Organizations, orders and guilds

I am working on a huge sandbox for my next campaign, and I am fleshing out some thieves guilds and assassins guilds. Additionally I made a few more organizations for players to get caught up in, and I thought I would share them. Obviously this sort of thing is very deeply tied into the campaign world, but hopefully this will serve as inspiration for your own campaigns. This is a fresh first draft, so its still very much a work in progress (and in editing). I was thinking of expanding on the Court of Love - since noblewomen often run the household members, would recieve a bonus when attempting to collect on letters of credit.


Knighthood, and knightly orders

Knighthood is a crucial aspect of Tencter social and military organization. Tencteri knighthood is earned through a long period of training, typically beginning in childhood. Elven knighthood is derived from joining one of their knightly orders. Both are united by their adoration of the goddess graiae. It was Graiae who dictated the laws of chivalry which all knights are to follow. Knights are expected to: be courteous and respectful, as guests and hosts, be courageous, though not to the point of foolishness, observe truces, seek worthy challenges, and protect the defenceless. Tencteri knights take additional vows of loyalty to their king and feudal lords, additionally they are expected to have a unique heraldic device.

Elven knights are sworn to one of two knightly orders: the order of the swan, and the order of the radiant stars. Knights of the swan serve as elite boarding crews on elven galleys, and the swear an additional oath to never let another elven city fall into ruin. Their device is a stylized swan on an azure field. Knights of the star wander deep inland, seeking out and destroying threats to the elves before they can arise, which is their vow. Their device is a white, radiant, star trailing three smaller stars on an azure field.

Knighthood is a prestigious title, and knighted PCs can speak to the nobility on roughly equal terms, allowing them access to social spheres not normally open to the grimy rabble. Players may begin play as impoverished knights. Because knighthood is martial in nature, knights that are unable to fight with a variety of weapons, and wear at least mail armour, are quite rare.

Court of Love

The court of love was first established by queen Joveta as a group for her friends friends to discuss issues of courtly and chivalric love. It has been expanded in scope and power over time, and now serves as means to mediate domestic and dynastic disputes among the nobility. Membership is freely extended to all Tencteri noblewomen, and visiting foreign noblewomen. Members may claim sanctuary at the house or castle of any lord, or at any convent for a period of forty days.

The poor brothers of St. Walaric

The poor brothers of St. Walaric are a Paucer sect of wandering mendicants. Originally they were meant to provide an orthodox alternative to the egalitarian heresies of the Frateri, but they ended up fomenting revolt as much as they defused it. For every devout brother wandering the world easing the burdens of the layfolk there are two charlatan pretenders, hawking forged indulgences and giving blessings in improvised Old Tencteri. The brothers are required to take vows of chastity, duty, and poverty. They may only own one set of clothes, and whatever set of tools or arms that they need and can carry themselves. The vow of duty obliges the brother "to work tirelessly, in whatever way he is best able, whether plowing fields, tending the sick, or slaying beasts, for the betterment of the world and the greater glory of Dux Ordus". Brothers radiate a meek holiness, granting +2 to reaction rolls. Further, monasteries are obligated to provide them free shelter and meals. Among among the Tencter, brothers are often gifted donations of food, clothes or hospitality by devout laypeople. Knights who join the brothers are especially looked up to. They follow the same rules as regular brothers, save they are still titled "sir", and they may keep two horses. They give up their heraldic devices, wearing flat brown instead.

Thieves and assassins guilds

Due to their secretive and illegal natures, there are a myriad of thieves and assassins guilds throughout Ibea, this list is meant only to provide a glimpse at a few of the largest guilds. Unlike a normal craft guild, criminal guilds do not extensively regulate their own behaviour. Thus a thieves guild is not above a little murder for hire, and assassins guilds don't mind the occasional spot of breaking and entering – as such they do not have a class requirement. Players may choose to start as members of these guilds.

The Pious Apprentices' Association is the most publicly visible of all Tencter thieves' guilds. Masquerading as a social club for poor craftsman’s apprentices, they have a reputation for helping the urban poor and lavish participation in town festivals and mystery plays. Beneath the facade the association engages in a great deal of smuggling, extortion and racketeering. Violent petty crime is generally seen as low class and foolish within the guild, unless the payout is considerable.

The association levies a 10% protection tax on all their members' earnings (including adventuring, and anything they fence), in exchange the guild offers fences wherever they have a presence (selling limits are tripled, to a minimum of 50 gp). Attempts to skirt the tax are common, and known precursors to tragic accidents.

The Silken Pursers are a thieves guild that rose up out of the hordes of migrant labourers roaming Ibea. They have always specialized in targeting the wealthy, and are notable pickpockets. More recently they have begun to associate with the frateri, gathering intelligence and supplying them money in exchange for the occasional convenient disruption or riot. The pursers do not levy a membership fee (membership is largely informal) instead usually gathering donations whenever they meet. Travelling as often as they do, guild members hear a lot of rumours, and can usually tell (90% chance) which ones are false.

The Lampblacks are a hybrid thieves/assassins guild. The guild arose out of professional thieves assassins and spies, and are often viewed as the secular arm of the sons of nul. They pride themselves on craftsmanship and technique. Consequently, their tools are notoriously good, Thieves' tools made by the lampblacks are the best on the peninsula – providing a +2 bonus to any rolls made using them. By tripling their base cost the tools can be worked into a functional mundane item such as the handle of a dagger or the cover of a book. The lampblacks also produce lampblack, for which they are named. A greasy matte brown-black paste, lampblack is used to darken the skin, providing a +4 bonus to attempts to hide in shadows. However it is highly flammable (fire damage is doubled while wearing it), and it irritates the skin, causing weeping hives and acne (-2 to reaction rolls for one week after using lampblack). A one use pot of lampblack costs 10gp. Lampblack membership is a steep yearly fee – 100 gp per rank (level). Because of their amicable relationship with the Sons of Nul, in cities where both guilds have a presence, members of the lampblacks may purchase Sons of Nul poison.

The Sons of Nul are an assassins guild devoted utterly to the god Nul. In many ways they are more like a church than a guild – money is not especially important to them, and their meetings and customs are steeped in religious meaning. Since many of these rituals are based around darkness, sneaking, and working in secret, guild has reputation for infiltration. Generally the Sons of Nul are on good terms with the Lampblacks, due to their mutual admiration of sneaking about, and guild members may purchase lampblack thieves tools in towns with both guilds. The guild is also particularly good with poisons, poisons purchased from, or made by, guild members impose a -2 penalty to the victim's saving throw. They can also concentrate poisons, doubling their effect while tripling their cost. Membership fees to the Sons of Nul are paid in secrets, or in particularly daring feats of stealth. The value of the secret and danger of the feat must be relative to the skill of the member. Thus a novice might reveal the true parentage of the town smith's son, while a master might be required to sneak into a castle undedected. While membership to a criminal guild is obviously illegal, membership to the Sons of Nul is usually apostasy. If a confessed member of the sons can be proven to have been raised in the church then they are burnt at the stake, whatever their other crimes.

The Black Tusks are a relatively new assassins guild, concentrated mostly in the north of Ibea and in the Barwonslaw. Their name references the orcish habit of blacking their tusks before a night raid. They are notoriously brutish and violent. Notably, they openly accept half-orcs as equals, and half-orcs make up a large portion of their membership. They have deep ties with the arena at Dok, where they make their headquarters. Often their victims will be kidnapped and forced to fight and die in the arena. The tusks have struck a deal with an Amastag merchant prince to act as their fence. His agents in Dok will buy up to      10 000 gp a month from guild members, at a 20% penalty. The guild attracts the violent and desperate, and any town with a guild presence will always have 1d4 1st level assassins available for hire. Membership is a flat 10% tax off the top of any money the member makes. Those who are caught underpaying usually bleed out before their former guildmates can think of a clever punishment.

How will player character members of the the Poor Brothers of St. Walaric gain experience? Or do you expect them to be an NPC order only?

I think if I were running this, that PC would still get a standard share of the GP and XP, but would be obligated to give the GP away after the fact. Whether or not this would generate reserve XP would be a little thornier.

Exactly what I was thinking. As far as reserve exp I would be tempted to allow the full amount or nearly so, having no spare money for bribes or contributing to party purchases is pretty crippling.

[quote="jedavis"] I think if I were running this, that PC would still get a standard share of the GP and XP, but would be obligated to give the GP away after the fact. [/quote]

Would they be able to give the gold away to their fellow party members - or to third-parties that, via a convoluted trail of middlemen and laundry-like investments, will eventually pay fellow party members in goods, gold or services?

One benefit of it being an in-game order instead of an abstract mechanical construct like a class is that there is a (fictional) mind judging it. The PC can simply be kicked out if they refuse to honor the spirit of the rules :stuck_out_tongue:

How would The poor brothers of St. Walaric interact with domain play? It's hard to build a castle when you can't save up for one. The trouble is that mendicant orders don't interact well with ACKS's premises, as the acquisition fo wealth and power are assumed to be the goals of ACKS heroes.

On the one hand, that’s true. On the other hand, I’ve had a couple of players who were absolutely uninterested in domain paperwork, but who loved henchmen and mortal wounds and lots of other things about ACKS, and something like this would have been perfect for them. On the third hand, the order as a whole might be allowed to hold territory (like the Teutonic Order in late-medieval Europe; ), and then if you’re master of a local chapter of the order, your gold goes into its coffers, you earn the domain XP, and you run your affairs from a monastery-stronghold built like a cleric domain seat.

A little backstory: this campaign world was the product of a particularly debauched Cadfael and Name of the Rose binge, the assumption is an especially grimy low fantasy 12th century europe type world. As such, to a certain degree, vows become flexible when vast amounts of wealth and power come into play. As Judge I wouldn't really feel all that compelled to offer any kind of in game punishment for a player character knight or brother that breaks their vows (they may loose their reaction roll bonus) beyond the obvious - anyone who often breaks vows and promises earns a reputation as untrustworthy. Things become more dicey when clerics and their spells become involved - assuming a "normal" cleric I would think that they would lose spellcasting until proper amends had been made. In this specific campaign world even that might be a problem - one of the big reveals is that the great monotheistic diety is in fact a god of orthopraxis rather than orthodoxy, doing the rituals get you the spells, and you have to be especially heinous to be cut off. 

[quote="James K"]

How would The poor brothers of St. Walaric interact with domain play? It's hard to build a castle when you can't save up for one. The trouble is that mendicant orders don't interact well with ACKS's premises, as the acquisition fo wealth and power are assumed to be the goals of ACKS heroes.


Acquisition yes, especially for gold, but mechanically there is no great benefit to retaining wealth. Players are free to skip over domain level play if they wish, and investing money makes more money, but not all that much experience. That being said, assuming that the player has been true to his vows, and faithfully dropped the 200 000 - 300 000 gp that it takes to hit level 9 in the tithe box surely somebody would have noticed.

The solutions would have to be campaign specific but a few things could easily come out of such as: a prelate noticing the vast donations by a lone brother (even if the donations were smaller amounts scattered over time surely somebody would investigate) and either granting an existing abbey which manages its finances seperately from the brother, or providing a special dispensation to establish their own domain. Jedavis is spot on with the Teutonic order, which would be a pretty exciting play style option IMO. A brother who had broken his vows and kept some wealth might have an easy time of this - donating the vast sum all in one go, with the understanding that it would be used to endow a new abbey/fortress, of which he would be the master. Another easy solution would be running part of another player's domain, if it was large enough, and forfeiting their pay if they so choose. Essentially, Mendicant players would be able to hold wealth in a corporate entity (such as a monastery) without compromising their vows. And if they do choose to abandon their vows simony and embezzlement are open to them.  

The Seperating Land and Lordship article in Axioms 3 might be good for this - the 'Order' becomes either the landowner or the governor, with the brother taking the other role.

In this particular case the brother being the governor may make the most sense; they'll get the domain XP while funneling any profits from their governorship right back into the order (which skips a step on their behalf by being the direct landowner and directly collecting the land value income and such).

That's a good thought koewn - it sidesteps the poverty vow problem neatly. 

Thanks for the extra context Waegdaeg. 

..and, I guess since domain governorship profits are domain XP, brothers are technically getting XP for donating to the order :)

So it works out forwards and backwards in both system and story. The circle of ACKS.