12 Guilds to Rule Them All


RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

If you had to pick 12 guilds to rule your city, what would they be?

Thieves' Guild is kind've obvious. Farmer's guild would be interesting as in ournhistory their dominated, yet still important. Stone is kind've a big deal, And you would also have the Freemasons, so there is that bonus.

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  • The Exchange

    To rule a city? Stuff like refuse collection and sewer and waterworks maintenance spring to mind - nothing glamorous, but stuff essential to keep a city running (after all, a guild that can bring a city to its knees by not turning up to work is a guild that is likely to be on the ruling council). None of the PC classes would get a look-in as guilds (none are essential... and most probably dangerous to have around) and neither would the thieves guild (organised crime is a blight to be stamped out!).

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    I only need 10 -- the guilds of Ravnica. Fun stuff.

    RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

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    Public Works (roads, sewers, walls, bridges, fountains)
    Food Production (farmers, hunters, bakers, millwork)
    Construction (buildings, walls, siege engines)

    Livery (teamsters, porters, carriages, sedan chairs, pilots, portals, teleportation circles)
    Security (law enforcement, fire suppression, border patrol)
    Health (clerical and non-clerical healing and sanitation)

    Tinkers (household goods, tools, armor & weapon smithing)
    Entertainment (parades, parks, plays, pubs, puppets, prostitution, preachers)
    Soft Goods (clothing, ropes, sails, tents, tarps, nets, curtains, towels)

    Seekers (detectives, journalists, alchemists, scientists, sages, archeologists, dungeoneers)
    Illumination (candles, gas and/or oil lamps, public education, signal fires)
    Bureaucrats in charge of everything? (advocates, adversaries, judiciary, suffrage lotteries, gaol, assembly, parliament, secret police)

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    A historic-like guild is an organization of people to monopolize a skill, with legal backing based on the guild maintaining standards in that skill. A bunch of those don't seem like anyone outside the guild or those giving the guild its initial charter would see their skill as the same thing, especially entertainment.

    Rather than public works, maybe 'water works' or 'plumbers'? Food production might be an alliance of a few smaller guilds to form/join 'the Honorable Association of Millers and Bakers' or some such, and a similar idea might work for some others especially soft goods. If entertainment was a non-guild organization which controlled the venues (& maybe harrassed any trying to set up new entertainment venues) it might make more sense.

    Liberty's Edge

    1. Noble Families 2. Civil servants ( town guard, fire, sanitation ) 3. builders 4. merchants 5.religious 6. mages 7. If the town is noted for any special product(s), such as iron working,alchemy,seafaring/dockworkers,crafting of special objects etc. Or: 8. membership might be divided upon racial lines. Or, there might be a member for separate geographical areas. In a town which is democratic, there might be a town council consisting of a member or members from important groups; however, in less democratic areas the ruler(s) might be restricted to one group or overlord.

    RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

    I'm thinking more along the lines of a town council consisting of a member from each important guild or organization, with "guidance" from a secret mayor. This "guidance" will consist of secret notes, visits in the middle of the night, and the assassination or sabotage of interests in conflict with the secret mayor's agenda.

    Sovereign Court

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    Well, historical guilds tended to form around certain professions for good reasons, so our fantasy guilds should also make sense. Historical functions of guilds include:

    • Setting and enforcing product quality standards
    • Regulating supply; making sure there aren't too many [cobblers] but just enough to keep prices good.
    • Political pressure on the suppliers of base ingredients; the weavers may want to band together to prevent big wool producers playing them off against each other.
    • City militia training.
    • Political power; as a group a guild can be a force to be reckoned with for nobles who want to tax a city. And they can collectively negotiate for privileges.
    • Training; the guild structures the training of apprentices and journeymen into masters.
    • Retirement and charity; guilds commonly took care of the widows and orphans of deceased members, and paid pensions to members who'd grown too old or feeble to work. This is social security in the era when the state didn't provide it centrally, but where it was up to smaller segments of the population to arrange it themselves. In the countryside, that'd be families; but a large part of city population would be recent immigrants with little local family. (City life tended to be unhealthy and most cities had a negative birth rate until the 20th century.)
    • Religion; most guilds paid for the upkeep of a shrine for their patron saint.
    • Civic pride: guilds march in holiday/religious parades and such.

    Struggle by guilds to gain a seat in city government or to wring concessions from nobles were common in the Middle Ages and later onwards. Being in power was by no means guaranteed even if you theoretically had a lot of economical and social power.

    But not all professions were historical "guild material"; academics tended to be independent for example. I think to some degree you'll find that jobs learned at a university and which didn't require physical labour are more likely to be free professions.

    Unlikely guilds would include:

    • University doctors - though a faculty is a sort of guild by another name.
    • Priests - church institutions already fulfill this function
    • Knights - they'd be either sworn to a liege or members of a military order
    • Professional soldiers/mercenaries, would belong to a company
    • Nobles - are basically institutions themselves to which other people belong

    In some sense, guilds are an institution for people who do not naturally belong to another institution already.


    So now what guilds should we have in our city? I'd say mix it up a bit - count in various churches, monasteries and universities, but use a different word than guild. Add various craft and merchant guilds that exist for the usual reasons and that leverage their economic and social power into political power.

    Finally, there's magical guilds, like wizards and alchemists. On the one hand, the other guilds might fear such a powerful group. They might want to employ their own wizards, focused on their particular craft, or just to add arcane might to their political toolbox.

    On the other hand, wizards benefit from many of the same reasons for forming a guild;

    • Training, and maintaining libraries and laboratories.
    • Supervision: making sure none of them is selling his soul to the demons.
    • Political power: a wizard school is a force to be reckoned with.
    • Social security: wizards die too, and they may have family that needs taking care of. And they're perhaps more prone to unusual maladies that require serious help to cure.
    • The company of like-minded, educated, non-muggle fellows.
    • An infrastructure for settling rivalries in a nonlethal manner.

    So... a wizard's guild either exists and then it'll probably be very powerful and busy coercing weird hedge practitioners to conform, or it will very much not exist because no other faction wants such a competitor.

    Sovereign Court

    As for thieves' guilds: I'd say these don't exist too openly. But it's possible that a criminal guild coexists with the city government under terms such as:

    - The guild protects its members and provides many of the typical guild functions to them.
    - The guild makes sure their crime doesn't exceed a tolerable level.
    - The guild opposes "poacher" non-member criminals.
    - Guild criminals tend not to touch ranking members of other guilds.

    This is of course a situation that destabilizes from time to time. Non-criminals would prefer no crime at all so they're always looking to lower how much crime the guild is allowed to conduct; and the guild is probably looking to increase it's power via protection rackets and such. So every decade or so there's a period of conflict and a new balance is reached.

    The Exchange

    Actually a Wizard's (or spell-casters') guild that exists to self-police the profession(s) could be a neat idea. Your party Wizard uses a Sleep spell to end a bar-room brawl, and twenty minutes later there's a knock on the door by the local Wizard's Guild representative (flanked by at least two big, possibly magically summoned, bruisers - let's call them Vinnie and Knuckles...) who wants a quiet word about fees and suchlike...

    Or you could run the escalating rivalry between the dung collectors' guild and the plumbers' guild over the introduction of flush toilets... mostly so that you could call it 'A Game of Thrones', but still... ;)


    RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

    This is for an isolated colonial city with lots of steampunk features. Think of Victorian London with plantations and surrounded by post-apocalyptic ruined Aztec/Akkadian/Egyptian temples dedicated to the Great Old Ones. The nobles have pretty much died out or significantly lost their influence and power. Or have adapted to thrive as guild members, if not guild masters.

    Thieves Guild:
    The Thieves Guild will be the secret thirteenth guild nobody knows about. Or at least nobody talks about.

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