Chapter 2: Guilds of Ravnica
The ten guilds are the lifeblood of Ravnica, making up the foundation of its society. They are voluntary associations led by guildmasters, but that’s the extent of their resemblance to the craft and merchant guilds found on most Dungeons & Dragons worlds. They include many different kinds of organizations:
- A government body, the Azorius Senate
- A military force, the Boros Legion
- An espionage network, House Dimir
- An association of raiders, the Gruul Clans
- Two scientific research institutions, the Izzet League and the Simic Combine
- An organized crime family, the Orzhov Syndicate
- Raucous performance troupes collectively known as the Cult of Rakdos, which bends to the whims of a powerful demon
- Two widely divergent groups devoted to nature, the Golgari Swarm and the Selesnya Conclave
Citizens of Ravnica aren’t born into guilds. An individual can choose to belong to any guild — or no guild. Some guilds, such as Selesnya and Boros, actively recruit new members, while others simply accept those who seek membership. People within a family might join different guilds, which can lead to strong connections between the guilds in question or to painful animosity in families whose members follow different paths.
Even though citizens can choose their guild associations, long-standing traditions steer certain individuals toward a particular guild. For example, it would be highly unusual for a Devkarin elf (a dark elf) to join any guild other than the Golgari, and the Ordruun line of minotaurs has provided the Boros armies with generations of offspring. Members of certain races are also drawn to specific guilds, as noted in the description of each of guild.
You establish your character’s membership in a guild by choosing that guild’s background from among those detailed in this chapter. This book assumes that you have chosen a guild and that you maintain your association with it throughout your life. As a result, your choice of guild can play a more significant role than most backgrounds do in shaping what your character does now, not just what you accomplished in the past.
The backgrounds associated with guilds in this chapter work like those in the Player’s Handbook, giving you proficiencies, languages, equipment, and suggested characteristics (personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws). Each guild entry also provides personal contacts; suggestions for your alignment, race, and class; and a list of spells that you can add to your spell list if you’re a member of a spellcasting class.
The spellcasters of Ravnica’s guilds have a style of magic specific to their guild. A guild’s description includes a list of guild spells that epitomize the type of magic the guild favors. The Boros Legion, for example, tends to prefer using spells of fire magic and holy light, and its guild spell list reflects that emphasis.
If you play a character who has the Spellcasting or the Pact Magic class feature, your guild spells are added to the spell list for your class, thereby expanding the spell options available to you.
Bonds and Contacts
As a benefit of your guild membership, you have contacts both inside and outside the guild. Contacts are useful resources in the urban environment of Ravnica, where a friendly face can be more valuable than gold.
As stated in the Player’s Handbook, bonds represent your connections to people, places, and events in the world. Contacts are people you have a connection to, but they’re not necessarily bonds. People can be bonds if they inspire you, motivate you, or make you act against your best interests. (They can represent flaws if their existence amounts to a weakness for you.) Contacts, in comparison, are simply people you know. They might be friends, rivals, or even family members, but their relationship with you is rarely as strong as with a bond.
Although the tables of contacts in this chapter describe nonplayer characters who are members of guilds (your own and others), you are likely to acquire guildless contacts as well. NPCs such as goblin gang leaders, minotaur bartenders, and vedalken tailors all go about their lives in the shadow of the guilds but divorced from those groups’ intrigue and politics.
Your character starts the game with three contacts: an ally in their guild, a rival in their guild, and an ally or rival in another guild. (House Dimir is an exception.) Tables in each guild section help you determine who these contacts are — facts that you can build on by working with your DM to add some details. The table entries for contacts are written in the first person, where “I” is your character.
You’ll roll twice on the Contacts table for your guild, unless you’re in House Dimir (as explained in that guild’s section). Your first roll gives you an ally. Your second roll gives you a rival, who might be friendly, jealous, or antagonistic. (It’s possible for these to be the same person; a single person might be generally friendly toward you and simultaneously jealous of your success, for example.) Then you’ll roll once on the table of contacts from other guilds. That contact could be either an ally or a rival, or you might instead gain a third contact from your own guild.
The guilds might be considered the heart and soul of Ravnica, but they aren’t all that makes up the city. Many citizens choose not to join a guild — some because they can’t be bothered, and others because they have philosophical objections to the very idea of guilds. The so-called guildless are especially common in areas that might be considered rural: places farther from the heart of the city and the larger exurban districts. But even in the city’s heart, some guildless citizens actively oppose the influence of the guilds, blaming the world’s strife and suffering on an elite hierarchy that seeks to take control, consolidate wealth, and fragment a populace against itself. The numbers of the guildless include people engaged in a wide variety of trades and services that aren’t managed and regulated by the guilds, from baking to cartography. University professors, guides, traders, and bartenders might be guildless. Criminal gangs set themselves up as rivals to the Orzhov, and even military forces operate independent of guild control, serving as neighborhood police forces or mercenaries for hire. About half of Ravnica’s population is guildless. That proportion is higher for some races than others: nearly all elves, for example, belong to the Golgari, Selesnya, or Simic guilds, but a majority of goblins are guildless. Loxodons tend to have a strong sense of community, so they readily join guilds. And when they don’t, they join groups of another sort, such as mercenary companies or cults. Simic hybrids are all created within the Simic Combine, so it’s rare for them not to be part of it.
As you advance the goals of your guild through your adventures, you become an increasingly important part of the guild’s activities. You might rise through the ranks, eventually taking up a position at the right hand of the guildmaster — or even becoming the master yourself!
Your status in your guild is measured by your renown score. As you increase that score, you gain the opportunity to advance in the ranks of the guild.
When you join a guild as a starting character, your renown score with that guild is 1. Your renown score increases by 1 when you do something to advance the guild’s interests, assuming that other members of the guild are aware of what you’ve done. Each guild’s description in this chapter includes a discussion of its goals and your role in pursuing those goals, which your DM will use to judge whether you earn an increase in your renown score.
The various ranks within the guilds describe the range of tasks you might perform, from testing experimental Izzet weaponry to leading a squad of Boros soldiers into battle. When you’re assigned a mission that involves an adventure — leaving behind your guild holdings and putting yourself in danger — and you complete that mission, your renown score with that guild increases by 2. Chapter 4 includes information for the DM about missions appropriate for your guild.
Other tasks that don’t involve adventuring can also improve your renown score. You can use the time between adventures to improve your renown within your guild by performing these tasks, as well as by socializing with prominent people in the guild. After doing so for a total number of days equal to your current renown score multiplied by 10, your renown score increases by 1.
At your DM’s discretion, you might also have a renown score in a guild you don’t belong to. You can’t ever formally advance in rank within another guild, but a high renown score can earn you additional contacts, favors, and other benefits. This option can be useful in an intrigue-heavy campaign where the adventurers spend a lot of time trying to influence the leaders of various guilds.
Benefits of Renown
As you gain renown in a guild, you gain certain benefits. Most benefits are guild-specific, but there are general benefits that apply no matter which guild you belong to:
Renown 3 or Higher. When you have a renown score of at least 3 with your own guild, you are an established and respected member of the guild. Other members of the guild have a friendly attitude toward you by default. (Individual members of the guild might have reasons to dislike you despite your renown.) They provide you with lodging and food in dire circumstances and pay for your funeral if needed. If you are accused of a crime, your guild offers legal support, as long as a good case can be made for your innocence or the crime was justifiable.
Renown 5 or Higher. When your renown score with any guild reaches 5, you gain an additional contact within the guild. This contact might be a character you met during your adventures or someone who seeks you out because of your fame. Your DM will assign you a contact or have you roll on the Contacts table for the appropriate guild.
Some guilds — notably Azorius, Orzhov, and Boros — have well-defined hierarchies that characters can ascend through as they improve their renown scores.
Other guilds have positions of honor that characters can apply for if their renown score is high enough. Not every member of the Selesnya Conclave aspires to be a sagittar (an archer assigned to guard an important guild location), but any character who meets the prerequisites can apply for the position. Ultimately, the DM decides whether a character qualifies for such a role, with a certain renown score as a minimum requirement.
Several guilds provide a salary among the benefits of renown within the guild. The salary is described as sufficient to maintain a lifestyle of a certain level. If you earn a salary, you can live at the specified lifestyle without paying the normal daily expenditure. See chapter 5 of the Player’s Handbook for more information on lifestyle expenses.
A prominent position in a guild often allows you to call on the services of lower-ranking members to assist you in your work. When you do, they are assumed to be loyal followers who help you to the best of their ability. Some of them are assigned to help you for the duration of a single task or mission, while others are under your permanent command, staffing a laboratory, workshop, or garrison where you are in charge. Depending on their role, they might help you in dangerous situations (like combat) or flee from them. You might assign them to perform tasks in your absence, which could include undertaking research, looking for witnesses to a crime, or carrying out a small-scale raid, for example, depending on their role and capabilities. You carry the responsibility for their lives and welfare, ultimately, and if the guild decides that you are abusing your authority and mistreating the members beneath you, you might lose renown, lose your rank or status in the guild, or even be cast out of the guild.
If you commit a serious offense against your guild or its members, you might lose renown within the guild. The extent of the loss depends on the infraction and is left to the DM’s discretion. A character’s renown score with a guild can never drop below 0. If your renown score drops below the threshold for a rank or privilege you have attained, you lose that benefit. Even if you regain the lost renown, you might find it more difficult to again secure a position or rank you have previously lost.
Styles of Membership
As you’re playing a character associated with one of the guilds, think about your character’s relationship with the guild. Guild members can be grouped into four categories, depending on their motivations and priorities: loyalists, opportunists, rebels, and anomalies. Which one of these descriptions best fits your character?
Loyalists join a guild because they firmly believe in the guild’s ideals and want to advance its goals. Their membership in the guild is a badge of identity for them. They’re typically of the races and classes most strongly associated with the guild, and their personality traits and ideals fall in line with the suggestions in this chapter. An idealistic human or a minotaur paladin in the Boros Legion is an example of a loyalist.
Opportunists join a guild based on what they can gain from becoming members. Every guild offers its members something — whether concrete benefits such as opportunities for wealth or more subtle, intangible rewards such as social status — and getting that something is the primary motivation for this type of character. Opportunists often pay lip service to the ideals and goals of the guild, looking out for themselves first and the guild second (at best). A selfish human fighter who uses membership in the Boros Legion as an excuse to bully and steal from others would be an opportunist.
Rebels love the guilds they’re in but don’t conform to guild expectations. They might be good-hearted idealists trying to bend a shady guild toward nobler pursuits, or they might be selfish egotists hoping to direct the guild’s actions toward promoting their own interests. Most rebels are typical members of the guild in terms of race and class, but they vary from type when it comes to personalities and ideals. A Boros legionnaire with tyrannical tendencies who thinks the Boros should enforce justice with an iron fist would be a rebel.
Anomalies are individuals who join guilds contrary to all expectations. Their race or class (or both) is outside the norm for their guild, but their personalities and ideals fall perfectly in line; that’s why they joined. A vedalken paladin in the Boros Legion, or an Ordruun minotaur in the Orzhov Syndicate, would fall into this category.
Membership and Independence
Some adventurers do exactly what they’re told, spending their careers doing the bidding of their guild superiors. Most adventuring characters, though, prefer more independence. You can roll a d6 or choose from the options in the table below to establish a reason for the freedom enjoyed by your character.
|d6||Reason for Independence|
|1||I’ve been around long enough that my guild lets me do what I want.|
|2||I’ve been chosen for special assignments because I’m just that good.|
|3||I’ve been singled out for special assignments because somebody up the ranks hates me.|
|4||I’m moonlighting, and I’d get in trouble if my superiors knew what I was up to.|
|5||I’ve been put at the disposal of another guild because my superiors want to help them.|
|6||I’ve been put at the disposal of another guild because my superiors hope I’ll fail.|
If events in your character’s adventuring career warrant it, you can abandon membership in one guild and join a different one. Once you leave a guild, you can rarely go back.
Your DM decides what requirements you must meet to join a new guild. Some guilds welcome new recruits and make the process as simple as possible, while others require a demonstration of loyalty.
When you change guilds, you lose all the privileges of membership in your original guild, including the background feature granted to you by your original guild and any rank or position you have achieved in that guild. You also lose access to your old guild spells, unless they are already on your class’s spell list, among your spells known, or in your spellbook. Except in exceptional circumstances, your renown score with your original guild becomes 0.
Your old guild expects you to return your guild insignia, and your new guild gives you one to replace it.
You gain the privileges of membership in your new guild. These include the background feature granted by your new guild, although your DM might decide that it takes you a while to gain the full benefit. For example, a character who leaves another guild to join the Gruul Clans doesn’t immediately know the ways of the rubblebelts, but has to gain that familiarity over time. You also gain access to your new guild spells.
Your new guild doesn’t give you any benefits that assume prior knowledge or experience, including proficiencies, starting equipment (except your guild insignia), and contacts.