Brotherhood of the Brick
"I walked through the poor's quarters, and my eye was not harmed. All functional, and simple, and crude, made on the whims of fate and delivered by immediate need.
I walked through the merchant's quarters, and my eye was bored. Pretensions where nothing backed them, striving for appearance without substance, evidence of changing wealth, too much only began, too much never finished.
I walked through the place where the powerful lived, and my eye was tired. Too much of attempted beauty turned hideous, and a lack of taste was made worse by willing lackeys.
But then I've seen the treasure of the city. A cathedral, that was part of the sky, columns, and arches to carry the weight of the world, shapes to let your mind fly along, and ornaments to stop by. A place to ponder, to be pleased to be alive, to accept suffering, and to realize your mistakes. This is a place I could learn from."
An architect is not a mere builder. While experience with all the trades that create a structure is a part of his expertise, he does not do the manual work. He conceives the idea of a building, and makes it material. The architect is to be concerned firstly with the construction. This encompasses all the practical matters of site, of materials and their limitations, and that of human capability. The second concern is "articulation"; the building must work and must please and suit the needs of those who use it. The third concern of the architect is aesthetics, both of proportion and of ornament.
The Brotherhood is something between an exclusive gentleman's club, and a secret society; only true architects are allowed, the membership is therefore small. In a given town, unless it is very large, there won't be more than a handful of architects, or even one. Meetings will be held in rented places or in private rooms rather than specially devoted locales.
The main goal is the sharing of the valuable knowledge on art and building. Of course there are also more 'esoteric' or moral aspects, as advancing the truth, or uplifting the human condition, but those are really in the background, given serious thought by only a few members. Foremost is but the mastery of the craft, and preservation of the secrets of construction.
More valuable than arcane can be local knowledge. A new architect in town can expect useful information from his peers, like customs that are best not broken, and the right people to speak with.
Particularly the relations to local groups can be difficult. Once organized in some way, the workers tend to demand ever more pay and try to do less work, the suppliers to save their expenses, and some customers are just unmanageable. Knowing authority figures that are reasonable and willing to help (or can be bought in the worst case) saves plenty of time and money. The groups range from smaller or larger construction crews, up to officially recognized Guilds as the Society of Brick-Brothers. The question of quality is similarly important.
The mark of membership is a simple ring, it slightly varies across the kingdoms, but a compass and a stonemason's hammer are almost always included. The ring is usually a gift from a master to his pupil when he is considered worthy, a mark of the end of apprenticeship. A few architects have even their own name on it, and use it as a signet ring. Name or not, many like to leave the mark in the parts of the buildings they have created.
On the inside may be a personal motto of the wearer; the sentence was sometimes used to exchange encrypted messages to a known colleague.
Note: the Brotherhood is NOT a freemason-like organization (but can be upgraded to something like that, if desired).
The Depths of the Art
To know much about a subject gives power over it, and in a world of magic it is doubly true. These abilities are mere cantrips, not full-blown spells. In fact, most architects would deny they have anything to do with magic, and it is merely their expertise that provides them with the information.
Each power works only on the caster/architect himself, range cannot exceed one clearly defined limited space (like a room). Typically, the architect would slowly walk around the room while inspecting it, lost in thought and muttering for himself, then suddenly note "Hey, this isn't right!" to the builder's annoyance.
The casting time depends on such factors as architect's experience, his familiarity with the place, whether he designed it, or was present during construction time, and so on.
The Finger - by the means of touch, the architect can feel with a good precision whether something is perfectly horizontal (or vertical).
The Hand - by laying hands on a structure and concentrating, one can discern something of its stability and the forces that have effect on it. One application could help to find the main supports in a single room (of course by walking around and touching all walls and pillars, so that could take some time).
The Eye - how perfect are the straight shapes, and the curved shapes, all this can the eye see. Beauty and stability both depend on them.
The Foot - walking around the room, one can discover in which way(s) it slopes, and where the water would flow to or stay.
The Sense - one can feel the humidity, and where it most likely comes from; but also feel the air moving through cracks and the like. This may help with completely unrelated activities, like finding concealed architectural elements.
The Mind - concentration is needed in many mundane tasks. This power is most often used while drawing floorplans: hours may need to be spent without interruption, not minding the outside world. One will be exhausted after such a work, but envisioning a work of art, and bringing the vision to others is worth it.
Your home, your fortress
Centuries of experience in building, working with masters of warding magic, research, and the occasional 'borrowed' text were all needed to amass the wisdom of what means 'safe housing' in a realm of supernatural forces.
It is the choice of building materials, the skelet of the construction, and especially the foundation. The protective power may not be large, but even a little protection makes the life easier; also, such a building easily accepts more warding magics (a minor bonus to warding spells cast on it).
Note: It could be iron nails in every window and door against the fae, or an uninterrupted line of salt throughout the building against the spirits, holy symbols hidden in many shapes and structures against the undead, and so on. There can be protections devised against general magical attacks, or specific forms (fire magic, divination, anything). The question is - what are the dangers in a given game world?
Note: in my vision, these architects are not casting any spell here, merely building the most powerful 'natural' wards that are possible. However, you can give them some measure of power, or even make them true low-level wizards specializing in warding.
In or Out: as usual, there's a very inaccessible location the PCs want to get in, or get someone out from. The architect is similarly inaccessible (maybe imprisoned, or dead... and it wasn't an accident), the plans nowhere to be found. But his peers may know of plans to similar facilities, or author's personal preferences. Time to become friends with them.
The new member: a renown architect from far away arrives, eager to take over the large project currently in works, its master being very sick. But the man doesn't act as would be expected, and seems to avoid the local experts... quickly, is there a crook within reach of this month's wages?
Begone: if you happen to have an indestructible evil item/demon/whatever at your hands, you might want to hide it forever. You could do worse than having a member of this group aid you in designing and building the prison.
Credits: special thanks belongs to Wulfhere and Chaosmark, who brought important new insights to the Art. Long live the chatroom!
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? Responses (18)-20
me ^ damn log in issues!
I was notified of the existence of that group, and have considered at length their possible relationships. I'm afraid I have to say no to both options. Let me explain:
Since their operations are complementary, rather than exclusive, a serious rivalry does not make really sense; actually they need each other - the architects being in charge of large projects, and the bricklayers supplying the material (and manpower). On the other hand, an esoteric kind of cooperation is not feasible, with the very close-to-earth matters they work on. (In fact, many architects would consider those guildmen rather crude.)
But that doesn't mean there will be no connection between the two, nor that it would be easy. :)
These two diverse groups will be linked on a personal level - they would work together frequently, so they WILL know each other, 'old pals', you know... contacts are everything.
Note that the Guild is rather influential, but local, the architects are few, but their network could span through several kingdoms. Both can help another - one would want to expand their influence, the other often needs a little help in place.
But the same ties can be used against them: just make a few people angry at another, and suddenly the work on the castle or fortress stops, or someone else succeeds in the competition.
So truly, there is mess to be made in local politics - and more plot hooks to generate.
solid responce! I see your wisdom :)
Well, every question that brings more is good I say!
I like how this keeps the original concept that it had, yet incorporates those things we talked about in the chat.
...As a sidenote, what happened to the large uber-dome?
It is certainly not forgotten, but I had difficulty putting it directly into the submission. Hence it will be made into a Stub (and perhaps a regular sub one day).
Some more material from the chat was left on the cutting room floor, and I sense I will have to do a few more edits until I integrate all I wanted here. Thanks for that one - and the other ideas!
I like how this turned out Manfred, well done.
To answer some of the above questions, The Brotherhood of the Brick and the Society of Brick Brothers operate at different ends of the spectrum in terms of building. The Brotherhood is about architecture, the Society is about construction. I see the Brotherhood designing cathedrals and temples, laying out ornate castles and the like. The Society builds walls, thick and tall, or whatever else the architects or designers have decided to build.
Well put, Mr. Scrasamax: that is the basis of their connection. (And as hinted above, not without plot hooks of its own!)
Updated: Added a cantrip, and a credits section; that one shouldn't be left out.
No cowboy builders amongst these guys.
In a nutshell, I love this group! A non-masonic, but beautifully rendered architects society.
Just one thought for now, I will actually come back to this for more commentary as this group pings my imagination!
One of these guys, a lone-ranger-outcast former member type, would make the world's greatest foreman for a squad of sappers! Entire kingdoms would fall!
Man, soooo much can be done with this group! Love it!
Interesting. Unlike Muro, to me is screams Mason, with all the semi-secrets, self perfection, and so on. Unlike the Masons, there is no link to prehistory, which can make it more palitable to most gamers. Manfred also swept all the magic and mysticism under the rug: Of course there are also more 'esoteric' or moral aspects, as advancing the truth, or uplifting the human condition, but those are really in the background, given serious thought by only a few members. However, we then get spells that they all have and practice to some degree.
I do wonder, why... in a world in which magic is accepted and not feared (since there is warding magic installed in buildings) why would these people would decline or hide their magic. Their magic is what magic in a common, but low level, magical enivronment should be, craft orriented and functional.
This creates an inconsistancy to me. (As does the school of magic).
As for numbers, this group would actually be a regional or area meetings. Most architects in early times, until the advent of truly large cities, moved from place.. where ever there was a project. There were only 4 or so true architects in Ren period Italian city when "building was big"
sigh, me again ^ I time out a lot lately
Let's try it in small steps:
I marked it as a School of Magic, since what they teach imparts some magical abilities. This does not mean anyone realizes that. :)
All of their abilities are cantrip-level, not genuine spells. It is a natural extension of their proficiency, craft oriented and functional, as you've said, something that needs not to be practiced if someone just exercises their craft. They are also internal effects, so they can be easily explained away, or not noticed at all. (Note that I have left a window open for some architects to realize their meager power - or even advance beyond it.)
Now comes the question of the magical perspective: why would anyone (providing they notice it at all) wish to not expose their magical powers? Now, even if a magic is accepted and not exactly feared (which are two quite different things), there is a certain mistrust against spellcasters, that could warp your mind or harm you otherwise with their magics. Why would you want to make it public, that you have the potential, even if you do but the tiniest of magics? If you achieve the excellent quality 'naturally', it is a proof of your hard work and experience. Do you want to be a great architect, or just a lousy wizard with some extra schooling?
To sum it, there will be groups with motivation to not pursue their magical potential too much, or to hide it.
Beyond that, the 'warding built into buildings' is just basic magical theory and application. Natural wards that any shmuck could put into his house when/if he built it. These guys just do it in a knowledgeable, skillful manner.
"No no no! The cold iron to ward off the Sidhe goes on the very outside. Next comes the line of salt, so that spirits can't get through either. Why? What do you mean why? What sort of nincompoop apprentice are you? Common sense boy! Spirits can't affect the iron, but the fae could use their magics to breach a hole inside the salt-line, before it hit the iron and fizzled out. Sometimes I wonder if you're truly worth all this effort..."
What he said! There's many potential dangers, and the way to combine the protections against them is also important.
I quite like this! I can a lot of uses in the campaign for these...
A decent brotherhood that can easily be inserted into any given setting. I think I will use it, as it gives depth and colour to a game setting.