Monday, April 8, 2013

Workmen's Guild: An Overview

by John Belliston

Of all the Great Guilds, the Workmen’s is the youngest and the most untested. From the outside there seems to be no order, reason, or law within it. People speak in hushed whispers about how there is no way that they can possibly continue. By all evidence they should tear themselves apart. Forty separate and radically different lesser guilds all bear representation in the Grand Assembly of the Workmen. Power struggles between guilds looking to rule should bring an endless bloody struggle and after all this time there should be a clear and obvious Tyrant.

But there isn’t.

No one guild rules and no single individual controls the actions of the Workmen. The Guild openly talks of the tyranny in the other Great Guilds with deep disgust and unveiled superiority. Each stands as a proud Workman, free of Tyrants and with a voice in the movement of the entire City.

Though how the votes are decided is different for each of the forty guilds, every one of the lesser guilds has a representative with a single vote. Guild business is settled in the Grand Assembly, or as it is more commonly called, “The Rabble”. Almost all decisions are a simple majority but anyone leaving before all issues are settled forfeits their vote.

The Rabble is equal parts governing body and unending fistfight. Permanent mutilation, disfigurement, and death are grounds for loss of vote for your representative guild and personal fines. However until that point, violence, threats, and intimidation are considered a healthy part of the democratic process.

There are only three designations within the Guild: Member, Foreman, and Grand Foreman.

  • Members are the Workmen in good standing. They’ve paid their guild dues and proudly wear their guild brooch. They may or may not go much to the Workmen’s Guildhalls and often will live and work in other parts of the city. They will only seek out their lesser guild’s leadership when they have something worth saying.

  • Foremen are the lesser guilds representatives in the Grand Assembly. Each of the forty have a different means of selecting Foremen. However the constantly shifting nature of the Grand Assembly means that no stratagem is ideal for very long.

  • The Grand Foreman has every appearance of being the leader and controlling influence within the Guild, but the actual power attributed to the position is minimal and is more a manifestation of their responsibilities. The Grand Foreman can break a tie, silence the Rabble, and stop fights. They are also responsible for keeping the Assembly free of subversive magical influence. Outside of the Grand Assembly the Grand Foreman is generally given token respect or is simply ignored by the guild at large. This leave them in the strange position of receiving more respect and recognition for being the “leader” from people outside the Guild.

The Grand Foreman’s job could not be easily done without the Illustrious Gavel of the Assembly, an intelligent and powerful magical hammer. It is used to silence an area exactly the size of the Assembly Hall, can knock out almost any member of the Guild in a single strike, and can disrupt all but the most powerful magical effects. Though it is a fully intelligent item it holds a firm impartiality and will only voice its opinion on matters so divided that even the Grand Foreman cannot decide on how to break a tie. It resides in the Assembly Hall and if pulled out by any but the Elected Grand Foreman will constantly scream and alert any to the theft.

In the name of protecting and keeping their authority over themselves and their professions the Workmen created the Brute Squads, and the Shenanigans.

In order to remain a member in good standing each member must spend a year and a day on the Brute Squad each decade. This branch of the Guild exists to track down non-members acting in Guild professions and make sure that they become Guild members or are working with Guild authorization. The methods used vary wildly depending on the individuals working on the Squad, but they make it almost impossible to work in a Guild profession without Guild sanction.

A Shenanigan is the greatest defense and single weapon the Workmen have against the other Guilds and outside forces in large. On each guild badge there is a small jewel. If the jewel ever glows, the Workmen stop whatever they are doing and start as much chaos as possible in the streets. Due to the widespread nature of guild members this can be a quick and devastating event.

Unlike the other five Great Guilds, the Workmen’s relationship with the other Guilds is in fact what defines it. Before the advent of the Workmen’s each of the lesser guilds were left to fend for themselves, scratching out their existence on their own. Many were consistently manipulated and controlled by the other Great Guilds. They were points of barter in the games of the other four and had no real respect.

Even after they first bound together for security there was little in the way of respect. It was the Merchant Guild’s Liara Rosetongue, called the “Beautiful Tyrant” or the “Kind Oppressor”, who finally pushed them too far. Her poaching of the best of the workers and artisans without regard for Guild sovereignty finally resulted in the single worst citywide riot since the founding of the City. This event is now recorded as the First Shenanigan. In the years since, the relationship has cooled but paranoia regarding their authority still taints any chance at a meaningful relationship between the two organizations.

The Mage's Guild is the closest to having an internal power structure like the Workmen’s and so there is a sometimes tense understanding between the two groups. Many of the most dedicated and self-sufficient of members take positions within Mage’s Guild territory. The two groups have a mutual fear of the other which has transformed into a tentative respect on both sides. The Workmen fear the unstable Mage's power, and the Mage's fear the lengths the Workmen will go to keep themselves free of manipulation.

As far as the Workmen are concerned the Music Guild is a place to go to be entertained. They have no deeper thoughts or relationship with them.

The Blacksmiths and Workmen have a simple relationship of mutual understanding. Many of the things either seeks to do cannot be accomplished without the aid of the other. They work together with little incident not out of respect so much as necessity.

The Workmen are fiercely protective of their freedoms and self-reliance, more so than other individuals in the city or perhaps even the world. This coupled with the chaotic nature of their organization makes it hard to see why they hold together, but the answer is simple. The Workmen’s Guild holds together not because of a sense of unity, but out of necessity. They function not because they can, but because they must.