View Full Version : DM Help How to make guild politics tricky?

2014-10-30, 01:52 AM
The PCs in my game belong to an Adventurers' Guild and I'd like to make things interesting. In guilds, what were the most likely political conflicts?

This question is campaign world and system independent. There's no reason to involve anything game mechanical into this.

2014-10-30, 06:35 AM
Which kinds of services does this guild provide? Spies? Mercenaries? Magic users? All of the above?

2014-10-30, 06:58 AM
Which kinds of services does this guild provide? Spies? Mercenaries? Magic users? All of the above?

All of the above, but the guild is somewhat lawful, so spying is not on the official list of their activities.

2014-10-30, 07:20 AM
Some thoughts:
Do we take jobs from all and sundry? Or only, say, nobility? Or not from foreigners? Are there fixed rates, and what should those rates be? Do rich people have to pay the same as poor people? Do we give discounts to the clergy, and if so, which clergies? Must members identify themselves before, during or after a job? Or is strict anonymity for or towards customers allowed? How are jobs handed to the groups? How do we deal with freelancers in our area? How do we position ourselves in city politics (and with reagards to the thieves' guild in particular)? National politics? Do we need a bigger guild hall? Who should build it? How much can we spend? Should we take a loan for that? Do we loan money to members? How about a tab in the bar? What are the criteria for membership? Can ex-convicts be members? Former/current mercenaries? How long before MIA becomes KIA? Do we accept necromancy? Charm/domination magic? What do we do with the old oak on the corner which seems likely to fall on the house in the next windstorm; have it down, hire someone to magically restore it, plant some of its acorns, use the wood for furniture in the guild? The whitewash is fading, who puts on a fresh coat? Do we hire someone, and who can we trust around the building? How about for doors and locks? Who represents the guild and gets to go to the mayoral dinner every year? Who is in charge of the treasury? How should we protect our treasury? Should we invest the money? How much? In what? Do we serve fruit of the carrot tree in Garethstide as proscribed by the church of Beddenybod? Do we celebrate solstices and equinoxes? Observe the fullness of the moon or the harvest festival? Can dwarves wring out their beards inside when it's raining? Must halflings wear shoes in the cellar? Do we let people get drunk on the premises since that incident with Och and the old cider? Who cleans up next time he vomits down the stairs and has to spend a week in hospital?

2014-10-30, 09:49 AM
Uh, hymer covered a lot. I absolutely adore the little details that seem so fiddling, unimportant or outright ridiculous at first glance - "Can dwarves wring out their beards inside when it's raining?", for example. This is exactly the stuff guild members would quarrel about most of the time. Those guys could, in real life, devote a whole heated conference to the important matter of size, price, shape and ingredients of the Neujahrsgallerte, which is a jelly dish served on New Years Day.

Can [minority] be members?

In which way do we care for the bereaved of dead members?

In which way do we care for sick, old or injured members?

What will we eat at [holiday] and how much money has every member to chip in?

Are we okay with the use of poisoned blades?

We play an important role in defense of the city and pay a lot of taxes, why are we not represented in the city council? Should we usurp the city council in a violent manner if our demands are not met?

2014-10-30, 10:09 AM
A huge political conflict that arises in historical guilds is the conflict between journeymen and masters. You need to have restrictions on who can become masters in order to have quality control, but having restrictions that were too many or too harsh turns the journeymen into an underclass that can get rebellious. Being a master, after all, came with certain privileges that everyone desired.

Perhaps your adventuring guild is headed by a bunch of crusty old-timers who don't even go out and adventure any more, but they won't let any of the up and comers enter higher ranks for some reason. Maybe you had to kill a dragon to prove you're tough enough to be a master, but there aren't even any dragons left to kill.

Red Fel
2014-10-30, 10:21 AM
The PCs in my game belong to an Adventurers' Guild and I'd like to make things interesting. In guilds, what were the most likely political conflicts?

This question is campaign world and system independent. There's no reason to involve anything game mechanical into this.

Well, think about it like this. A guild is like any organization - part of it wants to do its job, part of it wants to look after itself, and part of it is dissatisfied. So look at several possible factions. The administration. Their job is to keep the guild from imploding, getting vilified, or being made illegal. They keep the trains running as best they can. The traditionalists. "This is the X Guild. We X. That's what we do." They want to keep the guild operating exactly as it has been for generations. They don't like change. They want to be the administration. The innovators. "This is the X Guild. But if we do Y, doing X will become easier." They are advancing the practice. If X is a craft, they want to try new processes and new materials. If X is a service, they want to provide it to new clients in new areas. They are constantly straining against the rules of the guild, which they see as hindering its progress. They want to be the administration. The policy wonks. Their job is to protect the organization's interests. They represent the organization in negotiations with other guilds, in audiences with the king, and so forth. They grease the palms to keep the organization afloat. They could care less about the actual service the guild provides; they just want to make sure it continues to exist. They think they are the administration.
These are just a few of the factions involved. They're all constantly conflicting over what to do, how to do it, and who should be in charge of seeing it done. There are many ways it can pan out: A growing faction of young guns is trying to promote a novel means of doing X. The administration has been dominated by the traditionalists, so the innovator faction plans to either (1) stage an event, without guild sanction, that will force everyone to appreciate their work, or (2) split off and form their own guild. (With blackjack! And hookers!) The innovator faction in the guild has been given free reign, and everything resembling quality control has gone to pot. The guild less resembles a trade organization than it does a mad scientist's laboratory. Most of the traditionalists have sold their shares, but one die-hard keeps railing, trying to remind people of what it was like when the guild's name meant something; consistent quality, produced consistently. The X Guild is having issues with a Rival Guild. In the town where both are operating, X Guild members are being targeted for attacks. Rival Guild claims it isn't responsible, but the results speak for themselves. In fact, however, X Guild's policy wonks are responsible - they staged the attacks to discredit Rival Guild, hoping to gain monopoly power in the area.
And so forth. Power struggles between old and new, workers and administration, those who care about the product and those who care about the company. Tale as old as time, chief.

Honest Tiefling
2014-10-30, 01:25 PM
Why stick to political? People are petty creatures.

Someone could be a rival of another, and wish to out do them. Their reasons could be as simple as they are of a different race, nationality, or that this person is just better. Maybe they are siblings or other relatives. They might wish to compete legally, and take on jobs they cannot handle, so they need some help. Or, they do so illegally, and need to be stopped. They might approach the party, bribing them to help with their schemes.

Rather then make it black and white, perhaps one person is an arrogant noble, or backed by them. They have a rival, a follower of a chaotic good (Or whatever counts for good-intentioned rebel) religion. The noble is intent on continuing laws to oppress the people, limiting their freedoms or mobility (Social or otherwise). Sure, its illegal, but he needs to be knocked down a peg because he's getting riches for people who are going to continue practices that aren't in people's best interests. Perhaps it is as simple as spying on them to get blackmail or to see if they have shifty practices...

Another member could have romantic feelings for another, and be obsessed with them. To avoid a trip to creepy town, maybe their intentions are to help this party, as opposed to possess/kill them. The object of their affections might not appreciate the subtle help they are getting, as it proves that they did not obtain their position on their own. They might be manipulating it for their own gain. They might be manipulating it for what they believe is a good reason, to channel those resources to actually helping people...What's the harm? This person is chucking them left and right for bad reasons, they might as well get used to help people. This connection would could be used against the person with the obsession.

Someone has some personal vendetta. Perhaps they hate a certain race, a certain job, a certain kingdom, a certain religion, whatever. They keep pushing jobs that target this group and any job that benefits them (or negotiations with them) somehow 'get lost'. The best people get put on the jobs to incriminate, inconvenience or outright kill them. Incompetent people get put on the jobs to benefit them. Members of these groups get put on dangerous, unpleasant or incriminating missions. Their gear is sabotaged, missing or they don't have the budget to get them nice things. The players might get shuffled into one of these groups, either due to prejudice or bad luck on a mission, and get exposed to the differences between missions and this person's prejudice.

Someone wants to honestly help the guild. They believe noble (or wealth) is the way to do it. They'll retire and live comfortably in their old age. This person is worn down each time one of their trainees is killed or maimed on a mission. They honestly give their all to their members. Maybe adventurers tend to be outsiders/orphans/undesirables, so these people have no where else to go, and no one else to rely on. Of course, in their desperation, they might accept jobs that on the surface look good, but are bad ideas. They might not accept a very dangerous mission, because they know that someone they saw go from green recruit with nothing on their back to one of their devoted students and friends be killed. And why? Maybe the leader doesn't really care about the city's well-being as a whole, or the city next door. Why risk your friends, your family to save them? You have a duty to the guild, not these other groups. Of course, maybe that mission needs to be done to prevent a war, or some eldritch horror, or even a famine. Gotta convince the guy that they're going to see their friends die for a world that turned their back on these members and would let them die in a ditch if it wasn't for the guild.

Someone keels over, and they have plenty of enemies. Hey, new guys, figure out who did it, since they are as close to a neutral party as you can get. Of course, it could very well be that no one within the guild did it! Someone from the outside could be manipulating them and the party has to show the factions/leaders this so they can get over their grievances and work together.

Someone else keels over, but considering that they were pretty old, no one is surprised. But now you need to replace their position, and several people are jockeying for the position. Maybe it is absolute rule by the guy in charge, or there is some sort of voting mechanism. If we assume that the rank and file have some influence on this, the leaders could be trying to get the party's influence to grab the position...Possibly giving out favors to those who help them. The party has to assess if they want to play this game and which side they want to back, and which one is likely to win.

Someone else keels over in the field this time. Turns out, that person wasn't terribly popular, and the grunts decided that they needed a subtle way to make their grievances clear. The party has to figure this out and decide if they side with the ***hole commander, or the people who were fed up, maybe reasonably so. Maybe the grunts are resentful of the leaders, who might be recruited from a particular social class/city/gender/etc. The grunts might have no ability to advance and be grumbling. Maybe they want to form their own organization, but this guild has some legal way to enforce being the only game in town.

Jay R
2014-10-30, 08:21 PM
Haven't you been to high school?

For every faction, there is an equal and opposite faction.

For every person in office or a position of power, there are three others who want that office.

Every time the PCs come back with loot, there's a party who wanted that loot and were halfway there when the PCs got it.

Sometimes another party follows the PCs to take over. This party will tell the next monster that the PCs are coming.

There is somebody outside the guild who resents the PCs for being inside.

Mark Hall
2014-10-30, 08:24 PM
One I'd go with is vendors... who gets the contract to provide weapons and armor? Sure, we've always gone with Daggen Thundershield, but Billy the Weaponsmith (my cousin, naturally) is starting up and he'd love getting something like the guild contract.

How do we decide who sells us things?

2014-10-31, 05:49 AM
On top of all intra-guild conflicts, you need to figure out how the guild works on a larger political scale. Is it legal or secret ? If secret, there probably are people who want to make it legal. If legal, it probably has regulations imposed by the government, the State, the King or what have you. What are they ? Lax enough, or too strict ? Some guild members might feel that they are too harsh and run an anti-legalist faction. etc...

2014-10-31, 02:00 PM
On top of all intra-guild conflicts, you need to figure out how the guild works on a larger political scale....it probably has regulations imposed by the government, the State, the King or what have you. What are they ?
The biggest issues will be about security and the use of force. And on the issue of stability the guild and government at times may be at odds. If the nation has to worry about bandits-then the group that provides guards will benefit. Too much and few merchants will travel at all too few and the merchants will not hire enough guards. Also this group may well be the most powerful military force in the nation and probably the most powerful that doesn't answer directly to some part of the government (a militant clerical/crusader order may compete but unlikely). This means groups looking to counter the government will be interested in manipulating the group. Also adventurers primarily solve problems by killing whatever stands in their way. Since killing is usually a regulated practice then the politics of such regulation will be hugely important to the guild. This could well come into conflict with moral or ethical issues of various groups of the members too. Ressing collateral damage for example when the "damage" is too poor to pay for itarguments could go round for days.

Jay R
2014-10-31, 07:59 PM
Like high school cliques, there are people on the outside who resent you for being on the inside.

Unlike high school cliques, they have swords.

2014-11-03, 09:25 AM
Common problems with any organisation:
Who's in charge?
Who gets the credit for success?
Who takes the blame for failure?
How are the spoils shared out?
Who inducts new people and what are the membership requirements?
Who decides who you work with, and who you don't?
Who decides which suppliers you work with?
How do you respond to the competition?

Around all of those you'll have people of differing opinions, start grouping together people of like mind who prioritise the same one or two, and you have your factions.

2014-11-03, 01:22 PM
Like high school cliques, there are people on the outside who resent you for being on the inside.

Unlike high school cliques, they have swords.

Depends on the highschool I suppose. ;)

2014-11-04, 02:35 PM
Red Fel had a beautiful description above. Iím going to take it and run with it for a more specific example.

Your Adventurerís Guild (AG) is in the City-State of Kismet. Kismet is bordered by two other city-states: Fate and Destiny (yes, these are place-holder names). Nearly a century ago, the rulers in Fate betrayed a large AG group sent to help with an internal matter. As a result the AGís current policy is not to do any business with Fate. They will do business with Destiny.

Guild dues are paid as a percentage of your fees, in inverse proportion to your level (so lower level members pay a higher percentage). Lately there has been fewer jobs as the areas within Kismetís and Destinyís area of control are mostly settled. There are lots of potential jobs in Fate.

Korden, head Sword of the Guild (first of the Policy Wonks) has just returned from a meeting with the King. Times are hard and due to a nasty trade war with another state (not Fate or Kismet) that may escalate to violence, taxes and fees are being raised. The AG has to submit 100,000gp in 3 months or have its charter revoked.

In the past whenever there has been a need for extra revenue, policy has been to raise the guildís share of the fees. The traditionalists (led by third Sword Darnok) are arguing for this increase.

Second Sword Candon follows Korden in whatever he decides, but Forth and Fifth Swords Xandeth and Treblon lead a small but effective group with an innovative idea. Letís start doing business with Fate again. Itís been nearly a century since the betrayal and thereís an entirely different group in power. The addition of the new jobs would bring in enough extra money to take care of the problem. The traditionalists are adamantly opposed to this.

Frundrick is head of the accountants (administration). He manages the AGís funds and payroll. It will be his job to assess the cost/benefit analysis of the two proposals.

Jorack is a sub-accountant under Frundrick. He noticed a small discrepancy in the accounts and brought it to the attention of Frundrick. At separate points later that day he saw Frundrick talking to both Darnok and Treblon. That night he was assaulted in his chambers and told to mind his own business. Heís unsure who to trust at this point.

Finally, to make things more interesting, the King only asked for 50,000 in additional revenue. Korden began complaining about his guildís lack of representation on the council and the King offered him a council seat if he could raise 100,000. Korden has not spoken of this to anyone.