G+ Game Master Tips: Thieves Guild

I wanted to share my response to something +Johnn four asked in the G+ Group Game Master Tips:

+Johnn Four: Catching up on emails after my trip. Only 115 to respond to now. 🙂
Got this interesting tip request from a reader:

One of my PC’s has expressed interest in running a thieves guild.
I haven’t a clue as to what the daily operations would be and other things that would be involved beyond having a fence and doing miscellaneous stealing and break-in missions.
I have some experience with video games (such as Skyrim) but it seems a bit limited when it comes to all of the events going on in the background.

Any ideas?

This spurred my inspiration and i wrote up a quick little thieves guild ripe for take over.


A small guild of thieves and pickpockets with no real ambition but to survive. Since nobody survives alone, a guild rose out of the muck almost on its own.


The Rackers primarily focus on pickpocketing in several ‘hunting grounds’ throughout the city. Market places are a given, as well as areas close to city gates where newcomers can be fooled and stripped. Taverns with drunks and people of dimmed perceptional skills are also great hunting grounds. All members are instructed in not overreaching, the guild leader does not want the attention of the rich and powerful.

The Rackers are instructed to not commit robbery, you never know who really owns a place.


The Rackers consists primarily of pickpockets, street urchins, young children with no future often finds their way to the Rackers and quickly learn the ropes. A handful of older children and young adults still inger in the guild and another handful of adults who runs the rif raf and collects their tithes.

One of the adults has assumed the role of leader, the alpha male as is the most natural selection often tends to rise to the top and take this leadership position.

The other adults are tasked with specific ‘hunting grounds’ and kids are assigned to each adult when joining the guild.

Young adults are tasked with learning the kids the ropes as well as keeping eyes open for new ripe hunting grounds or ripe single targets.


The Rackers have a central lair where stolen goods is turned in and ‘safe quarters’ are offered in return. There’s never been given any thought to having a proper official front for the lair, instead shop has been set up in the sewers. Some effort and coin has been spent on refurbishing the sewers somewhat as living quarters.

The guild leader often spends his time on the surface in a tavern drinking, gambling and enjoying the spoils of his guild. He is content with this living and has so far been strong enough to keep everyone else in line with his way of using the guild.

Collected loot in the main lair is spirited away from the sewers to the guild leaders coffers, with only a small portion remaining for the guild and members.


Daily income is around 5-20 silvers pr member.

Members are allowed to keep 5% of their loot and punishment is severe for those who are discovered holding out on the guild.

Player actions

The Rackers is ripe for take over, most of the members are fed up with their ill-treatment but it is better than surviving alone on the streets. Some of the young adults might even already be entertaining thoughts of leadership, possibly a guildmaster proxy for the player while adventuring.


Feel free to use this if you want, for any purpose at all.
a document for download can be found here:Rackers Google Doc

2 thoughts on “G+ Game Master Tips: Thieves Guild”

  1. I love the idea of thieves’ guilds. The way you run a TG should be related to how you color morality in your campaign.

    A campaign with a stark black and white morality, or on the Hero or Hunter level of the Horror-Hunter ladder (http://runagame.blogspot.com/2013/05/the-horror-hunter-ladder.html) should have a thieves’ guild who represents the poor and oppressed, stealing from tyrannical nobles, jewel-encrusted priests and arrogant wizards. Model them on Jean Valjean and Robin Hood. They would have modern sensibilities, smuggling to avoid blatant mercantilism in favor of free trade, robbing nobles who take all they want by right of birth, conning priests who control their congregation with threats and fear, etc.

    If a PC wants to run a thieves’ guild, match the campaign’s mood and the PC’s alignment or ethics to the level of evil. I had a PC run a spy network, and instead of running scams, blackmail rings, secret interrogation chambers, and networks based on coercion, he paid them quite a lot of gold. His network was not profitable, but it was Good. More like Harper Agents than actual spies.

    Further down the ladder, the thieves’ guild would be better portrayed as a mafia, coming up with price-fixing and extortion schemes, stealing high value commodities like livestock and grain to resell at a vastly inflated price to desperate freeholders, and robbing valuables from less clearly deserving targets in the upper class. Model them on Tony Soprano, Walter White, and Niko Bellic – bad people, but amusingly adventurous NPCs who the PCs can deal with — especially if there is greater evil afoot that takes priority over some racketeering scheme.

    At the bottom of the ladder, the thieves’ guild is a collection of despicable people who would rob their own mother, like the despicable bandits of Ken Follett’s bandits from the amazing books Pillars of the Earth and World Without End. There is a reason the punishment for bandits and pirates was hanging in medieval times – they were really awful people. In a full on fantasy horror scenario, the thieves’ guild is a natural go to for vampire cults, dark gods, and possessing spirits.

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