Prior to the Breaking, the thirteen Great Guilds were a formidable force in Stygian society. The Compact of the Guilds, signed in 1354, had given them enough unifed force to rival even the Deathlords in power. Many Guilds, especially the Artificers, saw themselves as quite capable of leading wraithly society, even over Charon. Between their power and the constant undermining of the Heretics and Renegades, the Guilds decided to make a bid for power.
On April 6, 1598, the Council of Guilds officially declared their coup d'etat. Charon's armies put up a stronger front than the Guilds were led to believe and suffered heavy casualties. Realizing that they were outgunned, the Usurers pulled out of the battles (some say suspiciously fast). With them went both the Guilds' healing powers and the Usurers' close ally, the Masquers. Other Guilds began withdrawing as well, and within a week, the coup had failed, leaving the Guilds shamed and Charon enraged.
April 14th brought forth the Decree of the Breaking, in which Charon officially declared:
- The Guilds were dissolved and could not reform.
- All Guilds were banished from Stygia.
- Any wraith who participated in a Guild was to be deemed a criminal.
- The Legions would take up the responsibilities of Arcanoi training.
Although the Guilds continued to exist in secret and remain a force of power, many never attained the level of freedom and force they had before the Breaking. Only the Artificers, Masquers, and Pardoners remained in any sort of respect and official powers, and even then officially as workers of the Hierarchy.