So, if it was so easy, why hasn’t everyone done it?
Charters come in two sizes: exclusive and open...
Exclusive Charter. Exclusive charters have only been granted to the north halls and the west halls. The two rival guilds (the Hall of Warriors and the Swordsman’s Table) have been able to pay the 100 gold annual commission to explore. In addition to this charter, they are required to report and pay a tithe (10%) on all treasure found. Initial exploration indicated that the north and west halls were the most valuable, and these have been claimed by the two powerful guilds. Both guilds expect absolute adherence by others to their own charter, yet often accidentally wander into other territories or spy on their rivals.
Open Charter. The southern halls and the eastern halls are both considered ‘open charter’, meaning that anyone who pays the general charter fee (1 silver per week per member of the company) may explore the southern and eastern halls. Law says that any group holding a charter gets ‘squatter’s rights’ to a specific area (defined as ‘all within sight’) and any one direction (if multiple directions of possible exploration - the squatter’s choice on which) for the next 24 hours.
A few takeaways:
Competition is fierce. While there is some open fighting, there is more in the way of making the job of others difficult. The Swordsman’s Table, in particular, has been accused of using magic to summon creatures into the other halls and setting traps that have thinned the ranks of their rivals. This gives a way for the Vaults to continually be re-populated. I could fight that rival guild, or I could bring in a bunch of Rot Creeper eggs and let ‘em hatch in my opponents’ territories…
Some of the smaller guilds are fronts. One is a front for a cult of dragon worshippers, and another is a front for a thief’s guild that works alongside a tribe of wererats that dwell towards the south. They can produce a charter when confronted and expect others to step aside. Then, they can go about their business being all sketchy far underground.
The law will help to settle disputes, but you have to get to the surface – and somehow get the lawbreaker there as well – in order to have justice on your side. Most of the time, what happens in the Vaults stays in the Vaults. Yeah, your reputation will follow you, and dirty deeds happen to dirty dogs (I just made that up), but don’t expect militia or guard members to come down and help you out. You wanted a charter, you got it… and everything that comes with it. This means that every time the fellowship returns to the surface with treasure, someone has reason to accuse them of breaking a charter and infringing on someone else’s space. “There is NO WAY you found the Shield of Arvak in the south tunnels – our Loremaster has proof that was last seen in the northern chambers, meaning that you infringed on our charter!”