The single most powerful Humanoid resource, the Guilds are supernational conglomerates of epic scale that control vast swaths of Humanoid economy.
Created more than three millennia ago, the Guilds were some of the first attempts to industrialize Humanoid existence.
At first, the Dragons that were in power during that period were puzzled by this development of their miniature underlings, but decided to tolerate their developments out of simple curiosity.
The Guilds began constructing transportation and communication networks that began spanning the continents, granting for the first time easy trade between the scattered humanoid settlements.
Cities began cropping up from their efforts, hubs of industrial production and trade houses sprouted up overnight in an effort to capitalize on this new resource.
The Dragons quickly witnessed the potential these Guilds had to turn their Humanoid slaves into a potent industrial machine.
Guilds, because of this, enjoyed the near immunity and capacity to travel across the territories of all Dragons, even the rival ones. They gained a form of independence from the Dragons that common mortals could only dream of.
A delicate balance began to form between the Guilds and the Dragons. The efforts of the Guilds developed the resources on Dragon territory. Dragons taxed the efforts and reaped a portion of the rewards, allowing the rest to be invested in further Guild development.
Those Guilds that grew arrogant with their power, and began forming their own armies of conquest were rapidly crushed by the Dragons. But the Guilds that formed symbiotic relationships of business thrived, elevating all humanoids cleanly into the Steam age.
Today, the various Guilds control massive corporations, employing hundreds of thousands of employees directly, and millions through subsidiaries. They are the beating economic heart of civilization, guaranteed success through their ancient pacts of free passage and immunity from the laws of the Dragons.
Inevitably, when all of the world became industrialized, markets became saturated. The only capacity by which the Guilds could continue growing was through competition and acquisition of one another.
Soon, small Guilds became absorbed, bought out, or taken over by the larger ones. Never would the Guilds directly risk military action for their conquests, but there were plenty of other ways of conquering enemies. Bribery, assassination, economic marriages, hostile takeovers, cutthroat competition were all perfectly acceptable outcomes by the standards of the Dragons.
By now, there are only a few dozen Guilds left in the world, each locked in an interminable economic war of intrigue and gold between one another.
Just as the Dragons had figured it would all end up.
The Guilds are the Megacorps of this world. They exist above the law of Humanoids, but beneath the influence of the Dragons. Though they field no army of their own directly, they do employ mercenaries, assassins, spies, and all sorts of other unsavory characters for their economic gain.
They are only answerable to the laws of the Dragons, and their own bottom line.