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.