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Author Topic: Council of Merchants  (Read 910 times)

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Offline crazylittleelf

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Council of Merchants
« on: August 12, 2004, 02:13:15 PM »
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.

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Merchant’s Council

The Merchant’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 sibling’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.

Possibilities:

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 merchant’s son.  Each family gathers allies and tries to ruin the other.  The PC’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.

Offline Ylorea

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Council of Merchants
« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2004, 06:56:10 AM »
First of, I would suggest that the Mediator or president of the guild would be chosen for a shorter period of time.
After all, ten years is very long in human life, especialy if you think about a situation that would resemble middle-age europe or even renaisance europe. Life expectency would be around forty years and of course the mediator would be chosen only if he has proven to be a worthy member of the guild. This would take quite a couple of years trading....
I would suggest changing his reign to lets say five or six years. This way, a mediator could also be chosen for a second, third or even forth term and Mediator death of old age would not be the major reason for electing a new one.

As the PC's seem to enter the town or at least are rather new in town, there is little change they would be asked to escort a trade envoy.

But another hook: What if the elections for Mediator where about to be held in a couple of months? That would give major reasons for strife. I can imagine that some people would like some houses to burn down or some business to run afoul.

I can also imagine that the weight of one's vote would depend on the size of one's business. Perhaps there are a couple of grades in this. So the maximum attainable is one man, five votes. After all, if your business brings in more money for the town, it is logical that you have more to say about how taxes are spent.
This in turn could lead to situations where the PC's where asked to "help" some business deciline or to escort some illegal goods that might lift their employers business across a treshold for an extra vote.

Last but not least. Your guild is very, very influential and wields the major power in the city. I could very well imagine that some of the people involved in the "normal" towns government and city guards, would like the PC's to help them diminish the power of the guild.

Do not get me wrong, I like your general setting and set of ideas and I will incorportate some of it into my campaign, as my players currently are in a large port city as well.

Yours,

Ylorea
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