The Shadow Society
A placeholder name, of course. This one is silly.
Members: Estimated to be about 200 wizards.
Races: 55% wood elves, 20% humans, 12% gnomes, 10% dark elves, 3% half-elves)
Religion: The Deity of Darkness.
The Schadow Society is an organization of sorcerers which are active in the lands along the northern coast of the Inner Sea all the way up to the Frozen Sea. Only very few things are known about the Shadow Society and most of their goals and activities are shrouded in mystery. Common knowledge says that the group consists of a brotherhood of sorcerers who always keep their true identities secret and specialize in illusions and enchantments. They have no known bases and even the most shady information dealers readily admit that they have never heard of any way to contact the Shadow Society. However, since they seem to only serve their own mysterious goals, there is nothing anyone would ever want from them.
Members of the Shadow Society never outrightly claim allegiance to the brotherhood, but there are always new rumors about sorcerers, that nobody seems to know, who contact other people with requests and offers, and are often assosicated with the group. While one can never be entirely clear not be just dealing with an impostor who tries to invoke the appearance of representing the society, it is quite likely that most people who are contacted by them never mention it to anyone else. The only thing that can be said with certainty, is that they almost always request help in finding rare information or magical objects. Usually they will simply pay for any rendered help, but romors consistently claim that they also offer valuable information on their own, and probably use a lot of blackmail as well. Once they got what they wanted, sorcerers of the shadow society are gone as silently as they have come, without leaving any trace of their presence and no clue about their identity. However, they always show up only at night, which leads many to believe that they are using some kind of shadow magic, in which case it would probably be very easy for them to use illusions to take any appearance they want.
Inside the Shadow Society
While the acquisition of hidden or incriminating knowledge is highly profitable for the society and they gain most of their funds from finding wealthy people who would pay handsomely for what they can offer, or just outright blackmailing them, this is not the primary purpose of their activities.
At its heart, the Shadow Society is a brotherhood of mystics who worship the Deity of the Dark. The belief shared by the members of the society is that the Shadow World, which separates the worlds of mortals and spirits, has its own will, or it least spirit. Finding this spirit and discovering its true nature is the ultimate goal of all members of the society. But despite their shared efforts, almost all of the sorcerers are loners and care very little for the enlightenment (if one can call it that) of their fellow brothers and sisters. Almost all new members who are initiated have worked for older members for many years and proven highly useful in uncovering the kind of knowledge they seek. Offering potential candidates to join the society is usually not done with the candidates own interests in mind, but simply to make them even more usefull by teaching them the secret skills of the society. However, such offers are only made to individuals who have shown a true personal interest in the mystery that the shadow society hopes to uncover. New members in the society simply means more skilled and trained individuals the other members can call on for help.
There some small cells in adition to the mostly lone sorcerers, but they rarely consist of more than three or four members. Not all members of the Shadow Society are purely cold hearted egoists who couldn't care less about their fellow brothers and sisters, but the main reason to share their discoveries with others is to help them becomming more useful in providing assistance. After all it is not as if there would be any benefit in being the only person who gains full knowledge of the true nature of the shadows. There is few reason to keep any discovery secret from other members of the society, but since the selling of knowledge is one of the societies main sources of income, most of the sorcerers have long ago learned to never show all their cards. You always keep some secrets that your enemies, and even your allies, might value. Be it to gain special help, or to buy the silence of others.
While there is no official headquarters and most members work alone, there is still a small number of shadow masters, those members who have achieved the greatest amount of insight into the secret. They also tend to be the ones who are the most informed about the activities of the other members, so they are often approached when someone is seeking help with problems they can't solve alone. Even the simple service of telling them the name of a member who might be able and willing to help, and how to find them puts one into debt with the shadow masters, which are often repaid by performing special missions on the shadow masters behalf. Many junior members are not too unhappy to perform these tasks, as they usually involve learning new information about something the shadowmasters consider worth investigating.
The shadow masters, and many of the other senior members, have their homes hidden away in the Shadow World, which is the object of their fascination. Learning to navigate the shadows is one of the most important skills initiates are taught, and it allows them to reach almost any place in the World of Mortals, or even in the Spiritworld, if they would desire so.
Despite their sinister appearance, the shadow society does not pose a serious threat to most people. They never expose enough of their identity and goals to make it worth assassinating anyone, but they are very willing to use blackmail to get what they want, which makes them especially feared among the mighty and powerful.
In other news, the current playtest version of the new D&D edition has warlords.
Which I think is awsome, I really want such a class in my setting. Too bad the Chevalier from Pathfinder is lacking meaningful abilities.
Warlord would be a great class for chieftains, sub-chiefs, and their sons, who were raised as leaders, and which sets them apart from the barbarians, fighters, and rangers.