Secrets of the Crowd

If I do another D&D or Pathfinder campaign in the world of Meier, it will almost certainly take place in Silverstream, and involve the vast criminal underground known as the Crowd. Almost none of this would by known by the characters, but it’s interesting enough to share here. (For more information about the Meier setting, click here.)

The Queendom of Lasant’s cities are considered some of the safest places in the world of Meier. The law is fair and strictly enforced, not just by the town guard, but by the elite Knight-Captains, a noble order sworn to a constant war against crime. They are beloved by the people, and considered competent, vigilant, and fair. While any city has its slums, the Knight-Captains maintain general order better than any other crime-fighting organization in the world.

Of course, along with an organized crime-fighting force must come organized crime. Silverstream, one of Lasant’s oldest and greatest cities, is home to what is perhaps the most secretive and dangerous of all criminal syndicates north of the Bocan Islands. It calls itself the Crowd.

According to Her Majesty’s government, the Crowd does not exist. There is no such group: any tales of their exploits are fantasies for misbehaving children, and anyone claiming to work in their name is a delusional maniac. All decent people are encouraged not to worry about such nonsense.

Unfortunately, the Queen’s firm insistence on the non-existence of the Crowd is often taken as proof that it really does exist. Rumors about the organization have even taken on legendary proportions, as almost any suspicious incident or behavior can be blamed, absent evidence to the contrary, on the influence of the Crowd at work. The fact that next to nothing is really known about the Crowd only helps circulate the stories.

As for the Crowd itself… it takes little notice of what the Queen, or anyone else, says about it. Its ways are in shadow, its workings unknowable, its agents ever hidden. The famous secrecy of the Crowd is maintained by Anlín (an-LEEN), a code of honor and secrecy that all members of the Crowd (usually called Friends) are bound to follow. Upon entering the organization, a formal but simple ceremony is held in which an elder Insider recites each tenet, and the initiate swears to obey it. The particulars of Anlín are themselves secret. Here is a selection of them:

3.  Never attack or kill a Friend unless your Boss gives you permission.
5.  Never tell a Stranger or Nobody any more than they need to know.
6.  Never cooperate with the Queen or her operatives, no matter what.
9.  Always recover the body of a Friend who has died serving the Crowd.
11. Always pass any artifacts you get up to your Boss.
12. Always kill anyone who breaks the code of Anlín.

I note that rule 6 is considered to apply very broadly, even regarding crimes where you are the victim and the perpetrator is not in the Crowd; that rules 10 and 11 are recursive; and that there is some disagreement about whether rule 12 trumps rule 3.

There is some strange terminology here. The Crowd has a lingo all its own. A “Friend” is an inducted member of the Crowd, who has sworn to the code of Anlín. A “Stranger” is someone who collaborates with the Crowd, but who has not sworn to Anlín. Strangers are expected to follow rules 2-6 on penalty of death, despite not being explicitly told them. A “Nobody” or “No One” is someone unaffiliated with the Crowd; often Nobodys are used to unwittingly deliver goods when there is a high chance of getting caught. Your “Boss” is your direct superior in the Crowd, not necessarily a “crime boss” in charge of a whole organization. Traditionally those in lower ranks only know the identity of their Boss, and know little to nothing about the organization above that.

Other terms of interest: a Hydra is a town guardsman (if you kill one, two others come looking for him). A Nose is a particularly nosy person, either guardsman or civilian. A Zombie is someone who has violated Anlín. A Trade is a theft; an Experience is a killing. Someone who is In Line is dead. Merope is any0ne outside the Crowd willing to give no-questions-asked help, especially clerics willing to heal wounds. A Neighbor is an Outsider (i.e. from outside this plane of existence); an Upstairs Neighbor is an angel, a Downstairs Neighbor is a demon, devil or the like. A Papa or Mama is a god or goddess.

There are certain things about the Crowd that even most Friends don’t know. Most presume that at the top of the Crowd hierarchy is a single master overseer, a criminal king of some kind. But others claim that there is a secret council which makes all major decisions and passes them down the ranks. Rumors also speak of a group of inquisitors whose sole purpose is to police the Crowd from within, killing anyone who would betray the Crowd or violate Anlín. There is also a lot of speculation about rules 10 and 11; it seems all information about powerful artifacts or about dragons is to go directly to the top, but why?

Finally, no one is really sure when or how the Crowd got started. Some say it’s something very new, that just pretends to age and grandeur. Others say it was formed several generations ago, by a couple of big-name criminals who pooled their resources. Still others say it goes back to the construction of the walls around Silverstream some 350 years ago, when non-humans and foreigners started moving into the city. There are those who insist the Crowd was formed at the same time as the city itself, at the time of the Pact which has stood for half a millennium. And it is even possible that the Crowd’s origins go back even further, to the sinful city of Augnagar, on whose site Silverstream was built. Only those who reach the Crowd’s inner circle can ever hope to know the answers to these mysteries.

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