Most of the major cities of Ansalon have at least one thing in common – they all have one or more thieves’ guilds. These guilds operate on the wrong side of the law but in spite of this, some of them serve an important purpose when it comes to the every day life in the city.
Unlike other organizations such as the Wizards of High Sorcery, these guilds are independent of each other, meaning that there is no centralized governing body. Some of the guilds maintain some sort of contact with their fellow thieves whereas others jealously guard their territory. History has documented covert battles between rivaling thieves’ guilds and even infighting and power struggles have occurred.
Some of the older guilds practice a strict hierarchical system of government, which appears to ensure a certain measurement of stability. Some guild masters have even assumed legitimate positions of power such as Talbard van Ashen of Daltigoth who is one of the directing oligarchs. In Palanthas the guild is mostly involved in the covert warfare between the merchant houses, always finding rich rewards for a job well done.
In the smaller towns scattered across Ansalon, the guilds are usually very small and fairly insignificant in relation to the power structure. Many thieves residing in these small towns have been banned from the bigger cities for various reasons, thus, they fear for their own safety. Great deals of these thieves are rather paranoid and usually work under a false name.
The Guild of Palanthas
The Palanthas guild is headed by the master Dantrag Nenshen who has been the guild master for almost two decades. During his rule, the guild has experienced prosperity like never before, but at a cost.
When the trade wars started the guild was hired to by both sides as spies and there was work enough for anybody who wanted it. However, as the conflict escalated the jobs became more and more dangerous. The defining moment happened when a group of master thieves were hired to break into the manor of Mordread Gemerald. This was the first time a head of a merchant house was targeted but the operation was deemed fairly safe nevertheless. When the party did not return the guild master assumed that they had fled town with their bounty, however, the next night he found out what had happened to them. The mutilated bodies of the master thieves were found in the inner chambers of the guild with a small note attached to it: “Thus is the fate of ye who are found in forbidden realms”. Since that night, the guild has not officially accepted any contracts directly involving the headquarters of the merchant houses.
The biggest problem for the guild is that Dantrag Nenshen might find himself in a position where he has to pick sides in the trade war. He is reluctant to do this but given the power of the houses he may not have a choice. If Nenshen picks one house over the other, he will certainly incur the wrath of the opposing house and most likely the destruction of the guild. Therefore, he attempts to tread a narrow path of neutrality. He is currently considering denying both of the houses the services of the guild but he fears that this may result in an unending enmity of both houses.
At the same time, Dantrag Nenshen fears for his own safety. Reliable intelligence suggests that one or more of the merchant houses plan on replacing him with someone loyal to their cause. Dantrag has not succumbed to paranoia yet, but he has tightened security and he is never seen in public without armed escorts. He has employed the services of several medium ranked mages to ensure his safety, but he does not feel secure behind their magical wards and protective spells.
Besides being involved in the trade wars, the guild has various operations in Palanthas. The thieves control a large part of the gambling facilities as well as many taverns and inns. They also run contraband, which is dangerous, because the merchants lose money in account of this practice. The guild is also involved in blackmail and prostitution as well as smuggling – a practice greatly appreciated by the local mages. The guild can provide pretty much anything for the right price. Lastly, the thieves’ guild is associated with the assassins’ guild.
The Guild of Daltigoth
The guild in Daltigoth is the second largest in Ansalon. It is also the youngest guild, given that the Free City of Daltigoth, in its present state, has only been around for a few years. Ever since the last bloody battle of Daltigoth, when the ogres were slaughtered, the influence of the guild has slowly but steadily increased.
The reason why the guild has been so successful is due to the acceptance of its existence by the ruling oligarchs. The guild master, Talbard van Ashen, has even managed to merit an invitation to join the directing oligarchs, thus, becoming one of the rulers of the free city. The lords of Daltigoth believe the guild is a necessary part of the city’s structure. This does not mean that the city guard does not try to catch the thieves, but rather that the lords have a use for the rogues.
One thing that limits the power and influence of the guild is the internal power struggle that plagues the organization. Despite being a directing oligarch, Talbard van Ashen is constantly being challenged by ambitious thieves who crave his position of power. Due to his position as a directing oligarch, Talbard will most likely be forced to resign as guild master within a year or so. Since his membership of the guild is a secret he feels the stress is beginning to wear him down and he cannot resist the challengers for the guild leadership forever. Talbard’s own ambition leads him in the direction of the position of the Lord Mayor of Daltigoth. Currently, he is reluctant to challenge Richard Baglortin because he feels he cannot match the backing the Lord Mayor receives from the city’s leading mages, including the arch mage Mordread Gemerald.