Saturday, September 11, 2010

On the Use of Guild Marks as Sympathetic Fetishes

"In Ilova, the City of False Doors, it is the custom of the Honorable Fraternity of Bakers and P√Ętissiers to brand freshly baked loaves of bread from their ovens on one end with the Sigil of the Tortoise and the other end with the Sigil of the Hare. These marks serve to identify the loaves as legal goods free of taxes and are the subject of much superstitious speculation by the hungry Ilovian populous. In the markets, wandering among the citizens adorned in their funereal togas, one can hear much talk of the boons, ills and sundry other effects attributed to whether one spreads one's lard across either the tortoise side or the hare end of this bread. In fact, the sigils do serve as sympathetic fetishes to aid in targeting the loaves for enchantment by the guild Athermancers in accordance with the Laws of Contagion. These rituals can aid or hinder the rising of the bread, the length of its life upon the shelf and even, once consumed, the vigor of its consumer. It is by these means that the Honorable Fraternity of Bakers and P√Ętissiers and her sister guilds exert influence and direction over the welfare of the entire economy, all at the behest of the Grand Guilder and High Officers of the Greater Confraternity of the Plen River Traders."

From The Codex of Surviving Imperial Livery Patents of Moranth, circa 17 AC.

Game Effect: Upon entering a city in which a single Guild controls the majority of the economy, make a saving throw to resist the effects of the arcane policy control mechanisms in currently place. To randomly determine the current policy effects, roll a d10: 1-3: -1 to skill checks, 4-6: no effect, 7-0: +1 to skill checks. These effects remain in place until the character leaves the city or until the end of the season. Abilities and powers which grant additional saving throws may be used to negate these effects normally.

The Post In Which Guilds are Sundered in Twain

For the last few weeks I've been at an impasse as to how to proceed with highest levels of economic activity for my game world. My original idea was to create a plausible system of economics linking the small scale of manorial production of actual goods to the larger, playable game pieces of Birthright style guilds. My feeling has been that guilds have been rather poorly defined in both description and game mechanics. Are they confederations of several small livery companies? If so, how deep down does the regents control extend into, say, the inner workings of the Honorable Fraternity of Bakers and Cake Frosters? The Hanseatic League seems like the best historical analog for a guild but along a more mono-despotic vein. The regent acts as both CEO and Chairman of the Board of a holding company composed to numerous sub-guilds who shoulder the gritty responsibility of the realities of production and labor. That leaves our regent free to... to what exactly?

I had assumed to make money. It's becoming clear with research that is a false assumption. Or rather it's better to say, their ideas on the production of wealth are far from my modern views on wealth. Guilds practiced mercantilism, not capitalism. They were strict monopolists wielding letters patent to force out and stifle competition and innovation. Foreign trade was considered a bane unless the exports always, always exceeded the imports. (An unrealistic as well as undesirable goal.) They imposed strict social order to control the balance of haves and have nots. They saw ruthless development of internal markets as the only route to wealth and when these markets stagnated, acquisition of foreign markets by force of arms was the common solution. Guilds were less concerned with money than they were with control.

And here I was trying to figure out how they profited on the free market. Under the guild system, the free market and the black market are both the same and criminal. Guilds are really a type of urban law holding. Criminal networks and the traditional D&D thieves' guilds are where the real inter-realm economic trade action is at, which is good as far as dramatic purposes are concerned. It looks like I'll be splitting the Birthright guild into two pieces and repurposing them into new roles.