Some quick thoughts as a follow-up to my recent post on guilds:
– I've been thinking more about the difference between hirelings and henchmen. Hirelings, despite the fact that they have been presented as having guilds, are not compatible with guilds because they only represent Labor, not Capital. Hirelings are wage-slaves, dependent upon a wage and usually unskilled, with no prospects for advancement.
– This leads to class warfare in well-run games. Things like Telecanter's Five Fingers and Joesky's unhappy hirelings table. This can be fun, especially when the dice tell you to have a hireling stab a PC or push them into lava, but players often have just as much a sense of humor about this sort of thing as employers do about their employees striking. Depending on what kind of game you want to run, you may want to offer another, less anachronistic and troublesome option, or you may want to totally replace hirelings with henchmen, especially when it comes to institutions. (That is, having a henchman could be a "thing" that people recognize, that allows legal inheritance, lets the henchman speak for the PC, etc., while hirelings could still happen, but would just be hired in an ad hoc way and wouldn't be anything special.)
– Dovetailing with this line of thinking, I assume that most readers are interested in ways to make their game settings seem "different" to their players. Things that make players feel like they are in a different world add to immersion and the escape that is a part of roleplaying. Guilds are something that is very foreign to most people raised in the West, so instituting some guilds that the PCs encounter would be very easy ways to communicate "this isn't the 21st century dressed up like a ren fair."
– A guild that would have a lot of contact with PCs would be a guild for adventurers. The guild would be a supplier of henchmen, who would basically be apprentices, but would have regulations against using hirelings, among other things. The guild would both jar the players from their assumptions and provide the benefits and restrictions that are what guilds are about. Adventurers guilds can be customized according to alignment, whether they are optional, whether the guild will be OK with adventurers opting out and whether the guild is particularly active in hatching and executing schemes or if it just takes care of the basics and doesn't involve itself in the plot.
– I should write up an adventurer's guild.