New Dunhaven's criminal underworld is ruled over by eight cartels, organizations of diverse backgrounds and philosophies with one similar goal: get rich by any means necessary. These cartels control the vast majority of the city's crime, and each cartel has its own turf, its own preferred illicit operations, and its own value when coming together as a crew to pull off a job. Here's a quick look at each of the cartels, what they specialize in, and how they relate to the other criminals of the city.
The Circle is a cartel that often chooses violence over finesse, and its members have a reputation for being tough brawlers and cold-eyed muscle. One of the youngest criminal organizations in New Dunhaven, the Circle was founded by refugees from the collapsed Vladov Empire, from far across the ocean. Most of the members of this cartel have done hard time in the city's jails or prisons, a result of the Crown's mishandling of their arrival on New Dunhaven's shores. This unfair incarceration only served to harden them into a band of criminals that is as tough as iron and as frosty as the snow-covered landscape of their homeland. Of all of the cartels, the Circle is the only one that is frequently accused of being a threat to the Arrangement, and with good reason. Most of the leadership of the Circle agrees that the Arrangement has made the cartels soft, and believe that it is their duty to toughen up the criminals of the city in order to stand up to the Crown and take their rightful place as the city's most powerful organization. Though they have not yet been bold enough to violate the Arrangement and engage in outright turf war with the other cartels, they push the boundaries of the truce between the cartels on an almost daily basis.
The oldest, most connected, and wealthiest criminal organization in all of New Dunhaven, the Family also controls the largest swath of turf in the city. The Family treats crime like a business, and business is good. The only cartel to openly reveal its intentions to law-abiding citizens, the Family is deeply connected to the city's commoners, and its members act like the sometimes-unwanted champions of the lower classes; many of the criminal endeavors the Family undertakes are justified as "just watching out for the good people of our fine city." The Family shakes down local businesses for protection money, profits off of merchandise that "fell of the back of a cart," and runs illegal gambling dens in the back rooms of shops throughout the city. Yet despite the fact that they prey on the law-abiding citizens in their turf, they are also fiercely protective of the people that live within their domain; some would even say that living in an area controlled by the Family is safer than living anywhere else in the city, due to the low frequency of random crimes. The Family believes strongly in respect and a twisted sort of honor, and any sign of disrespect, both from other Family members and those not in the cartel, is a grave offense, one that can earn the enmity of the wealthiest cartel in the city in the span of a heartbeat.
Less a true cartel and more a collection of street gangs, independent thieves, beggars, and other criminals that don't have anywhere else to go, the Forgotten are criminals that have slipped through the cracks of the Arrangement and of society itself. The cartel has no real leadership, and instead members of the Forgotten agree simply to back each other up when threatened and stay out of each others' way when not. One of the most fractious cartels, the Forgotten count among their number many of the city's roving street gangs, and though infighting between members of the cartel occasionally comes to violence, it lasts only until someone from outside of the cartel attempts to intervene. The Forgotten actually have the most members of all of the cartels, owing to their blanket acceptance of criminals that the other cartels would not admit, and as such they have an extremely vast and valuable information network that can get news and information from one side of the city to the other in mere minutes. Members of this cartel tend to be fiercely independent and identify less as Forgotten and more as individuals or by their street gang.
Formally known as the Honorable Order of Cemetery Caretakers and Groundskeepers, the cartel known as the Gravediggers controls the city's mortuaries, funeral parlors, cemeteries, tombs, and catacombs. The cartel's legitimate face gives them the ability to deal with law-abiding citizens directly and discretely, and during some of their most vulnerable times. The Gravediggers believe in hiding in plain sight by involving themselves with business that most Dunhaveners find distasteful or disturbing; the cartel's unofficial motto is, "You can't see someone clearly if you won't look them in the eye," meaning that they reduce the risk of being caught in their criminal endeavors because they shroud themselves in death. The Gravediggers are also closely tied to the city's physickers and ward houses, and a large number of the city's plague doctors are actually corrupt and in the employ of the cartel.
In many ways, the Mummers are the cartel that holds the Arrangement together. Its members include many of the city’s artists and entertainers, from actors and musicians to storytellers and street performers. Unlike the other cartels, the Mummers do not have large areas of turf that they control. Instead, the Mummers’ turf consists of the city’s taverns, inns, ale houses, theaters, and other entertainment establishments. They operate these establishments like embassies inside the turf of the other cartels, and within them the rules of the Arrangement are enforced with extreme strictness. Any one of the Right Kind of People who finds themselves inside another cartel’s turf can make their way to a Mummer-controlled establishment and receive sanctuary and respite until members of their cartel can come and reinforce them. As a result, the Mummers are on friendly terms with each of the other cartels, and its members often have the charisma that makes bringing together a crew of members of different cartels just that much easier. Additionally, as entertainers, the Mummers have two unique advantages that makes them valuable on any job: they can draw attention to themselves easily, and away from the rest of their crew, and they have a legitimate inroad into almost any social function or event where entertainers are expected to be found.
The Red Lotus Society
The Red Lotus Society is a cartel that has cornered the market on a single, extremely valuable type of contraband: black powder weapons. The Society controls all manufacture and illegal firearms sales in New Dunhaven by controlling the secret formulas used in the creation of gunpowder. The Society is also the only cartel to have any significant naval presence, having invested in ships both large and small over the years, which they use for everything from smuggling contraband into the city to fighting off the pirates that plague the islands off of the city’s coast. As such, the cartel’s turf is composed of two largely contiguous areas of the city: the docks that stretch up and down the city’s eastern seaboard, and the districts of the city collectively known as Little Taona. The cartel’s roots are in criminal organizations that originated in distant lands, which came to New Dunhaven as people from the nations of Taona emigrated to the city and banded together to form the Red Lotus Society. Of course, this deep history brings with it some inherent conflict; though they came together on arriving in the city, those criminal organizations fought to retain their own identities as schools within the Society, and their differing traditions, philosophies, and methods sometimes come into conflict with one another and lead to infighting between members of the Society.
As a cartel, the Vespers stake their claim on the city’s nobility. Focused on high society crime, elaborate confidence schemes, and the art of subtle manipulation, the Vespers are exceptionally good at blending in with nobles, wealthy merchants, Senators, and other members of the aristocracy. To the Vespers, everything comes down to manipulation; where other cartels might take a direct approach to the job, a Vesper seeks to gain leverage over someone and have them do the dirty work for them. The Vespers highly value secrets, especially those that can be used for blackmail, and many of their criminal endeavors are specifically designed to either bring other people into the cartel’s debt (for example, their high-stakes gambling dens), to expose secrets (such as their poppy dens and private clubs), or to put people into compromising situations so that they can be blackmailed (as is the case with their brothels and pleasure houses). From time to time the cartel must rely on more direct methods, but even then they choose subtlety: the Vespers have a number of expert poisoners in their employ, who can craft concoctions that can, kill, maim, intoxicate, and everything in between.
The Wardens of the Night
The Wardens of the Night are likely the only cartel that sees themselves as having a truly noble mission, and are only bound by the Arrangement because the Crown has declared them outlaws, not out of any camaraderie with the city’s criminal element. The Wardens of the Night believe that the government of New Dunhaven is corrupt and tyrannical, and they rebel against it in an attempt to protect the common citizens of the city against the injustices they believe are inflicted upon those people by the aristocracy and the Crown itself. Nearly every member of the cartel has a story about how they came to be an outlaw, almost all of which involve some grave personal injustice for which they now seek revenge. The Wardens of the Night call the city’s Reserves, massive forested parks within the city, their turf, and they hide inside the Reserves and emerge to strike swiftly out at their targets. They take to the city’s rooftops and alleyways the same way that scouts and rangers take to tracts of forest, and are skilled survivalists and trackers. The Wardens prefer to work under cover of night, where they blend into the shadows and stalk their marks like a predator stalking prey.