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The Aspis Consortium was founded approximately 200 years ago by a group of three financiers34 that included the Chelaxian philanthropist Jhandorage Vaulnder Alexayn.5 In its first business venture, a ship bearing the emblem of three intertwined asps docked at the Osirian capital of Sothis. Its agents bought up all the cheap, locally made knick-knacks it could find at the local markets. During the voyage back to Cheliax, these inexpensive crafts were mysteriously transformed into priceless, pharaonic artifacts, and were then sold to the eager (and gullible) aristocracy of Westcrown at exorbitant prices. The enormous profit made off this venture enabled the three backers of the voyage to create the Aspis Consortium.32
The organization has weathered the social and political upheavals of the last few centuries remarkably intact. During the twilight years of the Age of Enthronement, the Consortium used its connections in the government of Imperial Cheliax to secure preferable trade deals with all of its colonies and dependencies. Even after the majority of these territories gained independence after the chaos that followed the death of Aroden, the ex-colonists continued to long for the goods and fineries of their former motherland, and the Aspis have been only too willing to supply them at exorbitant prices.3
What distinguishes the Aspis Consortium from other trade organizations is the size of their operations—their liquid assets, properties, and other holdings are valued in the tens of millions of gold pieces)—and their willingness to do whatever is necessary to accomplish their goals. While merchant groups sometimes sell weapons to both sides in a conflict, the Consortium might have had a hand in starting the strife. Others might praise the Consortium for providing desperately needed grain to a famine-struck region without knowing that agents helped cause the drought.
They are loyal to no government, having members from many countries and nationalities. This also allows them to take neutral positions in any disagreements and appeal to all sides.673 These tactics have allowed the Aspis Consortium to grow to be the largest and most diverse business venture in both Avistan and Garund.3
Most people see the Aspis Consortium, with its black-and-white-sailed ships, as a diverse group of tradesmen and non-landed nobility with their own private army of mercenaries, hirelings, and cheap labor, who have no ties to any one nation. Due to Cheliax's decline in the Inner Sea region since the beginning of the Age of Lost Omens, which also lead to a severe downturn in Aspis profits, the corporation has had to become more aggressive, always trying to be the first to exploit a new resource or manufacture a need for an existing product. It also has had to diversify its interests from pure trade to becoming brokers and procurers of exotic and highly valuable items. This has increased its prestige with the nobility and the powerful who desire these goods, and most Aspis agents are given free rein by local governments to pursue their activities.3
Their well-deserved good reputation for high profits and once-in-a-lifetime ventures, however, is balanced by increasing suspicions about their unscrupulous business practices. In the settled lands bordering the Inner Sea, the Aspis tend to maintain a pallor of respectability, but the farther one travels into the wild hinterlands, the more its agents' subtlety is replaced by open violence and cruelty.3
Structure and organization
- See also: Patrons
The overall goals of the Aspis Consortium are directed by a shadowy group calling themselves the Patrons. They intentionally create mystery around their identities, leading some to believe that the organization is run by dark cultists, masked villains, or even aliens. However, the Patrons are simply the eight majority corporate shareholders and the two remaining scions of the families who founded the Consortium centuries ago. They meet once every new moon in a different Chelish city and take great pains to hide their identities from outsiders and even each other.73
The Patrons rely on the knowledge and skills of several experts. These include the Consortium's spy mistress Cirildimina Alasbhallas, their fleet master Lord Pairo Gavhaul, the chief of headquarters security Mr. Khayn, and the obsessive chief of the mysterious Conference Z operation, Professor Tantis Mais.32
The Consortium is structured to guarantee the survival of the organization as a whole, even when individuals, or entire operations die or disappear. Members can be broken down into two groups: freelance hires and tiered agents.3
Freelance hires are brought in for a specific task or purpose, and are generally completely unaware of the larger goals of the Consortium, or that they are even Aspis employees. They include mercenaries brought in for protection or other military matters, or experts in a given field vital to the operation. As freelance hires, this group generally has little loyalty to the Consortium, and only know that they are paid handsome sums upon a job's completion, and given much leeway in how a particular task is to be performed.732
- See also: Aspis agent
Above the hired freelancers are the actual agents of the Aspis Consortium, who are often distinguished by metal badges, amulets, or rings that they carry concealed on their bodies. These markers are made of three metals (bronze, silver, and gold) that denote the increasing rank, importance, and power of a given agent. Bronze tier agents are strictly regional players, and are made up of former soldiers, experienced merchants, minor nobles, or seasoned mercenaries. They are chosen for their expertise in a given field or region, and are generally unaware of their employer's larger machinations. All are highly ambitious, a trait that is easily exploited by the higher-ranking agents who direct their activities.32
Silver agents guide the work of the bronze agents and freelancers, coordinate regional operations, and gathering intelligence for their superiors. They are given relative autonomy in how they manage their business as long as the outcomes profit the people to whom they report. Silver agents rarely expand the interests of the Consortium beyond the tasks or area to which they are assigned, and are often the public faces of the organization.32
Gold agents rank just below the Patrons. They organize Consortium business within a large geographical region that often does not follow the borders of a given nation, or else focus on a limited geographical area that is of high importance. They have tremendous power, wealth, and access to the personnel needed to advance the goals of the Aspis.32
The Aspis are a far-flung corporation with interests and regional headquarters, storehouses, banking operations, and workshops throughout the Inner Sea region. Its oldest auction house, the Vira Majestica in the former Chelaxian capital of Westcrown, is still the site of considerable business and recruiting, but its true headquarters is the pyramid-roofed Aspis Building in Ostenso. Regional headquarters are located in Azir,3 Bloodcove,2 Eleder,3 Magnimar,2 Oppara, Sedeq, Sothis, and several other busy port cities.3
Known interests and operations
- Azlant: The Aspis hope to expand their interests and recover artifacts from the lost continent, and even beyond the Arcadian Ocean.3
- Crown of the World: They are researching new opportunities in this distant part of Golarion.3
- Irrisen and the Lands of the Linnorm Kings9
- Katapesh: With its loose laws, the city of Katapesh is an ideal center for Aspis activity.10
- Jalmeray: The Aspis have been trying to expand their trade with the distant island-nation for some time.3
- Mwangi Expanse: Centuries ago, the Aspis Consortium established a presence in the town of Bloodcove. Locating themselves at the mouth of the great Vanji River, they send their agents inland to exploit the vast inland wealth of the continent. They have established outposts at Whitebridge Station and Nightfall Station116 moving cargo by wheelboats such as the River Queen.6
- Numeria: The corporation is hoping to recover and trade in the mysterious technology of this distant nation.3
- Osirion: Recently the Consortium is known to have become involved in the recovery of ancient Osirian treasures.12
- Varisia: The Consortium is known to have a large, regional headquarters in the Bronze House of Magnimar's Vista district.13
- Vudra: The Aspis hope to expand their trade with distant Vudra.3
For additional as-yet unincorporated sources about this subject, see the Meta page.
- “Insidious Patrons” in Agents of Evil, 12. Paizo Inc., 2015 .
- “Aspis Consortium” in Adventurer's Guide, 28–29. Paizo Inc., 2017 .
- The Inner Sea World Guide, 262–263. Paizo Inc., 2011 .
- “Secret Societies” in Occult Mysteries, 20. Paizo Inc., 2014 .
- Serpents Fall, 6. Paizo Inc., 2016 .
- River into Darkness, 5. Paizo Inc., 2008 .
- “Chapter 4: Organizations” in Campaign Setting, 189. Paizo Inc., 2008 .
- “Introduction” in Familiar Folio, 5. Paizo Inc., 2015 .
- Serpents Fall, 23–24. Paizo Inc., 2016 .
- “City of Trade” in Dark Markets, A Guide to Katapesh, 47. Paizo Inc., 2009 .
- “Chapter 2: The Inner Sea” in Campaign Setting, 104. Paizo Inc., 2008 .
- The Third Riddle, 4. Paizo Inc., 2009 .
- “Magnimar” in The Skinsaw Murders, 59. Paizo Inc., 2007 .