A Campaign Resource for GURPS Fantasy
by Jeremy Davies
"The existence of an all powerful High Guild of magecraft is a pure flight of fancy. It is a myth used to scare young apprentices and has absolutely no basis in fact . . ."
Art by andi jones
-- Tiberius Spellweaver, Guildmaster of the Megalan Central Guild of Christian Magic.
"Statum quo conservare ante omnia"The High Guild, the Grand Guild, Altus Collegium, Murtafi Aahila, there are many legends among the magical fraternities of the Ytarrian nations regarding a single all powerful Guild of magicians. A High Guild that transcends all boundaries: religious, cultural, political and geographical. Amongst the few that actually believe in such stories, there are many theories regarding the agendum of such an organization.
To preserve the status quo above all things
HistoryThe High Guild was officially formed on the 1st of March, 1585, in response to the resurgence in the Banestorm that started in 1551. Up until that point, every nation had dealt with small increases in technology, due to new arrivals and inventions, with varying degrees of success and zeal. It wasn't until the major arrivals from areas such as Renaissance France that it was recognized that a combined and internationally coordinated effort was required to stamp out the threat to the status quo of Ytarrian power.
At Keyhole Isle, the Guildmasters of 14 of the most powerful mages guilds on Yrth got together at the beginning of 1585 and hammered out a charter that brought the High Guild into existence. There was to be no individual leader, but a Masterhood -- four from Megalos, two from al-Wazif and one each from al-Haz, Cardiel, Caithness, the Nomad Territories and Sahud. Envoys were sent to Zarak, the Orclands and several kingdoms of Elves amongst the Great Forest and the Blackwoods, but none of these areas were interested in participating in the ideals behind the High guild, probably because it represents continued human dominance on the planet.
In December of 1586, representation on the High Guild was also granted to the area of Ytarria known as the Land of Djinns. The great mage that sits for the Djinns, known only as Master Zeek, remains a member of the Guild to this day.
PurposeThe High Guild's motto basically reveals its purpose. The Ministry of Serendipity, and groups like it in other nations, has a remarkably accurate profile of social trends on Earth, so they saw the decline of influence of the traditional power groups from the beginning of the Renaissance to the current day. It became obvious that with the development of ideas and the evolution of science came the erosion of autocracy and religious ideals. This trend is unacceptable to the Ytarrian autocrats and religious officials, not to mention the magical fraternities that have a monopoly on getting things done that are not otherwise possible.
For these reasons, the High Guild received total and unquestioned cooperation from all the major power groups of Ytarria. The leaders of these groups are just about the only other people aware of the Guild's existence. The Curia supports the High Guild philosophy by being as deliberately belligerent to new ideas as their Earthly medieval equivalent. They spread the message, as much as possible within their area of influence, that new ideas and concepts are automatically suspect of "satanic inspiration" until proven otherwise.
The symbol of the guild, a plain looking key shape, represents the metaphorical "key" that the Guild has become to continued feudal/medieval society on Yrth, while Earth continues to develop. It is also symbolic of their place of meeting. Although most authorities are unaware of the High Guild's existence, they are instructed to assist those holding "the key" whenever asked, which is very rarely. Any such request is reported up the chain of command to ensure the key is genuine. If not, the holder may as well climb quickly into the nearest coffin they can find and bury themselves. They are no longer alive . . .
OrganizationThe Twelve Masters of the High Guild meet routinely every two years at Keyhole Isle, while they are available for emergency meetings at a moment's notice to address particularly pressing matters. Each Master is in charge of policing the status quo in their areas, and in reporting to the other Masters all the major actions taken during the two year period. The Masters are generally high placed officials in Yrthian society themselves, mostly Guildmasters of normal Mage's Guilds.
The main purpose of the meetings are to decide whether action should be taken in certain circumstances. Subtle warnings are generally issued to those in danger of developing ideas that may affect the status quo. If these warnings go unheeded, a suppression may be required. Any Master has the right to call for a suppression at any time, but if he has doubts he may decide to refer it to the next meeting, or even call an emergency gathering. In 1775, the Sultan's second eldest son had secretly developed a crude form of gunpowder to help in the liberation of al-Kard. Warnings had been ignored -- he was the Sultan's son after all! An emergency meeting was called and a covert suppression ordered. The Sultan's son and immediate servants died when his Al-Abyad residence burned to the ground one night from a kitchen fire "mishap" that also destroyed all his research material
A Secretariat exists to be full time servants of the High Guild and are permanently based at the secret underground meeting site at Keyhole Isle. These are the people charged with calculating all the data received from the many different sources between meetings. From this intelligence analysis, secretaries of the High Guild are able to call emergency meetings, but do not have the power to order suppressions. Informants at all levels of society give information on new creative ideas with absolutely no idea where the information is going and who is paying them for it.
The Secretaries of the Guild also control a vast network of scrying devices that are distributed around Ytarria. Information received through these means is closely guarded, and although many illegal activities are discovered, the charter of the Guild ensures that only information related to the purpose of the Guild is ever acted upon.
Finally, there are the Guardians. These are the hit men, used individually or in small groups as required, who do the wet work of "idea suppression." They are well trained in covert operations, have physical fighting skills as well as being fearsome mages in their own right. They are fanatical in their belief in the ultimate good of the Guild's purpose, so they will show no pity or remorse for even the most questionable violent actions that they may have to perform as a part of their duties.
Article publication date: July 23, 1999
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