If We Build It, They Will Come…

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If We Build It, They Will Come…

A Look at the Engineers’ Guilds

By Alfred Nuñez Jr.


When one thinks of Engineers’ Guild in WFRP, one automatically concludes that the topic covers the commonly known and famous Dwarf Engineers’ Guild. But what if some player has a character who is a Human Engineer? Do they belong to a Guild which is run by Dwarfs? Or do they have their own, perhaps little-known, Guild? The purpose of this article is to discuss and contrast the two Guilds.

Brief History

The Dwarf Engineers’ Guild is the oldest known “guild” in the Empire, although not a proper guild as many understand the term. Its origins stretch back to well before the founding of the Empire in the Dwarfen realm of Karaz Ankor. The Guild was a name adopted by the Engineers craftguild to incorporate all its member clans. The fall of several Dwarfholds during the millennia-long wars against the Goblins forced the resettlement of many Dwarfs in the flatlands and mountain ranges west of the Worlds Edge Mountains.
The Expatriates, as the Dwarfs living among Humans were known, were few in number and restrictions associated with the craftguild concept quickly broke down (with the sole exception of the Runesmith clan). The precepts that surrounded the Engineer careers were too strong to wither away and many of the Expatriate Dwarf Engineers refused to allow their teachings and concepts to be lost. The Dwarf Engineers’ Guild restructured itself so that Dwarf artisans of great skill can be admitted without consideration of their respective clan’s craftguild origins.
The Dwarf Engineers’ Guilds were formed in the newly founded Imperials towns of Reikdorf (later renamed Altdorf), Middenheim, and Nuln. Emperor Sigmar used the Guild to build the defences of these towns in order to safely guard the growing centres of his united lands. He also commanded the Dwarf Engineers’ Guild to train his people in order to enhance their skills in such areas as stonemasonry, carpentry, and castle construction. A later Emperor, Sigismund the Conqueror, directed the Dwarf Engineers to construct war machines (ballista, trebuchets, and the like) to assist him with expanding the boundaries of the Empire. He also required the Dwarfs to teach Humans how to operate and do minor repairs on the various war machines (which soon led to the founding of the Imperial Artillerists’ Guild). In time, Dwarf Engineer chapters were established in Marienburg and Talabheim.

Gunpowder Weapons

For nearly a millennia, Imperial engines of destruction relied upon hurling rocks and large spears at their opponents. Should an opponents fortifications prove too strong for these war machines, siege towers would be constructed to attack the walls while sappers tunnelled below to undermine the fortifications.
The fragmented Empire endured centuries of intermittent warfare as one provincial ruler or another declared themselves Emperor and tried to impose their will upon their neighbours. In time, a Wizards’ War broke out which provided the cults the cover to suppress sorcery across the land. Rumours of evil arose from the forests and the province called Sylvania. The Dwarfs of Karaz Ankor made a fateful decision to share the knowledge of gunpowder and the weapons of war that used its frightful power with the Expatriate Dwarf Engineers’ Guild. Emissaries were sent to the Imperial rulers to bring the knowledge to them as well.
The Ulrican rulers of Middenheim and Talabheim had serious misgivings about gunpowder weapons as did the Grand Theogonist in Altdorf. The cannons and handguns brought by the Imperial Dwarfs of Karaz Ankor were their oldest and simplest designs (naturally, the Dwarfs had no intentions of sharing their more advanced designs, but that was their little secret).
In contrast with the above mentioned former Electors (the Electoral process was dissolved by the Grand Theogonist years earlier), Empress Magritta of Nuln saw the potential of such weaponry. The fact that the High King secretly sent his second son as emissary underscored the importance of Nuln and its domination of the southern Imperial provinces as a strong ally to protect the northwestern flank of Karaz Ankor. Empress Magritta agreed with the Dwarf emissary’s demand that the secret of gunpowder and the design of its weaponry would become the monopoly of the Nuln Dwarf Engineers’ Guild. The Richtofen Foundry was established in 1991 I.C. by the Dwarf Engineers’ Guild for the manufacture of cannons and handguns. They were charged with refining the designs and improving reliability with the intended purpose that Humans be taught to operate such machinery. The adjacent Nuln School of Gunnery (where the Imperial Gunners’ Guild was established) soon opened to train gunners in the use of cannon.
In time, the other Imperial cities learned the value of gunpowder weapons and began their own programmes. Nuln remained the major Imperial centre for the manufacture of gunpowder with Marienburg a close second (even though the Wasteland seceded for the Empire in 2429 I.C.).
During the early years of Emperor Magnus the Pious’ reign, the Dwarf Engineers’ Guild monopoly on the construction of war machines came under threat as the Marshal of the Imperial Army and provincial Electors demanded their intricate merchandise be delivered quicker and cheaper. The cult of Sigmar was also pressuring the Dwarf Engineers to accept Humans in their ranks. Naturally, the Dwarfs stubbornly refused to compromise their integrity and craftsmanship. Negotiation and threats soon followed before the cult of Verena brokered a compromise. The Dwarf guild agreed to teach skilled Human artisans in the manufacture of war machines and handguns as well as help them form an Engineers’ Guild of their own. In return, the Dwarf Engineers’ Guild chapters were granted first refusal rights to meet the product demands of the Emperor and Elector of the city where the chapter was located. As Marienburg did not have an Elector, the Dwarfs were obliged to meet the Baron of Westerland’s requirements.
Within ten years, Imperial Engineers’ Guild chapters were founded in the cities and large towns of the Empire. Though the quality varied from almost as good as Dwarf-built to a poor imitation thereof, the Imperial guilds found an economic niche for their cheaper, though generally less well-made, products. Nonetheless, the Imperial Guilds did siphon a fair share of work away from the Dwarf Guild.

Schools of Engineering

In 2490 I.C., the distinguished Tilean engineer Leonardo di Miragliano gained an audience with Emperor Luitpold I. Some believed that Leonardo’s skills rivalled that of the best Dwarf Engineers while some of his innovations exceeded anything believed possible. The Tilean offered to open an academy to train men of great talent and imagination in “the art of creating wondrous works including exotic weaponry of intricate design.” Impressed, Emperor Luitpold I called forth the Guildmaster of the Imperial Engineers in Altdorf and commanded the two men to make Leonardo’s proposal a reality.
Later that year, the Altdorf School of Engineering admitted its first students. Among the more talented was Ludwig von Meinkopt, the man behind most of the working weapons of war in the Imperial arsenal. His most famous and (relatively) reliable creations are the Helblaster Volley Gun, Repeater Hand Gun, and Repeater Pistol. Coupled with Leonardo’s departure in 2505 I.C., Ludwig’s accidental and premature death in 2507 I.C. lessened the School’s creative output. Most of its current projects remain in the experimental stages.
The other chapters of Imperial Engineer Guilds have established their own schools of Engineering, though all lag in inventiveness to varying degrees when compared to the Altdorf school. They also tend to be much smaller in the number of masters and apprentices.

Engineer Guilds

The Dwarf and Imperial Engineers’ Guilds are not as widespread as most other guilds. In the Empire, chapters of the Dwarf Engineers’ Guild are only found in the cities mentioned above and Kemperbad. Imperial Guilds have been established in the same cities, as well as a number of large towns (mostly provincial capitals like Averheim and Wolfenburg).
Few apprentices are accepted as only the most gifted can meet the qualifications for admittance to the guilds of either race. This restriction is intentional as it limits the number of Engineers who are able to meet the demands of the guild’s customers and drives up the price for their products and efforts. Competition for work can be severe in cities where the two races have their guilds. Generally, those that have the time and can afford the money hire the Dwarfs as their craftsmanship is of higher quality than their Imperial counterparts can usually achieve. On the other hand, the Imperial Engineers can generally manufacture and deliver their products quicker while charging their clients less. Civil Engineering projects, such as sewer repair and other public works, are typically the domain of the Imperial Guilds.
Due to the nature of their craft, Dwarf Engineers’ and Imperial Engineers’ guild chapters were located in the metalworking districts of the cities and large towns where they operated. The grounds of the large guildhouses were surrounded by high, stoutly-built stone walls. Not only was this intended to keep prying eyes from the workings of the guilds, but it also contained any residual explosions resulting from shortcomings in the respective guild’s efforts.

Joining the Guild

There are a couple of ways that a Dwarf may join the Engineers’ Guild of their race. The first is to be recommended by another member of the Guild, usually a kinsman. The petitioner must bring a sample of their skill to a panel of Engineers selected by the Guildmaster. The panel evaluates the work on the merits of the petitioner’s current skill level with an eye to determining his potential to contribute to the Guild. Should a petitioner be found wanting, the Guild will find a Dwarf artisan under whom the petitioner may learn a craft. It is rare (being considered dishonourable) for a petitioner who fails to gain admittance to the Engineers’ Guild to reject the Guild’s efforts on his behalf.
The second method to achieve admittance to the guild is by proving their skill as an artisan with a demonstrative skill to craft complex works. Many of these artisans are really Dwarf journeymen from other crafts, particularly building or stoneworking, who find themselves unable to penetrate the level of Master within the respective Imperial guild to which they belong (especially when they feel discriminated against by the Human Guildmasters and their lieutenants). These Dwarfen artisans must still prove their worthiness to the Guildmaster of the local chapter.
In contrast, the Imperial Engineers’ Guild will only accept applicants as apprentices if they are journeymen in their current craft. Similar to their Dwarf counterparts, these journeymen are more likely to be highly skilled builders and stonemasons who are frustrated by the lack of opportunity to become Masters in their own right and would prefer to leave their profession rather than toil for years in their present capacity. These petitioners must submit their work to a panel of three Master Engineers as a preliminary step in their petition. Any whose work is considered worthy are invited back for an extensive series of interviews with the Masters before they are finally judged to be worthy. Those who pass this point become apprentice Engineers once an understanding can be reached with their former guild. These new members are treated more as novices (journeymen) of the craft rather than apprentices as in other crafts [GM Note: anyone accepted in to the Engineers’ Guild is considered in the Engineer career]. Those who fail to pass the muster are so notified after they are escorted out of the guildhouse.
There are occasions when a Dwarf Engineer may feel constrained and frustrated by the restrictions imposed on innovation within the Dwarf Guild. He might “rebel” by pushing through designs that are considered “unsafe” or “without proper testing” by the Masters of the Engineers Guild (though the Expatriate Guilds are more flexible than the Engineer Guilds of Karaz Ankor). Any rebellious Dwarf Engineer who continues to act in a very unDwarf-like manner is forced to undergo a humiliated process known as the Trouser Leg Ritual and summarily expelled from the Dwarf Engineers’ Guild chapter. Known as “wetbacks,” these Dwarfs may join the Imperial Engineers’ Guild where their skills make them highly valuable.

Dwarf Engineers’ Guild

Once a petitioner is found acceptable, they are invited back to participate in a solemn ceremony of initiation. The exact nature of this rite of admittance varies from one chapter to another. The common thread of the rituals involves a formal oath to observe all laws of the Guild, especially the one upholding the Guild’s secrets upon penalty of expulsion (and possibly worse). The newly-admitted Engineer receives a ring which slides to reveal a concealed emblem of the Guild and tools of the trade. Other than these trappings, there is nothing that overtly identifies Guild members.
New Guild members are then assigned to work under the auspices and direction of a Master Engineer. From their Master, Engineers learn the Guild by-laws and techniques. To outsiders, the Dwarf Engineers’ Guild frowns upon innovation. The fact of the matter is that the Guild prizes craftsmanship above all else. Simply put, the reputation of the Engineer and the Guild is predicated upon the quality of the workmanship as well as soundness of design and materials used. The Guild is tradition-bound which explains its tendency to lean on proven designs. New designs or innovations usually take decades of research and development as the Guild is disinclined to release anything that doesn’t meet their exacting standards. Thus, the failure rate of Dwarf-made devices is exceedingly low over many years.
The jobs given to an individual progress in complexity until the Guildmaster decides with the Master Engineer’s concurrence that the Engineer is ready to work on their own. This is the first step in an Engineer’s ascension within the Guild. Movement from one rank to the next is based upon the individual Engineers’ skills as a craftsman, the reliability of their work, and their reputation.
Should an opening come among their number, the Master Engineers of a Guild chapter meet to determine which Engineers are deemed worthy of consideration to ascend to the rank of Master. The candidates are ranked by their level of skill and reputation. The top five (or less if there are not enough candidates) are then given a task to measure their mettle. Those who exceed the requirements of the task are ranked by quality of their craftsmanship. The most qualified candidate is then elevated to the rank of Master Engineer. The eldest Master Engineer of a Guild chapter also serves as its Guildmaster.
The details for the Master Engineer career can be found in Dwarfs: Stone & Steel, pages 85-86.
In addition to Engineers, the Dwarf guild also includes Alchemists, Artillerists, Gunners, and Sappers (all Dwarfs) as members.

Imperial Engineers’ Guild

Once a petitioner to the Imperial Engineers’ Guild is found acceptable, they must undergo an initiation. As with the Dwarf Guild, the exact nature of the formal procedure of admittance varies from one chapter to another. The most common elements of these rituals involves a formal oath to observe all laws of the Guild and protect its secrets, a pledge to obey the Masters, and agreement to assist the local military in whatever capacity the Elector (or designate) chooses. Failure to perform any of these tasks can lead to expulsion or some other harsh sentence. The Imperial Guild could even sue for damages caused by a member violating their covenant.
The newly-admitted Engineer receives a livery with the Guild’s coat of arms embroidered on its front to identify them as members of good standing.. The liveries are made of thick linen and dyed with the colours of the city where the chapter is located. These articles of clothing also serve as limited protection for the Engineers when they labour on their projects. The Guild even provides (at some minimal cost) a set of tools to its new members, as well as a medallion with the Guild’s coat of arms emblazoned upon it.
New Guild members are assigned to work under the supervision of an Engineer Master. From their Master, Engineers are further drilled on the Guild by-laws and techniques. In contrast to their Dwarf counterparts, the Imperial Guild thrives on innovations (though the degree differs from one chapter to the next) and are more than willing to risk their reputation to find that one career-defining invention. Some consider the Imperial Guild as rather reckless, especially with new-fangled inventions. Periodic explosions are not unknown and accidents abound. Compared with other Guilds, membership in the Engineers’ Guild poses some danger to the individual. In fact, a number of artisans join the Imperial Engineers for that very reason.
Engineers may move from one Engineer Master to another depending upon their development, demonstrated skills and weaknesses. Every year, the Guildmaster and Masters meet to evaluate the Engineers to determine which ones are ready to work on their own. This is the first step in an Engineer’s rise within the Guild. Movement from one rank to the next is based upon the individual Engineers’ skills as a craftsman, the reliability and speed of their work, and their political connections.
Whenever there’s an opening among their number, the Masters of a Guild chapter convene a meeting with the Guildmaster to determine which Engineers should be considered for elevation to the rank of Master. As a general rule, Masters nominate their own protégés for consideration. The candidates are then ranked by their level of skill and, to some extent, the number of inventions or innovations in which they were involved. Accusations that certain Engineers take more credit than warranted are commonplace. The Masters then discuss the candidates before placing their votes. As expected, a fair amount of politicking (and bribery) takes place during the pre-election period. Balloting continues until the majority has decided upon one of the candidates.
Imperial Engineer Guildmasters usually hold their title until they either die or retire. Once there is a vacancy, the jockeying for the esteemed position commences. Typically the competition between Masters is fierce and alliances shift continuously. At some point, a winner emerges to become the new Guildmaster and the guild chapter can return to its craft.
Since there isn’t a Master Engineer career for Humans, it is suggested that the advance scheme for the Artisan career be used. Skills could include Evaluate, Specialist Weapon- Pistol, Specialist Weapon- Handgun, Specialist Weapon- Bombard (Cannon), and Super Numerate.
Unlike their Dwarf counterparts, the Imperial Guild contracts a number of non-Engineers from their respective guilds to perform specific tasks. These individuals are usually Alchemists from the Wizards’ and Alchemists’ Guild (to manufacture gunpowder and other compounds), Gunners (to test new weapon designs), Labourers (for all the grunt work), and Scribes (someone has to manage their books). Artisans from other guilds are also sub-contracted to assist in the civil engineering projects undertaken by the Imperial Guild.

Use in Campaigns

Most of the information contained in this article can be used by GMs to give their campaigns more depth and provide roleplaying opportunities for their players. Players who want to join a guild may well be advised to think hard on this choice as to do so may effect their ability to be itinerant bums who wonder from place to place getting mixed up in unsavoury activities they call “adventures.”

On the other hand, players who have a career in a craft such as Engineering may well practice their vocation without contacting the relevant guild. This situation provides a good segue to introducing the players into the politics, bureaucracy, and power of the guilds. Generally, players should come off worse for the wear. They may even be fined or wind up in prison.
Then again, players may insist on joining the guild in hopes of finding a wealthy patron. If so, the information above should allow the GM to have some fun at the players’ expense. Perhaps one or two are able to work their way through the ranks without difficulty, while some of the others might find themselves blackballed by some influential Master who just doesn’t like a character’s attitude or for a variety of other reasons. The rest may just not be imaginative or good enough to move quickly. The players could then learn how to use the guild’s by-laws and politics to enhance theirs and their comrades’ position. Perhaps one of them could become a Master. In addition, this type of circumstance could introduce players into the politics of other Guilds and city government. A few interactions with noble patrons could also be introduced to draw the players into some plots and schemes of the privileged.

Adventure Hooks

Industrial Espionage

Whether a PC is a member of the guild, or knows someone (a family member, friend, or acquaintance) in the guild, they are approached by a representative of the local Imperial Engineers’ Guild chapter for a specific and delicate task. Apparently, someone has been obtaining secrets from the Guild with the intent of selling them to another interested party (this could be the local Dwarf Engineers’ Guild or some foreign concern such as a Bretonnian noble or Tilean merchant). The Guild is not sure who it is, but they have some suspects. Someone associated with the guild recently found some documents in a seedy dive appropriately named “Hole in the Wall.” The Guild wants the PCs to lie in wait near the third-rate tavern in order to find the spy, determine their contact, and then catch the two of them in the act. A relatively straightforward task. Or is it? The GM could add a twist by making the contact a cultist of the Horned Rat or some anti-technological group of radicals who fear that Humanity is losing its soul to the corrupting force of Chaos (the fact that engineering has nothing in common with Chaos matters little).


Another angle to the above theme, the Guild fears that they have a saboteur in their midst. A number of the gadgets and other engineering marvels seem to be suffering minor breakdowns and malfunctions in a short amount of time. The Masters have found two or three small clues that someone has tinkered with the devices, but cannot reach any conclusions. The PCs are hired to find the culprit before the Guild must deliver some machine they have been contracted to build for a local Baron. The perpetrator could be of the same ilk as the spy in the previous hook. Or, it could be someone very different. One suggestion is that it could be a wild Snotling who has “adopted” a particular Guild member and is trying to secretly impress her with its “skills.” Another could be a Halfling labourer who is attempting to teach himself a new craft when everyone else is absent. For those who like Gnomes, the saboteur could be the relative of a banker who is trying to collect on a bad debt from a delinquent Engineer.


An Engineer hires the PCs as escorts so he can deliver a complicated piece of work (like a large clock) to a powerful noble. Due to its delicacy, the speed of travel is only at half normal with frequent stops to ensure that the road travel hasn’t damaged the merchandise. This means that every odd day the party must set camp outside the safe confines of the coaching inns. Throw in an occasional scare and some random episodes – such as a bandit raid, visit by a hungry wolf, pilgrims travelling to the next shrine while looking for alms – and one has the makings of a rather unusual adventure. To make matters worse, the noble may well decide that he doesn’t like the product and demands that the engineer returns back to the workshop to reconstruct it to the noble’s specifications or refund the advance. Or, the noble might take possession and refuse to pay the balance due because of a scratch or dent.

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