Friday, 11 December 2015

First Impressions: Symbaroum

Davokar calls

This is a review of the new swedish roleplaying game Symbaroum, recently translated to english. It isn't often that the mainstream roleplaying scene gets to experience European RPG-s, which is why I will try my best to give an in-depth first impressions and info dump, so I can share with you the dark and unnervingly beautiful world that is Symbaroum.

A witch with her Colossi

My introduction to Symbaroum
"And the day dawned..."

About the middle of last year a swedish friend of mine got me hyped for an upcoming roleplaying game Symbaroum. He does this quite often, and for what purpose, I have no idea why is he doing this, as I do not speak swedish, therefore I cannot enjoy the multitude of quality games they have overthere. Nevertheless, he made me look at the gorgeous artwork, and then he talked in great detail about the intriguing world. A unique, low-magic fantasy game, set in a dark and gritty world. So far I was sold on the idea, but I still couldn't talk swedish, however my friend was kind enough to run a short solo adventure for me, and with his roughly translated character creation rules, I started exploring the game.
Not long after, I have heard that Järnringen, the creators of the game, due to the success of the swedish release are planning an english translation.
I anxiously tracked the progress of the indiegogo campaign, one that I couldn't support due to my financial background at the time. During the fundraiser I have talked with the Järnringen staff several times, and I have to say, they were really nice guys, and answered all my worries and questions quickly. Really swell people those guys are.
The campaign ended successfully and a few weeks ago the english translation was done, and I am now the proud owner of a copy. You can get one yourself on DriveThroughRpg.

Thistle Keep, a hub for those who wish to venture into Davokar

The Mechanics

I am a pretty mechanically geared player. I enjoy learning about new systems, and interesting or elegant solutions. For me, enjoying a game is equally about the crunch and the fluff. Now Symbaroum is not a complicated game, quite the contrary, it is very simple, but in a good way. I will get into more detail after a few I've ran a few games, but here are the basics of Symbaroum in a few points

- It is a d20 based, roll under your relevant attribute based system. The roll is modified by the target's relevant attribute, or the difficulty of the task.
- It is a class-less, level-less system.
- Character generation is easy and fast. Players need to pick a race (out of 5 possible options) and a handful of abilities (more on that below), generate attribute scores, and pick out starting equipment. Done. 
- Combat is fast paced and short.
- Only the players roll dice. The players handle all the dice rolls in the game.
- It is deadly. Player characters don't walk around with a bloat of hitpoints, and healing is hard to come by. Your actions have consequences and you WILL think before you get into a fight.
- Instead of skills characters have access to abilities. Each ability has three tiers, and every tier allows the character to do something previously unavailable. Abilities do NOT modify the chance of success; rather, they have an effect on the result.
- Magic is powerful, but has serious consequences. (notice a pattern here?)

Now of course, more could be said about the system, and how it works, the types of magic available, and I will in the eventual review, however, you can see that while the game is not overly complicated, and has elements from both old-school (deadliness and dice mechanic) and new age (players only dice) roleplaying. It is a wonderful, easy to pick up (I could play it without actually having a rulebook, and the rules only having been explained to me in a few minutes), yet challenging and intriguing game.

Ogres are mighty creatures who wander out of Davokar as adults, but with no memory of who they are

The Setting

Now we come to the real strength of Symbaroum. While the mechanics are easy to use and remember, there is nothing groundbreaking found there. However, Symbaroum has a beautifully alluring world.
Unlike many other RPG-s, the setting of Symbaroum is not a whole planet or even a continent, rather, it revolves around the mysterious and dark forest of Davokar, and the newly built Ambrian kingdom on her fringes.

According to the legends, an ancient empire, called Symbaroum has fallen, and nothing remains but the ruins of their civilization deep in Dark Davokar, a magical forest filled with creatures afflicted with Blight, vicious beasts and bloodthirsty elves. The barbarian tribes living around the forest have kept their distance, and never ventured too far into the woods, but Queen Korinthia's kingdom rapidly grows, and the Ambrians disturb the shadows of the forest. Abominations attack more frequently and darkness grows as Davokar awakens from her deep sleep.

Players can take the role of all kinds of characters, a member of the barbarian tribes, an ambrian knight, wizard, dark sorceror or maybe even an anointed of Prios. If you preferred non-human options you can take the second class citizen goblins, or the outlandish changelings, or even the mighty ogres who wander out of Davokar as adults without memories. Each of these character options have their own unique flavor, and the book provides more than enough to create compelling characters.

The linnworm is perhaps the mightiest of Davokar's beings.

So this was the preview/first impression of Symbaroum, an excellent swedish roleplaying game. In the coming weeks I will try to run some games and after that a full review will be on order.

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