Chamber of Shadows
The Chamber of Shadows is the most powerful criminal organisation in the Midrealms and has several related names, such as the Shadow Chamber but is most commonly just called the Shadows.
The organisation has its main power base in Capitoleum, where it dominates all levels of illicit behaviour. There are individual criminals working outside of the strong arm of the Shadows, but no larger groups.
Fundamentally, the Shadows isn't a cohesive whole, but a collection of various smaller gangs of criminals that follow a common goal due to internal forcings that ultimately derive from the original organisation of the Chamber of Shadows.
Most people have an extremely limited insight into the Shadows organisation and membership.
The Chamber of Shadows was originally so named as a joke on the Chamber of Commerce, as six of the seven founding members were their connections to funnel goods on the side. It started out as the "most high-end" level of a thieves' guild in Capitoleum but has evolved over time into its current "all-inclusive enclave of everything criminal" where all other criminals are controlled by power distribution, bribes, threats or violence.
The Seven's true identities (or even sexes) are only known to the leadership of the Shadows who inherit the leadership, but their pseudonyms (internally referred to as "pseudos") are: Wolf, Stack, Pale, Hand, Lamprey, Needle, Bolt, Fox and Raven. During the next decades, the Seven became one, with a new, simpler title: The Guildmaster. Wolf gained complete power in his old age, when several other out of the Seven had died and Wolf outmaneuvered Hand and Needle. To this day, the Guildmaster generally assumes one of the pseudos of the Seven.
During the time of the Seven, they used their economical power, bribing, forced and killing to gain "enough power" to fulfill their goals. It didn't take long before the goal became to "control all variables" within the continent's power centre. Besides several gangs of outright thugs under the control of the organisation, there is also a dedicated guild for thievery, burglary, bribery, forgery, assassinations and even begging (many local chapters deviate from this, however).
During the strife to reach dominance in Capitoleum, the criminal organisation turned, slowly, into a continent-wide network and can be found with some level of influence in every major city in the Realms using a local chapter. Generally, the Shadows has more influence in the lands than pure trade influence.
Over time, the Shadows has become quite bureaucratic and hierarchic. This has helped managing the (now) large organisation, but is a potential weakness if a Stripes investigator would ever find the Shadows's ledgers. As it stands, the Shadows has never faced major issues with the law and is a quite efficient network of agents (for its size) and efforts have been made to ensure its survival. Time will tell if a true challenge will ever face the organisation.
People of Capitoleum know a lot more about the Shadow Chamber than they let on. Most people know a representative, or at least "know of" one. This Shadow Chamber was originally so called as a joke on the Chamber of Commerce, and originally was just the thieve's guild, but it's now an all-inclusive enclave of everything that the Stripes do not like. Not to say that individual stripes don't enjoy a lot of the services offered in the shade, but officially they don't.
It's almost impossible to have a career in Capitoleum as a pickpocket without paying your dues to the Thieves guild, and adhere to its strict rules. Trust the administrative culture to turn thieving into a honest 8-5 profession...
These people work in symbiosis with the Stripes in many parts of town. In some parts there are hardly a single stripe, and there the Shadow Chamber makes sure that the populace isn't too taxed by theft and make sure that nobody dies that had not a large (enough) sum on his head first.
Any Stripes commander who tried to significantly alter the arrangement with the Shadow Chamber have turned up dying from some freak accident, so not much has changed in the last several decades.
The main motivator for cooperation is threat of force and force, though there is a sort of comradiership among criminals. The fabled "honour among thieves" is an idea that is readily spread among guild members, but when shit comes to shove, it's everyone for themselves. Rising to power within the guild takes a combination of physical abilities, wit and social maneuvering. Most functionaries come from, or are part of, nobility. This fact is widely rumoured and also vehemetly denied by the gentry. Such accusations, even general ones, can lead to public punishment in the stock or even lashes.
The Shadows is ultimately lead by the Guildmaster, and each city (in the case of Capitoleum, every area also has a Leader) has a local Guildmaster. When using the title Guildmaster outside of Capitoleum, it's quite situational and will probably be confusing to outsiders.
The Guildmaster leads the literal Shadow Chamber a shadowy chamber which holds a council of sorts. This council is usually referred to as just "the Chamber" and members are in charge of the various branches of the guild. The Guildmaster also holds a lot of the actual manpower directly in his palm, as well as numerous informers of each branch.
The hierarchy has x main levels:
- Guildmaster - Leader of the Shadows; the Capitoleum Guildmaster is also seen as the foremost of the Guildmasters, beyond pure power.
- Functionary - The head of a branch of the guild. Each has also it's own title.
- Master - In reference where a Thieves' Guild member speaks of his leader (the Guildmaster).
- Gamesmaster - Though the Guildmaster has a close eye on the Games Room, the Gamesmaster acts as advisor to the Guildmaster as well as the functionary for Games members.
- Fist - The Muscle leader.
- Head Driver - Leader of the Transit.
- Treasurer - Leader of the Collectors branch. Also an actual treasurer.
- Head Scribe - Leader of the Ectype Workshop.
- Head Operative - Also known as "the Head"; leading the Business.
- Handler - "Middle management" that orders footmen.
- Footman - General term. Inspired primarily by the term "footman" coming from servant staff within nobility.
Every branch has a different name and varying ways of being governed (which also changes a bit with time and opportunities).
Besides the numerous informants, each branch is fairly autonomous other than personal connections among the different members. Especially thugs and thieves are known to be used unilaterally, to help foil the law enforcement's attempts at combating the guild (blame goes on the thug and none on the guild). Most actual footmen have no idea of people in the guild besides their immediate handler and personal friends. In turn, most handlers mainly know the people below them and their functionary.
The Thieves' Guild
Among the branches of the Shadows, the Thieves' Guild is by far the most important and the Shadows is often synonymous with the Thieve's Guild. The Thieves' Guild has influence in most other branches, both through its leader as well as by pure influence. The thieving members are usually referred to as "workers".
The Games Room
The Games Room branch (members sometimes called "Gamers") is a branch dedicated to blackmail, bribery and control of "external players". Its members are often aristocrats using the Shadows for their own ends as well as the Shadows using them for theirs. A few are entirely dedicated to the guild and run front organisations that are fully (or mostly) legit.
The Guildmaster takes extra interest in the Games Room and often appoint a Games Master that is not too strong on their own (but strong enough to manage the Shadows's influencing arm). The Guildmaster often also use assets within the Games Room to play "internal players" as well.
General purpose branch whoose members are usually referred (accurately) as "thugs". There is a special relationship between the Muscle and other branches as the average intelligence of thugs isn't well suited to scheming, yet their brawn is very useful. Other branches generally treat thugs with respect (at least to their faces), don't risk their lives unnecessarily (allegedly) and pays them fairly well. In turn, thugs are used for various tasks by other branches, though mainly to rectify infringements and protection rackets.
The Transit deals with all sorts of illicit transportation; mainly smuggling by sea and to get things in or out of Capitoleum (or other major cities).
A particular type of thief who specialises in burglary. The main type of member is the collector, which is the Collectors footmen, but it also includes smiths, who are lock blacksmiths who both make (to sell) locks as well as lockpicking kits. Smiths also manufacture traps and poison syringes as well as other guild material. These "fallen professionals" are part of the Collectors branch as burglary often is needed to procure the goods to make more items to get more goods.
Many types of footmen need to know how to pick locks, but a collector is usually an expert but also deals with hauling and storing illicit goods.
The Treasurer also assist with actual guild storage management. A Treasurer is expected to attempt to steal from the kitty, but one so poor at it that they get caught are often executed.
Often just called "the Workshop" or "the ectypes", the branch works with forgeries of all kinds. The branch consists of either commited members from the aristocratic class, or individuals under the Workshop's sway (by any means necessary). The latter is more wought after, but technically the in-house scribes are often more skilled.
This is the name for the assassins' guild. Originally there were particular trained individuals performing this most final of services in the city of Capitoleum and a few select other cities but the Shadow Chamber spent some considerable resources to convince them to join the guild. Even so, they have never truly integrated. It takes very special skills to work with the Business if you compare it to "thugs with sticks". Besides the skill, patience, perception and precision, people don't like assassins, even crooks themselves. Incorporating these professionals into the guild was, if anything, a way to ensure control of these 'rogue' agents rather than for profit.
Regardless of the seeming incorporation of the Business into the Shadows, the group still takes jobs on ANYONE for the right price. This includes the Guildmasters of the Shadows themselves. Of course, such a hit would be ridiculously expensive. To kill a civilian, a thug is generally used.
Assassins are called Operatives.
Service costs: (Use encounter lvl -1 but +1000 gold.)
- 1 - 260 gp
- 2 - 550 gp
- 3 - 800 gp
- 4 - 1,150 gp
- 5 - 1,550 gp
- 6 - 2,000 gp
- 7 - 2,600 gp
- 8 - 3,350 gp
- 9 - 4,250 gp
- 10 - 5,450 gp
- 11 - 7,000 gp
- 12 - 9,000 gp
- 13 - 11,600 gp
- 14 - 15,000 gp
- 15 - 19,500 gp
- 16 - 25,000 gp
- 17 - 32,000 gp
- 18 - 41,000 gp
- 19 - 53,000 gp
- 20 - 67,000 gp
The Chamber of Shadow influence level in different cities:
- Capitoleum - 95%
- Outside city walls - 20%
- Gwennport - 45%
- Wellbarrow - 55%
- The Fork - 60%
- Westwatch - 75%
- Sandy Point - 85%
Pseudonyms (or "pseudos") are standard within the Shadows. In a lot of cases, members have a separate "legal life" as well as their professional life in the guild. In many instances, no (or very few) other members in the guild knows of a person's "true" (or at least "original") identity.
The choice of names vary. Some likes verbs, subjectives or animals that suit them and others use real names or words that sound like names. It's generally not looked down upon to pick names of existing members, but it isn't uncommon that this will mean they also get a nickname they didn't choose themselves (to tell people apart). This isn't a huge problem, but especially younger member from the trading class or nobility tend to focus more on a "cool name" than a practical one.
More uncommon names are the same as the Seven (Wolf, Stack, Pale, Hand, Lamprey, Needle, Bolt, Fox and Raven), but they are not rare. The use of such a name is usually clear from context that the person does not pretend to be as powerful as one of the Seven (especially not Wolf).
- The Seven - Founding members of the Chamber of Shadows
- Hamlin family is especially adverse to the Shadows
- Nifty - Low-ranking runner and "hands".
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Player character who have been or are members of the Shadows automatically learn a couple of crypts:
- Shadows standard - Used for non-essential communication between guild members. Updated every year few years.
- Personal crypt - Used between the member and her superior.
In addition, Shadows character can choose the following as a starting language, or learn by using a skill point in Linguistics:
- Shadows sign language