To find the Orzhov, the saying goes, follow the gold. The Guild of Deals contains both the richest and poorest citizens in Ravnica: the first. in the highest echelons, are the patriarchs, whose wealth and privilege know no boundaries; the second in the bottom, eternally paying debts. The Orzhov usury has bought their leaders prolonged life, during which they bloat and turn gray. It even buys them undead spirits who run the family business from beyond the grave. The guild’s deepest depths are occupied by desolate servants, most of which are indentured because of crushing debts incurred by them, their parents or even distant ancestors. Holding this fragile social order in place is a veneer of religious pomp and ritual, though few believe the Orzhov worship any god other than coin.
The Orzhov Syndicate is the Ravnican guild of business and as such, nearly every business in Ravnica ties back to the Orzhov in some way or another. While they bear the facade of a religious group and may have been a true faith at the signing of the Guildpact, they now worship only profit and power.
The Orzhov guild is founded on the beliefs that wealth is power, that structure breeds wealth, and that guilt creates structure. The guild is a combination of a religion, credit-lending agency, and crime syndicate. An ostentatious hierarchy of priests, enforcers, and ghostly councilors rules over a congregation of guilt-bound loyalists, indebted ghosts, and thrull servants. Should somebody be in debt to them, that person must work off their debt even beyond death. Many Orzhov guild members believe that their actions are necessary for making Ravnica the best it can be, and they are unscrupulous in their methods of seizing power. Most Ravnicans see the Orzhov as a corrupt organization, but many are attracted by promises of wealth, prestige, and longevity.
Up to the Decamillennial celebrations, the Syndicate used to be presided over by a council of ghosts, the Obzedat, in Orzhova, the Church of Deals. Below the Obzedat stood the olicharchs, elite families who have belonged to the Orzhov for generations, and the pontiffs (executive managers). Ministrants are the priests and practitioners of Orzhov’s religion. This is the highest position anyone can hope to obtain without being born within the guild. On the same level stand the knights. who provide the muscle for collecting money on time and in an orderly fashion. The lowermost position in the guild is taken by the syndics (attorneys, advisors, accountants, couriers etc.). Borrowers are not part of the guild, but they can’t escape their debt even after their death.
Reporting to the Obzedat is a web of competing cartels, which are the individually operating units of the Orzhov Syndicate. Each cartel claims different territories and markets across Ravnica, and each has its own internal hierarchy of priests, advokists (lawmages), enforcers, and others. Each cartel is ruled by a cardinal or kingpin whose role is somewhere between gang leader, bank manager, and high priest.
And about that Guildmaster’s Guide…
We need to start saying that the Orzhov Syndicate is an ideal guild for fighters, clerics and paladins of neutral (even evil) alignments. The things we got in the Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica are:
- A background: the Orzhov Representative
- A location: A generic Grand Basilica
- Monsters: Servitor and winged thrull, Orzhov giant, Obzedat ghost, Deathpact Angel.
The things we didn’t get and that we will eventually create here are:
- A subclass: the Wealth domain for clerics, the Oath of Obligation for paladins.
- A feat or a spell: Haunt and Afterlife are M:tG mechanics dealing with the creation of spirits, while Extort exchanges vital energy.
- A location: Orzhova, the Church of Deals. It’s not clear even to the guild faithful whether Orzhova is a cathedral with financial interests or a bank with religious ones. It’s a lavish cathedral with soaring ceilings, designed to make anyone who enters if eel insignificant and out-of-scale by comparison. Overblown stained glass windows and oversized marble statues depict an array of wealthy bishops, enforcer angels, and guild-affiliated ghosts.
- NPCs: Teysa Karlov, Advokist and then Orzhov Grand Envoy.
- More monsters: Angel of Despair, screechers, crypt ghasts, and a basilica haunting.
- An artifact: the Moratorium Stone
What else would you like to see from the Syndicate to play in D&D?