In this 8th installment for the City of Rookroost we start looking at the guilds of the city. The backbone of the founding of the city was it's guilds, before that it was just a collection of bandits. Once again thanks to everyone that have given me inspiration from Nigel Findley, Erik Mona, Gary Holian, Sean K. Reynolds, Frederick Weining, Casey Brown, and all the fabulous BK authors and lastly Gygax himself.
While the Congress might be the power behind the scenes, the guilds are still the lifeblood of Rookroost. The city would be nothing more than a collection of tents, brothels, and taverns if it weren’t for the guilds who helped turn the place into what it is.
It is a common misconception that there is only one guild for a craft or service. The truth is many guilds make up the larger super guilds that dominate the city. There are also many smaller stores and shops unaffiliated with the guilds in Outwall, and some in the Outer-City. The super guilds are, however, the ones that are detailed below in greater detail, while the smaller ones are left up to the judge or game master to flesh out and use as they see fit.
Unaligned guilds are far more likely to fall victim to being robbed and bullied by the city's criminals. Those owners who can hire guards, but most simply live in their stores and guard them themselves. Those who live in Outwall are in constant vigilance and fear of someone kicking in their door to rob them. The best security for the money are dogs, and the Rookroost Hound is a breed of dog that has been bred over the centuries to be a fierce and loyal guard dog. Unfortunately, no matter how well trained a hound is, it’s still no guarantee that they can keep every burglar at bay. The hounds themselves can be a burden, and there are packs of stray dogs that roam Outwall and can be dangerous to children and smaller humanoids or solitary citizens.
The Apothecaries and Herbalists Guild – The apothecaries and herbalists guild is highly regarded and respected by all the other guilds in Rookroost. In a highly divided city such as Rookroost, the guild is known for its neutrality when dealing with the public, something that can't be said for most other guilds. Their potions and poultices are for all that can afford them. While most of their wares are not cheap, they tend to keep the prices fair, which surprises most in a city known for its greed. The guild's fairness is attributed to Mauldren Borrow, a kind and elderly druid who has been the guilds leader for the past thirty years.
The Apothecaries and Herbalist’s Guild is on good terms with the Guild of Wizardry, and several residents hold membership in both organizations. Usually, this would be a problem in other guilds, but the wizards and apothecaries are not rivals.
While the apothecaries and herbalists produce many magical items, their main stock in trade is non-magical remedies and products. These non-magical remedies are bought in significant quantities by the city's barbers and dentists, which is another guild they have a strong relationship with.
The Apothecaries guildhall, which doubles as their storefront, is located in the Inner City. The guild also employs a wagon that acts as a mobile dispensary that travels through Outwall and the Outer-city several times a week. The wagon, of course, is well guarded.
Anti-Poison: In a city full of shady individuals as Rookroost, poison is easy to come by, and poisonings are an everyday occurrence. Common toxins are from local sources, and symptoms and side effects are well known, and anti-poison to counter these poisons are relatively easy to make. However, poisons with harder to find ingredients will, of course, drive up the price. If the anti-poison is taken within one round after exposure, it can counteract the poison removing the poisoned effect.
NOTE: anti-poisons will always work against common poisons, but there is a 10% chance that it will be ineffective against an uncommon poison, and 20% it could be ineffective against a rare poison. The reason for this is the vast number of poisons that the apothecary must try and counter, of which no apothecary is 100% aware or versed in. In addition to this, the poison dosage can drastically affect the way an ant-poison might work. These variables are summarized in the percentage chance that the rarer the poison, the greater the possibility that the anti-poison might not work.
Balm: A balm is a fragrant or aromatic ointment spread upon the skin to dilute a topical poison spread. When applied, it will give a +1 to poison saves, and can 1/2 the duration of the poison effect, and provide the patient resistance to the poison damage. The balm results last for the duration of one long rest before needing to be reapplied.
Elixir: A tincture or medicine consisting of a sweetened alcoholic solution of a small quantity of the drug or drugs, thus compounded. Patients who ingest an elixir will receive a +1 to saves vs. poison and diseases and decrease the duration of the poison or disease's effects. Patients taking an elixir will have resistance to damage taken from the poison or disease during the period while they have ingested the elixir. If taken over two days, it will cure the poison or diseased patient if the substance's duration has not run its course. The elixir can only be administered once per long rest.
Fortifier: A medicine that fortifies the patient taking it from contracting a disease or ailment. Patients taking the fortifier will receive a +1 to any saving throw to resist the effects of a disease or illness for the duration of one long rest before needing to be reapplied.
Liniment: An oil medicine, a type of liquid ointment, used to treat ailments of the skin such as bruises, lacerations, or burns. If applied to an affected area, it will increase the area's healing by allowing the reroll of a 1 or 2 for the number of hit points regained by the patient. This applies to magical healing and the taking of hit dice during a rest. The liniment can only be used once per short or long rest.
Philtre: A potion or type of charm used to bring about magical effects and cures. While wearing a Philtre to ward against a specific kind of effect or ailment, the character will receive a +1 to saving throws against the type of effect that the philtre is specifically designed for. Examples of common Philtres aid in saving throws against poison, disease, cold, fire, acid, physical exertion (strength checks). Philtres will retain their potency for one month's time per 1,000gp spent on the philtre. Philtre's that have lost their potency can have them rejuvenated by an alchemist at the cost of 500gp for each additional month.
Restorative: A lotion, poultice, potion, or similar substance that restores the loss of sight or hearing due to a disease or ailment. The patient receives a +1 to all saving throws to recover from their vision effects once per application. Applications can not exceed more than one dose per 24 period. Only one bonus per save per application occurs.
Spirit: A spirit is a substance consumed usually in a liquid form that allows the patient to ignore the effects of an injury or ailment during the duration of the spirits' effect. The spirit does not aid in healing the injury or ailment but will allow the patient to ignore its effects for the duration while the spirit is taking effect, which lasts no longer than one short rest. Each subsequent use of the spirit requires an additional dose to be effective until a maximum of three treatments have been reached, after which time the spirit will no longer retain its potency. Spirits do not mask the effects of blindness or deafness or any magically induced side effects such as charm, hold person or feeble mind.
Stimulant: A lotion, poultice, potion, or similar substance that, once applied, induces an effect that bolsters their ability to perform physical saving throws for the duration of one long rest. During this time, the patient will receive a bonus of +1 to any STR, CON, or DEX saving throw that they perform for the duration that they are under the stimulant's effects. A period of one long rest without use of the substance must be allowed between applications to avoid a wisdom saving through to resist becoming addicted to the substance. Each period of use without a long rest will require a DC 10 +1 per use without a long rest to avoid becoming addicted. For example. Using the stimulant three times in a row will require a DC 13 saving throw to avoid becoming addicted. Multiple uses of the stimulant do not increase the potency of the saving throw bonus above the +1. Patients becoming addicted to the stimulant will suffer a -1 to all INT, WIS, and CHR saving throws until a period of time equal to the number of does taken consecutively in long rests has elapsed. At that time, the patient returns to normal.
The Architects Guild – This small and exclusive guild has an office in the Inner City and works exceptionally close with the Lord of Brick, who is the guilds, principal employer. The Architects guild is known for its simple yet highly functional designs. In a city like Rookroost, it's essential that your buildings last with only intermittent repairs at best, and the Architects guild specializes in such structures.
The Assassins Guild – The assassin's guild has been a part of the Congress in the past, but each time the assassin’s guild is assimilated by them, another one pops into existence to take its place as an independent entity. Despite the Congress' desire to have a monopoly on the professional killing business, there are far too many organizations that need these kinds of services, and many of them are not on the best of terms with the Congress.
The current assassin’s guild has been in independent operations for just over twenty years, and it appears the inhabitants of Rookroost wish to keep it that way. The Assassins Guild takes significant steps to ensure that they stay independent from the local political scene because being seen to favor any organization is bad for business. It is commonly believed that the assassins guild carried out the deaths during the Night of the Silent Deaths. Of course, no proof was found to prove this, and no one is willing to publicly accuse them of it and draw the ire of these professional killers.
A building known as The Black House is the public office of the guild. It's a small, unassuming building in the Outer-City. The people that work there are go-betweens that relay the work to the assassins through drops and couriers. The actual members of the guild are secret, and if a particular member is outed, they are dismissed from the guild. While a rare occurrence, those ousted usually find employment with the Congress or are killed by their former guild members.
NOTE* For contracts for targets above level 17, the cost must be negotiated.
The Bakers, Butchers, and Cooks Guild – The bakers, Butchers, and Cook’s guild is one of the larger guilds in the city as their services are used by many of the cities citizens. The guild tries to ensure that prices are reasonably set, but the guild's primary purpose is to provide safety to its members. It also gives them the buying power to ensure that the necessary ingredients for their jobs flow into the city and at a price they can afford. The guild has close ties to the Lord of Brick, who usually is the one that champions their causes.
The main guildhall is known as The Kitchen, and is in the Outer-City, but their members can be found throughout Rookroost. Those who work in Outwall, or the Outer-City, often wear an armband with the hearth symbol of the guild on it to readily recognize that they are part of a guild and not someone to be lightly trifled with.
In this 7th installment for the City of Rookroost we take look at the very unique system of laws in Rookroost and how they don't apply to everyone. Once again thanks to everyone that have given me inspiration from Nigel Findley, Erik Mona, Gary Holian, Sean K. Reynolds, Frederick Weining, Casey Brown, and all the fabulous BK authors and lastly Gygax himself.
The Rule of Guilded and Unguilded Law
The Bandit Kingdoms' lands are a chaotic place at best, and Rookroost is a prime example. While some places have a semblance of law and order, none would be your typical law and order found in other places of the Flanaess. Rookroost has plenty of laws and regulations, but none of them apply to everyone in the same fashion. There are two completely separate sets of laws: one for guilded citizens, and one for everyone else.
The laws passed by the Council of Lords are not designed to benefit ordinary citizens but the members of guilds instead. The guilds and factions want to ensure that no one can take their possessions or harm them without repercussion; they also don't want to include everyone in their little club. Robbers and thieves founded the city, and the idea of not being able to steal from someone legally was unappealing to the cities founders.
Anyone that steals from a guilded member, and gets caught, must return or reimburse the victim for the total amount of stolen or damaged property. In addition to the reimbursement, the magistrates of the Courts of Rookroost can levy a fine. Fines are determined by the magistrate, with half of the fine going to the city coffers, and a half to the victim of the crime. Those who cannot pay will either be sentenced to forced labor or, more likely, sold into slavery. At no time will a criminal be in danger of going to jail if they have the resources to pay everyone off. Even in death cases, the offender will be forced to pay the amount determined by the magistrate. With most minor crimes, the capture and payment of fines can all occur on the streets or where the crime occurred. Guilded members are only taken to jail when the crime is severe or do not have the coin to pay the fine. Guilded members are allowed to send a message to have the funds delivered to the jail so they can be released. When a crime is committed between a guilded member and an unguilded member, the punishment is usually the same, except there is typically a period of forced labor accompanying the fine for the unguilded.
Due to the unfairness of the system and the steep cost of seeking legal justice, assassins are in high demand for dispensing vengeance for those who feel the courts can not satisfy them.
Crime and Punishment
The courts of Rookroost are headed by magistrates appointed by the Council of Lords and are, of course, guilded citizens. Most cases rarely go to trial, having fines paid out instead. Magistrates cannot have membership in the same guild as the plaintiff or defendants in a trial they oversee. Magistrates are appointed to terms of three years, after which they must be reappointed. How much coin a magistrate generates for the city through their rulings has a direct influence on their being reappointed. Heavy-handed Judges generally don't work out as well as those that are willing to find common ground. The city has thirteen active magistrates at all times.
With the legal system being such a sham, there are no lawyers in Rookroost because there is no real litigation, only compromise. However, some legal scholars that can advise clients how best to bribe their way out of their charges do exist.
The following list of crimes are punishable when committed by either a guilded or unguilded citizen. Each offense has a fine connected to it, along with a possible work sentence and other punishments.
Arson – In arson cases, those charged with a crime are forced to pay for damages and a fine of 50 to 100gp. In arson cases with losses greater than 20gp a sentence of 1 to 4 years of forced labor, or a penalty of 100gp per year sentenced may be levied.
Assault – Assault is a common crime, especially in a city like Rookroost full of brigands and bandits. Most assaults will generally result in little more than a fine of 1 to 20gp and a night in jail, but for more serious assaults, which usually means influential people were hurt, the fine can be as much as 100 to 200gp and up to 1 to 2 years of forced labor.
Burglary and Theft – Crimes of burglary and theft are only enforced when the victims are guilded citizens. If convicted of this crime, the condemned must repay the stolen items' value, and any property damaged a result of the burglary or theft. Fines range from 50gp to 100gp, and forced labor is generally only enforced with the inability to pay fines. The minimum time sentenced is one year, with additional years added per 1,000 gp of value stolen.
Damaging Property – The crime of property damage is only enforced if the property is that of a guilded citizen. Those convicted of this crime must pay the cost of repairing or replacing said property and pay a fine of 50 to 100gp.
Importing of Controlled items – The term, controlled items, refers to things that cannot be imported into the city to resell. These items are the sole domain of guilds that have obtained a charter to do so. These items are as follows.
· Magical Items
· Consumables – Drink/Food/Spirits
· Weapons and armor
Anyone caught smuggling in these items without the proper authority will have all the items confiscated without compensation. A fine of 10gp per 100gp of value in goods smuggled into the city is also levied. Permission to deal in these goods is obtained through the Council of Lords in the form of a writ of import. A Writ of Import generally costs either 100gp per shipment or 1,000gp for a full year. A writ can be obtained through the offices of the Lord of Merchants.
Practicing Magic Within the city in public- The use of magic is controlled within the city since the time of Latavius. Public displays of magic are illegal without the Lord of Letters' permission in the form of a Writ of Practice. Getting a Writ of Practice is relatively easy, provided the magic performed is not dangerous and easily contained. A Writ of Practice is good for one day from sunup to sundown. The writ's cost depends on the type of magic performed; in other words, the level of the magic. The charge of the writ is 100gp per level. With 1st level magic being 100gp, 2nd level being 200gp, and so on. Purchasing a Writ of Practice at a third level will allow you to perform magic of lower levels on the same day as well. Performing cantrips has a cost of 50gp for the day.
Casting within the privacy of one’s own home is allowed provided that person is a member of the Guild of Wizardry.
Casting of magic that directly or indirectly affects others - If someone casts magic that directly affects another person, then the victim is entitled to a settlement of roughly 100gp per level of the spell provided they were not a willing participant. The caster will also suffer a fine of 100gp per level of the spell and pay for any damages. If a guilded citizen's death occurs from an unauthorized spell, the spell's caster will be hanged. The death of an ungilded citizen carries an additional fine of 500gp. These strict sentences, of course, depends on those involved. Members of the Guild of Wizardry have some leeway and are rarely held accountable for this behavior unless it is against other guilded citizens. If the caster is guilded and the victim an unguilded citizen, then only a fine is levied.
Magical Interference of Authority – Surprisingly, the use of magic to impede or interfere with the functions of the Rookroost government has a much stricter punishment leveled against it than the casting of magics in the city against citizens. The Council of Lords agrees that the greatest threat to it, at least after the hordes of Iuz, is allowing magic to go unchecked when it comes to the collection of taxes. There is a strict ban on glamours, illusions, and all mind-altering magic outside of spells sanctioned by the Lord of Letters.
The typical fine of 100gp per level of the spell still applies, but a minimum of one year of forced labor is attached to these fines per level of the spell. Thus a 3rd level spell would have a three-year sentence and a 4th level spell a four-year sentence.
Scrying, illusion, and non-detection spells are only permissible if authorized with a Writ of Practice. When petitioning for these spells the council will usually only permit the casting to be performed by a member of the Guild of Wizardry.
Murder – Murder is common in the Outer City and Outwall but uncommon in the Inner City and very rare in the Peak. Those guilded citizens, with membership in a well-established guild, expect a fair amount of protection for the coin, which translates into an increased presence of Talons in the Inner-City and The Peak.
Unsurprisingly, if a guilded citizen murders a non-guilded citizen, there is at best only a fine levied against them. This fine is usually no more than 50gp. However, it depends on where that murder occurred. While it’s harder for non-guilded citizens to gain access to the Inner City and the Peak, they are safer there regardless of their citizenship status. A murder carried out in the Outer-City would be 100gp fine while in the Inner-City, the fine would be 200gp and a year of forced labor. In the Peak, the fine jumps to 500gp and six years of forced labor. Non-guilded citizens sentenced with committing murder in the Inner-City and the Peak are hanged.
Incarceration – When charged with imprisonment, or forced labor, prisoners are taken to the Slab. Originally built to house Rookroost's army, the walled was eventually transformed into a prison as the army outgrew it. It’s a sturdy structure constructed out of large granite blocks shipped in from the Rift Canyon. It gets its nickname from the fact that it’s a rather plain-looking keep with no adornments or style to it. Located in Outwall, the Slab looms over the nicest neighborhoods of that district. The proximity to the prison and the comings and goings of the Talons stationed there makes this section of Outwall less chaotic than the rest. A detachment of Talons are stationed here as the guards of the prison.
If the convicted cannot pay off their fines at the time of their trial, they are taken to the Slab to work off their fines or serve their sentence. Even after entering the Slab to serve their sentence, a convict can still pay off any labor sentence.
In this 6th installment for the City of Rookroost we take another look at the power structure of the city and its power brokers. Many different factions vie for power within its walls, and outside of them. Once again thanks to everyone that have given me inspiration from Nigel Findley, Erik Mona, Gary Holian, Sean K. Reynolds, Frederick Weining, Casey Brown, and all the fabulous BK authors and lastly Gygax himself.
Wherever people gather, the gods they worship are not far behind, and Rookroost is no exception. While the gods worshiped in Rookroost are a motley bunch, they are openly worshiped. One might think that this type of religious freedom is refreshing, but it has led to open hostilities between different faiths. This hostility, which could flare up at a moment’s notice, was the main reason the Council of Lords added the Lord of Temples' to the council. This figurehead helps them to mediate differences and settle qualms between the faiths nonviolently. Of course, this does not mean that the animosities between rival gods have disappeared, just that it has become more discrete and gone underground.
Initially, no such position was considered for the Council of Lords because no one believed priests would listen to anyone except their patrons on how to conduct themselves. Of all the gods worshiped within Rookroost, only one is acknowledged by all the faiths; Istus, goddess of fate. Being in her graces is said to open more doors of opportunity for a worshiper, while angering, or mocking her, limiting one's possibilities. Regardless of the validity of these beliefs, no one wishes to have a life of limited opportunity. Since she speaks nothing against other deities, she is worshiped widely even by those that venerate other gods. Because of this, the position of the Lord of Temples has been held by a priest of Istus since its inception.
The Lord of Temples helps to make sure that all holy days and festivals do not impede the city's everyday traffic and business. While some religious rites can be unsavory, none are outlawed so long as they are performed in private. The Lord also helps organize all large festivals and gatherings, with the majority held outside the city walls.
There are occasions when the different religions unite to throw their collective force behind a cause, usually in opposition to some religion's rights being taken away, like worshippers of Nerull right to give blood sacrifices in public. All the faiths realize that once one of them loses their rights, it could cause a domino effect. Despite these odd moments of solidarity, the temples are a diverse collection of independent churches and temples.
The Rebel Scum
Rookroost being the largest of the cities found in the Free Lords lands is considered the unofficial capital of the region. The Great Old One realized this and placed high importance in taking it intact. Iuz had no desire to see this gem destroyed when he could reap the benefits of its resources. The sensitivity of capturing and holding the city is believed to be why Mortoth was handpicked to capture it. Most of Iuz's other generals couldn't be trusted not to destroy it in the process. Rookroost's strategic importance to the Great Old One's empire is not lost on his enemies either. Because of this, several resistance and rebel groups operate within the city.
While Iuz is a foul and evil being that commands hordes of terrible humanoids and demons, not all of his foes are fighting for justice and freedom. The resistance groups that sprung up from the Free Lords' destroyed kingdoms were far from shining examples of good. Unlike in the Rift Canyon, and the Fellreev Forest Rookroost has no significant resistance group made up of local fighters.
The Congress tries to keep tabs on the rebel groups as best they can, and when possible, they will pass on the locations of any resistance groups to Mortoth. To the Congress, it's in their best interest to keep Mortoth in power, at least for now. If the winds should change, and it appears that the minions of the Great Old Ones might be ousted, they would most certainly turn from hampering these resistance groups to helping them. They currently allow some groups to exist in Rookroost, but only so long as their influence and numbers are not significant. If one begins to get out of hand, the Congress takes measures to keep them in check.
Below are the major factions in the resistance that are currently active and attempting to destroy or interfere with all of Iuz's plans whenever they can.
Chief among the Great Old One's rivals on the battlefield is the kingdom of Furyondy. Located southwest of the Free Lords' lands, Furyondy interacted little with them. Now with the Bandit Kingdoms helping to fuel the armies of Iuz they have become a major target of covert operations to disrupt all assistance flowing from there.
To help destabilize the region, bands of spies from Furyondy, often lead by paladins and priests of Trithereon, the god of freedom, have moved infiltrated the city. A group headed by a paladin named Arnol Marsh leads the freedom fighters within Rookroost. Marsh's main job is to destabilize all aid that would be heading from Rookroost to the empire of Iuz. Including the quarterly tribute collected in the region and sent to Doraka. In addition to hampering with the delivery of tribute, the Furyondian resistance fighters act as saboteurs. Marsh also attempts to gather as much intelligence on the Free Lords' realms' activities and send it back to Furyondy.
While Marsh hates the people of Ravensrook and the Free Lords, he hates the Great Old One's minions even more. Despite this hatred, he realizes that his mission comes first, and all under his command realize that tipping their hand of being Furyondy agents is not acceptable. Marsh and his people often will plant evidence at the scenes of their attacks to mislead Mortoth's men into thinking it's either the Horned Society's agents or even sometimes the resistance fighters from the Shield Lands.
Marsh knows Beanor Borralis, the Shield Land's resistance fighters' leader in Rookroost, but has only met him twice. Marsh does not coordinate jobs with Borralis as he thinks that the man is far too wild and unpredictable and would draw undue attention to his people.
The Shield Lands
One of the worst-hit lands during the Greyhawk Wars was the kingdom of the Shield Lands. The Shield Lands' lords rose from a collection of smaller nations that banded together to protect themselves from their neighbors. The glue that kept them together was the widespread worship of Heironeous, a god of justice, honor, war, and courage.
More than half of the Shield Lands now lies in their enemies' hands and has been for nearly seven years. While the war is technically over, skirmishes along the border are frequent. It is a well-known secret that both sides are merely licking their wounds and preparing for future hostilities.
The Shield Lands sends small bands of agents into their former lands to fight a continuous subterfuge and resistance battle. The occupying humanoids easily root out most. The Bandit Kingdoms are far easier to infiltrate and operate in with its high volume of rebels and resistance fighters. These resistance fighters either join forces with or simply merge quietly with these rebels to help them carry the fight to Iuz.
In Rookroost, one such band is led by a fiery and hot-tempered fighter named Beanor Borralis. Beanor is a man with a death wish, and he intends to go out in the biggest ball of destruction that he can orchestrate. Despite this death wish, Borralis, realizes that he still has a job to do in Rookroost, and until he can find a suitable way of accomplishing his mission, he bids his time and tries to disrupt as much of the Great Old Ones plans as possible. Borralis has attempted to waylay the tribute caravan to Doraka seven times and failed each time at great cost.
Borralis sees the use of fear as a weapon, and unlike his counterpart, Arnol Marsh from Furyondy, Borralis, and his people often leave a calling card in the form of the symbol of Heironeous carved or painted onto the corpses they leave behind.
The Horned Society
The Great Old One's demon and humanoid hordes were not the only feared nation in the region before the Greyhawk Wars; the lands of the Horned Society had grand plans of empire themselves. A more orderly land than the Empire of Iuz, the Horned Society, was methodical in its preparedness and conquest plans. Run by a council of 13, known as Hierarchs, they also employed armies of humanoids but preferred the more organized and reliable Hobgoblins over orcs. Many considered them a greater threat than Iuz, at least until most of the thirteen were assassinated and the whole of their lands taken over in a nearly bloodless coup.
While the coupe eliminated most of the Hierarchs, a few were able to anticipate or survive the assassination attempts and flee. No one is sure how many survived, but Hierarch Nezmajen, a priest of Nerull, fled to the Fellreev with a small band and has been recruiting and reorganizing there.
Nezmajen sees the Bandit Kingdoms as a linchpin to helping regain the lost territories of the Horned Society. The Free Lords provide needed supplies, resources, and more reliable troops for the Great Old One's war machine. Without them, Iuz's plans for domination would fall flat and grind to a halt. Wishing to destabilize the region, which needs little encouragement, Nezmajen has sent small groups of saboteurs and assassins to critical locations in the Bandit Kingdoms, with Rookroost being of particular interest.
Heading Nezmajen's efforts inside the city is Karst, a half-drow assassin. Karst is sly and cunning and recruits via third person most of her operatives. She relies on small bands of loyal Horned Society operatives to help her coordinate them. Rookroost is ideal for this kind of tactic as the city is overflowing with desperate men and women looking to make quick coin. Karst's favorite tactic is having her operatives pose as members of the Congress when recruiting for missions as it redirects attention and helps to sow the seeds of dissent.
In this 5th installment for the City of Rookroost we take another look at the power structure of the city and its power brokers. Many different factions vie for power within its walls, and outside of them. Once again thanks to everyone that have given me inspiration from Nigel Findley, Erik Mona, Gary Holian, Sean K. Reynolds, Frederick Weining, Casey Brown, and all the fabulous BK authors and lastly Gygax himself.
The Horde of The Great Old One
Grand Marshall Mortoth only leads one of four armies that invaded the Bandit Kingdoms. One was designated to invade the western lands, one headed to the Heartlands and the Rift Canyon region. At the same time, another was tasked with trying to clear out the giant forest of the Fellreev, leaving Rookroost to Mortoth. Of these four armies that invaded, only two remain. The army that attacked the west was withdrawn after treaties with Chief Ulgun, head of the Hobgoblin confederation, secured their western border. The army tasked with the emptying of the Fellreev was annihilated, leaving only Mortoth's and the army lead by Cranzer, which destroyed the heartlands and is camped around the Rift Canyon.
Officially, Cranzer, a dark sorcerer, is the commander for all of the Bandit Kingdoms, but Mortoth pays the wizard no attention. With the departure of the demons that had been so effective in subduing the Free Lords now banished, Cranzer's forces are little more than a horde of unruly humanoids. Cranzer would love to beat Mortoth into submission or even crush him and his private army, but the rebels and freedom fighters in the Rift Canyon and the Fellreev keep him fully occupied.
In addition to bands of former bandits, Cranzer is dealing with insurgents from the lands of Furyondy, The Shield Lands, Urnst, and remnants of the Horned Society looking to undermine the region and deny the Great Old One the resources they plunder from it.
With Mortoth busy controlling Rookroost, his horde's running fell to his 2nd in command, Kostana. Staying with tradition, when it comes to assigning command of armies, Mortoth was paired with a power-hungry subordinate to keep him on his toes. Within the chaos that is the lands of the Great Old One, there is a firm belief that the best results come when fear is a motivator. Despite Kostana's ambition, Mortoth has no fear of her and has shown open contempt towards her, while fear of Mortoth undermines Kostana's attempts to sew dissension among its ranks.
Kostana has tried setting up a spy network within Rookroost to keep tabs on Mortoth, but those few she has been able to place without the Congress finding out about have given her minimal intelligence. The ambitious half-orc reports all that she thinks might be traitorous back to Dorakan; unfortunately, she has yet to hear anything back or be given permission to oust Mortoth. Not even Cranzer trusts in her ability to spy on Mortoth and refuses to join her in these attempts.
Kostana spends most of her time leading detachments of Mortoth's horde on various sorties into neighboring lands and putting down uprisings within the eastern half of the Free Lords' Lands. Toth has even sent her on several occasions into the Fellreev forest, missions that always lead to high casualties hoping that Kostana might fall to the rebels hiding there.
The Merchants League
The Merchants League of Rookroost lost much of the influence they once had, but their coin can still buy a lot, making them dangerous to cross. Many of the precautions they installed in the government to ensure their authority endured have eroded. Infiltration from the Congress and corruption from within was inevitable. Things have become so bad that most of the high-ranking guilds in the league hire their protection in the form of mercenary troops and spies instead of trusting the government they were instrumental in forming.
The Generalship had always been a staunch ally of the Merchant League, and the two worked hard to help counterbalance the power of the Congress. This tactic sometimes worked if the sitting General was like-minded, but not all were, and some preferred the easy coin of looking the other way. Despite the back and forth power struggle with the Congress, the thieves guild never strangled the Merchants League to the point that they were not profitable. The Congress always knew that they thrived when the Merchants League thrived.
The Merchants League, which is a collection of the most prosperous and merchant guilds in the city, has always been the destination of merchants looking to strike it rich. The wealth that one can make in Rookroost is well known, and it attracts thousands of merchants from neighboring and far off nations. Most of them end up destitute, and a fair amount end up dead, but the allure of fast money keeps a steady stream of them coming. The flow of these merchants slowed considerably during the war. Still, now that it's been over five years since the treaties were signed ending it, they have been coming in even higher numbers as the war created a more significant amount of desperate men and women looking to earn fortunes.
Merchants coming to Rookroost looking to strike it rich have first to find a guild willing to take them on or have enough resources of their own to start a guild and go freelance. The Merchants League funnels the ill-gotten goods from the bandits and brigands back into the very nations they plundered.
The power brokers within the Merchants League is in constant flux as merchants come, strike it rich, and leave. Merchants also tend to get killed in deals gone bad or merely rubbing people the wrong way. Even the most influential merchants are not immune to this, although it is rare.
While the Congress is always looking for muscle to employ, so is the Merchants League. The League funds expeditions and raiding parties if they feel like the return is worth it, and they are continually looking for guards for their caravans leaving Rookroost.
The Guild of Wizardry
One of the later additions to the power structure in Rookroost was the Guild of Wizardry. While there had always been the odd spellcaster in the city, the most famous being Uhltrix the Unwise, they had been more a motley collection of wizards and sorcerers looking out for themselves. Uhltrix worked with many of the brigand and bandit groups and regularly dealt with Valtavian. Uhltrix outlived Valtavian, though, and his original tower in the Peak is still standing and acts as the Guild of Wizardry's headquarters. No one knows what happened to Uhltrix, but his apprentices are the wizards that formed the Rookroost’s Guild of Wizardry.
Once Uhltrix disappeared, his apprentices soon found the respect they had enjoyed previously was because of the fear the brigands had of their master. Once enough time had passed, and everyone had become convinced Uhltrix wasn’t coming back, the pressure was put on his apprentices to join other guilds. Questions over ownership of Uhltrix's tower arose as many of the powerful guilds sought to claim it. The apprentices knew to ensure their freedom; they would need to stick together, so they declared themselves the Guild of Wizardry and began conducting business as such.
Elshore, Uhltrix's senior apprentice, took control of the guild, and began offering services at standard rates. Still, in a place like Rookroost, your credibility on the streets means everything, and the wizards at the new guild were more academic. Because none of the current members of the guild had fried anyone on the streets with magic, they were still hounded by those looking to get at the treasures supposedly in Uhltrix's tower. With so much attention targeting them, they rarely left the tower, and when they did, it was under heavy escort.
As word spread of the new Guild of Wizardry in Rookroost, the Bandit Kingdoms' wizards flocked to join a guild of like-minded individuals and have some semblance of safety. One of them was named Razohr the Grim. Not long after Razhor joined the ideas of pilfering the tower and bullying, the guild's members changed. Razohr was not just the most powerful wizard in the lands of the Free Lords; he was also one of its most notorious assassins. A deadly half-elven man with a reputation for being ruthless when paid, Razohr saw the value of an active Guild for Wizardry in Rookroost. When he became a member of the guild, the guild automatically got a degree of respect that the city's roguish types could understand and respect.
The Days of Elshore and Razohr are long gone, but Riziln, the head of the Guild of Wizardry and the Lord of letters, has led the guild for fifty years. Riziln has taken painful steps to ensure that the Guild of Wizardry remains neutral and above the everyday struggle that is life in Rookroost. The conquest of the city by Mortoth and the Great Old One's minions has tested this stance. Riziln was unsure if they would throw in with the city to defend it, or simply pick up and leave for other less volatile lands. Fortunately, they never had to make such a choice as the city agreed to sign a peace treaty. The peace treaty allowed her to begin making plans for a possible future departure if necessary.
Rizlin has been pleased with Mortoth's changes, and the two have a mutually beneficial relationship, much to the chagrin of Elara and the Congress. Riziln has taken all of these possibilities into consideration, and while she has not given her complete backing to Mortoth, she has allied with him in keeping the city safe.
The goal of the Guild of Wizardry is to become a place where practitioners of the arcane arts can gather and conduct their experiments and studies unhindered. Necromancy, mind control, and a list of other magics frowned upon in other lands are considered just different magic forms to be learned and studied at the guild. Wizards who desire this type of freedom, and camaraderie, still move to Rookroost to conduct their studies.
The Guild of Wizardry sells their spells to those who can afford them and are in good standings with them. Like most things in Rookroost, you need to be a guilded citizen for a request for a spell even to be entertained, and even then, there is no guarantee that you'll be able to purchase one.
*NOTE: Spells above level 4 can be acquired, but there are no set rates or prices. Spells of higher than 4th level need to be negotiated if allowed at all. The Lord of Letters having the last word on these transactions.
In this 4th installment for the City of Rookroost we take another look at the power structure of the city and its power brokers. Many different factions vie for power within its walls, and outside of them. Once again thanks to everyone that have given me inspiration from Nigel Findley, Erik Mona, Gary Holian, Sean K. Reynolds, Frederick Weining, Casey Brown, and all the fabulous BK authors and lastly Gygax himself.
The Bagmen (Tax Collectors)
By far, the most hated of all organizations in Rookroost are the Bagmen. They are called Bagmen because they always have several empty burlap or leather sacks on their persons for collecting valuables from the residents of those they visit. Bagmen report directly to the Lord of Brick, and only the Lord of Brick knows their true identities. Bagmen wear burlap sacks on their heads with eye holes cut into them when conducting official business to conceal their identities. Bagmen come from all walks of life, and there is no set type of person recruited into their ranks. The organization is mostly covert with the bulk of its members merely spying on targets to track assets and to make sure they know where and when to strike.
Among the Bagmen, a select group of thugs is tasked with the physical extraction of wealth from guilded citizens delinquent on their taxes. These goon squads are a mix of people and are chosen not just for their ability to crack skulls, but also their ability to be discreet. While forced tax collection is not uncommon, the dragging of a guild member's name through the mud because of tax evasion is avoided when possible.
Recruits to the Bagmen are also the most vetted of all the official organizations in the city. The Council of Lords realizing they need to keep infiltration from the Congress down to a minimum. Bagmen are meant to be impartial, and the collection of taxes is to be kept separate from current politics.
Bagmen generally wear no armor and carry nothing more than clubs and daggers as their primary goal is not to inflict bodily harm but to collect taxes. Each Bagman carries a unique silver coin with the Seal of their office as an official Tax Collector. Not a foolproof method of identification and counterfeit coins can be found, especially among those looking to impersonate Bagmen to rob others. Impersonation of a Bagman, however, carries the ultimate punishment in Rookroost, death.
The Red Guard
The Red Guard is a new addition to Rookroost and is the personal army of The Lord Marshall Mortoth. In the Great Old One's realms, Mortoth is a minor lord with lands and thus has his own army. Unlike the hoards of Iuz, they are well trained and wear a standardized uniform of red. Because of this, the Red Guard soldiers are easily distinguishable from the rabble that makes up the bulk of the Great Old One's army. Another difference between Mortoth's army and those of the Great Old One is that the vast majority are either human or half-orc. While humans are not unknown in the lands of Iuz, they are not the majority, and because of this, the bulk of Mortoth's Red Guard has been recruited from lands outside the kingdom of Iuz. Their weapons, armor, and fighting styles vary wildly, but all of them are loyal to Mortoth. In addition to the ranks of armed mercenaries in the Red Guard, Mortoth employs several wizards and a handful of priests of Hextor, a god of war and battle.
Members of the Red Guard realize their lord is a power player within the hierarchy of both the lands of Iuz and now Rookroost. Still, they have no loyalty to either of those organizations. The Red Guard is loyal to Mortoth and only Mortoth. There have been several attempts to infiltrate the tight-knit organization by the Congress. Each time, it has led to public hangings in Raven's Square. While a common sight in the city, the Red Guard does not get involved in city affairs unless ordered. They do not act as a secondary watch for the city and will not attempt to break up crimes if they see them being committed.
The Red Guard is stationed at The Slab, the old Rookroost army fortress just outside of Outwall. A smaller contingency of Red Guards and the bulk of the wizards, priests, and high ranking officers live inside The General's Tower in the Peak District, which they patrol and guard for Mortoth.
The Night Merchants
The night merchants is the name given to the teams of licensed collectors of the dead. So-called because they mainly ply their trade after dark when most deaths occur in the city.
To become a Night Merchant, the interested party much first buy a license, which costs between 10 to 15gp for a year. This gives the licensed individual the right to collect cadavers from the streets and turn them into the House of the Dead at a 1gp per corpse rate. Night Merchants also make spare coin from selling whatever they find on the bodies, which isn't much. Still, every now and again, some choice items are found.
The night merchants are feared like boogie men, and it is not totally untrue that some of them have been known to murder people simply to turn their bodies in for coin. The business is so good that competition between groups of Night Merchants is not uncommon, and the body of a licensed Night Merchant can be turned in for payment like any other.
While those who become Night Merchants don't have a uniform, most have taken to the habit of wearing masks. These masks are usually of skulls, demons and devils, and other scary creatures. The tradition goes back to the earliest of the Night merchants and their desire not to be recognized while doing their macabre work. Being known as a Night Merchant tends to have an ill effect on one's social life as they are considered murders and supernatural killers. At first, Night Merchants simply covered their faces with scarves, but over time the tradition evolved into masks playing off the natural uneasiness people have towards them. Night Merchants find that playing up their bad reputation keeps others from interfering in their work.
In addition to their masks, nearly all Night Merchants have a small cart. They either pull these carts themselves or have them drawn by pack animals. These carts have also evolved from simple wooden carts into elaborately decorated affairs with paintings and carvings, generally depicting the afterlife. Some of the carts are even enchanted with runes of protection against the undead.
Not surprisingly, a fair number of Night Merchants are followers of Nurell, and Wee Jas, two gods of death. There are rampant rumors of Night Merchants collecting bodies to raise them later as undead, but if such a thing were occurring, the city would put a quick stop to it.
Regardless of how or why a person becomes a Night Merchant, they are nearly always very competent individuals, at the least the ones that last are. Rookroost, after dark, is a perilous place even with their reputation to help protect them.
In this 3rd installment for the City of Rookroost we take a closer look at the power structure of the city and begin examining the power brokers that rule it. Once again thanks to everyone that have given me inspiration from Nigel Findley, Erik Mona, Gary Holian, Sean K. Reynolds, Frederick Weining, Casey Brown, and all the fabulous BK authors and lastly Gygax himself.
Tips on Running Rookroost
Rookroost is a dangerous place and always has been. The home of bandits and brigands it was founded by hard men and women who wanted to enjoy their ill-gotten gains in peace. The most influential citizens and businessmen banded together to form guilds. From those guilds, a government was developed to ensure that everyone could do business in Rookroost. While this government system is sufficient for the guilds, it did little to protect those unaffiliated with them. This simple truth holds true even today. Rookroost is a city for its guilded members. Those who are not part of the system live without the benefits of citizenship.
The game master should keep this in mind whenever player characters interact with NPC's and when NPC's interact with each other. All citizens within the Peak, Inner-City, and Outer-City districts are supposed to be guilded members. Unguilded members can purchase a pass for the day to enter the Outer-City, but, only guilded members have access to the Inner-City and Peak districts. Outwall is a whole other story as this section of town is not patroled or policed and is lawless. If an unguilded citizen were to rob or assault, a guilded citizen, the penalty would be death. This helps to keep people from blatantly attacking others if they are unsure of their guild status.
Guilded citizens get special treatment in the city in the form of price breaks and the law's protection. This distinction should be made apparent to players right away. When shopping, looking for information, or selling items, not being a guilded citizen will be evident in the price differences.
Unless the players plan on only staying for a short period of time, mostly in Outwall, they should consider becoming members of a guild. Outwall is larger than the other three districts combined. Still, despite the size difference, the best shops and merchandise are found inside the city's walled sections.
Most people in Ravensrook are paranoid and cautious by nature. Taking someone just on their word is rare, and proof of one's intentions is paramount. The presence of Talons is not a guarantee that violence will not erupt if the violence is directed towards unguilded citizens. Squads of Talons have watched robberies, and even murders occur right in front of them if they knew the victims were ungilded.
During the day, Rookroost still has its share of disturbances and problems, but these mostly occur in Outwall, and to a lesser extent, the Outer-City. Violence in the Inner-City, and the Peak, is not tolerated even by guilded citizens. Only the wealthiest and most powerful guilded citizens can get away with it, and even then, it would draw a considerable amount of ire from the Council of Lords.
Rookroost, after dark, is an entirely different city, as outlined in that section. It should be made clear that no one likes to be caught out after dark alone. Businesses close sharply at dusk with only taverns staying open later. It is essential to impress upon players the change in the city's entire demeanor after dark. Even the Peak district is not unaffected by this change as no one travels by themselves after dark in Rookroost. Those that must be out after dark generally do so accompanied by two to three armed escorts or companions.
Another ever-present aspect of the city is the fact that the city is occupied by enemy forces. The Red Guard can be seen moving about the city in groups. Red Guards are treated with respect, but no one goes out of their way to be overly courteous. Red Guards are never seen in a group smaller than four, and they are always armed. Fortunately, Mortoth makes sure the Red Guard are well behaved, and those that get out of line are punished appropriately. The horde of humanoids that Mortoth commands is camped several miles outside of the city, but only a limited number of them are allowed into the city at any one time, and then only into Outwall.
Despite Mortoth's strict orders which keep his troops in line, there is still a large amount of violence and sabotage against his forces. These acts are usually performed by rebels and are outlined later. Because of this, citizens are uneasy anytime the Red Guard or the humanoids of Iuz are about.
Chartered Guilds and Organizations
While the top of the political food chain is the Council of Lords and the General, the foundation upon which it is built is the Chartered guilds. Becoming a chartered guild requires the interested party to pay a fee, and then the Council of Lords will vote on whether or not to grant them a charter. The cost is not refundable, even if the applicant is denied. The fee generally runs around one thousand gold pieces. The voting process is a miny powerplay because new guilds can erode the influence of existing guilds and bolster others' positions. Because of this, bribes are often paid to the Lords of the Council to help sway their vote. Bribes generally cost more than the application fee. If approved, the guild will be put into the annuals and gain the privileges of being a chartered guild. The most important benefit of being a chartered guild is the tax break on their goods and services, and access to the walled districts. Also, all of their guild members will now have protection under the law as guilded citizens.
Guilds generally charge a quarterly fee for membership. The benefits beyond membership vary greatly depending on the guild. Most provide work and resources to their members. However, there are some guilds that exist simply to grant members the benefits of being guilded.
The Power Brokers
While the guilds of Rookroost rule the city through the Council of Lords, some groups and organizations that are not guilds wield considerable influence. Members in these groups are treated like guilded citizens even though they are not simply because of their association with that group. Influential groups like these are few, as the city, and the guilds, dislike them being outside of the city's established power structure.
The Brae Clan – Halfings for Hire
The notorious Brae clan moved to Rookroost from Urnst roughly a hundred years ago, fleeing the kingdom's authorities. The Brae Clan were not unknown in the city as they had been funneling stolen goods to it for years before moving there. The clan's arrival was no surprise as they had made arrangements and sent gifts to the Congress, Rookroost's thieves guild, letting them know they were coming. When they arrived, however, no one expected the influence they would end up having. The Brae's as they are known are not your average Halflings. True, they like the finer things in life like most halflings, but they aren't willing to work for it if they can use their natural gifts to take it for themselves. Halfling thieves are not uncommon, but what is uncommon about the Brae's is their tenacity. Brae's are willing to fight anything or anyone that is in their way. Brae's are fearless, and when mixed with their race's natural luck, they can be deadly enemies, especially since there are so many of them. At last count, the Brae clan numbered nearly two hundred in Rookroost, with smaller branches of the clan found throughout the Bandit Kingdoms.
Once in Ravensrook, they went right to work, and their reputation as mercenaries grew quickly. The Brae's have never liked working for anyone except themselves, still, the clan elders knew they would have to relocate the clan again if they challenged Rookroost's power structure. As a result, a deal was struck with the Congress allowing the Brae Clan to operate freely. The agreement required that they not target Congress members and cleared questionable jobs through them first. The Brae's disliked the arrangement, but it quickly turned to their advantage as they became the Congress's number one contractor.
Most people assume that a Halfling in Ravensrook is a Brae, and most times, they are correct. Those halflings in the city that are not a Brae will eventually receive a visit from them, as the clan is always recruiting, and they only hire halflings. These meetings are always cordial, but the Brae's will let the halfling know that the only halflings that can work in town are Braes. The Brae's will keep an eye on the halfling to make sure they comply, and if they don't, it will trigger a less friendly visit from them.
The Brae Clan are currently on high alert because of the war and the occupation of the city. There is even talk amongst the elders about possibly moving back to their old stomping grounds down south. It's been so long they feel that it's likely no one will remember them, but they have yet to act on that plan.
The Congress - Rookroost's Thieves Guild
The first and oldest organization in Ravensrook is the thieves guild or the Congress as they call themselves after the term used for a ravens' flock. Besides the standard brigands and bandits that flocked to Rookroost, a fair number of individuals were skilled in more than just killing and beating a man over the head. These men and women would make up the backbone of what would eventually become the Congress.
Today the primary front for the Congress is the Benedict's Trading Company. The trading company is a legitimate chartered merchant guild and is staffed mostly by non-members of the Congress. Still, the back rooms hide the inner working of the criminal organization. Besides Benedict's the Congress has two dozen other safe-houses and storage facilities throughout the city.
The current boss of the Congress is Elara Mornstar. While she pretends that she is a simple merchant, everyone knows her real role within the city. The recent war and subsequent occupation of the city took Elara by surprise. In the end, it taught her just how unprepared the Congress was for large scale calamities. She realized that she needed allies, so she started looking for them within Rookroost and throughout the region. A tense but stable relationship has formed between Elara and Mortoth, both realizing neither are prepared if Iuz decides to change the current situation. Mortoth realizes the Congress is the glue that keeps the city together and functioning. Elara realizes that no one is coming to help them or liberate them from the current situation. Mortoth might have wrestled some power away from the Congress and the city, but he's still the enemy in the end.
The Guard (Talons)
The third-oldest institution in Rookroost is the city guard, more commonly called Talons. The Talons are unlike guards found in other cities because their primary objective has never been to protect the citizens. Instead, the Talon's duty is to protect the property and persons of guilded citizens. Visitors to Ravensrook who feel they have been slighted, robbed or assaulted, are shocked to find out the guard unwilling to help and unsympathetic to those who are not guilded.
The Talons' ranks have never been filled by the most adept or well-trained individuals for the position. Mostly recruits have been those that received their job through association to high ranking guild members. Others gained their position through their reputation on the streets as someone to not be messed with. This mixture made them unpredictable when it came to their effectiveness. Corruption within their ranks was legendary and heavily infiltrated by Congress stooges. In the early days, the Congress members made it a point to cover up this connection, but things had grown so lax that members of the Congress no longer cared. The Talons were supposed to be the merchants' enforcement arm, but they never liked paying for it. So over the years, this led to an extremely corrupt institution even by Rookroost's standards.
If you ask citizens today if any good has come out of the city's occupation, most will say the reform of the city guard. Under Mortoth, the ranks of The Guard were purged and refilled mostly by ex-members of Rookroost's defunct army. In addition to purging the dead weight from its ranks, Mortoth changed the command structure and removed it from answering directly to the Council of Lords. A new Commandant was installed along with his own seat at the council table. The position of Commandant was filled from within, and not through election but by appointment from Mortoth. These moves have changed a once laughable city guard into a force that is respected and even feared to some extent.
The biggest loser in the reform of the Talons was the Congress. For the most part before Mortoth's reform, they could conduct business unhindered because the Talons were deep in their pocket. Little could be done about it unless the General mobilized the army. Now they must be careful of the Talons when conducting their nefarious work or run the risk of being arrested. Members of the Congress arrested by the Talons are almost always released, but being detained can ruin a job.
The Talons' mission hasn't changed, and their primary duty is still the protection of the persons and the goods of guilded citizens. Of course, they might break up a mugging or a fight to check and see if anyone can prove they are a guilded member, but then leave those participants alone if no one is. Talons live either in barracks at The Nest, as the Guard Keep is called, or have private housing subsidized by the city. The pay for Talons was also increased by Mortoth to ensure loyalty and to try and help prevent bribery. Each guard is outfitted with leather armor, a club/baton, and a spear. Before Mortoth reorganized them, guards, simply wore black armbands to distinguish themselves. Talons now wear a black surcoat with the city's raven insignia emblazoned on the front in silver thread.
In the first installment of my works on Rookroost We looked at and overview of the city and the first of the three heads of power in the city, The General. In part 2 we look at the Council of Lords.
The Council of Lords
The secret to Rookroost's success was their three tiers of government. The General is the figurehead of the city and the go-between for the marauding gangs that founded it. The thieves guild, or Congress as they call themselves, and is the only organization above the Council's authority. And lastly, the guilds that make up the Council of Lords. These three factions represent the most powerful groups in the city.
Unlike most cities, where the government tries to protect all their citizens, the Council of Lord's only objective is to protect the city's guilded members. The Guilds form the Council of Lords, and the Congress itself is a recognized guild. Guilds pay dues to the city to be acknowledged as chartered guilds, membership in one of these guilds are referred to as being guilded.
Only guilded citizens have protection under the law. Only guilded citizens can freely come and go, or live within, the Inner-City, or the Peak District. Only guilded members can own property in these districts. Only guilded citizens can engage in mercantile activities in these districts. Trafficking in certain controlled goods and services such as alcohol, drugs, and weapons, is also restricted to guilded citizens. Unguilded citizens caught trafficking these items in quantity are severely punished unless they buy writs of permission from the Council of Lords. This structure of government builds a type of controlled lawlessness within the city. It also allows the Council of Lords and the Congress to both operate and thrive within it.
Surprisingly, since the occupation, things have been running smoother than ever before, as Mortoth's steady hand leads the city. He has enacted changes that have all been unanimously approved by a Council too afraid to say no. Where corruption was rampant and driving up costs, new regulations have stifled these practices and increased productivity. Most notably, changing the Talons, as the city guard is called, from the guilds' personal guards into a legitimate peacekeeping force and giving the Commandant of the Guard a seat at the Council of Lords.
All laws are made by and passed by the Council of Lords. They can also strike down, amend, or change any laws that they find not working to their liking. This is done with a simple majority vote of the Council. The Council now has eight seats with the addition of the Lord of the Watch. So far, this has not led to any deadlocks since the majority vote in line with Mortoth.
The Council of Lords is untouchable except by fellow council members. If a council member is believed to have broken the law, other Lords of the council have to level charges against them. To physically harm or steal from a Lord is an automatic death sentence. This does not prevent Lords from being assassinated if the price is right.
Who can be on the Council of Lords
When a vacancy opens on the Council of Lords, those interested in the position declare themselves to the Council. These names are then posted in Raven's Square, and after one week, a vote is held with all the guilded citizens in the city getting one vote. After the voting is done, the results are tallied, and the new council member is declared. Council members on the Council of Lords hold their position for life, or until they retire, so the vote is taken very seriously. Despite the seriousness of the event, there is a large amount of vote-buying, promise-making, and intimidation accompanying each election. Violence has broken out in the past, but the Talons are there to ensure that large scale riots or brawls are put down quickly.
The seats on the Council of Lords
The General: The General not only acts as the city's figurehead, but the General is also its chief ambassador. Most importantly, he oversees all the marauding gangs that are based out of Rookroost. In addition to these responsibilities, the Governor is the top military commander of the Rookroost army, which is now defunct. The army was a separate organization from the city guard.
The 1st Lord of Merchants: The 1st Lord of Merchants is simply a cover name for Rookroost's thieves guild, or as they call themselves, the Congress. The oldest institution in Rookroost the Congress makes sure that no illegal operations are being conducted against the Council of Lords or chartered guilds without council approval.
The 2nd Lord of Merchants: The 2nd Lord of Merchants is the actual Lord who oversees the merchant activity of Rookroost. They make sure that trade is flowing and that no one guild can put together a monopoly on trade within the city. The 2nd Lord of Merchants travels extensively to other countries. He has even been to the domains of The Great Old One to meet with their trade representatives.
The Lord of Arms: The lord of arms oversees the guilds and companies of sellswords and mercenaries that call Rookroost home. The Lord of Arms almost always comes from one of the established mercenary troops. This was a lesson learned the hard way. Once a Money Lender bought his way into the position, years ago, and was promptly killed in the street by guilded mercenaries.
The Lord of Brick: The rather unflattering title of the Lord of Brick, is very misleading as the Lord is one of the most influential and powerful members of the Council. The Lord of Brick oversees the infrastructure of the city itself. Called the hardest working Lord, the Lord of Brick has a steady list of projects that he must find funding for. The Lord of Brick's real power lies in the fact that the Bagmen, as the tax collectors are commonly called, all report to The Lord of Brick. With the mundane nature of the job and its need for bookkeeping, most people who end up filling this position come from the tradesman class.
The Lord of Letters: Another seat on the Council of Lords with a less than illustrious title is the Lord of Letters. In a city where the illiterate far outnumbers the literate, it might seem like a useless position, and it would be if all it had to do with were reading and signs. However, the Lord of Letters oversees all communications and correspondents on an official level. Still, more importantly, it manages the arcane practitioners of the city and the mighty Guild of Wizardry. The Lord of Letters is always a member of the Guild of Wizardry, although there has been an odd bard or priest in the past to hold the position. The Lord of Letters' main concerns is making sure that some fool wizard does not blow the place up or unleash a magical plague.
The Lord of Tradesmen: The backbone of the city is its tradesmen. These blacksmiths, fletchers, tanners, and a host of other tradesmen provide the necessary skills to make Rookroost more than just a collection of brigands and bandits looking to sell and trade ill-gotten gains. While the merchants move the goods, the tradesmen transform the booty brought back to Rookroost from raiding into things more easily sold in neighboring kingdoms. The smiths who operate smelting forges are incredibly adept at turning precious metal into bars. The Jewelers are highly skilled at cutting gems into smaller stones. While the brigands and the bandits of Rookroost could care less if their stolen merchandise is noticeable in neighboring markets, the buyers do.
The Lord of Temples: This Lord Councilor is elected exclusively from among the religious class's priests and clerics. Many of the city's temples have open grudges against each other, and some deities even have an open doctrine that is hostile to other religions. Despite this, there is one god that all are indifferent towards or actively acknowledge the divinity of, Istus, the goddess of fate. Since the beginning of the Council of Lords, the Lord of Temples' seat has been filled by a priest or priestess of Istus.
The Lord of the Watch: The Lord of the Watch is the newest seat on the Council of Lords and has upset many because it declawed the Council by taking away its muscle. While the city guard's mission has not changed, they are no longer under the command of the Council. The Lord of the Watch has his own position among them and can now interpret the laws and rulings of the Council as he sees fit. The city guard now has its own source of revenue derived from the taxes levied from entry tolls paid when entering the Inner-city and Peak districts. The city guard is no longer at the whim and mercy of what the Council decides to give them for outfitting and paying their guards.
Hello and welcome into my dive into the most famous city in the Bandit Kingdoms, Rookroost. The work that you will see here is some of the work I did for my Stream Return to the Bandit Kingdoms, and what I kept elaborating on. Originally I intended to release this as a separate stand alone setting called Ravensrook, but I've changed my mind. I would prefer to release it all for general consumption and enjoyment. There will be a map coming for the city as I had envisioned it as well. Enjoy.
The History of Rookroost
The history of Rookroost goes back several hundred years to 329 CY, a time when the region was beginning to get its notorious reputation as the home of bandits and brigands. One of these bandits, Latavius, founded a camp where bandits could meet, barter, and sell goods they had plunder. The camp was an instant success, and Latavius soon found that he could make more gold through his camp than he ever did raiding. The camp quickly grew into a small town, and it took its name from a large congress of ravens that nested on a nearby rock outcropping. The descendants of those same ravens live in Rookroost till this day. A legend surrounding the ravens of Rookroost has grown as the city has, stating that so long as the ravens roost there, the city will never be conquered. This association with ravens has also given rise to legends of the race of magical beings that can take on either a raven or a birdlike humanoid form. It is considered bad luck to kill one of the Rookroost ravens because of the legends, and fear of reprisals from the bird people. Latavius never got to see Rookroost grow into a city having died only a few years after its founding under dubious circumstances.
Over the next couple of centuries, Ravensrook changed and evolved as did the lands around it. Soon petty bandit leaders and warlords were staking out their own claims and territories. At the same time, collectively, the region was referred to as the Lands of the Free Lords. Some areas grew into small kingdoms. In contrast, others remained lawless regions. During this time, Rookroost turned into a proper city with more residents living off the trade of banditry than actual raiding.
Until the Great Old One's invasion, the lands of the Free Lords enjoyed an unspoken alliance between each other. They would band together and help defend each other against hostile aggression from their neighbors when needed. While many united to fight the Great Old One, others afraid of his demonic power, allied with him. The Free Lords only stood a chance against Iuz united but fractured as they were the whole region soon fell. Fortunately, Rookroost avoided being sacked as the ruling factions decided to ally with the evil overlord to spare the city and themselves.
Once the fighting was over, life under the heel of an overlord began, something the Free Lords were unaccustomed to. Rookroost was forced to pay a quarterly tribute of coins and fight men or slaves to bolster Iuz's war machine. In addition to tribute, the city was occupied by forces of the Great Old One. Also, Rookroost was turned into a provincial capital, and Lord Marshall Arus Mortoth arrived with a garrison of Iuzian troops to watch over the city.
The final blow to Rookroost's authority came when General Pernevi was assassinated along with several members of the Council of Lords, the ruling elite of the city, during the Night of the Silent Death. The vacant seats on the Council were quickly filled, but the time-honored tradition of electing a new General was turned into a sham. Lord Marshall Mortoth ran for the Generalship of Rookroost unopposed. He won in the smallest margin of victory in Rookroost history.
With his new authority, Mortoth moved his personal troops into the city and disbanded the Rookroost army. His actions went unquestioned as the Council knew to do so was futile. Those foolish enough to speak out against Toth disappeared or turned up dead. The Rookroost thieves guild, called the Congress, watched quietly calculating their options. Alara Mornstar, the head of The Congress, had not the men, or the weapons to oppose Mortoth or the horde of evil humanoids bivouacked outside the city. Which lead to rumors of Mortoth and Mornstar possibly having come to an understanding. Overnight Rookroost became wholly under the control of the minions of The Great Old One.
While life has not returned to normal in Rookroost, it has fallen into a new pattern. Trade and smuggling have resumed in earnest with a cut of the profits being funneled back to Iuz. The raiding and marauding into neighboring lands have continued, but only on a smaller scale not to break the treaty that ended the Greyhawk Wars. The kingdoms of the Free Lords that were wiped out have been settled by humanoids and Iuz's allies to ensure that a military presence remains in the Bandit Kingdoms.
The current State of Rookroost
Lord marshall Mortoth has settled in comfortably as the new General of Rookroost and started mending fences with the locals. While he kept the city guard, known as Talons, intact, his own Red Guard took over the Army's role. Resistance towards Mortoth rule from the Council of Lords eroded as it became apparent, he wanted to keep the city's structures intact. Mortoth is shrewd and calculating and shows surprising restraint for a cambion.
The popular belief is that Mortoth plans to break away from Iuz and set himself up as the ruler of Rookroost and its surrounding lands. The Red Guard is made up exclusively of humans and half-orcs and is well trained. While many of Rookroost's army were released into the general public, a substantial amount was folded into the Red guard, helping to swell its numbers. The Red Guard is stationed inside of Rookroost while the horde Mortoth lead from the north is located several miles outside of the city.
Despite Mortoth's efforts, Rookroost is still a powder keg waiting to blow. The flood of refugees now living in there includes troublemakers and rebels from many different factions. Fortunately, for Mortoth, old rivalries still run deep between Rookroost's old guard, keeping them from banding together to challenge him.
While in charge of Rookroost, Lord Marshall Mortoth is not in charge of the Bandit Kingdoms, that command falls to Cranzer with resides in the fortress of Riftcrag at the lip of the Rift Canyon. The Lesser Boneheart wizard has his hands full with rebels in the Rift Cayon, The Tangels Forest, and the Fellreev Forest, giving him little time to be worried about other portions of the Bandit Kingdoms. Mortoth has taken full advantage of this and has even gone as far as to completely ignore Cranzer. While it infuriates the wizard, Cranzer can do little about it.
Night of Silent Death
On the night of the 12th of Sunsebb, many citizens of Rookroost were assassinated. Nearly all, save a handful, were assassinated with poison. All of those slain were also high-ranking members of well-established chartered guilds and even a few Lords from the Council of Lords. The most prominent of the murders was General Pernevi, the Lord of Arms, and the Lord of Letters. While no one took credit for the assassinations, the blame was laid squarely at the feet of Lord Marshall Mortoth. Mortoth quickly and publicly addressed the remaining Council of Lords and the heads of the chartered guilds stating that he, nor any of his men, had a role in the killings. Of course, this was ignored as little more than talk, but those remaining Lords and heads of the respective chartered guilds couldn't help but notice that none of those killed were from The Congress, Ravensrook's thieves guild. Elara Mornstar has never denied or confirmed any of these rumors. Instead, uses the uncertainty of it to her advantage. The truth is that the Congress was paid, and paid well, for committing the murders for Mortoth.
The importance and long-lasting effects of this night cannot be understated. Before the Night of Silent Deaths, Mortoth and his occupying force, while not opposed openly, were opposed by every other means the leading citizens of Rookroost had. After the Night of Silent Deaths, that opposition evaporated, and all those that remained sought to win his favor. Even when he dismantled the army and reformed the city guard into an organization not under the direct control of the Council of Lords, it drew little more than grumblings.
The Power Structure of Rookroost
As the lands of the Bandit Kingdoms evolved, so did Rookroost. The power structure within the city initially was focused around Latavius and his men, until he was overthrown and replaced by another strong-armed brigand. This became the blueprint of the succession of power for the next hundred years. Still, eventually, the city became a more complicated place. It could not support such a drastic shake-up of its power structure every handful of years. The Guilds and the strongest of the marauding gangs worked out a compromise that saw the birth of the Council of Lords and the formation of the first city guard.
After the Council and the city guard's creation, an election system was designed to elect a new Generals for the city and its surrounding lands. Those that sought the position would petition the Council of Lords for approval. Those that were approved could then run for the Generalship. The General was given authority over all matters of the state outside of Rookroost. The General oversaw the cities defense and became the primary diplomat for the city toward all other organizations and kingdoms. The day to day workings of the city itself was transferred over to the new Council of Lords and Rookroost as we know it today was born.
When the General's position becomes vacant, the Council of Lords declares a time for Making of Announcements has begun. All those wishing to run for the position have one week to appear before the Council and say so. The next phase lasts for thirty days and is called The Rally. The Rally is for those who have officially entered consideration to be the new General to rally their support. Nothing is off the table during this 30 days except open violence on the streets. All attempts to influence those on the Council for their votes and efforts to eliminate their rivals are encouraged. After the Rally Period has ended, the Council of Lords elects the next General of the city.
Currently, the ruling elite that makes up the Council of Lords is wondering what might come next. Since the purge of the Council of Lords, and the city's army, Rookroost has fallen into its old ways once more, but for how long? The current structure will only remain intact so long as Mortoth is in command. Iuz is notorious for having truly evil and chaotic people working for him, which makes Mortoth an anomaly. The Lord Marshall, who is far from chaotic and needlessly evil, could get replaced by a bloodthirsty tyrant without warning. Any new overlord appointed by Iuz might strip everything away from guilded members of Rookroost, which are what the city's real citizens are called. This uncertianty has forced the ruling elite of Rookroost to rally around Mortoth, including Elara Mornstar and The Congress.
Traditionally the figurehead of the city, The General, was nearly always one of the high-ranking members of a guild or one of the power groups of Rookroost. With the position having become an actual job with responsibilities, the marauding gang' leaders had stopped vying for it long ago. These days, who will become the next General, is usually decided upon long before the Rally Period's spectacle begins. Those elected to the position are often nothing more than yes men, people who will not get in the way of business. All the Council od Lords wants from a General is a figurehead that the common rabble will listen to. Over the years, there have been plenty of men and women to sit in the General's palace, and not all of them were simple yes men, even if they started out that way. Despite usually coming from one of the factions within the city, the General gives up all property and rights to any guild memberships when accepting the position. This was done to give the impression of being unaffiliated, even if that was not the case.
Pernavi, the last General, was a competent man that had come up through the Merchants Guild before being voted into the General's office. Men of his caliber were usually given respect for the influence their coin afforded. Still, Pernavi was ruthless, and he outspent everyone when it came to eliminating his opponents. The Congress was more than happy to take his coin in exchange for removing serious competitors.
Ravensrook prospered under Pernavi, but despite the prosperity, no one saw the invasion coming. In the early stages of the Greyhawk Wars, the Free Lords began devising plans of how best they could benefit from it. Still, those plans quickly changed to ones of defense and how to survive the hoard that swept down upon them. The Council of Lords, with the urging from the General, accepted an offer of alliance from the Iuz, a decision that Pernavi would later come to regret.
Two weeks after the troops of the Great Old One camped outside of Rookroost, in a show of force, Pernevi died at the hands of assassins. The following week the notices for the coming election were posted seeking those interested in the position to come forward and announce their intention. Only Mortoth proclaimed his intention to run. The response from the city was unanimous and silent. They could not deny Mortoth the right to run as it would delegitimize their whole structure of government. No one wanted to run against him because they knew they would get no support from the city's traditional power players. That was the day that the citizens of Rookroost knew they had been conquered. The reins of power had been handed to the Great Old One's minions, and not one battle for the defense of Rookroost had been fought.
Despite being a half-fiend, Mortoth is not like most officers under the command of Iuz. Standing six and a half feet tall, he is massively built, and his skin is a deep crimson. Large ram-like horns curl out from the side of his head, and he has a mane of jet-black hair. Mortoth also has a pronounced under-bite with jutting tusks similar to a half-orc. He always dresses in pristine armor and suits almost entirely in shades of red. Mortoth hates humanoids, and demons even more, but tolerates them enough to work with them. While his voice is deep and resounding, he does not raise it without reason. While he seems a fair and even-minded man, he has been known to fly into fits of rage, rages that he sometimes regrets after he has calmed down. Mortoth fights with magic as well as melee prowess and prefers to use a short spear in combat.
Mortoth didn't wait long to begin exercising his authority as the new General. His first act was to disband the Rookroost army, putting many trained soldiers out of work. Then he marched his own personal troops, the Red Guard, into the city to enforce the disbandment. The Hilltop Keep, the traditional home of the officers of the army of Rookroost, now became the headquarters of the Red Guard. It was feared that the unemployed soldiers presented a serious threat to the stability of Rookroost, but Mortoth began hiring on the best of these candidates into the Red Guard to swell its ranks. Seemingly overnight, a large portion of men that had been dressed in the black uniforms of the Rookroost army now wore the red uniforms of the Red Guard.
Kostana, Mortoth's second in command of the horde he led to Rookroost for Iuz, began sending weekly reports of his activities to his superiors Dorakaa. Despite this, Mortoth still remains in power. Kostana has heard nothing from Dorakaa, or the Supreme Commander of the conquered Bandit Kingdoms, Cranzer. Despite his fiendish side, Mortoth hates chaos and despises the Iuz's empire. This leads to many questions of why he was chosen as a field commander. It's a well-known fact that The Great Old One's armies suffer nearly as many casualties from fighting amongst themselves as they do fighting the enemy. Many point to this as the reason Mortoth was given this command. The Wealth of Rookroost and the lands of the Free Lords are valuable to Iuz's long term goals. The resources that he pulls from these lands help to fuel his war machine on other fronts.
Seeking to strengthen his position, Mortoth has been in secret negotiations with Chief Ulgun, formerly of the Horned Society. Ulgun leads one of the largest and fiercest Hobgoblin tribes in the Horned Society's now-defunct lands. Using the confusion of the coup that overthrew the Hierarchs, Ulgun attacked rival Hobgoblin tribes catching them unaware. When the dust settled, Iuz was in control of the lands of the Horned Society, but Ulgun was the supreme commander of its hobgoblin armies. Not ready to take on the Great Old One's hordes, Ulgun made an alliance with him, an alliance he intends to break one day. Mortoth is close to convincing the orderly and efficient hobgoblins to move into his lands and become the backbone of his new kingdom. Until Mortoth has Ulgun's backing, however, the new General of Rookroost waits and bides his time.