- Mercenary Companies
- Psionic Organizations
- Underdark Organizations
- Minor Valorous Organizations
- Organizations of Waterdeep
- Organizations of the East
- Demon-led Organizations
- Cult of the Dragon
- Druids of the Tall Trees
- The Emerald Enclave
- Fellowship of the Purple Staff
- Fire Knives
- Guardian of the Weave
- Hand of Vengeance
- Marshals and Heralds in the Realms
- Knights of the Flying Hunt
- Knights of Imphras II
- Knights of the North
- The Lords' Alliance
- Order of the Grand Snakemaster
- People of the Black Blood
- Red Wizards of Thay
- The Seven Sisters
- The Soft Claws
- The Xanathar's Guild
- The Zhentarim
Of the three broad categories of urban collectives - Organization, Guild, Noble House - to which PCs can belong, organizations are the most varied. Noble houses are limited by lineage and nature, while guilds are limited by the types of goods and services offered within the community. Organizations, on the other hand, can arise from, focus on, and work toward a myriad of different topics. They can exist and work publicly, or they can operate in secret, their very existence becoming mere rumor outside their ranks. Organizations play a vital role in the urban fantasy campaign, from the demonic cult threatening to despoil the city from within, to the adventuring company whose heroic deeds and exploits have become the talk of the town. Belonging to an organization might not carry the prestige that comes with garnering the patronage of a noble house, nor the financial windfall of advancing to the top of a powerful guild, but it can provide a far greater sense of belonging and accomplishment than either of the other two achievements could hope to offer.
Membership in organizations runs the gamut of possibilities. Some are easier to join than guilds, and others are more difficult to find (let alone join) than even the most discriminating noble house. Because of their comparatively narrow focus, the spectrum of organizations is vast, with an equally vast array of membership expectations and requirements.
Joining an Organization
Generally speaking, joining an organization is the hardest part of being a member. Unlike guilds, which tend to maintain very high profiles, most organizations operate either quietly or in complete secrecy. For many prospective members, attracting an organization's attention is more important than actively petitioning for membership; some organizations induct new members only by invitation. How a given organization solicits or inducts new members depends on its precise nature. A political action committee with headquarters on the main thoroughfare is likely to draw new members off the street, whereas a secret society determined to overthrow the current government is in serious trouble if complete strangers can come calling about joining up.
As a rule, finding a point of contact for a particular organization requires a base DC 15 Gather Information or Knowledge (local) check. This check is modified by the nature of the organization sought: a fairly open organization, such as a political action group, might require only the base DC 15, whereas a truly secret society, such as a band of revolutionaries, might require a DC 25 check. Some organizations are so well hidden that the seeker must suss out clues through investigation and adventuring before even attempting the check (DC 30 or higher). As with guilds, a successful check reveals additional information about the organization, such as membership requirements, operating procedures, and so on.
Most organizations don't have the standardized class or skill requirements that guilds do. An organization's entry requirements depend on the nature of its work. Some require only oaths of loyalty or signatures on membership forms, while others demand proof of true loyalty or sacrifice, often in the form of blood (their own or another's), money, or magic items. Some organizations demand nothing from new members, preferring to let time determine just how worthwhile an individual is.
Although organizations don't generally gain the bulk of their operating capital from membership fees and dues, some still ask for money, either up front or on a regular basis. As a rule, if an organization requires an entrance fee of more than 25 gp from a new member, it does not demand any regular dues thereafter (though specific circumstances might demand financial contributions). If the organization does not require an entrance fee, but still wants to collect revenue from its members on a monthly basis (a rare occurrence), such dues generally don't exceed 5 gp per level.
Benefits of Membership
Though each organization is unique, most organizations of a certain type have a standard set of benefits available to every member. As with guilds, these benefits vary, but the following information serves as a good default.
Most organizations of sufficient size have chapterhouses, which include barracks, stables, and a kitchen, guaranteeing members food and a safe place to sleep when they are in need. In the case of an organization without a chapterhouse, members are expected to host fellow members in need, either by paying for a room at a local inn or by offering their own abodes. They are not usually required to do so any more frequently than two nights per month.
Organizations are nothing if not active. Most have tasks to accomplish, for which they invariably rely on their members. When an organization asks a member to complete a task or go on a mission, it usually funds the effort fully, providing equipment and expenses its leaders deem sufficient for the task. The total value of this assistance never exceeds the normal amount owned by a 6th-level NPC (DMG 127) or an NPC of one level lower than the PCs' level, whichever is smaller. Most organizations expect their members to return equipment when the mission is concluded.
Fellow members of a given organization come to one another's assistance. The initial attitude of a fellow member is always one step closer to helpful than his normal starting attitude. Additionally, a character gains a +2 circumstance bonus on Diplomacy and Gather Information checks made when dealing with a fellow organization member.
Every member gains one contact specific to his organization when he first joins; furthermore, gaining additional contacts within his organization is easier than looking for contacts in other social circles. If a new would-be contact belongs to the character's organization, his or her starting attitude need only be friendly rather than helpful. In addition, a PC who belongs to an organization can maintain one extra contact (for a total of Cha bonus +1 instead of Cha bonus), provided the bonus contact is also a fellow member.
Particularly active members gain additional benefits, depending on the type of organization. As with guilds, these benefits require the PC to possess the Favored feat.
Drawbacks of Membership
The primary drawback of most organizations is that they require a substantial investment of time and energy on the part of their members. Unlike guilds, which typically don't care what their members do so long as they pay their dues on time and don't cause trouble, organizations have a vested interest in their members' activities.
Like guilds, many organizations also have enemies among other city factions, including guilds, houses, and rival organizations. The starting attitude of any rival of the PC's organization is one step closer to hostile than normal, assuming the rival knows that the PC is somehow affiliated.
Organizations are less public about their activities than either guilds or houses, and few want their secrets to become common knowledge. Members are expected to uphold certain codes of conduct, which vary from group to group but almost always involve keeping quiet about the lives and affairs of fellow members. Those who betray such secrets are expelled from the organization - or worse. In some cases, select non-members (such as a trusted member's closest companions) might be allowed to learn of the member's allegiances, but such informality always requires special dispensation from a superior in the organization. Any problems arising from a companion's loose lips are the member's sole responsibility.
An individual who is expelled from an organization faces a number of different consequences, depending on the nature of both the expulsion and the organization. At a bare minimum, an ex-member immediately loses all benefits gained from membership in the organization, and from the Favored feat if applicable. If an individual was expelled for failing to serve the organization as expected, or due to the actions of a companion, all attitudes of organization members toward him return to normal. If the expulsion came about as a result of betrayal, the attitudes of organization members move one step closer to hostile than they would otherwise. Some organizations, particularly criminal groups and religious sects, enact sterner punishments for betrayal.
Expulsion from an organization is almost always permanent. Whereas a guild usually allows an ex-member to buy his way back in repeatedly (if at ever-increasing cost), most organizations won't readmit an expelled member for any price.
Houses often depend on a feudal social structure, and guilds require financial activity, but organizations appear in just about every urban environment, no matter what the size or local flavor. They often arise from a particular event, situation, or cause, which is reflected in their names, behaviors, and beliefs. Below is a broad outline of the general types of organizations most commonly found in an urban D&D campaign.
Whereas potential guild members must possess at least one level in an associated class or a minimum of 4 ranks in an associated skill, organizations' entry requirements are more situation-specific. An organization that catalogs the identity and activities of every psionic soul in town might naturally refuse to consider a psionic character for admission; on the other hand, it might deem such a recruit a valuable source of information, or even a means of "fighting fire with fire." Common sense should guide decisions about which characters would be well received by a given organization. As with guilds, the Duties entry describes certain actions or concessions all members are expected to shoulder, while Favored Benefits lists the advantages a member gains for having the Favored feat for the organization in question. Each type of organization also includes a sample contact.
The typical arcane organization is dedicated to the acquisition of knowledge, and often to the study of a particular phenomenon or related group of phenomena. Some strive to understand creatures of a particular type or origin (such as fiends or aberrations), while others are devoted to discovering new or long-forgotten magical rites and artifacts. The various members of a given arcane guild (see Arcane Guilds) might belong to a number of different arcane organizations, though few individuals claim membership in more than one. Passion, loyalty, and interest in the organization's charter topic are the main factors in acceptance. A largely unqualified member with a passion for the given topic could receive greater consideration than a qualified member with little interest in pursuing the group's goal.
Examples: The Arcane Order, the Circle of Eight, the Red Wizards of Thay.
Associated Classes: Adept, archivist, bard, expert, monk, sorcerer, warlock, wizard.
Associated Skills: Decipher Script, Gather Information, Knowledge (any), Profession (scribe), Spellcraft, Use Magic Device.
Duties: Members are expected to seek out new information pertaining to the subject of their interest, and to present such data to the organization at large. Sometimes they are called upon to actively pursue important leads, though they might decline for sufficiently good reasons. In addition, members are expected to remain both loyal to the organization and objective in their pursuits; revealing confidential information to non-members is grounds for expulsion. Lastly, spellcasting members must provide copies of any spell to which the organization does not yet have access, and be available to cast various spells on the organization's behalf from time to time (no more than twice per month, and the organization offers compensation for all castings at half the going rate).
Favored Benefits: Members can draw on the vast stores of information amassed by their organization. A member can pick any one Knowledge skill associated with his organization. Any time she has unrestricted access to his organization's records, she receives a +2 insight bonus on checks using that Knowledge skill and a +1 insight bonus on Knowledge checks of any other variety.
Criminal organizations are some of the urban jungle's most common groups. Every group from the lowliest band of cutpurses to the city's most powerful crime syndicate qualifies as an organization of this type. Criminal organizations clash with one another more often than with any other groups, and in the largest cities, the competition between such organizations can be literally cutthroat. Each criminal organization attracts members whose skills best suit the organization's needs; a gang of drug peddlers might benefit from the skills of a bard, while a cult of slavers might look for fighters and rangers.
Examples: Crime families, hired muscle, specific gangs.
Associated Classes: Barbarian, bard, fighter, warrior, ranger, rogue.
Associated Skills: Appraise, Bluff, Disable Device, Disguise, Escape Artist, Forgery, Gather Information, Hide, Intimidate, Move Silently, Open Lock, Sense Motive, Sleight of Hand, Tumble.
Duties: All members must keep the nature, activities, and identities of their fellow members a secret. Those who sell out their own can expect to be expelled at the very least - most likely facedown into the harbor. Most members act as "employees" in the organizational hierarchy, not policy-setters, and must clear any criminal activity of significant scope with their superior in advance. Members must pay 20% of the profits garnered in any criminal endeavors to their superiors.
Favored Benefits: The organization covers bail money, legal fees, court costs, and bribes relating to the arrest or trial of its most valued members. Depending on their relationship with the organization's superiors, members are expected to pay back 10% to 50% of all such costs incurred.
A heroic organization is usually devoted to a particular cause; examples include a special corps of veterans who serve their king in exile and an adventuring company that specializes in search-and-rescue missions. Some differ from adventurers guilds only in their size and selectiveness. Most heroic organizations are relatively small, especially those based in a particular city, and even the larger ones are more discriminating than most guilds. Skill or expertise alone rarely determines admittance: The most accomplished warrior in the city won't be admitted if his beliefs and goals run counter to those of the organization. Philosophy and experience play a much more important role in determining member acceptance. Some organizations require proof of experience (in game terms, a minimum class level), representing especially high standards or difficult challenges, while others actively seek out a wide variety of members who can meet any conceivable task.
Examples: Specific adventuring companies, vigilante groups, the Wings of Freedom.
Associated Classes: Any.
Associated Skills: Craft (any relevant), Diplomacy, Gather Information, Knowledge (arcana), Knowledge (dungeoneering), Knowledge (local), Profession (any relevant), Spellcraft, Spot, Survival, Use Rope.
Duties: Unlike adventurers guilds, heroic organizations require their members to come to the aid of other members in times of need. If such a call comes, and a member is within reasonable distance, he must make every effort to arrive and lend aid. In addition, all members must donate 20% of the value of all gold and magic items garnered from missions assigned or set up by the organization.
Favored Benefits: As a rule, most organizations will pay to have identify cast on magic items a number of times per month equal to the member's level. Depending on circumstances (such as the availability of spellcasters), this number can vary slightly.
Political organizations wear a variety of faces, depending on the nature of the power centers in which they arise. In autocratic systems, they often work at street level, garnering support for change through grassroots movements, whereas democratic governments produce numerous independent groups, each dedicated to a different cause or mission. Given the close links between church and state in many fantasy campaigns, clerics, paladins, and monks comprise most of the adventuring members in these types of organizations. Regardless of the influence of the church, most political organizations have a few aristocrats on board as well.
Examples: Volunteer groups, special interest lobbyists, teamsters.
Associated Classes: Aristocrat, bard, cleric, expert, monk, paladin, wizard.
Associated Skills: Bluff, Diplomacy, Gather Information, Knowledge (history), Knowledge (local), Knowledge (nobility and royalty), Knowledge (religion), Perform, Profession (teamster), Sense Motive.
Duties: Political organizations are defined not only by their agendas but by their actions, so each member is required to put in a number of hours per month of service equal to her level x 2. Those who fail to meet this quota must provide a good reason for having done so, and must ensure that they will make up for lost time as soon as they can.
Favored Benefits: The organization pulls bureaucratic strings on behalf of favored members, reducing by 20% the cost of any fines or levies imposed by the government.
Religious organizations are more varied than any other. Members are unified by their particular faith, with divine spellcasters occupying top positions of authority and influence. Most such organizations are devoted to the worship, ideals, or hegemony of their religion, but some are in truth political organizations with a religious backing and agenda. A religious organization can be life-affirming to devout new members, a place where they finally can put their ideals to work. Other members (especially older ones) might be consumed with their roles, putting them at odds not only with other faiths, but with those of the same faith who stand outside their organization. Religious organizations favor those of obvious theological conviction, notably clerics and paladins, but accept anyone who wishes to serve.
Examples: Druid sects, fiend cults, palatine orders, subsects within specific churches.
Associated Classes: Archivist, aristocrat, cleric, druid, favored soul, monk, paladin, shugenja, spirit shaman.
Associated Skills: Bluff, Concentration, Decipher Script, Diplomacy, Knowledge (history), Knowledge (nature), Knowledge (nobility and royalty), Knowledge (religion), Perform.
Duties: The organization's deity or faith must come before everything else in the member's life, and if the organization calls upon its members to act, they must answer. Failure to do so can result in anything from fines to expulsion from the organization (or worse, especially in cults of evil deities).
Favored Benefits: The organization reduces the cost of spells cast by its members on behalf of other members by 10%.