[Let’s Study: Symbaroum Part 6] GM Chapters and Conclusion


The GM Guide of Symbaroum is broken up into several chapters, each one geared to helping the Game Master better run games set in the dark fantasy world of Symbaroum.

Game Master’s Rules

This covers some basic rules that haven’t been explained in the Player’s Rules from the prior book. One particularly important spot would be the Corruption rules. I suppose it’s up to the Game Master to determine just how transparent he’d like to be about how Corruption works in his world, but some might feel that it enforces the horror of the setting to just hold back on the details and let their players figure it out in play.

Campaign Rules

This section deals with the rules governing travel and random encounters in areas in Davokar. The economy and some rules with Artifacts are also given some attention here.


This is more of an advice chapter than a rules one, with handy bits of good-to-know information with regards to how to run adventures in Symbaroum, using two “modes”: The Classic Adventure, which is more structured around a story, and the “Landscape” which is a sandbox where various elements are let loose and the player characters are free to interact (and meddle) with them however they will.

Monsters & Adversaries

This is the bestiary of the game, and reveals quite a few of the nasties found in Davokar, as well as having stats for more “mundane” threats in the cities. Monsters have their own special Traits, from Poisonous to Corrupted Blood. I’m actually a little worried about what kind of threats to send my players. Certainly a team of four adventurers can handle a lot, but something like a Blight Beast could very well take a few of them with it!

The Promised Land

This is a sample adventure that could be used to open a campaign of Symbaroum. As an opening, it does tend to favor playing Ambrian humans quite a bit, so the GM will have to work with players to justify Changeling, Ogre or Goblin characters, as well as having a Barbarian in the team.

That said, it’s a sound opening, and I do plan to run this as the beginning of my own adventures for Symbaroum.


Where other games look to try to make their dark fantasy repulsive by adding more gore, Symbaroum manages to get away by being Romantic (in the literary sense of the word.) It doesn’t go for the gross out, but rather delves into the implied horrors of the past, and how it echoes into the present.

In many ways, this careful treatment of the entire feel of the game is Symbaroum’s greatest achievement, as adventurers seek fame and fortune knowing that their journey is one doomed to suffering. It’s not that people can’t win, it’s just that they have to be prepared to understand what winning will cost them.


The systems in Symbaroum are easy to learn, and cover all the things you need to feel like a competent adventurer. The lack of actual classes, and the freedom to choose your abilities is a big plus, as every character is unique.

Combat is quick and deadly, and getting hurt feels like a major risk. While player characters might have their own advantages over the enemy, it rarely feels like they’re always going to win.

Layout and Artwork

The game is gorgeous, featuring superb artwork, each one of which is an inspiration for a scene in a game. The layout is friendly and easy to read, and breaking things down into three books makes it readable and easy to digest.


I suppose my only concerns would be that some of the rules are tucked away at odd spaces. Reading it from cover-to-cover mitigates this, but sometimes it’s hard to quickly look things up. Thankfully the simplicity of the system means you don’t really miss out on too much.


In a hobby already oversaturated with grimdark fantasy, Symbaroum manages to weave together a compelling setting with stunning visuals and a seamless, easy to learn system and come up with a product that doesn’t just work, it sings.

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

[Let’s Study: Symbaroum Part 5] Mystical Traditions, Magic and Ritual


Before we move on to the GM Rulebook for Symbaroum, we’re taking a look at the Mystical Traditions that exist in the societies of Ambria and Davokar, as well as the various spells and rituals that exist within them.

Mystical Traditions

Symabaroum is a magical setting. However, magic itself has been corrupted, and those untrained in it’s use expose themselves to corruption simply by tapping into the latent energies of magic. However, Magical Traditions are studies that have been able to reduce the effect of corruption among spellcasters.

The traditions in the core book include: Theurgy (powers of the Faith), Sorcery (powers from Corruption), Witchcraft (powers from Life and Nature), and Wizardry (powers from disciplined Study).

Each of these traditions are given a short writeup, and are pretty flavorful. They also have a section each on the sort of powers they wield, rituals they perform and how they view Corruption.

A fifth faction of Independent Mystics exist, but that’s more of a catch-all for the untrained, whose advantage lies in being able to study and cast spells from all the prior four without limitations, but subject to more Corruption.

Mystical Powers and Rituals

The next chapter of the book goes into descriptions of the various Mystical Powers and Rituals open to each of the Traditions. Mystical Abilities are formatted in the same way as standard Abilities, with Novice, Adept and Master levels that show the depth of skill of the caster.

Rituals on the other hand are time-consuming spells with various uses that don’t have the immediacy of Mystical Powers but are very handy for investigative purposes. These range from Clairvoyance to Commanding Confessions, and each of the Traditions sports some very interesting Rituals.

Symbaroum’s magic system is easy to understand, and very flavorful. Each Tradition brings a unique form of casting to the table, and there’s room for multiple spellcasters in any party. Given the nature of the things in Davokar (and even the human opponents that can be found in Thistle Hold, Karvosti or Yndaros) having some magical ability in your party can only be a good thing.

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

[Let’s Study: Symbaroum Part 4] Combat


Now that we’ve got ourselves a fairly robust starting character in the form of Karlio from our previous post, let’s see how he does in a standard combat against one of the many, many threats of Symbaroum: a bandit.


Stat-wise a bandit (or Robber in this case) has high Vigilant and Discreet stats, while having only a middle-of-the road Accurate rating. Still, there’s no point in underestimating any fight in Symbaroum.

That said, let’s take on a stereotypical scenario just to give context to this matchup:

Karlio is returning from a quick visit to the Davokar and is hurrying his way back to Thistle Hold, hoping to make it inside the gates before nightfall. His hopes of being able to get there without delay were shot down however, as a wiry looking man with missing teeth stopped him along the road, brandishing a rusty sword.

“Oi, you there, hand over your money and nobody has to get hurt.”

Karlio, being no stranger to violence, gave a sigh as he drew his blade, “Let’s just get on with it. You’ll be just another corpse on the roadside for the crows to feast on.”

Turn Order

The character with the highest Quick can choose to go first or to wait. Surprisingly Karlio has a higher Quick score of 11, and decides to go first.


Characters in Symbaroum are able to Perform Combat Actions, Movement Actions, Reactions and Free Actions.

Being without a ready weapon, Karlio decides to be careful and spend his Combat Action readying his sword, as well as his shield.

The Robber then takes his action, spending his Movement action to close the distance between him and Karlio and then attacks!

This is resolved by a [Defense <- Accurate] Test, meaning that Karlio rolls his Defense modified by the Robber’s Accurate. Karlio’s Defense is 11, +2 for his Shield Fighter Bonus. The Robber’s Accurate has a modifier of 0, meaning Karlio needs to roll a 13 or Less to avoid harm.

Karlio’s player rolls a 3!

Karlio swats aside the Robber’s sword-strike with his shield in an almost negligent shrug.

Turn order then comes back around to Karlio, who makes an attack of his own, swinging his sword down over the Robber’s shoulder!

Karlio’s attack is an [Accurate <-Defense] roll, with Karlio’s Accurate being 13, and the Robber’s terrible Defense of +4, bringing Karlio’s target number up to 17! Karlio rolls a 14, hitting the Robber on the shoulder with his blade.


Normally, a one-handed sword like the one Karlio uses has a damage rating of 1d8. But thanks to his Shield Fighter Ability, it now counts as 1d10. Karlio’s player rolls a 7, which is then reduced by the Robber’s Crow Armor value of 3, bringing the damage down to 4.

This is then deducted from the Robber’s own Toughness, bringing him down from 11 to 7 instead. Definitely wounded, but still far from dead!

Karlio’s attack was savage, but the Robber’s last minute parry was able to soften the blow somewhat, saving his life as he staggered backwards, sporting a bloody gash on his shoulder, with some white of his collarbone peeking through.

He counter-attacks with the ferocity only a hungry and desperate man could muster!

Again, Karlio’s player has to roll his defense, and scores a 12, just barely enough to avoid the Robber’s blade.

Taken aback by his opponent’s rabid aggression, Karlio barely parries the robber, before stepping forward to try and run him through!

Karlio’s player then rolls his attack once more, hoping to put an end to this!

Karlio’s player rolls an 8, scoring a hit! His damage roll for his one-handed sword rolls a 9, which is then reduced by armor to 6!

Scoring damage to meet a target’s Pain Threshold opens up two options for Karlio: 1) He may choose to knock the target to the ground, or 2) take an extra Free Attack on the target. Reluctant to let the fight go any longer, Karlio decides to finish the job!

He makes a second attack roll, scoring a 17 (just barely a hit) and damage of 7.

Karlio drives his blade into the Robber’s gut, blade finding a space between the man’s armor. Not bothering to pull it free, Karlio twists the blade  and slices horizontally, along the robber’s armor, until he sees the life fade from the other man’s eyes.

As you can see, combat in Symbaroum is pretty dangerous. Karlio has the advantage of having strong Defense and decent armor, but a few lucky rolls could have meant the difference between survival or being food for the crows.

I imagine that fighting multiple opponents would be very dangerous as the Advantage mechanic for Symbaroum grants a +2 bonus to Success Tests and a 1d4 bonus to damage! So if Karlio were to go up against two Robbers instead, they’d likely flank him and whittle him down that way.

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

[Let’s Study: Symbaroum Part 3] Character Creation

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We’re at book 2 of Symbaroum, after having had a chance to absorb a bit about the setting of the game it’s finally time to make our character.


One of the earliest bits of the Player’s section of the game talks about is having Goals. This is a neat little thing as it ties in nicely to the fact that Symbaroum feels a bit sandbox, and that it relies on the initiative, drive, and determination of the players to make things happen. People don’t just sit on their thumbs all day waiting for a Mysterious Stranger(tm) to walk through the door and declare a need for adventurers after all!

These goals define what it is that a character wants to achieve. A couple of goals suggested by the game include: Restore your family’s honour, become leader of a guild, chapter or an organisation, or take revenge upon a person or creature.

It’s a neat way to tie a character into the setting by giving them stakes right away.

The game also suggests having Goals for the group, just so everyone has a reason to work together. Whether it’s glory, coin or a higher purpose. The game also gives a few examples for these like: Lead a large group of people to safety, establish an organisation together or overthrow a leader.

Goals don’t always have to be epic, it could just very well be the next step in a bigger plan. What matters is that you give your group a direction to go.


Characters come from three archetypal backgrounds: Warrior, Mystic and Rogue. Each of these specialises in a different way of engaging with the world and game-wise it gives everyone a chance to shine.

For today let’s go with a standard Warrior Archetype.

Looking it up I see that there are further options. Among these I choose to go for Sellsword. This suggests that I take the following abilities: Iron Fist, Man-at-arms, Polearm Mastery, Shield Fighter


Characters in Symbaroum are defined by their eight Attributes: Accurate, Cunning, Discreet, Persuasive, Quick, Resolute, Strong and Vigilant. In the game, the player rolls a d20 and compares the result with the value of one of the Attribute. If the outcome of the roll is equal to or less than the Attribute, then the test is successful.

There are two ways to generate Attributes in the game: an Array Distribution (with adjustments), and Point Buy. For this example let’s go with the Array where we assign the following values: 5, 7, 9, 10, 10 , 11, 13, 15

Accurate 13
Cunning 5
Discreet 7
Persuasive 10
Quick 11
Resolute 10
Strong 15
Vigilant 9

We’re definitely looking at a beefy guy with more brawn than brain, but does have a way about him that makes him somewhat likeable given his middle of the road Persuasive stat.

From this, we now derive his secondary attributes:

Toughness (= Strong): 15
Pain Threshold (Strong / 2): 8
Defense (Quick -Armor): 11
Corruption Threshold (Resolute / 2) 5

Success Tests

A quick segue into systems. While I mentioned the basic die roll of d20 vs Attribute. However when the roll is opposed by another character, this roll is modified by a value set by the opposing characters’ Defense. If the Defense Attribute is low (like 5) then the roll gets a bonus of +5, while high Defense Attributes like 15 apply a -5 penalty to the roll.


For my character’s Race (and Name) I’m going for a Ambrian Human, which gives me access to either Contacts or Privileged traits.

Looking up the Ambrian Names, I think I’ll go for the male name “Karlio”


Starting characters get an option of having two Abilities or Powers at Novice Level, and one at Adept, but also have the option of starting with five abilities at Novice and no Adept level abilities instead.

For Karlio, I’ve decided on taking the standard Two Novice and one Adept

  • Shield Fighter (Novice) – The damage dealt by weapons held in the character’s sword arm is increased by one step; to 1D10 if the character fights with a single-handed weapon or to 1D8 if using a Short wea – pon. The novice Shield Fighter also wields its shield as an instrument of protection with greater efficiency and therefore receives a +2 Defense bonus instead of the usual +1 when using a shield.
  • Recovery (Novice) – Active. With a successful die roll against Resolute, the character regains 1D4 Toughness. Multiple attempts can be made, but only one successful attempt is allowed per day.
  • Man-at-Arms (Novice) – Passive. The character knows how to use its armor for maximum effect, which increases the armor’s Armor tier by one step: light armor protects 1D6, medium armor protects 1D8 and heavy armor protects 1D10.
  • Man at arms (Adept) – Passive. The character is used to wearing armor and can adapt his or hers actions to its limitations. The armor no longer has a negative effect on Quick or abilities based on Quick (including Defense). The Impeding quality of the armor still has a negative effect when using mystical powers.

With this, Karlio is one tough cookie.


Every character in Symbaroum has a Shadow (not that shadow, silly, a big “S” Shadow) which represents their spiritual connection to nature or civilisation.  In Karlio’s case, he’s a city boy of moderate standing, so I’m making his Shadow that of Copper, one that could tarnish into a sickly green with Corruption, or a different shade as his connection to Davokar improves.


Karlio begins with Medium Armor and a Shield thanks to his Abilities. For a weapon he starts with a sturdy one-handed sword and a dagger.

He also starts with 5 thaler in his purse.

And that’s it! With that Karlio is complete.

Symbaroum’s character creation system is quick and easy, and the Abilities are really fun to look into. There’s a lot of room for character customisation here, and I’m glad that it’s easy to make characters while being able to retain the kind of mood that fits such an atmospheric setting.

Next up we’ll take a look at the Combat mechanics, as we toss Karlio into a fight!

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

[Let’s Study: Symbaroum Part 2b] Factions, Davokar, Thistle Hold, Yndaros and Karvosti

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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!

[Let’s Study: Symbaroum Part 2a] Setting and History

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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!

[Let’s Study: Symbaroum Part 1] Introduction


I’ve been on quite the European RPG binge lately, enjoying titles like Mutant: Year Zero, Degenesis: Rebirth, and now Symbaroum.

Symbaroum is a dark fantasy RPG from Team Jarnringen that has been translated into English. Set in a grim dark fantasy realm of Ambria and the forest of Davokar, the game presents a region ripe for adventuring and exploration.

Rather than present the players with a sprawling continent with multiple biomes and vast empires, Symbaroum zooms into a section of the continent to present it in a way that affords the designers to really delve into the nuances of the setting and its people.

While not a novel idea, it’s one that I appreciate as many designers really get to show off their skill when it comes to being given restrictions. I’m looking forward to seeing how well they deal with it in my succeeding entries to this Let’s Study series.

The book itself is divided into three parts. Part 1 deals with the setting, giving us a look at the realm of Ambria and the forest of Davokar. We’ll see the history, geography and people of the region, as well as the conflicts between them.

Part 2 is the Player’s Guide, which contains player character creation rules, and game rules that players should be familiar with, such as the basic mechanics and combat.

Part 3 is the GM section, a coverage of more specific rules and guidelines on how to create adventures and a section with a bestiary and adversaries that players may encounter.

Being from a tropical country like the Philippines, the concept of a dark fantasy RPG with a huge emphasis on a Forest as a major component of environmental conflict is intriguing to me, and I’m definitely looking forward to having Symbaroum impress me.

Next up, we’ll be tackling the setting 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

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