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  • Ruler: The Guild Master
  • Seat: Usually a local guildhall

A guild is a chartered society of townsfolk engaged in the same (or related) craft or trade, who organize to the purpose of collective legal protection and control of their local monopoly. A guild limits the craft or trade to its members, protects trade secrets, and sponsors the development of new knowledge. The formation of guilds is usually governed by the town’s laws. Guilds in the same trade in neighboring towns may recognize each other’s rules and qualifications, although there is sometimes aggressive rivalry. Guilds are financed by dues, a small fraction of members’ incomes. A wealthy guild has a guildhall where the masters keep records and enjoy great dinners; smaller guilds meet in inns or taverns, or even at a guild-master’s home.


Guilds, in general, are seen by the common folk as just another version of nobility: unnecessarily wealthy, self-interested elites, who run everything, while performing charities and public works to appear benevolent. The guild members at the bottom see it as a necessary evil, while those at the top see it as the premiere source of success and power. The nobles see guilds as a nuisance, at best, and at worst, dangerous competition for power, and the subject of envy for their (usually) great wealth. Those that study economics recognize guilds as the unstable core of the growing economy—a dangerous servant and a fearful master.

Origin and History

After the fall of the Old Empire, and rise of the new independent kingdoms that resulted, the growing cash economy gave a tremendous stimulus to the rise of the middle classes. Where a craftsman might previously have worked exclusively for a landowner under a feudal arrangement in exchange for keep and lodging, now he could find a sufficient market for his goods in a nearby town, and earn enough money to support a comfortable lifestyle. Merchants thrived as the market economy began to mature, and long-distance trade along rivers and across the sea became profitable. It was against this background that the guild system arose. Guilds arose as associations for mutual support. They developed into regulatory bodies that held a monopoly on a trade or group of trades in their town, supervised training and apprenticeships, regulated standards, and generally furthered the interests of their members. In many towns it became impossible to do business without joining a guild.

Ranks and forms of address

These are typical of most such guilds, but not universal

Craft Guilds

  • Guild Rank 5: (Master X) The Most Honourable X, Guild Master of the [Trades' Guild/Company/&c.] of [City]
  • Guild Rank 4: (Master X) The Honourable X, Councilman of the [Trades' Guild/Company/&c.] of [City]
  • Guild Rank 4: Master X, [Officer] of the [Trades' Guild/Company/&c.] of [City]
  • Guild Rank 3: Master X, Master[-Craftsman] of the [Trades' Guild/Company/&c.] of [City]
  • Guild Rank 1-2: X, Journeyman[-Craftsman] of the [Trades' Guild/Company/&c.] of [City]
  • Guild Rank 0: X, Apprentice[-Craftsman] of the [Trades' Guild/Company/&c.] of [City]

Mercantile Guilds

  • Guild Rank 5: (Master X) The Most Honourable X, Guild Master of the [Merchants' Guild/Company/&c.] of [City]
  • Guild Rank 4: (Master X) The Honourable X, Councilman of the [Merchants' Guild/Company/&c.] of [City]
  • Guild Rank 4: Master X, [Officer] of the [Merchants' Guild/Company/&c.] of [City]
    • Clerk
  • Guild Rank 3: Master X, Senior-[Merchant] of the [Merchants' Guild/Company/&c.] of [City]
  • Guild Rank 1-2: Master X, Free-[Merchant] of the [Merchants' Guild/Company/&c.] of [City] (an "ordinary" member, obtainable by patrimony or by apprenticeship (or sometimes, by purchase (AKA "redemption"), or by honour))
  • Guild Rank 0: X, Apprentice-[Merchant] of the [Merchants' Guild/Company/&c.] of [City]


  • Each guild pays the king an annual fee in exchange for the right to meet.
  • Most guilds venerate a patron saint, for which they are often named. It may dedicate its guildhall to the saint, or at least have a shrine at the hall.
  • Most guilds hold regular formal feasts. The larger and more wealthy/important guilds accompany such feasts with more pomp and ceremony—such as a procession through the town streets, with all the important guild members in their livery.
  • The guild has its own court where complaints and disputes are heard, and it is at meetings of the guild—commonly accompanied by feasts—that elections to guild positions are held.
  • A guild charter usually includes military service; able-bodied members are expected to maintain and take up arms for the city's defense when called. The larger/wealthier guilds' militias can rival those of the nobles, and they often rally their troops under the guild's banner in wartime.
  • The guild represents its members to the government. It seeks exemption from tolls and tariffs, protection along dangerous trade routes, and reduced taxes. For leverage, it relies on its monopoly. A baron trying to fight a war without armorers soon realizes the wisdom in granting the guild’s demands!
  • The guild provides for its members’ well-being. Guilds regulate apprenticeships (most go to members’ children), and make sure the trade is properly taught. Guild members are also provided with insurance; when they die, the guild takes care of their families. When shops or homes burn down, the guild pays for the rebuilding. When guild members become injured or ill, the guild hires healers. Some wealthy guilds even build hospitals, churches, and schools, or provide dowries for poor members’ daughters.
  • In exchange for their privileges, guildsmen pay a membership fee to the guild, and subject themselves to the guild laws and customs.
  • A craft guild regulates the price and quality of goods or services, to ensure that its monopoly is not abusive to the point that the town demands its revocation. A guild “hallmark” on a product guarantees that it meets standards. The guild discourages its members from competing through bulk discounts or price-cutting, but encourages them to outdo each other in quality. The products of a guild’s master craftsmen are reliable, but often costly.
  • A mercantile guild regulates trade within the town and its environs. It restricts trade with "strangers" (from other towns), who are only allowed to sell in the town through a "host," an assigned guild-member who takes a fee for the service. Ancillary workers in the town can work only for guild members, and preparatory work must be done in guild-specified locations. It punishes harmful practices by its members. It lobbies—and sometimes engages in violence—to gain or enforce conditions favorable to the town's franchise and prevent encroachment by its neighbors.
  • In craft guilds, typically, the craftsman is the owner of all means of production and he sells the finished product. That differs the craftsmen from the wageworkers, who only gets paid for his work. In some trades, the customer provides the resources, and the craftsmen is only paid for the labour. Normally the craftsmen producs when a customer orders a specific product or he produces on stocks to sell his products on the market, which takes places regularly. Most of the masters have the right to employ some assistants (uncommonly, dependent on their economic situation); if so, it is common that the employee stays in the master’s household. In some trades, for example in the building sector, the journeymen normally have their own household.

Specific Guilds

A guild can only exist when it has at least a half-dozen members, and will not be powerful unless it has dozens. Thus, small towns have few guilds, while the great cities have scores. This doesn’t mean that craftsmen in small towns are always guildless, but where a town might have a Clothmen’s Guild, a metropolis has separate departments for Spinners, Weavers, Tailors, Dyers, and Embroiderers. Guilds are most powerful in the free cities. The local importance of a given local guild (and its position on any below list), if it exists at all, will depends greatly on the town's industry.

* Indicates a "meta" guild that is not tied to a specific location


Major Guilds

Major guilds are large and powerful enough that they tend to govern the cities they inhabit, almost a nation to themselves, or are spread out amongst many cities.

  • Merchants' Guild (Sub: Drapers, Fishmongers, Fruiterers, Furriers, Grocers, Haberdashers, Mercers, Vintners)
  • Clothworkers' Guild (Sub: Cappers, Dyers, Embroiderers, Feltmakers, Fullers, Skinners, Hosiers, Ropemakers, Silkworkers, Spinners, Tailors, Weavers, Woolworkers)
  • Brewers' Guild
  • Bankers' Guild
  • Healers' Guild (Sub: Apothecaries, Barber-Surgeons, Pharmacists, Physicians)
  • Lawmen's Guild (Sub: Barristers(Lawyers), Judges, Scriveners)

Middle Guilds

  • Artists' Guild (Sub: Actors, Bards/Buskers, Musicians, Painters, Sculptors)
  • Builders' Guild* (Sub: Bricklayers, Carpenters, Joiners and Ceilers, Masons, Painters, Plaisterers, Plumbers, Slater, Tylers)
  • Leatherworkers' Guild (Sub: Cordwainers, Curriers, Girdlers, Glovers, Saddlers, Shoemakers/Cobblers, Tanners)
  • Heroes' Guild*
  • Mercenaries' Guild*
  • Smiths' Guild (Sub: Black/Ironsmiths, Brasiers, Bronzesmiths, Coppersmiths, Founders, Goldsmiths, Pewtersmiths, Silversmiths)
  • Wizards' Guild*

Minor Guilds

Minor guilds are represented in larger cities, but not in every city; some are more common than others.

  • Alchemists' Guild
  • Armorers' Guild
  • Artificers' Guild (Sub: Bookbinders, Chandlers, Coopers, Jewelers, Potters, Netmakers)
  • Bakers' Guild
  • Butchers' Guild (Sub: Poulterers)
  • Clerks' Guild
  • Colliers' Guild
  • Forester's Guild
  • Innholders' Guild
  • Mariners' Guild
  • Millers' Guild
  • Miners' Guild
  • Weaponsmiths' Guild (Sub: Bowyers, Cutlers, Fletchers)
  • Wrights' Guild (Sub: Carters, Shipwrights, Wagoners)

Unofficial Guilds



  • No "guilds" but some families specialize in a particular craft or trade

Rumor Has It…

  • Many guilds meet behind closed doors to guard their "trade secrets," which inevitably leads to speculation about what exactly it is they're doing in there…

Behind the Scenes

  • Mostly "historical": ideally, fewer of them, covering somewhat broader, "generic" categories of crafts/trades.
  • The rank of "Craftsman" from DF17 is not included, as it is not a historical guild rank; instead, Status 1-2 are both "Journeyman"—call it "seniority"