Monday, April 15, 2013

Blacksmiths' Guild: An Overview

by D'Artagnon Wells

Anyone can pound a piece of iron, just as anyone can put paint on canvas or apply a chisel to marble. Going through the motions is easy enough, but becoming a Blacksmith is a path which should not be taken lightly. Being a Blacksmith is more than a grunt job, more than gates and door fittings and shoeing beasts of burden. A Blacksmith is an artist in every aspect of their life, their call requires dedication, sacrifice, education. Art is a selfish profession that takes a heavy tithe from the artist, and in a world oozing chaos one needs to be careful when they open the doors to their soul.

Desylinn is shifting constantly on the sands of chaos and Blacksmiths have elected themselves the official steady anchor of order. Their training includes mining, artistry, metallurgy, and of course, Smithing. They go through rigorous self mastery and weapon training and are not allowed to make anything they do not know how to use. Most monasteries have their adepts choose a path which allows employment in various industries like farming, construction or the military.

Five monasteries make up the Blacksmiths Quarter in Hub: the Anvil, Might, Muse, Forge, and Hammer. These monasteries are united under their banner as Smiths, but this unity is a strained peace at best.

The Anvil are children of the earth and pay homage to Ariga, the Goddess of Earth, as the earth is the original anvil. They believe they are stewards of her home and they take responsibility for her balance and care. Mining is only done as needed with as small a footprint possible. The sanctity of environmental habitats always take precedence over ore collection. Blacksmiths of the Anvil are selective in what they make, ensuring their art does no harm. They do make weapons, but as tools of peace and justice. If their art is used in the harm of life or environment, it is their responsibility to correct that imbalance.

The Might are introspective. All creation stems from the Blacksmith, therefore it is the responsibility of the Blacksmith to master Self. The anvil, hammer, and forge are all extensions of the Blacksmith and inspiration is also found within. Smiths of the Might strive to help others master themselves and embark on service missions. Staunch pacifists and philosophers, they act as mediators by the other guilds. If something they create causes imbalance, they take it personally, since the art is an extension of their self. If part of yourself is causing a disruption then you are imbalanced.

The Muse are the inspirational center of the Blacksmiths. If you have metal, heat and a hammer,  you have art. The Muse' believe the mind is a playground to be explored, messed up, taken to the limit and then beyond because it is through shattering conceived rules and laws that new boundaries can be defined and order achieved. The only governing law of the Muse is to create.

The Forge Blacksmiths seek to master life, as Daras, the Goddess of Death is the master of all life. Given this focus their main production and training is in weaponry. They are extremely focused on the end user of their product. They have no inner conflict if something they created has caused pain, since that is what it was created for. The forge is an unforgiving, yet even-handed mistress, destroying all imperfections to bring a beautiful order from chaos. The Forge, as a monastery, maintains detached neutrality from politics, but will usually lean toward the flow of gold.

The monks of the Hammer are academics first and Blacksmiths second. Knowledge is power; where and how hard the hammer is swung determines the success or failure of creation. The Hammer will sacrifice everything to attain knowledge, even their own health. They specialize in unique, hard to create items, seeking the secrets of forging and soulbinding which lead to the downfall of the Elves.

The Might and Anvil keep close ties, and the two can tolerate the Muse. While the Forge cares little of other Blacksmiths, the one thing these four monasteries agree on is their overwhelming distrust of the Hammer. As a Blacksmith loyalties lie first with the monastery, second with other Blacksmiths and third with others, including family, friends or country. The Might and Hammer will take on vows of celibacy, but others take spouses and rear families if the time permits. Those who do so early in their career rarely rise to prominence.

The Blacksmith Quarter is fiercely defensive of it's members. If someone messes with a Blacksmith, they catch heat from the entire Quarter, even if that Blacksmith is from the Hammer. They work well with the Merchant and Music guilds, oft times providing militia or weapons for caravans and events. Blacksmiths hold a strong distaste for the Mage's Guild and currently have pulled all Smiths from their District. Their relationship with the Workman's Guild is as complex as their leadership, so the Blacksmiths tolerate them on a person-by-person basis. However, during the First Shenanigan the Blacksmiths did not actively partake in the riots, but did suspend operations, holding protest in support of the Workman's Guild.

Titles vary between monasteries, but the general hierarchy starts with a Master Blacksmith as head and a Master Artisan as their second. Other titles or positions include Master Forge, usually reserved for dragon members of repute, Weapons Master, and Bosun, who is in charge of handing out work assignments to students and overseeing commercial production.

Despite their inner squabbles Blacksmiths are staunch pragmatists and understand the need for unity, if only the outward appearance of unity. A few endeavors the monasteries maintain cooperatively, namely the Master Council, Artisan Council, Militia, Bosun Council, and the Billows.

The governing body of the Guild is the Master Council, who meet when something affects the Quarter as a whole: political matters, riots, an attack on Hub, etc. They have a volunteer militia comprised of an equal number of Smiths from each monastery and governed by the monastery Weapons Masters who take turns as Watch Commanders. Any Blacksmith derelict in their duty, causing trouble in other districts, or practicing their trade without Guild permission are dealt with swiftly and severely.

Any guild needing the specialized skills of a Blacksmith must send a request, a work order, to the Quarter job bank. These orders are bid on by the Bosun Council who send bid details back to the requesting guild, parchments being void of any monastery identification. The requesting Guild chooses, and a monastery Smith is sent out to accomplish the job. The Guild operates a cooperative shop for mass production jobs, headed by the Artisan Council.

You never see a non-sanctioned shop set up. On the off chance one springs up, the upstart is replaced quietly with a legitimate Blacksmith who works the shop for a week or two while the upstart smith is away for 'personal reasons' then just as quietly closes the shop, redirecting business to the nearest sanctioned Smith.

Blacksmiths are rarely poached as they have decent working relationships with the Merchants and Musicians and are willing to work with them. Lone laborers and foremen from the Workman's will try bullying tactics, but they have little bite for all their barking. The real threat comes from the Mage's Guild since the Blacksmiths have severed ties. If a member goes missing, Mage disappearances increase until their brother or sister is returned. However, there are times when Blacksmiths will leave their order for one reason or another and voluntarily join the Mage Guild ranks, working the forge in secret. When this happens a Billows is created. The Billows is a five member team comprised of the top student from each monastery who hunt down the offending apostate and remove both forearms and punish those harboring them. They will also destroy any projects the apostate was working on.

The Blacksmiths have proven themselves as artists, shrewd capitalists, fierce fighters, and a multi-faceted Guild. Their ability to work together toward the common goal of Order and fierce inter-guild loyalty makes it possible to rebuff any attempts on their Quarter and profession. They are honorable men and women, who believe in being honor bound to their word. Even if they aren't very decent words, you can always rely on them to deliver and follow through.