Thursday, January 29, 2009

[Games that will never be] Black Company Campaign Setting by Green Ronin

"Games that will never be" is a series of very, very short essays I'll blog every once in a while. In it I will detail many of the role playing campaign ideas I played with at one time or the other, but eventually abandoned due to time constraints or lack of commitment.

The Black Company Campaign Setting

The Black Company Campaign Setting was published by Green Ronin for the D20 System. It's based on Glen Cook's popular fantasy series about an army of mercenaries during the waning years of their existence. The novels are grim and gritty affairs were soldiers live and die for dubious reasons. A friend described the series with the following analogy, "if Lord of the Rings is World War II, then The Black Company is Vietnam."
I had two big problems with the setting. First, it was a tough sell to my group. None of my players have even heard about the Black Company. To them it's just another hacked fantasy setting. I could never sell them on the "thing" with the names ( Goblin, One-Eye, Tom-Tom, Croacker, ect); or why is the world better than the Forgotten Realms or Ravenloft; and most importantly, why use use the tired-old D20 System when we could use the awesome Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.
On my end, I could never get around how to portray the story that's faithful to the source material. I felt that just having the characters walking around as adventurers was a disservice to the campaign world because it ignores the soul of the setting: the company. I was afraid the storyline could degenerate into a railroaded, series of missions if the players were just footsoldiers in the company.
The best way to play the game, in my opinion, was to run a 17+ player group. The novels are about a mercenary army, so why not get an army of players to fill up it's rank. Ok, just ignore the organizational pandemonium that would be scheduling a game with 17 people with different schedules. Furthermore, lets also assume that those 17 players don't mind waiting for their turn in 3 hour long combat encounters. A huge group will simulate the platoon experience perfectly: friendships are forged, reputations are made, and "good guys" are lost. One of the players is made commanding officer: it's up to him to send the others into combat and maybe certain death. What would he do if the other characters lost faith in him? How do the other characters deal with a bad commanding officer?

A big part of each session will go towards inter-character relationship building. Running this type of game would be similar to running a Minds Eye Theater Live action game. The GM would just lurk in the background while the players go around the table politicking. Then, every once in a while, a mission will pop up for a group of players to head out and eliminate those that stand against the company.

It would be kind of hard to find 17 people to game with, so the idea was scratched.
Yesterday I stumbled into a post about Entourage gaming in Sham's Grog 'n Blog ( a much better blog than this one!). It got me thinking about my aborted Black Company game. The basic idea behind entourage gaming could easily be applied to a BC campaign. Entourage gaming calls the creation of a stable of characters for a player to develop during the campaign. A player could create three different characters ( Joker, Deafblind, and Stray Cat if he was to follow BC naming conversions). If five players joined, the campaign would have a pool of 15 characters. The gamemaster then divides the group into three different groups involved with different misadventures. This way the characters could explore the company from different perspectives. It would also give the story a grander scale as the different characters developed individual stories within the game world.
I would use Paizo's Pathfinder, because, to be quite frank, that's the only way to experience Dungeons and Dragons.
To run a Black Company D20 Game I only need:

1.Pathfinder Core Rules
2.A shitload of dice.
3. The Black Company Campaign Setting.
4.17 + players that are patient, do not desire to be in the spot light at all, and prefer to roleplay in MET fashion in a tabletop game rather than engaging in fast paced combat.
File:The Black Company.jpg






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