|The subject of this article is dormant and is not currently active in-game.|
|The Free Companions (TFC)
This is a guild concept I'm working on from the Conan Lore books. The Free Companions were loosely affiliated mercenaries that the lords of Hyboria would retain to supplement their armies. Howard describes them as capable fighters, who trade their skills for coin wherever it suits them.
So, why another mercenary guild?Edit
What makes the free companions different than the next group of brigands trying to hack a name for themselves? TFC is not about being the baddest, or the strongest, or the most uber or about getting the most kills (PK's, whatever). The purpose of the guild isn't endgame raiding, or siege warfare, or PvP domination. There's plenty of extremely focused guilds who are all about achievements like that. TFC is a loose confederation of mercenary bands and individual fighters who make their blades available throughout Hyboria for coin, trade or profit. No one single person leads the TFC. It's members are independent and autonomous en large. Small bands or squads are the functional units. Rank is given by the ability to lead, both in combat and out. Members agree to a code of conduct and abide by it lest they run afoul of their companions and are left to be picked over by the crows.
Glad you asked. Let's talk about the basics.
We are mercenaries, not murderers. We kill for profit alone. We do not defend the weak against the strong. We do not slaughter the innocent on unsuspecting for thrills. In a very brutal world, we do what we need to survive. We might defend merchants, or we might pillage their caravans. The root motivation is the same however. Profit. If you don't get that, you're not one of us.
So long as the first law of profit is not violated, we do the job. If you are hired to defend a caravan, you defend it. If a warlord employs you for a siege, you see the battle through. A free companion who turns tail and runs leaving his employer to face the wolves, damages all our ability to profit. This has nothing to do with loyalty. Our loyalty can be bought for hard currency. It has to do with reputation. We do what we were hired to do.
The right to lead is not given, it is taken. Whether through force of arms, or cunning wits, or inspirational charisma, the result is the same. A leader holds power only so long as someone else doesn't knock them from their seat. As captain of a band, it is on you to hold the loyalty and obedience of your troop. If you fail to meet the challenge, they will desert you or usurp you. As a member of a band, so long as your commander leads you to profit and performs his duty, you should follow his lead. If he does not, and you feel you can take his place, test you mettle against his and take command. Your band will be the stronger for it.
Beyond the BasicsEdit
"It's not really so much a code as a set of guidelines..." - Captain Barbosa of the Black Pearl
The code leaves a lot of room for interpretation. It's up to the leader of a band or a individual mercenary to decide what profit and duty are for their troop or themselves. Profit might be good will or a village or clan, or the favor the local madame, or perhaps a purse of gold, or a warm bed on a rainy night with a good meal. Duty might be more important to a free companion than coin. Honor might be the profit for some. Reputation is a commodity like any other. A job might garner no currency, and yet profit a band mightily by spreading their renown or infamy. The details are left to you.
Again, the Free Companions are not a unified army. They are a group of irregulars. They may come together under a general for the purposes of a campaign, but that is all it is. There will be multiple captains leading their individual bands and relations between them may not be terribly friendly. Rivalries will abound, coalitions will form and break up. Different band may end up serving opposing interests. One might be hired by merchant to defend his goods, and another might be hired to sack his caravan. This is not only normal, but expected. Navigating that treacherous web is what makes good friends and companions more profitable than gold. It is up to each member to discover and cultivate profitable relationships for themselves.
To a Free Companion, Honor is not an ideal. It is instead a pragmatic necessity. Profit dictates all our ends, but there is short term and long term profit to be had. Betrayal may garner a victory of the moment, but lose you much when it comes round full circle farther down the road. The wheel's always turning, as they say. A Free Companion is mindful of the value of his word, and weighs it well against any gain to be had in the moment.
Reasons, the "Why" of TFCEdit
One problem I've seen in MMO's and guilds again and again is a rigidity in hierarchy and structure. Simply put, even in the best of guilds I've seen there's a hint of nepotism. Generally the cadre that created the guild run things as hopefully benevolent dictators but there's never a question about who's in charge. The guilds seem owned by those players and the rank and file can tow the line or ship out. Consequently, as new folks come in with different ideas about how things should be done, or who simply want a taste of that power, drama breaks out. Feelings get hurt, folks get angry and eventually even the most friendly guilds have splits. Now I know that's a generalization, but in many cases in my experience it has been fact.
I think that humans are social creatures, whom status matters to. Because command structures in conventional guilds are calcified as they are, there's no way for new folks to vie for position. It has to be given, in a very feudal way from the guild masters. In a conventional guild, power can not be wrested from the leaders at the top. If an officer gives an order, and you dispute it you're kicked. Guilds aren't democracy. But as social animals, competing for status is part of all of our make up. My making the guild structure rigid then, we're setting the guild itself up for the eventually dramatic fall. So I thought to myself, why not build that into the command structure of the guild? Why not make that power struggle recognized and in the open. In fact, why not make it part of the game.
Guild politics is a game of strategy and tactics like anything else. Only the thing is, we don't like to admit we're playing it. We like to be high minded, think that we're open to new ideas, but we're tribal by nature. Even in a close knit casual family guilds, this clustering happens. So since we know it's going to, in TFC we're going to put it out on the table as the centerpiece. At it's surface, TFC is a very open RP guild who's there to help it's members dealt with the rigors or Hyborea. But for those that are interested, it's a game within the game. It's about building your faction and leading through skill, guile, or luck. I hope to see captains vie with each other for power and generals to rise from their ranks. And I think that this process can help our players excel in the actual game playing aspects of thing. Leaders in TFC won't be able to claim their authority because they created the guild. They'll have to earn it, and work to maintain or expand their faction.
Which brings me to my role and will I be taking part in this grand game? Well yes, of course. I'll be there along with you as one of the rank and file. However, my role as the guild master will not be part of the IC structure of command. In any game of sufficient complexity you need someone to keep track of the rules and make the calls. But the direction of the guild will be up to the generals. My official capacity as GM will simply be to implement the OOC necessities to make the guild happen. That might be judging the outcome of a challenge or it might entail administrative stuff like setting up this wiki. But the show is the members', and it's up to them what they decide to do with it.
OOC'ly, like any guild we have some basic rules and regulations. This section details how TFC works, the nuts and bolts as it were.
The Guild Master role in TFC is a completely OOC one. I am simply an organizer. IC'ly my character is a simple mercenary, no different than any other member. I maintain these wiki pages, I make sure things OOC'ly are running smoothly between players. I do not settle IC disputes. You folks have your swords and your wits for that. I am simply the administrator of the guild because someone has to do it.
All other ranks within the guild (with a possible exception of co-admins if we get big) are IC ranks. The base rank of a new member is "mercenary." If you join as an individual, this is your rank and it will not change until you gather a band about you and can declare yourself a leader. TFC is different than many guilds because we encourage you to join instead as a group or band. When a band joins, their leader is given the rank of "captain." This captain can then choose to elevate however many of his underlings to "lieutenants" as he/she likes. Bands can be big or small, but must at least be three or more to warrant a captain's rank. A captain of a small band theoretically has the same rank as a large band. However, they don't have the practical resources in man power to make their edicts stick. More than that, members of other bands are under no obligation to follow their orders. Each member of TFC is a freeman/freewoman. If you want them to obey and they refuse, cut them down if you can or give up the lead. Oh, and by, "cut them down," I mean tell your subordinates to do just that. If you are a leader of a band, you are under no obligation to be fair to your underlings. See challenges later in this document.
Above the rank of captain there are the ranks of "general" and "commander." Generals rise from the ranks of captains, having gotten their subordinate captains to bend their knee by sword or word. A captain becomes a general basically by getting a group of captains together and having them come to me and say he/she is one. It's that simple. Generals have the same absolute authority as a captain does over a band. They can elevate commanders from their captains' ranks to organize their bands. Importantly though, a commander has no authority beyond the edict of the general. The general is the final arbiter in any dispute between a commander and a captain. Well... final unless one of them kills the other. In which case, the general is the final arbiter in the fate of the winner.
So to recap the ranks:Edit
- Guild Master
IC'ly the sword and the wit of your captains determines the policy of your bands. OOC'ly though we do have a few rules and suggestions.
TFC is a Medium to Heavy RP guild. Members are required to be IC or in character in SAY and YELL channels. Guild is considered an OOC or out of character channel. Leetspeak/LOLspeak/etc is not forbidden in OOC channels, though they are discouraged as a personal pet peeve of my own. It IS FORBIDDEN for our members to use it in the IC channels. This is grounds for dismissal from the guild. Please keep in character channels in character.
Members are encouraged to develop their own storylines to play out and to assist each other as well as other guilds and members of the Cimmeria community in their plots. Feel free to add our guild name to your list of Categories on the wiki. Post your stories and drawings here. Be creative and enjoy yourselves.
TFC supports all PvP activities in AoC with one exception: Spawn Camping. If there is profit to be found in robbing an adventurer on the road (ganking) so be it. That's under the discretion of your captain. If you take a contract to go out gunning for an outlaw or brigand (trophy hunting) that's great. If you and your mates care to reek a little havoc and do some looting and pillaging (PK run) good for you. But if I get reports of your being OOC and hanging around a spawn point which IMO do not exist IC'ly in game, just to gank folks as they spawn in, I will kick you from the roster and put out a contract on you myself so you get a taste of your own medicine. Spawn Camping is the on thing in PvP FFA that pisses me off, and I make no bones about it. Those of you who hunt spawn campers will always have the support of the guild.
Unless you have a history IC'ly with a member, anyone displaying the guild cape of the Free Companions must be parleyed with before being made a target. Yes, you can still gank them. We're not all friends in TFC IC'ly. If they're flying the colors though, you have to talk first. If you can't come to an agreement, then it's blades and blood. Similarly, if you get a call for aid from another Free Companion, there is profit to be had in good will by assisting them. Looking out for your brother and sister free companions is the best way to increase your influence in the guild and build your faction.
If at some time in the future some general or group of generals of the free companions gains enough power to establish a battle keep or player city, members will tithe to support the endeavor as commanded by their respective generals. It's really way to early to think much more seriously than that at the moment.
The TFC official requires all members be of adult age, 18+. There's no way to check this, so it's the honor system. Be aware that you may be exposed to adult themes in the stories that will be put forward by the members of the guild.
Maturity in OOC channels is required. Profanity is to be kept to a minimum. Personal attacks, insults, etc. are grounds for expulsion. Be adults, I don't care to be a cop. If you make yourself a problem to the other members of the guild, you will not be a member for long.
As stated earlier, there are a very few ways to gain rank in TFC. To gain a captain's rank you must bring a gang to me and have them say that you are their leader. How they come to that decision is up to you and them. You keep it so long as you can inspire/intimidate them into following your lead. The same goes for generals. You bring a group of captains to me who will swear fealty to you. You keep the rank so long as you can hold it. So how do you loose it? And how might you gain it? The most central concept in TFC leadership is the challenge.
Eventually, your authority as a leader is going to be challenged. Whether its when you're all a pup pack, determining who's the alpha in your group, or whether it's when you're a general taken by surprise by a coup led by your trusted commander, at some point you're going to need to take or hold power. When this happens, we call it a challenge. Challenges are freeform and can be as simple as a duel or as complicated as a conspiracy. The can be roleplayed or gameplayed or both, as the members see fit. No matter the form, they all have the same basic dynamics and players.
This is the player or group of players who initiates the challenge. A player of higher rank cannot initiate a challenge to on of lower. Lower ranks are subject to the IC edicts of higher ranks unless they make a challenge.
This is the player of group of players who defend against the challenge. The Champion can use any means available to them to respond to the challenge. Again, fairness is not required on either side or the conflict. This is about holding onto power.
This is the group of players who must be won over to carry off the challenge. Most often this will be the underlings of the Champion whom the Challenger is attempting to impress. If the Challenger can sway the Gallery then they win the Contest.
This is the form the Challenge takes. It might be as basic as a duel, or a game of chance, or a coup attempting to overthrow a general. It is very important to note that the outcome of the actual IC event does not dictate the outcome of a Challenge. It is possible to win the duel and lose the Gallery and thereby the Challenge. This will be explained in the next section.
Once the players and the terms have been identified, conflict occurs. Depending on the nature of the roleplay, this might be an in game duel or an assignation attempt or a simple conversation. Whatever the nature of the Contest, once the outcome is resolved (by blade or by GM as arbiter) the outcome of the Challenge is determined by the Gallery. Whichever side the Gallery throws their support to gains power.
Making a challenge is not something to be done lightly. The victor in a challenge holds the power to break in rank or even "put to death" the vanquished. For the OOC purposes of the game, being put to death is to be expelled from the guild. Once the Gallery gives the new leader power, that person makes the decisions as they see fit unless some other stands forward to challenge them in turn. It should be stated that in the interest of fun, "death sentences" should be carefully considered before being handed down. However, it is important to note that I as the GM will have no more than advisory influence over the outcome of these events. If you play the games of power and politics such may indeed be the outcome for you should you play poorly.
Because the concept of the Challenge is so central to guild leadership in TFC, a few examples are in order.
Band or Troop Leadership ChallengeEdit
IC: The Cimmerian caught the glint of steel as he turned and saw the dagger in Andolus's hand. The brigand smiled with mouth of rotten teeth and spat in the dirt at Conan's feet. The barbarian's eyes narrowed into two blue slits and he looked the wiry man up and down with a sneer of contempt. All around them, the other bandits fingered their knives and looked on expectant for the bloodletting to being. Not one of them was better than Andolus with a knife and they all knew it.
"So, dog," Conan growled, "eager to have you neck broken are you? Well come on then."
OOC: Andolus's player has decided to take on the big man for leadership of this little group of brigands. We all know who the hero is and that he's going to be turned to paste so the outcome of of the actual duel is not in question. What is in question is how Conan pulls it off. He has to lead these folks, so he can't appear weak but at the same time he can't afford to loose a good fighter. What to do?
IC: Andolus leapt forward, the long keen edge whistling through the air as he slashed it to ribbons in front of him. Conan leapt to the side, rolling in the dirt and coming up into a crouch as the lanky man turned to face him. With a kick like a mule, the barbarian swept out with is left foot and hooked the brigand's knee. The joint popped with a sound of splintering bone and cartilage and Andolus screamed toppling like a cedar. Conan's sinew uncoiled like steel springs and he was on Andolus's chest pinning him to the dusty earth and knocking the wind from him all in one fluid motion. His fist caught the bandit's jaw with a resounding crack on the chin snapping his head back. Andolus slumped limply. Glaring, Conan got to his feet.
"Any of you other Zingarian jackals need a lesson as well?" He growled. The point had been made however. The men flinched when the met his gaze and shook their heads. "The clean this bastard up and see to his leg," the Cimerrian barked. The men scrabbled to follow his command.
OOC: So here we see the fight is over quickly, Conan's won. He intimidates the Gallery, swaying them easily and takes command. And because he needs good fighters, he leaves Andolus alive and has his wounds seen to. When the man awakes, he will owe Conan's mercy his life. If he had killed him, he might well have still swayed the Gallery, but perhaps in the night they would have all fallen on him like the jackals they are and killed him in his sleep. Who can say. Unlikely, I mean it's Conan. But something to think of when it comes your time to defend against a challenge.