“A soft word and a knife in the back will always get you more than just a soft word.” – Guild Proverb
A guild is an association of artisans or merchants who control the practice of their craft in a particular city. The earliest types of guild were formed as confraternities of tradesmen. They were organized in a manner something between a professional association, trade union, a cartel, and a secret society. They often depended on grants of letters patent by a monarch or other authority to enforce the flow of trade to their self-employed members, and to retain ownership of tools and the supply of materials. A lasting legacy of traditional guilds are the guildhalls constructed and used as meeting places.
In the case of a thieves’ guild, specifically House Basadoni in Calimport, it is a formal association of criminals who participate in theft-related organized crime. It is dedicated to the gathering and training of those who are skilled in the handicraft. Although criminal by its very definition, for untold years, authorities throughout Calimport have tolerated the existence of the House for its role as “crime regulator”, as it does not tolerate competition or egregious conduct from its members (not to mention the personal financial benefits for authorities who play nice).
Like any trade guild, the Thieves Guild is an organization of professionals, except that in this case the professionals are burglars, robbers, pickpockets, smugglers, and other enterprising operators. They typically don’t have public guild halls, but sometimes have safehouses, and members tend to gather at a single location in large towns, such as at a cornerclub, inn, or tavern. Members are bound not to rob each other, kill anyone while thieving, or rob the poor. The Thieves Guild usually has the resources to bribe officials, establish a black market of stolen goods, and maintain a network of informants.
House Basadoni is the only officially recognized thieves’ guild in Calimport, the city’s strong and well-organized union built to the model of the medieval guild. As in any other profession, a young thief must start as an apprentice and slowly work his way to become a master craftsman—in this case, a master thief. No one could come into a city and safely start on a career as a thief without belonging to the local guild, which would have been in many cases true also for a medieval tailor or carpenter wandering into a strange city. Thieves in Calimport also have their own church where they go to pray dedicated to the god Mask. The church is located in the hidden basement level of one of the local brothels.
House Basadoni was directed for many years by a man known as Pasha Basadoni, mentor of the infamous assassin Artemis Entreri. However, now in 1491, House Basadoni is really controlled by the opportunistic Drow mercenary Jarlaxle Baenre. The guild was used as a front for Jarlaxle’s attempts to widen his band of rogues Drow’s influence to the surface world. Pasha Basadoni continues to manage the operation because Jarlaxle spends most of his time in the pirate city of Luskan.