Espionage Organizations in Mystara, page 2
Hattian State Secret Police
Base of Operations: Hattias City, Empire of Thyatis.
Symbol: Silver skull and crossbones.
Number of Members: 100.
Organisational Structure: Strict hierarchy obedient to Heinrich Oesterhaus.
Political Outlook: Hattias Above All, purity of thought in Hattias.
Types of Operations: Suppression of dissent in Hattias, rounding up dissidents and "disappearing" them. Espionage against foreigners and counter-espionage against imperial intelligence organisations.
Allies: Storm Soldiers, Reinhard Heydrich.
Enemies: Anyone and everyone who is an enemy of the Storm Soldiers (which means just about anyone and everyone who isn't a Hattian racial purist).
Background: An organisation like this has existed, with the exception of a few brief spans, for seven hundred years. This current incarnation, however, has existed in its modern form since AC 985. It is led by Reinhard Heydrich, who answers only to Heinrich Oesterhaus. It functions, naturally, as Hattias' "Secret Police" as well as co-operating with the Storm Soldiers. Listed membership is the number of agents and personnel in the State Secret Police only: In Hattias, the group can call upon the resources of the Hattian government (including guard and watch), and it often uses Storm Soldiers as thugs and enforcers where numbers are needed.
The Hattian State Secret Police (HSSP) operates through intimidation, jailing and torture, "disappearing" dissidents, and (outside Hattias especially), blackmail and subversion. There are several beautiful female and handsome male agents among its numbers, used to acquire information from the weak-willed and sensual Ð brutality, though what the HSSP is notorious for, is not their only tactic. The HSSP is also tasked with thwarting efforts by Imperial authorities to uncover the goings-on in Hattias. To that end, they are experts at disinformation campaigns (though they still have much to learn from such groups as the New Alphatian Society of Indoctrination).
Members of the Hattian State Secret Police who can use magic belong to a secret initiatory sub-society, called Die Thule Gesellschaft in ancient Hattian ("The Thule Society" is the modern Thyatian translation). They practice "ancient occult rites dating back to the mythical original land of the Hattians and Antalians" (the members of this group believe the Hattians are of the Antalian race). Strangely, many of these rites resemble those used by members of the Loyal Order of the Stonecrafters, though the mythologies vary in nomenclature significantly. Few are aware of the connection between the rites and rituals used by both groups. In this mythology, "Thule" is the original homeland of the Hattian people, but note that they do not believe that homeland to be on Davania, as with most of Thyatian history. Rather, they believe they were forced to migrate to Davania in an exodus, by (of all people) the Thothians, later to return in epic triumph against their "racial oppressors". They believe the coming of the Alphatians stymied the "ultimate destiny of the Hattian people", which the members of Die Thule Gesellschaft are working to achieve. The members of this secret initiatory group within the Hattian State Secret Police wield dark sorceries with great skill.
Adventure Hooks: Where the Storm Soldiers are about as subtle as a punch in the face, the Hattian State Secret Police is a bit more insidious. It operates in Hattias with a fairly free hand, stamping out dissent and hunting down "foreign subversives", acting as an arm of the County of Hattias' law enforcement and policing agencies. Thus, in Hattias it has the support and backing of the government (and most of society), and resistance against them is criminal. The Hattian State Secret Police also has agents who operate outside Hattias on occasion. These are more covert, and are used in situations where the blunt brutality of the Storm Soldiers would do more harm than good to the "Hattian Cause".
Imperial Guard Secret Service
Base of Operations: City of Thyatis, Empire of Thyatis.
Symbol: Golden double-headed eagle grasping an orb in one claw and a sword in the other.
Number of Members: 200.
Organisational Structure: Network.
Political Outlook: Defence of the Emperor, advancement of the Emperor's interests, action against the Emperor's enemies, cleaning the bottom of the Emperor's boots with one's tongue, efficiently.
Types of Operations: Personal protective services for the Emperor and the Imperial Family, intelligence gathering, "disappearing" the Emperor's enemies, political vetting in the Imperial Court.
Allies: Demetrion Ð to some degree (but not for the nastier stuff like "disappearing" people).
Enemies: Storm Soldiers, Ordo Magna, Order of the Veil, Securitate, New Alphatian Society of Indoctrination.
Background: The Imperial Secret Service evolved out of the original Imperial Guards detail under Emperor Zendrol. This was a group of elite warriors (and personal thugs) who acted as the Emperor's personal guard. Amid this group was a more sinister aspect Ð the Emperor's "Left Hand" Ð a small band led by the Emperor's chief assassin, spy, and infiltrator.
The Imperial Guard gradually grew in size, ultimately becoming an elite battle regiment in the Imperial Army, and then growing to the size of several battle regiments, but the need for a dedicated protective service Ð and band of spies and thugs at the Emperor's personal disposal Ð remained. Out of this need grew the Sacred Guard, which protects the palace and Imperial Court itself, and the Imperial Guard Secret Service, which is tasked with direct protection of and service to the Emperor and his family.
Beyond direct protection of the Emperor, the Secret Service also "protects" the Emperor by keeping tabs on prominent Thyatian nobles, members of the Imperial Court, and the like. They dig up useful dirt, helping the Emperor gain political leverage. In addition, when the Emperor wants something done "personally" (as opposed to by agencies of the Imperial Government), for his own reasons and very discretely, he'll use the Imperial Secret Service to do the job.
Adventure Hooks: Player Characters would probably not want to become actual members of the Imperial Secret Service Ð too tightly structured, with very limited range of latitude (serving at the beck and call of the Emperor). However, the Emperor and his minions are always glad to make use of "loyal Thyatians" to serve their purposes.
Characters trying to harm the Emperor, his interests, or the Imperial Family are likely to cross swords with members of the Imperial Secret Service, both openly and covertly. Various Thyatian aristocrats might hire the characters to destroy evidence linking them to various dubious activities, which the Emperor has been using to extort support from them. This would then bring the party into conflict with the Emperor's own agents.
The Inquisitors of Vanya
Base of Operations: Freiburg, Heldannic Empire.
Symbol: Gold shepherd's crook, superimposed on the black lion of Heldann.
Number of Members: 1,000-2,500 members.
Organisational Structure: Hierarchy.
Political Outlook: Ensuring the Heldannic Order remains true to its founding philosophies, strengthening government control domestically.
Types of Operations: Assassination of known threats to the regime, espionage and counter-espionage, infiltration of known protest groups and rebel organisations, surveillance of suspected dissidents.
Allies: Loyal (some would say fanatic) followers of Vanya living in the Heldannic Territories.
Enemies: Political and religious dissidents, anyone opposed to the Heldannic Order in general.
Background: Shortly after the conquest of the Heldann Freeholds by the Hattian worshippers of Vanya who would ultimately form the Heldannic Order, a series of revolts shook the newly-founded clerical state. The indigenous Heldanners, subjugated during a vicious war of conquest, refused to abandon their faiths for this evil Vanya, revered by the ruthless invaders. Although these revolts were put down in short order, the ruling Hattians could never be certain of the security of their rulership; even those Heldanners who converted to their cause could not be fully trusted. Finally, some Hattians, lured by the prospect of carving a nation of their own out of the wilderness, broke away from the main body of their army, and fought only for themselves. The leaders of the developing order at the time recognised the need for an organisation which could work covertly, and ferret out the truly disloyal subjects of the realm - Heldanner and Hattian alike. Thus were the Inquisitors of Vanya (officially known as The Illuminated and Righteous Inquisitors of Her Gracious Lady) formed, in AC 961.
From its inception, the Inquisitors were composed of the most fanatical followers of Vanya, so certain and assured in their faith that any doubts, any wavering of religious zeal, were seen as signs of a fundamental weakness in a person's spirit. Such a failure was something, which should be corrected swiftly through religious indoctrination, or failing that, punishment. Over the following years, the most dedicated Heldannic Knights, those showing the most fervour in their devotion to Vanya and Her ideals, were granted the privilege of becoming an Inquisitor, charged with safeguarding the moral health of the Heldannic Order and its subjects. As could be expected, such people proved to be the most conservative members of the order, and the most dogmatic. In future conflicts with other peoples, it was soon found that having Inquisitors present on the battlefield, while useful in instilling terror in the hearts of the enemy (many Inquisitors tend to fight like berserkers in battle), could be a liability. Underestimating the combat prowess of "sub-human unbelievers" proved costly in a number of battles. Thus, by the 990s AC, the Inquisitors were relegated to domestic activities, though a number of them were active internationally, as spies employed in diplomatic staffs (charged with both monitoring foreign activities and the religiousness of Heldannic Order members living abroad).
Domestically, however, is where the Inquisitors function to their fullest extent. Always having been charged with ensuring the spiritual loyalty of the populace, the Inquisitors monitored the populace to ferret out rebel organisations (particularly those formed by native Heldanners), close down illegal churches and temples (the only faith officially tolerated in the Heldannic Territories is that of Vanya), and capture known dissidents for questioning and possible "conversion" (a euphemism for breaking the will of the prisoner until he or she repents all sins - real or imagined - and possibly agrees to act as an informant). Thus, in many ways the Inquisitors served as the secret police of the Heldannic Order, spying on its citizens at all times to root out any disloyalty.
Within the Heldannic Territories themselves, the Inquisitors operate in a hierarchical organisation. Individual Inquisitors are assigned a region of the country to patrol and supervise, and when crisis arises they will band together in squads (Inquisitors from neighbouring regions will lend aid) to deal with the problem, supplemented by Heldannic soldiers and knights. Inquisitors must obey their immediate superiors, who in turn obey their own, all the way up the pyramid to the Grand Inquisitor, who answers only to the Oberherr - the leader of the Heldannic Order itself. In foreign lands, however, the Inquisitors are far more loosely organised: individual Inquisitors will be assigned various missions to perform by their superiors (such as tracking down prominent rebels who flee the country, or spying on other nations), and otherwise be given free reign as to how the task is accomplished. This same looseness applies domestically in one situation, when infiltration of rebel groups is required. In fact, certain Inquisitors have made infiltration their speciality - honing their acting and disguise skills to such a degree that they can easily win the trust of dissidents, until the time comes to crush them utterly, and strike at the enemy where they least expect it - from within.
In more recent years, however, the original purpose of the Inquisitors seems to have been corrupted somehow - prior to Vanya's withdrawal of clerical power from the Heldannic Order in AC 1014-15, several members of this organisation initiated a series of ruthless purges, killing friend and foe alike, and doing great harm to the credibility of the order as a whole. Regardless of the true motivations for such mindless fanaticism, many of those fanatical elements seem to have been suppressed, or they are lying low for a while, as the order strives to restructure itself.
Adventure Hooks: Player characters who do not worship Vanya will gain the attention of the Inquisitors while staying in the Heldannic Territories - even if they are only passing through. This surveillance will be subtle, but at least one Inquisitor (perhaps more, depending on the PCs' notoriety) will follow them around during their stay, or at least ensure someone trustworthy (ie: devout) watches them. So long as the PCs do not break any laws, or preach a different faith, they will not be bothered. If they do try to stir up trouble, the Inquisitors will spy on them for a while to gauge the threat they pose, and then rely on the local authorities to capture them. Afterwards, they will be interrogated, and, depending on the heinousness of the PCs' crimes, possibly sentenced to death, or expelled from the country.
It is not recommended that PCs play Inquisitors (unless everyone in the party happens to be one), as the religious strictures inherent in such a role may reduce the players' freedom to act as they would wish. Nonetheless, those players who wish to play such characters could be involved in campaigns to root out "evil" rebels throughout the Heldannic Territories, or to spread the faith of Vanya through covert - and sometimes overt - means.
Base of Operations: City of Thyatis, Empire of Thyatis.
Symbol: Golden eagle with a lightning-bolt in one claw and an olive branch in the other.
Number of Members: 200.
Organisational Structure: Network.
Political Outlook: Renewal of Thyatis, promotion of the ideals of Empress Valentia, reformation of Thyatis as a constitutional and parliamentary Imperium.
Types of Operations: Persuasion, selective financing of certain institutions, patronage of pro-Thyatian "heroic" adventurers, countering the activities of the Storm Soldiers and the Ordo Magna.
Enemies: Storm Soldiers, Ordo Magna, and New Alphatian Society of Indoctrination.
Background: The "Justiciar Institute" is of very vague and unknown origin. It is one of the youngest secret societies Ð or at least it has only come to prominence in the last couple years. The Justiciar Institute seems to have nobler aims (and uses nobler methods) than most other secret societies, but its aims and agenda remain shadowy. The Justiciar Institute has offices in the City of Thyatis, not hidden but not widely known (an example of hiding something in plain site), and scattered agents in most of the cities and towns of Thyatis.
They are very good at gathering the right information at the right time, but they have few "active agents" of their own with which to use such information. The Justiciar Institute has lots of informants and "watchers", as well as the sorts of person ("fixers" one could say) who provide adventurers with wanted items and supplies, but they have few "active assets" Ð little ability to perform missions without outside help. Thus they are always on the lookout for "trustworthy heroes", who are well paid if they are efficient, effective, and have a reputation for being honourable. They also like to use the information they acquire to spur and prod action by having it fall into the "right hands at the right time," initiating a chain of adventures.
Adventure Hooks: Being in its infancy, the Justiciar Institute has only a few skilled agents and assets of its own. This makes it the prototypical patron for adventurers, hiring them to perform various missions, supposedly for just aims. It is one of a few organisations where characters, if they wished to, could rise to prominence in the hierarchy; since it is new, the Justiciar Institute's leadership is less firmly established and encumbered with "old hands", thus giving an opening to diligent and ambitious PCs. The Justiciar Institute is the perfect tool for DMs to use to initiate adventures.
Characters might also be hired to find out exactly what the origins and "true aims" of the Justiciar Institute are. These might be what they seem to be (anything's possible), or something more sinister.
Loyal Order of Stonecrafters
Base of Operations: Biazzan, Empire of Thyatis.
Symbol: Tool with two "heads", one on each end of the shaft or handle, consisting of a device with a hammer on one face and a pick edge on the other. Also, a compass-and-level medallion.
Number of Members: 1000+ members.
Organisational Structure: Lodges (local chapters congregating in designated buildings - or "temples").
Political Outlook: "Ancient Mysticism" and self-promotion.
Types of Operations: Currently concentrates much more on advancing Thyatian power and authority than spreading its ideals. Espionage against foreign and domestic enemies (as decided by those in charge of the order), collection of information, knowledge (magical and otherwise), seizing items (magic and otherwise) deemed useful and destruction of those deemed threatening to Thyatis.
Allies: Various middle-rank Thyatian nobles and civil servants, tradesmen and craftsmen.
Enemies: No specific enemies.
Background: This is another depressing example of an organisation originally founded with noble intentions, but which evolved into something more disreputable due to the influence of self-serving members. In the early centuries of the Thyatian Empire, "Mystery Cults" were very prevalent. These were mystical religious orders based on "initiation into the secret mysteries" of the faith in question.
In the early 1st century AC, a dwarven miner in Buhrohur, Arkama Griminus, uncovered an ancient artifact, since lost, of unknown origin [Note to DMs: a Nithian magic item]. With the artifact there was an extensive stash of stone tablets, almost incomprehensible, which turned out to relate various pre-Thyatian religious and occult concepts (concepts related to various Nithian faiths, mostly innocuous but including some tablets related to the Entropic cult of Thanatos that undermined Nithia). Over the next several decades Arkama painstakingly translated the tablets, and became enthralled with the mystic ideas they described. By the late 1st century AC, she had gathered around herself a band of disciples and followers, only some of whom were dwarves, centred in the town of Biazzan. These were the "followers of the Way of the Stonecrafters," holding as their aim building up society based on their faith.
Members were initiated into the mysteries of the Way of the Stonecrafters, and their mystic rites were kept secret from non-members. This gave the Way of the Stonecrafters cachet as a kind of "exclusive club", attracting new members. By the early 3rd century AC they were chartered as the Loyal Order of Stonecrafters, and had "lodges" (the Order's version of Temples) throughout Thyatis. Each member was, as part of the faith, committed to self-improvement as a means of improving (building and crafting) civilisation. This eventually was corrupted into a doctrine of self-advancement, and mutual promotion of the interests of the members, with no greater purpose. The occult concepts of the Stonecrafters got twisted to these new purposes, as the magics members learned were used to impose their will on others. This was possibly as a result of the growing influence of Thanatos over the lodges and their members.
By the 10th century AC, the Order of the Stonecrafters was the last surviving mystery cult in Thyatis - most others had dwindled and gradually died out. On the surface, the Stonecrafters itself seems somewhat moribund Ð members more interested in socialising, with the religious aspects faded and seemingly forgotten, but a core of the Stonecrafters' membership is steeped in the order's occult traditions and knowledge, using it now for dark and selfish purposes.
Adventure Hooks: The main current aim of the Loyal Order of the Stonecrafters leadership is recovery of the lost artifact first discovered by Arkama Griminus. With this they believe they would be able to assert control over the region, using powerful magics to conquer the Known World. This artifact, long lost, is actually an entropic artifact created by Thanatos. During the early, noble and selfless era of the Stonecrafters' history, one of their secret, self-imposed missions was to hide and guard this artifact in order to prevent it from being used, because of its evil nature. When the artifact was stolen and lost, the Stonecrafters began to lose their sense of purpose and drift into their current state. Now the most dangerous thing that could happen, ironically, is for the artifact to fall into the hands of the current leaders of the Stonecrafters. Characters may stumble upon this, and get entangled into the order's efforts to find and recover the artifact (perhaps they are hired to do so, and during their adventures uncover the truth about the artifact, and the Stonecrafters intentions). The leaders of the Stonecrafters are typically high-level wizards and clerics (of Thanatos, though most are unaware of who they receive spells from, believing it is a result of "ancient mysticism" which they fail to associate with the Grim Reaper), steeped in the occult traditions of the order. Others members include skilled fighters (usually Avengers) and some rogues. They like to have others do their dirty work for them, making themselves feel like puppetmasters pulling the strings of "their inferiors", thus the inclination to hire adventurers.
Base of Operations: City of Thyatis, Empire of Thyatis.
Symbol: Golden two-headed eagle grasping lightning-bolts in its claws.
Number of Members: 100 or less.
Organisational Structure: Loose hierarchy.
Political Outlook: Intelligence agency of the Thyatian Government. Service to the Senate and People of Thyatis through covert operations.
Types of Operations: Infiltration and subversion of enemies of Thyatis, gathering of information, espionage and counter-espionage, sabotage and assassination.
Enemies: Storm Soldiers, Ordo Magna, New Alphatian Society of Indoctrination, Alphatian Securitate and other foreign intelligence agencies.
Background: The Magistranoi are a quasi-Imperial Order, consisting of agents, adventurer-types, and information gatherers loyal to the Thyatian Empire. They report to an ostensibly minor magistrate in the middle ranks of the Thyatian Imperial Government. This is done to downplay their significance as one of the Empire's premiere counterstrike, espionage, and "dirty tricks" organisations. Magistranoi have existed for almost 500 years, having been organised shortly after the colonial conflict between Thyatis and Alphatia in Alasiya began. Since then, though Thyatis has several well-known espionage agencies and covert operations groups, the Magistranoi have been perhaps the least widely known. This extraordinarily low profile has been a sign of the Order of the Magistranoi's success in keeping its activities out of the public eye. When necessary things have been attributed to other agencies or to independent "heroic adventurers".
The Magistranoi operate quite like adventurers, in fact. The Magistranoi have little in the way of an administrative bureaucracy. Its membership consists of small teams who report directly to the Magistrate who is in charge of the Order, and he reports discretely to the Emperor's right-hand, or to the Emperor himself.
Adventure Hooks: Thyatian characters might be discreetly approached and hired for a mission by patrons who have (unknown to the characters) connections to the Magistranoi. If the party has crossed the Imperial Government at some point, they are probably being set up as patsies and fall guys, red herrings to distract from the real Magistranoi team and take the rap. If they've been what the Empire considers "loyal Thyatians", however, they probably will be given a real mission. However, even there the dangers are high, because the Magistranoi only "contract out" missions that are expected to have high casualty rates; rather than expend themselves, they prefer to use "disposable assets" for these missions. Characters might not take kindly to discovering they were considered expendable, and survivors might seek revenge Ð only to find that the patron who hired them has mysteriously "ceased to exist". They might then try to track down information about her whereabouts, gradually uncovering the "real truth". Characters who succeed in such difficult missions and don't seem angered by it all might be approached for more lucrative (and less dangerous) missions, and be seen as long-term, useful assets. Eventually they might become members of the Order of the Magistranoi itself.
Non-Thyatian characters, especially those that find themselves in opposition to Thyatian goals, will possibly face competition and conflict from Magistranoi teams. Such teams are always superbly equipped and trained, operating as well co-ordinated combined arms units. They like to dispose of enemies by guile and craftiness, rather than force, but are excellent in combat if it comes to that. Preferred methods include putting out false information to send foes onto the wrong track, disinformation that makes parties mistrust their patrons, suppliers, and each other. Another favourite tactic used against long-time opponents, especially successful ones, is to set up a "sting". A front man, usually a duped friend of the characters, is used to hire them for a mission or adventure. The adventure will then lead the party into a carefully prepared trap with unexpectedly strong opposition.
Mercantile League (AKA "The Syndicate")
Base of Operations: City of Thyatis, Empire of Thyatis.
Symbol: Golden scales superimposed over a black hand.
Number of Members: 1,500.
Organisational Structure: Syndicate of the major Thyatian merchant families.
Political Outlook: Control over trade and commerce, promotion of political power of mercantile families of Thyatis, opposition to the influence of foreign traders. Ultimately wish to transform the Empire into a plutocratic federation.
Types of Operations: Economic espionage, smuggling, sabotage of rivals, cartelisation of trade, assassination, racketeering, and bribery.
Allies: Eusebius (in some ways), elements of the Thyatian Imperial Senate, municipal authorities of Thyatian cities.
Enemies: Darokinian Houses, Minrothaddan Guilds.
Background: The Mercantile League exists ostensibly as a club and "lobbying group" for wealthy Thyatian merchants and businessmen. Its membership consists of the most prominent Thyatian Mercantile/Trading "Families" (similar in some ways to the Houses of Darokin), but its origins are more dubious and shady, which affects the Mercantile League's practices to this day.
Two centuries ago, during the crime war between the rising Shadow Hand organisation and the old Thieves' Guild of Thyatis, one of the major members of the latter guild saw the writing on the wall. This man, Claudio Trebanionos, began to transfer his resources into "legitimate business enterprises", taking his family and followers out of (direct) participation in crime. He knew his old partners in crime would not look kindly on this, abandoning them in the crisis, but they were too busy fighting off the Shadow Hand to pay immediate attention to these activities. In order to make sure that his old partners would not be in a position to seek vengeance later, he cut a secret deal with the Shadow Hand, providing them with critical information and resources. This allowed the Shadow Hand to make several "hits" on prominent leaders in the old Thieves' Guild, and once they were eliminated the Shadow Hand's victory in the crime war was guaranteed - as was the success the Trebanionos family's new business. With Shadow Hand support (gained as a result of their earlier deal), Trebanionos Enterprises was able to extract contracts to supply several businesses in the City of Thyatis, and make inroads into the transportation markets, etc.
Most of the older Thyatian merchant families despised the Trebanionos family for its base origins and shady business practices (well, they had shady business practices of their own Ð what they most disliked was that the Trebanionos family was better at it). They tried to thwart the Trebanionii, but at the time they were facing difficulties on other fronts as well Ð the rising prominence of the Guilds of Minrothad and, slightly later, of the Darokinian Houses.
All this came to a climactic head in the mid 10th century AC. In the wake of the Alphatian "spike assault", Thyatian traders were somewhat crippled Ð many ships had been lost, others commandeered for military use, and Thyatian businesses had been looted by the invaders. As a result, the inroads of the merchants of Darokin and Minrothad increased in scope. Thyatian merchant families, proud of their long tradition, began to suffer as they had difficulty competing successfully against the foreign traders and adapting to the new economic pattern of the Known World, where Thyatis was no longer always the hub of trade due to the development of other nations.
Into this vacuum stepped the great grandson of Claudio Trebanionos, Salvatore Trebanionos. The taint of being a "new" family had somewhat worn off the Trebanionii clan, and the other major families of the City of Thyatis were willing to listen to any plan that might reverse their fading fortunes. Salvatore proposed an alliance of families, with rules and guidelines to limit conflict and strife among them, and to divide up areas and regions. The new syndicate would work to gain influence and leverage with Thyatian political leaders, in order to use laws and regulations to hamper their foreign competitors. The syndicate they founded followed the organisation pattern of the old Thieves' Guild of Thyatis Ð the Lords of the major families had seats on the Mercantile League's governing board, the Commissione. Around 50 merchant families are members of the League, but only the 12 most powerful have a seat on the Commissione. These include the so-called "Five Families", the major mercantile families of the City of Thyatis itself. The other smaller families are all tied to individual Commissione member families through patron-client relationships. Responsibility for keeping order over lesser families is based on a regional division, each family given a "Province" within which they had authority (consisting not only of territory, but also of activities).
They established social clubs throughout Thyatis, within which to discuss their business, and gradually re-established contacts and ties to Thyatis' underworld community (especially the Shadow Hand and the Order of the Sea Lions), and developed their own shadow operatives to strike at and hinder their competitors. Doing all this took time, and the merchant families of Thyatis still had disputes and conflicts with each other (often using the assets developed to counter foreign traders in their own internal conflicts). But by AC 1000 they feel poised to make a major comeback.
Adventure Hooks: Anything ranging from "simple" and legitimate business enterprises (for example, the party is hired to explore areas and open up trade with some distant tribe or nation, racing and outmanoeuvring rivals from the Minrothad Guilds or Darokin to cut a deal) to the most shady and criminal activities. There is a reason why merchant caravans and ships hire so many guards Ð bandits and "goblinoid raiders" are often sponsored by agents of the syndicate, directed to attack the shipments of foreign rivals.
Note that in the AC 1000 era, though, internal rivalries are almost as strong as the foreign ones. So characters are nearly as likely to be hired for a mission directed at another family as they are to be hired to "hit" one of the syndicate's external foes. By the AC 1010 era, however, under the pressure of war and national crisis, these internal rivalries have receded into the background, and there is a greater sense of unity and survival ethos Ð missions against foreign trading operations are far more common after AC 1010.
Note that as with many of these organisations, the listed membership includes only the direct membership (the heads of the families and their "made men"). The membership number does not count all the other associates, affiliates and "babbos" who work, directly or indirectly, consciously or as duped pawns, for the Mercantile League.
Copyright © 2001, Geoff Gander and James Ruhland. Used by permission. All rights reserved.