Adventures in Stormreach
“Xen’drik? Full of nothing but fools and primitives. They wouldn’t know a professional fighting force if it deployed a tactical flanking gambit at high noon.”
—Lieutenant Commander Danforth, Blackwheel Company
Following the gaping hole in military service created by the Treaty of Thronehold, a small corporation formed to take advantage of the military expertise and discipline now lying fallow. Mackinnon “Mace” Maceck, a dwarf entrepreneur and former Cyran battlefield commander, created a transportation and security firm to contract out to the highest bidder. Under his charismatic influence, soldiers, adventurers, and support personnel from every corner of Khorvaire found gainful employment at the end of the war.
The Blackwheel Company began by taking the jobs that no other organization, including the dragonmarked houses, would touch. Clandestine smuggling missions into areas deemed too dangerous to risk valuable house or national resources became the company’s calling card.
As the company grew in reputation and prowess, the dragonmarked houses elected to commandeer this rising military power. A special meeting of the Committee of Twelve (ECS p. 246) was convened, and the houses pooled their resources to essentially buy out the Blackwheel Company. By retaining their services indefinitely and exclusively, the Twelve created for itself a military force that could be deployed anywhere in the world to pursue the magical aims of the council.
As the first order of business, the Twelve dispatched the company to the continent of Xen’drik, where Mace established operations under a new flag—a thirteen-spoked wheel surrounding the motto “United Aim,” symbolizing the shared interests of the Twelve. The group’s current base of operations, a massive airship, provides the company with the mobility and firepower needed to operate in the most inhospitable regions of Xen’drik. The current focus of the company appears to be furthering the arcane research agenda of the Twelve—securing dragonshard deposits, exploring ancient runes, and protecting vital artifacts in and around Stormreach.
JOINING THE COMPANY
Joining the Blackwheel Company is easy for those who are eager to earn coin for their talents. The company’s “no questions asked, no able hire turned away” policy has allowed it to develop an impressively diverse membership. It is not uncommon to see gnoll barbarians and goblin rogues serving side by side with noble dragonmarked heirs. The company’s various undertakings often require divine or arcane spellcasters, as well as specialized “operatives”—it actively recruits alchemists (APG), cavaliers (APG), and members of prestige classes useful to the organization.
Alignment: Any nonchaotic.
Special: Applicants must officially renounce all previous military affiliations and loyalties to undertake service in the company.
The company takes pride in providing its hires with the best in pay and equipment, so attrition is low. In return, the company demands a certain level of professionalism and discipline. This pragmatic organization finds most of its members among those of neutral alignment, but all are welcome. Hires are free to leave the company at any time, though they are stripped of all benefits.
Blackwheel recruiters can be found throughout Stormreach. The company typically maintains at least one storefront recruitment center managed by Lt. Commander Danforth in the Marketplace district for entry level soldier positions. Rather than run hopefuls through an arduous application process, the company tends to accept whatever an applicant has to offer at face value, and assigns him or her out appropriately. With the backing of the dragonmarked houses, the company has no shortage of funds or equipment. Applicants who cannot cut muster are identified within a few days and simply drummed out of service.
Higher-level recruitment is typically handled in a more private, even covert, manner. Some stories tell of uniquely skilled adventurers being blackmailed or otherwise coerced into taking one-off assignments when a company expedition has a particular niche to fill.
The following criteria apply to members of the Blackwheel Company.
|CRITERION||AFFILIATION SCORE MODIFIER|
|Character level||+1 per 2 levels|
|Base attack bonus +5 or higher||+1|
|Former military experience||+1|
|Proficient in all martial weapons||+1|
|Two or more combat-related or tactical feats||+1|
|Member of a dragonmarked house||+2|
|Have dragonmark of any kind||+4|
|Complete a mission on behalf of the Company||+2|
|Uncover information about the Caldyn Fragments||+2|
|Defeat or significantly impede rival operation||+2|
|Disorderly conduct in Stormreach||–1|
|Publicly associate with rival faction member||–2|
|Oppose or offend member of a dragonmarked house||–2|
|Kill another company member||–4|
|Lose or surrender company asset to rival faction||–4|
|Disobey order from a superior officer||–4|
|AFFILIATION SCORE||TITLE: BENEFITS AND DUTIES|
|1–5||Recruit: The Blackwheel Company recognizes you as a member, and you are granted 50 gp/character level for equipment.|
|6–15||Dragoon: 50 gp/month income. +2 circumstance bonus on Survival checks in Xen’drik; +2 circumstance bonus on Diplomacy (gather information) checks in Stormreach. Magic weapon 1/week as spell-like ability. You are assigned to at least one mission per month.|
|16–23||Mace’s Man: 100 gp/month income, plus one-time selection of a single magic weapon of up to 10,000 gp in value from armory. +1 AC bonus when fighting with a company unit. You must command a small squad (2d4 1st-level NPCs) on at least one mission per month.|
|24–29||Field Sergeant: 200 gp/month income, plus selection of one magic item of up to 30,000 gp in value. Grant allies within 20 feet a +1 morale bonus on attack rolls and saving throws. Select one fighter bonus feat. You must organize 1d4 company missions per month, and personally lead one per month.|
|30 or higher||Lieutenant Commander: 400 gp/month income. As long as you hold this rank, you are considered to have the Favored in House feat with one house of your choice and gain a +2 bonus to your Leadership score. You can launch major company missions at your discretion.|
PLAYING A BLACKWHEEL OPERATIVE
There’s a saying among Blackwheel veterans: “No one ever leaves the company.” You know the truth in this, in more ways than one. Blackwheel is the only choice for discerning professionals looking for work in Stormreach. The pay is good, the support and equipment unmatched, and the organization as a whole strong and efficient. In the lawlessness of Stormreach, the company provides structure and security—especially for the new recruit. You know how good you have it. Why would anyone leave?
You’re also aware of another meaning to that wellworn saying, one that tends to apply higher up the Blackwheel hierarchy. Stick around the company long enough, and you will be privy to valuable secrets and information. In many ways, information is a commodity more valuable than gold. Officially, Blackwheel maintains its policy that operatives are free to leave at any time. Unofficially, it’s understood that the company has ways to ensure silence among those who leave service.
For all practical purposes, the Blackwheel Company functions as a paramilitary force within Xen’drik. The company puts a heavy premium on time-tested martial disciplines, which is reflected in the regular training you receive as a company operative.
As such, you rely on conservative, by-the-book military thinking. Advance strategy is always the key, whether preparing for a minor skirmish or outlining a prolonged expedition to the interior. Tactically, you are trained to function within a unit on the battlefield. The company favors small, efficient strike teams in which professionalism and discipline are used to undermine the enemy’s superior numbers or the brute force of Xen’drik’s natural predators. In combat, you are always mindful of being part of a team.
As long as you remain loyal, diligent, and effective, significant advancement opportunities in the Blackwheel Company are all but assured. In constantly expanding its range of operations, the company needs skilled operatives to participate in and eventually lead the various expeditions mandated by the Twelve. Whatever else it might be, the company is a well-organized operation that fairly rewards initiative and achievement.
You might also be recruited from within the company to serve in one of the many “shadow branches” of Blackwheel. By their very nature, little is known of these specialized units, but you can reasonably expect them to deal with internal surveillance, covert missions against rival factions, and safeguarding the company’s most valuable secrets. If you prove yourself trustworthy, especially if you excel in stealth and subterfuge, you might be approached some shadowy evening and invited into the true inner circles of Blackwheel.
Blackwheel is primarily tasked with recovering information and artifacts relating to the Caldyn Fragments of the draconic Prophecy. In this endeavor, the company competes primarily with three other main factions—the Cabal of Shadows, the Covenant of Light, and the Crimson Codex. Most often, this competition involves racing into the wilds of Xen’drik to beat another expedition to a recently uncovered asset.
As the standing private army of the Twelve, Blackwheel might also deploy resources to serve any objective that is in the collective interest of the dragonmarked houses. You might be ordered to raid an outpost of the Crimson Codex, scout for new dragonshard deposits, or serve as protection on a diplomatic mission to the Riedran outpost of Dar Qat.
THE BLACKWHEEL COMPANY IN STORMREACH
“You don’t want to trifle with that table, boyo. They’re with the company, connected at heights you and I can only dream of. . . . “
—Siddarth Khellel, tavernkeeper
The Blackwheel Company is deliberately decentralized in Xen’drik, headquartered in a massive airship called Triskaidekaand designed to mobilize at a moment’s notice. Still, most Blackwheel personnel operate out of Stormreach when not on assignment elsewhere.
Company members in the city largely keep to themselves and are careful not to get embroiled in local disputes. The Twelve make certain arrangements with the Storm Lords (who in turn make arrangements with groups such as the Bilge Rats) to ensure that Blackwheel business is not impeded within the city. The company greases a lot of palms in Stormreach, with its many members requiring services both professional and recreational. On the other hand, its relations with other mercenary and transportation companies are often difficult.
Blackwheel is principally interested in Stormreach as a stable port and de facto base of operations, and the group does not traffic in local politics.
Structure within the Blackwheel Company is militaristic, with clearly defined roles and a chain of command. However, these roles are often mission-specific—depending on the nature and needs of a particular expedition, individual members will sometimes take on different ranks in the chain of command. Blackwheel’s ultimate commander-in-chief is Mace, who values discipline and order above all else.
Blackwheel members who wish to be publicly identified as such typically wear a brooch or pendant with the company’s thirteen-pointed symbol. Because the company is commonly known to be well connected and well funded, members are afforded due respect by merchants and legitimate citizens. On the other hand, petty thieves and thugs might target lone members or small groups for the same reason, hoping to muscle some free coin and worry about the repercussions later.