"...the [Thieves'] Guild was given an annual quota which represented a socially acceptable level of thefts, muggings and assassinations, and in return saw to it in very definite and final ways that unofficial crime was not only rapidly stamped out but knifed, garroted, dismembered and left around the city in an assortment of paper bags as well."Nobody can just be a criminal in this town. If you want to rob, extort, embezzle, pilfer, plunder or otherwise take what isn't yours, you need to be a member in good standing of the thieves' guild. Common to fantasy stories, the guild provides protection to its members (and eliminates their competition) in exchange for a cut of their ill-gotten gains. Sometimes, the guild will extend to assassins and other criminals; others handle only larceny. Similar to The Mafia, but there is no competing group of outlaws, nor solo operators. If you so much as cut a purse and you're not paying dues to the guild, someone cuts your throat. Usually there is a boss of the thieves, a "Chief Thief", if you will, who gets a cut of the proceeds from any heist. Most guilds have layers of organization; depending on how many, the people doing the actual thieving may get a minority of what they actually steal (there is more than one way to take someone's money). Often, thieving is treated as a craft, and would-be members must go through an apprenticeship before becoming true guild members. Often, the legitimate powers that be will turn a blind eye to the guild's dealings, as long as the members lay off certain targets (e.g. nobles). Sometimes, the thieves' guild is more powerful than the recognized authority. There could easily be a civil war if the balance of power shifts or the authorities want something, however. If more than one guild begins to operate in town, the fantasy equivalent of a Mob War can easily break out. A type of Weird Trade Union, though a thieves' guild is usually more important to a story than most examples of that trope. Compare with Murder, Inc.. The working language of such a guild is typically a Thieves' Cant. If the authors don't think about it, may lead to a case of More Criminals Than Targets. Common character types associated with the guild include: The Fagin, The Artful Dodger, Street Urchin.
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- The Thieves' Guild and Assassins' Guild in X-Men
- The Rogues from The Flash pay dues, have health plans and even consider themselves a branch of Keystone Local 242.
- This was extended to The Syndicate and its involvement in the Las Vegas gambling scene during Peter David's run on The Incredible Hulk. At one point, the Hulk gets a job as a bouncer for Michael Berengetti, a wiseguy who blends his illegal dealings with his legitimate casino operations. When rival wiseguy Tony Gold wants to set up shop in Vegas, Berengetti orders him out of town, alluding to the "understanding" he and the other local casino bosses have with the authorities. So long as Berengetti and the other bosses only act within certain unwritten boundaries, the authorities leave them alone. In turn, Berengetti and the other bosses also get to take steps to "protect" their local market from outside competitors like Gold.
- Doctor Who Magazine: In "The Cornucopia Caper", the planet Cornucopia is ruled by an alliance of criminal guilds, each one responsible for a different area of criminal activity: thievery, kidnapping, blackmail, hijacking, etc.
- Black Moon Chronicles: Pile-ou-face the elf was sold to the master of a thieves' and assassins' guild as a young boy and brought up in their trade. He was quickly hated by the other boys both for being a non-human and his talent at stealing thanks to being an elf arousing their jealousy. As an adult Pilou eventually sells out the entire guild to get revenge on the master for arranging the death of a friendly thief who had been a father figure to him.
- In the Rango fanfic Old West, there exists the Gunslinger Court. It's sort of a hierarchy among outlaws founded in order to keep the outlaws from tearing each other apart. Only those outlaws who are best at what they do are accepted as members, allowing them to contact each other for special jobs when needed. Rattlesnake Jake is the highest member in the pecking order, being known as the Grim Reaper of the West. Other known members are his second in command Reth ("the Carpenter"), the third in command Delilah Rangler ("the Scarlet Kiss"), Irvin Worst ("the fire breather"), Johan Quall ("the fickle thief") and Kepper ("the knife nut"). In the second half of the story, the Big Bad assists the upstarts in injuring Jake, giving room to contest for leadership.
- In M, a Criminal Union (mostly made up of thieves, like the leader Safecracker) ally themselves with the local Beggars Union to catch a child-killer. This is mostly because the resulting police crackdowns are bad for business, but they also claim that even they won't tolerate a man who kills children. (A case of Truth in Television, as Fritz Lang noticed that a local criminals' union offered to help the police catch one of the serial killers he based the film on.)
- The Jhereg Organization of Dragaera contains almost all organized crime in the Dragaeran Empire, including assassinations, illegal goods, untaxed gambling and lending, and thievery and selling stolen goods.
- Older Than Steam: Miguel De Cervantes, of Don Quixote fame, wrote the short story Rinconete And Cortadillo, which has the two eponymous characters joining one of these.
- Fagin's gang of pickpockets in Oliver Twist.
- A thieves' guild figures big in David Eddings' The Elenium and The Tamuli—actually, each major city seems to have its own head-of-the-underworld, and each of the bosses know and keep in contact with the other bosses, and they meet every so often at the central city of the continent. The organization is loose, but they exchange favors and services for each other; one aspect is 'thieves' sanctuary'—a thief can go to another territory and ask to be kept safe. The local boss is entitled to refuse, but has to answer to the thief's own boss at the next meeting of the council. An unsatisfactory answer may result in a cut throat.
- The Mockers in The Riftwar Cycle.
- Diana Wynne Jones's Dark Lord of Derkholm, which is set in a world that's been forced to adopt all the Fantasyland cliches for the benefit of the tourists, obviously has a Thieves' Guild. Interestingly, though, it turns out to be an authentic institution that's been around since before the whole tourism thing started.
- Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories have a Thieves Guild in the city of Lankhmar. This is certainly the Trope Namer and probably the Trope Maker, although borderline examples occur earlier.
- Chronicles of the Kencyrath: The first book, God Stalk, features a city and Thieves' Guild based quite admittedly on Lankhmar. The thieves fall into the ranks of apprentices, journeymen, and masters, with the guild ruled by a guild lord known as the sirdan. Among the masters, there are "landed masters" and "landless masters"—the landed masters are assigned districts of the city as their territories, and only they can vote in guild matters or train apprentices. There are also the Five Courts, where stolen goods are taken. There, a small fee known as the "guild duty" is levied. The city's laws about theift are kind of weird, and guild members are considered respectable citizens unless they get caught in possession of a stolen item, at which point they face penalties ranging from fines to the loss of a finger, hand, or the whole of one's skin.
- Elizabeth Moon's The Deed of Paksenarrion has a thieves' guild; the guild, and one particular member of it, play significant roles in the climactic plot sequence.
- There's a Caste of Thieves in the city-state of Port Kar on Gor.
- Some of Andre Norton's Science Fiction novels had a Thieves' Guild IN SPACE!:
- Forerunner Foray: the protagonist, Ziantha, was a member of the Guild who had Psychic Powers.
- The Zero Stone: the protagonist, Murdoc Jern, was the adopted son of an appraiser who had retired from the Guild.
- Catseye: Troy himself manages to avoid joining, but he sees a man who did on his first day on the job, and further involvements ensue.
- The Guild of Thieves, Cutpurses and Allied Trades and the Ankh-Morpork Thieves' Guild in is a sophisticated example. Lord Vetinari legalized them as one of his first acts upon becoming Patrician, reasoning that a police force would have to work harder to reduce theft, while the thieves' guild would have to work less. The system works fairly well—a customer can be robbed in the safety and comfort of their own home at the start of the year and afterwards walk the streets without fear (or with less fear than usual, this being Ankh-Morpork). The Guild has little tolerance of unlicensed theft, and won't cause too much trouble to the city now that they've become respectable and Vetinari knows where they live, who their wives are, and where their kids go to school. The head of the Guild is even one of the most important members of the city council (including important nobles and guild leaders), and in Feet of Clay someone even speculates that the head of the Thieves Guild might be interested in being the next Patrician with the implication this is actually possible. In fact, when the Watch is in need of extra manpower he shows up to help.
- It existed in the first book, but as a much more standard fantasy version. Interestingly, in this book the concept of "inn-sewer-ants" is introduced, which Ankh-Morporkians take to mean "receive a great deal of money if you lose some property after paying money".
- Though the page quote is an example of Early Installment Weirdness, as the later books' Thieves' Guild would never commit any assassinations. Killing of an unlicensed thief, possibly, but not murder for money, because the Assassins' Guild exists and wouldn't look kindly on the Thieves' Guild trying to do their job.
- In The Lies of Locke Lamora, it's never called the Thieves' Guild, but virtually all of the thieves, cutpurses, burglars, con men, and related sorts were "the Right People." They gave the Capa a cut of their profits, and in return were part of his "Secret Peace": as long as they didn't steal from the nobles, they were relatively safe from the Duke's police forces.
- This is also subverted in the same book. Chains refers to the Gentlemen Bastards as 'nothing less than a fucking ballista bolt right through the heart of Vencarlo's precious Secret Peace'. As a Priest of The Crooked Warden, the thirteenth God that most Thieves commonly pray to, Chains interprets the Warden's second mandate of "the rich remember" as an instruction to steal from the rich in violation of the Secret Peace.
- The Tortall Universe has a thieves' guild (the Court of the Rogue) in more than one major city. While they do some pretty terrible things, they're regarded as a necessity for order, since they re-distribute wealth to the poor, and keep some degree of order on the thieves, murderers and prostitutes.
- The Circle of Magic universe has organized street gangs, like the one that raised Briar, but not an organized guild like Tortall's. Mostly they steal and get in wars with each other. The closest thing to a guild is in the city that Briar grew up as a child, where the Thief-Lord had several gangs stealing for him.
- In The Night Angel Trilogy, the Sa'Kagé is a particularly strong version of this.
- In Dragonlance, the city of Palanthas has a Thieves' Guild, though this is noted to be unusual. The Palanthians actually take a sort of perverse pride in it, as they feel their guild thieves are higher class than thieves in other cities that don't have guilds.
- The Forty Thieves of the Arabian Nights story Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.
- The thieves' guild of A Brother's Price is called the Sisterhood of the Night. The Whistlers, a family who had been common line soldiers until they were blacklisted after a sister's treason, bullied the Sisterhood into training them to be a whole team of thieves with soldier training. Another character is very surprised to hear the 'bullied' part, but it's apparently possible.
- The Other Guild of the Fifth Millennium series by Shirley Meier and S.M. Stirling operate Just Like Robin Hood, stealing from rich targets and then giving the money to the poorer elements of society. Membership in The Other Guild is secret, with their members actually being enrolled in a different guild, usually as merchants.
- Villains by Necessity: Arcie was once guildmaster of one, and most cities apparently had them, although some only had competing independent gangs.
- The city of Eswell in Below has a Thieves' Guild that encompasses a wide area, including surrounding villages. The four highwaymen who are roped into the quest are all members. So is the locked-up forger whose fake treasure map kindles the quest.
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- In Crusade, Dureena is a member of the Thieves Guild, who run pickpocketing, thievery, con jobs, and larceny, but nothing violent, nothing that will alert security.
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- In AD&D specific settings took over issues that belonged to them, so The Complete Thief's Handbook provided a generic guide: this outlined the relationship with political, social and economical factors and expounded the variants of structure and internal policy for such guilds.
- Later editions tend to stay away from a pure "Thieves' Guild"; instead they have full-blown criminal organizations who dabble in more crimes and for whom fencing is only one facet of their business.
- Arguably the most famous Dungeons & Dragons thieves' guild are the Shadow Thieves of Amn, from the Forgotten Realms. Though as mentioned above, later editions have had the shadow thieves expand their business to a whole variety of crimes including smuggling and assassinations.
- An interesting variation occurs in a couple of game settings, including the Dungeons & Dragons city of Greyhawk in the World of Greyhawk and Port Blacksand, the City of Thieves from the Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks series. In both cases, the Thieves' Guilds are actively involved in the government of the cities they operate in and contribute to its daily life. While both guilds have their own internal feuds and divisions, certain social conventions exist that keep the Guilds' internal struggles from harming the city at large. In Greyhawk's case, a high-ranking member of the Guild is the Lord Mayor.
- In Eberron Sharn's four major criminal organizations are more like ethnic gangs, given the pulp-influenced Dungeon Punk setting.
- Magic: The Gathering gives us the Cateran mercenaries' guild in Mercadia.
- Ironclaw has the Invisible Guild. In the adventure module The Wolves of Winter one of the two feuding lords is secretly allied with the Guild, and the player characters can alert the Duke's agents of that.
- Downplayed with The Guild in Hero Realms. While a powerful faction of smugglers, rogues, and assassins, it doesn't control all criminal activity. The player could be an independent Thief, and the Necros cult pretty much still preys in the alleys and slums of the setting.
- The play Sheik Rattle And Roll has the Forty Thieves of the Arabian Nights being unionised. In a scene set in a harem, they discover that the harem girls and eunuchs are also unionised, leading to an exchange of cards for the Amalgamated Thieves and Rogues Union, the Amalgamated Harem Girls and Dockers, and Amalgamated Eunuchs and Bacon Slicers (at which point every male character on stage crosses their legs. It's that kind of play).
- The Elder Scrolls:
- In Arena they were a non-joinable faction that provided opposition for some randomly generated quests.
- In Daggerfall you could join them.
- Morrowind has two — the Imperial Thieves Guild and the non-joinable, xenophobic, native Camonna Tong — and in fact, one of the main points of the Thieves Guild questline is its war against the Camonna Tong. Note that here, the Camonna Tong is equivalent to The Mafia, whereas the Thieves Guild has a mostly strict "no kill" policy, practices Honor Among Thieves, and even has some Robinhood-like traits.
- Oblivion has one. Official government policy is to deny its existence. Of course, this is probably a ploy of the Guild, considering the number of public officials who take bribes to look the other way.
- Skyrim has one. Unfortunately, they're a darker shade of gray and not as Robin Hood-esque as in past games. They've resorted to making threats, shaking down merchants, and even having people falsely imprisoned. Thankfully they still have the standard of not killing people, but it's mostly because it's bad for business. ("A dead man can't pay...") They're only a remnant of what they once were with influence only in Riften by the time of the game, but the player can participate in jobs that can help spread their influence to the other holds, allowing them to bribe guards and gain fences for stolen goods. Ultimately, though, in order to reestablish the Guild to its former glory, the player has to break the bad luck curse that's befallen the Guild by recovering the stolen Skeleton Key and restoring the Daedric Prince Nocturnal's favor to the Guild.
- The Quest for Glory series considers a Thieves' Guild a home away from home for Thieves on the go. Weird Trade Union jokes surround them, and it's often part of the Thief player character's mission to track down their local Guild, or at least find those friendly to thieves. There are three guilds to be found: two active ones in Spielburg and Silmaria, and an abandoned one in Mordavia.
- Thief Gold has one. Ironically, they are the title thief's enemies. Naturally, he steals from them (while cleverly making it look like two high ranking officials within the organization stole from each other to cover his tracks).
- The collection information in Disgaea DS indicates that the Netherworld has one.
- The Blackguards in Vacant Sky are a form of this trope. Of course, they take this to a new level, incorporating piracy, pillaging, and necromancy.
- In Medieval II: Total War, spies and assassins are hired from taverns and inns but you can enhance their training by building a Thieves' Guild, which becomes available if you repeatedly hire assassins and spies from that settlement. Interestingly, the game notes that these Guilds are actually built and sanctioned by your government to train agents in not only bypassing but also improving security. As a result, any town with a Thieves' Guild in it becomes notably harder to infiltrate with assassins or spies.
- These also exist in the Ultima series, and are often necessary to obtain certain critical supplies. The tinker class also seems to function as something of a stand-in for most games' Rogue class.
- The Department of Shadowy Arts and Crafts, from Kingdom of Loathing.
- The rogues in Diablo aren't just members of a thieves' guild, they're apparently members of a thieves' religious monastic order. They're also not thieves...
- In Assassin's Creed II, Ezio has to team up with the Thieves' Guild of Venice. Turns out, their leader, Antonio, is an Assassin himself.
- In Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, one of the anti-Borgia factions in Rome is a Thieves Guild that is run by the mysterious master thief who's also an Assassin La Volpe ("The Fox"). Ezio helps Volpe establish a proper guildhall disguised as an inn and can undertake missions for them to help undermine a rival Borgia-backed Thieves Guild called the Cento Occhi.
- Baldur's Gate has one both in Baldur's Gate and Baldur's Gate 2: Shadows of Amn, in the first there is even a shout-out to Fritz Leiber as the code word to let <CHARNAME> inside is "Fafhrd". Two rival Thieves Guilds, one staffed by cutthroat thieves, the other by vampires, play a prominent role in the second game.
- In World of Warcraft, the city of Stormwind has SI:7, which is kinda like a rogue's guild, but pays its dues to the city and its rulers by acting as its spies and assassins.
- In Talesof Vesperia there's made mention of the Dark Wings being the Thieves Guild of Terca Lumireis.
- Guilds for thieves, assassins, and rogues all exist in Ragnarok Online for job-changing purposes, though you don't really see the NPC's working together in large numbers. Hilariously, said members are alarmed when being conversed with Knight/Crusader or Priest/Monk player character.
- In Gothic II, Thieves' Guild is an Oddly Small Organization that dwells in an Absurdly Spacious Sewer. Lares serves as a One Man Thieves' Guild in Gothic III. Kinda.
- Seiken Densetsu 3 has the Navarre Thieves' Guild.
- In Dragon Age II, Kirkwall's major Thieves Guild is The Coterie. During their first year in Kirkwall, Hawke can work for either The Red Iron Mercenaries or Athenril's Smugglers, depending on their choices. Other criminal gangs encountered are the Carta, the Raiders of the Waking Sea, Guard Pretenders, Redwater Teeth, Sharp's Highwaymen, Invisible Sisters, Dog Lords, the Undercuts, Slave Hunters, Followers of She, Crimson Bloodragers, most of whom Hawke will eradicate for the Friends of Red Jenny. Yeah, Kirkwall is that kind of town!
- In Dragon Age: Origins you can perform a job for the Friends of Red Jenny, but it's not until Dragon Age: Inquisition that you find anything about them. They're made up of lower-class people with no central leadership with a goal of getting back at nobles that they've got a grudge against. They carry out everything from harmless but embarrassing pranks to theft to the occasional assassination.
- Neverwinter Nights 2 gives you the option of siding either with or against the previously mentioned Shadow Thieves of Amn at about the midpoint of Act I.
- In Crusader Kings II a thieves guild may form in one of your provinces if you have a poor steward or a high budget deficit. Their presence decreases your income.
- In Kult: Heretic Kingdoms, thieves in the city of Kyallisar are generally under the rule of a thief master. The authorities don't go after the thief master as strongly as they could, partly because the thief master generally keeps the worst parts of the criminal underworld suppressed better than the authorities could. When the protagonist arrives, there's a civil war between two people who want the post, and she can be tasked with ensuring the triumph of one candidate (the authorities don't care which) to stabilise things again.
- Final Fantasy XIV has one that functions as law enforcement in the seedier dealings of Limsa Lominsa. After the player character elects to become a Rogue there, their quest line generally revolves around dealing with other bands or gangs caught breaking the 'code' that loosely unify the various factions under a common set of rules. It's gradually revealed how a proper group of rogues goes about keeping things in check that Limsa Lominsa's actual law enforcement can't.
- Lampshaded and subverted in Errant Story, where the mercenary guilds in Farrel can work on either side of the law, according to the principle of supply and demand, as Jon explains. This give Sarine a marvelous opportunity to play Deadpan Snarker, which, of course, she puts to good use, only to have Ellis volley it right back to her.
Sarine: Hm ... the same people who train the law enforcement also train the criminals ... what a remarkably efficient system.
Ellis: When you say these things, do you even have trouble sometimes telling whether you're being sarcastic or not?
- The Thieves' Guild in A Modest Destiny, also double as something of an assassins' guild, employ Ninjas, and according to bonus material, were invented to balance out the economy.
- Haley of The Order of the Stick used to be a member of one. She was reinstated after some Aggressive Negotiations, but near-immediately turned around and gave a vicious resignation message in the form of murdering her nemesis and stealing her magic items. Turns out, an organization of criminals tends to be a Wretched Hive, and after her Character Development Haley wants nothing more to do with them.
- In Snow By Night, Jassart and Blaise have formed their own little rook guild that has wards, people who pay the rooks so they can keep from getting robbed. One of the reasons the two are going after the Phantom Thief is because the culprit has stolen from their ward, Claudine, as well as the wards of other guilds.
- Neopets has had one since the early days of the site. Its most prominent appearance was in the Hannah and the Ice Caves plot, where they were the antagonistic side. Their second prominent appearance was in the War of the Obelisk plot, where they're one of six sides you are able to join.
- Aladdin: The Series often features a Thieves' Guild working in Agrabah. One episode had Jasmine trying to steal something to prove herself that she could be a "street rat" like Aladdin. She gets caught by a thief... who then hands her his card and tells her she has 30 days to obtain a Guild permit.
Thief: A mere 50 denari. My card. If you are short we can arrange a payment plan. Good day!
- In Real Life, gangs and organized crime in general fall under this category. In some cases, it's "As long as the people from the wrong side of the tracks don't come over HERE, we leave them alone", and in others, it's "As long as you keep bribing us, we'll let you go," ranging from unspoken agreements to all-but-signed-contract level formality. The Yakuza even have a formalized understanding with the government in some areas of crime.
- Jonathan Wild secretly controlled almost all criminal activity in London during his main period of activity (about 1712-1725), while publicly being hailed as its leading thief-taker (i.e. one who captures criminals to collect a reward-he set up rivals for this purpose, before being eventually hoist by his own petard).
- Thuggee of India were a rather murderous example. They were a very organized, and far flung group of criminals who were Indian Muslims, and date back to at least 1354, when they are mentioned in a text. The modern English word "thug" comes from the Thuggee. Their MO was to join traveling caravans in small groups of lone travelers, pretending to not know each other. Then they sneakily and quietly murdered those in charge and the bodyguards, and hid the bodies. Finally, when it was safe, they turned on the merchants in the caravan, killing, raping, and robbing them. No one could figure out how a small number of robbers was able to overcome a large, well guarded caravan, until the colonizing British hid agents among the caravans, and eventually came to the truth. Once their trick was known, guarding against them became easy, and in the end, the British rounded up and executed all of the Thuggee leaders.
- The Mafia Commission acts as the American Mafia's ultimate governing body for settling disputes among the 20+ Mafia families in the United States. It was established by Charles "Lucky" Luciano in late 1931 as a way to prevent turf wars from breaking out and to replace the "Boss of all Bosses" title with a ruling panel consisting of the Five Families in New York City, the Chicago Outfit and the Buffalo crime family (one of the reasons why the Castellammarese War broke out was because several mob bosses wanted to control the entire Mafia, and this power-sharing agreement was instituted to prevent bloody mob wars from breaking out); though other cities, such as Detroit and Philadelphia, once had seats on the Commission, but later lost it. By the 1980s, it was down to just the Five Families, with the Bonannos thrown out the Commission in the 1980s due to their generally disruptive behavior in the Mafia (though they later regained their Commission seat in the 1990s); while Chicago was doing its own thing, it still has a seat on the Commission. The Commission is headed by a nominal Chairman of the Commission, who was not seen as the capo di tutti capi as law enforcement usually claimed it to be; in the Mafia, crime bosses are viewed as equals, and having a Mafia overlord runs contrary to this idea. The Commission also decides who can become a made man and who can't by circulating a list of proposed members to the other families, vote on issues (such as the narcotics trade) that might require inter-family cooperation and approve a new boss before he could take over officially. Though the bosses used to meet more often, greater law enforcement scrutiny in the 1980s and an increasing number of mob informants, notably Sammy "the Bull" Gravano, have forced the Commission underground, and the families now send lower-level grunts to discuss business and resolve inter-family disputes. Also, the five New York City bosses have not met with each other since Paul Castellano was killed in late 1985, as the last meeting took place a month before his death; though there was a mini-Commission meeting in 2000, most of the attendees at the time were acting bosses with the lone exception of Joe Massino of the Bonanno family. Despite remaining in the underground (due to mob informants and greater law enforcement crackdown), the Commission has helped to keep the lid on things for nearly 85+ years.