The Orzhov guild was founded on the belief that wealth is power, that structure breeds wealth, and that guilt creates structure. The guild is run like a combination religion, credit-lending agency, and crime syndicate, with an ostentatious hierarchy of priests, enforcers, and ghostly councilors ruling over a congregation of guiltbound servants, indebted ghosts, and thrulls. Many Orzhov guild members truly believe that their rule is necessary for making Ravnica the best it can be, and they are unscrupulous in their methods of making sure they seize power. Most Ravnicans see the Orzhov for the corrupt organization they are, but many are lured in by their promises of wealth, prestige, and longevity.
The Obzedat, the Ghost Council Edit
The Orzhov guild is ruled by the Obzedat, a council of ghostly autocrats who have maintained their wealth and power even as they've shed their mortal forms. Members of the Obzedat are called the Deathless, as they have managed to cheat mortality, maintaining their consciousness (and their greed) beyond the threshold of death. Most of the Deathless appear as morbidly obese high priests or nobles, but sickly, pale, and ghostly in form. They are as paranoid and spiteful as dictators, often going out of their way to thwart ambitious underlings, crush rumormongers, and spy on potential enemies. They crave wealth, respect, and loyalty. The Obzedat rarely speak directly with those outside the guild; instead, they communicate through the official Grand Envoy, Teysa Karlov.
Teysa, Grand Envoy of the Obzedat Edit
The greedy, patriarchal ghosts of the Obzedat and the bickering leaders of the various cartels tend to be poor spokespeople for the Orzhov Syndicate. The human Teysa Karlov has taken a special, unprecedented position called "Grand Envoy," serving as the official speaker and ambassador for the members of the Obzedat ghost council. Once an advokist and lawmage who was instrumental in forging the current wording of theGuildpact, Teysa is now of middle age, her youthful resourcefulness streaked with wisdom and perspective. She has grown into her ambition well; her unique position allows her not only to express the will of the Deathless, but also to mold policy for her guild. Teysa is not the official ruler of the guild—the Obzedat still holds that position—but many believe that to cross Teysa is to cross the entire Syndicate.
The Cartels Edit
Reporting to the Obzedat is a web of cartels, which are the individually operating units of the Orzhov Syndicate. Each cartel claims different territories and markets across Ravnica, and each has its own internal hierarchy of priests, lawmages, enforcers, and others. Each cartel is ruled by a cardinal or kingpin whose role is somewhere between gang leader, bank manager, and high priest. Cartels quarrel among themselves over resources and markets and how best to curry favor with Teysa and the Obzedat.
Orzhov Locations Edit
Orzhova, the Cathedral Opulent Edit
The guildhall of the Orzhov is Orzhova, sometimes called the Church of Deals. It's a lavish cathedral with soaring ceilings, designed to make anyone who enters it feel insignificant and out-of-scale by comparison. Overblown stained glass windows and oversized marble statues depict an array of wealthy bishops, enforcer angels, and ghosts.
Irbitov: the mausoleum district Edit
When an Orzhov magnate is laid to rest, he or she is often entombed at Irbitov, an Orzhov-controlled quarter populated with mausoleums, memorial statues, and underground vaults. Irbitov is patrolled by thrulls, priests, and the occasional practitioner of necromancy. The carvings on headstones in Irbitov are said to change, accurately reflecting the financial status of the deceased.
Vizkopa Bank Edit
The center of Orzhov commerce is Vizkopa Bank, a massive institution encrusted with guardian gargoyles and orbited by the floating spirits of Orzhovan debtors. Vizkopa is not only where the guild keeps the majority of its wealth, but also where most Ravnican money is minted. The core of Vizkopa is protected by a mighty, faceless specter whose voice is said to curse the soul.
Coiner's Row Edit
Several Ravnican neighborhoods are dominated by ostentatious Orzhov churches, but one street contains more Orzhov priests and syndics (administrators) than any other district. Coiner's Row is named in part for an ancient forge on this street where coins were once minted (a function now served by Vizkopa Bank). But now the name has a new meaning, referring to the grandiose displays of coin jewelry and wealth of the Orzhov guild members who conduct business here. Coiner's Row supports many high-end shops and restaurants, and those who do not meet its high standard of decorum are not welcome.
Orzhov Roles Edit
Clerics: practitioners of the hollow religion. Edit
Many of the middle tiers of the Orzhov hold some sort of official religious rank in the guild, from lowly ministrants to high-ranking pontiffs. Orzhov clerics may seem faithless compared to religious practitioners of other planes; they follow their beliefs, but their beliefs center around the distribution of power rather than a divine figure. Clerics are named by their duty. Sinstrikers castigate those who don't follow Orzhov doctrine. Absolversrelease followers from their sin, usually in exchange for some lavish gift or favor.
Enders: professional life-takers. EditBeing a killer for the Orzhov can be a complex duty and can come with many labels. Some are executioners—giants who carry out the righteous judgments of the pontiffs. Some are spectral assassins who "sever business relationships" with snitches and other untrustworthy partners. Others are honorable soldiers who protect the public by eliminating threats. Should the Orzhov decide to end someone—either an Orzhovan or someone outside the guild—the Orzhov like to use the termination to send a message to others. Orzhov killings are often signed with some sort of calling card, or even advertised proudly with a complicated ceremony.
Knights: paragons of virtue and vice. Edit
Knighthood is an honorable status bestowed on Orzhov members who have proven their loyalty and skill in some way. Each time a person is knighted, he or she is becomes associated with a title that expresses some quality of character. This quality need not be a traditionally positive virtue. For example, a Knight of Penance might be a knight who stands for the virtue of atoning for one's past mistakes, while a Knight of Despair might be one who brings woe to the enemies of the Syndicate.
Syndics: maintainers of the fine print. Edit
The Orzhov employ a small army of attorneys, advisors, directors, accountants, counselors, and couriers who manage the business and administrative activities of the guild. Generally, these guild members are called syndics, although they bear a variety of names. Some are powerful lawmages, sometimes called advokists, who are capable of enforcing contracts and creating "verity circles" to encourage associates to speak the truth. Some are coiners, who lend money and keep accounting of the debts of various Ravnican citizens. Some syndics are traffic merchants who coordinate the flow of resources (legitimate and otherwise) and schedule transactions with outside parties. Others, such as fences, hide stashes or carry goods through checkpoints. Although they are not as ostentatious as pontiffs or members of the Obzedat, syndics wield substantial power in the guild, as they often control how the guild interfaces with powerful forces beyond its own membership.
Constructed from flesh, with mask-like faceplates made from devalued coinage, thrulls occupy the bottom rung of the Orzhov status hierarchy. They are magically created to work as servants; they can be found waiting on their masters, fetching messages, or guarding basilica entrances. Skilled death-priests and thrull-fashioners can create larger thrulls outfitted for even stranger purposes—as flying mounts, palanquin-hauler beasts, or walking armored vaults. Some of the Orzhov elite treat thrulls as fashion accessories, parading them around on chains of linked coins like pampered pets.
Angels: unfettered powers Edit
Angels are rare among the Orzhov. Angels are traditionally manifestations of faith and community, and so most angels are loath to associate with the guild of wealth and greed. But occasionally an angel becomes disillusioned by the simplistic principles and military strictures of the Boros and desires a place where she can find proper respect. An angel who can aspire to be only a foot soldier among the Boros has the chance to wield the power of an icon among the Orzhov. Orzhov angels can act as executioners, commanders, pontiffs, or other high-ranking officials, but more often they tend to forge their own job descriptions. Angels fly by their own personal codes of order and execute them efficiently and mercilessly.
Spirits: undead debtors Edit
When an Orzhov guild member dies, his or her debt to the guild is usually not paid. Servitude that persists into undeath is often a condition of membership, allowing the Orzhov to command hundreds of spirit servants at any one time. Note that these spirit-debtors are in a much different plight than the ghost councilors of the Obzedat, who have achieved a state of deathless, autocratic power.
Orzhov Attitudes Toward Other Guilds Edit
- Azorius: "They worship process more than purpose. But we admire their devotion to strict order; it is the first brick in building an empire."
- Dimir: "The Dimir are our mirror in some ways, and therefore a threat to all we attempt to create. We must see them join our hierarchy or see them destroyed."
- Izzet: "Excited children who have lost their way. They could be useful pawns if they got a lesson in loyalty."
- Rakdos: "A danger to themselves and others. A threat to longevity and wealth. They must be controlled."
- Golgari: "Death is not the end; on this we agree. But bugs and fungus do not an empire make. They are like us without hygiene, wealth, or self-respect."
- Gruul: "The Gruul are a cautionary tale. They are what become of every culture without strong leadership."
- Boros: "The Boros are limited in their vision but useful in their willingness to execute. Their passions are the strings by which they may be played."
- Selesnya: "They share our vision for a unified world, but their dryads would sacrifice valuable institutions at the false altar of nature."
- Simic: "Their roots reach deep into history. But if their interest stops at extending life, they're missing at least half the story."