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Organizations and Societies of Karameikos

by Giampaolo Agosta from Threshold Magazine issue 26

This article describes the secret societies, orders, and other organizations of Karameikos. TheGazetteer describes to some extent the Order of the Griffon, three criminal rings, the Merchants' Guild, and the Loggers' Guild. While the Knights of the Three Suns appear in the Penhaligon Trilogy, and the Sons of Night appear in the Dungeon Magazine adventure In the Dread of Night. Several other organizations appearing in this article were created in previous fan works. This article does not cover the trade guilds of Specularum which appeared in Issue #21 of Threshold Magazine.

Knightly Orders

Knights and knightly orders are a tradition that Duke Stefan Karameikos brought from Thyatis. He established the knightly social class to reward loyal warriors with prestige, and possibly, lands. The newly founded Church of Karameikos proposed to create a military religious order, the Order of the Griffon, to support the expansion of the crown's control over Traladara. Finally, the Lord of Penhaligon established his own knightly order, the Knights of the Three Suns, with similar goals of providing recognition to warriors who helped him in controlling his borderlands dominion1. This created a complex structure, leading to two different ranks of chivalry in Karameikos. In descending order of importance, these include the Knight Bachelors, and the members of both orders of chivalry.

Knighthood of the first type is granted directly by the Duke, while the others are associated with membership in specific Knightly Orders. The Knight Bachelor rank is not a membership in a society, but rather a personal accolade -- Knight Bachelors are nobles who answer only to the Duke and their peers, whereas members of the orders of chivalry are bound by specific regulations. The orders are recognized by the Duke, and their members receive the same treatment as Knight Bachelors by the general populace, although the latter have precedence over them. It is customary for knights of the orders to be recommended by their patron noble for a Court Lordship, the lowest title of nobility in Karameikos.

Currently as of 1000 AC, there are only two orders of chivalry, the Order of the Griffon and the Knights of the Three Suns.

Knights of the Order of the Griffon and the Order of the Three Suns in full armor. Original drawing by Jeffrey Kosh (

Order of the Griffon

Knights of the Order of the Griffon style themselves as Sirs and Dames, and receive the respect due to knights, even though they may not have the requirements for that title. The Order of the Griffon is a military order of the Church of Karameikos, quartered in the Church district of Specularum.

The Order of the Griffon recognises four internal ranks, based on the traditional structure of the Thyatian military orders of Vanya:

  1. The Master (this rank is automatically assigned to the head of the Church, the Patriarch of Specularum)

  2. The Marshals (this rank is only awarded to name level members)

  3. The Knight Commanders (this rank is usually awarded to experienced knights, of level 7 or higher)

  4. The Knight Brothers/Sisters (this is the entry rank, held by most members)

The Master of the Order is Patriarch Olliver Jowett. Corbula Vespasian, a former gladiator in the arena of Thyatis, is the Order's weapon master and the most senior of the three current Marshals. Baron Desmond Kelvin II and Aleena Halaran are the other two Marshals in the Order.

The Order's prestige was originally due to the personal combat skills of Sir Corbula, which in time developed into a full-fledged sword fighting school. Nowadays, the Order attempts to accredit itself as a force for good in Karameikos, sending its members on many quests in remote reaches. Thus, it has acquired sufficient pull to be acknowledged as a greater order, and its members are accorded the respect of full Knights.

Joining the ranks

To become a Knight of the Griffon, it is mandatory to be a member in good standing of the Church of Karameikos, and to display some degree of combat ability (level 5, ability to effectively use heavy armors, shields, and infantry weapons such as swords, axes, or maces2).

To keep the membership, knights of the Griffon tithe 25% of their earnings to the Church, and take on a number of missions or quests from their superiors.

Campaign Use and Hooks

The Order of the Griffon serves two roles -- one as a provider of missions for characters who belong to the Church of Karameikos, and the other as a foil for Traladaran or independent PCs. Members of the Order can be operating on orders from the suprematist branch of the Church of Karameikos led by Patriarch Alfric Oderbry, causing them to enter into conflict with the PCs. Here the challenge will usually be to defeat the Knights without alienating those members of the Order who are more aligned politically with Patriarch Sherlane Halaran.

Hail the Heroes has a similar setup, and can be used for Traladaran PCs. The Lords of the Cruth Lowlands3 campaign could be easily played with a group of Knights of the Griffon, or a single Knight and his companions.

Knights of the Three Suns

The Order of the Knights of the Three Suns is a lesser order of chivalry, founded by Lord Arturus Penhaligon and quartered in the Castle of the Three Suns in Penhaligon. The Order is acknowledged by Duke Stefan, who acts as its Sovereign Head, but does not grant any social right to the members - i.e., Knights of the Three Suns are Freemen, and not entitled to style themselves Lords/Ladies or Sirs/Dames unless they are also Court Lords or Knights.

There are three ranks in the Order: Squire, Knight and Knight commander. In addition to these ranks, there are three high officers, the GrandMaster, the Treasurer and the Hospitaller. Together, they form the Council of the Order. Fain Flynn, a veteran of Arturus Penhaligon's unit was the first knight, as well as the first Grand Master, while Sir Lyle Graybow, Penhaligon's castellan, has been the Hospitaller since the foundation of the Order twenty-five years ago.

Squires can be promoted to Knights (this generally happens as the Squire reaches 7th level), and Knights may be named Commanders (usually at name level or more4). Knights are often recommended for a Court Lordship, which is generally granted, and Knight Commanders are usually considered by the Duke for a Knighthood.

Joining the ranks

Aspirants are admitted by selection, and since the order is quite small, this process is handled directly by the Council. Aspirant squires must be recognised for their fighting skills (being Fighters or Clerics of 3rd level or higher), though the requirement is less stringent than in the Order of the Griffon.

Campaign Use and Hooks

The Knights of the Three Suns are a lesser order, so they would more likely appear only in adventures focusing on Penhaligon and north-eastern Karameikos. They may be presented as a club for "old boys" in Penhaligon's upper class, mostly ineffective and city-bound, or take a more active role rooting out goblinoid lairs or even investigating the whereabouts of "the Queen", Ilyana Penhaligon.

Criminal Societies

There are three main criminal rings in Karameikos: the Iron Ring, the Veiled Society, and the Kingdom of Thieves. This section describes them, as well as other secret societies.

The Iron Ring5

The Iron Ring is based in Fort Doom, and has resident agents in all towns in Karameikos, as well as in Jaibul, Sind,Thyatis, Ostland, the Emirate of Nithia, and in a couple of Alphatian ports of the Isle of Dawn. Other agents of the Iron Ring travel across the Grand Duchy, furthering the agenda of the organisation. The Iron Ring has almost no influence on the criminal underworld of Specularum, where the major players are the Kingdom of Thieves and the Veiled Society. It operates openly both in the Black Eagle Barony and in Jaibul, as well as among several goblinoid tribes (especially of Bugbears and Goblins) in the wildernesses of Karameikos.

The Iron Ring is protected by Ludwig von Hendricks - in return it works to further the interests of the Black Eagle, operating as a sort of secret service for the Baron6.

The members of the organisation do not generally operate as simple burglars or pickpockets, and the Iron Ring does not have the manpower to run extortion rackets. The primary business of the Iron Ring is slavery, followed by espionage and assassination. Goblinoid tribes are employed to help with guarding the prisoners along their route across Karameikos to Fort Doom, where ships are loaded with the new slaves and sent to slave markets such as Jaibul and Thyatis, but also Zeaburg, Surra-Man-Ra and the ports of the Alphatian Empire. Given the extensive amount of effort needed to hide the slave trade, the Iron Ring are also among the best smugglers in Karameikos, though they rarely work in this area, except to smuggle magical components and treasures to Fort Doom.

The typical agent of the Iron Ring is the Reaver. Reavers are not allowed to operate independently, and are either attached to an higher ranking member, or are assigned tasks in the slavery operations, such as leading caravans, coordinating the kidnapping of people in an area, or spying on the rulers of a town. The typical Reaver joins the organisation when he is already a skilled thief, warrior or priest - there are no apprentices. Due to the peculiar nature of the organisation, thieves are only slightly more common than warriors, and several priests of evil cults from Jaibul are also present7.

The manpower of the organisation is provided by goblinoid mercenaries as well as by brain-washed and conditioned slave warriors, called Hounds.

The Iron Ring organisation is ruled by the Masters, almost all of whom are highly skilled wizards -- at least as far as Karameikan wizards go. The real power is in the end of a few Masters, but even lesser Masters are able to pursue personal agenda, commandeering Reavers and Hounds as well as resources.

Joining the ranks

The Iron Ring is only suited for the most villainous PCs, given its goals and methods. A PC Reaver should either be a plant in a group that is a known opponent of the Black Eagle, or a member of an Iron Ring-only party.

Progression in the organisation is very limited - new members are recruited from those who demonstrate skill or strength (being second level Thieves or Fighters), or from the ranks of the Entropic priesthoods, particularly the Gens Caelenes8. At about fourth level, the Reavers are assigned to tasks or posts outside the Black Eagle Barony, and operate independently or in small groups. At about sixth level, a Reaver becomes more a threat than an asset to the organisation - thus, only the most loyal Reavers are retained past this point, and are usually subject to magical screening and control. All others, with the exception of Clerics, are assassinated by the Masters. Cleric Reavers, however, are allowed to leave the organisation and return to the Gens Caelenes.

Campaign Use and Hooks

Many adventures feature the Iron Ring as an enemy, including B10 Night's Dark Terror and DDA3 The Eye of Traldar. It would be relatively easy to have them in the role of the slavers in a conversion of the AD&D series Against the Slave Lords, or even as the slavers/bandits in the outer world part of The Night Below. Since the Iron Ring exports many slaves to major slave markets such as Jaibul, it can be used as a way to push adventurers to undertake voyages to distant lands.

The Veiled Society

The Veiled Society is an old racketeering organisation based in Specularum, and has only recently expanded into Kelvin, Threshold and Luln. Before the Thyatian conquest, there was a similar organisation in Halag, which has been all but destroyed by the Iron Ring and Baron von Hendricks.

The Veiled Society mostly runs protection rackets, though it also controls prostitution and illegal gambling. In general, it focuses on activities that require relatively little skill and produce a steady revenue. The Veiled Society also controls a number of legitimate businesses, using its thugs to reduce competition by targeting guildsmen and merchants tied to the Torenescu or Vorloi factions.

The organisation also tends to present itself as the champion of the Traladaran urban lower classes, thus gathering some support from the local population. It also has strong connections with several trade guilds, especially the powerful Merchants' Guild.

The Veiled Society is organised as a family, with an elder (starosta) leading each gang and controlling a territory - usually a number of city blocks in the Nest or the Old Quarter in Specularum. The elders report to the upper tier of the organisation, which is composed of white collar mobsters, led by the Radu family.

Joining the ranks

The Veiled Society has strict rules, but respecting the rules is about the only requirement for joining. Some amount of brawn is also appreciated, but skill is entirely optional.

This organisation is very appropriate for the business-oriented Thief - it can lead to power and wealth without too many risks. Fighters and Wizards can also join, but the latter are less common.

The Veiled Society also aims at controlling its territory. Freelance thieves are not acceptable, and many members simply become part of the district gang.

Rising in the ranks is possible, although it requires considerably more skill than joining, as most members never get to become elders. There are basically two ways to progress within the ranks of the Veiled Society. One is to inherit the leadership of a district gang from a dead starosta, and the other is to join a troubleshooting team. The former requires time, patience, and a great deal of work building relationships within the gang, positioning oneself for the takeover. The latter requires superior thieving or fighting skills.

Moving from a troubleshooter or elder role to the upper tier is considerably more difficult. It requires being selected as an advisor or underboss by one of the ruling families. The top jobs are generally reserved for members of the family, although it is possible for an outsider to enter this tier through marriage.

Campaign Use and Hooks

The Veiled Society is the primary antagonist of Specularum campaigns, as seen in B6 The Veiled Society, which focuses on the rivalry between the Radu and Torenescu factions. It can also serve as the base of operations for Traladaran PCs with a criminal background.

The Kingdom of Thieves

The Kingdom of Thieves is a new Thieves' Guild, having existed for around only ten years. It strictly limits its activities to burglary and is based in Specularum, though its members sometimes operate in Kelvin or Vorloi.

Compared to the other Thieves' Guilds the Kingdom is rather small, but is composed of skilled members, allowing it to focus on high-revenue jobs and stealing mostly from the rich. The Kingdom has a strict hierarchy with names based on Darokinian, Traladaran and Thyatian aristocratic titles. The guildmaster, Flameflicker, is known as the King of Thieves, while his direct underlings are Princes. Dukes (level 10+), Counts (level 8+), Barons (level 6+), Knights (level 4+), and Lords (level 2+) form the lower ranks of the membership, while apprentices are dubbed Squires. Members tend to act independently or in small teams, though the King and Princes assign jobs to specific groups from time to time.

The Kingdom of Thieves does not condone murder and other violent crimes, and members are expected to use weapons only in self defence.

Joining the ranks

The Kingdom of Thieves only invites professional Thieves to join. Former cutpurses, pickpockets, and small time burglars are accepted, as are adventurers with the appropriate skills.

A new member starts either as a Squire, if he is a promising young thief (1st or 2nd level) or as a Lord (3rd level or more), and can work his way up to the rank of Duke by proving his skill. Currently, all Princes are founding members of the Kingdom, and are all quite young. New Princes can be named only by the King, and this has not happened yet.

Campaign Use and Hooks

The Kingdom of Thieves is designed to be a straightforward, PC-oriented thieves' guild. Yet the mystery surrounding the King of Thieves, Flameflicker, can serve to springboard adventures for PC investigators who are part of the Phorsis Guard9 or operate independently.

The Spring Flood

The Spring Flood10 is a Traladaran revolutionary network, led by an older warrior only known as Vladimir. It is composed only by ethnic Traladarans, but open to all character classes, although fighters and thieves are more common. It is an offshoot of the "Spring of the Street", an older Traladaran liberation movement that aimed at obtaining justice and equality for the Traladarans after the failure of the Marilenev Rebellion. The pacifistic Spring of the Street petered out, although it remained a satellite movement connected to the Torenescu faction, and the most militant elements turned back to the violent means of their Marilenev Rebellion predecessors.

The Spring Flood is a smaller group (around forty people), but several of them are veterans of the Marilenev Rebellion, or have been involved in criminal enterprises -- usually as low-level enforcers working for the Veiled Society. The Spring Flood currently attempts to build a power base -- attacking Thyatian merchants and nobles, or more likely their properties and businesses. The Veiled Society tolerates them, as they typically target members of the Vorloi or New Karameikan factions more than the Radu, and even offers a modicum of protection through safe houses in the Nest and not ratting them out. The Spring Flood also has some safe houses in the countryside, and secret ties to the Marilenev faction.

Joining the Ranks

Revolutionary activities in Specularum are a dangerous pursuit. Most recruits are either related to former members of the Marilenev Rebellion, or are former common criminals who became radicalized through contacts with religious fanatics or political extremists -- often while serving prison sentences.

Below Vladimir, a small clique of older, savvier professional revolutionaries controls half a dozen individual cells, ready to carry out missions at Vladimir's request. Rising in the ranks depends on the ability to attract new recruits and create a cell that lasts more than a few months.

Campaign Use and Hooks

The Spring Flood features in the Specularum Series11 of adventures, particularly in The War Conceived, the fifth instalment of that series. It can be used to prop up Lady Marilenev as a more credible opponent, if the PCs support the Thyatian or New Karameikan political factions.

The Rat Gangs

There are at least three gangs of wererats nesting in the sewers under Specularum. These gangs tend to come and go as strong, greater wererat leaders arise, only to disappear or merge with others when the leader dies or disappears. The oldest gang is led by Anastasia Rodinos, a Traladaran greater wererat from Halag. She is a revenge-driven woman, who has obtained dark knowledge from the last monk of the Monastery on the Hill12, and is herself a cleric of Orcus. She was once the leader of Specularum wererats, but during her long stay at the Monastery, command was usurped by newcomer and Thyatian rake, Decius Andronicus. Nowadays, Anastasia's Black Death gang controls the sewers beneath the Nest and the Old Quarter, whereas Decius' Rat Pack gang controls the Hill and the Great Market. A third up-and-coming gang, led by Thyatian smuggler Publius Musculus, has nested in the sewers beneath the Church District, in the ruins of the Church of St. Rybich.

Overall, the wererat gangs tend to resemble each other: a charismatic leader, able and experienced enough to control other greater wererats collects a band of such followers, and then lesser wererats seem to almost naturally fall in line. They deal primarily in smuggling and burglary, breaking through from the sewers into cellars and warehouses. The Veiled Society tries to suppress them, with limited results -- new lesser wererats keep repopulating the ranks, and greater wererat bosses are too cunning to get caught, and too quick to catch before they plunge back into the sewers.

The factor that impedes the rat gangs' ascension to the rank of major players in the criminal underground is the persistent gang war between them -- Decius and Anastasia are deadly enemies, and the Traladaran boss wages a decades-long extermination campaign against the Thyatian wererats, and their collaborators.

Joining the Ranks

Joining a rat gang is a gruesome experience, since it requires the transformation into a lycanthrope -- specifically, a greater wererat. Once a human is transformed, he is generally adopted into the gang, and lesser wererats will consider him part of the upper ranks. Greater wererats are another matter -- more intelligent and skilled than their lesser companions, they judge other wererats by their skill and loyalty, much like any other mob boss would.

Due to the current long-standing feud between the two greater gangs, there is space for newcomers to rise quickly through the ranks, by taking part in the gang war. Assassination missions, exposing enemy operations, and destroying enemy nests are all tasks that can lead to promotion on the field. Given that lesser wererats are not intelligent enough to be used as spies, and greater wererat are too few and know each other, there is not a lot of espionage -- an undercover operation could be conceived, but the risk would be high as the rival boss might prefer to have the greater wererat infiltrate killed.

From there, to become the "big cheese" means tangling with tough, high level NPCs, one of whom has an apocalyptic agenda.

Campaign Use and Hooks

Anastasia Rodinos' revenge quest may appeal to Traladaran PCs and to other insurgent groups such as the Spring Flood. However, pushed by her Immortal patron, she would go as far as transforming Traladara into a nightmare land populated by wererats and undead.

Mrikitat, the wererat Immortal, is increasingly worried about the Black Death pack. Decius is a rather laid-back leader, and Mrikitat knows a more aggressive leadership is needed to turn the tide. Thus, he is looking for a capable adventurer who might be infected with wererat lycanthropy and possibly turned into Karameikos' first Cleric of Mrikitat.

Secret Societies

The Sons of Night

This ancient organization has deep roots flowing back to the times of Taymor, well beyond the memory of most, if not all, living beings in Karameikos. Such roots are all but forgotten even by the Sons of Night themselves, but the organization started out as a network of surviving followers of Nyx after the cataclysm destroyed the Taymoran mainland, leaving stranded members of that culture in what were the northern borderlands. These survivors were faithful of Nyx who had disagreed with the Thanatian corruption of the later Necromancer Kings, and had found it healthy to relocate far from the main Taymoran city-states. They tried to preserve their culture and lore, but wave after wave of barbaric invaders thinned out their ranks and diluted their knowledge. Still, Nyx' subtle interventions and the occasional recovery of ancient tomes and artifacts has kept the Sons of Night from fully disappearing, and, after the Thyatian intervention brought back to Karameikos literacy and magecraft, the society has been steadily, if slowly, growing, recruiting promising magicians and potential priests.

In modern times, the Sons of Night are a combination of a cult of Nyx and a society of scholars delving in specific topics that relate to Nyx, Taymor, and the many creations of those times, including lycanthropy and vampirism, re-founded by Alphatian or Thyatian exiles just after the Dark Times ended. The main tenets of the organization are apocalyptic -- they believe in a lightless future, the Dread Night, which may be interpreted more or less aggressively. Evil members believe that the world will one day be consumed by the Dread Night, and wish to exploit its power to rule the world before its inevitable destruction. Neutral members take a more detached approach, recognizing the Dread Night as merely an opportunity for different life-forms to take the place of the current ones, and believe it is their duty to collect knowledge about these races and how they might be created or re-created. Good members believe that the Dread Night is merely symbolic, and represents a different era of the cosmos, one where lycanthropes, undead, and other nocturnal beings can live in harmony with the inhabitants of the daylight. All members look out for knowledge, and most are wizards, with a few priests of Nyx among them -- a somewhat rare calling.

Joining the Ranks

The Sons of Night are a difficult organization to join, since they are very secretive and few know of their existence. A prospective member would, most likely, be approached by a Darker, a higher level initiate, who will assess their value to the society and their interest in joining. The prospective member is usually a wizard apprentice or a member of a similar profession, has magical aptitude, and a fascination for those things that the Sons of Night appreciate -- knowledge in all forms, including puzzles, tricks, anagrams and other word games. An appreciation for individual freedom is also necessary as only Chaotic characters are recruited. A trial period of one year passes before the prospective initiate is allowed to join the society.

The Sons of Night are organized in fraternities, each of seven members, led by a Darker. When a fraternity becomes larger than seven members, the Darker selects a new leader among the membership, then leaves to join a more powerful fraternity. A council of Grand Darkers leads the entire organization -- although with a very light hand, since communication among members are minimal, and even the Darker of each fraternity acts only as a moderator rather than a ruler.

Campaign Use and Hooks

The Sons of Night first appear in the adventure In the Dread of Night by Ann Dupuis, appeared in Dungeon Magazine 24. They are presented as a straightforward evil organization, but one with a few redeeming qualities -- among which the respect for ingenuity which leads them to let smart opponents go. The presentation proposed here is more versatile, and allows them also as a PC-oriented organization. It is worth noting that the Koskatep megadungeon features the Sons of Night as a major force, as does to a lesser extent the Lords of Cruth Lowlands campaign. Since both are designed for higher level characters than the original adventure, In the Dread of Night can be used to foreshadow more complex interactions with this society.

The Brotherhood of the Woods

This semi-secret society was founded by the Callarii elf Lathan Spearhand, after he came back from an adventurous journey across the Sea of Dread. Lathan had to pay a large sum to the Black Eagle Baron to ransom his fiancée, an elven maiden from Rifllian whom the Iron Ring had kidnapped.

Seeing that the Duke's justice was not going to reach the Baron, Lathan decided to take the matter into his own hands. He soon discovered he was not the only victim of von Hendricks' misdeeds. Thus, he contacted many of those who had reason to take revenge on the Baron, and formed a society devoted to bringing down the Black Eagle and the Iron Ring, by whatever means were necessary.

The Brotherhood is currently a small group, but is composed almost entirely of low to mid level adventurers. Lathan also has several contacts with other groups, including the Traladaran resistance movement in Fort Doom and Luln. New members are recruited by Lathan himself in Specularum. There are no fixed requirements to join, except a grudge against von Hendricks and the Iron Ring, and some fighting or magical skills.

The Brotherhood meets at the Hippogriff Inn, in the north market district of Specularum, near the old city walls. The innkeeper is a friend of Lathan's, and relays messages left by other members of the Brotherhood.

Joining the ranks

Being an enemy of the Black Eagle Baron is the primary requirement. Adventuring skills of all types are appreciated, but the Brotherhood has a use for more mundane supporters.

The Brotherhood is a fairly informal organisation, with no ranks at all.

Campaign Use and Hooks

The Brotherhood of the Woods is essentially the circle of Lathan Spearhand and his friends. Lathan is the hero of Lathan's Gold, thus giving the Brotherhood some hooks for The Isle of Dread, Drums on Fire Mountain, and other Sea of Dread adventures. However, the Brotherhood's main focus is the defeat of Baron Von Hendricks, which puts them directly at odds with the Iron Ring (see that entry for adventures that involve that organization as an opponent).

The Ambassador's Men

Outwardly, the Ambassador's Men are just a theatrical company led by Darokinian actor-playwright Emilio the Great. Emilio, however, is also an agent of Duchess Olivia Karameikos. His specialty, of course, is mixing with the upper class, but some of the Ambassador's Men are more at home in espionage and furtive activities.

In addition to these spies, the Duchess can also rely on other agents - a well developed network with ears in almost every fief, and even in some of the neighbouring nations.

Joining the ranks

Joining the Duchess' network is easily done at the lowest level - one just needs to relay important information to Emilio or other agents. However, the real nature of the network will be kept hidden until the recruit has proven reliable. At that point, he will be inducted in the espionage network proper, and given assignments.

The main requirements for admission are loyalty to the crown and a keen mind - skills and experience come a distant third.

Campaign Use and Hooks

The Ambassador's Men can be used to drive a cloak and dagger campaign in Specularum, as well as in the lesser fiefs -- a troupe of wandering actors is the perfect cover for a group of spies, who can then be involved in location-based adventures such as Night of the Vampire.



Organizations in BECMI and AD&D

Mechanically, there are no special rules for factions or organizations in BECMI and AD&D. However, mutuating from 5e, the DM could easily provide faction members in good standing with a discount (50%) on training costs for both weapon masteries (proficiencies in AD&D) and general skills (non-weapon proficiencies in AD&D). The two rules set are similar enough that the same table works for both -- just ignore the mastery level for AD&D.

[Table: BECMI/AD&D Faction Training]


Weapon Masteries/Proficiencies

General Skills/Non-Weapon Proficiencies

Order of the Griffon

Two handed sword (GM), Sword (M), Mace (M), Warhammer (Ex), Lance (Ex)

Religion (Church of Karameikos), Riding, Code of Laws

Knights of the Three Suns

Battle Axe (Ex), Sword (M), Lance (Ex)

Riding, Code of Laws, Geography of Northern Karameikos

Iron Ring

Dagger (Ex), Sword (Ex), Mace (Sk), Staff (Ex), Short bow (Ex), Blackjack (Sk)

Geography of Karameikos, Goblinoid languages, Survival, Stealth (Forest)

Veiled Society

Dagger (M), Blackjack (Ex), Club (Ex), Staff (Ex), Short sword (Sk)

Knowledge of Specularum Underworld, Gambling

Kingdom of Thieves

Dagger (GM), Blackjack (M), Short sword (Ex)

Knowledge of Specularum Underworld, Stealth (Urban)

Spring Flood

Sword (Ex), Dagger (Ex), Hand axe (Ex)

Stealth (Urban), Knowledge of Specularum Underworld

Rat Gangs

Dagger (Ex)

Stealth (Urban, Caves), Survival (Urban, Caves), Knowledge of Specularum Underworld

Sons of Night

Dagger (Ex), Staff (Sk)

Spellcraft, Arcane Magic13, Religion (Nyx), Ancient History, ancient languages

Brotherhood of the Woods

Sword (Ex), Spear (Ex), Longbow (Ex), Hand axe (Ex), Dagger (Sk), Staff (Sk), Short bow (Ex), Light Crossbow (Sk)

Orienteering, Survival (Forest, Mountain, Ocean), Navigation, Pilot (Ship), Stealth (Forest), Geography of Western Karameikos, Callarii Elven language

Ambassador's Men

Dagger (Sk), Rapier (Sk), Short sword (Sk)

Disguise, Acting, Darokinian language, Knowledge of the Specularum society

Organizations as 5e Factions

In D&D 5e, factions have some mechanical aspects worth considering.

The knightly orders are mostly composed of lawful fighters and paladins, with the Order of the Griffon also accepting many clerics. The criminal societies are more variable, with the Iron Ring attracting evil characters of many classes, including rangers and barbarians; the Veiled Society attracting neutral and evil rogues and fighters; the Kingdom of Thieves being mostly of interest for neutral rogues and some bards; the Spring Flood collecting mainy neutral and chaotic fighters and rogues; and the Rat Gangs recruiting only wererats, mostly neutral or evil. Finally, the three secret societies are quite varied. The Sons of Night are open primarily to arcane casters of chaotic alignment, as well as a few clerics of Nyx. The Brotherhood of the Woods mainly collects chaotic and good characters, with many rangers, but is open to all classes. The Ambassador's Men are often lawful or neutral bards and rogues. The following table reports training available for each faction.

If a direct conversion of the 5e factions is needed (e.g., when converting a 5e adventure), then the Order of the Gauntlet maps to the Knights of the Griffon, the Lord's Alliance maps to the Ambassador's Men and/or the Knights of the Three Suns, the Harpers map to the Brotherhood of the Woods, and the Zhentarim map to the Iron Ring (or to the Veiled Society if the adventure is based in Specularum only). The Emerald Enclave does not have a direct correspondence, but it could be worked in easily as a cult of Zirchev, if needed.

[Table: 5e Faction Training]


Training offered

Order of the Griffon

Smith's tools, language (Thyatian)

Knights of the Three Suns

Smith's tools, language (Thyatian)

Iron Ring

Vehicles, Thieves' Tools, Smith's Tools, Goblinoid languages

Veiled Society

Forgery kit, Thieves' Tools, Gaming Set

Kingdom of Thieves

Thieves' Tools, Disguise kit, Gaming Set

Spring Flood

Disguise Kit, Thieves' Tools

Rat Gangs

Poisoner's Kit, Disguise Kit

Sons of Night

Gaming Set, ancient languages

Brotherhood of the Woods

Elven language, Navigator's tools, Cartographer's tools

Ambassador's Men

Disguise Kit, Forgery Kit, languages (Darokinian, Ierendian)

Considering these organizations as backgrounds, the knightly orders and the criminal societies easily map on the 5e Knight and Criminal backgrounds. The Sons of Night are usually Sages, whereas the Ambassador's Men are Entertainers and the Brotherhood of the Woods maps well to the Folk Hero, although a variety of other backgrounds can be used as well.

1From an out-of-character perspective, the creation of the Knights of the Three Suns is problematic with respect to the definition of knighthood provided in the Gazetteer, as Lord Penhaligon is not even a

Baron, and is outranked by true knights.

2This requirements are meant to model the restriction to Fighters and Clerics present in the original material, but adapting it to different rules sets.


4Karameikos is designed as a low-level campaign, so Knights can be lower level than in the usual BECMI setup, where the Knight rank is reached at level 9. This is present already in the original material for the Knights of the Griffon, and has been extended to the Knights of the Three suns as well.

5See also

6In the 1012 Poor Wizard's Almanac, the Black Eagle Baron is discovered to be the leader of the Iron Ring. This is not known in 1000 AC, and might not even be true at that time -- besides, it might not even be true in 1012 AC, since once Ludwig falls out of favor with the court, the authorities might simply have quickly shifted the blame for most ills in Karameikos to him.

7See for more details on the Gens Caelenes and its ties with Jaibul.

8See for more details on this cult.

9See Gaz 1 and for more details.

10First appeared in "The War Conceived", part V of the Specularum Series of adventures by V. Lädhe.


12See B5 Horror on the Hill.

13 See “Manuale delle Abilità Generali” by Marco Dalmonte, in italian only ( for Arcane Magic. Spellcraft is the AD&D equivalent from the PHB.