The Golden Circle
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Group Name: The Golden Circle
A.K.A.: The Circle, The Golds
Group Mark: A single circle painted using pure gold
Group Colors/Livery: Members of The Golden Circle adorn themselves in the brightest colors possible in whatever style they personally favor as long as their Badge and Chain (see Organization) is displayed at all times.
Goals: The primary goal of the Circle is to bring modern conveniences to every part of the world. They feel it is their duty to outfit the civilized members of society for an "affordable" price.
Leader's Goals: The goal of the Board of Directors is to maintain order throughout the Circle and oversee any disputes that may arise between merchants at any level. Their job is to ensure that Circle members are performing to the highest standards set forth in the Circle charter(1).
Individual Goals: It is the goal of most merchants to someday sit on the Board of Directors. While there are those who are happy with their current station, there are fewer still that view their retirement with fondness as the life of a merchant can sometimes be taxing.
Objectives and Objections: The objective of the Circle is to ensure their merchants have a foot hold in every hamlet, town, and city in the known world. They wish to make all members of all the merchants in a given area to ensure their power. While some gladly join the Circle for the benefits and prestige, others view the Circle with suspicion and even disdain. Those who reject a membership offer are heavily scrutinized, and will sometimes fall victim to "unfortunate accidents" (this however, is not always the case).
History and Motivation: The history of the Circle goes back several centuries to a wealthy merchant named Abat Fetin Hedjeb. He was a spice trader and noticed that several of his rival quarreled constantly over the correct price of their wares. Through some convincing -and conniving- he was able to have a sit down with the merchants and discuss their grievances. Though many of the first meetings ended in bloodshed, the merchants were able to agree on a fair price. Soon after, their profits soared, with many of the merchants thanking Hedjeb. In return for their thanks, Hedjeb asked for only a small portion of their earnings to help establish spice trade to the west. He assured them the current success would be nothing compared to the riches they would surely gain if they expanded west. After much debate, the merchants agreed to trust Hedjeb one more time. Hedjeb exceeded all of their expectations and soon each merchant was close to retirement. Other merchants noted the success of the spice traders and sought out a few for advice. While most of the merchants were tight lipped about the matter (thinking the newcomers would surely cut into their profits), Hedjeb saw a golden opportunity. He met with the more successful merchants and explained his successes. He promised the others that their profits would almost double if they followed his practices, with only a tiny portion of their profits given to Hedjeb as a courteous thank you. In no time, the other merchants found their coffers lined heavily with gold and the rest, as they say, is history.
The motivation of the Circle is to ensure they corner every market in every town in the known world. This has caused problems with independent merchants in the past, as independents (or "indies" as they are referred to by the Circle) complain that Circle merchants will reduce prices of their wares to such a degree that they cannot continue to do business. This leaves "indies" with the choice to either join the Circle or close their doors. Some kingdoms have outlawed such practices, but the power of gold can cause some rulers to turn a blind eye to such petty matters.
Organization: The Circle is a heavily regimented organization. Everyone within the organization knows their supervisors and subordinates and rarely step out of line. All merchants maintain constant communication with their supervisors via monthly, quarterly, and annual reports. All reports submitted to the merchant's immediate supervisor, which in turn are copied by a scribe for the supervisor. The copies are kept for the supervisor's records, while the originals are sent up through the chain of command. The supervisor keeps copies of his subordinate's sales and are reviewed on a quarterly basis. These reports either help or hinder a merchant seeking a larger area to ply their wares, advance within the guild, or increase their standing with the guild(2). All information eventually reaches the Board of Directors, who oversee operations and make judgments regarding performance. The sending and receiving of information from merchants in the frontier to the desk of the Board of Directors is handled by courier pigeon or messenger. In the case of the Board of Directors and Regional Managers, mages are employed to send messages via magical means (scrying, whisper wind, air elemental, etc.)
Badges for Merchants:
-Copper Badge w/ copper chain (class 3)
-CB w/ silver chain (class 2)
-CB w/ gold chain (class 1)
-Silver Badge w/ intervowen CSG chain (class 3)
-SB w/ SSG chain (class 2)
-SB w/ GSG chain (class 1)
-Silver and Gold Badge w/ Silver Chain (class 3)
-GB w/ Gold Chain (class 2)
-GB w/ Platinum Chain (class 1)
-Jewel encrusted Gold Badge w/ Gold Chain (class 2)
-JEGB w/ Platinum Chain (class 1)
Board of DIrectors:
-Jewel Encrusted Platinum Badge w/ Platinum Chain
Upon acceptance to The Guild, merchants are given a badge with matching chain.
Chain of Command: The Board of Directors sit at the top of The Circle. Set up by Hedjeb, each Director maintains checks and balances within the guild and The Board is required to meet every quarter to discuss trade agreements, restrictions, supply and demand shortages, and plan for unforeseen circumstances. They review the Guild Charter and review all current by laws. Any revisions to the Charter are made by the Directors via a majority vote, and any addendums/omissions are sent down through the chain of command to It is the job of the Directors to ensure all of their merchants are treated fairly They employ a network of thieves, who are tasked with infiltrating town guard halls, other merchant guilds, the courts of lesser nobles and sometimes advisors to kings and queens for information. The Board must know everything that is happening and how it affects their trade. These are power men with nearly unlimited funds at their disposal. They have the ability to cripple economies to gain the attention of those in charge. The Directors communicate with Regional Merchants directly and will address lesser merchants if a dispute cannot be handled by the RMs in charge of the region.
Regional Merchants (RMs) are in charge of everything and anything regarding their region. They oversee the movement of products, invoices, and relations with wealthy nobles, artisans, and other persons of note. They have a charm and grace unparalleled to many of the best bards and ensure business is always good.
Rank and File: District Merchants (DMs) oversee their LMs and are tasked with double checking the books. Their job is quite hectic as they traverse the countryside to "spot check" all subordinates for quality, and record keeping. A spot check for any lesser merchant can be an experience, as DMs are borderline fanatics about the tiniest details.
Lead Merchants (LMs) are the closest to the action as far as managers are concerned. They deal supply and demand issues, settle disputes between merchants
Raw Recruits: The face of The Guild are the Merchants. There are three grades: First Class, Second Class, and Third Class. Each class has access to services provided by the guild and depending on their standing can employ any Guild Sanctioned guards, scribes, or accountants at a reduced rate. Merchants of the First Class are next in line for a promotion to Lead Merchant. They currently have one Second Class Merchant and 3-4 Third Class Merchants
Methods and Activities:
Third Party Abilities: The Guild has interests in other guilds. Each guild relationship is described in detail below.
Fighters: The Guild has worked out several trade agreements (including but not limited to: weapons, armor, food, and women) with Fighter's Guilds in most regions within their trade routes. Most Fighter's Guild leaders will offer services to merchants in the form of strong arms and body shields. Many of the private guards employed by the Guild are on "extended" loan from Fighter's Guilds.
Thieves: Many thieves are indirectly employed by powerful guild members to ensure their subordinates are "playing straight". Thieves will often steal and copy books to ensure The Guild is receiving their cut.* Thieves are employed to spy on rivals, track down lost property, and in extreme cases, eliminate competition. The Guild finds Thieves' Guilds to be quite useful in removing "indies" (usually by way of extortion) from an area if they are hurting business.
Mages: Mages provide an essential service to The Guild. They allow for communication to happen instantaneously when information is vital. Diviners are highly prized by the Board for their seeing skills. Many mages will gladly accept the position of Advisor to a member of The Board or Regional Merchant, as The Guild's quarterly meetings rarely hinder their arcane pursuits.
Clerics: The Guild believes in "whatever religion dominates the area we are selling in"(3) and as such will offer the local temple/church a reduced rate for any supplies they need or want. The Guild will also keep the secrets of less pious devotees to a religion in exchange for trade freedom. Clerics can be helpful healing ailing merchants or bodyguards and are generally treated with respect when in their company.
Skilled Laborers: Leatherworkers, blacksmiths, carpenters, alchemists, jewelers, scribes and others comprise the skilled laborers The Guild deals with on a regular basis. While some of the of the workers are not GS members, they have grown rich off of The Guild's ability to move their products and sell them where the demand for their product is at its highest. This helps the local workers stay in business even though the local community might be suffering in an economic slump.
Scribes are prized by The Guild and oversee the vast sums exchanged on a monthly basis. It is their duty to keep detailed records of all transactions and work in concert with accountants to
Artisans: Artisans consist of virtuoso musicians, painters, sculptors, poets, song writers, and others. The Guild may find a buyer for their work in a distant place and provide the means by which to transport it safely. They might also arrange a meeting for sellers and buyers to meet and discuss commissioned and prices.
Unskilled Laborers: Unskilled laborers are the porters, teamsters, wagon drivers, cooks, butlers, provide many of the unseen services utilized by The Guild. Messengers are paid well to get messages to an from merchants expediently. The Guild is looking to form their own messenger network, but it seems that snags in the best way to compensate the messengers are currently being disputed by The Board.
Nobility: The Guild has secured itself as the buyer and sellers for many nobles. Many GS Merchants double as advisors (in an unofficial capacity) to secure trade agreements, ensure GS Merchants have first rights to new exports and location selection when new towns are built. Nobles are rewarded for their allegiance through coin, women, or other riches.
Other Groups: Depending on their viability, most groups (even beggars) are employed directly or indirectly by The Guild in different capacities. Guards can be paid to miss details in an investigation or questioning a witness. Beggars can be paid small fortunes to loiter in front of stores to affect business for competition.
Resources and Power: The resources of The Guild rivals small kingdoms or wealthy city-states. Controlling trade in many parts of a given kingdom has it benefits. They control what comes in and goes out of a particular location, always ensuring the ruling house/family/dictator gets their cut. The leaders of a city respect The Guild and when working together, rulers have grown quite rich in a small amount of time. The power of The Guild can be quite scary when looked at for an extended period of time. The Guild controls most of the trade, some of the banking, and has many local officials in their pockets, receiving kickbacks. Most of the corruption can be followed from the high seats of city councils to royal courts. The Guild has the means to move property of any kind from one place to another. ANY KIND.
Areas of Operation: The Guild has the ability to operate anywhere. They have merchants always eager to make a name for themselves by thriving in boom towns or frontier outposts. If there is gold to be made, be sure The Guild will be there with supplies and a smile on their face.
Allies and Enemies: While The Guild has fortified itself with allies, that does not mean they have not made their share of notable enemies along the way. Their most immediate enemies are competition: merchants who refuse to see "the light" and join up with The Guild. Some have formed their own guilds in an attempt diminish the power of The Guild.
Status Quo: The status quo is ensuring nothing blocks trade. The Guild is sending surveyors to the north lands to assess whether an recently discovered patch of forest will be profitable. To the south, merchants are needed to help establish a boom town that has come upon a vast copper vein. The Guild is also sending their own miners to find an "alternate" route into the mine and divert production.
Internal Security: The members of the internal security and compliance assurance department are known as Adjusters. Abat quickly realized the need to ensure contracts were met and his cousin Yufet Kajin was able to meet this need. At first Kajin could handle the work load himself but as The Guild grew so did the need for his skills. Now there are a dozen Adjusters working at the discretion of the Board of Directors. Adjusters can be called in to handle any number of situations, from a merchant fleeing with wagon loads of coin to a contract negotiation that is costing too much time. Whenever assigned an Adjuster is tasked to achieve a specific result by any means necessary. Their tactics are brutal but efficient, if someone is stealing they are killed, replaced and compensation is located. If a key contract cannot be signed family members will disappear. The Adjusters have never failed to achieve the desired outcome.
Much like other members of The Guild wear bright colors the Adjusters wear white. Their badge is smooth polished mahogany, and the chain is made of steel. Only a pair of mithril scales are set deep within the badge, the Adjusters do not display the money bag on their emblem to reflect their objective oriented station within The Guild.
How they take over a new area:
Initially send a Lead Merchant to review the area and report back to the board of directors. If determined a sound investment the board will send a Lead Merchant, usually the one who provided the report, back with an appropriate number of class 2 merchants and their respective teams. Never is a merchant who cannot afford to expand their business offered a new route. Often merchants who cannot afford to expand into a new route will volunteer to abandon a current route in favor of an untested one. This curries favor with the board because it allows proven routes to be recycled back into the pool which keep many of the lazy Class 1 Merchants happy to fight over them.
· The Merchant's Guild needs adventurers to protect their merchants travelling the southern wastes to the desert city. Bandit attacks have increased, so the merchants do not want to take any chances...
o The reason for the security is the bandits are attempting to thwart the merchants from delivering a rare material component needed for a ritual to resurrect a long dead priest/sorcerer/god that will take over the world.
· Mysterious deaths of merchants are under investigation by the local authorities. The Guild would like to handle the matter internally and have commissioned adventurers to discover who is behind the attacks.
o The attacks could be perpetrated by a rival merchant, an "indie", or other outside agent acting on behalf of a mysterious party with nefarious intentions.
· Many independent merchants are losing their merchant's license in the kingdom of X and are being replaced by Guild Sanctioned Merchants. One of the merchants could be a relative or friend to a party member (pick the L/G one) and are seeking justice.
o The Guild wants to eliminate competition and have blackmail information on the clerk that processes merchant licenses. The party can either help the clerk or go after The Guild, exposing the conspiracy in the process.
· A powerful mage/lord/merchant needs x to cure a rare disease. The Guild had the item enroute, but it appears the caravan travelling from the north through the spooky forest never made it out. All attempts to contact them have yet to be successful.
o Could be a ghost train situation a la Final Fantasy III (or VI)
o A bandit group may have infiltrated the caravan and helped orchestrate an ambush in the forest (The "Taxman" perhaps?)