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People from Midgard’s Northlands often view theft and banditry as ignoble and cowardly. Despite this, you can find small bands of thieves in most major kingdoms of the Northlands, such as Huldramose and Wolfheim.
THE KLAEVLING OF STANNASGARD
Possibly the most prominent of the northern thief bands, and perhaps the only one that could be labeled a true guild, is the Klaevling of Stannasgard. Klaevling roughly translates to “Manglers” or “Rollers” in Dwarvish.
This is because the guild began as a baking fraternity. Members turned to violent robbery to supplement meager wages, using iron rolling pins in their assaults.
When the authorities finally caught the band, many were killed. However, enough escaped into the wilds around Stannasgard to form the core of a new thieves’ guild, taking in additional members over the intervening years until they could reenter Stannasgard and establish themselves as a presence in the city.
These days, the Klaevling engages in more nuanced theft and skulduggery. While they still indulge in vicious muggings and occasionally kidnap for ransom (particularly travelers from realms south of the Nieder Straits), most of their criminal dealings involve smuggling foreign goods in and out of the cities of the northlands.
They have an extensive network of informants, merchants, and smugglers who work with raiders and reaver dwarves to acquire foreign wares including salt and perfumery.
The guild also has several legitimate business fronts, including restaurants, taverns, bakeries, and mead halls throughout the northern kingdoms. They treat any competition in this area harshly.
The guild’s symbol is a black iron rolling pin on a triangular gray or steel background, though it is seldom displayed except in important meetings and rituals.
The Klaevling number over 300 members. Fully a third are spread throughout various holds in the Northlands, where they typically take on the role of bakers or traders in daily life.
Most of the Klaevling are dwarves, though almost a quarter are humans or trollkin. Members are theoretically equals, but non-dwarves often face discrimination within the guild. The guild does not at all accept elves, elfmarked, ravenkin, or those of southern descent, except for cantonal dwarves (see Midgard Heroes Handbook).
All guild members can cook, and many are equal to professional chefs in ability. Indeed, one cannot enter the guild without first being able to cook or being willing to learn, which keeps out most bandits and riff-raff.
Since guild members are so spread out, it can be difficult for them to identify each other without arousing suspicion, so they test each other with phrases in thieves’ cant.
A local variant of the cant involves small, spiced round cakes members carry with them, wherever they go. Members produce them (in a seeming act of northern hospitality) whenever they think they are in the presence of an unfamiliar guild member. A non-guild member who knows thieves’ cant understands that they’re being tested, but does not automatically know an appropriate response or countersign.
Headquarters and Leadership
The Klaevling base is an isolated stone lodge and gardens known as Baker’s Hall in the mountainous forests northeast of Stannasgard. Little actual business is done within this fortified compound. Rather, it is a training ground for the guild and includes several ornate kitchens where members practice baking and cooking skills.
Protecting the lodge are six ballistae mounted atop the walls, a dozen guards (treat as wolf reaver dwarves from Tome of Beasts 1), and two trained grolar bears (see Tome of Beasts 3) that wander the lodge’s central courtyard. The lodge’s interior also features several trapped false doors and holes in the walls for spying on the rare visitor or intruder.
The current leader of the guild is Dirgana Hammersong, a female dwarf ringmage (see Tome of Beasts 1) famous for her pastries and sweetbreads. She regularly gifts them to guild members who please her.
Dirgana’s father was one of the guild’s founders, and the dwarven membership reveres her. Dirgana leaves most of the day-to-day operations of the guild to her six captains, each of whom is responsible for a particular facet of the guild, such as equipment or security.
The biggest threat to Dirgana’s leadership is Einolfir, a human thief lord (see Creature Codex) and the guild captain responsible for smuggling goods into Stannasgard and other cities. Einolfir is popular among the non-dwarven members of the guild, many of whom rightly believe they are treated unfavorably. The human knows that he doesn’t have the support from the bulk of the guild to challenge Dirgana directly. But he’s looking for an opening.
Some possible adventure ideas involving the Klaevling:
- The wealthy owners of the Firlot in Zobeck (see Street Eats of Zobeck: Skilled Districts on this very blog by Benjamin Eastman) decide to open a new restaurant in Stannasgard. Unfortunately, the Klaevling has been sabotaging the construction and harassing the workers. In desperation, the owners hire the PCs to protect the building site, bringing them into direct confrontation with the guild.
- The Cult of Ragnarok has infiltrated Stannasgard. Blaðnir the Silver Leaf (see Midgard Worldbook) requests that the PCs locate the cult’s headquarters within the city and eradicate them. The Klaevling also knows of the cult’s existence and is moving against it. Will the guild aid the PCs or become a problem on a different front?
- Einolfir manipulates the PCs into attacking Baker’s Hall and hopefully killing Dirgana. To ensure their cooperation, he kidnaps someone important to them, such as a family member or mentor. To steer the PCs in the right direction, Einolfir leaves a trail of clues to follow, into the mountains northeast of Stannasgard.
Get into Midgard with the Midgard Worldbook! This acclaimed campaign setting is rich and deep, with a decade of support from Kobold Press. A more focused start is the Zobeck Clockwork City Collector’s Edition! This detailed sourcebook includes a set of adventures all within the Clockwork City itself!