Type: d20 Campaign Setting
Company: Green Ronin Publishing
Writer: Robert J Schwalb, Owen KC Stephens, Scott Gearin
Retail Price: $44.95
At over 300 pages, this is a big book. As is typical for a Green Ronin product, the binding is solid and the pages are crisp. The artwork is all black and white, with enough to keep you satisfied without saturating the book in pictures (a pet peeve of mine is when a company hides lack of content with lots of pictures). The cover is a pretty awesome piece by a great artist - Wayne Reynolds.
The introduction is of typical length - just a few pages. Covered first is a brief synopsis of what exactly the Black Company is, and what the world is like. Following that is a brief summary of each Black Company novel, to help aquaint, and re-aquaint, players with the events written by Glen Cook. Closing the chapter is a section that's become fairly common to campaign settings by most d20 publishers; A synopsis of how adventures and campaigns in this setting are different from other settings. This section covers important concepts to a Black Company game such as the mood, style, the prominence of betrayal, lack of gods, the evil nature of humans, warfare, and more.
Chapters One & Two
The two opening chapters are completely without any game statistics. The first chapter is a massive overview of the history of the setting and the events detailed by Glen Cook. Everything from the time of Antiquity to the beginnings of the Black Company, to the current era are covered in extensive detail. This is an excellent refresher for fans of the setting, and an absolutely necessary breakdown for gamers not familiar with the setting at all. The details are as concise as possible while still offering an expansive treatise on the setting.
Chapter 2 breaks down the actual geography of the setting. A map is presented, as well as full write-ups on numerous towns, cities, temples, rivers, and everything else you can imagine. Like Chapter 1, the detail here is concise, but extensive.
Chapter 3 is where we first see that this is not just another d20 setting. Green Ronin has gone to great lengths to revise the d20 system just enough to fit a more gritty setting, especially one where the only real race is 'human.' So the first thing we are treated to in the third chapter is the idea of character backgrounds. Everyone is a human, using the same racial statistics for character generation. However, players must also choose a background - representing what they've been doing with their life before gaining their current class level(s). There's a lot here; Aristocrat, beggar, bureaucrat, commoner, con artist, criminal, engineer, entertainer, fugitive, hermit, hunter, magician's apprentice, merchant, officer, physician, priest, prostitute, sailor, scholar, soldier, smuggler, thug, tomb robber, and tribesman.
Each background affects your character via favoured class, a special background trait, a choice of bonus feats, and extra skill points to spend on certain skills. Each background also lists 'iconic characters' -- characters from the stories that would have that particular background package.