Monday, September 24, 2012

The Hidden Guild

Every city has its shady side, thieves, pimps, assassins, smugglers, and drug dealers who provide illegal goods and services to anyone who can pay. The Hidden Guild is the black heart of illicit commerce, providing stability and security to both its members and its customers. The Guild does not operate at the street level. Instead it works behind the scenes through intermediaries and hired agents, selling bulk product and commercial services to those that live on the edge.

The Hidden Guild is an informal organization, its members change over time as fortunes rise and fall. The clever and careful prosper, the incautious and greedy fall. The Inner Circle of the Guild is made up of its most influential and powerful members, tied together by mutual interests, shared secrets, and blood ties. Ostensibly the Inner Circle is an egalitarian group, but each member's true power is based on what they offer the organization in terms of economic benefit, social connections, and political leverage. Most Inner Circle members operate legitimate businesses, allowing them to hide in plain sight. They also use false names and disguise to further confuse their identities. Each has one or more trusted lieutenants that carry orders to the rank and file hirelings of the Guild. These lieutenants have limited knowledge of the Inner Circle's membership, and the smart ones have lieutenants of their own, providing another layer of security between the Inner Circle and the street. The key members of the Inner Circle include:

Shamar "The Alchemist" Kulama - Shamar is middle-aged, approaching old, with thinning brown hair, chemical-stained hands, and a fussy manner. He is a widower, and lives in a small apartment above his shop. He has one son, Vari, who thus far has shown little interest in carrying on the family business. Shamar is a highly respected merchant, known as a competent herbalist and alchemist. His legitimate business is centered on minor cures for the rich, and the manufacture of liquid fire and smoke bombs for the military.

Shamar's Hidden Guild dealings are far less savory. He is skilled in the creation of debilitating and deadly poisons, and is adept at minor divination magic. His skill with poisons provides him with a steady stream of income; thieves seeking to disable guards, slavers and press-gangs looking for easy victims, and assassins desiring an edge all know the Alchemist can provide the poisons they need. His divination spells provide information on both allies and rivals; information he sells or ruthlessly leverages himself to expand his influence and power. Shamar's chief lieutenant is Bhutan Dura, a former military officer who acts as an agent for his military contracts, and as a point of contact with various criminal gangs and groups.

Shamar's chief weakness is that his habit of leveraging information against his allies has left him with many enemies and few friends. For now his ties to important people in the military and political arenas protect him, but advancing age and lack of a clear heir to his business are weakening his power base.

Gyana "Blue Lotus" Chakti - Gyana fits the stereotypical 'stolid merchant' stereotype well. She is a chunky woman of middling height with dark hair and a tendency to wear overly ornate jewelry. She and her sprawling family live in a large walled compound in one of the finest residential districts in the city, and she seldom leaves its protective embrace unless she is visiting one of the family's many business holdings near the docks or meeting with associates. Gyana uses the name Blue Lotus in her Guild dealings, and should violence be required to enforce her position, her agents leave a blue lotus blossom as a calling card.

Gyana and her family are shippers, operating a number of merchant vessels along the coast and funding many of the trade caravans that ply the land routes to nearby towns and distant cities. The Chakti family has been in business for decades, and their willingness to take the long view coupled with native caution have given them a near monopoly on sea-going trade. Gyana, on behalf of her family, leverages this monopoly into a lucrative smuggling operation. Drugs, weapons, slaves, whatever it is, the Blue Lotus can get it in or out of the city without any official complications, and the family's close ties with the dock labor guilds, ship's captains, and seamen provides them a ready security force if the need arises. Unlike Shamar, Gyana has a large family, and several of her nieces, nephews, even her own children, serve as her lieutenants, each managing a compartmentalized portion of the family's illicit business. Of particular note, her niece Akula deals with the problems involving caravan routes, while her son Ramashir handles contacts with ship's captains and dock-worker leadership.

The Blue Lotus maintains her influence by offering an invaluable service and sheer business savvy. She keeps her distance from those aspects of the Hidden Guild that do not directly concern her family's affairs. This posture alienates Gyana from the rest of the Guild, and should her family's control slip, the other members will exploit any opportunity provided.

Tir Nirgun "Ironfist" - Backed by his well known mercenaries, the Red Tree Company, Tir has a a reputation as a solid military commander and a hard-nosed pragmatist. He had a storied, if short, military career in government service, but was forced to retire after allegations concerning his patron and commander damaged his reputation. Tir is squat, broad, and rough-looking, and he is always armed and armored when out and about, favoring short stabbing blades and crossbows.

Tir's role in the Hidden Guild is straightfoward -- enforcer. Though the Red Tree Company is purely a legitimate organization, Ironfist maintains a cadre of specialists and malcontents within the organization that deal with the Guild's troublesome issues under the guise of legitimate military contracts.

Tir has a strong position in the Guild, but little influence over policy, not that he really cares. So long as he gets paid for his enforcement work and the Red Tree Company's name remains untarnished, he's happy. If Tir has a weakness, it's his soldiers. He is loyal to a fault, a fact that leaves him open to manipulation.

So there you have it, a quick organization with three main NPCs and a few additional names. Hope it's useful, or at least mildly entertaining.

About the names: All names for this post were generated with my name generator using the Sanskrit / medium setting.

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