The Seven Cities
The Explorers’ Guild, sometimes known as the Adventurer’s or Quester’s Guild, is one of the smallest. Based in D’kath, the only other Explorers’ Guildhall is in Arkassin. Efforts to expand into other cities has failed largely due to a lack of demand, but also in part due to the Explorers reputation for bringing powerful, unruly people to town. The neighborhoods surrounding the Explorers’ Guildhalls are always prone to fights, property damage, and general disorder.
Joining the Explorers’ Guild is simple. Membership has two tiers; one can be a Member, or a Ranger. Basic Membership dues are 50gp initially, but only 10gp per year thereafter. Upon joining, new members are given a Standard Adventurer’s Kit (PHB 222), a silver Guild pin (often used to secure a cloak), and a 5%-10% discount at various inns, smiths, and other businesses around D’kath and Arkassin. In the scheme of things, these minor diner’s-club-style perks aren’t really much of a draw. The real benefits of joining the Explorers Guild come from the Guild Contracts.
Guild Contracts are quests, tips, and tasks given to the Explorer’s Guild by third parties or members. They might involve a cash reward (e.g., a bounty on a hobgoblin chieftain), or simply a tip on the location of a promising ruin or other loot-opportunity. Explorer’s Guild Contracts are available at the Guildhall. Usually they’re posted on a board inside, but sometimes the Guild Leadership will hold particularly promising or difficult Contracts back from general posting and direct them towards particular Guild members, or even themselves.
Anyone can submit a task, quest, or tip over to the Explorers’ Guild. The only requirements for a Contract is that the object of the Contract have some reasonable expectation of monetary compensation (loot, bounty, fee, etc.), and that the Contract be given exclusively to the Explorer’s Guild. Breach of the exclusivity of a Contract is, in theory, addressed by the Shepherds’ Guild, but the Explorers are, as everyone knows, a rowdy bunch.
Any Guild Member can take a Guild Contract. In most cases, Members deal only with the Guild. The Guild deals with the clients. Whatever payment, reward, or loot is earned through the contract, the Guild receives 10% off the top. This policy remains the case regardless of how many people participate in completing the contract, and whether or not all participants are members of the Explorers’ Guild themselves. Guild members are expected to make the terms clear and preserve the Guild’s share, or pay the Guild’s 10% of the total take out of the Member’s share itself.
Obviously it can be difficult, at times, for the Guild to know if a given member is being honest about the take on any given contract when it comes to loot and spoils. But the penalties for breach are steep, and members who seem to be underpaying can sometimes find it difficult to get Guild Contracts. Worse, they can sometimes find themselves ousted and blacklisted by the Guild, which can make it hard to do business in any City with an Explorers’ Guild Chapter in it.
Above regular membership (but still below the Guild leadership), stand the Explorers’ Guild Rangers. Rangers are generally raised from the ranks of long-time Guild Members, but occasionally new members of sufficient experience and skill can be made Rangers. The title “Ranger” is not reserved for archers and hunters; wizards and priests (especially of Jehnahn) can be Guild Rangers, though training in the Nature skill is extremely useful.
Unlike normal Explorers’ Guild Members, Guild Rangers are actually employees of the Guild. They are given room and board at any Explorers’ Guildhall as a perk of membership. Rangers can, and often do, take on normal Guild Contracts. That’s not what sets Rangers apart.
Rangers work for the Guild, but are for hire. Guild members can hire Rangers, but so can non-members. The terms are almost always the same. When hiring a Guild Ranger, one contracts to give both the Guild and the Ranger one full share each of the take for the job. This applies whether the job is a Guild Contract, or outside work for which the Ranger is hired. Generally, if the Ranger dies on the job, the Guild receives the dead Ranger’s share (most of which is generally given to the deceased family if they are known), and the standard Guild share.
Hiring a Guild Ranger means gaining the benefit of the Ranger’s skill and experience. As such, the Guild only raises or hires Rangers whose abilities will benefit the reputation of the Guild. Because one of a Ranger’s tasks is generally to act as a guide, a Guild Ranger must be very familiar with the lands into which the job will take them, and most are trained in Nature.
While hiring a Guild Ranger for general support and guidance can be very helpful, it is probably not worth a double share of loot and profit. What makes hiring a Ranger worthwhile is access to Explorers’ Guild Waypoints.
Scattered throughout the Greybane Mountains, the Smoking Wastes, and the Gandoran Mountains west of Arkassin are dozens of small stone shelters placed by the Mokiiran Explorers’ Guild. Each of these Waypoints is, in fact, a shrine to Jehnahn, god of travelers, explorers, and pilgrims. Each Waypoint is slightly different, but all are covered, located near existing paths or trails, but difficult to spot if one doesn’t know what one is looking for. They are all dedicated to the God of Roads, and have a place to build a fire.
Most of the Waypoints are also magically protected. The sanctity of the shrine itself helps deter undead and fell spirits, but the permanent Magic Circle (PHB 309) protecting against elemental, shadow, and undead creatures (Arcana roll 20+1d10) that grace many of the shelters make the Waypoints a true boon to weary, harried travelers. The Waypoints are also usually built near fresh water, and stocked with firewood, which travelers are expected to replace before they leave.
Anyone not blocked by the Magic Circle can use an Explorer’s Guild Waypoint. Most Guild members know the location of one or two just by virtue of having made use of them on one quest or another. The location of all Waypoints are known only to the masters of the Explorers’ Guild and their Rangers.
Each Guild Ranger is expected to memorize the locations of any and all Waypoints near anyplace they plan to travel on Guild business. To reflect this, it is a History or Nature check DC 27 to know of a Waypoint within a day’s travel of wherever a Ranger starts their day within the Greybane or Gandoran Mountains, or the Smoking Wastes. Rangers are strongly discouraged from writing down or mapping the Waypoints. Telling non-guild members the location of a Waypoint is similarly frowned upon, though showing them as part of hired services is, of course, expected.
A few Rangers, over the years, have built additional magical defenses and features into a special Waypoint here and there. A couple have permanent Teleportation Circles used for the Linked Portal or Planar Portal rituals. One or two here or there have doors with an Arcane Lock. Various other pleasant surprises can sometimes be discovered. These extra perks are the exception, not the rule.
It is perhaps obvious that the job of Guild Rangers and the Shepherds are, sometimes, very similar. Shepherds are meant to have exclusive rights to and responsibility for protecting trade, and thus all formal caravan and merchant’s guards are part of the Shepherd’s guild.
The difference between a merchant caravan and an adventuring party, especially one returning from a good dungeon delve, can be a pretty fine line. Rangers, as armed guides for adventuring parties sometimes walk a blurred line that does not endear them to the Shepherds. This tension has put the Explorers’ Guild at odds with the Shepherds on more than one occasion, which may contribute to the Explorers’ limited influence in Mokiir.