Friday, July 1, 2011

Factions: Thief-Binders

Returning from work, you choose to cut through a back alley. A bad move, it turns out, as a group of Kipman toughs surround you and demand your purse. Just as you are reluctantly handing it over, a shouted "Stop!" comes from the alley entrance, and you look over to see a squad of Iversdotters, armed with swords and crossbows and wearing a distinctive uniform. The Kipmen try to resist, but a few crossbow shots later, and the muggers, injured but alive, are escorted away in chains. Breathing heavily, you thank the Light that the local noble Houses employ the Thief-Binders as their private watchmen. The Thief-Binders are believers in justice and act as an unofficial and/or private police force for much of the City.

Archetype: The “city watch” or “city guards” have a strong history in fantasy fiction. However, they are usually portrayed as either incompetent, leaving the heroism to the main characters, or actively obstructive, as the heroes need to act outside of the law for the greater good. Additionally, city guardsmen are seldom shown as investigators, trying merely to “keep the peace” rather than actively solving crimes like modern police. The Thief-Binders may be either obstructive or helpful to the Player Characters, depending on their actions, but they are most definitely investigators as well as defenders.

Real-Life Inspiration: Obviously, the Thief-Binders are inspired mostly by cops. They are the “thin blue line” that stands between the citizens of the City and total anarchy (or at least, that’s what they believe). They believe in justice, and the system, and order. However, unlike the cops in our world, the Thief-Binders are a strange mix of private security force and vigilante. Most Thief-Binders are hired by various noble Houses or other Factions to provide security. For their clients, they act pretty much like a city police force, but they both have to bow to the wishes (and variant laws) of their employer, and their jurisdiction is sharply curtailed, perhaps only stretching a few blocks or governing specific individuals. Additionally, questions of jurisdiction and Other Thief-Binders, especially in the low-income sections of the City, operate without any official sanction, purely because they feel that they have a responsibility to their fellow citizens. Unlike in the real world, these vigilantes are seldom stigmatized, as they are often the only police available in those areas of the City.

Theme: The Thief-Binders are all about rules. Their world is ordered and -- every possible action has a proscribed response. Breaking the rules -- any rules -- is anathema to the Thief-Binders. These are not Dirty Harry justice-at-any-cost rogue cops. They have a rules and procedures, their only defense against the chaos of the City. These rules simplify their lives -- but they are stymied when something new and unexpected arises. The Thief-Binders also want to impose their rules on the rest of reality. They live their rule-filled existence, and believe others will appreciate it as well -- by force, if necessary.

Twist: For a community so based on rules, the Thief-Binders have a surprising amount of discord among their ranks. They disagree on the interpretation of their rules, and Thief-Binders working for different Houses may have entirely different sets of laws to enforce. In short, arguments, fights, and even small wars can arise between different groups of Thief-Binders, despite their shared love of law and order.

Next time, we’ll examine our last faction, with the mercantile Triocheans!