Archive for the ‘Let’s Study’ Category

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Hello again! After a lengthy absence, I’m back to blogging, taking on the rest of Book 1 of Symbaroum with a quick glance at the rest of the setting chapters.


The Factions Chapter is a compelling read. Given the boundaries of having to cram a small slice of a world with as much detail as they can, Symbaroum proceeds to show how to do so with style.

The factions are presented in short, but evocative write-ups, detailing their history and mandate, along with a few details that add a lot of colour to each of the groups, whether it’s the political leanings of a  particular noble line, to details of the Knighthood of the Church of Prios are arranged.

Add to this that the major factions also have a sidebar that talk about key personalities and you get a great glimpse of the complex (and volatile) nature of the politics of Symbaroum.


The next section deals with the nature of Davokar Forest. Being the key location for many adventures set in Symbaroum, Davokar’s chapter is less about maps and monsters and detail as much as it is about imparting the mood of exploring such a mysterious and ancient wonder, and the fact that every journey there is fraught with danger.

Further details on Davokar will be discussed in the GM chapters.

Thistle Hold, Yndaros and Karvosti

I’m tackling all three (perhaps unfairly) because each of these primary locations of Symbaroum share similar formats. Each is given a background of their founding, a description of their layout and features, and a discussion of the key personalities or factions that call each place home.

Among these are sidebars that discuss small bits of legend that add a great deal of flavour. Furthermore, each has a distinct flavour. Thistle Hold has a real “Gateway to adventure” sort of feel, while Yndaros is more stately and established, while Karvosti is savage and different from the lifestyles of those who came from a more “civilised” background.

I would be remiss if I didn’t add that each of these chapters also sports a beautiful map of each of the locations.

In our next entry in this series we’ll tackle the Player’s Guide, and put together a character for Symbaroum!

For those interested in checking it out and following along, you can purchase Symbaroum on PDF over at DriveThruRPG for only $18.99

Also, Team Järnringen is holding a Kickstarter campaign for Symbaroum Karvosti: The Witch Hammer, their latest book for Symbaroum. Go check it out!

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After quite the hearty greeting, the book douses whatever warmth was in the opening with a dose of cold reality.

The game is set in “the region that in ancient times was ruled by the civilisation of Symbaroum – an empire that by all accounts was advanced in the areas of architecture, spirituality, magical schooling and the arts; a culture that without doubt suffered a both rapid and brutal downfall.”


This section begins with a fascinating image: after two decades of suffering and strife against the hungry hordes of the Dark Lords, the Great War was over. But the realm was in a truly sorry state: thousands had died, countless people were maimed and broken, and the land itself was ravaged by death magic.

The young Queen was rescued from the Dark Lords, but she returned as a shadow of her former self, a mask covering her once radiant smile.

Twenty-one years after the Dark Lords were vanquished, and the Queen was forced to lead her people to safer grounds, heading north of the mountain range called the Titans lay the ancestral home of her people. It was time for Queen Korinthia to claim her birthright.

For centuries that region had been under the control of warring barbarian clans, but Queen Korinthia’s forces took over after a three day siege and established the realm of Ambria, “the Shining”. Slaves and prisoners were almost immediately put to work on constructing the capital of Yndaros.

Over the next few years, the nobles of Ambria had begun to plan new conquests beyond the original borders of this new realm, and Lasifor Nightpitch, the uncrowned king of Ambria’s treasure-hunters established the town of Thistle Hold. Since then, the walled settlement of Mayor Nightpitch has served as a safe haven for Ambrians exploring Davokar, a forest full of natural resources and rich remnants of long lost civilisations; also a forest full of rampant abominations, dark-minded creatures of otherworldly origins and a band of wardens most unwilling to welcome the damages done by human explorers.

I have to admit that the history section is one that was a refreshing change from the usual. The idea of being in a region in a state of reconstruction after a terrifying war is intriguing, and immediately answers the question as to why such a place would require adventurers… and more importantly, why Davokar would serve to be such a prized target of expeditions, despite the horrors that lay within.

Next up, we’ll continue with the setting section with a look at the Factions of Symbaroum.

For those interested in checking it out and following along, you can purchase Symbaroum on PDF over at DriveThruRPG for only $18.99

Also, Team Järnringen is holding a Kickstarter campaign for Symbaroum Karvosti: The Witch Hammer, their latest book for Symbaroum. Go check it out!

What’s a decent Space Opera without spaceship and space travel, aye?

Coriolis knows full well that to truly claim ownership of this genre, you need to have everything from different kinds of spaceships, to harrowing space dog-fights and all the other troubles that spacefaring adventurers get into.

Star Travel in The Third Horizon is a fairly straightforward affair, with a network of portals linking star systems that allow spaceships to make jumps that shave off an enormous amount of time.

There’s a whole lot of controls and protocols for making a jump, as these are busy commercial lanes that are used every day in The Third Horizon. That said, making a jump is a complicated affair, with heavy fees levied for the coordinates for a reasonably safe jump.

Poorer pilots will have to make do with their own calculations, or even Jump blind, which will likely entail a much bigger margin of error leading to any number of misadventures.

Creating Your Ship

Ship creation is one of those quiet pleasures of a Sci-fi game. Unlike fantasy settings there’s something about being able to create a craft (or in some games, a mech) that truly belongs to your character.

Coriolis’ ship creation system is a template based one, and we’ll be going over the steps as we attempt to put together a decent ship worthy of a group of Free Traders.

Decide what kind of ship you need

The book recommends a Class III vessel as standard for most adventuring groups. Given that I’m looking at a Free Trader group concept, a Small Courier ship sounds like a good deal.

At this point the group also chooses which Shipyard their craft came from. This choice modifies the base stats of the ship.

After looking it over, Chelebs Shipyard sounds fun, with “Beautiful, lean and fast ships” +1 to Maneuverability, but +1 to Signature and +5% to base price.

Looking over the Ship Classes Table, here’s what the stats look like do far:

Maneuver +1, Modules: 10, EP 5, HP 6, Signature +1, Armor 5, Speed 2 for a price of 1,050,000 birr

The Ship’s Problem

Here’s a fun detail. Every ship has it’s own problem, one that the GM can trigger to make life more interesting with Darkness Points.

After looking over the available problems I figure this one sounded the most amusing (or infuriating)

Eccentric Ship Intelligence: When the problem is activated, the intelligence will refuse to perform a  specific task and instead begin to protest loudly over the ship’s intercom. The effect lasts during a combat encounter, or a few hours.


A ship has a number of modules that perform certain functions. There are three required modules in a ship: The Bridge, the Reactor and the Graviton Projector.

Looking over the available modules, I decide on the following:

  • Salvage Station
  • Docking Station
  • Cabins – Standard
  • Cargo Hold
  • Medlab
  • Service Station
  • Smuggler’s Stash

This ups my ship’s cost by another 160,000 Birr


Next up in creating a ship is picking out its features. Ships in the game start with 3 features, but more can be added later. For the ship, I go for:

Sensitive Sensors
Gives +1 to all sensor rolls +10% cost

Ship Intelligence
Versatile AI, all attribute scores 1, relevant skill levels 3 +30% cost

Tuned Accelerator
Bonus +2 to the advance / retreat action +10% cost

This brings my ship total to hefty 1,815,000 birr, definitely not a cheap ship, and possibly why we’re running away from the Syndicate to begin with.

Coriolis definitely has enough systems and forethought to come up with unique ships with funny (and appropriate) problems that will make for a memorable time in space. I can definitely see the advantage of doing this as a group as everyone has their own chance to contribute to the ship’s final appearance and personality

Next up, a quick look at the setting, maybe a sample combat if I can fit it into my schedule and then my thoughts on Coriolis as a whole!

It’s been a little bit of time since Part 1 of this series but let’s get back into the thick of things with a look at Character Creation in Coriolis


Image from Fouad Magdoul Photography

Building a Group

With a world as expansive as Coriolis, and with so many opportunities for different kinds of adventure, it becomes necessary for the GM to focus on a particular portion of Coriolis as the basis of his games. This is done when the players all gather and form a group of player characters.

We begin by picking a group concept, the game has an offering of the following: Free Traders, Mercenaries, Explorers, Agents and Pilgrims. These are broad concepts, which are open to a lot of wiggle room for character concept to fit in. Each concept helps narrow down the kinds of adventures you’d run into in each game.

Once you’ve got a concept, it’s time to move on and put together your spaceship. In Coriolis, the group begins with a ship, preferably one suited to the group concept. This can be chosen from a list of pregens, or the players can work on making their own ship from scratch with the ship creation rules. In either case, starting with a ship isn’t cheap, so every Coriolis group begins in debt.

Debt is calculated as half of the ship’s original value. Who you owe is up to the players to figure out. Whether it’s their patron, some other NPC or even their nemesis! Players are expected to pay back about 5% of their total debt per year in monthly payments. It’s a quick and easy way to make certain that players keep taking on jobs

The players also get to pick or create their own Patron and Nemesis. These are pretty much self explanatory, and the book is helpful enough to grant a list of potential Patron and Nemesis concepts to use per group concept.

The Character

With the concept out of the way, we can look at Character Creation in earnest. This is a fairly straightforward process with a few random rolls on tables as an option if you want to mix it up a bit.

Choose your Background

The first step is to choose a background for a character. This means deciding if they character is among the Firstcome or a Zenithian. Each one has a different outlook on the world, so being able to make a decision here can help ease the way you think of the character as you develop them.

For our sample character in this exercise, let’s go with a Zenithian trader for a Group with the Free Trader Concept. He’s more adventurous, and perhaps a little less pious, but has a healthy respect for other people’s cultures if it means he can turn around a quick buck.

Choose your Upbringing

At this point we choose from 3 options of Upbringing: Plebian, Stationary or Privileged. Plebians are the lower class of the Horizon. People who were raised on major space stations are called Stationary. The Privileged are the highest of the social strata. Your Upbringing influences many aspects of your character, including attributes, skills and Reputation score at the start of the game, as well as the starting capital.

With our sample character, let’s go with Stationary, he was raised on a space station, and that means he’s somewhere in the middle. According to the table for reference, our character begins with 14 attribute points, 10 skill points, 4 reputation and 1,000 birr.

Choose Concept

Concepts affect the attributes, skills and talents that I can pick from, some gear and relationships and personal problems.

I’ve already sort of got the whole trader idea in mind, so I’m picking the Negotiator Concept, with the Peddler Sub-Concept. Flipping over to the various Concept descriptions, I’ve got the following:

Peddler – You scheme and deal in anything from frozen goats to Kuan hardwood. Profit is your imperative, and birr jingling in your pockets make you truly happy. You could be a free trader, an import mogul, or a dabra of a souk. Or you could be working from the shadows as a smuggler or a fence for the Syndicate.

Name: Radwa
Reputation +1

Key Attribute: Empathy
Concept Skills: (Peddler) Culture, Manipulation, Observation, Pilot

Appearance: Face full of stubble, wearing a black caftan

Talents: Faction Standing

Personal Problem: You owe money to the Syndicate. They want it back. Now.

Relationships to the other PCs: ____ is good with words. You respect that.

Gear: Tabula, Com Link V, Exquisite Clothing, Language Unit, Mercurium dagger

Assign Attributes

Characters in Coriolis have 4 attributes: Strength, Agility, Wits and Empathy. These should have a minimum of 2 points assigned to them and a maximum of 4 points, except for your Key attribute, which is allowed to go up to 5.

Given a pool of 14 points, I’m going to go ahead and spend his attributes points this way:

Strength 2
Agility 3
Wits 4
Empathy 5

Hit Points and Mind Points determine just how much punishment  a character’s body and mind can take. HP is equal to Strength + Agility, while MP is Wits + Empathy.

This gives me 5 HP and 9 MP. I guess Radwa had better stay away from combat!

Assign Skills

Skills work in tandem with attributes to determine how well a character can do in the game. Skills range from 0 to 5 with the higher being better. Concept skills can be raised up to a maximum of 3, while other skills are capped to 1.

As a Stationary, Radwa begins with 10 points to assign to skills. His Concept skills are: Culture, Manipulation, Observation and Pilot

Given his background and concept, I think I’ll give Radwa the following:

Agility: 1
Culture: 2
Infiltration: 1
Manipulation: 2
Observation: 2
Pilot: 2

Determine Talents

Now that we have Radwa’s basics down, let’s take a look at his talents. New characters begin the game with 3 talents. These are determined by several factors, including the Group Concept, and the Icon your character is born under.

Rolling randomly, I get a result of 33, leading to… The Merchant Icon. Fancy that.

In the absence of an actual group, let’s just say that Radwa’s Group Talent pick is:

Everything Is For Sale
You have a knack for finding the most corrupt public servants, toll officers or guards, and always get a +2 Manipulation when you are bribing someone.

For his Icon Talent, Radwa gets:

The Merchant’s Talent
You can find a favorable loan enabling you to purchase an expensive object or ship module. The loan must then be paid back within the agreed upon timeframe.

Finally for General Talent, I have:

Faction Standing
You belong to a faction or gang and can use its reputation to get a +2 Manipulation when trying to scare or threaten someone – given that the person you are threatening knows of the faction, and the the faction has some influence in the location where you are.

Crew Position

The last part is picking out the crew position. Given his proficiency at piloting, I’m thinking that Radwa would make a good Pilot.

Overall character creation is a fairly straightforward process with a few lookups, but nothing approaching the level of Exalted 3rd Editions Charm Lists. The small templates that they give you to work with are surprisingly robust, and I enjoy the small plot hooks baked right into the characters from the beginning.

Next Up, we’ll take a look at the game mechanics behind Coriolis!

beast logo

Today we begin our look at the latest in Onyx Path’s Chronicles of Darkness core books, a game called Beast: the Primordial.

Here’s a quick look at their marketing blurb:

You are one of the Begotten, the living embodiment of a primal nightmare of humanity. Your soul, your Horror, is a monstrous creature – maybe something that humanity dreamed and wrote down and still speaks of in legends, or maybe some outlandish horror that no living person has ever seen.

You are a Beast, and you must feed. Your Hunger drives you, and your Hunger might damn you. Indulge too lightly and your Horror will take matters into its own hands, roaming the Primordial Dream for sustenance and awakening murderous hatred in spiritually weak individuals. Feed too deeply and too often, and you become sluggish, sacrificing the raw edge of Hunger for the languor of Satiety. You must decide how to grow your Legend – will you be the monster incarnate, the thing that all other monsters fear? Or are you doomed to die under a Hero’s sword?


Like a lot of the denizens of the Chronicles of Darkness, Beast assumes that you were once human, but were irrevocably changed by a harrowing experience.

The humans that become Beasts remember their mortal lives as being constantly under the effect of terrible nightmares. These were not simply bad dreams, but a glimpse of the things that existed in the Primordial Dream. These Horrors are the monsters of legend, and they have offered you a chance to become one of them and guide humanity to wisdom.

By agreeing to them, your soul was Devoured, and you awake not as a human, but as a Beast.


Being a Beast isn’t easy. As a creature that feeds on fear (and certain rarefied forms of fear at that,) you walk a tightrope between starvation and becoming overly full. Each of these states changes the way your powers work, and influence what options you have in terms of actions you can take.


Beasts believe that their role in the world is to serve as humanity’s teachers. Like the monsters in cautionary tales, the Beasts strike fear into humanity to hammer home lessons of solidarity, safety, common sense. Behaviors that have served mankind well enough to live this long.

This is not to say that the Beasts are benevolent. Instead their lessons are brutal, painful and traumatic. Their lessons are for humanity at large, not for single victims, after all.


Because of the Beast’s activities, mankind reacts in the form of heroes. These are unhinged individuals who

have developed a violent obsession to the idea of killing Beasts.


Beasts are nightmares made flesh, and this manifests in their powers as well. They have the inherent ability to create Nightmare, calling upon primal fears to terrorize and harm their victims. These take the form of daymares that can physically injure those experiencing them.


Beasts also manifest Atavisms, where a Beast is able to bring out a fraction of their Horror’s nature to the real world. This can be a manifestation on the Beast’s body or their surroundings, and is often very disconcerting to victims of such… assuming they survive the experience.

Overall, Beast: the Primordial paints an interesting picture and an admittedly creepy premise. Much like Demons, Beasts are NOT nice people, and while they might couch the benefits of their existence to humanity (via the wisdom and teaching angle) there’s nothing to justify what they do.

Beasts are perhaps among the most monstrous of the Chronicles of Darkness line and already I can feel it hitting the very edge of my comfort zone. But let’s forge ahead and find out more about them in our next entry which will deal with Families and Hungers.

Interested in checking out Beast: the Primordial? You can grab a PDF for only $19.99 over at DriveThruRPG!