The Academy of Knowledge exists to maintain the technology of Kalyr. They maintain a complete monopoly on all ‘advanced’ technology such as firearms, vehicles and electrical power, and aren’t shy of using force to preserve this monopoly. The guild is notoriously secretive, and rumours abound about darker secrets within the organisation. While their position as sole suppliers of this such as weaponry gives them enormous political power, they tend to keep aloof of the day-to-day politics of Kalyr. In the event of war between different kandar powers, sometimes they’re quite happy to supply weaponry and other equipment to both sides, though they’ve been known to refuse to supply either side. What they won’t do under any circumstances, however, is take sides.
Surprisingly for an organisation that exists to preserve ancient knowledge, the origins of the Academy of Knowledge are shrouded in mystery. There are suggestions that it’s a descendent of some industrial organisation dating from the Golden Empire while somehow managed to hold together in secret during the Times of Darkness. Other suggest that it’s much more recent, dating from some time in the second empire, formed to rediscover what had been lost. It’s strongly rumoured that the Academy leadership knows a lot more about the founding of the guild than they let on.
The academy runs workshops in just about every kandar city. Each local academy is divided into three divisions, with distinct functions, and the heads of the three divisions form the collective leadership at a local level.
The Administration Division
The administration division represents the public face of the Academy. Members of this division manage all dealings with other guilds, as well as internal accounting and discipline within the academy. To those outside the guild, the head of Administration would be considered to be the head of the guild, and he (or she) will represent the academy in any official capacity.
The Technical Division
The technical division is by far the largest in terms of manpower. The see themselves as the people who actually do all the work, building and repairing the guild’s devices and mechanisms.
The Security Division
The security division is the smallest, and is responsible for protecting the guild against external threats. Their visible presence is the ‘men in black’; seen guarding the guild’s premises against intruders, or acting as bodyguards for members of other divisions. But the division also encompasses the feared ‘operatives’, undercover agents hunting down and sometimes eliminating those that threaten the academy and it’s secrets.
As well as the three divisions, the Academy is also divided into four regions West (Ravenah), North (Karmork), South (Keylin), and East (Vohrleyn). Each combination of region and division has a director, twelve in all. These directors are the highest visible leaders, known simply as The Twelve. Members of The Twelve travel widely
But behind these Twelve sit the enigmatic Council of Five, who are the generally though to be the real master of the the Academy. While all members of the the academy know of the existence of The Five, only a select few know their identities. It is generally believed that, while some of the five are also members of The Twelve, others of them are not.
The easiest way to join the Academy of Knowledge is to be the son or daughter of a member of the guild. At least three quarters of the membership have at least one parent within the guild. The Academy does take plenty of apprentices who don’t come from existing guild families. A significant proportion are orphans, who tend to come from both the top and bottom of society, both children of nobles, and talented street urchins.
Everyone starts as an apprentice, whether they’ve been born into the guild, or accepted from outside. Apprentices don’t belong to any division, at least at first, and early apprenticeship is geared as much to determining which division the apprentice has the most aptitude for as it is to teaching necessary skills. All younger apprentices will get a basic education covering such things as reading and writing, mathematics and the philosophy of the guild. Only later will the apprentice be steered towards one of the three divisions and trained in appropriate skills.
When an apprentice becomes a journeyman, usually in late teens, he or she will already have chosen a division, or will have had a division chosen for them. Journeymen and women are the bulk of the rank and file of the guild. While most journeymen are based in a city, many find themselves working in remote locations for extended periods, tending machines in far-flung places where the academy doesn’t have any other presence.
There is typically one master for every eight journeymen in a city, and each master is responsible for eight journeymen. Becoming a master is not automatic, and most journeymen never become masters. Promotion is by ability, not seniority, at least in theory, but kandar of noble background do tend to be overrepresented amongst masters. Naturally Kandar chauvinists will say that this proves the inevitable superiority of the kandar race; humans merely state that the guild isn’t quite as meritocratic as they like to think they are.
In every kandar city you’ll find a cluster of guild workshops. They all have much the same organisation structure, headed by a triumvirate made up from the highest ranking member of each of the three divisions. The physical structures vary enormously. In many cities, especially in the Great Kandar Empire, the guild has an entire district to itself, where all the buildings are either workshops, administrative buildings, or residential accommodation inhabited by guild members, and the Security Division patrol the streets. In other places guild facilities are widely scattered throughout the city, something which is disliked by Security, but sometimes can’t be avoided due to constraints of space. In the ancient city of Filgeth the entire workshops and administrative offices are located in a single vast building, the ancient dome that’s supposed to date from the Golden Empire.
Most members live outside the actual workshop complex, although many inhabit residential buildings owned by the guild. Only a few senior masters live in suites with the guild complex itself, though many younger and unmarried guildsmen and women live in guild-owned boarding houses very close to the workshops. Guildsmen of noble birth will be expected to own their clan residences, and to live in those.
Life and Work in the Guild
The day to day business of the guild is keeping the technological machinery of the cities running, from vehicles and weapons through to electricity grids and power generation. Yes, you do need to call the guild when you need a lightbulb changing.
Since a lot of guild-maintained equipment is likely to be installed all over the city, a member of the Technical Division will spend much time in the premises of other guilds, servicing and maintaining whatever non-portable machinery those other guilds are using. They still spend a lot of time in the workshops, though, building or repairing portable tools and weaponry, or servicing vehicles.
A few members of the Technical Division find themselves working away from home for extended periods, the most obvious example being the engineers on board those seagoing ships powered by guild-built engines.
While the technical division handle the machinery, the Administration Division deal with the paperwork. The usage agreements between guilds are often complex, and quite often payment is in terms of services rendered rather than cash; for instance, the Guild of Victuallers may pay for the maintenance of machinery in a flour mill by supplying both food and catering staff for the refectory in the Academy workshops. Administration also handle internal discipline across all divisions, and resolve disputes with other guilds. A journeyman in Administration might spend time preparing usage agreements documents and later on verifying compliance with same. Usage agreements have the force of law, and the guild has the legal authority to enforce this by any means necessary
When such enforcement becomes necessary, it becomes a job for Security. Anyone using guild-maintained machinery can expect to be visited at any time to ensure that the machinery is used solely for the purposes permitted in the usage agreement. Whether this visit is by a single member of Administration and a bodyguard from Security, or by something amounting to a commando team depends on how much evidence there is of misuse.
Security also get involved whenever a crime is committed against the guild. Most kandar cities do not have an independent city guard, and law-enforcement is the responsibility of the guild, and Security handle the task with ruthless efficiency. If they beat up a suspect who belongs to another guild and later turns out to have been innocent, it becomes the task of Administration to smooth things over.
That pales into insignificance when it comes to the way the Security deals with anyone outside the guild that attempts to manufacture technological items. Such operations tend to get shut down with extreme prejudice, with very public displays of force designed to discourage anyone else from entertaining similar ideas. Security aren’t averse to spilling blood in such operations, although they try to avoid killing innocent bystanders. If possible the ringleaders will be captured alive rather than killed on the spot, so that can given a fair trail.
Unlike the Academy of the Mind, there Academy of Knowledge isn’t riven with factions. This isn’t to say that there’s no politics with the Academy, just that it tends to involve individual ambition rather than organised factions. Since the guild prides itself in being meritocratic, there’s always a certain amount of backstabbing and greasy pole climbing that goes on.
The Academy Worldview
The Academy of Knowledge sees itself as a force of stability in Kalyr. For centuries they have maintained technology at a constant level, with no significant advances. Certainly designs of weapons and other items have changed over the years, but many of the changes are as much fashion as improved utility. Indeed many types of weapons made in past years have since been withdrawn because they were too effective and unbalancing to the status quo. Weapons of mass destruction are not and will not be made.
The racial equality within the guild is the one big departure from this. Up to a century ago, like all other kandar organisations, they were strictly all-kandar, with the only humans employed as slaves in drudge work. Then in one city after another, they began taking human apprentices, who in the passage of time naturally became journeymen. More recently humans have been elevated to masters. This creates friction with the more chauvinistic elements amongst the kandar, to whom it gives just another reason not to trust the guild.
The identity of the real leadership remains a mystery and guild members are strongly discouraged from asking questions or speculating as to their true motivations. And it’s true that Security sometimes gets sent on ‘black missions’ that seem to have little to do with enforcing usage agreements, which only serves to fuel rumours that the hidden leadership has an secret agenda. Add to this the fact that some journeymen just ‘disappear’ with no warning, and no indication as to what’s happened to them, and it becomes clear why the guild has a sinister reputation.
The Academy of Knowledge lends itself very well to mission-based adventures, either as one-shots or as the basis for a longer campaign. A lot of missions are likely to focus on the work of the Security division, especially when there’s going to be some violence involved, there are plenty of reasons why personnel from Administration or Technical might find themselves accompanying a field mission. Some examples of typical missions.
Police Procedural: A crime has been committed; either something important has been stolen from the guild, or a guild member has been murdered. The security division is tasked to solve the crime. If they capture the perpetrator, it will be up to Administration to decide his or her fate.
Usage Agreement Enforcement: Another guild is alleged to be violating the usage agreement, and the Academy must pay them a visit to find out precisely what they’re up to. Administration will be responsible for the legal and political side of things, Technical might determine precisely what the other guild are doing, and Security will apply the necessary muscle.
Illegal Manufacturing: Somebody is breaking the guild’s monopoly on technology, and they must be stopped. The scale of the mission could be as simple as a raid and arrest, or might be a major operation against a well-defended stronghold.
Ancient Artefacts: There are reports of cache of ancient items from the Golden Empire. The guild must locate and recover them before anyone else does.
Naturally such missions don’t have to be straightforward. What started as a simple investigation of a theft might uncover a deeper plot, which will lead to further missions with higher and higher stakes until it becomes a struggle against a Kalyr-spanning conspiracy.
Another option is to focus on the mysteries of Academy itself. What are the secrets behind the organisation? What is the real identity of The Five? And what does happen to people that know too much?
The Academy as an Enemy
In a game where the are no guild member PCs, the Academy of Knowledge could be used as an enemy. This is a good option for a game where the PCs are a cell of human rebels. Such a game should emphasise the darker side of the academy, such as their willingness to use violence against rivals. Their power and influence means that no small group of PCs can go against them head-to-head, but fight a cat-and-mouse campaign, hiding and striking from the shadows.