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The Guilds of Specularum

by Giampaolo Agosta from Threshold Magazine issue 21


Trade guilds are a long-standing tradition in Specularum. Six hundred years ago, the town, then Marilenev, saw its first rise to greatness as the capital of the Duchy of Marilenev, as well as being the location of the Diet of the Traladaran League. Marilenev was a trading town, acting as the hub of trade from Harbortown, New Alphatia and Thyatis to the Traladaran principalities along the Volaga, Shutturga and Waterolde rivers. Furs and hides have always been the major exports of Traladara, and in Marilenev the merchants and craftsmen that worked with furs and leathers formed the first guilds, the Merchants’ Guild, the Leathersellers’ Guild and the Skinners’ Guild at the beginning of the 5th century AC. These first guilds mostly managed trade between Marilenev and Halavos, Volaga, Lugsid and Vaion, while foreign merchants from Thyatis and the Isles of Dread handled sea-based trade.

After the foundation of Minrothad, and the Fourth Traladaran War of 493 AC, the increasing presence of foreigners and Traladarans from different principalities led to the formation of the Moneychangers’ Guild. The Scriveners’ Guild was also formed to represent a new class of Thyatian-trained professionals who could read and write the Thyatian language, and were needed to prepare contracts, as well as to record the proceedings of the Diet of the Traladaran League. The Armourers’ Guild developed during the Traladaran Wars, and was formally chartered at the same time as the Moneychangers’ Guild.

In the next century, several other trade guilds (Bakers, Apothecaries, Blacksmiths, Carpenters, Brewers, Butchers and Grocers) were formed, called minor guilds to distinguish them from the more powerful guilds.

During the first decade of the 7th century AC, the dissolution of the Traladaran League caused a major loss of political power to Marilenev. Duke Alexandr was unable to cope with the social changes imposed by this event. The anti-ducal faction within the Merchants’ and Scriveners’ Guilds took the upper hand. With large financing from the Moneychangers, the Guilds enacted a bloody revolution. The Duke was deposed and beheaded, and the major Guilds (Merchants, Scriveners, Moneychangers, Skinners, Leathersellers and Armourers) declared their Guildmasters (or Priors) as the Town Council of Marilenev.

The Town Council, or Priorate, was the executive board of the City-state’s government with a number of elective boards and councils that acted as legislative offices. Each Guild had full judiciary and legislative power for what concerned their own members, and boards composed of members of the various guilds served as juries when members of different guilds were involved in a dispute. The City-State oligarchic system lasted up to the Thyatian conquest in 900 AC.

The political system during the era of the City-state was not especially stable, however, and the Priors (often from the Radu or Torenescu families) were sometimes replaced with foreign governors (usually Minrothaddans, Darokinians or Thyatians) who were supposed to guarantee a less biased rule than the locals. These substitutions usually happened when the major guilds were weaker, and the minor guilds stronger.

In 681 AC, the threat of war led the town government to undertake a program of fortification of the city. The increased power of the masons and bricklayers allowed them to obtain a charter for their own guild.

The Vampire Wars of the 8th century threw the Skinners and Leathersellers guild in a crisis, as the trade with northern nations was halved. These guilds lost their major guild status and the Dyers and Tailors were able to form independent guilds. On the other hand, Marilenev had to rely more on sea-based trade, developing its own merchant fleet – which led to the formation of the Mariners’ Guild. Moreover, the increased availability of exotic spices and herbs from Sind, Ochalea and other remote regions (via the Ierendian, Minrothaddan and Thyatian merchants) gave a huge increase in power to the Apothecaries’ Guild, which moved among the major guilds.

After the plague in 802 AC, several dwarves of the Syrklist clan settled in Marilenev. These dwarves used their skills and their contacts with the Stronghollow clan of Highforge and the dwarven merchants in Thyatis to start a successful goldsmith trade. Unfortunately, the Moneychangers’ Guild, which legally regulated not only the moneychangers and moneylenders, but also the jewellers, goldsmiths and silversmiths, set heavy measures against the dwarven craftsmen.

The Thyatian conquest of AC900 removed most political power from the Guilds through the implementation of various decrees designed to reduce the potential danger posed by Guild influence. The division between major and minor guilds remained, but was not as politically important as in the City-State times.

In 902 AC, after the Thyatian conquest, the dwarven faction within the Moneychangers’ Guild petitioned the Thyatian governor to establish a new Goldsmiths’ Guild - a petition which was quickly granted by the Thyatians, who wanted to divide the guilds as much as possible. Another Thyatian decree aimed at reducing the danger posed by the guilds was the division of the Armourers’ Guild in three sub-guilds, forming first the Bowyers’ Guild and then the Cutlers’ Guild. The Armourers’ Guild was also reduced to the status of minor guild.

A last governor’s decree in 926 AC allowed the formation of three more guilds, Innholders’, Vintners’ and Fishmongers’, and extended the authority of the guilds from the city of Specularum to the entire Province of Traladara. The Vintners’ Guild was a small and entirely Thyatian dominated guild, while the Fishmongers’ Guild appealed to the smaller towns of Traladara, allowing them some representation in the government - traditionally, the guildmaster of this guild is never a Specularum native.

On his acquisition of the Traladaran lands in 970 AC, Duke Stefan Karameikos confirmed the existing Guilds, but allowed his friend Teldon to form a small Magicians’ Guild. This guild is considered a major guild, even though its economic power is minimal. Ten years later, Stefan chartered the Loggers’ Guild and the Hunters’ Guild to help regulate the exploitation of the forests of Karameikos.


In modern Specularum, the guilds play an important economic role, regulating trade and professional activities. Therefore, they can still exert some political powers, and the various factions have close ties with several of the guilds, often dating back to the times of the City-State or the Thyatian provincial government.

The Radu faction

The Radu were one of the first mercantile families to reach an aristocratic status. The Prior of the Merchants’ Guild who led the rebellion against Duke Alexandr Marilenev was a Radu, Petros.

The Radu family has kept control of the Merchants’ Guild for much of its history. Thanks to the family’s connection to the Veiled Society as well as the guild’s power as the regulating body of trade, the Radu group was able to also attract the Apothecaries, Grocers and Tailors to its faction. After the Thyatian conquest, the Armourers and Leathersellers have also joined this faction.

The Torenescu faction

The Torenescu family and its allies have controlled both the Scriveners and the Moneychangers guilds for a long time. Thus, they control many government and administrative officers, as well as the availability of (legal) loans. Unfortunately, the Veiled Society runs a successful illegal money lending racket, which cuts into the Torenescu profits.

Several traditionally Traladaran minor guilds have allied with the Torenescu faction, including the Bricklayers, Skinners, Blacksmiths and Butchers.

The Marilenev faction

The Marilenev family has lost most of its support, though two of the older minor guilds, the Brewers and Bakers, still support this faction.

The Fishmongers are another matter - many of their adherents are not residents of Specularum, and the guild is traditionally not involved in the city politics. They are, however, the loudest opponents of the Thyatian rule, and especially of the Black Eagle Baron. Since the Duke does not listen to their complaints, they have lost faith in a pacific solution. Thus, their leaders plot with Magda Marilenev, while still trying to advance their agenda through the Karameikan bureaucracy.

The Vorloi faction

The Vorloi family has been able to counter the economic power of the Traladaran guilds, gathering around the family business some guilds that are traditionally associated with the Thyatian rulers, such as the Vintners and the Goldsmith, as well as those primarily oriented to sea trade, including the Mariners and Carpenters.

This faction is closely allied with the Karameikos ruling family, but is more interested in advancing its own economic interests than the New Karameikan ideals.

The Karameikos faction

A group of newer guilds, led by the Loggers and Magicians, supports explicitly the ideals of a New Karameikos espoused by the Duke. These guilds favour equality between Traladarans and Thyatians - and even foreign traders.

The Innholders have joined this faction due to their varied membership, which includes many Hin, some Dwarves and several former adventurers, while the Cutlers and Dyers mostly value the increased profits brought to their members by the presence of an independent government.

Neutrals and Independents

The Hunters’ Guild was chartered by Duke Stefan on a proposal by the Lord Forester and the Lord Seneschal to regulate hunting activities in the forests of Karameikos. Its purpose is to keep track of active hunters to minimise losses of life and ensure that taxes are properly paid to the crown. However, the current guildmaster has moved the guild from a pro-ducal stance to a more neutral position, since he is more interested in the profits than in the ideals.

The Bowyers’ Guild was one of the branches of the Armourers’ Guild that were made independent during the initial stages of the Thyatian occupation. This guild maintains an extremely professional stance, and does not take part in politics.

Table: The Trade Guilds of Specularum

Guild Founding Faction in AC 1000
Merchants’ Guild ca. 400 AC Radu
Skinners’ Guild1 ca. 400 AC Torenescu
Leathersellers’ Guild2 ca. 400 AC Radu
Moneychangers’ Guild 493 AC Torenescu
Armourers’ Guild3 493 AC Radu
Scriveners’ Guild 494 AC Torenescu
Bakers’ Guild 6th century AC Marilenev
Apothecaries’ Guild 6th century AC Radu
Blacksmiths’ Guild 6th century AC Torenescu
Carpenters’ Guild 6th century AC Vorloi
Brewers’ Guild 6th century AC Marilenev
Butchers' Guild 6th century AC Torenescu
Grocers’ Guild 6th century AC Radu
Bricklayers’ Guild 681 AC Torenescu
Dyers’ Guild 8th century AC Radu
Tailors’ Guild 8th century AC Radu
Mariners’ Guild 8th century AC Vorloi
Goldsmiths’ Guild 902 AC Vorloi
Bowyers’ Guild 903 AC Neutral
Cutlers’ Guild 906 AC Radu
Vintners’ Guild 926 AC Vorloi
Fishmongers’ Guild 926 AC Marilenev
Innholders’ Guild 926 AC Karameikos
Magicians’ Guild 970 AC Karameikos
Loggers’ Guild 980 AC Karameikos
Hunters’ Guild 980 AC Neutral


Magicians’ Guild

Guildmaster: Archmage Teldon

Faction: Karameikos

Affiliated trades: Magic Users

One of the smallest guilds, the Magicians’ Guild has only existed since the foundation of the Grand Duchy. Its goal is to regulate the teaching and use of magic in Karameikos. While magic users are not required by law to belong to the guild, guild regulations forbid the exchange of magical knowledge with non-members. Specifically, only Masters are allowed to teach spells and spellcasting techniques, thus ensuring both the quality levels of the education provided by the guild and the respect of requirements from the students. The Magicians’ Guild agrees with the Church of Karameikos in discouraging the traditional Traladaran divinatory practices, which it considers devoid of scientific value.

Apprentices and medium-ranking members (Journeymen and Magicians) make up the larger part of the guild, which has currently only four masters, including Teldon - five if Kavorquian Penhaligon is still alive.

In addition to its magical services, the guild also offers public access to the non-magical section of its library. The library is located in a low building near the Guildhall, in the South End district of Specularum.

Merchants’ Guild

Guildmaster: Anton Radu

Faction: Radu

Affiliated trades: import/export and wholesale merchants

One of the oldest and more powerful of the guilds, the Merchants’ Guild controls wholesale trade, both domestic and import/export. While this guild lost much of its official power with the Thyatian conquest, it still retains control over a large fraction of the Traladaran merchants, and uses it to boycott the Thyatian merchants of the Vorloi faction.

The Radu family has been part of the Guild since its foundation, and has provided one third of its Guildmasters over the last five hundred years. Other allied families, like the Kaison and Calihar, hold seats in the Masters' Council, providing the Radu a secure majority in all guild decisions.

The Merchants’ Guild also organises caravans and mercantile shipping by pooling the resources of its associates. Thus, it often recruits mercenary guards for its caravans and ships.

Moneychangers’ Guild

Guildmaster: Ioan Azuros

Faction: Torenescu

Affiliated trades: moneychangers, moneylenders, pawnbrokers

The Moneychangers’ Guild rallies all bankers and pawnbrokers in Specularum. The guild membership is clearly divided into two levels: the small time pawnbrokers and moneylenders, and the magnates, powerful bankers and investors who vie with the Merchants’ Guild for control over the Karameikan economy. This division can also be seen in the ranking system, which differs from the typical apprentice, journeyman, master structure of the other guilds: the Moneychangers begin their training as apprentices, then move either directly to the master rank, if they are associated to an existing master’s business or have the means to buy into the rank (and therefore also to open a large scale business), or to the agent rank.

Agents are independent guild members of lesser status, generally working in the poorer districts of Specularum or in the countryside as moneylenders and pawnbrokers.

The Guild is ruled by a Guildmaster, currently Ioan Azuros, the maternal uncle of Alexander Torenescu, assisted by a council of six Wardens. Two Wardens are elected by the members from the Hill district, and one each from the Merchant, Bricktop, and Stronghold districts. The last Warden is elected from the Agents. The Wardens’ Council meets in the Guildhall, located in the Hill district, within Torenescu territory.

Currently, the Guild is closely allied with the Torenescu faction, and is pouring a lot of money into the feud with the Radu and Vorloi. However, the agents are getting the worst damage from the feud, as they are more exposed to the Veiled Society thugs. Thus, there is a growing unrest in the guild, which might lead to an attempt by the agents to get their own guild or at least to depose Guildmaster Azuros. The Guildmaster is considering hiring adventurers to put an end to the Veiled Society’s arson endeavours and racketeering.

Goldsmiths' Guild

Guildmaster: Thorur Silverbeard the Younger, son of Thoric of the Syrklist

Faction: Vorloi

Affiliated trades: goldsmiths, jewellers, silversmiths

A bitter enemy of the Moneychangers’ Guild, the Goldsmiths’ Guild is formed not only of goldsmiths, but also of jewellers and silversmiths. The current Guildmaster is Thorur Silverbeard the Younger, son of Thoric of the Syrklist. Dwarves, mostly from the Syrklist, Buhrohur and Stronghollow clans, form one third of the membership. The other members are equally divided between Traladarans and Thyatians, with a few Highforge gnomes, Hin, and Ierendians.

The guild is organised in the three traditional levels, and access to each level is strictly dependent on professional ability - there are no honorary or non-practicing members. The members of the master rank form the Guild council, and elect the Guildmaster. The Guildmaster position lasts for life or until retirement (the guild provides support for retired members). Thorur Silverbeard, the current leader, is the grandson of the first Grandmaster (Thorur Silverbeard the Elder). The Silverbeards always supported the Thyatian governors, and now they are allied with the Vorloi, as they see Duke Stefan as too lenient with the Traladaran gangs, whom they consider responsible for most of the crime in Specularum.

Scriveners’ Guild

Guildmaster: Simeon Torenescu

Faction: Torenescu

Affiliated trades: public notaries, scribes, heralds, judges, clerks, teachers, lawyers

The Scriveners’ Guild collects the intelligentsia of Specularum, including the government officials, the public notaries and the judges, as well as a less powerful class of scribes and clerks.

Like several other Guilds, this one is ruled by a Guildmaster assisted by six Consuls. Since the various professional activities represented by the guild have strictly separated careers and requirements, and are all incompatible with each other (thus a notary cannot serve as judge, and vice versa), the Consuls are selected to represent the more important groups: three Consuls for the public notaries, two for the judges and lawyers, and one for the heralds. Scribes, teachers and clerks are not full guild members, and thus do not receive representation on the council.

Contrary to most other guilds, the Scriveners’ Guild does not have apprentice or master ranks. Once a member is admitted, he is either an associate or a full guildsman. Admission is based on strict requirements: aspirant judges and lawyers must hold a doctoral degree in Law from the Imperial Academy in Thyatis or the University of al- Azrad in Selenica. All other aspirants must pass a series of exams, including a first one that is common to all, and verifies the aspirants’ ability to read and write Thyatian and Traladaran. Associate members (scribes, teachers, and clerks) are only required to pass this first exam, while full members must pass two more exams on professional topics. These latter exams are presided over by the College of Consuls, and all exams are open to all full guildsmen who care to take part as examiners (a minimum of four examiners is always required). Clerics and Paladins are never accepted as members, since they would not guarantee the professional neutrality required of judges and notaries.

Most ministers in the government of Karameikan are chartered notaries of this guild, and Lord Valdo Tisza is one of the current Consuls. Currently, the guild has 300 notary members, 40 judges and lawyers, 30 heralds, and 1200 associate members.

In addition to the professional services of its members, the guild also offers public access to its library, where aspirants can consult the books needed to prepare their exams. Thus, the Scriveners’ Guildhall, in Bricktop Road on the edge of the Grand Market, is the major hub of intellectual life in Specularum, as well as the theatre of nightly brawls between opposed factions of youths.

Apothecaries' Guild

Guildmaster: Dimitri Levinik

Faction: Radu

Affiliated trades: apothecaries, alchemists, general retailers, physicians, painters, barbers, glassworkers, cartographers, papermakers

The Apothecaries’ Guild is a composite association that collects not only apothecaries, alchemists and physicians, but also other technical or artistic professions such as painters, glassworkers, cartographers and paper and parchment makers. Barbers are also associated to this guild, as they perform small surgery, dental extractions, and bloodletting. General retailers are also associated to this guild, though as lesser members.

Admission is free for the children of guild members, while others must pay 60 royals if they are born in Specularum, 120 otherwise. Once admitted, the new member starts as an apprentice. Apprenticeship lasts a very long time (10 to 15 years) for most members, except general retailers - who, on the other hand, cannot reach the rank of master.

Members of Minor Guilds

as identified by Ville Lähde


Master of the Dyers' Guild

About 50 years old, grey hair has been dyed black, but usually some grey roots are visible. He wears skilfully dyed clothes as a sort of advertisement for the guild. His arms are permanently dyed grey-brown up to his elbows due to years of dyeing. Even though he is a Thyatian, he always treats Traladarans equally.


Storemaster of the Dyers' Guild

Middle aged Traladaran man of uncertain descent and age, he rules supreme over the storehouse of the guild. He knows instinctively where everything is. He is virile and energetic, speaks very loudly, and is fond of Ylari coffee - so much that he usually just munches on the roasted beans.


Master of the Tailors' Guild

For a guildmaster Findilius is surprisingly young, and he even has the rank of a court lord. He tends to dress in Darokinian finery of the latest fashion and uses perfumes. His behaviour towards commoners is condescending.

1 Was a Major Guild until 725 AC

2 Was a Major Guild until 725 AC

3 Was a Major Guild until 903 AC