On the Great Divination Wizards Guild and the Black Chamber

Guilds are urban creatures.  They cannot survive without cities.  They are parasites on the fantasy body politic, reaching their spider-like legs into the deepest recesses of civic culture.  Although membership is nominally voluntary everyone in town belongs to a guild: the doctors, the barbers, the bakers, the carters, the shoemakers and even the wizards. Especially the wizards. 

Once enrolled one does not lightly leave.

The political powerful and wealthy Greater Guilds represent professions requiring rare and expensive educations.  These powerful civic bodies wield true local power in their trade oriented Free Cities where the Masters of the Guild rule in tiny oligarchic republics without the meddling of Lords.  Between them they divide and rule the Free Cities controlling war, conquest, trade, and industry.  The Free Cities dance in their vice grip.

Within the Free Cities, the wealthiest of the Greater Guilds, Greater Divination Wizard Guild, is an autonomous moral and legal person. It possesses wealth in lands, houses, and money.  It contracts, bargains, binds itself, and a proctor represents it in court.  It built a vast University decorated with Coats-of-Arms. It has seals, banners and archives.  It makes its own internal rules which supersede many local laws for its members and all members of associated, lower Guilds. Within the Free Cities’ jurisdiction, the Greater Divination Wizard Guild is self-governing.  In a pyramid of city power, local lesser local craft guilds swear allegiance to the Greater Divination Wizard Guild for their own benefit and wealth: the wizard reagent reseller guild, the wizard jeweler’s guild, the wizard parchment makers guild who sell watermarked parchment for scrolls, and the wizard’s haberdasheries for highest qualities in wizarding robes and excellent wizarding hats.

Anyone with money, wealth or ambition schemes to join the guild and the easiest way is at the bottom: with apprenticeship.

A wIzard starts as a lowly guild apprentice. All entrants to guilds, greater or lower, mercantile or craft, world-spanning or local, starts with parents offering their precious children at age 10 to Masters on a contractual agreement.  Some contracts result in cash, some in goods in kind, and some in promises around the care of the child. After signing, the child leaves home with precious few personal belongings and enters the world of the Master’s workshop where they learn a trade while doing the Master’s unending bidding.   Some of the Masters of the Guild are kind, but most not; they have to uphold their reputation for turning children into wizards and only eight years for each child.  Eight years are barely time to learn the basics of the wizard’s craft and not enough time for kindness.  Long hours, constant work, uncomfortable conditions, and rote memorization is the norm.  Wizard workshops are brutal places to matriculate.

Not all children have the magic spark. Some lack the talent and the mental agility. The weeding practice is merciless. Master Wizards trade children who fail to quickly display magic to Masters of the lesser craft guilds for anything: goods, money, servants, other apprentices.  Society bars these failed children from the higher strata of their city’s class structure and doom them to a life of labor pressing paper in the wizard guild’s parchment mills or tailoring proper wizard cufflinks.  Failure in the Master’s workshop means a life toiling in service to wizards, never quite belonging to them, knowing you could be one of them, but on the outside forever looking in.  Once in as an apprentice to a Wizard Master – don’t fail.

Those who master enough “passable” cantrips may call themselves wizards and graduate from their Master’s workshop after eight years.  On that day, these new wizards are full dues-paying members of their fraternity for life.  While some newly minted journeyman wizards migrate to the next Free City over in search of work, few ever progress further in their mastery.  Instead they find themselves in lifetime mediocre salaried service to their Greater Divination Wizard Guild in its voracious need for cheap and easy labor: writing detect magic and identify scrolls marked with the watermark of the guild for pay, tied to benches in magic item factories crafting for sale, or offering their clerical services cheaply to the city.  Being a member of the vaunted Great Divination Wizard Guild does not guarantee success: many young wizards exiting the workshops of the Divination Masters find themselves bound for life to identify spell kiosks just outside popular dungeon and monster caves, identifying items and collecting data for unknown Guild Masters.  If they just work harder… 

But it’s good being a loyal guildsman.  The journeymen who do choose to stay journeymen for life exercise a number of perks for membership in a wealthy, powerful guild.  The guild is fraternity of educated men and women.  It’s warm.  It’s welcoming.  For those who quietly toil for their brothers and sisters, the guild provides them with a salary, gives them access to lower craft guild services, throws them banquets on holidays, pays for Church help when they or any of their family are ill, buy rounds of drinks and bails them out of jail when they get into a drunken bar fight, shelters them if they are homeless, gives them a stipend when they are old and pays for their funeral at their end of life.  Members can wear the coat of arms on their wizard robes.  The Great Divination Wizard Guild provides.  Sure, it takes a large cut of whatever the wizard makes but look what a member gets in return! 

Most of these journeyman wizards never progress past First Level. But who would ever want to leave the city or the comfort of the guild?

The Guild Masters encourage those few young journeyman wizards with strong enterprising spirit to go out into the world. Leave the Free Cities. Band with murder-hobos.  Discover mystery and excitement.  Gain a few levels.  “And bring us back what you learn,” say the Guild Masters. Pointy hat on head, staff in hand, shocking grasp cantrip in mind, the orks will take care of these optimistic few.  Dead in caves, on dungeon floors, in wilderness, and on the bitter end of jagged rotten iron hobgoblin swords, the great yearning for adventure solves the Guild Masters’ future wizard problems.  The few survivors are a more manageable long term problem. 

The Masters can deal with five high level wizards.  They have uses for the five high level wizards. The rest is what Bugbears are for.

Because the Guild Masters desire control and the status quo.  They brook no challenged.  The guild has internal laws and the members must obey the laws if they wish to continue reaping perks.  Shops must not sell what the Masters say they cannot sell.  Wizards must not scribe spells on non-guild approved parchment. Wizards must not wear non-guild approved robes.  Wizards must not use competing guild’s magic items.  They cannot learn or cast non-guild approved spells.  No one in the Free Cities may hire a “foreign” wizard – and “foreign” has wide connotations.  The Masters maintain a complete iron monopoly grip on their domain.  

To maintain control, without any forewarning, the Guild Masters sends out bands of Searchers – the Guild’s own Black Internal Affairs Squad – to Wizard workshops, mills, and storefronts to ensure complete compliance with the laws of the guild. Discovering reagents purchased from non-guild storefronts and hats made by non-guild approved milliners is grounds for censure. Spellbooks found with non-guild-approved scrolls or, worse, scab scrolls results in Searchers confiscating the workshop and member banishment from the guild.  The Searchers are on the spot judge, jury and executioner.  There is no appeal.  And the Guild Masters always know.  

Fear in the name of inner harmony, city peace, and civic brotherhood togetherness.  But why worry about the Searchers if the wizard has nothing to hide?  We’re all brothers and sisters.

Some wizards banished from the guild flee the Free Cities guild jurisdictions to craft their own, new spells on their own pressed parchment.  Spells the world has never seen.  Spells that may, if popularized, change everyone’s life.  The Guild Masters cannot abide rogue wizards and spells they do not control.  They are inherently ultra-conservative; change cannot permeate the membrane of their carefully designed guild fabric.  If someone outside mounted a charge to their authority, the Guild Masters could lose a small sliver of power.

The Masters send out teams of witch-hunters into the black swamps or desolate, forgotten wizard towers where the apostates hide. “Find these evil wizards and bring them to justice,” the Guild Masters implore adventurers (which include one of their own), “as they are destroying our way of life.  Keep the magic items in those dungeons and towers you find. For greater glory!  And bring us back the secret spell the evil wizard was working on, will you? Along with his head.” 

The guild promise of progression from apprenticeship to journeyman to master is a lie.  Theoretically, entrance to Mastery in the Wizards Guild is a meritocracy.  Purchase a workshop from years of back-breaking labor and adventuring and accept apprentices.  Take a place at the table of Masters.  Enjoy the money and power.  The old wizard earned it. 

Wizards chase this carrot on a stick their entire lives.  Work hard enough, pay enough dues, play the game, show enough unwavering loyalty, do the dirty work of the guild and be admitted to the higher ranks.  Claw into middle-management.

Yet, the licenses for Mastery in any of the Wizarding Guilds are few and jealously guarded behind a web of examinations, payments, and complex secret mystical rituals.  The Guild Masters goad potential would-be Masters to throw them another grand banquet, kill another guild apostate, and give another vast donation. The Masters promise to place the candidate’s name into the bag for possible election to the Masters when an Old Master dies.  Pinky swear.  And when an Old Master does die, the Guild Masters confers their one available master license to their own progeny to perpetuate hereditary line of families controlling the Guild.  Bloodlines, they argue, are the best proof of future mastery over the difficult, higher-level Magickal Arts and the difficulties of navigating city politics.   Who else to bring into the top ranks of Mastery than those who were born and raised into it?  Fair?  No. What is fair?  Surely there’s another adventure to go on, another dragon to slay, another Plane to map, instead of getting dragged into the mundanity of politics of civil city life?  This is a place for diplomats, not battle-hardened soldiers.

Hiding behind the Guild Masters of the Great Divination Wizard Guild, protected by this hereditary cult of Guild Masters, perpetuated by carefully cultivated nepotism, coils a layer of black secrets.

The Secret Masters of Divination are masters of information.  They know all, see all, understand all.  In times forgotten they built their guild on a core of wizard-based sensors armed with divination spells – information gatherers.  They run the Searchers.  They choose who to hunted and who to ignore.  They declare wizards apostate who climb too high into their ranks.  They sit on masses of data, sift through it and divine who to promote and who to destroy.  Some whisper the Secret Masters of Divination are an Arch Lich, a Mind Flayer and a Beholder who steer the Great Diviniation Wizard Guild toward acts of unspeakable evil. Others claim the Secret Masters are seven 20th level gnome wizards bent on Gnomish World Domination.

In the bowels of the Free Cities, under the streets and deep in wealth-bedecked guildhalls, protected behind layers of mundane journeymen wizards and their legions of servants, the Secret Masters run a massive intelligence operation: a Black Chamber. Within, the Secret Masters filter all the information gleaned for their member’s spells, they read mail, they crack the most powerful codes, and they know all about Lords, the Kings, opposing Wizards, and Great Families.  They run a world-spanning operation and sell their information only to the highest bidders when it suits their purposes.  The entire guild operation – the city government, the greater guilds, the lesser guilds, the mills, the scrolls, the magic item factories, the workers, the apprenticeships – are designed to fund this massive, expensive secret operation.  For whom? No one knows. 

The Secret Masters employ special wizard agents in the Black Chamber to analyze the data and concoct new advanced ways to spy on the enemies of the Free Cities.  They recruit from within the guild: promising journeymen wizards matriculating from the best Master’s workshops are “encouraged”  to go on adventure and, if they live, come to work for the Secret Masters. Here, they perfect their Divination spells and ascend to the highest levels of wizard mastery.  Beyond the control of the Guild Master front, these black agents move among their guild mates and perform the hands-on bidding of the Secret Masters – information collection, murder, mayhem, ant-spy deflection, whatever actions the data dictates.  Outside the Black Chamber, these agents look just like another journeyman wizard.

Anyone might be black agent of the Secret Masters.  Anyone

Or say those who can’t climb into the ranks of the Masters. Who knows? It’s probably all a crazy rumor.  Guild membership and mastery might just be about temporal City-wide power, money, monopolies, trade, wars and control.  Maybe the Guild Masters are a front for run of the mill every day evil.  Funny thing about Masters of Divination – they are also masters of countering divination spells. 

 guild-circlesWriter’s Notes:

I had this idea in my head for the Diviners running a sort of horrible Medieval post-WWI intelligence agency – the forerunner of modern intelligence operations. The Divination spells in D&D5e strongly correlate to information collection, data mining, and sifting. Then I came across the “Cabinet noir.”  And found other references to other Black Chambers, including the American Black Chamber

The free city is Bruges. 

Most of this comes from “Guilds in the Middle Ages” by Georges Renard, 1918.

The Black Chamber is from “The Code Book” by Simon Singh

Anything else is from “Medieval Guilds” on EH.net on the article by Gary Richardson

Picture made in Inkscape.

Tailor, Tinker, Soldier, Spy: the Bard as a Spy, Cryptography and the Fantasy Espionage Team

The party stands before the Duke and he gives them a charge: march up the mountain to a nearby kingdom and slay the Arch-Lich who lurks there.  The Duke provides the party with maps to the mountain, a summary overview of what they might find (high level henchmen, nasty guards, a dragon chained in the basement) and offers useful magical equipment for the adventure. And God Speed, the Duke tells the party: the Kingdom and its people depend on you.  Defeat the Arch-Lich and forever be written into the annals of history!

Off they go into the mists of tale.  But this is not a story about the party heading off to grand heroics.

This is the story about the intrepid spies who stole the maps.

Even guards in evil kingdoms need to eat.  It’s a funny thing about the bard driving the food cart.  She spent her life learning to play all the roles for the stage and the role of her life is selling a bag of apples and a barrel of beer to an evil guard quartermaster in charge of feeding the rest of the evil underlings and cultists who surround the Arch Lich.  She must build trust.  She’s all about the confidence game – a natural-born grifter.

This is the core of a bard.  Yes, the bard can sing songs to buff up a team and work support, but what the Knowledge Bard, a graduate of the Bardic College is good at are skills: the languages, the persuasion, the investigation, the perception, the stealth and the performance.  She can carry out a role.  She can track down a mystery.  This knowledge-based bard is a master of languages.  She has no communication barrier, not even with the evil races.  She knows funny stories about everyone.  She can sing a couple of songs.  She is the master of selling roles to her audience of one and persuading them to trust her.  She can run a con like no one’s business.

Outside in the courtyard of the Arch Lich’s compound, the bard and the evil quartermaster get along like lifelong friends.  Next thing she knows, the quartermaster is inviting her in for tea.  Then she bribes guards on the inside with treats.  Evil guards are treat-deprived because they serve an evil Arch Lich and evil Arch Liches don’t go in for tiny sweet cakes.  It’s not a sweet-positive atmosphere.  Who is going to turn down a muffin?  Are you that evil?  Gratis, you know, between us.  And don’t mind my two friends over there – they help to unload the cart.

Then, she has her team in.  The bard schmoozes and builds up her network.  She gets a few people to talk, and they introduce her to bigger people who will know more information.  This is a long con.  Be the role, sell the roll, and don’t get caught.  After a while she’s one of them, part of the trusted inside. She’s always been there.  She’s the one who brings the muffins. Getting caught means jeopardizing the job and blowing cover and possibly getting killed.  Now she needs her team to steal information about the fortress and the Arch Lich’s plans.

This is a high risk, high reward sort of job.

The spy bard works her wits, her skills and her spells. While the bard spell list looks nearly unusable for standard dungeon-crawl murder-hobing, it’s fantastic for gathering human (or in-human) intelligence. She doesn’t have the big boom fireball or lightning bolts but her bardic spell list allows her to survive in the hostile environment beyond enemy lines where compromise is a constant risk. 

The best of the best on the bard spell list:

  • Message – The ultimate spy cantrip, Message’s singular ability is its ability to travel through a ceiling to the next floor or around corners.  It’s bounded by 120 feet (12 floors assuming 8 foot ceilings) or 3 feet of wood (about 6 floors, total, assuming joists).  Working with a team, Message can get alerts – I’ve been nabbed! – through a building, a palace or a decent sized compound instantly.
  • Illusory Script– Essentially short term “cryptography by magic,” Illusory Script will encode one message that only decodes for the target. Highly useful for making copies of documents before they’re properly encrypted.  This spell assumes the message will not pass through the hands of any creatures with True Seeing like, say, an Arch Lich, so use judiciously.
  • Unseen Servant – An easy way to perform a lengthy, repetitive task, like encrypting a message by hand; see below.
  • Magic Mouth –  For passing along cryptographic keys, locations of dead drops, names of contacts and warnings, Magic Mouth is the perfect spell for communicating information between team members securely in a close and dangerous locale.
  • Non-Detection – Non-Detection is the diviner-busting spell.  For 10 minutes, the target of non-detection can get through any magical scrying or divination defenses.  The perfect spell for that high risk break-in, highly sensitive conversation or that Mission Impossible theft.  Essential for pulling off a job.
  • Zone of Truth – Need to get absolutely accurate information out of a contact?  The downside of Zone of Truth is the target knows they’re in a Zone of Truth.  Using the spell will burn a contact, but if the information is critical to the safety of the Kingdom and all those innocent people…
  • Sending – More powerful than Message but less easily cast (as it is 3rd level), Sending gets 25 words anywhere, to anyone.  25 words is enough to transmit a key to a much longer bit of ciphertext to a receiver or reveal emergency information.  25 words is a tweet! It’s the SMS of spells.
  • Clairvoyance – Clairvoyance is an alarm system.  For 10 minutes, the bard gets a sensor on a door that detects intrusion.  That’s how long she has to meet with her network contact to get information, or commit a quick murder, or perform a little larceny.  10 minutes to get in and get out with a reliable watch. 

Spells aren’t enough to infiltrate and share information about a high risk target.  A good run against a target requires spells and skills – mostly involving data.  Encrypting information by hand has a few strong advantages over the spell Illusory Script or a Sending: it is longer than 25 words, it lasts longer than 10 days, it cannot be detected by a Detect Magic, cannot disappear with Dispel and cannot be instantly broken by a creature with True Sight – which, well, Arch Lich.  Or a high level Diviner in the Lich’s employ. 

The bard is a cryptographer and an a cryptanalyst.  The Linguist feat enables the bard to master most languages and cryptography is manipulating language to make it indecipherable with a secret key – or crack the enemy’s codes. 

This is the essential tension between the game of intrigue and the spy bard. The spy bard’s network needs information to effectively deploy military resources and those being spied on must intercept and break codes to further their interests. It’s information and intelligence providing internal security and external offense against the enemy.  Bards have the skills, the motives, and the creativity to keep one step ahead of the enemy’s current technology. 

The stronger the key, the stronger the algorithm, the more unbreakable the code.  The bard needs unbreakable codes – her life and the lives of others hang in the balance. As the spy bard lacks a computer (it’s fantasy), she has two classes of ciphers she can roll by hand at her disposal: alphabetic ciphers and one-time pads.

Alphabetic ciphers include the classes of substitution ciphers.  The spy bard knows enemy bards on the other side who intercept her messages can trivially crack simple monoalphabetic ciphers with frequency analysis.  She has to assume her messages can – and will – be intercepted by fate or by violence. If the enemy catches and deciphers her messages, the intelligence is lost and she’s probably one dead, or undead, spy bard.  They can’t be deciphered. 

She employs a whole bag of techniques that come with her Linguist feat to slow and befuddle her enemies and increase the difficulty of her ciphers: she can insert random characters, she can encode spaces and ‘nulls,’ she can encode syllables instead of single letters, she can use codes inside her encoded text, and she can layer the cracking process with nasty little traps.  She can get very clever and use variations on the monoalphabetic cipher by using multiple alphabets to encode the message.  If she has time or tools, she can even use the Vigenere Cipher, a nasty polyalphabetic cipher extremely difficult to break by hand without time and a good way to guess the key.  Breakable, yes, but perhaps not before the spy bard and her team can get away.

The other option, and a favorite of spy bards, is one-time pads.  One-time pads are virtually uncrackable without the key because they are completely random – the ciphertext gives no footholds in the sheer, icy cliffs of cryptography for enemy bards to crack with frequency analysis.  It works like so:

  1. The bard takes a highly sensitive message and one of her favorite plays or songs. 
  2. She works through the work of art and gives every word a number. 
  3. She replaces the letters of her message with numbers, each number corresponding to the first letter of a word in the work. 
  4. She delivers a big list of numbers on a page.
  5. Using Sending or Magic Mouth, she drops a message about the work of art to her teammate or a bag man – in effect exchanging the key in 25 words or less at a time delay.

No Diviner, no enemy secret agent, and no magic spell will crack that code if it’s intercepted.  However, this technique has two major weaknesses: 

  1. The bard somehow give the key to the intended target of the ciphertext.  If she cannot cast spells, or is not high enough level to use messaging spells, she will need to rely on a back channel.
  2. This work can never be used in another one-time pad so the bard needs a nearly inexhaustible supply of plays and songs.  Luckily, she is still a bard.

As a quick bard hack — Cryptography is a labor-intensive and slow process by hand unless one has unseen servant.  Much of the task of enciphering and deciphering is rote – look up the chart, look up the key, look up the ciphertext, write the ciphertext down. Repeat.  Unseen Servant is a short duration programmable spell which performs a task a human servant can do – like writing down letters or looking up charts.  As difficult as it is, the bard can automate much of the labor for efficient communication and gain critical minutes using magic. 

The bard cannot pull off the entire savage burn on the evil Arch Lich without an infiltration team.  She’s a fantastic cryptographer, she speaks all the languages of evil, she can make friends with the Arch Lich’s closest henchmen and get them to spill their plans.  But she cannot get into the Arch Lich’s inner sanctum to steal the Lich’s phylactery alone.  She cannot get herself out if she gets into a fight.  She’s a Grifter.  She needs an Infiltrator.  She needs a Hitter.  She needs her crew. 

The Infiltrator is a Trickster Rogue.  Fast and intelligent, the trickster rogue is a master of the three finger discount.  The bard is the face of the operation; the trickster rogue is the action.  Her job is to break into bedrooms and steal plans, hide in ducts to overhear conversations, sneak into the dungeons to release high value prisoners, execute a couple of targets with backstab (and True Strike), get in, get out, and get away with the maps in her underwear.  She employs a subset of the Bard’s spy spell list –  she has Message to keep in contact with her party members – “Guard patrol on level 5,”- Disguise Self to meld in with the guards or the servants, a little Charm Person (“These are not the orks you are looking for,”) and, when detected, Sleep.  The Infiltrator uses Illusory Script as the microfilm camera of spells to copy plans and leave the originals behind. 

The Hitter is an Eldritch Knight.  A retrieval expert, her job is to protect the Bard and the Rogue when they get themselves into trouble.  She’s not a hired killer, but she will kill to get her teammates out of a rough situation. Having enough social skills to pass as almost anything, the Eldritch Knight can double up as a Grifter to back up the Spy Bard.  Her Mage Armor and Eldritch Sword means never having to carry weapons into a possible combat zone – she has them when she needs them.  One the job goes bad, the Infiltrator is on the run and the Spy Bard is talking her way out of being hung from the nearest rafter, the Hitter can reach out for her sword and start going to town. Hope the Bard has encrypted all the documents sufficiently when they get spotted while running away…

The three methodically plan out their the savage burn on the Arch Lich because that guy has to go down. He’s bad news.  The bard provides a cover for the team (“I’m a bard and these are my roadies!”), builds up her network of contacts, works a the human side of the intelligence chain, defeats the diviners the Arch Lich may have on his staff, and encrypts the data to smuggle out.  The thief lifts the plans about the Arch Lich’s army, his dragon in the basement, his phylactery, and makes off with the Arch Lich’s inexplicable pair of Boots of Striding and Springing.  The thief also performs a little covert ork and hobgoblin murder.  The Eldritch Knight smacks people in the face when it all goes bad because it always all goes bad.   Getting out is difficult; sometimes she stabs some former ‘friends.’ 

They are a highly trained team.  They work on hire.  They answer to no master – that anyone publicly knows about.  They coordinate on a job through well-placed Message, Sending, Magic Mouth, dead drops, and signals.  The job is to get in and get out.  Preferably without getting caught or setting the Arch Lich’s castle on fire. 

When a Kingdom needs help to deliver them from evil, these are who they call first.

In this particular example, we can assume the run went smoothly. The bard talked the team in under the nose of the Arch Lich and made some friends. The team set up dead drops in secure locations inside the Arch Lich’s compound. The thief bloodily murdered a few orks with death from above.  The team discovered the Arch Lich’s horrible plan. They snuck out by cart — “You’re out of beer!” – in the night.  The Eldritch Knight cleared out patrols on the way home. They smuggled their encrypted information to the Duke, who handed it to his cipher secretary for decryption.

Then the Duke called in the main hitters, the fireball wielders, the combat team and handed them the decrypted intelligence.  Here you go, a ready-made adventure for heroes to go roll an Arch Lich for the good of us all…  

Pre-Build Team:

The focus was mostly on the bard but the bard needs a posse.  To express the complex idea of how to build an infiltration team and how the spy bard works in practice, we put together some example characters. This pre-built 5th level infiltration team is a group of highly trained women operatives and mostly ready for play.  I didn’t write these – all credit for these character sheets goes to my research assistant (and husband!) by Eric Thornber.  

These PDFs are free for download.

Writer’s Note: This started as a discussion on twitter about D&D/Shadowrun cross-over.  This is less socio-economics and more world-building but gets at a long standing issue: the Bard – what good is she good for?  It turns out in D&D5e, she’s the lynchpin in a slightly different class of stories than the standard smash-and-grab murder hoboing.  Then I really enjoyed the idea.  Unfortunately, I ran out of words, so I may continue into a major Crypto Bard vs Diviner Underground War write-up next week.  This is less intrigue than I would have liked.

The team at the latter half of the article is based on Leverage’s Hitter/Grifter/Hacker/Thief combo with the Bard filling the role of the Grifter and the Hacker.  The Bard and Rogue are essential.  The Hitter can be swapped out for a Warlock and a Sorcerer, but the Eldritch Knight was the most fun.

While writing this I came across the Chevalier d’Eon, the best example history could give me of a transgender spy bard because awesomeness.