Campaign of the Month: June 2012
World Trade Consortium
The World Trade Consortium is a worldwide trade syndicate which has grown in power over the last century. It originally started as a branch of the Great Church, known as the Ministry of Merchant Relations, a service branch of the church which began as a regulatory body, defending the interests of craftsmen, merchants and traders. The MMR still exists to some small extent, and is an activist for many merchants who operate outside guild law, but the body of the official guild activities had grown beyond the scope of the church. The Free Kingdoms, and her rulers, formed a loosely organized body, called the Mercantile Council, and moved the guild into the purview of the state’s governing watch. Working with local lords and royalty, a common law was written, with the intent to protect merchants and consumers alike. The Mercantile Council operated for generations, and grew into a sophisticated organization, complete with corruption on many levels.
Seizing on an opportunity to rid the Council of its corrupt members, a consortium of a few very wealthy merchant class families gathered to form what they felt was a more perfect guild. They named this organization The Merchant’s Consortium, and eventually forced the Mercantile Council out of business. The Merchant’s Council was eventually resurrected by High King Murgatroid IV in 987, later becoming the Free Trade League, which is now one of the major competitors to the WTC.
It was during this period that the members of the Consortium, five very large and wealthy merchant families, took the power of the collective outside the boundaries of the Free Kingdoms. They began increasing their reach by granting protection to smaller trading groups. Guilds both greater and lesser, foreign and domestic, soon were enveloped by the Consortium, who found a way to pluck a small profit from every transaction, and these five families have amassed untold wealth. This process of expansion and acquisition continues to this day.
Currently, the five families of the now World Trade Consortium, employ thousands of clerks, overseers, and own tens of thousands of warehouses. They employ an army of mercenaries, sell swords, and former soldiers from across the lands. They have bought up most all of the smaller trading companies and guilds, usually leaving the infrastructure intact. In exchange for a fee, the WTC offers protection, fair practice security (to an extent), and certain regulatory services – in exchange for a reasonable fee. The WTC also arranges for certain local and national taxes to be guaranteed.
Of course, there are many problems with such a widespread organization. Corruption is as rife as it ever was. There are many sub-organizations, specifically in the colonies of the sub-continent, where the strongarm merchant alliances are in power, and mostly held unaccountable for their policies or actions, using the name of the WTC as a pressure tactic against weaker merchants and lesser guilds. The Aspis Consortium, operating in the Crimson Seas and Chuul, are one such brutal faction.
The five merchant families, the founders of the World Trade Consortium, are well know for having strong ties to the Great Church, and are favorites of the high-born as well. Their patronage and sponsorship is well known, as is their generosity.