Dear Dr. Evil,
While I'm pretty keen on The Black Company Campaign Setting, my long time dream has always been to take the gang to Thieves' World. Thankfully, you guys have the rules and setting information, but in looking at the two books, I've noticed some changes (especially with magic). Any notes on converting characters from one setting to the other? Is it possible to use both? Help!
Let me say from the start, though others may disagree, one of the coolest things you can do with The Black Company Campaign Setting (BCCS) is to take them out of their world and into others. Perhaps one of the strangest turns in the last few books is the revelation of the Black Company's origins—I won't go into them here—in another world, one of several hooked onto a plane haunted by the debris of ancient armies, mankind's sins, and the ghostly shadows that kill. By crossing this plane, one could go to a number of worlds. Some could be dead, murdered by the shadows or some other natural calamity. Others might be thriving vistas filled with new possibilities. For my games, though, I'd have these worlds tied to in-print campaign settings. Just imagine the Black Company in service to Emperor Nero, or choosing sides in the Trojan War. What would happen to Freeport if this band of mercenaries set up shop in the Old City? Just imagine Black Company soldiers fighting the cult of the Unspeakable One...
If the Black Company can travel to other worlds, why not Thieves' World? Clearly, the settings match in terms of tone, atmosphere, and above all grit. Imagine what would happen if the Black Company were hired by the Nisibisi Witches and Mygdonian Alliance, fighting a terrible and oppressive Rankan Empire at the height of the war. Black Company versus Stepson ... the possibilities are amazing. Or, if you prefer your Thieves' World more modern (as in the Irrune Era), maybe the new Emperor hires the Black Company to take on the Black-tooth Barbarian horde that sacked Ranke, razed Lirt and are currently creating all sorts of problems on the Cantal Plains. There's no limit to what you can do with these kinds of crossovers.
There are two ways to blend these settings: fast and dirty or slow and correct.
Fast and Dirty
Just make it happen. Don't worry about wedding the magic systems or the fact that the rangers from BCCS are different from those in TW. Sure, backgrounds are different in BCCS than they are in the culture-background system of TW, but that'll be ok for a one-shot or campaign diversion. Pick a combat system from one or the other settings (e.g., determine how massive damage works, negative hit points, and so on) and stick to it. Since both games use the d20 system, inconsistencies should be few and far between. And once you lay down the basic rules, you're ready to go.
Slow and Correct
A better way of wedding TW to BCCS is to take your time and consider the mechanics used in each setting, gauging how they should change as the characters from one world enters the next. Personally, I'm of the opinion that the world determines the rules, so if the Black Company crosses over into, say, the Mindshadows setting, adapt BCCS to the concepts and rules of that world—in short, psionics exist, as do elves, dwarves, snake people, and so on.
To help you out, let's go through the necessary changes you'll need to make to bring characters from the Glittering Plain to TW.
Cultures and Backgrounds
In both TW and BCCS, by and large the only races people get to play are humans. In these settings, if one remains true to the books, there are no elves, dwarves, or any other of the standard player character races. To create more varied and interesting options, we developed a background system in BCCS and later improved on it for TW.
The basic idea is that a background makes the initial character choices (where to place bonus skill points, a reduced panel of feats to choose from) but in exchange, provides you with a tangible benefit for roleplaying and adventuring. I liked this idea so much, I worked with Gary Astleford to carry it into to the Thieves' World Player's Manual. One thing we found, though, was that we had lots more information at our disposal, enabling us to make distinctions between characters from one land versus characters from another—something we didn't have for Black Company. With this added dimension, we were able to break apart the backgrounds in BCCS into Culture and Backgrounds, immediately creating a more robust selection of options. You could play a Caronnese Sailor and be different from a Caronnese Mercenary, for example.
Mechanically speaking, there are some differences. A BCCS background offers a selection of three to five skills. You may invest your bonus human skill points in any of these skills, but these are otherwise barred from you unless they are also class skills. The background gives you a selection of two feats from which you choose one. Finally, you gain a background feature.
In TW, you first select your culture which presents a selection of two to four feats from which you may select one using your human bonus feat. Also, culture determines your starting languages and offers a cultural trait. Next, you select (or roll) your background. Instead of containing human bonus skill points to a particular set of skills, you select two from the list, gain a +2 bonus when using these skills, and they always remain class skill for you. Background provides and age modifier as well as a background trait.
So let's compare a BCCS Commoner to a TW Twandan Farmer and see what we get. The BCCS Commoner applies his human bonus skill points to any of the following: Craft, Handle Animal, Profession, and Ride. He can select either Endurance or Skill Focus (any Craft or Profession) as a bonus feat. And, when he makes a Craft check, he generates +25% more in cp per week, and when he makes a Profession check, he earns full cp instead of half. (BCCS uses a silver standard).
The Twandan Farmer selects a bonus feat from Great Fortitude, Run, or Skill Focus. In addition, he gains a +4 ethnicity bonus to Fortitude saves made to resist ingested poisons. As a farmer, he may choose two skills from the following list: Handle Animal, Knowledge (local), Knowledge (nature), Listen, Profession (farmer), Survival, or Use Rope. And finally, he gains a +2 bonus to Survival checks made to predict the weather.
From a quick examination, it seems that the Thieves' World character gains a bit more for his money, what with bonus human skill points, and a +2 bonus to two skills. Add in more selection for feats, and two benefits, it seems like they have a bit of a leg up. But in my estimation, the differences are not so great that you'll break the game by having these two characters interact.
You might, however, want to convert characters a little more rigorously. This may require a bit more retrofitting, but in all, the conversion is simple. For starters, erase all benefits derived from the BCCS background.
First of all you need to decide what you want to do about Cultures. There isn't a lot of cultural detail for the BCCS so you might just lump all characters into a new culture: Offworlder.
You come from beyond the Plain of Glittering Stone. You might be from sprawling Taglios or from the treacherous Jewel Cities. You might even be from the world of the Voroshk. From wherever you hail, it is certainly not from the Known World.
For Physical Description and Common Classes, use your best judgment.
Offworlder Ethnic Traits
In addition to the standard traits available to all humans, Offworlders have the following characteristics.
Select any one feat for which you qualify. (Note we don't provide a cultural benefit since the character can select any feat.)
Native Dialect. Bonus Languages: As appropriate to your world.
Or, you could come up with your own cultures based on the information presented in Chapter Seven: Descriptions. Some ideas follow:
Deft Hands, Persuasive, Skill Focus
+2 bonus to K/local checks
Deceitful, Persuasive, Stealthy
+1 bonus to Will saves
Alertness, Investigator, Negotiator
+2 bonus to Appraise checks
Negotiator, Persuasive, Toughness
+2 bonus to Bluff checks
Plain of Fear
Endurance, Toughness, Track
+2 bonus against transmutation
Self-Sufficient, Stealthy, Track
+1 bonus to Hide and Move Silently checks
Alertness, Animal Affinity, Run
Automatically know which way is north
Magical Aptitude, Self-Sufficient, Stealthy
+2 bonus to Bluff checks
Alertness, Iron Will, Stealthy
+2 bonus to Hide checks
Athletic, Endurance, Toughness
+2 hit points
Investigator, Negotiator, Skill Focus
+1 bonus to Appraise and Bluff checks
Deft Hands, Endurance, Iron Will
+2 bonus to Escape Artist checks
Endurance, Great Fortitude, Toughness
+1 Fortitude saves
Diligent, Great Fortitude, Investigator
+2 bonus to K/religion checks
Dodge, Run, Stealthy
+2 bonus to K/religion checks
Endurance, Self-Sufficient, Weapon Focus
+2 bonus to K/history checks
Combat Casting, Magical Aptitude, Persuasive
+2 K/arcana checks
Endurance, Iron Will, Weapon Focus
+1 Will saves
If you opt to use cultures, then you'll need to use TW backgrounds too. Since the backgrounds in TW were inspired by those in BCCS, there are many parallels. Where it isn't immediately obvious, use the following conversion guide.
Farmer or Laborer (or Peasant from Shadowspawn's Guide to Sanctuary)
Herder or Hunter
There are also some BCCS backgrounds that have no matching background in Thieves' World. Here are some new ones to help you adapt.
Age Modifier: +3
Select two skills from the following: Craft, Disable Device, Knowledge (architecture & engineering), Profession (siege engineer)
You may make a Disable Device check to disable a simple device as a standard action, or an intricate or complex device in 1d3 rounds.
Age Modifier: +0
Select two skills from the following: Disguise, Gather Information, Hide, Move Silently
Gain a +1 bonus to Fortitude saves
Age Modifier: +4
Select two skills from the following: Craft, Knowledge (any one), Survival
Gain Self-Sufficient as a bonus feat.
Age Modifier: +2
Select two skills from the following: Command*, Diplomacy, Intimidate, Ride
*Only if you use the BCCS mass combat system. Otherwise, replace this with Knowledge (history).
Use the officer traits listed in BCCS if you use its mass combat system. Otherwise, officers gain martial proficiency in one weapon and a +1 bonus to Diplomacy and Intimidate checks.
Age Modifier: +0
Select two skills from the following: Appraise, Bluff, Forgery, Sense Motive
Gain one information contact.
Age Modifier: –1
Select two skills from the following: Appraise, Intimidate, Knowledge (local), and Survival
Gain a +1 bonus to Initiative checks.
Age Modifier: +1
Select two skills from the following: Appraise, Disable Device, Knowledge (History), Open Locks, Use Rope
Tomb Robber Traits
You can open a lock as a standard action instead of as a full-round action.
Classes are a bit easier to adapt. All characters in Thieves' World have a Reputation Score. And, the default rules for TW don't use action points. Other than that, the classes should work fine. What's that you say? What about the BCCS Wizard? Well, both classes should work together fine. I'd recommend that you impose a bonus or penalty to Magic Use checks depending on the intensity of the Mana Field, but other than that, I see no reason why the two spellcasters could not interact using the same system.
BCCS Fighters? Well, there really shouldn't be much difficulty here either. If you're using the BCCS mass combat system, leave 'em alone. If not, just use the fighter out of the PHB. For other classes, there shouldn't be too much of a problem. You could hand wave away the differences between the noble classes and you'd be ok. Otherwise, pick one or the other and stick to it.
Now there's no reason why you can't use action points in your TW games. Heck, I probably will once I get my TW campaign cooking. We didn't use them because they add a little too much "cinema" to the setting. But don't let our reservations stop you.
Skills and Feats
OK. I have to admit something. In retrospect, we should have bolted on the Gamble skill to BCCS. It was an oversight, but hey, that's why it's in Thieves' World. Otherwise, reconciling skills should be simple. They work the same, but again, if you're not using the mass combat system, leave out Command and have characters reallocate their skill points. Research can be appropriate to TW, but recall that books are rare in this world and most information is kept in scrolls.
Feats are feats. Some barred feats from BCCS are available again in TW.
There are a few customized aspects of TW that set it apart from straight d20 and BCCS. First, both of these settings have a lower Massive Damage Threshold (MDT). In TW, MDT equal the Con + size modifier (as if to grapple) + armor bonus + natural armor bonus. In BCCS, MDT equals Con + level. Both are low by normal d20 standards, making combats quick and nasty. Black Company also introduces a variety of other rules including Advantage, no negative hit points, grievous injuries, mass combat, and more. Before bridging these two worlds, establish what you plan to keep and what you want to lose.
As I said, magic between the two systems should interact fine. If compromising the tone of either setting isn't an issue, you could use standard magic rules from d20, Thieves' World, or even BCCS as best suits your style of play.
A Bit of Fun
Now, just for grins, lets take an iconic character from each setting and convert him over to the rules of the other. From Black Company, we'll take Croaker. And from Thieves' World, we'll take Shadowspawn (whose stats appear in Shadowspawn's Guide to Sanctuary).
Croaker CR 15
Male offworlder healer savant 7, fighter 8
Medium humanoid (human)
Init +6; Senses Spot +7, Listen +6
Languages Finger Speech, Forsberger (S/W), Jewel Cities (S/W), Archaic Jewel Cities (W), Juniper (S/W), Nyueng Bao (S), Rosean (S/W), Shadowlander (S), Low Taglian (S/W), TelleKurre (W)
AC 16, touch 12, flat-footed 14
hp 71 (16 HD); MDT 14
Fort +6, Ref +4, Will +7
Spd 30 ft. (6 squares)
Melee mwk longsword +15/+10/+5 (1d8+1/19–20)
Melee dagger +14/+9/+3 (1d4+1/19–20)
Ranged mwk composite [+1] longbow +16/+16/+11/+6 (1d8+3/×3)
Base Atk +13; Grp +14
Atk Options Point Blank Shot, Power Attack, Rapid Shot
Abilities Str 13, Dex 15, Con 10, Int 18, Wis 15, Cha 15
SQ good fortune, healing hands, healer traits
Feats Crippler's Eye, Greater Weapon Specialization (composite longbow) B, Improved Initiative, Investigator B, Point Blank Shot, Power Attack B, Precise Shot B, Rapid Shot, Self-Sufficient B, Skill Focus (Heal), Streetwise B, Weapon Focus (composite longbow) B, Weapon Specialization (composite longbow) B
Skills Bluff +12, Climb +7, Decipher Script +40, Diplomacy +6 (+8 scum), Disguise +2 (+4 acting), Forgery +8, Gamble +12, Gather Information +15, Heal +21, Hide +4, Intimidate +12, Jump +7, Knowledge (history) +13, Knowledge (local) +8, Listen +6, Move Silently +4, Profession (soldier) +12, Read Language, Ride +8, Search +14, Sense Motive +14, Speak Language, Spot +7, Survival +4 (+6 follow tracks), Use Magic Device +4 (+6 scrolls)
Possessions combat gear plus chain shirt, masterwork longsword, masterwork composite [+1] longbow with 20 arrows, dagger, healer's kit, 500 sp
Good Fortune (Ex): Croaker re-rolls any failed attack, save or check, once per day.
Healing Hands (Ex): Whenever Croaker successfully stabilizes a dying character, he also cures 1 point of damage. In addition, when performing long-term treatment, he cures an addition 4 points of damage each day.
Healer Traits (Ex): On a successful Heal check, the patient recovers 3 hit points per level or 3 points of ability damage for a full 8 hours of rest or 6 hit points per level or 6 points of ability damage for a full day of rest.
Shadowspawn "Hanse" CR 16
Male thug thief 12, fighter 4
Medium humanoid (human)
Init +10; Senses Spot +10, Listen +15
Allegiances Mignureal, Notable, Moonflower
Languages Speak Wrigglie (Fair), Speak Rankene (Fair), Speak Ilsig (Poor), Trade Tongue (Poor)
AC 19, touch 15, flat-footed 19; improved uncanny dodge, Dodge, Mobility
hp 117 (16 HD); MDT 32
Action Points 12
Fort +9, Ref +9, Will +5
Spd 30 ft. (6 squares)
Melee accurate (×2) deadly short sword +16/+11/+6 (1d6+1/18–20)
Melee accurate dagger +15/+10/+5 (1d4+1/19–20)
Melee dagger +14/+9/+4 (1d4+1/19–20)
Ranged throwing dagger +16/+16/+11/+6 (1d4+1/19–20)
Ranged accurate shuriken +17/+17/+12/+7 (1d2+1)
Base Atk +13; Grp +14
Atk Options Point Blank Shot, Rapid Shot, sneak attack +6d6, Spring Attack
Special Actions demoralizing strike (Will DC 14 or become panicked)
Abilities Str 13, Dex 20, Con 16, Int 18, Wis 15, Cha 14
SQ commander, trap sense +4, trapfinding
Feats Dodge, Exotic Weapon Proficiency (shuriken) B, Improved Initiative, Mobility, Point Blank Shot, Quick Draw, Rapid Shot B, Spring Attack, Toughness B
Skills Appraise +5, Balance +17, Bluff +10, Climb +14 (+16 ropes), Command +4, Diplomacy +2, Disable Device +10, Disguise +10 (+12 acting), Escape Artist +0 (+2 ropes), Gather Information +6, Handle Animal +4, Hide +15, Intimidate +11, Jump +16, Knowledge (local) +8, Listen +15, Move Silently +18, Open Locks +11, Profession (soldier) +6, Search +15, Sleight of Hand +17, Spot +10, Survival +8 (+10 follow tracks), Swim +4, Tumble +17, Use Rope +5
Possessions masterwork (fortified, mastercraft, well-crafted ×3, Move Silently +3) studded leather armor, fine (mastercraft) buckler, exceptional (accurate ×2, deadly) shortsword, fine (accurate) dagger, 2 daggers, 4 throwing daggers, 10 fine shuriken (accurate), climber's kit, disguise kit, fine (well-crafted) thieves' tools, several thousand shaboozh hidden in a well just outside of the city