| Merchant's Guild
Leaders: Sage Coibran
The Merchant's Guild is the main source of mass shipping, receiving and distribution in the Empire. It is almost always beneficial for a business to be a member of the Guild for the benefits it provides its members. All major trade within, and all trade without the barrier goes through the guild.
This is a breakdown of the current IC situation for the Merchant's Guild with the understanding that it could be changed through the IC play of merchants, nobility and the Guildmaster.
Technically, there is one overarching Merchant's Guild, but in December, 505 in protest to a controversial Guildmaster election of Saunder Tremere, the deputies of the Isle Guilds began to subtly consolidate power within their own demesnie, acting as individual Isle Guilds. As time has passed, there is more power struggle as the individual isles get comfortable in their autonomy from the power seat of the Gateway Merchant Guild.
The one Deputy head for each island makes his residence in the main port city of the individual Isle. The import in this is that this person is the communication liaison for the Isle with a qualified staff that analyzes how much of each product should be going to various Isles and arranges for cargo to be on ships in hopes of not needing to be unloaded on Gateway before moving to its final destination. This is a very typical behavior for large cargo of food from Green Fields or a ship laden with the weight of metals from Guardians. The unloading process does end up costing more money in hired men to unload it and move it to another ship. In products of smaller quantities such as specialized herbs, some time in the Gateway warehouse is expected so that other like sized smaller quantities can be added to ships bound in the same direction. A good example of this would be rare herbs or magical items from Draught or Mists.
The Guild and Other Isles
The Merchant Guild owns several smaller warehouses strategically placed so that they might buy in higher quantity direct from merchants with a "Farmer to Freight" mentality. One large warehouse owned by the guild would be housed in each major port city to accept the contributions from smaller, outlying warehouses. This would allow for the shifting and packaging of goods and a first check for quality assurance for the product coming in. This big warehouses are owned and repaired by the Gateway merchant guild, and once goods are delivered to this warehouse, it is no longer under the jurisdiction of the Isle that produced it. Silos held by the merchant's guild are magically enchanted for food preservation. For example, this allows strawberries to be available during the winter.
Most producers of product would likely tend to deal with the Guild since they can have all or most of their items sold at once with an assured fair price and a better guarantee of safe delivery than through finding individual shippers. Merchant Guild vendors and suppliers also carry with it more of a guarantee of quality assurance. Merchant Guild items also run a higher probability of international exposure through items being traded outer barrier. It is not required that anyone sell to the Merchant's Guild or participate in the Guild to run a shop or business, but it is an obvious recommendation.
When product arrives on Gateway, it is either sent directly to the Isle that needed/ordered it, unloaded and disbursed on the main Isle, or stored until a full shipment can be made. There is an expectation that even items on a ship bound directly to another Isle is subject to a quality check on Gateway with many job positions just on the check of product and the logistical planning of arranging shipments to be the most efficient. The predictability on what is inspected and what is not is at the whim of the Guildmaster or MG Officers, but roughly 35-50% of ships have some form of inspection. The inspections are usually spot checks though about 2% of the ships coming in have a full detailed check to compare the product being shipped with what was ordered. Ships going straight from one isle to another with a stop over on Gateway are less likely to be inspected with only about 5% of those happening.
In most cases, the Merchant's Guild will deal directly with physical product, but in that understanding, an Isle can make a request for 'human product' as well. If one Isle needs more healers, the Merchant Guild can be requested to deal in trying to work out the details of that 'trade'. This type of trade will almost always include a Lord of a particular land to make sure the resources can be available and promised.
The Merchant's Guild on Gateway is the seat with the most power to trade in the Empire. It is the one that determines whether requested resources can be or will be made available to the ones that make the requests. It is a position that answers directly to the Imperial Seat, and thus can be removed or appointed by the Emperor or Empress if they were to deem a situation worthy of interfering. Aside from that understanding, Guildmasters have normally been voted in when the previous stepped aside or was removed. It is extremely rare when an Imperial would actually appoint a Master over choosing an election result.
All cargo ships are owned by the Merchant's Guild. Guild members may lease space on Guild ships at discounted rates, but the ownership and maintenance is Guild responsibility. This ensures there are no half-loaded or empty ships moving from one Isle to the next in an environment where schedules of Currents and available dock space rules the order of the day. It is an especially efficient model where there are smaller cargoes of specialized merchandise.
People may own private ships, but these are in the categories of fishing, pleasure, and ferries for passengers moving between Isles. These ships still incur the Guild in dock fees, and seafood transported by land to other parts of the Isles incurs other surcharges. Fishing vessels are the most difficult to document.
| Membership Requirements
In order to qualify for membership in the Gateway Merchant's Guild, a person must own a business on Gateway Isle. This business does not have to have a store front, but must be legally acknowledged through the Guild with all dues paid to date. If a person of any station owns a business on another Isle, they are eligible to be part of the Guild on that Isle only. Guilds on individual Isles work very closely with the Gateway Merchant's Guild. Inherent conflict can arise when nobility tries to interfere or command Isle or Gateway Guilds. This often provides a unique tug-o-war with a commoner in the position of Guild leadership, and a noble in the position of authoritative power. As a general understanding, the Guild on Gateway is known to answer to the Keeper alone, in fact, the reigning Guildmaster/mistress must give up prior allegiances and swear fealty to the Emperor. Pulling titled weight could go poorly and the noble must ultimately understand he is pulling weight with the Keeper's own. It is equally poor for the Guild to slight a noble from a different land. They are, after all, not in a lifetime position unless they can hold it that long, and interrupting logistics has far reaching impact.
The benefits of a business being a Merchant Guild member usually comes at the most basic of levels in lower cost goods with a more consistent quality. It's the nature of bulk products! Also, when it comes to getting raw materials to produce products, the Guild can make sure that unless extreme circumstances are happening (ex: a famine in the land), the supply will be present for Guild craftsmen. Shops that are part of the Merchant Guild also have a more guaranteed quality. By being subject to inspection by officers, the quality of a business can be more assured than a non MG business, often going far enough as to guarantee said quality. The Guild also gives individual shopkeepers a voice in the Empire through having an advocate in the Guildmaster. Without membership, these details and privileges would need to be secured through the individuals. Considering the Guild can take up many of the docks with their own ships, this could be anything from a mild annoyance to a major hassle. The Guild can also provide more frequent mercenary patrols to keep their shops protected from break in by Thieves.
Depending on the current GM, protections could be arranged through workable relationships with the head of the TG, but that is always an IC situation and should be handled as such.
One thing of game history note is that businesses not part of the Merchant's Guild seem to have more 'incidents of violence' happen to them and their buildings compared to those that are members.
Guild officers are those directly under the command of the Merchant Guildmaster to help him with the directives he gives. In an easy example, if the Master were equivalent to a Duke, then his officers are the Barons and Lords under him. Within the organization, there are rankings which are assigned by the Master. Guild officer positions are by appointment of the Guildmaster. The Guildmaster position must be obtained by election, but the Keeper always has to sign approval of election results. In theory, a person could be elected, but denied the position by a Keeper refusing to approve the election results.
For a business to join the Merchant's Guild, they must see the Merchant's Guildmaster/mistress or the Merchant Relations Officer. Annual dues are prorated to monthly amounts at roughly 1% of the business's gross income. Larger businesses require more attention than smaller businesses. IC agreements of a different nature can always be negotiated on game as far as dues, trades, and prices.
Starting a Shop
We encourage people to own shops on grid, but consider it will take either a lot of money or an investor. As an estimate, it takes roughly 200 platinum to have a store front in Plaza of the Keeper, 150 platinum for Merchant's Row, 125 platinum around citizen's square, and 100 platinum in Gateway Plaza.
The Merchant's Guild holds leases on all vacant buildings, so in order to purchase a shop, one must do so ICly through the current Guildmaster/mistress or Merchant Relations Officer. This relationship allows for people wishing to invest in business ventures to pledge funding to the Guild. The Guild can then match investors with entrepreneurs. This allows for some aspects of politics to come into play, and sometimes people can be denied just on personal differences. People can also get what they want based on handshakes and people they know of influence.
If you come in with a new character, you may use the exception of taking over an existing shop and playing that your character has 'always been there'. As a recommendation, a new player may find some great RP hooks for getting established on Gateway by playing out looking for a job and financial backing to get a shop up and running. It can be assumed for feasibility play that any non-PC held business is 'for sale' through the Guild.
Any of these positions can have subsequent staff help with the execution of their various duties.
Merchant Guildmaster/mistress - This is the position of highest authority in the guild. They make the major decisions as well as handle political interactions between guild members, nobility, and other Isle guilds. Held by Sage Coibran.
First Officer - If the Guildmaster position were the equivalent to a Duke, then First Officer would be their Chamberlain. They are the right hand of the guildmaster and therefore, can often act with the authority of the person above them -- particularly if the GM is absent for any reason. Currently held by an NPC
Secretary - The official Guild secretary is the one that documents Guild actions, orders, meetings, and membership standings. If one wished to know the current number of items in a storehouse, this would be the person to speak with on the matter. Held by Carina March
Treasurer - This is the financial record keeper of the guild. He is the one that will make sure membership dues are current as well as quote prices for any ordered products. This position is the chief accountant with the true keys to all of the Guild books.
Tax Verification Officer - With the movement of goods comes taxes owed to various noble ranks. This position is one that makes sure that all tax rates are posted and current as well as verifying that taxes are paid on the goods that pass through the main city. He works with the authority of the Emperor's tax collector and can demand payment at any point.
Operations Officer - This is the logistical planner of the Guild. He schedules ships, determines best prices based on projected products and current stores. He is the supply and demand guru and the position is usually occupied by someone with a very keen eye for numbers. Held by Graham Chapman
Quality Assurance Officer - He is the one that coordinates random and routine inspections to make sure that products are consistent with the quality expected and the amounts ordered were accurate. He would also look for illegal contraband traveling between Isles.
Merchant Relations Officer - This position is used particularly as a first stop for local businesses to interact with Guild leadership. It can be used as an arbitrator between local business conflicts, as a place to help bolster advertising, or council for advice in business dilemmas. This person is also a first stop for those that wish to purchase a building for the start of a new business.
Magical Relations Officer - This position is a middle person for the magical end user and the Mistian Chapter Houses. Magical trade negotiations go through this person. Held by Elvina Cipriani
International Relations Officer This Officer is the first person contact for any matters concerning out of barrier trade including the desire to export product out of the barrier. Currently held by an NPC - come to Sage with any questions.
Security Officer - This person coordinates all Guild security from random inspections of ships, warehouses, and crates to designing and scheduling guard rotations. This person is also a liason between Legion officials and Guild operations in the areas where the two areas collide. Held by Altair Paggion
| Grid Relations
The Merchant's Guild is an area of precarious balance between the power of the people and the power of the nobility. In order to best play this on grid, one thing to keep in mind in the economics of trade is the simple principle of supply and demand. If the supply is high and the demand is low, the prices will be much lower. The opposite is true. If the supply is low and the demand is high, the prices will be much higher. This is important to keep in mind when RPing a business deal. It's not practical to just agree to send more of a product without it impacting some other area. Ex: If someone is asking for more lumber from the same mill that makes parchment, then in order to produce the 'extra', men must be sent to cut the trees down and process the logs into planks and what not. This means that the same men are not available for making the parchment, so the production of parchment is lower. The price of parchment may go up during this time from that mill. If there are economic difficulties on the game, just 'sending' more should have impact elsewhere.
Because the currents are so important in the balance of shipping schedules, any change in the shipping schedules could have dire consequences from food supplies all the way to the smallest level of a merchant in a remote part of Mists waiting for the silk he ordered from Green Fields.
The docks on the game are the port where the trade comes in and leaves Gateway Isle. It is not a pretty location on grid, and there is plenty of impact on the condition of things because where product comes in, thieves are going to also operate with illegal shipments or theft. The guard is quartered in that area, but they maintain the chaos of brawls of dockhands, thieves caught in the act, drunkards from the dockside. When so many on the elbow of society's arm operate in one place, it's impossible to keep everyone 'safe' in that location. Most guards see to the safety of nobles and passengers trying to board the ships for passage to the various Isles. It is not a pretty part of town and should not be thought of in those terms. Guards inspect people going from the Docks to the Plaza of the Keeper North. This helps keep some riffraff at bay.
| Significant IC History
February 501 Guildmistress Randalynne Moriarity calls a meeting of the guild to gain solidarity in standing against the gouging coming from the Factors Guild. Meeting Log
March, 501 For the second time in the history of the Empire, the Merchants' Guild exercises its muscles to stop trade in the realm, as all merchant sailors were 'sick'. This led to a council meeting and a dissolution of the contracts of the Factor's Guild, which was tantamount to its destruction. All duties of the Factors were henceforth taken care of by the Merchants' Guild.
April, 503 Randalynne retires from the position of guildmistress, passing on the leadership to Collins Galeno.
November, 505 Saunder Tremere makes a business coup by buying out several local businesses needed so that he can influence the vote. It results in him removing the former Guildmater Collins Galeno from power.
November, 506 Elections are called after former Guildmaster Saunder Tremere is convicted of embezzling guild funds for his personal gain. This was shortly after his daughter's death.
November 25, 506 Campaign begins for elections of new Guildmaster with candidates Guy Fitzwater, Emmaline Sheppard, and Gavan Locksley.
December 11, 506 Emmaline Sheppard wins Guildmistress position and is instated in her new position. She was only twenty-one at the time of her election.
January 5, 509 Emmaline Sheppard called for a new Guild election.
January 21, 509 Running uncontested, Caprice Trillare won the Guild election and was officially named Merchant Guildmistress.
July 9, 510 After new elections are held once Caprice announced that she would be stepping down, Sage Coibran is named the new Guildmistress and Catherine Connor takes second place, becoming First Officer.
February 10, 512 Catherine Connor retires as First Officer.
July 7, 512 Guild Meeting to discuss Adrian Barca as Merchant Relations Officer.
| The member pages of this faction are located here.
| Merchants FAQ
1. I want to make a deal with one noble with my noble to fix prices or create a monopoly on a good. Can I do that?"
The individual producers of the goods (farmers, bakers, cattle raisers) can control the price of goods if they choose to sell outside of the Guild, but it's to their advantage for convenience for the producers of goods to sell directly to the Guild. From that point on, the Guild does control the price of things and tends to keep the prices even for most of the Empire. Individuals that do not sell to the Guild will find prices for shipping on Guild ships outside of the Guild elevated as well and have to take care of the transactions themselves which is rather a hassle for an agreement between lands. Individuals may suffer more delays for their products, lost shipments, etc. The Lord of a particular land would be introducing a huge headache on himself to uphold an agreement like this without going through the Guild, and may find that his basic costs are more (re: having to buy out of the bulk system and find willing individuals plus higher shipping costs) so the "good deal" may look the same as what everyone else is paying in the end. Taxes would still need to be paid as well.
On the topic of monopolies, the Guild will not allow that to happen. The creation of monopolies or attempts at such would likely result in the Guild refusing to ship the product to anyone and cause a political uproar. Monopolies are usually viewed by the Guild as a dangerous situation in such an enclosed economy.
2. Isn't the Guild just too powerful?
The easiest answer to that question is yes. The Guild is a large portion of the power for the common man. Even acknowledging that, the Emperor wants to control the trade of his Empire. Setting up an entity like the Guild gives him control of all trade even if it run by the common man. Historically, the Guild has amassed power enough to challenge the Imperial seat which happened in the year 415 A.G. Nothing changed to stop the same sort of attempts from happening again.
| Guild By-laws
Considering our game is an all volunteer organization, it's impossible to actually write out full by-laws of our IC organization with all of the legalese that would be in effect. This is just a little summary of some IC Guild rules as far as governance goes. Please assume proper and protective legal speak.
1. In order to be a member of the Merchant's Guild, you must own a business. This does not have to be a store front, but the business must be declared and at least show profit within two years of establishment or three of the last five years. In the event the Guild wishes to audit a member business, it may do so but only in matters of assuring proper taxes have been paid and profits are being made.
2. Non Guild Members may be appointed to Officer positions as long as the current Guildmaster can prove their expertise in the area of service. For example, a Guild Security Officer may have operated as a city guard for twenty years, or the Guild Tax Officer may have worked as a Chamberlain for a noble for several years. Once made a Guild Officer, the person is required to become a Guild Member through the paying of dues. This is the only exception to a Guild member not owning a business.
3. Only the Merchant's Guild owns shipping cargo vessels. If anyone else owns cargo ships, the Guild has the right to confiscate them as long as a fair market value for the vessel is paid.
4. The Guild has the right to close a lease on a business prematurely if there is suspicion of illegal activity taking place on the business property or for a business not following Guild by-laws. On the flip side, a business is not required to be a member of the Merchant's Guild. If a business leaves the Guild, they no longer have any say in Guild practices including the election of new representatives.
5. The Guildmaster position is an elected position and must be approved by the Imperial Seat once the votes have been cast. A Guild member may request a new election be held for any circumstances once the Guildmaster has been in office for at least one year.
6. There are previsions for the owning of Guild businesses by foreigners so long as the number of foreign owned businesses never goes over ten percent of all businesses operated on Gateway proper. Foreign Guild members get a vote in Guild elections, but not in Guild business less they be accused of stacking things in favor of their countries.
7. Changes to Guild by-laws may be made by a majority vote of Guild Officers. Guild Members have the right to demand a vote to reverse a Guild by-law change enacted by the Officer board. In the event of a vote in this manner, a three-fourths majority in favor of the change is necessary.
8. In a vote that was not unanimous by the Officer Board, a new by-law was added on May 4, 510:
The Guildmaster position will continue to be an elected position, but starting with all future elections, the persons that pull in the second and third highest number of votes will be the First and Second Officer. In the event that there are not two or three candidates running for the Guildmaster position, appointments may be made by the Guildmaster. In the event of this happening, the appointment made by the Guildmaster will need to be approved by the Merchant Guild members. The power of the First and Second Guild Officers will be expanded to now have equal votes that will be able to override a Guildmaster decision in changes in several categories of decision making. Included in this would be any Guild decision that commits over one hundred platinum of Guild resources to any contract for any length of time, changes in Guild policy, the appointment of subsequent Guild officers, and international trade decision making. If a Guildmaster wishes to remove a First or Second Officer, over half of the Guild members must approve the removal and a new election for that position must take place.