Shadow Company

Theme: Black Company in Eberron


In Eberron, the Last War has just ended after nearly 100 years of fighting. A key military unit is the Shadow Company. The SC originated in the lost continent of Xen’drik made up primarily of Drow. The SC relies on stealth, the night, and superior tactics to win decisive battles throughout the Last War.

The SC takes on several squads of local races to better help with relations to civilians. Overtime, replacements must also come local races as there is little contact back to Xen’drik.


With both swords and sorcery, all types of combat situations can be played out. Any situation from medieval combat to modern (and possibly futuristic) situations can be an inspiration.

Watch WWII and Vietnam—many modern tactics (vertical envelopment) Sieges Quick Strikes Rescue Missions Search and Destroy Deception & Feints Betrayal/Switch sides Mogaba (former SC turned adversarial general) The first “warforged” – titan Powerful monsters (Dragon) Separated from main unit Special unit operations (specific targets) Sink the Terpitz!—A powerful weapon, reluctantly used by the enemy, must be destroyed using unconventional means. Anything from Band of Brothers Replacements Classic adventures are all on the table—probably start as recon or S&D missions.

Role-playing Opportunities

There are significant RP opportunities in a long war military settings:

Rivals within the company (esp Drow vs. non-Drow) Rivals with other companies/units (same side) Rivals with other companies/unit (enemy) Occupation of a town/local politics & diplomacy (PCs are the “face” of the Company) Undercover mission Scouting mission Recruitment (esp an intelligent, powerful, monster) How react to rape/pillage/civilian deaths Interaction with Powerful NPCs (Company patron) Uncover a “concentration” camp

So, why not just run Black Company

Clearly, this is a campaign concept inspired by BC. Why not just run the product from Green Ronin? I have a number of reasons.

First, I think it would be very hard to run a true BC campaign. My favorite part of the series are the Books of the North. Of course, they have the most definition. This forces you to either play a very narrow game or you have to declare up front that this will be a “loose” campaign—the outcomes may be different. The former limits the GM, the latter ruins it for the player (why play BC if all the details change?)

Second, the PCs would either be the key characters in the books (Croaker, Silent, Goblin, etc) or they would be others in the Company that will always be “competing” against these big names. The former is tough due to figuring out how to scale them. The latter is annoying. I know Davenport attempted this with a Star Wars campaign (the Vandal Fleet). The PCs were completely separated from the main Rebel Fleet. This becomes less an option in this setting.

Third, just trying to create a feel from a book can be difficult. I am impressed how well GR did this with the campaign book. When people read books, they take different things from them. Your version of BC may not match mine. Also, how about the player that never read the books? It is hard for them because everyone else at the table already has the “feel” of the setting in their mind.

Finally, the system. There are aspects of their modified d20 system I may port over. I really do not want to run a building-block magic system. It may be good for a small group, but any player group of size will grind the pace to halt trying to deal with this system. I really do not want to require players to go by this book just to play. Trying to covert their system back to D&D would be a miserable exercise that would likely ruin the feel for some players.

Overall, I love the idea of running a BC style game. Breaking it out of the original world will open it up to both players and the GM. The players can read the books to get the style but not feel like they are competing against the key book characters (ie, they will be making their own Croakers, Goblins, and One-Eyes). I can use the books for inspiration and style but not feel I either have to follow the establish plot or put them in a less defined time/place.

Why Eberron?

  1. I like the “feel” of Eberron. It feels like what Star Wars eps 1-3 was trying to achieve – fantastic setting with dark machinations.
  2. The ending of the war is a big part of the setting. I can run this part in the past and then continue with the “current date” part of the setting without any pause.
  3. The war ends with a country blowing up (without explanation). This brings everyone to the negotiating table and the war ends. Thus, from a retrospective view, the majority of the battles have no impact outcome of the war.
  4. Since the war lasts 100 year, that implies there is not constant warfare. Opporunity to move the SC around for other dramatic scenes.

Generational Gaming

Take a look at the aging table for elves, dwarves and half-elves. We see that it is quite realistic that some of these races could be involved with SC throughout the whole 100 year war (I anticipate bringing the SC into the war fairly early on). Even humans may be in the war for 1/3rd of it before hitting the Old category and likely retiring.

This leads to an interesting concept of Generational Gaming. Consider the following scenario for a young Drow in the SC:

Talon has completed his training as a fighter at age 130 and has joined the ranks just as the SC enters battle in year 5 of the Great War. After a few battles, Talon has proven himself a strong warrior and a good leader. He is promoted to Sargent at age 140 (year 15 of the War) and is level 5. He makes rapid advancement due to his skill and several adventures that occurred during scouting. By the time he is level 10, he is promoted to Lieutenant and generally does not participate in direct combat (he leads several platoons). He is now age 150 (year 20 of the War).

By this time, the first “adventuring” group run by the players are in leadership positions of the Company. A separate set of PCs may be formed to perform the adventuring while the original set of PCs leads the Company in battle (and I do plan to do some skirmish combats as a change of pace session). Much like we see in the BC books, there are times that the leaders of the company are sent on key missions. It creates an opportunity for one of the original PCs (say at 10th) to work with the up and coming PCs (say level 5-7).

Of course, if a player likes to run human PCs, they may see their PC rise in the ranks a bit faster but will retire faster. Mixed race groups may present some interesting challenges in this area. The players will have to get used to the idea that advancement and levels are not always synonymous (perhaps PCs need to take the Leadership feat to get beyond Sergeant).

I am thinking that for some players, there is a lot of appeal to this approach. We all know Dugger likes to run the same PC for as long as possible. This allows him to keep in touch with the PC even after he gets “retired” from play due to advancement (he gets to play him in the skirmishes, some leadership decisions, and the occasional “bring him off the self one more time” adventure).

Also, Mark D has mentioned that he like the concept of an “adventuring company” where there was a pool of PCs and not just the original ones the players made up. This generational concept combined with the overall military approach would allow those “restless” players that like to try different PC concepts on occasion to be able to do so without disrupting of the overall campaign (transfer from one squad to another).

Home Base

In Breland (the county I see pulling the SC into the war), there is a site in the west called Shadowlock Keep that does not appear to have any write-up in the sourcebooks that I have (regardless, I would rewrite it anyway).

Breland has troubles with some of the tribes to the west, and eventually they give up part of their country (using mountains as a barrier) to these tribes. Shadowlock Keep appears to be the southern plug of this line.

This evokes a nice number of scenarios (the Keep gets its name from the SC). There are several ruins to the west of the mountains. One can envision some rather bloody battles with the SC keeping the line together (visions of the Imperials in their bloody withdrawal to the Stair and back to Charm).

I was thinking of making this their homebase for most of the war. This is where they would come back to train, put together their replacements, and re-equip. Unfortunately, the trouble in the west does not happen until fairly late in the war.

On the other hand, Breland probably thinks this area is well behind the lines and is relatively safe. Building on Chris’ thoughts, there may be an unexpected attack from the west. Green Shadow Company squads with a few hard core retired veterans (a nice spot to bring out a “retired” favorite PC) have to hold off a horde.

Eventually, the full SC comes back (with a few other companies) and goes on the march, but eventually the tide turns. Shadowlock becomes the line in the sand.

Shadow Company

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