Please note that very few PCs are expected to be part of the organizations described here given the limited roleplay opportunities offered to such characters. However, they are nevertheless important facets of the setting.
The Faith is led by the High Septon, who puts aside his name when he is voted to the office. Beneath him are the Most Devout and then the regular septons and septas. In the septries are found brothers of various orders, monks who worship and labor for the Seven. In essence, the Faith is not unlike the medieval Catholic Church, although its political authority is far weaker since Maegor the Cruel and then Jaehaerys the Concilator removed its militant orders and removed its rule in judgment.
When Aegon the Conqueror was crowned, the High Septon was based out of the Starry Sept in Oldtown. In the decades since the Conqueror’s time, however, the High Septon and the Most Devout have largely migrated to King’s Landing.
Founded by Aegon, the Kingsguard is a sworn order of seven knights who have vowed to defend and serve the king with their life’s blood. The most storied knights in the realm, their many deeds are recorded in the White Book, kept by the Lord Commander of the White Swords, as they are also known. Serving for life, the Kingsguard give up their inheritances and privileges, as well as promise chastity, to serve the king, to keep his secrets, and to shed their own blood before allowing him to come to harm. The Kingsguard bear white shields and white armor, and wear white cloaks.
The order of the maesters is based in the Citadel, a collection of keeps and towers given over to them by the Hightowers who rule the ancient city of Oldtown. There, the maesters train boys and young men in every kind of lore, from the healing arts to mathematics, from astronomy and even to magic (though no maester has ever been known to actually succeed at it, they can be wonderfully knowledgeable of the sorcerous texts of the east). Beginning as novices under the tutelage of the archmaesters, and then acolytes, the students must pass an examination given by the archmaester before he can be said to have forged a link in his chain of knowledge. In time, a student who has achieved enough learning will complete his chain. When he swears the vows of servitude, he dons his chain of different-hued links—a different metal for each area of knowledge—and may then be assigned to serve as councillor, healer, and tutor to a lord and his kin.
Sworn to serve and to chastity, the maesters are among the most skilled healers in the Seven Kingdoms and, indeed, the world. Another of their chief tasks is watching the heavens for signs suggesting the turning of one long, irregular season into another.
A sworn brotherhood, the color of the Night’s Watch is black, from clothing to armor to banners. Led by a Lord Commander elected from their number who serves for life, the Night’s Watch was founded some 8,000 years ago after the Long Night in which the deadly creatures known in lore as the Others were defeated. The Wall—a wall of ice 700 feet high stretching from one coast to another, with castles fortifying it along the way. The sworn brothers of the Night’s Watch vow to have no children or wives.
The Night’s Watch divides its membership into three groups: builders, who maintain the Wall and the manned castles; stewards, who harvest crops, tend animals, and see to the supplying of all the Night’s Watch’s needs; and rangers, who range beyond the Wall to fight wildling raiders who occasionally attempted to cross the Wall. Each group is lead by an officer appointed by the Lord Commander—the First Builder, First Steward, and First Ranger respectively. In ancient days, the Night’s Watch numbered tens of thousands strong, and fully manned more than a dozen castles. However, the numbers have dwindled, and there are perhaps no more than two or three thousand left, with most of the castles abandoned. Their chief castle, where the Lord Commander has his seat, is Castle Black at the very northern end of the kingsroad.
The Watch controls 50 leagues of land to the south of the Wall, the nearer half known as “Brandon’s Gift” from the ancient Stark king who gave it to them, where they raise their crops and animals, and cut their timber. Much later, the New Gift was made by King Jaehaerys the Conciliator, where those smallfolk who lived in that region would pay their taxes and tithes to the Watch rather than King’s Landing. However, due to the harshness of life so far north, and the increasing success of wildling raids, these regions are becoming depopulated.
Members of the watch come from all walks of life, from valiant knights and northern lances who see honor and glory in the service, to common criminals who choose to take the black rather than lose a hand or their lives. In fact, more and more of the Watch’s “recruits” are of the meanest sort of people, and fewer and fewer noblemen take the vows. The Watch sends recruiters throughout the Seven Kingdoms, and many lords empty their dungeons to let the Watch have its pick of their refuse.
The Guild of the Alchemists has an impressive building in King’s Landing, but clings on to past glories. Once as common in the Seven Kingdoms as the maesters are now, the alchemists—more commonly known as the pyromancers—have been displaced by Citadel, whose maesters have more learning. The pyromancers, led by the men they call Wisdoms, still hold the secret of making the strange, green liquid known as wildfire, which will burn with an unquenchable flame; but it’s said that wildfire is less efficacious than it once was, ever since the last dragon died in the reign of Aegon III Dragonbane.