The Black Company: A black day for art

Green Ronin Wayne Reynolds

When I was in college, circa 1989, my friend Matt was reading the Black Company series by author Glen Cook.  He insisted I read it as well, and so to assuage my newest friend I began a series that eventually took me all the way to the birth of my son in 2006.  Truly, the chronicles of the Black Company are some of the best books I’ve ever read, and so it was with great anticipation that I awaited the D20 release of Green Ronin’s The Black Company RPG.

Produced in 2004 and written by Robert J. Schwalb and Owen K.C. Stephens is an astounding 318 pages rendered in black and white. 

Unfortunately, the world built by Cook is more grit than glitz, and more sword than D&D-esque sorcery, so unless you are truly hardcore into these books, and the setting, this supplement becomes a rather drab waste of shelf space [much like Guardians of Order’s Game of Thrones RPG from the same time period].

Still, you have to give art director Hal Mangold [or producer Chris Pramas] credit in that like their Freeport series, then blew their art budget on artist Wayne Reynolds for the cover.  Wayne, as any gamer could tell you, is the current generations rendition of Larry Elmore, perhaps more so as I’m sure he has now surpassed Elmore in active years as the #1 RPG cover artist of all time.  Simply put, you place a Reynolds on your cover, it sells. 

However, as Green Ronin also did with Freeport, they skimped on interior art as they had already spent their budget. 

The Black Company does have a plethora of artists utilized in the production [nine of them in total] but with so many pages, the art becomes sporadic, unorganized, and without continuity.  Also, none of the young talent used had ‘legs’ for the industry which shows the lack of vision by the art director in choosing ‘up and coming talent’ when filling the pages of this book.   

I once asked Reynolds about this cover and he replied it was perhaps his least favorite work ever placed on n RPG [which is saying something considering how much he hates the cover of L3 Deep Dwarven Delve]. 

With all the above taken into account, I can’t give this book a very high rating, and on all counts it fails to deliver.

Artistic Rating: 2.5 [out of 5]

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