner the Ironworkers of Blackforge made for themselves? It’s just a clear black field, with little brown spots meant to be tree trunks. They aren’t bothered by the effect they’ve had on the forests, hell, they’re proud of it. Calling the amount of weapons put out by Blackforge “excessive” is an exercise in understatement. And you want to go to war with them?
Attaining a first rank guild status is no mean feat, and must be done with considerable amounts of cooperation and collaboration. When you’ve obtained your First Class license, you have fully built out your guild hall and established yourself as a market force to be reckoned with. At this level you can start interacting on an international level, and your exports and imports are so lucrative that you can, by exerting a little force, bolster or ruin different economies in different cities.
Master Guild (Dextera Inflamatio, The Magicians of Fire)
I hope this letter finds you well, and that your enterprises are proceeding apace. I’ll be brief. I’ve received a missive from our friends in Torchgutter, and you need to allow whoever Varus the Quick is out of your prisons this moment. It is imperative to our interests, whatever crime he may have committed. Send word when this task is completed by bonded courier. I hope I need not say this, but the ramifications of not obeying this will be dire.
Upon reaching Master Guild, you have become the stuff of legends. Your name is known everywhere in the Throne, and your reach always has dramatic implications. Your business and financial backing can influence more than economies; you can sway nobles and have a serious impact on world events. Not everyone can reach this lofty height, and you will most certainly have to knock someone out of the position first.
The Guilds systems are a machine to produce both more talented masters of their art, and to expand their financial influence over time and distance.
Unlike other organizations, Guilds do not require experience points to join or advance through. Instead, Guild members pay a seasonal fee to maintain their membership. Members are expected to gain expertise in their important skills in order to advance, as well as obey the bylaws of their organization.
Each rank of Guild Membership generally comes with benefits and drawbacks. The exact nature of these advantages and drawbacks are up to the specific Guild to decide, but below are listed some common guidelines. Advancing through the Guild does not require any experience expenditure and is a purely social arrangement.
Apprentices are the initiates of the Guild, and as such are both able to receive training and guidance in their art, but also are expected to learn on the job and must work very hard. To become an Apprentice, a prospective applicant usually need only apply to be accepted, so long as they don't have some obvious deficiency such as being an outlaw, intrinsically incapable of learning a difficult skill, or Blacklisted.
Generally apprentices are given room and board, as well as ongoing instruction in the Skills related to the Guild's activity.
Apprentices are not full members of their Guild. They do not usually pay any seasonal Guild dues, but they are expected to be at the beck and call of the masters, using their Downtime and any other resources at their disposal while they learn the trade.
Generally upon reaching at least Rank 3 in one of their Guild's Skills, they are eligible to become a Journeyman.
Journeymen are those students of the art that have graduated from Apprenticeship and are trusted enough to found their own semi-independent business. Usually Journeymen are asked to leave their area of tutelage and found their business in a new area so as not to compete with existing Masters and to expand the Guild's influence geographically. In the cases of new settlements such as frontier markets, this rule is relaxed until the city's population can reach more stable numbers.
Journeymen are full Guild members and can legally fulfill contracts on behalf of the Guild or their own purposes within Guild's protected market.
Journeymen are full members of their Guild and are expected to pay a small Guild Due once per Season, usually on the order of a few silver. The Guildmaster determines the quantity of Dues.
Usually upon reaching Rank 5 in one of their Guild's Skills, the Journeyman is able to provide a "Masterpiece" sample of their Skill to the rest of the Masters to be granted the title of Master. For crafting guilds, this can be a specific item, but for other types of Guilds, an equivalent demonstration is performed.
Masters are the foundation of every Guild, and they are known for their excellent workmanship and elite service. They are who give the Guilds their reputation and their legitimacy. Masters are also entrusted with training and teaching the next generation of Apprentices, and can benefit from their hard work - especially in very powerful Guilds that attract a lot of young Apprentices.
Masters gain the assistance of the Guild's Apprentices, and can order them to spend their Downtimes to assist them in their projects and plans. This frees the Master's own time up to create Masterwork items, or whatever else they may wish to do with their time.
Masters pay large Guild Dues to remain in good standing with their Guild, usually on the Order of several dozen silver per Season. As with all fees, the Guildmaster determines and collects them.
Masters who become very influential and successful in their Guilds might be granted Officer status by appointment of the Guildmaster.
The Officers of the Guild serve an important function in that they are responsible for the Guild's overall health and its ability to take and hold influence in the marketplace. Officers are like Masters in most respects except that they are also tasked with making new inroads, advertising, and solving mercantile problems in the city.
Officers are sometimes given special rights and privileges, but are mostly those who have to solve the hard problems, deal with international trade, maintain outside contacts, and all the hard work that makes the Guild successful. They are generally the ones who earn the Prestige for the Guild, and so their benefits are what they can negotiate as their personal compensation for taking so much time to help operate the Guild.
Officers retain all the benefits of Masters.
Officers usually pay the same as Masters, but sometimes can negotiate different rates.
Officers might become the Guildmaster should a new Guildmaster be required for some reason. It is traditional the a vote of all the local Masters decides the new Guildmaster. Most Guilds have bylaws that allow that the Guild can vote out their Guildmaster if they do not perform well, or if they abandon their position or go missing. In any of these cases, they usually must pay the Guildmaster (or his heirs) the cost of the Guild Charter.
The Guildmaster is the single person in charge of the local organization. They are expected to act in the best interest of the Guild at all times, and are the local authority in any and all disputes. They also collect the money that is paid in dues, and are expected to use that money for the good of the Guild, even if that includes their own salary.
Guildmasters are considered to be Masters for political purposes within their Guild. They own the Guild Charter that protects the Guild's monopoly, and they pay the city to do so. As such they wield considerable influence and power over the local, and sometimes international, markets.
The Guildmaster pays no dues of his own, and collects all of the dues from other members of the Guild.
While most Guilds conform to these standards, there are some exceptions in special circumstances.
Some guilds are illicit business, but a business all the same. As such, it conforms to many of the same principles as an ordinary legitimate guild.
Illicit guilds are not protected by the law and are not truly guilds, though many of them operate on the same blueprint. They police their own and have their own policies and rules.
THE NATIONAL HESTRALIA COMPANY
The Hestralian Merchant Guild is an international consortium of traders that, while a legal and chartered Trade Guild, operate under special rules. Normally only those who are members of the appropriate Guilds may accept money for goods or services related to the protected market sector. The Merchant Guild may purchase any goods from anyone (even if they are not licensed by a Guild) with the proviso that they take those goods out of the local market for resale.
This usually takes the form of buying under-priced items and performing arbitrage to another region via ships, ground caravans and other means of transportation. When goods are under-valued in Stragosa, they will buy them up until the price is normalized and they can no longer make a profit. When goods are over-valued, they will attempt to bring in the appropriate goods from elsewhere to undercut the local prices. When the Merchant Guild purchases from locals, they do so at prices near the global market price, rather than possibly inflated prices that are local to the area.
While the Merchant Guild can buy or sell any goods they wish so long as they originate from outside of the local market, Merchant Guild representatives often deal with large and bulk orders, and not usually one-off items or small sales between individuals. However, some individuals might have a good enough relationship with the Merchant Guild such that they will take time out of their schedules to meet with their local contacts and make transactions with them. This is the function of the Hestrali perk "Trade Guild Amici." See Character Creation for additional details.
The four Magician Guilds are also Guilds in much the same way ordinary Guilds are, though they mostly maintain the status for legal protection, given their less than trustworthy reputation and general public distrust.
The Fire and Earth Mage Guilds require that Dues be paid to them as a function of their membership. The Water and Air Guilds require specific services be rendered to them when asked, and while this is true of all four Magician Guilds, the scope and scale of those tasks is usually larger and more sensitive.
Advancement follows the system of Circles described on the Mage Guilds page.
The Magician Guilds are not subject to the Bylaws, listed below. Instead they have the right to make their own internal policies and police their own.
Because all of the Guilds operate on ancient charters, they all have some common bylaws that must be followed to maintain a membership in good standing. Violating these bylaws, depending on the severity of the violation, may be cause for expulsion and Blacklisting. Blacklisted characters may never join that Guild again, and may be prevented from joining other Guilds in the local area.
Article I: No member of the Nobility or any direct agent of the Nobility shall join a Trade Guild.
Article II: No member of a Guild will market or sell sub-standard goods and services or misrepresent their goods as worthy.
Article III: No member of the Guild will attempt to directly compete with any other member in good standing of the Guild. Prices should be colluded upon and fixed in a given market.
Article IV: No member of the Guild will knowingly engage in illicit, illegal or infamous actions that may bring negative attention or outcomes upon the Guild, especially in actions directly involving the Guild's primary services.
Article V: The local Guildmaster may draft and enforce additional restrictions upon his chapter of the Guild, so long as those rules do not supersede Articles I through V.