At their heart, the various Guilds are descended from the ancient tribal divisions. When the Local Gods uplifted the first tribes of Maytheria, the world was full of monsters – and the first divisions sprang up naturally. Those who were inclined to fighting fought, those who were good at healing healed, and so on, their natural magical affinities shaped by their personalities.
Those of warrior-inclinations tended to socialize with other warriors, and picked up some of their tricks. Those who wished to craft fine weapons socialized and shared techniques with others with the same yearning, and so on – but such associations were transient and impermanent, little more than a master or two and a handful of apprentices. With magic, few areas needed more than a few specialists of most types. So matters remained for centuries until the arts of enchantment were discovered.
The first enchantments were crude things – feeble amulets meant to bring luck, enhanced spears, and simple protections. Worse, those primitive techniques of enchantment (Create Artifact and Create Relic) often irreversibly drained their creators or demanded enormous investments of time and effort in their creation. Such items are rare today, although – when crafted with more modern techniques (or with the help of one of the Local Gods, who were far more inclined to intervention in the early days) – they can be impressively potent.
Eventually the peoples of Ciarkian learned enchanting techniques (Create Item and Spell Storing) that allowed enchantments to be woven from less vital energies, depleting enchanters far less (or, with modern techniques such as Harvest of Artifice) even not at all. Such methods were slow and crude at first, requiring the efforts of a group to contribute the necessary energies and a bulky and virtually immobile focus – but they changed the world.
Those first crude megalithic enchantments only offered a weak spell or two, but they were useful spells that those who were attuned to the megalith could use all they wanted to. In a world where personal magic equated to wealth, power, and survival, such an enchantment was the equivalent of an everfull purse. There was suddenly a reason to maintain your membership in a professional association after you completed your apprenticeship.
Such megalithic enchantments remain at the heart of the guilds of Ciarkian even now, and have usually been steadily upgraded across centuries or millennia. Guilds have few legal privileges, and there’s normally no requirement to belong to a guild to practice a trade – but most people will patronize a guildmember over a non-guildmember, and a member of a well-established guild over a member of a younger, competing, guild. After all, the older and more respected the guild, the more powerful it’s Heartstone is likely to be – and a more powerful Heartstone virtually always means some combination of better quality, faster service, and lower prices. Younger guilds, with modern hearthstones (and a better, or at least more currently useful, selection of spells in them) do occasionally displace old guilds however – although most guilds do permit multiple memberships. The fact that each such membership requires a separate attunement is enough to keep that under control.
Destroying, or attempting to destroy, a Heartstone is a major crime in Cyrweld, just as it is in the other city-states of Maytheria. It is, after all, generally bad for everyone. The only exceptions are the occasional criminal guilds, in which case formally destroying their Heartstone is a way to put a more-or-less “final” end to the problem.
Modern guilds tend to serve some of the other purposes of any professional organization; they try to police their own members a bit to maintain their reputations, support them when they’ve been wronged, take care of any orphaned children of guild-members, and sometimes go even further, doing things like providing modest stipends for retired members. Quite often they have a fund devoted to paying for upgrades to their Heartstone – although, given how expensive that can be (if it’s even possible), such funds are often embezzled, or tapped to meet other emergencies, long before upgrading would become possible. Most guilds tend to oscillate between providing lots of services and charging high dues and entry fees and providing minimal services for low dues and modest entry fees.
Joining a guild is pretty much always possible, whether by serving an apprenticeship assisting a current member (who will then pay your fee as part of your wages) or by simply paying up front. After all, refusing membership to people who can pay for it will often simply lead to them pooling their funds, having their own heartstone enchanted, and going into competition with you anyway. Losing guild membership is equally simple; fail to live up to your obligations (such as dues) and the guild will shut down your link with their Heartstone until you catch up or rejoin (or join another guild and transfer your link). That suffices to keep most slaves from having active Heartstone links; they get shut down for non-payment.
The various knightly orders and military groups operate in much the same way – but charge much higher prices for their services, often including such intangibles as special legal privileges, forms of address, and other freebies to go with the usual cash-and-goods mixture. After all, most other professions don’t demand that their practitioners accept so many risks – or focus on making them as personally dangerous as possible. One skilled knight, or military mage, can easily be a match for dozens or even hundreds of normal folk.
The knightly orders, and their sponsoring households, thus tend to be the de facto nobility of each city-state – but there is always a note of caution; there’s no notion of “divine right” or unearned special privilege there (people occasionally ask various gods about that, and generally get various variants on “what the name of us are you talking about?” in response). If a knightly order asks for too much, or demands too many special privileges, the more rebellious local youngsters will start practicing combat techniques, the older folks will hire some knights or adventurers to lead them, and said order will soon be out on it’s ear or wiped out. The locals will then either import some new knights, start a new order, or refurbish the old one (if they can find and use the Heartstone); there are always people who want to be aristocrats, so they’re easily replaceable.
In practical terms, the knightly orders draw the high-end territorial carnivores – the wolf-folk, the cat-folk, and so on. More solitary combative types, such as bears and eccentric individuals from among the quieter species, tend to become adventurers (who may or may not set up their own guilds). That works well enough, simply because – while those groups are mostly far more suited to combat than the herbivorous types – they’re also far less numerous. The cats may be ruling the mice, but it’s a practical business arrangement, not oppression.
Intercity warfare in Maytheria thus tends to be between the military orders only; not only are the non-military types generally relatively useless in battle, but they’re the primary resources that are being fought over. When the population’s inherent magic provides the monetary base, and can readily compensate for shortages of natural resources, people are far more important than mere land – especially when population growth is relatively limited. (That’s a basic fact of life in the Manifold, although in Maytheria – where most souls are freshly-enough come from Core to retain their fertility and tend to reincarnate locally anyway – it’s less of a problem than in most worlds).
It’s thus quite rare for even a full-scale “war” to involve more than a few hundred on each side – and “wars” of twenty or thirty on a side, or even duel-wars, are far more common.
Bandits – or unofficial tax collectors – are always a problem on Maytheria; they probably won’t have a Heartstone to support them unless they’re setting up a territory of their own (it can be hard to tell the difference between a local leader, a someone trying to carve a new territory out of the wilderness, and a genuine parasite), but they’re generally well-practiced in combat otherwise – which makes them a problem for adventurers and military orders. Sadly, there just isn’t enough business to support a lot of those. Worse, “bandits” are notorious for using their own magic (and whatever they can hire) to construct mini-fortresses in inaccessible locations, so getting rid of them is a tremendous amount of trouble.
Worst of all, if you do, the areas they were inhabiting tend to revert to untamed wilderness (the advantages of living in, or near, a well-established city are simply too overwhelming for people to live elsewhere without a VERY good reason) and you wind up with monsters moving in again. In practice, a certain amount of banditry is usually tolerated, internal arguments in various groups often spawn new groups of “bandits”, they serve as a way to harass “rivals”, the military orders often draw new recruits from the better-behaved groups, and the strongholds they set up may well become the nuclei of new cities.
Of course, less well-behaved, or exceptionally troublesome, groups may wind up being exterminated – but there isn’t much law away from the cities anyway.
Some of Cyrweld’s major Guilds include:
- The Danarelli Host, Most Ancient Order of the Hunt (Knightly Order). The wilds-rangers are one of the oldest guilds in Cyrweld, dating back to the founding of the city, and maintain a variety of equally-ancient traditions. Despite their powerful Heartstone, and excellent training program, the order was considered a minor one for many centuries; as Maytheria become more civilized, their enhanced wilderness skills, boosted senses, unerring navigational talents (and relatively modestly enhanced combat abilities) were eclipsed by the more specialized abilities of other orders. The Danarelli have been enjoying a renaissance over the last few centuries; most of their talents help with sailing as well – and so they’ve become quite important to long-range trade.
- The Order of Kiron (Knightly Order). While their Heartstone focuses on martial abilities, it does grant a few modest bonuses to skills, including Theurgy and Social skills. Members of the Order of Kiron have been the dominant “nobles” of Cyrweld for many centuries, although most of the major houses have their own heartstones – either a supplements or as quiet alternatives; the Kiron Heartstone insists on certain standards of honorable behavior between the houses (on pain of not allowing the use of some of its abilities), which are occasionally quite inconvenient.
- The Guardians of Cyrweld (Knightly Order). The Guardians are a relatively young order (they were established after an overbearing older order found no support for their attempts to rebuild after the earthquakes a hundred and fifty years ago), but have proven popular enough to have been able to afford a fairly impressive Heartstone, bestowing enhanced speed, communications links, some reasonably good defensive spells, enhanced senses, and the ability to detect lies – all of which makes them surprisingly effective, at least in dealing with ordinary problems. Massively powerful individuals are officially a problem for the Order of Kiron, while pursuit beyond the boundaries of Cyrweld Proper is a job for the Danarelli Host.
- The Adventurer’s Guild (Semi-Knightly Order). The Heartstone of the adventurer’s guild focuses on general utility powers; there’s a couple of basic combat enhancements, a basic skill boost, a few protective functions, and a speed-booster – and neither it nor it’s members make any pretense of being anything but mercenaries. It also offers low-cost temporary memberships; if you have the capacity to set up a temporary link (teaching you how requires an additional fee) you can pay for one for the duration of a journey or other expedition. Quite a few rather dubious individuals maintain a cash-basis membership in the Adventurer’s Guild.
- The Sagacious Order of the High Gods (“the Sages”). Most of the priests, and not a few of the scholars, of Cyrweld belong to this guild. It’s Heartstone offers the ability to base Theurgy skills on an attribute and a selection of convenience powers.
- The Wyldstone Guild. This long-“lost” Heartstone actually maintains a small, secretive, guild – most of whom work as spies, long-range messengers, and occasional assassins. It bestows a selection of natural-weapon enhancing, disguising, concealing, and shapeshifting abilities. In general, rumors of this guilds activities are investigated – but the Heartstone and it’s order have gotten very good at concealing themselves over the last few millennia.
- The Thieves Guild. This secretive group does pay for a Heartstone, because it’s cheaper than any other known method of getting continuous anti-divination protection for its members – but there aren’t very many members. Cyrweld boasts plenty of thieves, including a small army of lower-class kids who sweep back and forth through the city like a tide of petty crime, but those aren’t PROFESSIONAL thieves…
All three of the cities magical academies boast their own Heartstones of course, but they like to keep their exact capabilities secret.
Other professional guilds include the Masons, the Smith’s and Artificer’s Guild, the Crafters Guild (actually made up of several smaller guilds), the Clothworkers Guild, the Healer’s Guild, and the (closely-associated) Shipbuilders and Cartographer’s Guilds. There are many other small professional associations of course – but lacking Heartstones, they aren’t technically Guilds.
- The Realm of Ciarkian, Part III – Cyrweld and its Ward from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Realm of Ciarkian, Part II (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Realm of Ciarkian, Part I (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- D20 and Megalithic Magic (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Charles Dexter Ward – Basic Background from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)