Thieves' Guild Operations

{{Taken and abridged somewhat from the 4th Ed book “Crime Pays”. So far, my favorite method of establishing and running a guild}}.

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“Every rogue knows that no man is free. Every knight answers to his Lord. Every Lord answers to his King. Every King to his Priest, and every Priest to his God.”

“The thief alone dares to defy both man and god, answering to no one – save his Guild Master”

Beneath the rain-slick cobblestones of the foggy streets, behind the ratty curtains hung over the back of smoky taverns and gambling hells, there is a secret city – as real and as a vibrant as the bejeweled palaces and wide promenades of the nobility – ruled by its own sinister princes and lords of the night. These are the thieves’ guilds; these are the Lia-Kavair.

Territory

Rogues without territory are simply brigands, and a neighborhood without a guild doesn’t earn income. It’s only when a crew of rogues works a territory, that you have a criminal organization.Lose either, be it to rival mobs or the law, and the guild collapses.

The wealth of a gang or guild is its territory, which is further the measure of power of its guild. Weaker guilds are always seeking to expand their territory, and established guilds must always fight to defend it.

The dimensions of each territory is a rough region of city blocks grouped into what is often called a “neighborhood” or “ward”. The nature of each ward determines its base income, and how likely you are to run afoul of either the law or the underworld.

Ruins (d6+4gp) : The worst holdings of a guild, they consist of desolate shells of moldering buildings, often inhabited by no one, or a scatter of pox-ridden peasants with little or no hope of ever bettering themselves. There is no industry to speak of, apart from bare plots of land and whatever the inhabitants can steal or beg from adjacent wards.

This abject poverty plays to the ruin’s greatest asset; authorities want nothing to do with ruins, and allow the inhabitants to fend for themselves. Furthermore, other gangs will likely not make a play to takeover such desolate territory. For them to be sustainable, other forms of income need to be generated, such as smuggling, black market sales or other schemes, as ruins rarely promote the needs of a guild.

Slums (d12+6gp) : Slums suffer from much the same problems as ruins, but the inhabitants have one difference; ambition. Citizens in slums are like feral dogs, hungry for the taste of something better, they live among dilapidated tenements and have a passion for better like no other. Locals are known for becoming legendary thieves, assassins and scoundrels.

Slums are as ignored by authorities, but they have a slightly better income. Many guilds get their start in slums, however there is very little industry and gangs need to make such to survive. Slums are, however, awash with beggars eager to serve for a few coins, and provide easy access to information in the ward.

Trade Ward (3d20+10gp) : Wharfs, warehouses, caravansaries, and any district used for the storage and exchange of goods falls under this general heading. There are few residences in a trade ward, and also few potential witnesses.

The constant flow of trade goods makes trade wards a popular place for criminal activities, and gang wars over such territories can be common. By the same token, however, raising cohorts is difficult, and aggressive hiring practices are required to steal personnel from other rival mobs.

Merchant Ward (4d20+100gp) : Merchant Wards bustle day and night with sounds of commerce; carriages come and go at every hour, merchants hawk their goods and everywhere coins exchange hands. As varied and unique as the cities they are found in, they can run from the great houses of the merchant-lords , to the dense, narrow streets of the craftsfolk and artisans, they are places of ready exchange of coins for goods and services.

The great merchant houses rival the established noble families, with the former trying to gain the lands and titles that make the gentry nobles. While the nobility claim their position through centuries of tradition, lineage and ritual, merchant lords rise to prominence in a generation, and can lose their position just as quickly.

The influx of trade and talent means that merchant wards are always brimming with rogues and thugs willing to take up with a rising crime lord. The constant activity ensures a wide variety of illegal activities are available, and are an intoxicating mix of ambition, where many low-level thieves are trying to gain position.

Temple Ward (5d20+150gp) : Temple Wards encompass the great temples and shrines that grant the ward their name, but also the colleges of the Shek-Pvar and other important places of learning. While wealth does abound, it is said that “… rogues suffer, because priests are better thieves…”.Most organizations in these districts tend to carefully protect their wealth with spells and creatures of both foul and fair natures. Also, much of their wealth is tied up in statuary and architecture, making little easily stolen or fenced.

Successfully establishing your guild in such a district, however, can bring its own rewards; meek clergy and distracted seers seldom have the muscle to defend themselves against careful urban predators. However, they can operate in large mobs themselves, and have resources of magic and divine strength that can surprise and disperse a guild’s membership.

Noble Ward (5d20+200gp) : Greatest in wealth and splendor, access to noble wards make even the youngest cove spark and flame with greed. Gold for the taking, nobles ripe for seduction, and jewels the size of fists – there is no end of tales told over flagons of ale in taverns about them.

The truth, however, is markedly different. Noble houses have spent centuries consolidating their might and position behind tradition and ritual, and are utterly unforgiving to attacks on their position. It takes more than fancy cloaks to enter their world, and if caught in the act of thievery, their response is usually immediate and lethal. Running coves among the wealthy requires a constant understanding of the political situation; a local prince can quickly be raised to clean out the thieves of his city, when urged to action by his noble houses. Earning the wrath of the local prince is often a mortal error.

Still, for mobs that favor grace and guile over brute force, working a noble ward can bring great wealth. Careful guilds can easily fulfill all the stories, offering wealth beyond imagination.

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Gathering Your Coves

Once your territory has been chosen, one needs to gather their gang members. An organization lives or dies by its scoundrels, thieves, thugs, and other members beneath your banner. There are two types of members n your guild; Coves and Favored.

Coves : The generic thugs and thieves of a guild, who are not particularly talented, but provide the bulk of soldiers in your guild, carry your banner and work your territory. While dedicated, they do not have the talent or skill to lead your schemes; this is the purview of the Favored.

Coves perform the tasks that earn your base income. These tasks run from protection rackets, small time gambling and petty thievery. These scams earn the guild a copper here, a silver there, ultimately adding up to the base income of the guild. This is the mob’s bread and butter, its reliable income.

To run any given territory, a guild must maintain at least ten (10) coves. These thieves dedicate their daily efforts to protection rackets and small-time, petty crimes. If their number ever drops below ten (10), the district income is halved for the month. It is up to the guild master to determine how many of his coves he has dedicated to working the district collections each month, and how many he assigns to other, more lucrative assignments.

Secondly, the number of coves determines one’s presence in a district, such that each mob within a guild, that controls a given territory, must be maintained and recruited individually. Coves don’t like to switch mobs, often viewing them as competition, except when taking over a new territory, as these coves see themselves as starting their own new mob, with its own possible opportunities.

Coves are inherently lazy. If a guild grows too large, they will cease working as hard, and so additional members will not improve their local position or strength. They also do not work for free; as each cove draws an income of 1 gp per month. While a guild can maintain as many coves as they wish, above 50 per mob will not gain any benefit. Whips are unique Favored, that can be recruited to improve the muscle and streetwise of a given district by having more coves.

New coves are attracted to a guild during the Recruitment Phase of each month, and regardless of the number attracted, the guild master determines how many are accepted into the guild.

Coves : Streetwise : Muscle
1-4 : (+1 : +0)
5-7 : (+2 : +1)
8-10 : (+3 : +2)
11-13 : (+4 : +3)
14-16 : (+5 : +4)
17-20 : (+6 : +4)
21-25 : (+7 : +5)
26-30 : (+8 : +5)
31-35 : (+9 : +5) (+6 with one Whip).
36-40 : (+10 : +5) (+6 with one Whip).
41-45 : (+11 : +5) (+7 with two Whips).
46-50 : (+12 : +5) (+7 with two Whips).

Favored : The lieutenants of one’s organization, each has a specific skill that makes them stand apart from the bulk of your guild members. They are talented at leading coves on specific missions, and the more such people you have in your guild, the more actions you can take each month. Recruiting and keeping favored isn’t cheap;, so most guilds only maintain enough favored to run their essential schemes. Successful guilds can afford more favored that aren’t essential for running monthly missions, giving them more flexibility and opportunities.

The Favored bring specific skills and talents to the guild. They include master thieves, mercenary captains, wizards, seers and other scoundrels of ill repute. Accordingly, retaining favored comes at great expense, and while they each bring specific talents and skills that might not be found otherwise, they are not always of value to every guild. It is impossible to determine who will be attracted to a guild before the Recruitment Phase of the turn, but it remains up to the guild master to determine who is accepted into the guild.

Serving as lieutenants in the guild organization, they lend sophistication to the guild, and can lead dangerous – and lucrative – operations in the guild’s name. Each favored in a guild can lead a specific action on behalf of the guild for the guild master. Favored include such specialists as Assassin, Beggar Master, Cat Burglar, Corrupt Noble, Fence, Forger, Harlot, Mistress, Moneylender, Minstrel, Vagabond Performer, and other skills, each bringing with it a specific skill set and opportunity or strength to the guild.

A list of possible Favored follows;

Arm Breaker : A professional thug who thrives at intimidation. Typically assigned to petty rackets, they double the mob’s (not a gang) base income. They are too brutish to ply their techniques in noble or temple wards.

Assassin : An expert in the the art of the knife, they are feared throughout the underground. An elegant killer, capable of striking at the top of any organization, when leading a gang on a hit, assassins grant a bonus of (+2) to the Crime check. Assigning more than one does not gain any further benefit.

Beggar Master : Beggar Masters take the poor, afflicted and destitute, and transforms them into an efficient network of spies. They quickly learn much of the comings and goings in the community. They grant a (+2) bonus to the mob’s Streetwise check.

Black Magician : A practitioner of dark rituals, this favored can be assigned to a single Venture or Crime, granting a (+2) bonus to the check. They are bitterly against rivals and cannot work together on a task.

Bodyguard : Trained blades in their own right, bodyguards specialize in protecting their charges from danger, with honor and loyalty as marks of their trade.Assigning a bodyguard to a minion grants them temporary HP equal to the level (CR) of the bodyguard. In addition, the DC required to assassinate or kidnap that minion increases by (+2). Up to five bodyguards can be assigned to a single minion.

Cat Burglar : Specializing in burglary, the cat burglar is the epitome of stealth and infiltration. Given time and talent, they can bypass even the greatest vaults, and talented coves led by a cat burglar grant a bonus of (+2) to the Crime check. Up to a total of five (5) cat burglars can be assigned to a single task.

Charlatan : A dabbler in the dark arts, a charlatan is more of a performer than a strong arcanist. Assigned to a specific Crime, they can grant a (+1) bonus to a Crime’s DC check, largely by minor effects that bolster the coves in their group.

Corrupt Magistrate : Beholden to the gang, a corrupt magistrate allows the gang to avoid the justice system somewhat. Once per month they can reduce the level of severity of a convicted criminal by up to two (2) ranks. This will only work once per favored or cove.

Corrupt Noble : Essential for any Crime to succeed at the higher levels of leadership and city government, a corrupt nobleman is essential for a Crime in a noble ward. A corrupt nobleman reduces a mob’s infamy by (-2). Up to five (5) nobles can work together in such an endeavor. They cannot lead mobs.

Cutthroat : Lacking in certain graces, the cutthroat is known for their sheer violence. They can grant a (+1) bonus to Crime checks. Up to five (5) can work together on a single hit.

Corrupt Priest : Essential for a Crime in a temple ward, a corrupt priest reduces a mob’s Infamy by (-1). Up to five (5) corrupt priests can work together on a mob’s behalf. They cannot lead mobs.

Cracksman : While not as skilled as a true cat burglar, a cracksman has a knack for picking locks and disarming traps. Assigning a cracksman to a Crime grants a bonus of (+1).

Cultist : Worshiping obscene powers, cultists are much like a diabolist, but far less powerful. They grant a bonus of (+1) to any crime in which they are assigned, regardless of the type of crime attempted. Up to three can be assigned to single gang.

Diabolist : Generally a warlock or some such arcane caster, a diabolist makes pacts with otherworldly powers in defense of an assigned gang or mob. They grant a bonus of (5) to a Crime check, but also raise a mob’s Infamy by (5). They cannot lead mobs.

Fence : An established black market dealer with contacts, a fence can improve the resale of stolen goods, doubling the value of any income from a burglary Crime.

Forger : Masters of false identity and trade law, a forger is invaluable when working among the highest levels of government and trade. Assigning a forger to a higher-class ward, grants that mob a bonus of (+2) on its Crime check. They cannot lead mobs.

Harlot : A common enough sight in lower class wards, they grant the gang a (+1) bonus. Up to three (3) such favored can operate in the same gang.

Junkman : Salvaging the back alleys and byways of a ward, very little escapes their notice. A junkman increases a mob’s Streetwise by (+1). Up to three such favored can work with a gang.

Mercenary : Motley war veterans and brave man-at-arms, a mercenary are essential for the defense of a mob or in assaulting a rival’s territory. Where coves are loathe to take up the blade, mercenaries are born to it. Keeping more than five (5) mercenaries in a mob begins earning Infamy.

Mercenary Captain : Skilled in tactics and the art of war, a mercenary captaindirects assaults and others in defense of a stronghold. Assigning a mercenary captain grants a (+2) bonus to a gang. No more than a single mercenary captain can work in a gang.

Mistress : Ladies-in-waiting in service to the nobles and royalty of the crown, a mistress grants a gang a (+1) bonus. Up to two (2) such favored can be assigned to the same gang.

Moneylender : Running pawnshops and larger coin exchanges, a moneylender or usurer allow the recruitment of (d4) additional coves each month, or grant an additional attempt to recruit. They refuse to lead crimes.

Minstrel : Entertainers in the service of the courts, minstrels easily pass among the higher strata of society. Bards, skalds, jugglers and actors, assigning a minstrel to a ward grants a (+1) bonus to its Streetwise checks. Up to two (2) such favored can be assigned to any gang.

Racketeer : An experienced swindler, racketeers direct coves in more sophisticated small crimes, called rackets. These include gambling, smuggling, and the like, and are essential for advanced operations among a thieves’ guild.

Vagabond Performer : Street entertainers, actors and musicians, vagabond performers a common in the lower markets. Legitimate thespians work in bands under the flag of the Thespian’s Guild, operating largely as sources of street rumor, and thus grant an additional (d4) coves recruited each month, or may make an additional attempt each month to recruit.

Whips : Known also as “taskmasters”, whips are responsible for keeping the coves in line, often hard at work as the leaders of gangs in collecting fees owed. Placing a whip into a mob increases the total number of coves that can operate in a mob, and thereby increases its Strength and Streetwise scores.

Building Your First Mob : A mob begins when a would-be guild master puts out the call to the streets, letting the chosen district know that they are putting together a mob. The guild master spends 50 gps, and makes a personal Charisma (Persuasion) check, with the result determining the number of coves initially attracted to the new mob. This can only be attempted once, but others can Aid Another on the roll.

1-10 : d6 coves, plus one (1) favored.
11-14 : d6+1 coves, plus one (1) favored.
15-16 : d8+2 coves, plus one (1) favored.
17-18 : d10+3 coves, plus one (1) favored.
19-20 : d12+5 coves, plus one (1) favored.
21+ : 2d8+5 coves, plus two (2) favored.

If a PC already has named henchmen, these might be made into favored if they have appropriate skills.

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Defenses :

When blades flash over territories and blood flows in the streets, it always comes with loss of lives and hard-won gold. While many guilds survive through aggressive, preemptive strikes, it often falls to the guild’s defenses to soften such blows.

A guild’s base defense score is equal to either its Muscle or its Streetwise scores, whichever is higher. Mobs with high muscle can defend their home turf through numbers of thugs, while a high Streetwise will capture rumors and empty the streets before a strike occurs. Guilds build their defenses beyond these values by investing in their holdings and network. Like the upkeep for coves and favored, each costs a monthly upkeep.

Safehouse (25gp/+1 Defense) : A friendly bolthole, usually the back room of a tavern or a hidden cellar maintained by someone in the employ of the guild, they are places where thieves from the guild can escape to when pursued. The monthly expense ensures the location is kept a secret, and ensures that a regular supply of fresh food and drink is available for coves on the run. a guild can have one safehouse per ten (10) coves in each district.

Guildhouse (100gp/+5 Defense) : The headquarters for a given mob, a Guildhouse serves as their meeting place, the home for its fences and other activities, and in times of peril, its center of defenses. The monthly expense ensures the location is well provided with food and drink for its rapacious coves, as well as simple weapons; spears, slings and other simple defensive weapons. A district can only benefit from one guildhouse at a time.

Escape Tunnels (150gp/+3 Defense) : Rarely built, but adopted, escape tunnels are a typical network of sewer tunnels, old crypts and tombs, forgotten cellars and storm drains. Use of escape tunnels requires access to a guildhouse, first. The upkeep cost ensures the silence of its location by maintenance workers, specially keyed grates and passages, and repair of aging, forgotten tunnels.

Beggar’s Guild (15gp/+1 Defense) : Paying out small disbursements of cash to local beggars, a guild ensures that rival guilds making moves in their territory are likely reported. The welfare of a guild is linked closely to its local mob, so if the beggars want a steady stream of gold, they must aid the local mobs of any such potential disruption to their income.

Merchant’s Association (100gp/+2 Defense) : Much like beggars, a district’s merchants see much. If foodstuffs and weapons are being purchased on a regular basis, the merchants will know about it. Tithing them in small ways, will ensure that if a rival begins pushing in on one’s territory, they will inform their supporting guild of the activity.

Underworld (250gp/+5 Defense) : Though expensive, paying the few independents in a district, will ensure their goodwill leading to a gang war. If the local guild is known for treating these independents well, chances are they will return the favor. While they won’t fight on behalf of the guild, they will pass along information for a few coins, and gives the guild a better source of information than normally available.

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Crimes

“Behind every great fortune, there is a crime”

Every month, the guild master directs actions called Crimes. In order for you to commit crimes, you need a gang. Each gang consists of a favored, and a number of coves you operate under them. Certain crimes allow for more than one favored to be assigned to a gang, increasing the odds of the given operation. Each month, a dedicated gang can commit a single crime.

Typically, crimes operate as a single job that can earn extra income. However, under a guild master’s direction, sophisticated mobs can commit multiple crimes leading to a so-called “master haul”. Rewards for these master crimes, can exceed 500 gp or more.

Reading a Crime : The title is followed by the applicable mob skill, either Streetwise or Muscle. The keywords after suggest the skills required by the favored engaging in the crime. The last section describes the number of coves and favored required to engage in the crime. Each crime also beings with it a leveled DC and an appropriate increase in Infamy.

Bribe (Streetwise) : (Social) (Favored) : Your gang plies a target with offers of coin in return for a favor. This crime does not require any coves, only a single favored. Attempting a bribe requires an expense, regardless of whether or not it succeeds. Bribes can also be used to reduce punishments, but the cost significantly increases with the punishment.

Burglary (Streetwise) : (Social, Stealth) (Favored, plus three Coves) : Your coves break into a residence or business, making off with whatever goods they find. They can also target a specific item assigned by the guild master. This crime can also be used to attempt to break captured coves from a prison.

Hit (Muscle) : (Martial, Social, Stealth) (Favored, plus three Coves) : Your coves plan and carry out the assassination of a specific target. This crime can also be used to deliver threats. Extra Favored (Bodyguards) can be assigned to assist in the task, reducing the DC. The more important the target, the more difficult the task.

Infiltration (Streetwise) : (Social, Stealth) (Favored, plus one Cove) : You insinuate a favored into a social circle with the intent to gather information in preparation for another crime. A successful Infiltration will grant a (+2) bonus to the future attempt. A crime can only benefit from a single Infiltration attempt.

Hire (Streetwise) : (Social) (Favored, plus one Cove) : Eager for additional manpower, you put out a call for new coves and other talented scoundrels. In addition to possibly gaining new rogues during the Recruitment Phase, you also can attempt to hire talent. This costs hard coin, spent on tracking leads and drinks for the house, which is spent regardless of success.

Kidnapping (Streetwise) : (Martial, Social, Stealth) (Favored, plus five Coves) : Kidnapping targets can be any specific person, ranging from coves or favored of rival gangs, citizens of the local town, and even members of the high court.

Racket (Streetwise) : (Social) (Favored, plus five Coves) : Rackets stand in for crimes that aren’t violent (like hits or raids) or are principally centered on stealth, like smuggling or burglary. Rackets can range from gambling rings, numbers running, or any other illegal enterprise run with the intent of generating additional income for the mob.

Unlike other crimes, a racket remains active until such time as the coves are caught, or the guild master ends the racket.The exact difficulty of the racket determines its potential profits, and its potential punishments. Socially adept guilds can thrive on rackets,, running extensive black markets among the nobles and wealthy of a given community.

Raid (Muscle) : (Martial) (Favored, plus five Coves) : Often the precursor to outright war, a raid serves dual purposes of weakening a rival gang and muscling in on their territory and income. Raids are extremely risky – failing the DC will expose the gang to violence in turn.

Smuggling (Streetwise) : (Social, Stealth) (Favored – Racketeer, plus five Coves) : A ring of smugglers specializes in sneaking items (or people) into or out of a city without notice. The type of smuggled goods determines the risk and the rewards. Legal items include precious metals, jewels or magic potions (eluding import taxes); Banned items include mild poisons; and Forbidden items include relics dedicated to evil gods and powerful poisons.

Smuggling can occur from month to month like a racket, but increases in difficulty for each concurrent month. A failed smuggling ring does not count as shutting it down.

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Punishment

Eventually your coves will be caught in the act of committing crimes; their punishments will be determined by the severity of their crimes. Punishments include fines, corporal punishment and imprisonment, or possibly all three.

In each case, the guild master is expected to pay the criminal’s fines. If unable (or unwilling) to pay, the cove will be sentenced to work in the road crews, working off their debts at a rate of roughly 1 gp per month. When multiple coves are captured, the fines apply to each cove.

Rank : Fine : Punishment : Imprisonment
1 : d20+10gp : – : -
2 : d100+50gp : Offender’s Hand is Removed : 3 Months
3 : 2d100+250gp : Offender is Blinded : 6 Months
4 : All Worldly Goods : Execution (1 Month) : -
5 : All Worldly Goods : Execution (1 Week) : -
6 : All Worldly Goods : Execution (Next Dawn) : -

Punishments for especially egregious crimes are especially harsh, and coves who have worked on the road crews for months to years, they will return to their families haggard and worn. Some will be blinded or maimed, and almost all will be wearing prison brands.

While these rogues have little to offer their former guild, if accepted back into service, often as lookouts or simple beggars, they can gain the respect of their fellow guild members. Such individuals do not count towards the cove totals, but must be maintained with a cost of 1 gp per individual as normal.

Oldtimers : Respect Bonus
1-5 : (+1)
6-8 : (+2)
9-10 : (+3)
11+ : (+4)

Thieves' Guild Operations

Thieves & Kings Robling