Taxes, tithes and guild fees

I've been thinking of thieves' guilds and how different guild fee levels would affect the expected benefits to the members. The two models are 10% membership for typical "freelancing" PC thieves who go on their own adventures expect to pay for their own expenses and 50% "full membership" for the members who remain in their town and expect the guild boss to bail them out when they get caught.

The first kind of member would be mostly paying for "protection" to be able to practice their trade in the town (like a member of a craft guild). They would be backed by their guild in a guild war and have contacts in the underworld through the guild.

The second kind would expect more. They should get a guild-appointed attorney and suitable bribes in the court to remain free (or at least get a shorter sentence or fine).

Both would be looked after as investments by the guild boss. It would be in their advantage to keep them free and earning him more gold. For the second kind of thief 40% their earnings (those in excess to the first) would be used to pay for any other expenses, whatever those are.

With customs and tithes being at the same 10% level, that could be assumed to be just the price of doĆ­ng business for thieves too. For other guilds (mages or craftsmen), the same 10% could be applied too. This would give the members both the right to ply their trade and in the case of mages and clerics access to guild/temple libraries and laboratories.

What level of services are available to each member (of cult/church, thieves', magic or trade guild) could be estimated from the total investment using the magic number (33) times 10% of their monthly income. If the character has been paying their dues the whole of their career, they should have invested about 8% of their current XP in the institution. This can be thought as the maximum level of help they could possibly expect from the guild/temple.

So a fighter could expect a maximum of 1 "Restore Life and Limb" from their patron temple if they had been paying them the whole time. In practice the institution wouldn't want to pay back all of the funds. If adventurers are though of as perilous investments (9% return per month), the temples would likely pay out just 10% of the tithes as spells, items or services to the adventurer (pushing the "free RLL" level to 7th). This would be just 0.8% of the total XP accrued. In the case of safer trades, the guildsman could hope to get 90% percent return from his dues as services like health care, funerals, retirement and widow's pay.

With the monthly hijink income being about 15% of the average "eavesdropping" income for carousers and 1st level thieves, the freelancers should expect nothing in return for their 10% dues except being left alone. The "full members" of a thieves' guild paying 50% could then expect to see 70% of their dues to come back to them, making the guild a risky to perilous business. About 30% (50% the total dues) of that would get them the same kind of legal aid as a salaried thief (nothing for carousers), and the rest would be a combination of services (free rumours and accomplices), gear, accomodations in the hideout, access to healing and curse removal and maybe even some kind of retirement pay or funeral. So a guild thief could hope to have at maximum 22% of their total XP on their "good will" account for the guild. This would put the "free RLL" level to 3, assuming no other expenses (except for legal fees) had been paid before.

Finally, comparing to the taxation levels (urban 15% and rural peasants 50%) these membership fee/guild income levels don't seem unreasonable. A freelancer thief is like an urban craftsman or vagabond trader and the full member is like a peasant (with maybe better benefits, but also risks).

Another way of viewing the concrete service benefits of temples and guilds would be to look at them as insurers for the adventurers. (This in addition to the protection offered in this world or afterlife.) From the point of view of the temple/guild healing/legal services that they offer in exchange for the tithes/membership fees could be consifered their investment in the adventurer. With the "perilous" risk level of investment, they would expect 9% return of investment every month. The 10% fee would cover this with 1% overhead (or profit). The size of the investment would then be 10 times the tithe/fee, or equal to the monthly wage of the adventurer.

The insurance side comes from the riskiness of the investment; if the adventurer goes 10 (or 11 if you account for the overhead) months without a mishap, the institution wins. If they end into trouble for more than they're bringing in, the institution loses. Rounded up to annual "get out of trouble" budget, the character could petition up to 10 times their monthly wage as a one-time help (wheter it's spells, services or items). In case of a thieves' guild or greedy temple they would want to make higher profit and the maximum would be lower, for example 5 times monthly wages in case of a thieves' guild.

To make this into a game mechanic, we can use a Reaction Roll to see how much the institute is actually willing to pay out of this "virtual investment". The result of the Reaction Roll is times the monthly wages the actual "insurance payment" is. In case of a temple with low profit in mind, there's a modifier of -2 and in case of a thieves' guild -7. With these penalties, the maximum payment would most likely keep below 10 monthly wages unless the character has a lot of bonuses. For repeated petitions within a year, a penalty of -1 per monthly wages already successfully petitioned. Add positive modifiers for additional donations to the institution or tasks and quests performed. The roll should also be penalized harshly for missed tithes/fees (-2 per month or more).

With this mechanism player characters in trouble after a failed hijink or quest could see a benefit from all the tithes and fees their character has paid to the institution. For less risky trades (crafts, farming, merchants) the maximum payout could be higher (as a ratio of the risk) and they could get a bonus on the petition on the assumption they wont need to do it so often.

Some examples:

A 0-level henchman who is a devout and loyal member of their church gets blinded while on a quest. A Cure Blindness is 125% of their monthly wages, and they're out of luck (unless they somehow manage to roll 15+).

A 1st level fighter has encountered rumours of undead in their next quest location. They hope to petition for a vial of holy water from their temple. The holy water is 1 times of their monthly wages, so their player will have to roll a 3 on the Reaction Roll to get it for free.

A 5th level thief paying just 10% of income a month as fees to their guild fails in a hijink and is facing court. They could hope for a maximum of 5 times their monthly wages worth of legal aid from their guild. The best attorney and maximum bribes is 80% of this, so they'll get it with a Reaction Roll of 10 or more. Otherwise they'll have to be satisfied with lesser corruption and take their chances.

A 3rd level thief paying 50% of their income to their guild gets permanently injured in a brawl and needs magical healing. Their maximum aid would be 5 times that of a more independent thief, or 25 times their monthly wage. To see if their guild is willing to pay the temple for "Restore Life and Limb" (which costs 10% of their maximum), they need to roll just 3 or more. It pays to be a full member of the guild!

A 3rd level explorer gets killed in a dungeon and their party bring them to their temple for resurrection. Unfortunately most of the loot had to be abandoned in the rush to get out. Since the character has been paying their tithes in case of an accident like this, they'll need to use 50% of their allotment for this. This requires a Reaction Roll of 7 or more. They had better hope that the quests that they've performed for the temple give big enough bonus to succeed!