The Swordsman’s Guild
~ Introduction ~
The Swordsman’s Guild is one of the most ‘international’ organization on Gaia. It is open to any fighter who wishes to abide by its rules, which remains loose and easy to adhere to. The Guild rose out of the need to regulate men who wish to kill each other. While it doesn’t try to stop them, it does try to regulate their actions. The heads of many countries have given the Guild the authority to create and enforce duelling law on Gaia, providing them with great power, but great limitations as well. They walk a thin line between strength and responsibility. If the Guild goes too far, its members may ignore it or turn against it. If it does not go far enough, the countries it represents may eliminate its authority. The Guild must incorporate the desires of each nation without falling apart. Some of its members are reluctant participants, forced to abide by Guild law only because their rulers say they must.
Unlike ‘secret’ societies, the Guild’s members rarely volunteer to join, nor do they all work for a single common cause. In theory, they band together to uphold ‘honourable’ standards of duelling. However, there are as many members who despise that principle as respect it. For every swordsman who values the Guild’s laws, there is another who considers them a burden to work around or ignore.
The leaders of the Guild have sworn themselves to the task of reconciling all members, and ensuring that fighting remains a respectable custom. They hold to their standards no matter what. The Guild is a unique organization, with the potential to cross national boundaries and establish a common standard. That standard can truly speak to the values and goals of all nations. In many ways, the Guild is the most democratic institution on Gaia. Within its laws, anyone - slave, noble, or peasant - can win justice and honour with the strength of his sword arm. If they can not do so themselves, then they can hire someone to do it for them.
The Guild allows any fighter willing to live on a blade’s edge to speak his mind and defend his honour. Join them, and discover the honour of the duel.
~ History ~
The Guild largely owes its creation to a fencer named Magnus Draco. Born in 960, Magnus became intrigued with the rich history of duelling on Gaia. However, duelling had been declared illegal in most nations. Although his king paid only lip service to the law at best, Magnus saw it as an encroachment on men’s ability to defend their honour. On the other hand, he couldn’t deny that duelling caused a great deal of unnecessary death.
Magnus sought a solution that would still allow duelling while reducing the number of fatalities. He came up with a ‘duelling guild’ which would legalize the practice while carefully regulating the whys and wherefores. Such a system would allow ‘proxies’ to fight for each other: men willing to duel and who would probably find some other means to kill each other without an acceptable outlet. Thus, men wouldn’t feel compelled to die defending their honour. More importantly, men would need to pay for the privilege, either by becoming Guild members (and contributing the requisite tithes), or hiring a Guild member to challenge and fight for them. Magnus saw this as an important step in reducing duelling while still allowing the practice in a legalized form.
To create such a Guild, he needed serval things. The organization would have to cover as much of Gaia as possible, or it would not serve as sufficient impediment to duelling deaths. That meant it would need the support of as many rulers as possible; without legal authority such a Guild couldn’t function. Even more importantly, creating a Guild meant that Magnus would have to go through the same system that other recognized Guilds did.
In 964, Magnus succeeded in founding the Guild, with all the initial signatories agreeing. The Swordsman’s Guild became a reality. The new organization struggled somewhat during the early years. The Guild acted with the authority of the countries’ rulers, but many of those rulers had been unable to enforce duelling laws in the first place: that is why they turned to the Guild. As part of their plan, Magnus and the others created the ‘Razors’, a group of Master Swordsmen who would act as their enforcement arm. The Razors existed to make an example of the worst violators of the newly established duelling law. Initially, they focussed on pistol duelling, which the Guild considered lethal and dishonourable, but they also pursued traditional swordsmen who refused to adhere to their tenets.
The Guild also worked to increase its influence through social means. Valente and the Merchant’s Guild both proved useful allies, giving the Guild an aura of prestige. It didn’t hurt that Veronica Ambrogia, the most famed courtesan of Valente, was involved with Magnus before the Guild’s creation. She brought all of her social skills to bear on his behalf, which helped the Guild gain a foothold in many courts. The Guild also sanctioned Veronica’s own school at its inception, and convinced the other Valente families to do likewise. The Guild sanctioned several other schools as soon as it came into existence, and soon others clamoured to be accepted as well. It reached the point where Guild sanctioning substantially increased a school’s enrollment, so the arrangement proved beneficial to all parties concerned.
As outlined, the Swordsman’s Guild has a very simple organization. At its heart stands the Inner Council, consisting of three members, who hold the position for life. For the first twenty-one years of its existence, the charter members held these seats. The Guild charter allows a council member to appoint his successor in whatever manner he likes. None of the current members have heirs, and if they have successors in mind, they have not yet declared them. If no successor was declared, the remaining two inner council members choose someone suited to representing as much of a given nation’s swordsmen as possible.
The Inner Council decides all Guild matters by a simple vote. Majority rules. A member may abstain from voting, but they understand that a tie will simply complicate things. The Inner Council typically gathers once a week out of the month to decide on any Guild matters brought before them.
The Inner Council is limited to three members, but the Guild has tried to represent all nations in its membership. To do so, they have created the position of a secondary seat. Secondaries can only advise: they may not vote on Guild matters.
Below the Inner Council are the Chapterhouses, which can be found in almost every major city on Gaia. The Inner Council appoints a Master to oversee each Chapterhouse and pays him a small stipend. The Chapterhouse Master may ask other Masters to volunteer their time. Their duties are usually light, and involve testing and retesting Guild members to maintain standards. Most Masters enjoy the challenge and gladly volunteer their services, though they rarely commit to long-term service. The largest Chapterhouses can have as many as six Masters in attendance at one time.
Spanning the length and breadth of the Swordsman’s Guild are the Razors, who make up the organization’s enforcement branch. They answer to the head of the Razors, who in turn answers to the Inner Council. Chapterhouse Masters are expected to provide them with assistance when necessary, but the Razors pride themselves on their independence and rarely ask for aid. They have their own building at the Guild Headquarters in Capital City, and can requisition quarters at any Chapterhouse in the world.
Individual Guild-sanctioned schools track and record their own members, and send updated records to the local Chapterhouse once a month. The Chapterhouse then sends the records on to the Guild Headquarters roughly while keeping a copy for themselves. The sanctioned schools have certain duties to the Guild but typically these duties are relatively light.
That, in essence, is the sum total of the Guild. Magnus and his associates deliberately created it that way so that the various nations would not perceive it as a threat. The Inner Council does not want to throw around its strength, and for what it does, this simple structure works best.
Terms of the Duel
In general, the Guild recognizes that its members will often practice strange and esoteric forms of fighting, using odd weapons, employing self-enhancement sorcery, etc. While both duellists should agree to the weapons used, in general both sides should be flexible concerning what their opponent uses. The Guild believes that any two weapons (except those specifically excluded) are roughly equal, making fighting ability the determining factor in a duel rather. A duellist that haggles excessively over his opponent’s choice of legal weapons or enhancements risks appearing cowardly, with suitable penalties.
~ Guild Duelling Law ~
The first thing one must understand when discussing ‘legal duelling’ is exactly what the Guild considers a ‘duel’. They define the term as two parties who meet with premeditation to fight and thus settle some matter between them, typically an affair of honour. They may be alone or have ‘seconds’ to support them, and may meet in a private or public area. Duelling involves either weapons or the bare hands when used to injure someone else. Both parties should draw up an arrangement stating the conditions to which the duel will be fought, and any tactics, weapons, schools, or sorceries that will be disallowed.
Anything else is not ‘duelling’, and does not fall within the Guild’s purview. If two swordsmen meet on the field of battle, they are not duelling. If one breaks into the other’s home, they are not duelling. If one is hired as a bodyguard and another swordsman attacks their charge, they are not duelling. The normal laws of the land (or lack thereof) apply.
For a legal duel to begin, a swordsman must make a challenge. The swordsman can either be acting for himself, or be commissioned by someone else to make a challenge. Normally a swordsman can accept a commission to duel anyone except another swordsman. Under some circumstances he can challenge another swordsman to a legal duel. If he is only commissioned to issue a challenge, the person doing the commissioning is the one who is examined to see if they are a Guild member, and if the resulting duel is illegal.
Anyone can accept a challenge to a duel and defend themselves. Alternatively, the challenged party can commission a duellist of their own to act as their proxy. A challenge must be accepted or declined on the spot, but the challenged party may accept and then state that a commissioned swordsman will fight for them.
Depending on the country, nobles expecting a challenge prefer to have a swordsman on hand to accept them: this saves time and assures that the swordsman is always available. This can become rather expensive. Typically, only the extremely wealthy bother with such retainers. In fact, they take pride in the fact they can afford to pay a swordsman for such an extended time. Other countries are usually fairly liberal when it comes to letting challenged parties find a swordsman to accept a duel. The Guild tacitly encourages this, since it means money for more swordsmen... and thus more for themselves. A challenged party must usually provide a swordsman to act as proxy for them within 24 hours, or fight themselves.
Duellists can fight with any hand-to-hand weapon, or bare-handed. Duelling with firearms, other ranged weapons, hidden weapons, and poison is illegal in every country on Gaia - and extreme breach of every basic code of honour.
~ Types of Duels ~
There are five basic types of duels recognized by the Guild:
Duel to the Death: The duel ends when one participant or the other is dead. The duellist renders their opponent incapacitated, then delivers the death blow.
Duel to Unconsciousness: The duel ends when a participant is rendered unconscious.
Duel to Three Hits: The duel ends after a duellist has struck their opponent three times. If the opponent is rendered unconscious from any strike, they have lost.
Duel to First Strike: The duel ends when a participant has taken any HP in damage.
Duellists may legally use any non-ranged weapon. The only limitation is that they must be agreed upon and revealed at the beginning of the duel. Using a previously hidden weapon is illegal and disreputable. The Guild initially tried to limit which hand-held weapons could be used during a duel, but they soon realized that each nation had its own thoughts on what constituted an ‘honourable weapon’. The Guild could not disallow boar spears without angering the Barbarians, or claymores without irritating the Northerners. Nevertheless, they maintain bans on a few specific weapons, as well as barehanded fighting techniques. However, just because a school or related weapon is not sanctioned means it is illegal to use in a fight. The Guild believes that if, for example, a boxer wishes to defend himself against a claymore using his bare fists, that is the man’s prerogative.
The Guild does not condemn the using armour or a supposedly ‘superior’ weapon during a duel. Both parties typically have any choice of weapons and armour within the restrictions above. If they choose to use a lesser weapon better suited to their skills (or no weapon at all), or have not earned or inherited superior weapons, that is their problem. Two duellists may come to a mutual agreement that may ban such weapons or armour but their use does not make a duellist’s actions illegal.
Sorcery is treated as a superior form of weaponry or armour if it is only used to enhance oneself. The Guild forbids magic that attacks or otherwise directly affects an opponent or his weapon at range, treating it as the same as a ranged weapon or poison.
Usually, a legal duel must be held on ‘neutral ground’, unless the participants both agree to some other setting. The Guild defines ‘neutral ground’ as flat terrain, both duellists on foot, and normal levels of illumination.
If the participants follow all Guild laws, then they become immune to any legal repercussions from their actions. If one duellist breaks the rules above, then he or she can be prosecuted. If a duellist poisons his opponent, then he is considered a murderer and the Guild does not offer protection. Otherwise, if a duellist kills his opponent in a legal duel abiding by the Guild’s terms, then the local law authorities can not prosecute him for murder. Nor can they charge either or both parties with assault, the use of deadly weapons, or any other related crime.
If either participant breaks the rules above, then the duel is illegal. It becomes a crime and the actions involved are assessed as crimes. If a duellist injures his opponent, it is assault. If he kills a man during an illegal duel, it is murder, and so on.
It should be noted that in some areas of Gaia, duelling remains legal regardless of whether Guild law is followed. Many nobles allow duelling on their private lands, and some clans adhere to similar practices. On the other hand, some areas of Gaia forbid any kind of duelling. Some nobles don’t want violence on their lands, or wish to restrict the power of the Guild, while certain provinces dislike the perceived stain on their armed forces. In other areas, nobles create their own unique rules for duelling. They may allow duelling but only with certain weapons.
The Guild typically defers to the local authorities in this matter. Technically, the Guild has the authority of the nation’s rulers to enforce duelling law. In reality they simply can not patrol all of Gaia. If the local authorities prefer to handle illegal duels themselves, or if they wish to restrict duelling to particular circumstances, realistically there is little the Guild can do about it. To stop a lord from limiting duelling to spears, they would have to go into that lord’s territory and possibly fight him, then occupy his lands and make sure everyone duelled with any weapons they wished. Clearly the Guild wants to avoid such a situation at all costs.
Currently, every country recognizes the Guild’s duelling law, if only for convenience. Thus, the local Valente or Wutaiin authorities expect a swordsman to follow Guild duelling law while in Valente. Sometimes countries will not restrict swordsmen of their own nationality within their own country. Valente, Wutaii, and the Barbarian lands are examples of where this typically occurs.
Simply put, the Guild does not protect its own members if they engage in illegal duelling. If someone duels illegally, they are on his or her own. If a swordsman kills a man without following Swordsman Guild guidelines, then he will have to deal with the local authorities. Perhaps they will be generous, perhaps not. Perhaps they will not even notice or care.
~ Guild Membership ~
Joining the Guild
There are three ways to join the Guild. The first is by purchasing membership. The second is to become a member of a Guild-sanctioned School. Finally, the applicant or his family may call in a political favour to secure membership. The first and third options are optional. The second is mandatory, although there a swordsman can immediately resign should he or she wish. Under the terms of their sanctioning agreement, accepted schools must make all their students Guild members. They also must make sure the students are familiar with Guild law and the rules for legal duelling.
A duellist can purchase membership at any Chapterhouse or at the Guild Chapterhouse in Capital City. The applicant receives a book on Guild law, then the head of the Chapterhouse or his designated assistant tests the applicant to assess their Rank in any given school. If the applicant does not identify himself as a Ranked member of a school, demonstrates no specific Master abilities, and has no record of graduation from a school, the Guild will simply give him an iron Guild pin, representing an Unranked position.
The Guild does not test an applicant who gains membership through political influence. The Guild gives such applicants an Unranked pin and then leaves them to their own devices. Most Guild members hold no prejudice against applicants who obtain their memberships in this manner. After all, if they can’t fight they’ll die soon enough. A few swordsmen do take exception, and like to seek out such political appointees to test their mettle.
A Guild member can resign at any time, with or without cause. They simply turn in their pin, and the Guild strikes their names from the record. The Guild does not allow them to rejoin at a later date, and informs all potential ‘retirees’ before allowing them to leave.
Guild Rank and Pins
Since its inception the Guild has commissioned the creation of Swordsman’s Guild pins through Master Ivon Cole and his successor, Mistress Sela Cole. The Guild pays a substantial sum to the Blacksmith’s Guild to make sure that the pins can not be readily duplicated. Each pin is numbered, and consists of a unique ore which only a handful of blacksmiths know how to smelt.
Five types of pins exist: bronze, silver, gold, platinum, and iron. The Guild issues bronze pins to those of Journeyman rank in one or more sanctioned schools. It issues Silver pins to adept members and gold pins to members who have achieved Master rank in at least one school.
Lifepath and Rank
A character must be a journeyman (3) in the appropriate lifepath to get a bronze pin. To get a silver pin, the character must be an adept (5), and to get a gold pin, the character must at least be a Master, one of the very best (9).
Both the swordsman themself and the school that he graduates from must inform the Guild of the member’s progression through the ranks. The Guild will periodically test a member, approximately once a year, if they do not obtain verification from his school. They also test a swordsman if he requests it because his teacher doesn’t contact the Guild. Graduates from the Barbarian lands often have to verify their rank in this manner.
A Guild member can advance through the ranks while hiding his progress from his school, usually by faking a lesser level of expertise. This can work in the short-term, but given time, enough swordsmen know the virtues and strengths of most styles that they will spot such a ‘ringer’ and report his crime to the Guild. If the swordsman truly does not rely on the higher ranks of his school, then he can continue this deception for quite a while.
A Guild member can also falsify a higher level than they possess, perhaps to earn greater pay. This is more difficult, and usually ends badly for the swordsman in question, but it does occur on occasion. The Guild’s testing procedure is by no means foolproof.
If a duellist purchases membership, they must submit to rigorous testing upon joining to determine their rank, if any. The Guild then awards them the appropriate rank pin.
The Guild’s fourth rank uses a platinum pin, representing Grand Masters. While it is relatively easy for a Master to determine another swordsman as a Master, or even a Master of two different schools, it is much harder to test a swordsman to see if he has combined those two schools. The Guild typically relies on the honest of its members, or the testimony of witness, when making this determination. Failure to reveal one’s status as a Grand Master violates the Guild’s bylaws. The Guild gives out a very limited number of such pins, less than 1% of the total Guild membership to date.
The Guild issues the fifth and final pin, iron, to ‘Unranked’ swordsmen. These members have not joined any school, and use simple fencing, heavy weapons, or other tactics. These members suffer something of a disadvantage since they can demand no set minimum fee. On the other hand, they have the advantage of being an unknown quality. Some swordsmen have tried to pass themselves off as an Unranked to accomplish, since the schools themselves report their graduates to the Guild, and their techniques become very deeply ingrained in members. Still, it happened in the past. Naturally, such deceit violates Guild laws.
When a swordsman advances a rank, they are expected to turn in their previous pin at the next Chapterhouse they come to. The Guild updates its records, and assigns the old pin to someone else. When a swordsman receives a new pin it has a different number than the old one.
The Guild pays a small reward to anyone who turns in a Guild pin, typically 2 gil. They believe this is enough to encourage someone to return a pin, but not enough to reward those who kill a swordsman. If the Guild does not hear from a member in three years, they decommission the badge and remove the member from the ranks. They occasionally have to recommission a member who reappears after that period.
It costs no money to become a Guild member and it costs no money to maintain membership. The Guild typically considers the 10% fee it takes on commissions as acceptable dues. The Guild always tests a recruit if he or she purchases membership. The following conditions must be met:
1) Defence of 5 or higher, and a sub-skill of at least 10.
2) Brawl or Melee of 5 or higher, and a sub-skill of at least 10.
3) They can get at least 4 successes on attack and defence rolls with some regularity.
The Guild has created a unique branch of enforcers to make sure that all swordsmen follow its duelling laws: the Razors. The Razors have sanction to track down any individual who violates Guild bylaws and bring them in. No Guild violation current exists that warrants an immediate death penalty. Even a swordsman accused of taking a commission on and then killing another Guild member goes to the local Chapterhouse for trial. If the head of the Chapterhouse finds them guilty they may appeal to the Guild Headquarters in Capital City. The only time a swordsman dies at the hands of the Razors is if he puts up a fight. The Razors are all Masters of at least one school, and learn specifically to exploit the weaknesses of a wide range of schools. Few swordsmen are foolish enough to fight back, but a few guilty parties invariably go down swinging.
As per the Pact, Razors may act against a non-Guild member, but only if he or she uses a Guild pin or otherwise impersonates a Guild member. Again, they will try to bring in the offender if possible, or else turn him over to local authorities for trial.
Not every violation constitutes a visit from the Razors. Often, the head of the Chapterhouse simply takes a member into custody when they check in upon arrival or for their yearly certification. Since the head of a Chapterhouse is a Master, and may have other Masters at the House as well, this rarely presents any problems. Swordsmen who commit minor violations can avoid the Guild simply by not checking in or applying for testing. After three years they will be decommissioned, but in that time they can still sell their services. Of course, they won’t have the benefit of the Guild brokering duels for them, and the Guild tries to notify its members of individuals ‘on probation’. Because of this, a violator must be careful to avoid contact with Guild members who might recognize him.
Typically a violator trying to avoid punishment will simply resign, since avoiding the Guild while still trying to legally duel is more trouble than it is worth. The Pact allows swordsmen to go after him or her, but they rarely bother with minor violations. They have better things to do than hunt down every ex-swordsman who refused to wear their pin in public.
The most severe punishment the Guild inflicts is death. However, the only reserve such harsh measures against another swordsman who accepts a commission against another swordsman and kills him. The Guild employs lesser punishments for most crimes. Usually, they can either fine a member who is in violation, or expel them from the Guild. Such expulsion can last for a specified period of time, or permanently, depending on the severity of the crime.
~ Guild Bylaws - Rules of Membership ~
Swordsmen may never accept a commission on another Guild member
This is the Guild’s foremost rule, and the only one to which they consistently apply the death penalty. Simply put, the Guild does not want its members killing each other for money. The Guild will look into matters if the person accepting the commission claims foul play. There have been occasions when a swordsman concealed his pin as to trick another swordsman into accepting a commission on him. The Guilt treats such deception with the utmost seriousness. Though reluctant to reverse its standing orders on this matter, it recently began making more of an effort to enforce their rule about the display of Guild pins and prosecute offenders.
A swordsman directly challenged by a commissioned Guild member can decline the challenge without loss of reputation, regardless of their respective ranks. Alternatively, they may defend themselves with no fear of prosecution from the Guild. As noted above, if they tricked a swordsman by hiding their membership they may be subject to other penalties as well.
A swordsman who accepts a commission on a fellow Guild member but does not kill, maim, or cripple him will not be sentenced to death, but may suffer some other form of punishment.
You may not duel a fellow Guild member outside of a commissioned arrangement
Originally, the Guild banned its members from duelling each other under any circumstances. A swordsman either had to act as a proxy for some other party, or not duel at all. This soon became impossible to enforce. Many swordsmen argued with other swordsmen over matters of honour, and would fight illegally or otherwise engage in criminal acts if the Guild didn’t provide them with some outlet. The large number of skilled swordsmen belonging to the Guild made member in addition, some rich individuals bought Guild membership simply to protect themselves from challenge. The Guild values its honourable reputation, and doesn’t wish anyone to use membership as a shield against swordsmen.
Because of these circumstances, the Guild allows one exception to this bylaw. To do so, the challenging party must travel to a Chapterhouse and file a request. This request states the manner in which their honour was offended, and to what degree they wish to resolve the matter. The Head of the Chapterhouse reviews the request and modifies it if necessary. For instance, a challenged party may feel that an insult from a fellow swordsman demands a duel to the death. The head of the Chapterhouse may modify the duel to first blood. If the Chapterhouse declines the request, the member may only duel the offender illegally and deal with the consequences.
If the Chapterhouse grants the request, they issue a scroll asserting their approval to the challenging party. The swordsman must then seek out the offending party, give them the scroll, and inform them that they have now been legally challenged. The challenged party may decline or accept as usual.
You must check with the local Chapterhouse when you enter and leave a city
This helps the Guild keep track of its members, and test them if necessary. It also benefits the swordsmen themselves. If a member’s name is on file with the local Chapterhouse, then the Guild can offer his services to those seeking duellists, bodyguards, teachers, etc. A member is also expected to provide an address where they can be contacted unless they do not currently seek employment.
The Guild honours requests for anonymity if a member does not want his name widely distributed. A swordsman may also request that the Guild offer his name for particular services only: bodyguard duty, but not duelling, for instance. However, the Chapterhouse still asks members to report in so that they can keep track of him.
You must report to the Guild for testing
A swordsman is expected to travel to a Chapterhouse once per year to receive testing. If he does not report in three years, the Guild decommissions his badge number and removes him from the ranks. A member can turn up after the three years and reaffirm his membership. During testing, a member is expected to demonstrate the full extent of his abilities. This helps ensure that duels are balanced, proper fees are paid, and defrauding does not occur.
You must wear a proper Guild Pin in public
The Guild expects its swordsmen to keep their pins revealed at all times, which ensures that clientele can easily find a swordsman of the rank they desire. It also helps reduce the chance that Guild members inadvertently accept commissions against higher-ranking Guild members. The Guild prefers commissioned duels to be as balanced as possible, or at least that the participants enter the duel knowledgeably. Swordsmen are expected to accurately convey their abilities to the Guild so that they wear the proper pin. Failure to do so is also a violation of Guild law.
You must pay a percentage of your commissions to the Guild
The Guild receives 10% of any fee a swordsman collects on a commission. Failure to do so violates the most basic Guild protocols. If the Guild brokers a commission they simply deduct their fee directly; otherwise, they must trust the swordsman to deliver their share of the pay as soon as convenient. The Guild does not require swordsmen to accept a commission if they don’t wish to. They would prefer that members accept commissions, but they also recognize that some swordsmen donate their services for a worthy cause, or to help a friend. If a swordsman does not fight for commission, the Guild does not demand any fee.
You can not use a pistol in a duel
The Guild never wavers on this; it considers the use of a firearm the most dishonourable act one can commit in a duel. They realize that if they allowed firearms in a duel, they would lose members much more rapidly. There is rarely such a thing as a ‘duel to first blood’ with pistols or muskets. But beyond all that, they truly consider firearms dishonourable.
You can not defraud a Guild customer
This rule covers a wide variety of sins. The most common case occurs when a swordsmen directly brokers a duel with a customer, and then takes the money without rendering the agreed-upon service. Incidents took place early in the Guild’s existence when non-members claimed to be swordsmen, negotiated with a customer for a fee up-front, and then departed with the loot. This is one reason why the Guild enforces the rule about members displaying Guild pins, and makes sure its customers know this rule.
Another such fraud is that of a Guild member claiming to hold a higher rank than they actually do, typically by faking testing or using a stolen pin. This allows them to collect a higher fee, which they keep even if they lose.
This rule exists to reassure members and clients alike, though it does not apply if a member withdraws for cause. A Guild member is expected to do his best in any duel he engages in. If he loses, he should not feel obliged to give money back. If a customer feels a Guild member did not fight to the full extent of his abilities, he should report the affair to the local Chapterhouse. The set fee is for effort, not success or failure.
This may seem harsh, but it actually reassures Guild customers. They accept that any hired swordsman will do his best. In essence, they are paying the Guild to provide them with qualified swordsmen, rather than make that judgement for themselves. Swordsmen know what their employers expect, and don’t have to worry about haggling over a refund after taking cuts and bruises in a losing effort. This rule also eliminates some of the perception that the Guild is a ‘mercenary’ organization.
~ Benefits of Guild Membership ~
A swordsman can challenge anyone to a duel, subject to Guild bylaws. Further, a swordsman can accept payment to challenge someone. The Guild prefers that the swordsman accepts commissions for the simple reason that they get a 10% fee from all commissions. However, a Guild member is always free to decline any commission offer, or to negotiate a higher price.
A swordsman may withdraw from a commission if they feel he was tricked or deceived; if, for example, the client assures a commissioned novice he will be fighting a fellow novice, only to learn that his opponent is actually a Master wearing full armour and wielding the Excalibur! There may be some reputation loss over such a withdrawal, but the Guild typically allows it as long as the swordsman refunds any fee.
The basic rate for a swordsman’s services is determined by what it would cost him to offer a challenge and duel against a swordsman of equal rank. After the Guild’s 10% deduction, the basic fee for a swordsman’s services run as follows:
Unranked: No set rate
Journeyman: 20 gil
Adept: 40 gil
Master: 80 gil
Grand Master: 200 gil
If the swordsman must face an opponent one rank higher, the fee is doubled. If he must face an opponent two ranks higher, the fee is tripled. And if he must face a swordsman three ranks higher, the fee is quadrupled. Unranked swordsmen are typically considered adepts.
The Guild charges a fee of 10 gil to offer challenge and then let an employee take over and fight, regardless of the swordsman’s rank. It costs the same amount to hire a swordsman for one week’s services. This does not include room and board, or other expenses. Swordsmen often negotiate a ‘hazard fee’ on top of their basic fee.
Individual swordsmen can always negotiate a higher fee if they wish. Depending on the economy of the area, they may not be able to demand the fees above and might have to accept lower rates (or alternative currencies).
As mentioned above, a Guild member may submit a request to the Guild to challenge and duel another swordsman. This gives them protection in the subsequent duel... assuming the Guild approves. If it isn’t approved and they proceed with a duel anyway, they are acting outside of the Guild’s authority and therefore duelling illegally. If the local authorities catch them, they will be treated just like anyone else found fighting in the streets.
In some cases, this may not result in any penalty. In some nations, the police do not care about two foreigners fighting each other to the death. In other countries, duelling is legal under any circumstances.
Essentially, the Guild wishes to ensure that its members do not get paid to duel other Guild members. The restriction on commissions is not intended to keep a swordsman from defending himself in battle, or against a criminal, or during a matter of honour. Of course, they may have to pay the price to do so. The Guild simply declines to protect them in these non-duelling situations.
A Guild member may request food and board at any Chapterhouse, which is obliged to provide them with what they request. However the Head of the Chapterhouse may decline the offer, or provide ‘alternate’ services, at his discretion. Sometimes he may ask the swordsman to render a service for the benefits provided. The Head has the final say on these matters. A Chapterhouse typically has a small barrack and practice circle. Most have at least one member who will be glad to spar with visiting Guild members.
Chapterhouses are considered ‘international’ and are expected to open their doors to any member, regardless of origin. Some, however, balk at admitting certain members. Occasionally, Valente Chapterhouse Masters will claim that they are fully occupied when a Wutaiin swordsmen asks for shelter, and vice-versa.
The Guild does not intend shelter at a Chapterhouse to constitute any kind of ‘sanctuary’. The Guild exists because the national and local authorities allow it to. If the local city guard asks a Chapterhouse to turn over a swordsman staying within, the Head will do so. The Guild does not want a spy or criminal to purchase a membership just to use a Chapterhouse as a secure base of operations.
The Guild has evolved somewhat since its creation. Originally, it only provided the names of members to individuals who sought a duellist. However, as the Guild gained more and more members, its Chapterhouses became a convenient place to hire skilled fighters for other reasons besides challenging.
Currently, the Guild offers the names of swordsmen seeking employment for the following occupations: duellist (challenge only, or challenge-and-fight), bodyguard, city guard, and teacher. Also, when a member checks in, the Chapterhouse clerk will try to determine in more general terms what kind of employment he or she might seek. The Guild can then respond to more general inquiries as well. For instance, if a prospective customer asks, ‘Do you have a swordsman who is practised in fighting aboard a ship?’ the clerk will hopefully know which members may have such skills.
If the Guild is unaware of anyone that has such skills, they review their files for ‘alternate’ selections. They will then send a messenger to a (presumably) qualified Guild member and see if they want a job. They will also broker payment if the swordsman so wishes. The Guild does not guarantee a swordsman to prospective customers: only that they will try their best. As always, the swordsman has the final say in accepting a job.
~ Schools ~
The following Lifepaths are recognized as official recognized schools in the Swordsman’s Guild:
Ambrogia Swordsman ~ A Valente Duelling School
Bodyguard ~ A School for learning how to defend and protect others.
Enforcer ~ A School for learning law enforcement.
Mercenary ~ A School for learning a combination of survival and combat skills.
Militia Man ~ A School for military training and large scale combat.
Mystic Swordsman ~ A School devoted to blending magic with swordplay.
Ranger ~ A School devoted to wilderness combat and survival
Swordsman ~ A School devoted to the semi-mystical Sword Techs