A Magical Medieval City Guide (3.5e Other)/City Guilds

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Craft Guilds[edit]

Craft guilds usually what the least amount of power among power centers. They control the production of their craft, the progression of their craftsmen, and the selling price of their products. In the early magical medieval period, craft guilds may require the permission of the town lord or the city council to exist, but as the period progresses, craft guilds become very common. Every imaginable kind of craft can embody a craft guild: butchers, fletchers, cobblers, candle makers, masons, and tanners, to clothiers, cloth cutters, weavers, fine cloth sellers, smiths, and toy makers.

Most early magical medieval city dwellers are guild members. As more people immigrate to the cities, guilds become increasingly selective with their membership and with their members' progressions within the guild. Some guilds charge exorbitant entry fees, while others only allow entry through heredity or marriage to a guild member's daughter. These limitations make guild membership socially exclusive and financially beneficial for those with influential guild positions. Every craft guild has varying amounts of control over their members and influence in their city. This determines the level of restriction enforced by the guild.

Apprentice: Craft guilds are stratified into three types of craftsmen: the master craftsmen, the journeymen, and the apprentice. All three are members of the guild and pay dues according to their station. All are subject to the guild's rules on methods of production, materials used in production, who can make certain items, and the items' selling price. The apprentice is the lowest of craftsmen. Taken in by a master craftsman, he usually lives and works in the master craftsman's home. The apprentice is not allowed to make or sell any item without the permission and approval of his master craftsman. Often the master craftsman has his apprentices do the laborious tasks of the craft or produce the smallest and simplest items. When the apprentice makes items and the master craftsman sells them, he must pay the apprentice a small cut from the sale price. The apprentice earns a paltry amount of money and pays the least amount of dues to the guild. The guild promotes apprentices to journeymen on the recommendation of their master craftsmen.

Journeymen: Journeymen are the intermediary strata in the craft guild. They can independently make and sell items, though some craft guilds require journeymen to have a master craftsman's supervision and implicit permission. The craft guild limits the products journeymen make and the selling price of those products. Complicated tasks, which master craftsmen exclusively perform, are not within the journeymen's repertoire. Of the products that journeymen and master craftsmen both make, journeymen must sell their product for a lesser price. Since the man who made the item is not a master craftsman, magical medieval society assumes an implicit inferiority of quality. This is similar to the modern concept of buying name brand products. If a journeyman wants to progress to a master, he must produce an exceptional item and deliver it to the guild masters. If it is of worthy quality, the journeyman may become a master. However, becoming a master is not only dependent on the quality of the journeyman's craft, but also on several social and fiscal factors. How well liked is the prospective journeyman? Who does he know? Is he married to the daughter of another master? Can he pay the entry fee to become a master? The answers to all of these questions are usually more important that the ability of the candidate, as long as he is competent.

Master Craftsmen: Masters are the ruling class in the craft guild. Socially and financially, they receive the greatest return from the guild and its regulations. They decide who become journeymen and master craftsmen. They determine the selling price for products of their craft based on the item and the level of the craftsmen who makes the item. They are ambassadors of the craft in civic matters and in dealing with the merchant guild. Besides controlling their craft and those who practice it, craft guilds also affect the city at large. Rebellions, revolts, and hostile takeovers have all found a start in the craft guild at one time or another. Weavers banding together in opposition to the merchant guild's regulations on their craft, cobblers not agreeing with the large tax on fine foreign leather coming into the city, and masons striking because the master mason in charge of building the new church is not a local master mason are all common examples of craft conflict.

Merchant Guilds[edit]

All cities have a merchant guild, even the earliest of magical medieval cities. Merchant guilds usually develop before any other guilds. Socially, they rank above craft guilds, though craftsmen may belong to the merchant guild. In absence of a city council, the merchant guild acts as the city council. They negotiate rights, taxes, and rents with the town lord, make municipal bylaws, and pick city officials. If there is a city council, prominent merchant guild members are almost always members of the council. Most merchant guild members are wholesale merchants. They are not concerned with the production of crafts and goods, but rather the transporting, buying, and selling of goods. Some wholesale merchants are concerned with buying local goods and transporting and selling them to neighboring cities, fairs, regions, or possibly kingdoms. Others concentrate on importing sought-after goods into the city. Selling staple products like grain and coarse cloth are quite profitable; other wholesale merchants specialize in luxury goods like wine, furs, silks, and fine linen.

In smaller cities, all merchants may belong to one merchant guild. In larger cities, merchants may form multiple guilds according to their specific commodity. Unlike the craft guild, merchant guilds are concerned with city commerce on a larger level, due to their concern with wholesale goods. They determine how much tax should be imposed on various foreign items, i.e. any item that was not made in the city by a craftsman of the city. They have monopoly powers, determining who can sell what, where, and when. They establish trading partners for certain commodities along river and land routes. Merchant guilds designate particular areas as the "territory" of a particular merchant for specific goods. They can limit which cities' merchants can come into the city and sell their goods. They can also determine to which cities a merchant can export a particular commodity. Merchant guilds usually wield exclusive power on trade in the city, although strong town lords and independent city councils try to curb the merchant guild's power.

Wizards' Guilds[edit]

No magical medieval city is complete without a wizards' guild. Like other members of society, wizards need a community and group insurance. To determine a viable wizards' guild, one needs to remember why people form them: what benefits they offer, what financial and social payments its members pay for the privilege of membership, and the guild's role as regulator in the city. These ideas are integral to maintaining medieval thought among magical times. The unique magical ability of wizards also adds complication in creating a guild structure. The guild is for camaraderie, insurance, and social distinction according to one's profession or craft. A wizards' guild offers many benefits for its members, both social and arcaneoriented. If a wizard dies an untimely death, then the guild insures proper burial and a stipend for the widow and children left behind.

For members wealthy enough to afford coming back, the guild can ensure the member's return. In larger cities with wealthy guilds, the guild can grant access to research facilities, laboratories, special materials, and spell components. Where else can a wizard safely find the snake off a medusa's head, even if he has to pay the outrageous guild price? Other possibilities are shared magical learning, spell trading, and lend/lease magic items. Holiday feasts and theater productions must be a riot at the guildhall, and the types of songs sung after pitchers of ale are legendary. Wizard guilds are immensely useful in places where military concerns are strong, or in times of war. In smaller communities, it is possible to have an arcane guild, opening the guild concept to sorcerers and bards, but such an organization is unlikely where enough learned wizards gather and look down upon their unlearned and undisciplined arcane counterparts.

Wizards also enjoy the settled ease of knowing someone understands them when they say over cards, "Yes, I tried to reverse the metamagic field by polarizing the phlogiston; unfortunately, upon opening the box, I found the cat dead." The guild acts as a police force for its craft, both on guild members and on outsiders within the guild's territory. If there is a wizards' guild in a city, being a member of the guild is not a luxury; it is a prerequisite. As with other professional and craft guilds, membership is compulsory to practice wizardry in the city, which includes casting spells for others, selling wizardly services, and making magic items for sale. Unauthorized practitioners risk retribution by the guild if word leaks out. This does not mean that it does not happen; it just means that guilds have a socially and legally supported right to pursue such transgressors. The guild also creates its regulations and bylaws. Any number of restrictions may be a part of a wizards' guild.

Though the particular laws of any given wizards' guilds are campaign specific, here are a few ideas. Wizards' guilds limit who can make what magical items. They restrict what level of spells a wizard can cast for hire, depending on level or status in the guild. They regulate the prices at which wizards sell magic items, potions, scrolls, or spells they cast from memory. They determine who can create new spells and what new spells are created. They determine who becomes a wizard, through controlling membership and taking on apprentices. They even create codes of conduct for foreign wizards who enter the city. They create specializations within the guild, like battle wizards, caravan wizards, research wizards, and production wizards. However, with guild membership comes guild obligation. Service, magic items, scrolls, potions, research, spells, unique components, or plain coin cover membership fees and other payments. The combination of payments depends on the particular guild.

The guild itself has feudal obligations it must fulfill. The amount of comparative power the guild holds, the lord or city council that gives the guild a charter, and the arrangements made with other groups determine the feudal obligations a wizards' guild owes to other groups and power centers in the city. It is important to remember that despite the camaraderie and rules for self-policing, wizards' guilds have just as much internecine fighting, backstabbing, individual power grabs, systematic rule-breaking, and dirty play as any other magical medieval guild. Although lords may grant a city the right to form a wizard's guild, they will never relinquish control over their rights of magical taxation and service, unless physically forced otherwise.

Wizards' guilds are potentially one of the most powerful groups in a city. Such organizations have the magical power, and most likely the wealth, to compete against other guilds and power centers for attention and influence. Wizards provide magic that improves crime solving, intelligence gathering, and diplomacy. Wizards' guilds are full of learned men and their comprehensive libraries, facilities held in high esteem as places of learning and prominent architecture. A city's wizards'...

Thieves' Guilds[edit]

Thieves' guilds are associations between people who thieve for a living. Members of the thieves' guild do not have to be rogues, nor do rogues have to delve in the shadier use of their skills. Being a part of a thieves' guild provides the same basic benefits of all guilds: insurance, training, and tricks of the trade. Members get training and specialized class tools, which may not be available at typical stores. If a member of the guild gets into some legal trouble, the guild may pull some strings, especially if there is coin or favor in return. Thieves' guilds gather like-minded individuals who make alliances, plan jobs, and get information on buildings, people, and security measures.

Another benefit to guild membership, besides two unbroken legs, is more sophisticated thievery. Sophistication allows such things as protection rackets, where people pay the thieves' guild to insure they, their homes, and their buildings are not burgled. This only works with implicit cooperation from guild members. If the guild leader says, "do not rob this place," he really means, "do not rob this place."

Guilds also build up a repertoire of snitches, informants, bribed officials, and magic connections that other guild members may use. Smuggling goods, either for direct profit or through fencing, is also easier when thieves work together. The officials may catch one or two thieves, but the operation continues. Maintaining a slim margin of honor among thieves is very tricky, which is why the most successful thieves' guilds are lawful. In order to keep a thieves' guild together, the guild must be strong and powerful enough to police their members and independent thieves that trespass on the guild's territory. Once a merchant pays the guild protection money, the guild's reputation is now on the line. Who wants a thieves' guild you can't trust?

Guilds with enough authority allot territory to various factions within the guild to help keep the peace and reward favored members. The guild decides whether the Red Footpads or the Black Tigers get gambling and girl rights in the docks ward, while pick pocketing and begging on Baker Street goes to the Unseen. Such territory distribution also leads to internal contention that guild rulers use for their benefit.

The Law: Law in magical medieval times is not like modern law. Laws are codifications of social custom. In larger cities where people come from many different places, laws become guidelines for easier coexistence. Sometimes laws are enforced with fiscal or physical punishment; other times laws are a formality thrown to the wayside due social necessity. Only those with power can force others to abide by the laws, whether they are guild laws, civic laws, manorial laws, or royal laws. Laws do not necessarily work as a deterrent from certain behaviors, nor are their transgressors always prosecuted.

Thieves thrive off illegal activities. The activities that are not illegal per se are probably immoral. This includes pick pocketing, robbery, theft, smuggling, burglary, gambling, and other illicit entertainment. Despite the differences in goals, thieves and their guild coexist in a magical medieval city that has laws. Unless the entire society and the leaders of the city are all of the goodly persuasion, thieves' guilds probably exist in cities, provided there is enough movable wealth for thieves to make a decent living.

The first explanation for the easy existence of thieves' guilds in urban society is the implicit social agreement between thieves and their victims. People expect crime, (crime in a magical medieval city is usually not violent crime but some form of theft) and they tolerate a certain level of crime. The level of tolerable crime changes with the alignment of the population, the ruling and civic power centers, and the wealth of the city. As long as the thieves operate at or near the level of tolerable crime, little attention is usually brought to their organization. Now if the thieves' guild pulls a job on the church of the patron god, stealing one of their treasured relics or pulls a huge heist on an influential merchant, there may be trouble and lots of it.

The connections and alliances forged with other guilds and city factions are another reason for the continued existence of thieves' guilds. Thieves' guilds may bribe enough civic officials to keep the guild in business, and most wealthy members of society have enough coin to pay protection money. Even with the aid of magic, it is certainly easier to co-exist than to uproot an entire illegal organization especially considering the majority of those making rules within the city can protect themselves from theft more readily by accepting the guild than fighting it. Perhaps the leader of the thieves' guild also happens to be the leader of the merchant guild.

Thieves' guilds also serve a civic function for those who need discrete yet slightly illegal resolutions. In more hostile environments, thieves' guilds usually have close connections with the wizards' guild, gaining the wizards' concealing magic in exchange for roguish favors. Most indicative of the unique magical medieval culture, the final reason for a thieves' guild in a city is the multiplicity of law. Given the five common sources of law, (See Chapter Seven: On Those Who Rule) actions may be illegal in one court, but legal in another. Crafty thieves quickly discover these points of contention and exploit them. Maritime law, charter law and royal law in particular often come in profitable conflict.

Magic: Like other secret societies, magic jeopardizes the thieves' guild's secrecy. If someone wishes to rid the city of a thieves' guild or simply find out who is in charge of the guild, they can employing a spellcaster with charm person, dominate, zone of truth, discern lies, scrying, commune, prying eyes, or greater scrying. Anyone who knows anything about the guild is a potential information leak, either through enchantment, force, coin, or divination. Several of these enchantment or divination spells are high level, but using simple magics to accentuate force threatens the guild's prized secrecy. Thieves' guilds may employ counter magics, especially from cross-classed rogue/clerics or rogue/ wizards. Employing a cell structure is the typical non-magical method of averting magical prying. A typical cell structure is where a thief only reports to one person above him, and the person who receives the reports of several thieves reports to only one person above him. By reducing the number of connections, the guild minimizes exposure and mimics the feudal environment with roguish secrecy. The easier alternative for the guild is try not to anger anyone too important, and if they have to, make some powerful and influential friends first.


However, some families separate from their mercantile roots through land purchases and minor aristocratic titles. Positions in the merchant guild open doorways to financial and commercial benefits. Obtaining prime mercantile territory or applying pressure on craft guilds via the merchant guild are two common examples of fiscal gerrymandering. The social benefits of the patriciate include getting children into prestigious guilds, universities, or religious hierarchies; arranging advantageous marriages; and the potential of joining the aristocracy. Being a member of the patriciate does not require civil office holding or a prominent position in the merchant guild to wield power. Easily movable wealth, a rarity in the magical medieval period, carries a power of its own.

However, even very wealthy families are subject to the guild. Even within the patriciate, power comes from the social group, not the individual. Patriciates are the deep pockets of the city. Although they regularly obtain tax exemptions and more favorable trade agreements because of their social class, the patriciate are the favored target when town lords, city councils, or simple raiders desire coin. If the city needs a new dock, more than likely a member of the patriciate loans the money to the city, either voluntarily or by force. Patriciates are also community supporters and patrons of art, religion, guilds, and city projects. In a city of multiple religions, having the social and financial support of a member of the patriciate is very important for a religious hierarchy. If the patriciate favors arcane guilds over religion, that favor lends more power to a wizards' guild over religious institutions. Patriciates give alms to the poor, like lords of the manor, though the sheer amount of poor people flocking to the cities often makes their alms inadequate.

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