All you kids come in with the same wide eyed dreams of fantastic wealth, and forest strong holds, and winning nobility for your actions. Sure there are plenty of goblins to be killed, and there are lost temples and hidden cities to be discovered and looted but there is a procedure. The royals and the nobles need to be placated, and nothing placates a man in power quite like us paying our taxes. I know, the great heroes didn't pay taxes, they over threw the corrupt and evil nobles. It's stuff like that that gets the blue bloods in a tiff. The stories sell well in the taverns but its pitting the adventurers against the nobles and they really don't like that. That sort of thing leads to civil wars, assassinations, and magical crises. No one really like that. So, you join the guild, you pay your taxes and everyone gets along and everyone gets paid.
A Kid named Martin
Martin was born a poor boy in the streets of the Old City, living in a crowded tenement. He shuffled from job to job. He excelled at few, he was a scrawny youth, and didn't have the strength for the manual labor, or the coordination to take up pick pocketing. He had no aptitude for magic, and the closest he came to adventure was listening to minstrels and bards while he bussed tables in taverns for copper bits. But he had a sharp mind and was cunning. He listened to the stories and the histories, and unlike many people he could read and write, and knew math.
Martin added the name Stanleigh when he joined the Guild of Adventurers Upon Return, and became a file clerk counting gold and making sure the taxes and dues were paid on time and correctly. He also made sure just a little bit made it into his pocket. After a few years of this steady work, Martin started his next scheme to become wealthy and powerful. The 'adventures' that the guild went on were relayed to each chapter house as contracts to be accepted, or requests for certain groups to take on. It was a scattershot method, few nobles knew of adventurers upon return by name, and many of the contracts were vague or missing information. Martin knew all of the members of his guild chapterhouse, and as one of the head ledger scribes, he knew who sent the contracts and who was paid gold and taxes. All that was missing was a middleman, an accomodator.
There's a lot of work out there kid, a lot of gold to be made. But you've got to make a name for yourself. You've got to become the subject of the bards while you are still alive, peasants have got to recognize you, and lords have to know of you, by name. Well, how are peasants who spend their lives in dirt and cow shit going to learn your name or know what you look like? That's my job. The first thing we need to do is get you a better name, something catchy, something they will remember. Once we've got that, we get you a look so that people who hear what the bards sing will know who you are. A good name, a catchy theme for the rest of your team, and if you can deliver we'll all be rich.
Martin started managing contracts under the table, making sure that adventurers who worked with him got the better contracts, or the contracts that would give them the best chance of success. The adventurers who disliked him, disagreed with him, were given the poorer or the suicidal contracts so soon everyone learned that it was better to be Stanleigh's friend than his adversary. Once he had a few groups of adventurers in his proverbial stable, he started using his audience with the nobles (paying the taxes) to sell some of his teams. The nobles disliked Stanleigh's direct approach and his lack of what they expected from merchants, but a few listened and compared to the Guild of Sellswords and Mercenaries, or the Guild of Security, he was at least civil. He did an excellent job of matching heroes to the needs of the nobility. Soon he was being referred to the other guilds, and the Faith for their needs. His stable of adventurers grew, their fame grew, and so did all of their coin purses.
Patents of Nobility
Stanleigh did well enough that several of his prized fighters and warriors were knighted as Knight Errants, and he had risen to the position of head of his chapterhouse. During this time, some of his best teams were becoming the talk of the taverns, and he started facing competition from other heads of other chapterhouses. Iacob Cerna, head of the larger chapterhouse at Kik castle was starting to put more cohesive teams into the field, while Z'tev Dien of the Stanmor-Gilmor River Cities Guild was recruiting from Stanleigh's stable. With his accrued wealth, Stanleigh purchased patents of nobility, making him a landless Lord of the Coin, with the rights and privelages that come with it. He gained a small spot in the royal court and quickly turned against his rivals in the guild. Cerna was later found dead in his home, the official cause given was that Cerna had become addicted to a foul tincture that led to his ultimate demise. Dien saw the way the wind was blowing and surrendered his position as head of the Stanmor-Gilmor chapterhouse. Stanleigh, now Lord Martin Stanleigh Goodman was the preeminent peddler of adventurers upon return.
Fredrick? Maria? Guy? You are a terrible team! There's only three of you, and what terrible names. Fredrick, you're Firion now, get some red boots, and a red cloak. Maria, hopeless, and Guy, you should probably head down to the docks, they are always needing strong arms and backs to load the ships. So Firion, we can find you some replacement team members to work with. I don't care if she was your sister, I'm doing you a favor here kid. Who's the new kid and who's the guy with the title? So, I am seeing a fire motif, red cloaks, red boots, we can see about finding some flaming weapons, it'll be great. With all the fire, a mercenary priest you'll be the go to guys for killing zombies and regenerators like trolls. You'll fight who I say to fight and go where I tell you to go. I'm your boss now, I'll make you into somebody. Cross me, and I'll make sure you end up washing chamberpots behind the whorehouse, hero.
Power and Responsibility
With great power comes great responsibility, and power corrupts. With his contacts among the nobles, his own patents, and the heroes in his stable, Stanleigh became the first a Guildmaster in the Guild of Adventurers Upon Return, and after being knighted himself, the Guild Marshal of the entire guild. With his hair turning grey, the scrawny Guildmaster, and Knighted Lord started taking credit for all of his teams. He made them, he sculpted them from tortured clay to turn them into heroes worthy of adulation and song. To his credit, his teams did do very well, and not only was the guild strong, it was wealthy and it was respected across the kingdoms.
The Guild Marshal's personal life never fared as well as his professional life. He married for looks, she married for money, and soon he was estranged from his wife. The Lady Goodman took up residence in a private Hermitage for Sequestered Wives and only saw her husband once or twice a year. None of their children survived past childhood due to illnesses and complications at birth. Many rumors swirled around that Lady Goodman was deranged, or consumed by holy madness and murdered her children, considering her husband to be the incarna of a demon. Stanleigh becomes violently aggitated and hostile if even the first question is asked about his wife or any of his deceased children.
Up and Comers - Heroes have to get their start somewhere, and it doesn't get any better than working under Stanleigh's guild. He micromanages his chapterhouses, hand picking and dismissing officers and members, so each chapterhouse can expect to see him several times a year. The PCs can get a sit down evaluation and interview with Stanleigh, where he generally gives them a dressing down, casual deconstruction and any compliments will be backhanded. But then he will 'rebuild' then in his own idea, which is usually giving a few odd names, a sobriquet with the word THE in the middle, some costume changes and some gimmicks and catch phrases. But then the PCs realize they have a micromanaging boss from Hell. Freelancing looks pretty good now.
Infiltration - Dien hasn't completely quit, he has hired the PCs to infiltrate the guild and investigate the operation of the guild for corruption and specifically the Guild Marshal since Dien is fairly certain he had Cerna murdered, and he is curious about all of the rumors swirling around Stanleigh's sequestered wife and the constant unfortunate deaths of his children.
Guild War! - The Guild of Adventurers Upon Return isnt the only guild, and the Guild Marshal has been stepping toes and has incited a war between his guild and another. The fights are kept hidden, a shadow war, so that the Crown doesn't get involved. Perhaps the mercenary guild has turned against the GAUR for poaching jobs from them, or the Thieve's Guild has tiredof being the target of so many GAUR contracts and has decided to turn the table. Possibly the war is between the oldest rivals of the GAUR, the Assassins Guild. There will be blood.