This is being written for a mostly urban campaign set in a largish port city. I'm expecting the PCs to have quite a bit of contact with members of this organization since it is one of the larger power centers of the town. Still working everything out, but thought I'd post it to get some feedback.
The MerchantÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s Council of the City of Bryn is an organization of merchant families who help govern commerce and trade within the town. The council approves artisan guild charters, strongly influences the decisions of the government concerning taxes, trade contracts and other business decisions. They also determine who is granted business permits in the town. The council is responsible for organizing street fairs and open markets through out the year and directs and manages civil improvement projects in the town such as repaving old streets. They also attempt to insure that businesses abide by the laws and traditions of the town. If a business is operating dishonestly, selling inferior goods to unknowing buyers or upsetting the economy, the council may take steps to prevent this, such as fines, frequent inspections, and if the case is severe enough, revoking the business permit of the merchant. If illegal goods are being sold, the council has the authority to investigate and involve the city guard.
The council consists of a Mediator, who presides over all council proceedings and is elected every 10 years; Voting Members, who have the power to vote in council matters; and Non-voting members, who can raise and discuss issues in council meetings but do not get to vote on issues.
Membership on the council is passed down through families. When children reach 15 years, their parents determine if membership to the council will be granted to them. More than one child per family is allowed membership, but the first to gain membership is the only one that may vote. Younger children may gain an older siblingÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s vote if the younger sibling was not involved in the death in any way. The council will investigate to determine this. New merchants may petition for membership by gaining the support of 3 members of voting status. If accepted, they gain a vote and the right to initiate their children. Membership support is based solely on the discretion of the other merchants. There is no documented criterion to fill. Most families only initiate on child unless they have very large holdings that are expected to be managed by more than one child.
There are many business and political rivalries between council members. There are also rivalries between other organizations in town, including shipping guild, the guild of farmers and growers, the industrial trade guild, and various lords and politicians.
While tensions between factions/families on the council are usually kept in check by common goals, circumstances might arise to cause more open hostility. The son of a merchant was accidentally killed in a brawl by another merchantÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s son. Each family gathers allies and tries to ruin the other. The PCÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s are asked to assist each side and must decide if they will help one family or remain neutral and try to help the council come back to order. Or maybe this is their chance to try and seize power or eliminate people who have been obstacles.
The PCs could be hired by a potential member to recruit business and support, or be hired by someone who wants to keep a potential member out.
The PCs could be asked to help guard a trade envoy to a foreign city. The envoy could be trying to establish caravan routes or shipping agreements.
The PCs could be hired to investigate why a merchant is suddenly undercutting the competition by a large margin.