The Claw of Gold
by Andy Collins, Dragon #301
Most thieves' guilds focus their operations on short-term projects: burglaries, street robberies, blackmail, begging, and the like. Savvier guildmasters might set up ongoing projects, such as protection rackets or false storefronts for money laundering. Few, however, take a truly long-term approach to their illegal activities, thinking that a gold coin in the hand is worth at least two in someone else's purse.
The Claw of Gold is an exception to this. The master of this guild isn't interested merely in lining his pockets. He seeks to establish a long-lived dynasty, a bloodline of power to reckon with kings and high priests alike.
Such an outlook takes extraordinary patience and strength of will. Thuulsias, Master of the Claw of Gold, has both to spare, for he is the son of an elven mother and a green dragon father.
Thuulsias (male half-green dragon elf Rog17, LE) combines the best (or, as some might say, the worst) aspects of his parents. From his mother, the guildmaster inherited a cautious patience and the knack of maximizing his advantages before risking anything. From his father, Thuulsias acquired power and cunning, as well as a love of wealth. Together, these elements have created a being of deadly skill who knows how to get whatever he wants.
After settling in a wealthy metropolis, Thuulsias began assembling an organization of allies to help him realize his ultimate goal. Even among the Claw of Gold, few know of his most secret plans, and the few who do have little insight into the future of the guild.
Size And Resources
The Claw of Gold numbers 182 members among its ranks, making it a medium-sized organization. As time goes on, Thuulsias continues to add slowly to this number, sometimes adding as little as a single person in one year. Of course, he'll replace losses more quickly should someone interfere with his plans.
In any given week, the Claw of Gold can afford to spend up to 50,000 gp in resources on various tasks. This makes them extremely capable of responding to emergencies quickly and efficiently. Since the group's income depends directly on its membership, any significant membership reduction (10% or more) in a given week reduces their ability to spend resources by a similar percentage.
Claw of Gold (medium): AL LE; 50,000 gp resource limit; Membership 182; Mixed (human 142, halfling 16, elf 9, dwarf 5, gnome 5, other 5).
Authority Figures: Thuulsias, male half-dragon elf rog17; Sybaria, femal draconic human Sor14.
Important Characters: Garriq, male half-elf Ftr6/Rog3; Ikris, male draconic human Rog2; Nygitheron, male draconic halfling Clr4; Herstia Karonyx, female human War4; Durkin Brecht, male draconic dwarf Exp6/Rog4; Grimpin halfling male Exp5, Brin Alyanis, draconic human male War 8; Mariath Wyendin, female halfling Rog 8; Osoria, male half-elf Sor 7; Terrelya, female half-elf Ftr4; Kruumeesh, female draconic half-orc Mnk5
Others: Mixed; Clr2(2), Clr1(4), Exp2(2), Exp1(4), Ftr2 (2), Ftr1 (4), Rgr2)1), Rgr1(2), Rog4 (2), Rog2 (3), Rog1 (8), Sor3(2), Sor1(4), War1(5), War2 (2).
Alignment And Leadership
Thuulsias is the unquestioned leader of the Claw of Gold. The organization is lawful evil, with each member knowing his place and rarely, if ever, straying from his duty. Each lieutenant oversees operations within a different area of the city and draws guild members from the group as needed for specific missions.
Since the guild prefers to work within the law - at least as far as an evil organization can - the group gets along reasonably well with local authorities. Although some suspect the group doesn't have the citizens' best interests in mind, few are brave enough to tangle with the group publicly. Of course, that doesn't stop some officials from using unofficial channels - such as hired adventurers - to handle covert operations against the guild.
Membership And Demographics
In building his organization, Thuulsias has taken a long-term approach. While his earliest recruits, back in the budding days of the guild, were little more than mercenaries, he has slowly and methodically constructed an integrated network of talented, trusted followers who show him unquestioning loyalty. In fact, many of the half-dragon's lieutenants are his own children, the result of couplings with hand-picked individuals over the years. Although not true half-dragons, these children nonetheless bear traces of their draconic heritage. (See the Draconic Template for more information on adding this template to a character.)
Among his most trusted lieutenants is his eldest daughter, Sybaria (female draconic human Sor14). In addition to leading all business in the royal quarter, she often serves as Thuulsias's voice when he isn't present. Many in the group consider her words to carry as much weight as the guildmaster's. Sybaria frequently picks lovers from the organization, and her current paramour is Garriq (male elf Ftr6/Rog3), the head of guild security. For his part, Thuulsias approves of these liaisons, hoping that they will create the next generation of guild members. In fact, Sybaria's son Ikris (male draconic human Rog2) is generally regarded as the "golden child" of the organization - to the distaste of some.
Thuulsias knows the importance of capitalizing on faith to build loyalty. He strongly encourages all members to attend regular religious services at the guild's temple, run by Nygitheron (male troglodyte Clr8). The high priest secretly worries that Thuulsias plots to replace him with the half-dragon's son Antherra (male draconic halfling Clr4). So far, Nygitheron hasn't let this worry affect his loyalty. Two underpriests (male and female human Clr2) and four acolytes (human Clr1) also serve in the temple, and the fanatically devout Herstia Karonyx (female human War4) guards it.
Durkin Brecht (male draconic dwarf Exp6/Rog4) oversees operations in the guild and merchant quarters of the city. He often calls upon the services of the guild's forgery expert, Grimpin (halfling male Exp5). The guild also runs a completely legal alchemist's shop in the area, operated by a husband and wife team (male and female human Exp2) who funnel illicit shipments through the storefront to the guild. The shop's lone guard (female gnome War2) is also a member.
Operations in the lower quarter and dockside area proceed under the close supervision of Brin Alyanis (draconic human male War8), who is generally regarded as the most aggressive - though not necessarily the most competent - of Thuulsias's lieutenants. Brin never uses one agent when four can make much more noise and destruction. Thuulsias has begun to consider replacing Brin, perhaps with an up-and-coming rogue from the lower ranks.
Thuulsias's only lieutenant who has no blood relation to him is Mariath Wyendin (female halfling Rog8), who heads up guild activities in the foreign quarter. Thuulsias is grooming her as his next mate, believing that she would bear him fine, smart children. She prefers to use strong-arm tactics in her operations, often employing the talents of Osoria (male half-elf Sor7) and his daughter Terrelya (female half-elf Ftr4).
One of the few wild cards in the Claw of Gold is Kruumeesh (female draconic half-orc Mnk5), another of Thuulsias's children. On the one hand, no one denies that the half-orc's fighting skills make her incredibly valuable to the organization. On the other hand, some have begun to quietly question her commitment to the cause.
Most of the organization's members are human (79%), with the rest being halfling (9%), elf (5%), dwarf (3%), gnome (2%), or other (2%). These agents serve a variety of functions as needed. At your option, any number of these members might be children of Thuulsias who strive prove their worth to their father.
In The Campaign
The Claw of Gold is easy to drop into any metropolis in your campaign. Simply adjust the information above as needed. Avoid the temptation to use the Claw of Gold as you would any other illegally minded organization - remember that Thuulsias has the patience and foresight to take the long-term approach to solving problems. If he can avoid taking unnecessary risks, even by waiting months for an opportunity, he will certainly do so.
For instance, while the Claw of Gold engages in many of the typical thieves' guild operations, it takes time to plan them well, accounting for guard rotations, creating multiple getaway plans, and building layers of deception between the agents and the core group. Thus, a captured thief likely won't be able to tell his captors who gave him his orders or who was to profit from his activities.
Of course, not every one of his minions has Thuulsias's outlook, and some might act rashly. Even these instances, however, should be rare aberrations in behavior, as the half-dragon has taken long pains to ensure that his followers are unquestioningly loyal.