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Arc Dream Announces Black Company RPG

Uses new game engine built on "suspense, terror, and savage heroics".


Glen Cook's Black Company dark fantasy novel series last had a tabletop roleplaying game in 2004, from Green Ronin Publishing. The series features a mercenary group, with a mix of gritty military fiction and epic fantasy.

Arc Dream Publishing has just announced that it is currently developing a new game, written by Delta Green's Shane Ivery and Dennis Detwiller. It will use a new game engine built around "suspense, terror, and savage heroics", starting with a core rulebook and then supported by adventures and sourcebooks. There is no release date yet.

VICTORIA, BC — The Black Company Role-Playing Game is in development by Shane Ivey and Dennis Detwiller, co-authors and publishers of the award-winning Delta Green: The Role-Playing Game.

The Lady? Where had I encountered that word used that way, emphasized as though it was the title of a goddess? A dark legend out of olden times.… —The Black Company
In The Black Company and its sequels, novelist Glen Cook redefined epic fantasy by writing with ordinary soldiers in mind. He opened the way for generations of authors of dark fantasy.

Arc Dream Publishing proudly announces plans for a new tabletop role-playing game based on the Black Company series. Licensed by Glen Cook, The Black Company Role-Playing Game will put players at the heart of the adventures, dangers, and treacheries that surround the storied Black Company.

In The Black Company, we follow an elite mercenary company through a continent-spanning war and desperate raids. A war between good and evil, the enemy might say, rebelling against the dark empress who employs the Company. A war between evil and far worse, if you ask those who know what drives the leaders of the rebellion. Don’t ask the soldiers of the Black Company. They only want to do their job, look out for each other, and live another day.

I faced him. And the memory came. A devil’s hammer drove spikes of ice into the belly of my soul. I knew why One-Eye did not want to cross the sea. The ancient evil of the north.… “I thought you people died three hundred years ago.” —The Black Company
Glen Cook wrote The Black Company as a veteran who wanted to see the soldier’s experience in the wars and adventures of heroic fantasy. Arc Dream Publishing has spent decades capturing the experience of soldiers and government agents for RPG players. Arc Dream has received universal acclaim for its horror game Delta Green and its World War II game of desperate superheroics, Godlike. Detwiller and Ivey are writing The Black Company Role-Playing Game to evoke the soldier’s experience in a world of brutal bloodshed, shocking sorceries, and seemingly impossible odds.

“I’ve been enthralled by The Black Company since the first books came out,” Ivey said. “This is the thrill of a career. We’re writing the fantasy game that we’ve always wanted to play.”

Detwiller added, “Shane and I have long considered creating a dark fantasy game, and Delta Green always wanted a twisted, crazed little brother. The Black Company is a perfect fit.”

In the night, when the wind dies and silence rules the place of glittering stone, I remember. And they all live again. —Soldiers Live
Being a soldier of the Black Company makes you part of something greater than yourself. Yours is the tale of brothers and sisters who came before and those to follow. Your name and deeds will be recorded in the annals. When you fall, this bloody-handed family will fight and die to save or avenge you. And thanks to you, the Company will go on.

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So would this new TBC RPG be using the same d100 system as DG? If so is that system deadly enough for TBC?
The original world of the Black Company sports several tiers of characters:

1. Mundane unskilled characters. Die like 0-level D&D commoners.

2. Mundane skilled characters. 1-3 level equivalent. Basically, martial characters without magic tools.

3. Magic users, expert martial characters. That's near 5-6th level in terms of suvivability. It's important to note that magic users age slowly, are physically adept at least on the same level as martials (or alternatively can boost their prowess temporarily), and they have at least one trump card that allows them to escape. They can also create magic tools. Expert martial characters are tough - they can take a physical hit from an epic character and still keep on going.

4. The epic magic users. They have always an array of trumps in the form of magic trinkets, can perform amazing feats of physical prowess, perform area of effect attacks, communicate over vast distances. It is however hinted that there are hard limits on their trump cards, so really amazing powers are used only when in dire need. For battlefield usage, epic magic users often need time to prepare a set of spell (days or weeks). They can make tools (like flying carpets) that they can share with others. They can be worn down and killed, but they often have a lifesaving ability so that they can return to life later, albeit often at the cost of some permanent damage. It is unknown why but all epic users are portrayed as lacking in humanity, physically or psychologically.

4.5 The Taken. An epic magic user that has been submitted to an ultimate form of magic fealty. Traumatized by the process of being Taken. An undead - they can be reduced in form but almost never killed. The damage they take usually degrades them, but they can rely on magic to replace missing or unusuable limbs. The Taken's will is their own, and they hate their liege, however they acknowledge their bond with their liege and always submit to the will of their liege if confronted directly - their rebellion is possible, but ultimately short-lived. Their liege can torment them as a form of punishment. The Taken cannot be killed unless allowed to do so by their liege. They can still be made to suffer or be imprisoned.

5. Transcendent magic users. They are more like will anchored to a physical object than a person. Of this particular type, only Dominator and the Lady fit the category, though she is somewhere between epic and transcendent level. It is unclear how such beings function, however their presence alone is enough to make the mortals become unable to think or act. It us unclear how the Lady was able to maintain her body. Unkillable unless their true name is uttered with an an intent to harm them, or strip them of their powers, or a great sacrifice is made.*

* On the second thought, I get strong Soulslike vibes from the final books in the series, with Shivetya being the third transcendent magic user, and their method of reacquiring mortality being the fourth method to become capable of dying. Note however that Shivetya is unlikely to have lost magic powers, and also being the magic user he probably can still have means to extend their life.

I wonder how they are planning to support these.
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Not sure the series was quite as revolutionary as made out to be here, given that you can see a lot of the same elements in Cook's earlier (and parallel, post 1984) Dread Empire series.
The thing that was outstanding when it appeared was its terseness, and the amount of plot that could thus be fitted into relatively short volumes. Compared with the vast tomes that Donaldson and Brooks were producing at the time, it was very refreshing.
But I'm kind of amazed that people still know what the Black Company is, ya know? Or, I guess, I mean I'm surprised that there's a big enough following to justify a licensed ttrpg. Maybe the license isn't too costly.
Many gamers had their tastes formed in the last century, and have money now.
Granted that the last BC book was decades ago and Cook hasn't written anything new in ten years for any series (although he's apparently still got stuff in the works - the guy's about 80 at this point).
Port of Shadows, effectively volume 1.5, was published in 2018, and volume 2.5 is gradually appearing as short stories in anthologies.

Compared with the vast tomes that Donaldson and Brooks were producing at the time, it was very refreshing.
Urgh. I just had dinner, don't remind me of those two. I stuck with Donaldson far longer than I should have, which is to say past the initial sexual assault. But yes, there is a great deal said for well-considered brevity.

At least you didn't bring up Eddings...another one I should've dropped sooner. :)


Bruce Baugh, Writer of Fortune
I have that cover!
But I'm kind of amazed that people still know what the Black Company is, ya know? Or, I guess, I mean I'm surprised that there's a big enough following to justify a licensed ttrpg. Maybe the license isn't too costly.
Pretty much every grimdark author cites him as one of their influences, and folks like Abercrombie are doing pretty well. There’s an audience enjoying the omnibuses. Seems like a good time to act - better now than a decade or two ago.


enworld.com is a reminder of my hubris
I have that cover!
But I'm kind of amazed that people still know what the Black Company is, ya know? Or, I guess, I mean I'm surprised that there's a big enough following to justify a licensed ttrpg. Maybe the license isn't too costly.
I know Matt Colville has often sung its praises on his twitch channel.

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