Friday, December 12, 2008

“The Society of Torch, Pole and Rope”

No, that’s not a mistake. I want to talk about the Society of Torch, Pole and Rope, but not THIS Society of Torch, Pole and Rope, if you get my meaning. Instead I want to talk about the idea of an Adventurers Guild.

As a quick bit of background, since I haven’t ever mentioned it before, the name “The Society of Torch, Pole and Rope” originally sprang from a list of possible “group names” that I quickly jotted down once when my party was trying to come up with what to call ourselves. That list included several which were serious, several which were humorous – I remember “Big Brother and the Holding Company” was one of the possible choices, as well as a few random non sequiturs. For whatever reason, “The Society of Torch, Pole and Rope” didn’t make the cut, but I’ve always thought that it summed up old-school dungeon crawling pretty well. And not being one to throw out a good idea, when the blog started to coalesce, it seemed like a natural choice.

With that aside out of the way, I’ve been thinking about the concept of proper Adventurer Guilds in campaigns, or more specifically “classic-style campaigns”. There’s something to be said about a professional organization of adventurers in a campaign, as it serves as a nice resource for funneling adventure seeds, rumors, replacement adventurers and other services to the party, as well as being a possible way of removing some of the characters’ hard-won treasure from play and feeding the vicious cycle of dungeon-delving. On the other hand, the idea of an professional organization of adventurers is a little too post-modern. In my head, I’ve always pictured adventurers to be similar to the prospectors and mountain men of the American Old West: rough and tumble types with little need or desire for organizations and by-laws. The idea of organized adventurers who pay dues and fees sounds as likely as a full house at a “People Who Hate People Party” caucus. Something just doesn’t jive.

I’m mugwumped on this one for the moment. To try and settle my internal debate, I hashed out a rough idea as to what the benefits and responsibilities of joining a professional Adventurers Guild might be should I decide to include one. That guild would be the Society of Torch, Pole and Rope, of course. I outlined the potential by-laws below to allow you folks to see what I’m thinking. Any and all of it is subjected to change in the event I actually decide to incorporate this into the game. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts and experiences on the idea of a professional adventuring guild in your personal games and campaigns. Comment as you will. My own thoughts and reasoning appear in italics under each entry.

The Society of Torch, Pole and Rope

Membership Fees and Dues: The cost of joining the Society of Torch, Pole and Rope is equal to 1,000 gp x character’s level. In cases of multiclass or dual classed characters, the cost is 1,000 gp x the character’s total levels. On the first day of the New Year, all guild members must pay 500 gp x the character’s level in dues for the coming year.

I’m not making any “in game” rational reasons for the steep cost of membership. In a real world situation, these costs would be astronomical for the average usually-out-of-work adventuring type. But, as I’m fond of pointing out, Dungeons & Dragons is a game, not a realistic simulation.

Membership Benefits: All guild members in good standing receive the access to the following benefits and services:

Room and Board: Any adventurer may claim room and board at any of the guild’s chapterhouses free of charge. An adventurer is entitled to remain in any and all chapterhouses for a period not to exceed 35 days in total during any given year.

A month in the R’Nis calendar is 35 days long, hence the somewhat strange cut-off point for freeloading adventurers. Room and board is of the most basic variety: three hots and a cot in the common area.

Discount Spell Work: A guild member in good standing may hire the services of a guild-friendly magic-user or cleric for the fees listed on pp. 103-104 of the 1st Edition Dungeon Masters Guide. Guild members are free to seek the services of non-guild aligned wizards and priests, but their fees and success rates are in no way guaranteed by the Society.

I figure Gary had those prices listed for a reason. Some folks might think they’re a tad high, but they serve to take excess treasure out of the game and make the players rely on their own wits and the abilities of their characters first and foremost. By having them guild-aligned at those prices, I can cut down on the amount of “party splits up in town and haggles with everyone so the game drags for a few hours” moments in the game.

Appraisal Services: A member of the Society in good standing may employ the use of one of the guild’s approved jewelers or lapidaries to appraise gems, jewelry, or objects d’art. The cost of this service is 1% of the objects actual value.

I went with 1% because I thought 10% is a bit high for supposed guild members and I really wanted to make calculating the cost as easy as possible for me, the referee.

Annals of Accomplishments: A Society member is good standing may choose to have an account of his accomplishments in the field recorded in the Society’s “Annals of Accomplishments”. No fee is required for this service, but the testimony of any given member must be witnessed by and sworn to by at least two other members in good standing if said members are bonded companions of the individual, or by a single member in good standing if he is not aligned with the individual’s regular party of adventurers.

This is really to assist the following benefit of Society membership.

Placement Assistance: Any member in good standing who find himself without a bonded group may make himself available for hire on chapterhouse premises during regular hours of operation. If there is an account of his deeds in the “Annals of Accomplishments”, he may ask that the potential employers be given access to his recorded deeds within the Annals so as to be better able to judge his qualifications and skills. Any hiring done on the Society’s grounds will require that 10% of the agreed upon wages be paid by the employer directly to the Society, and the agreement be witnessed by one of the chapterhouse’s clerks before the hired hand joins the bonded group.

I like the idea of a common area teeming with grizzled, out-of-work adventurers. Not only does it become a one-stop shopping area to pick up new hirelings and henchmen, but I envision these down-on-their-luck types trying to undercut one another in desperation for work. Of course, the party might get an idea of what they’re in for if they show up looking to explore “The Screaming Tomb of Contessa Rowiana” and nobody but nobody seems to want to join up with them.

Vaults for Rent: The Society shall make available to any member the right to rent and maintain one of the storage vaults located in most chapterhouses. For a fee of 100 gp per month, a member or bonded group of members may secure a private 10’ x 10’ vault for storage of goods, supplies and/or wealth. Each vault is equipped with a stout lock and protected by a watchman on the premises at all times. Members are free to add additional security measures at their own expense, provided the chapterhouse’s security warden is apprised of the nature of these additional securities and lends his permission to their inclusion. The Society provides no guarantees of safety for any items stored within these vaults, and any damages or loss of life resulting from the storage of dangerous items and/or entities is the responsibility of the renter.

With banking not yet common in most places, I thought this would be a reasonable benefit provided to adventurers. I’ll remind you that these are not MMORPG bank vaults. If they players rent a vault in City A, but operate in City B or on the road a lot, they better not leave anything important in storage.

Funeral Arrangements Gratis: Any member in good standing who is loses his/her life by means accidental, premeditated or natural, whose body is recoverable and not subject to resuscitation shall be buried, cremated, or otherwise interred according to the member’s wishes, free of charge. Arrangements shall be made that are simple, yet dignified, and the location, date, and circumstances of the member’s death shall be recorded in the Society’s records for posterity.

Needless to say, the character doesn’t get a grand send off or spend eternity in a fancy mausoleum. He or she gets laid to rest in a Society plot that’s just a step up from a potter’s field. These sections of the cemetery are often referred to as “Fool’s Field” or “Ten-Foot Pole Hill”.

Obligations of Service: In the event of war, natural disaster, acts of the gods, or other crises, the Society reserves the right to draft any and all members into service for a duration not to exceed one year. This obligation supersedes any prior commitments of familial or commercial nature, but does not exceed obligations to nobility, one’s faith or nationality. Any member not excused from duty for the preceding reasons is required to report to his closest chapterhouse for assignment. Failure to report within two weeks’ time from the announcement of assembly will result in the member being stripped of membership, blackballed from ever rejoining the Society, and the seizure of any goods and/or property in the Society’s possession.

With great power, yadda, yadda, yadda….I tacked this on as a possible way to get adventures rolling should I ever need some loophole to get things moving. I’d be loath to use it in most cases, since it violates my “no choo-choo” policy when it comes to D&D. I wouldn’t think twice about drafting the party into service, however, if it was they who were responsible for the “war, natural disaster, act of the gods, or other crises”. One reaps what one sows after all.


The Grand Wazoo said...

I have often tried to work in a guild frame work to game play but more often then not I feel like I am running a game with the cast of "Time Bandits" .

If only I could have a lawful party for one session....

Patrick W. Rollens said...

Good stuff, Mike. I have a rogue character in my Savage Worlds game who's hankerin' to find a thieving guild...I might just lift most or all of these ideas for use in said guild. Bravo!

Michael Curtis said...

@The Grand Wazoo: OK. Time to step away from the "Time Bandits". That's two TB references in less than a week.

@PatrickWR: Lift away. Appropriate for a thieves guild, neh?

Zachary Houghton said...

This. Is. Fantastic.

In my homebrew, the players will be exploring a frontier area, unexplored largely for nearly 100 years which once housed both a great Elven and a great Human kingdom. Its only been open for exploration for about 15 years now, and sellswords, mercenaries, colonists, and treasure hunters have poured in. I've been working on an Adventurer's Guild myself, but hadn't got nearly as far as you have. I printed this out and am going over it, making notes for my own campaign. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Or it could be the name of the local Pain and Pleasure-seekers Guild ;)

masque said...

The adventurer's guild in my games is called the IWW: Itinerant Warriors of the World, because I'm a fan of labor history and I can use Manowar's "Warriors of the World" as the guild's anthem, B-).