A guild is a group of specialists in a particular professional career, such as weavers, or smiths, or tanners who have banded together to establish rules to protect their trade. The guild system is usually seen in artisan jobs, but may be applied to other professions, even mercenaries.
A guild creates standards for fulfilling customer contracts. Each worker pays dues to support the guild and receive its' protection. A customer hiring a guildsman can be confident that the person has the proper skills and will complete the work contracted. The guild will hear contractual disputes and enforce the rules.
A city or guild may ban people from working without guild membership, ostensibly to ensure the quality of the work and following the rules. However, a corrupt guild may demand high dues to keep outsiders from creating competition: so high that people cannot earn a living. It can also be abused to exclude unwanted individuals due to private disputes or prejudices.
Skill Ranking and EducationEdit
Typically, the ranking in a guild indicates the person's mastery of their craft. The ranks progress from apprentice, to journeyman, to master. A person always begins as an apprentice, who contracts to work for a master in return for a hands-on education in the craft. The contract terms usually specify the number of years of service, and whether the apprentice will be paid or not. Apprentices receive room and board, and are expected to carry out any menial tasks as assigned. Depending on the law, apprentices are virtually possessions, subject to their masters' whim and vulnerable to mistreatment. If they run away, they must legally be returned to the master to fulfill the terms of their contract.
After a few years working and learning from his master, an apprentice who has shown skill can be promoted to journeyman. If remaining in-house, journeymen are given more difficult and challenging projects to hone and display their skills. However, some guilds send their apprentices on journeymanship for a year and a day, to learn skills from other masters. The journeyman carries with him a letter from his guildmaster to identify him. During this period the journeyman may not visit or even come near his hometown.
Whenever the master thinks the journeyman is ready, he is required to make a "masterpiece", by which he is judged. This judging is done by his own master as well as the other masters of that guild. When the journeyman passes this test, he may call himself a master of the craft. He also earns the right to marry and set up his own business.