On the face of it, the very idea of a unified "Thieves' Guild" should be laughable. Of course there is no such thing as a nefarious, sinister organisation that spans the cities of Leng. Nonetheless, there are Thieves' Guilds - the Ceteris Paribus of Kharolis, the Colleges of Solamnus, the Fraternity of Nirrin in Lionsgate, and the Guild of Compatriots across the cities of Lorknir, to name a few. While each of these organisations is different from the others, there are common themes - such as advantages and disadvantages of membership - in a guild for any aspiring rogue. Membership of a Thieves' Guild is also often an in-road to getting "special" jobs - lucrative tasks that are usually planned far in advance, or jobs undertaken by a guild to earn contacts in influential positions. The planning and insider knowledge that goes into these heists is often inaccessible to lone thieves.
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The College of Peers
The city of Solamnus is one of the oldest cities on Leng, host to the legendary University of Solamnus and a paragon of wealth. Consequently, however, it has the largest slums in Leng, sprawling over a full quarter of the city's walled-in area. This is known as the Sprawl. Until recently, the Sprawl was controlled by four "colleges" - the College of Peers, the College of Mercenaries, Redbeard's College, and the Aventi Group. Of these, two stand out: the College of Peers was the largest and most connected, and the Aventi Group was the most ruthless and wealthy, controlling most of Guild Hill. Recently, however, everything has changed. As of 201 AE, the actions of the Truthseekers wiped the Aventi Group from existence once and for all. Although this weakened crime in Solamnus overall, the power vacuum left behind was enormous - they didn't stay to finish what they started, and the College of Peers profited. Already the largest college, they moved in on the rich assets previously owned by the Aventi and seized large parts of the city's criminal industry. The College of Mercenaries sold most of their criminal enterprise off to the Peers, moving into the legitimate mercenary work that already made up most of their earnings. Redbeard's College fought a series of brief skirmishes with the Peers, then vanished - thought by most to be in hibernation. More than any other, the College of Peers is now the Thieves' Guild of Solamnus, and there have recently even been rumours of new enterprise outside the city walls.
The Three Peers
The College of Peers is exceptionally sophisticated compared to most Thieves' Guilds. It works through politics, diplomacy and subtle intimidation whenever possible - violence is a last resort. A strict hierarchy is what holds this organisation together. Only trusted criminals move up through the ranks, and the price of insubordination or cooperation with the law is the same for every offence - death. The leader of the organisation is known as the First Man. Until recently, this was Berem of Lionsgate. However, during the events of the Truthseeker Initiative, he was assassinated by an unknown party - some believe it was a Nameless Man hired by the Aventi before they realised who was attacking them.
Now the First Man is a shrewd man of Norse origins named Skathi Albright. Skathi is attended by the Second and Third Men, his subordinates. The Second Man is his right-hand man in command, and the Third Man is his trusted advisor in all things. As might be expected, there is a clear chain of command in case Skathi is unable to lead the Peers - after Skathi, the Second Man is acting leader. After him, the Third Man.
Below the Three Peers, the next rank is that of the Fourth Man. The keepers of the peace have expended much effort into trying to discover the identity of this figure, who is most essential for the day-to-day operations of the College. What most do not realise is that the Fourth Man is not an individual, but a title conferred upon all those who occupy a position of prominence in the Peers. The College is divided up into a number of cells - each like a thieves' guild in its own right, and each operating in its own tightly-defined domain, known as a Peerage. The "guildmaster" of each Peerage is the Fourth Man, and those who are relatively new to the guild rarely realise that there are a score of other "Fourth Men" throughout the city.
In total, there are 20 Peerages within Solamnus, and each is like a small guild in its own right. Many of the petty gangs and guilds identified by Solamnus are, in fact, part of the College. In some cases, even the lower-ranking members of these Peerages do not realise that they are members of the College at all. As might be expected, there is significant competition between the Fourth Men, who regard each other as rival captains, but they are kept in line by the political power of the Three Peers.
Below the Fourth Men are the Peers - these are the ones who have proven themselves to be skilful, loyal and trustworthy thieves. These Peers have a great deal of autonomy - they always have an area of expertise, be it housebreaking, lifting or even such esoteric practices as blackmail or infiltration. The principle of the College of Peers is that a Peer and his subordinates should be indistinguishable from a band of unaffiliated thieves - but with the resources of the College behind them. Peers assemble their own bands, recruiting them as any experienced thief would put together his own troupe.
These, the "Associates" are the most populous members of the College, and they are trusted with almost no information at all - not even allowed to enter the secret safehouses maintained by the College. Some realise what organisation they are a part of, but many do not realise they are anything other than one of a band of thieves led by a good, strong leader. As an Associate proves themself, they will gradually be given more and more - more responsibility, and more wealth and power. They'll get opportunities to work with the College, allowing them to do business without fear. They get steady supply to fences and maybe even political connections through a Peer.
Becoming a Peer is not an easy task. You must have been an Associate for long enough to be deemed trustworthy, at the very least. It is an appointment made directly by the Fourth Man of a Peerage, and only with the recommendation of the Peer you report to. Some of the benefits are obvious - thieves reporting directly to you, territory that you can plunder as you see fit, guaranteed income - but there are other benefits as well. The connections and intelligence available to a full Peer is formidable, and what's more - becoming a Peer means you're protected for life. No one who knows anything about the city would dare touch a Peer, for the retaliation of the College is swift and merciless. A Peer is a man who can do anything to anyone without repercussions, as long as they're not a Peer.
The College of Peers in Solamnus, as stated above, was once one of many colleges. Of them all, it now stands alone in its control of the Sprawl. In their rule as the absolute rulers of the seedy underside of the city, they do much more than simple larcenies and such malpractices. They extort shopkeepers, corrupt guards, and control commerce, smuggling and contraband. Within the jumble of narrow streets and insulae that is the Sprawl, they are more prominent and real than the City Watch, and their justice is more direct.
The College of Peers has worked hard to cultivate the image of rulers, rather than simple thugs, especially in recent years. Twice a year, on festival days, they dip into their own coffers to distribute bread and fishes amongst the poorest of the Sprawl. People come to the College for extra coin for a marriage or funeral, justice that the Crown will not dispense, the adjudication of a dispute. The new First Man recognises that the goodwill of the people will transform them from an organisation that must exercise violence and fear constantly to maintain its territory into an institution of Solamnus, solid and untouchable.
The Fraternity of Nirrin