Triads are an ancient organization that was formed out myth. One story says that the triads were formed from five elder monks who survived the destruction of their temple and went on to create five different secret societies. Historians believe the triads to have originated from a fraternal organization in the 18th century that attempted to overthrow the Qing dynasty.
Regardless of origin, the triads now are a series of organized criminal societies who favor magic over technology and bind their members to deadly rituals for the mutual protection of the gang. They have spread all over the globe from their Chinese roots, but most triads still refuse to accept non-Chinese members.
Triads are heavily invested in Chinese numerology. As such, they often use numbers to represent their ranks. 489 is the “Mountain” or “Dragon Master” and represents the highest rank in the triad. 438 is “Deputy Mountain Master” and represents the second rank, which is often composed of a Operations Officer (called “Vanguard”), a Deputy (called “Deputy Mountain Master”), and a Ceremonies Officer (called “Incense Master”). Beneath the 438 rank are several smaller positions. The 415 is also an Administrator (called “White Paper Fan”), the 426 is an Enforcer (called “Red Pole”) and the 432 is a Liason Officer (called “Straw Sandal” or “Glass Slipper”). At the bottom of the organization are the 49, ordinary members that make up the bulk of the triad (called “49ers”), and the “Blue Lanterns” or uninitiated members, who don’t get a numeric rank.
Initiation rituals are used to show when someone has moved from the Blue Lantern rank to a 49er. The altar used is traditionally dedicated to Guan Yu, and the ritual often involves an animal sacrifice. After drinking a mixture of wine and blood (from the animal or the candidate), the member then passes under an arch of swords while reciting the triad’s oaths. Paper on which the oaths are written are then burnt upon the altar to confirm the member’s obligations. As a final gesture, three fingers on the left hand are raised.
There are 36 Oaths that all triad members must adhere to, and each member recites the oaths during their initiation. Since the Awakening, these oaths have gained more power, and are used to ritually bind a member to the triad. Since the 2050s, most triads in the world have access to a ritual that causes death to any member who violates their oaths. The manner of death is often unique to each triad, but the death is always bloody and instantaneous.