INTRiGUE IN ABSALOM
The Aspis Consortium is an international trade organization founded and headquartered in the Chelaxian metropolis of Westcrown. The leaders of the Consortium organize, regulate, and monopolize whole sectors of the economy in many of the nations of the Inner Sea Region, and it’s patrons finance ventures ranging from local specialty shops to voyages of exploration in the pursuit of profit. In the last century the organization has grown exponentially, outstripping all competitors, and it has gained a dark reputation for its willingness to employ even the most ruthless tactics in maximizing the return on its investments.
The organization of the Consortium is relatively loose. The majority of its agents are shopkeepers, sailors, miners, and the like who receive financing, wages, and/or protection from higher ranking members of the organization and provide services or dividends in return, but are otherwise uninvolved in its wider schemes. The other most common agents of the Consortium are mercenary soldiers and other “specialists” hired on by its regional leadership who are more directly involved in carrying out their plans.
In time, a sufficiently successful merchant or effective mercenary in the employ of the society may be offered a bronze badge and membership in the lowest tier of the Consortium’s leadership hierarchy. Bronze agents are strictly local players, selected for their experience in a particular region, and they oversee the businesspeople in their area and coordinate the activities of local specialists to make sure that the interests of the Consortium are served.
A rare few bronze agents are eventually offered a silver membership in the society. Again, effectiveness is the main qualifier, but a ruthless drive for profit and a willingness to do anything and everything to please one’s superiors are often the traits that set senior bronze agents apart from prospective silver agents. Silver agents are generally based out of the Consortium’s regional power centers, places like the Mwangi port of Bloodcove and Magnimar in Varisia, and are the ones who hand down orders to the local bronze agents. Although they have a freer hand than lower-ranking agents in how they conduct their affairs, each reports directly to a gold agent above them and is held personally accountable for the successes and failures of the Consortium in the area they manage.
Only the smartest and luckiest silver agents are ever granted a gold badge, and even then generally only when an existing gold agent has died. These agents usually coordinate the activities of the Consortium throughout an entire nation or even larger area, and they make all the high-level decisions required to carry out the will of the Consortium’s leaders. In almost all cases, gold membership is for life, and only death or truly colossal failures of judgement remove a gold agent from his post. Likewise, no one is ever “promoted” out of gold status, precisely, as the Patrons who guide the activities of the entire consortium attain their rank only when their personal fortunes and networks of contacts have grown so vast that no one can deny them the position.
Because the Inner Sea Region is the home of so many ancient ruins containing valuable treasures, both magical and mundane, the Aspis Consortium finances expeditions to raid these sites as regularly as it does any of its other high-risk ventures. This has increasingly brought them into direct competition with the Pathfinder Society, and the two organizations are now engaged in a bitter rivalry. All too often, Pathfinders have been seduced into serving the interests of the Consortium with offers of wealth and power, but the Consortium’s leaders are still infuriated by how many members of the Society prove resistant to such bribery. Consortium-financed adventuring parties are authorized to do whatever it takes to make sure their handlers see a return on their investment, and many times this comes down to the cold-blooded murder of Pathfinders or other rivals.
Overall, the alignment of the Aspis Consortium is Neutral Evil. Most of its members, particularly the high-ranking ones, are businesspeople rather than fighters, but the Consortium hires specialists belonging to any class compatible with their ruthless methods.