Symbol: A Sling Bullet
The Halflings' Guild of Bral is the Theives' Guild in that city least likely to have someone killed, or to steal from the starving. The Guild's master, Meredin Sandyfoot, is well aware that the guild's success rests on the good will of the neighborhood folk. To this end he makes low or no interest loans to the poor when needed, and has the guild's enforcer's act as unofficial police when needed. The halfling community naturally enough reveres him (as the head of a merchant house) but the Halflings' Guild is well though of throughout the Middle City because of their exceedingly fair practices.
Meredin runs a large trading company, House Sandyfoot, which specializes in textiles. The Halflings' guildhall is tunneled directly below the main offices of House Sandyfoot (Building #85 on the Bral map). Many on Bral know or suspect that Meredin is the Underbaron of the Middle City. The guild is large, with perhaps 35 theives ranked as members or masters. In addition, they maintain a few dozen mercenaries and enforcers.
The Guild's symbol is the slingstone, one is left behind on jobs where the target is expected to know who performed the deed. A slingstone hammered into the door post is also the sign used to show a shop or home has paid protection money to the guild.
The guild makes a great deal of money in two ways:
Protection Rackets: The "off limits" stores pay a small fee (1-10 sp a month) to the guild to avoid theft. If a theft occurs the shop is compensated and a member is assigned to hunt the theif down and punish him, if possible.
Fencing Stolen Goods: Guild fences charge a flat 20% value, but value is always fairly appraised. 10% of this goes to the guild. The guild often purchases unique items itself then from the fence and ships them off Bral for sale at a profit elsewhere.
Apprentice: 5 gp/month
Member: 25 gp/month
Master: 50 gp/month
Apprintices are only permitted to leave Bral with a Master or Member, and then only for specific missions. Generally, they are expected to collect the "insurence" premiums from the shops in their territory, pick pockets, and provide guild manpower when needed. Most of their income goes directly to the guild, which also provides food and housing for them. They receive a great deal of training from Guild masters also. In game terms these are usually 0-2 level theives, but others join at this level until they past their "test" for members rank. Apprintices are required to jump when the guildmaster says so. To become an apprintice a member or master must sponsor you, and you must be a halfling, gnome, or of another race of small size. Brownies, Pixies, and even the occasional kender are members.
Members may leave Bral whenever they desire, and are required to keep their dues paid. (if they return to Bral after an absence of a few months they may pay "back dues" provided they do no jobs before the dues are paid up). They are required to observe the guild rules on territory, and are only permitted to steal from non-"insured" shops and individuals. If requested for a job by the guild they have the right to refuse. If they accept they recieve a full share of the take. Members may also perform guild duties, such as training apprintices, guarding the guild house, or acting as a guild "fence". If so for each month so employed their dues are paid by the guild. Members are usually of levels 1-7 or so. To become a member an apprintice must pass a "test", a solo job for the guild (the guild keeps the take) chosen by the Masters according to the apprentice's chosen specialty, burglery, cutting purses, blackmail, ect. Successfully completing the job allows access to member level. Many stay at this level, happy to pay their dues but otherwise acting independently.
Master's are chosen by a vote of the inner council of Guildmaster's Advisors. They have the same rights as members but higher dues. This title carries with it a great deal of prestige, plus the right to call on the use of guild apprentices for extra manpower when needed. In general, a guild member who starts to gain a reputation within the guild, and perhaps a small following of younger theives will be "voted up" by the council. It's seen as a great honor, and a ceremony conducted by priests of Brandobaris is part of the honors. Master's fall into two catagories, "stay at Bral's" who are deeply involved in guild politics and run the various aspects of the guild operations and famous adventuring thieves whose success has prompted the council to get a larger slice of their takes by upping them to Master status.
The Halflings' Guild has its own version of Theives' Cant. A theif not familiar with it would be able to understand 10-75% depending upon his knowledge of halfling society, religion, and mythology. Standard Cant terms are mixed with the halfling's stories to create a unique cant which confuses many other theives and lowlifes.(Members unfamiliar with these stories are taught the myths by the guild)
"Well, that's a fine piece of poetry" the halfing, who seems to be middleaged, says with a small smile as he gratefully takes a mug of beer from the clerk. "Meself, I prefer the classics. Take the epic, tragic poem of ole Bil Boffin now, there's a story that'll curl your hair. Finds true love, lives a happy life, only to find his cheese poached by the Crimson Clowns. It took a dash of the mouse and a slice of the dog to get it back. That's a classic, and well worth the 2 or 3 days the tale takes." He drains his mug, nods, and moves away.
"Meself, I prefer the classics. Take the epic, tragic poem of ole Bil
Boffin now, there's a story that'll curl your hair."
The "tragic" and "curl your hair" references means some danger is present. There is no poem concerning "Bil Boffin", Boffin is a last name used to indicate a false poem, the story to be related is thus a message. The first name indicates the halfling the message is intended for.
"Finds true love, lives a happy life, only to find his cheese poached by
the Crimson Clowns."
This means the Red Masks (one of the 4 known Bralian theives guilds (The "Crimson Clowns")) have begun trying to steal territory from the halflings guild. (poaching, simply stealing from someone is never poaching, that's reserved for theives operating on anothers territory) "Cheese" could be any desireable product, it could have "had his wine poached" or "had his shoes poached" the product used might indicate something about the terrotory being poached. "Wine" would indicate tavern trade, perfume might mean prostitution, coin would mean gambling, ect. "Cheese" is a food, one of the most important aspects of being a halfling. This means that the Red Masks are trying to take over the whole territory. A major theives' war is thus afoot.
"It took a dash of the mouse and a slice of the dog to get it back. That's
a classic, and well worth the 2 or 3 days the tale takes."
"Dash of the mouse" indicates that theives will be needed, the guild is likely to call on Billy for a mission concerning this. The mouse is always associated with Brandobaris, halfling god of theives. "slice of the dog" means hired warriors and adventurers might also be called on or hired. Dogs (war dogs in particular) are the sacred animals of Arvoreen the Defender, the halfling diety of warriors. "2 or 3 days the tale takes" means the war started just a few days ago.