While the majority of the world sees magic and its practitioners as mysterious, dangerous, and not to be trusted, the Elves have had a long love affair with mysticism. The study and use of magic in Arèthane is commonplace, with mages being an accepted part of Elven life. As with many other large group of like persons, the mages have numerous guilds to further their goals. Mage guilds of Arèthane are the most powerful and influential in the entire world.
The goals of individual guilds can vary greatly from guild to guild. Each one will have numerous plots, schemes, or other machinations running concurrently. However, all of them will undoubtedly be designed to increase the power of the guild. The reason most men of magic study the arcane arts is for power. The men who rise through the ranks of the council will be more concerned with power, which is why they had the diligence and desire to attain that position in the guild. These men (and women) will drive the guild to seek out power in its many forms.
1. Arcane knowledge: The most important charter for magic guilds is the study and advancement of mystic knowledge. Studies and experiments are constantly being conducted to discover new or forgotten arcane secrets. Most of these are conducted out of the public’s sight, within the safe confines of the heavily protected guildhalls. Research is conducted on all forms of magic: spell, scroll, wards, circles, items, etc. Whenever a test subject is required, the poor are usually enlisted for a small fee. Any mage who discovers something that is genuinely new will be regarded highly among the guild and will be quickly promoted.
Guilds also finance expeditions to garner information or to check out any persistent or promising rumors. This leads to many members of the guild hiring adventurers, almost always men-at-arms, to accompany them into the Old Kingdoms, and other unexplored sections of the world. Most of these trips are financed privately by the wealthier of members who are trying to gain more clout within the guild by making a new discovery. Guilds will also organize groups of their own members and staff to sally forth and explore the unknown in hopes of unearthing some forgotten relic or information.
Guilds are also known to pay top coin to anyone with something of an unexplained magical nature or possibility. This irks the government to an extent but since the government and the guilds are mostly on good terms it is not a major issue. On occasion, they will trade knowledge with other guilds or with powerful organizations. They will always try to come out the better in the deal and are usually excellent negotiators. Often, two guilds will trade knowledge and both feel as if they cheated the other.
2.Status: One of the benefits of being a wizard, especially in the magic friendly Arèthane is the status that comes along with being a mage. The guilds endeavor to make themselves as upscale as possible in order to project the proper image. They will often make their headquarters as ostentatious as possible to show their wealth and influence. They will attach themselves to the powerful nobles and can often be active in the political arena. This is a strong recruiting incentive for the guild. If a young sorcerer wants to be part of the in crowd, moving up in the guild hierarchy can be an excellent vehicle to run with the "in crowd". Wizards of high standing in their guild can be very well known in their region. People know their faces, have heard of their exploits, knowledge, courtesy, etc. before ever meeting the person. Most mages love this form of adulation and it is great face for a guild.
To this end, the guild will attempt to place trusted members in influential positions. This often lands a council member of the guild as advisor to the particular noble house, or ruling body. In some areas, the noble house is always supplied with an advisor by the guild. This gives the guild a foothold in the court and allows their members to attend parties, social gatherings, and other events thrown by the well to do. Nobles love to hobnob with mages and the feeling is usually mutual. Guild members have been known to marry into noble families and any noble who shows an interest in the arcane will be aggressively recruited by the guilds.
Guilds will also offer to help in any project that stands to garner them acclaim. They will donate members and/or money to public works and monuments. This allows them some free advertising as every time someone sees one of their monuments, they will think of those who made it possible- the magic guild. Often, there will be a plaque or engraving giving the credit of the monument to the one who funded it and the mage guilds are quick to take advantage of this. By allowing the public to see how great and benevolent they are, they gain in status.
Members of the guild seldom abuse their status, but they certainly enjoy it. Aside from the amenities offered by the headquarters, members of powerful guilds receive a number of other benefits. If the mage guild has any deals with other guilds in town, its members can receive all sorts of discounts on a variety of things. They are also welcomed at most of the up-scale establishments in a city and delight in being recognized as a member of their guild. To this end, most guilds have some sort of clothing identifier or visible tattoo like some thieves’ guilds.
3.Influence: It is only to be expected that any person who can force his will upon his environment to the extent that spell casters can would want to continue to exert his will on other things. Wizard guilds are notorious for dabbling in things that are not necessarily their business. This can include local politics, legislation, business, protection, crime, anything. Guilds can be very open about their involvement in issues, manipulate them from behind the scenes, or do both simultaneously.
Political involvement is the most common for magic guilds. If there is a ruling house, the guild will try to arrange to have an advisor assigned to the ruler. Some, more power-hungry guilds will try to turn the ruler into a puppet through which they can affect local law. Typically, they will send someone who is devious enough to make the ruler totally trusting and dependent upon the advisor. Once this is done the advisor will continue the sham of being his aide while making most of the decisions (or relaying those of the guild council) and having them enacted by the lord. This can be a problem in larger families where there are a great many voices to distract the lord from the advisor. Another method is to introduce a ruler to a strongly addictive drug and to supply him with it. This creates a besotted fool who is less and less concerned with governing and will gladly surrender power to someone else so that he or she can continue with escaping reality. In the Arèthane, the noble families commonly take this step without any influence from the guilds. There have been cases of more drastic measures taken. Mages have used spell magic like Love Charm, circles, wards, and other mystic means of altering the noble’s thinking processes to their liking, but these are rare.
In more representative forms of government, the guild will take different measures. If there is a chief decision making diet for a municipality you can place a safe bet that there will be at least one member of the mage guild on it. If possible, they will try to have as many people on it as they can but there will always be one. The representative will be carefully chosen for his speaking abilities and might even resort to incantations or other magic during sessions. This is also very rare, but has happened.
What’s more insidious is when the magic guild takes a quieter hand in matters. Some guilds choose to appear aloof from the political scene. This is a common stance taken in areas with less political stability. The guild will not want to be seen as taking part in petty squabbles of men. Rather, they will present the image of holding themselves above such infighting in their scholarly pursuit of the ways of magic. Some guilds actually take this stance in practice, but most use it as a front. A guild, which appears not to be involved in politics, can be totally tangled in it. Any guild worth its salt will have the wealth and power (mainly from its members) to offer aide and favors to political factions. The guild will not forget these favors it does for others nor will it allow them to forget. If there is more than one faction involved, the guild will likely help all of them to assure the winner be in their debt. Once it becomes obvious which will prevail, the guild can throw its support behind that faction wholeheartedly. A guild will also help the underdog, knowing that they will be tied to the guild for a long time.
What the magic guild does best, however, is intimidate and blackmail. Powerful guilds will have a proficient network of spies and informants to keep tabs on all-important figures of the area. These spies can keep track of trends in the city or region, track down rumors, observe others and plant misinformation of their own. Still, as competent as these men and women might be they pale in comparison to the mystic forces upon which the guild can call. There are no secrets from a guild when they start having you followed by familiars, summoned creatures, invisible members, or by scrying on you. The guild can use these means to gather all manner of dirt on important players in the political scene and use them in ensure these people work in favor of the guild. It is most disconcerting to take all possible pains to conceal your actions only to have a member of the local magic guild give you details of what you did, when you did it, where you did it, and with whom. Last, there is nothing to compare to the threat of mystic violence. The only thing more frightening than a mage are its servants - "Vote yes on the new tax, or your daughter will be rent asunder by a Shadow Beast."
4.Wealth: This is sort of a necessity for guilds. All of the above goals require money. While some members of guilds, or even entire guilds might be consumed by avarice, the normal guild member sees gold as a means to an end. To fund projects takes funds. To send expeditions requires supplies and money. Upkeeping of the guildhall requires a certain amount of currency.
The primary source of income for the guild is the members. To join the guild, you must make a donation of some sorts, to show the guild that you are a valuable member. In order to keep your membership and remain in good standing with the guild, you have to continue to make contributions to the guild. The more you contribute to the guild, the more respected you will be and the more power you will have. Contributions usually take the form of monetary donations but there are other things that are offered by members: spell knowledge (rare), magic items, information, and other non-monetary gifts are also appreciated.
The guilds make money on their own in a number of ways. Most guilds have an expansive library and while non-members are not allowed to see it, they can request to look at a book for a fee. A member will retrieve the book for the customer and there is normally an hourly rate for reading. Guilds will also sell minor magic items to adventurers or whoever needs them. These are always going to be small, non-powerful things like scrolls and potions. Guilds will seldom, if ever, sell magic to a non-member. They also sell information to others. As stated above, the information network of a mage guild is unparalleled and they know a great deal about what is going on in an area. Guilds are often silent partners in local business. If a guild sees a venture that seems likely to turn a profit, it will likely become a financial backer. This is normally done through a front man so that the business does not know it is being funded by the guild and so that others do not know of the guilds business ventures.
Last, guilds will hire their members out for various tasks. Guild mages can be seen guarding caravans, compounds, or other interests of employers paying exorbitant fees for the services of the spell casters. Local nobles often hire guild members to bolster their forces for combat. They act as mystic artillery in combat situations and can be devastating when working in unison. Important personages can request and pay for a member to act as a bodyguard. The member will most likely not have to act in defense of his charge since his presence shows that the person is under the protection of the guild.
Magic guilds take great pains to maintain their public image. Few people trust magic and its practitioners, especially summoners and diabolists. While magic is more accepted in the Arèthane, the dangers it presents have been seen more by the populous. Westerners may not be as superstitiously afraid of magic as other civilizations but they have distrust that comes from experience. The Mage guilds combat this distrust by making themselves out to be trusted and valuable members of society.
This is done primarily by taking part in all public affairs that will offer a positive spin on the Mage guild’s activities. Any action taken against an enemy, pest, or other public hindrance will be supported openly by the guild. Many people will feel better about their city just because they know that the guild is "on their side". This is not entirely false. The guild knows that it must have a stable base of operations to flourish and they will work with all officials to keep their realm of influence relatively calm. At least, they will unless they desire chaos. However, the guild’s contributions are usually only decorative. Strong magic guilds could wipe out thieves’ guilds if they put their full resources to it. They could also destroy the Ratling problems in the lager, older cities by clearing out the sewers. The mage guilds in the older cities also could take on the vampire problem, and could rid the cities of these foul monsters in a relatively short period of time. The problem is that such endeavors would be costly and potentially dangerous. The guild is not in the business of making the world a better place for all mankind. They are in the business of furthering their own goals and putting yourself in unnecessary danger is not a good way to do so.
Magic guilds will also sponsor acts and civic events to increase their image. Many guilds have been known to create fireworks displays for celebration, erect public buildings (often libraries), fund renovation, and to help organize festivals. Guilds will go as far as feeding the needy, providing temporary shelter for people who need it and performing other philanthropic actions. These actions will be enacted shrewdly and will seem to be coming at great expense to the guild. These ploys are extremely effective in winning over the support of the population. The guild is not exactly in the business of being adored, but it keeps people from being suspicious and demanding the local government to take action against the masters of magic.
Magic guilds normally are not hurting for members. They actively recruit young spell casters who seem to have promise. Young wizards with a great amount of PPE or who have shown aptitude of some sort in learning magic will be approached by a member of the guild offering probational membership. Aspiring wizards will also entreat the guild to grant them membership. The guild requires some sort of show of allegiance or good faith, normally in the form of a monetary sum, spells, or magic item. The guilds will rarely accept a member who is above 3rd level. The guild council doesn’t want too many powerful wizards with their own ideas undermining the guild. After a year of participating in the guild as a probationary member, where they show their worth, the new mage is inducted into the guild. Once the initiate becomes as full member, he/she receives all the benefits of a guild wizard.
These benefits are most obvious in the spell knowledge. While the guild council is loath to mete out any of their best spells, they can be rather generous with lower level spells. The usual is for one spell to be taught per year. This may not be the fastest way to power, but it is consistent and safe. Members are also rewarded with spell knowledge for exemplary service to the guild. Surprisingly, the guild council will trade evenly with a member for spell knowledge (i.e. 5th level for 5th level). This is an excellent source of knowledge for the reclusive members who do not like to go out into the world often or for members who are not keen on risking their lives for knowledge.
Most guilds will have a large supply of nominal magic items; charms, talismans, scrolls, potions, etc. and will loan these out or bequeath them to deserving members. If a member is in good standing, it is very likely that they can requisition such an item, as long as they can prove the need for it. These are also handed out as rewards for service to the guild. Service above and beyond the call of duty can result in any number of useful items for the member, and often they are offered a choice of items.
The guild offers more mundane amenities as well. Guild members can always stay at the guild headquarters for free or a nominal fee. There is also a crude form of chivalry between guilds where they will be cordial to members of other guilds and offer them sanctuary, albeit for a much greater price. These visitors will not be allowed anything other than sanctuary, but it is better than having to rough it in a strange city. In addition, they offer use of their real library and meeting places where they can discuss matters of magic with their peers.
The majority of mages feel that being among their peers is the greatest benefit of the entire guild system. Since the ways of magic are mysterious and dangerous, many people harbor fearful, superstitious beliefs about it. These beliefs lead to all manner of prejudices in spite of the best efforts of the guilds spin-doctors. For a mage to feel free to discuss his favorite subject, he has to be in the company of other mages. Only they will feel comfortable around a wizard and understand what he is saying. This feeling of belonging, finally, is what drives most of the wizards to the guild. They are tired of being the dangerous freak and wish for some sense of brotherhood. The guild offers that to them. For this reason, most of the guild members are loyal and can be a very tightly knit group.
The Magic guilds are often involved in many matters and thus will be forced to interact with numerous other organizations. While most of these interactions are most cordial on the surface, there can be a much deeper sentiment that runs through the guild members.
Clergy: This is one of the greatest threats to any magic guild. Most guild members will hold members of the clergy in contempt. After all, the wizard can command the forces of magic by sheer force of will. The priests require the favor of their gods to help them perform their feats of magic. They also see the priests as acting as pawns for their supernatural masters. All mages are going to possess a certain amount of self-confidence and as such do not take orders well. They feel that the priests have devoted their lives to an indifferent master who offers little more than the crumbs off their table. Mages would rather take matters into their own hands and affect their environment rather than supplicate themselves and hope that a higher power can intervene on their behalf. Very few spell casters worship gods and those that do often worship gods of magic or knowledge (i.e. Thoth, Kym-nark-mar).
Few churches will be very accepting of magic guilds. Churches that offer peace, kindness, and help will be very suspicious of a group of people who wish to uncover the power that devastated the land so long ago. While not all faiths consider magic as obscene as the ones in the Middle Kingdoms, there is a general mistrust of mages in churches. Churches that seek power and influence will find themselves in direct conflict with powerful guilds. They end up competing for the same resources and struggling to grasp the limited power of a region before the other does. Churches fear the guild’s recruitment of people towards the dangerous old ways and magic guilds fear the churches’ turning people against the ways of magic.
Other Magic: Guilds are often composed of wizards, summoners, and diabolists. They all use their own power to create their effects. Their elemental lords bequeath warlocks their power and this places them in much the same light as priests. However, they do not compete with the mage guilds too often so relations between guild members and warlocks is much better. There is a certain level of mistrust and respect that keeps the two sides civil.
Witches and Necromancers are abhorred by the guilds. It is bad enough that they so casually perform hideous and unspeakable magic acts, but they often lumped together with other mages. No mage will be happy to be compared to a witch or a necromancer and will gladly point out all the differences between them. Any report of a witch or necromancer that reaches the guild will be investigated. Should the report turn up a real witch or necromancer, the guild will act swiftly and with force. They will also make it known that they were taking steps to protect the good people of the region against the "evil" forms of magic, used by evil men.
Government: As outlined above, most mage guilds will try to exert as much influence as possible over any governing body. If they can’t they will most definitely work with them as much as possible. They loathe any negative publicity and as such rarely run afoul of the law. They will aide whenever it is a high reward for them and will generally stay out of the government’s way as long as things are working well for them.
Normal Folk: This is entirely dependent on the individual member. There are no regulations regarding interacting with the normal populous. It is impossible to operate in a large city without being among its citizenry. Some members can be very amiable and kind to all men. These will most often be respected members of their neighborhood and will have many connections with vendors, merchants, etc. Others can be insufferable snobs who feel their position raises them above the common rabble. These are the kind of men and women who will rarely deal with a peasant and will ride in carriages every where. Again, since image is important to the guild the members will usually be at least respectful of the person’s right to live in peace. They will not cause trouble, and the guild council deals those who do with swiftly and harshly. Guilds routinely do business with banks, merchants, etc and those who do not mind dealing with the "normals" will handle these activities. Some guild members will operate business on the side as well as being backers of other ventures. It depends entirely on the disposition of the guild member.
Adventurers: So, how guilds fit into your campaign? This will differ from guild to guild and should be used as a powerful plot device. Your average guild member will be disdainful of adventurers. The men-at-arms will be seen as brutes, the mages as wild and uncontrollable, priests as fools following a fool’s path, etc. However, not all members are average. Here are a few ideas as to how a guild could influence your campaign.
There are as many possibilities for the magic guilds in your campaign as you want. They will make great friends and allies for the group. They can provide support, information, etc although it will always come at a price. They can also be a constant enemy. They have the power and influence to cause the players problem after problem. This will carry on in revenge scenarios if the group cheats, foils, or otherwise becomes a thorn in the guild’s side. The guild can strike from many directions and can hide their touch if they want to. It could be an adventure in itself just trying to solve the riddle of who is attacking them. Have fun with the guilds and use them to their fullest!
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