Symbaroum Review

It’s official, the Symbaroum RPG is available as a PDF! Print-on-demand copies will be available in December.
And at the moment, there is a limited pre-order for the physical offset print editions available at Järnringen’s webshop!

What do you need to know?

Symbaroum is a Swedish role-playing game which was translated into English with the help of an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign.

It is a dark-fantasy medieval European RPG with a focus on a rich, dangerous setting as well as exploration. Symbaroum has fabulous art and a gaming system that falls somewhere in between Dungeon World and D&D.

You can get the PDF HERE (aff) for USD $18.99 (ca. 17,70 €).
The offset print edition is at the printers and there will be print-on-demand-copies in the future.


The subject of this review is the updated PDF file from 11/11/15. I supported the Indiegogo campaign on my own, I was not provided with a review copy.

Organization and appearance

The PDF has 267 pages total. The book is divided into four parts: The World of Symbaroum (setting part), the Player’s Guide (rules), Game Master’s Guide (more rules and tools for the Game Master) and finally an example adventure called The Promised Land which consists of several acts.
Visually, this book is simply GORGEOUS. Look at the pictures at Järnringen’s website or the indiegogo campaign. The art is gloomy and perfectly captures the mood of the game. The style of the book is really beautiful. This is a wonderful book to show around. It reminds me of Shadows of Esteren (aff), the French RPG from Agate RPG. (There are other similarities as well, like the horror-infused setting.)
The PDF is bookmarked, hyperlinked (!) and the layout is nicely done, you can read everything easily. There is an index at the end of the product which is always welcome.
Sometimes, the organization of the rules can be a bit confusing as some rules are scattered. The basic test mechanism is hidden away in the Attribute chapter, the rest of the rules is explained later in the chapter about Player Rules, magic is a bit sprinkled throughout the Abilities chapter, the Magic chapter and also the Game Master’s section.
Generally, editing and proof-reading was pretty good for a translation project. I have no qualms with the quality of the translation although you can see that the game was not originally written in English, sometimes it just doesn’t sound as snappy as coming from a mother-tongue speaker. Withal, as another non-native speaker I don’t see any big mistakes. That said, someone at the G+ community was a bit disappointed but said that it doesn’t detract from what is a great book.
During my first pass I noticed some errors due to changing terms in the translation, for example, one monster trait refers to “Hidden Strike” but this ability was renamed “Backstab” sometime during the process. It might be that there are other such errors. Also, there were some minor faults with the pre-gens and the monsters in the adventure but nothing that would break the game, just something I noticed when I tried to reverse-engineer them to better understand the rules. The Symbaroum team was very friendly and happy to correct these mostly minor errors and typos and were even nice enough to thank me in the book. All in all, the project was executed with high quality.

The Rules

The introduction to the book says that the game design philosophy is based on collaboration and consensus. The designers wanted to focus on “exploration, adventures, moral choices and character development” as well as immersion.1

The aim of the rules is that the game should be fun and simple, with fights and battles that are thrilling without being burdened by tedious details.

Character Creation

The authors stress that players also have to share the responsibility of creating a good game experience. Next to the pure mechanical choices, the player is also asked to come up with a goal for the character and also generate a group goal. You shouldn’t be afraid to develop your character and to bring him to life.
Part of character creation also suggests coming up with some personality traits.
As you can see, this advice is heavily influenced by the game developments of recent years.

The player has to choose archetypes (“classes” like Warrior, Rogue, and Mystic) with an occupation (a specialization like Duelist or Sorcerer). However, these are not hard and fast rules but inspirations and ways to easily create a character. You can make up a character from the ground up ignoring any suggestions the book gives you.
Nevertheless, the options are interesting enough and cover most tropes. The archetypes and occupations come with a short description and suggestions about which attributes, races and abilities are important.

There are 8 attributes in this game: Accurate, Cunning, Discreet, Persuasive, Quick, Resolute, Strong and Vigilant as well as some derived stats like Toughness, Pain Threshold, Defense and Corruption Threshold. I find the main attributes quite self-explanatory. The Pain Threshold (PT) is quite interesting because if you take damage greater than your PT in one round, the opponent gets some nice benefits like another attack or knocking you prone. The Corruption Threshold shows that the game ties the horror element of the setting in the game mechanics.
There are two ways to go about generating your attributes: the typical distribution (standard array) or a point-buy method. One of the optional rules also allows for rolling up your stats. Generally, attributes range between 5 and 15 (higher is better) and don’t change at all. Experience points are spent on abilities, not attributes. This game uses no levels.

The available races in the core book are Changeling, Humans, Ogres and Goblins. That’s right: no Dwarves and no Elves. In fact, Elves are hostile creatures which accuse the humans of having broken the “Iron Pact” and disturbing the forest of Davokar. (Dwarves are in the Swedish Player’s Handbook which wasn’t part of the translation project).
Humans come in two flavors: the queen-abiding (medieval European) Ambrians and the wild-roaming barbarian tribes. Changelings are those beings that are left when Elves steal a human baby. At first, they look like humans but later develop elf-like traits without fully becoming an elf. They are outcasts in human society. Ogres are strange beings hailing from the mysterious forest of Davokar. One day, they just emerge from the forest fully-grown but without memories. Goblins are short-lived and practical creatures, also pariahs like the Ogres.
Tied to the species are traits like Long-Lived or Survival Instinct.

Player characters will find most customization options in the abilities section. Every ability has three tiers: Novice, Adept and Master and are further classified by keywords like Active Action or Free Action. Most abilities are combat-oriented (i.e. Twin Attack, Backstab or Shield Fighter) while some can also be use out of combat (i.e. Alchemy or Leader).
At chargen you can either start with two abilities at Novice level and one at Adept level or with five abilities at Novice level.
I really like how the abilities work, three tiers are easy enough but the distinctions between the tiers make them interesting. There are some very intriguing possibilities like Strangler, an ability that uses dirty tricks and can use alchemistical Spore Bombs at Master level. Awesomesauce!

Each creature also a has a Shadow which reflects their spiritual essence. Abominations have a tainted shadow.

Equipment is mostly handed out based on your archetype and makes bookkeeping easy. Despite the standard equipment, you also gain 5 thalers.

Mystical Powers

There are four traditions (Theurgy, Sorcery, Wizardry and Witchcraft) which come with their own spell lists. Using magic is treacherous because every time you learn a new power or ritual and you use it, you gain Corruption. If your character belongs to a tradition, this cost can be reduced. Untrained Mystics are considered dangerous and are hunted by Witch Hunters, but they can freely choose from all mystical powers.

Any character can learn magic. If your Corruption level reaches your Resolute attribute, you become an Abomination and thus an NPC. Ouch. Belonging to a tradition is modeled via abilities (see above). In my opinion, that’s a neat concept, as it balances magical users and non-magical characters.
The game uses spell lists although they are not typical Vancian magic.

Theurgs follow the religion of Prios, the God of the Sun. It’s an Ambrian God which has replaced the once diverse pantheon.
Spells include Lay on Hands, Holy Aura, Prios’ Burning Glass and rituals like Exorcism, Purging Fire or Command Saint.
Sorcerers embrace Corruption as a necessary evil and draw their power from it. They can use magic powers like Bend Will, Larvae Boil or Exchange Shadow and Enslave.
Witchcraft is the tradition of the barbarian tribes. It’s a more nature based magic. You can cast Lay on hands, Nature’s Embrace, Shapeshift or Turn Weather and Witch Circle (and more).
Wizards are scholars which can use magic by logical reason. They belong to the Ordo Magica. Spells and rituals included are Brimstone Cascade, Levitate, Flame Wall or Flaming Servant or Illusion.

Magical powers are mechanically similar to abilities. They have three ranks: Novice, Adept, Master. Some can be cast as a free action but most require one active action in combat.
I really appreciate the streamlined magic rules as they are the same for every tradition. No distinction between Clerics or Magic Users ((old school) D&D, I’m looking at you!). Still, the fluff and the different mystic powers make the traditions feel different enough.

Game Rules

The meat of the show!
The basic roll is a 1d20, roll under/equal your attribute. Only the player rolls. The attribute may be modified by an attribute of the NPC or a difficulty set by the GM to model the resistance. For example, if you try to sneak past someone, you roll your Discreet attribute adjusted by the NPC’s Vigilant modifier (Discreet <- Vigilant).
At first glance, it’s a bit complicated because NPCs are built like PCs. So an NPC also has eight attributes but additionally to the attribute score you also write down the modifier which is based on the difference to 10. So a very weak attribute of 5 (lowest attribute possible) is a +5 modifier. An above-average attribute of 12 gains the NPC a -2 attribute.
When the PC with a Discreet attribute of 12 sneaks past a not-so-vigilant Guard with 8 (thus +2), the player needs to roll a 14 or lower. If the guard is a hyper alert type and has a Vigilant score of 14 (-4), the player needs to roll 8 or lower (own score of 12 minus 4).

The rules for social challenges are very vague. Basically, the text advises you to roleplay. Problem-solving can be done by using the basic test method (see above), perhaps even with an extended test. That’s very disappointing for me.
This has been the case for many traditional games throughout the years and I know that social encounters or puzzles can work without the guidelines of rules, but oftentimes it resolves into some kind of wishy-washy freeform conversation between the PCs and the NPCs because hard rules are missing. In comparison, while Dungeon World rules can be hard to understand, there are clear rules for social interactions.
In so far, the game resembles more the classic iterations of D&D where there are extended rules for combat. In fact, the chapter titled Player’s Rules almost completely deals with combat rules, dying and healing.

Here the rules remind me of D&D 5e. You have a Turn Order with Initiative, you have one Movement Action and you have one Combat Action. It’s not as loose as in the PtBA-games.
Movement is a bit abstract which I like. You don’t need a combat map. A Movement action “represents a meaningful movement in combat”. That means stuff like moving into melee and engaging the enemy, a flanking maneuver, switching weapons, standing up from prone, or disengaging (which allows the enemy a Free Attack against you).
In case you need a criterion, one Movement action is 10 paces or 10 meters.
Combat Actions are a named misleadingly, it’s probably what I would call a Standard Action. It can be an attack or casting a spell or using an ability.

The basic attack is an Accurate <- Defense test if you are the player character.
Remember, the GM doesn’t roll dice. When NPCs attack, it’s handled via a Defense <- Accurate action by the player character.
Damage depends on your weapon and is again rolled by the PC. NPCs have fixed weapon damage. You subtract your armor from the damage. For players, that’s a die roll again.
Then there are some other tweaks like the Pain Threshold which I will omit here.

That still sounds a bit abstract, doesn’t it? So, here’s an example using the pre-gens in the book.

An explanation/example combat (skip this, if the above explanation was enough for you)

Two of the pre-gen PCs vs. caravan guards. Fight!
You don’t roll the Turn Order, it’s fixed for the whole combat. If all participants are ready, Long Weapons (Polearms etc.) are first. (Polearms are also interesting because you get a Free Attack if you’re in melee range and the opponent doesn’t have such a weapon.)
Afterwards, the highest Quick attribute. Tie? Then compare Vigilant. Still a tie? Let’s roll a d20. Interestingly, this time higher is better which is in contrast to the rest of the rules where you have to roll under.
Let’s say, someone is be surprised. Then he has to make a Vigilant <- Discreet test, if he fails the enemy has a Free Attack.
Free Attacks are like in D&D, if they’re triggered you can use passive abilities but not active one. The Free Attack is a reaction.

Please note that there are no special rules for projectile weapons like in some of the older D&D editions. As movement is abstract, there are no given ranges for projectile weapons. I guess that the GM needs to decide based on the narrative. The rules only say that such weapons are meant to be used over greater distances.

In my example combat no one has a Long Weapon, so we go according to the Quick attribute.

Magdala, the barbarian witch, is first and casts Shapeshift on the Adept level. As a wolf she deals more damage. She needs to roll equal or lower her Resolute of 15 (max. score). For using magic she gains 1d4 temporary Corruption which vanishes at the end of the scene. Remember, if her complete Corruption (temporary and permanent) reaches her Resolute score, she mutates to an Abomination.
Still, you can show signs of Corruption beforehand. These are stigmas like festering wounds or glowing eyes.
As a wolf Magdala is pretty fast and doesn’t provoke Free Attacks, even when she moves pasts enemies. So she tries to circle the caravan guards to flank them next round.

Orlon is an Ambrian Pansar (Queen’s Guard) with heavy armor. He wields a two-handed weapon with his ability Two-Handed Force (Novice).
Attack: Accurate <- Defense
Additionally, he has the Dominate (Novice) ability so he intimidates others in a fight and is allowed to use his attribute Persuasive instead of Accurate (and of course his Persuasive 13 is better).
The enemy has a Defense modifier of +1. (That means, that he has lower-than-average Defense with a score of 9.) Orlon needs to roll a 14 or lower to hit.
Now, if he hits, Orlon deals 1d12 damage of which we need to subtract armor. NPCs have fixed armor values, in this case it’s a scale armor with 3. Chances are pretty good that we do some serious damage but in the worst case scenario (Orlon rolls a 1-3 on his damage roll), all damage is mitigated.

By the way, somehow this whole spiel with armor reminds me of the “armour bypass roll” of the British old-school game Dragon Warriors (aff).
Defense is a secondary attribute from Quick, modified by traits and armor, AKA: if you are fast and not heavily armored, it’s more difficult to hit you. But if you are hit, you can’t mitigate much damage.
Orlon has fortified chain mail. His Defense is very low (7 with shield, 6 without – remember, it’s roll equal/under with a d20). But he can take more damage, negating 1d8 with every roll. Magdala is harder to hit with her high Defense of 13 but can only negate 1d4 damage as she wears a flexible Witch robe in her human form and has natural armor of 1d4 in her wolf form.

Now the NPCs can act and attack Magdala. But wait, the GM doesn’t roll, so Magdala needs to roll her Defense <- Accurate. Magdala has Defense 13, the opponent has an Accurate modifier of -3, so she has to roll 10 or lower. On a d20, that’s a 50/50 chance, right?
The opponent carries a sword with a fixed damage value of 4 (a PC would have “Sword d8”, an NPC has a fixed value). Magdala rolls for armor with a 1d4 and only takes the remaining damage, ideally nothing.

So, where do we subtract damage from? Toughness, which varies between 10 and 15 with the pregen characters. In a fight against those caravan goons, there is not much danger that the PCs will lose but if you fight against harder opponents it might get tricky.

Generally, it makes sense to use flanking maneuvers and such to raise your chances to hit enemies. Such circumstances grant you Advantage which gives you +2 on your roll and deals +1d4 extra damage.
Combat can be a bit swingy with the basic roll of 1d20 and then the multiple rolls for damage and armor mitigation.

Stuff for the Game Master

The advice in the GM section of the book is nice and useful. In the intro section the authors lay down the groundwork and explain their best practices. For example, “understand the enemy”, “prepare challenges”, “say yes”, “describe the world”, “describe consequences”. This reminds me of the PtBA-agendas for the GM.
What I really, really like, are the rules for Corruption and Shadows as they wonderfully tie into the rich setting of Symbaroum.
Also included in this section are optional rules which I welcome. You can use rules for crits, fumbles or instant kill, movement by scale, playing as an Abomination and other set screws. Some parts are also good trouble-shooting advice.
While I lament the lack of rules for social conflict and the rudimentary guidelines for problem-solving (Fate is an excellent example for a game which doesn’t differentiate between physical combat and social encounters), the rules clearly suffice. The game is heavily inspired by classic fantasy tropes like exploration and combat after all.
On the plus side, the system manages to convey good structures for combat encounters. The player-facing mechanisms make this game potentially exciting for players. However, this is not a crunchy system like Pathfinder with lots of tactical options but a more narrative one.
The authors also included instructions for scaling the resistance. Adversaries are divided into resistance categories like Weak, Ordinary, Challenging and Powerful. For instance, four beginner characters should face either four Weak enemies or One Ordinary and Two Weak Enemies and so on. This is very helpful for new players and Game Masters, even though it will depend on how clever players use the rules and the narrative to overcome challenges.
As a Game Master you need to take note of the monster stats during combat but you won’t need rolling dice. As consolation, the adversaries have Monsterous Traits which allow you to use special rules and make the game more interesting.
The strict adherence to the “only the players roll”-philosophy can sometimes feel a tad awkward. As a Game Master you need to keep in mind how to convert the standard ability scores and other mechanics like traits and abilities into NPC abilities with fixed values. Furthermore, NPCs are generated like PCs (hello, D&D 3, isn’t that your legacy?), so a monster statblock is not short and sweet but rather detailed. It doesn’t help that sometimes traits and abilities are incorporated into the damage done or the derived attributes and sometimes not. That means you have to look up the traits yourself. On the other hand, it doesn’t break the game if you don’t follow every tiny rule.
Yet for me, that means that I have to spend some time to rearrange the stat blocks to my liking (similar to what the Angry GM does with D&D 5e).
On the plus side, every entry includes a suggested tactic which I find very useful. The adversaries in the example adventure also include a Manner (i.e. “grins confidently, swings sword provokingly”) giving you role-playing guidelines.

Personally, I’m missing some neat tricks like GM Moves from the PtBA-games or the opportunities/doom pool from Cortex+ or the GM Intrusions from Numenera. While Symbaroum is clearly influenced by the indie/narrative movement of recent years and the rules reflect that, the GM tools don’t go far enough for me.
There are no GM Moves like “Put someone on a spot”, “Use up their resources” or “Introduce a new faction or type of creature”. No, as a GM I have to fall back on the traditional structure that games like D&D present. The suggested principles (see above) are nice but pretty vague.
In play, that doesn’t need to detract from the game experience and in the end, the result may be the same. The GM presents challenges and the players act and react. But for a game that does things a bit differently than standard traditional fantasy RPGs, I find that a bit lacking. For me, it’s still a lot of fun to Game Master but I would have liked to see hard-coded systems to present these challenges besides the “best practices” and the monsters.

Other than that, the GM section contains rules for traveling (and suggested encounters), money and also magic artifacts.
Furthermore, a whole chapter is dedicated to creating adventures and this is very well done. It explains basic structures, challenges, key scenes, rewards and more.
Additionally, there is a section about different player types and other useful Game Master Techniques.
All in all, I really admire what I see here. This game covers all the bases in an easy to understand manner.

The monster chapter comes with explanations about the Monstrous Traits and lots of different adversaries. For me, it’s enough to run a game using the suggested templates.
There is also a table categorizing the enemies into different types like Cultural Beings (i.e. human adversaries like Witch Hunters or Elves like the Spring Elf).
The different adversaries are explained and give you a good overview about the background. The lavish illustrations also help.

The Rules, tl;dr

You can either say it’s a wonderful melange between a game like D&D with detailed mechanics for combat and more narrative systems like Dungeon World with ideas like player-facing rolls. Or you can say that it’s a game that tries to do both and can’t decide what it wants to be. It will certainly depend on your own preferences.
The rules are a mix between traditional means (attributes, traits, abilities, spell lists) and more indie elements (only the players roll dice). The system is reasonably lightweight but detailed enough so that combat is interesting and fun. Social interactions and problem-solving come a bit short though and I’m missing some neat tools for the GM but all in all, it’s quite a solid system.
Players have enough opportunities to customize their characters by having a menu of races, archetypes, occupations and more to choose from. Experience points will raise your abilities and are something that players can look forward to.
The rules are easy to learn although they are a bit scattered throughout the book.
Using corruption as a game mechanic ties the flavorful setting to the game mechanics and makes spell casting exciting but not overpowered.
By and large, the authors managed to meet their design goals of a fun and (somewhat) simple game.
The advice for the Game Master is generally good and the adversaries are alluring.
Symbaroum has its awkward moments because it really wants the players to roll the dice which leads to some kind of a “shadow system” for the NPCs where you need to invert the normal player mechanisms so that the arrangement works.
Sometimes rules can be a bit vague or not spelled out clearly.

The Setting

The setting is very evocative with a dark fantasy style and a European medieval feel. There are different factions which are all compelling.
A whole section is dedicated to the mysterious forest of Davokar. Also included is more information about the border town Thistle Hold, the Ambrian capital Yndaros and the Barbarian Karvosti.

Generally, the authors approached the world descriptions with broad strokes.

The premise is that there was a Great War against the Dark Lords (you don’t get to know exactly what they are) which left the South as a dark and twisted, blasted land. The Ambrian Queen has thus led her people north to her ancestral home.
Now this culture clashes with the indigenous Barbarian tribes and also the Elves who protect the forest of Davokar.
Davokar is full of mysteries and ancient treasures which makes it attractive for treasure hunters and scholars. Besides, it’s also plagued with blight monsters and other horrors.
The free PDF On the Nature of Davokar gives you a good idea about this part of the world.
Although it’s mentioned that there are temples and other ruins to be found, I’m missing a concrete example (perhaps with maps?). For the Game Master it would have been nice to have an example on what you could find in Davokar.

The factions: the different houses of the Ambrian nobility fight against each other and also foster a healthy suspicion towards the remaining eleven barbarian tribes. Nonetheless, there is an uneasy truce between the two human cultures.
Then there is the Church of Prios and the Ordo Magica and the Queen’s army, all with their own interests.

A whole chapter details the border town Thistle Hold which will provide a good starting point for a campaign in a sandbox style. It’s near the forest and you can get your Explorer’s Licence which is required to be allowed to travel into the forest (or you’ll be picked up by the Queen’s Rangers). Traveling into Davokar is hazardous but the relicts from the old civilization of Symbaroum beckon their siren call.

That is how Thistle Hold came to be, born out of a retired fortune-hunter’s dream to secure his own future, and at the same time do something in benefit of his exiled brothers and sisters. The walled town is today neither more nor less than it was meant to be: a fairly safe place at the brink of Davokar where the people of Queen Korinthia can find shelter, rest, trade and amusements before – as well as after a possible return from – expeditions into the forest.

The chapter gives us some information about the different factions inside the town, points of interest, dramatis personae and potential conflicts. There is also a nice map of the town and a handy entry about what missions the PCs can perform.

Yndaros is the new Ambrian capital, built on the ruins of the former city-state of Lindaros. For me, it has a Byzantine feel where different cultures clash: the Ambrians, the barbarians, rebels and revolters, refugees from the South and feuding Dwarven families. The city is strife with conflict.

The Karvosti is the home of the Barbarian Chieftain and the Thingstead. The barbarian tribes are more or less independent with the Chieftain acting as an arbiter and mediator. The Prios church also has a presence here, not to the delight of the barbarian witches.

Altogether, the setting is very rich, dangerous and dark. There are typical fantasy tropes, but enough twists to make it feel unique. I particularly like the take on the Elves, they are clearly antagonists and also feel more twisted than the Tolkienesque prototype. Also, the Goblins, Changelings, and Ogres are uncommon.

The clash between civilization and nature is symbolized in the forest of Davokar. When nature is exploited, it shows by spreading Corruption.
The horror element is well implemented into the setting and the rules and feels much more organic to me than in Shadows of Esteren.

Some people might feel that the information is a bit sparse as it’s given in broad strokes. At the moment, it’s not 100% clear which and if the Swedish books will get translated. The crowdfunding campaign has unlocked some further adventures, though.
AFAIK there will be no additional setting book per se. Järnringen has a Player’s Guide and a Gamemaster’s Guide as well as adventure campaigns in planning.
I asked about the plans for the English translations at G+ and the answer (end of October) was:

Aside from the PDF Adventure Pack (November) and the Mark of the Beast (December/January), it really depends on how Symbaroum is received. We may run an additional fundraiser (Kickstarter?) to finance the translation of the supplements, but we would rather do the job than administer such a campaign. To conclude, let us get back to you on this topic in a month or two. 🙂

The Promised Land

This is a tutorial adventure with pre-generated characters. It does a marvelous job at explaining the rules in a “Narrative Tutorial”. This helped me a lot when sifting through the book.
The adventure has three acts and does a good job at teaching the rules and also giving a glimpse at the setting. Of course, it’s a bit rail-roady but nothing too disturbing.
Concerning the pre-gens and the monsters, it would have been nice if some of the traits would have been explained in the stat block itselves so you don’t have to look them up.

The setting, tl;dr

Symbaroum has a distinctive dark fantasy and medieval feel. It’s unique and compelling with interesting locations, factions and monsters.
Personally, I could use more background information but there is definitely enough to get you started. Thistle Hold is a very good starting point for a sandbox campaign with expeditions to the mysterious Davokar and the other main locations (Yndaros and Karvosti) also offer interesting hooks.
The setting looks well-thought-out and the beautiful illustrations convey the bleak tone perfectly.
Especially the unexplored forest offers lots of opportunities for exploration and adventure which fits the design goals.

My opinion

I backed the crowdfunding effort solely on the recommendation of some of my G+ contacts and the fact that the artwork looks gorgeous. I was a bit afraid that it would turn out as a second Shadow of Esteren: an interesting backdrop (although Esteren uses Celtic influences) but uninspiring rules. I sold my Esteren books in the end, it just wasn’t my game.
The setting of Symbaroum is more credible to me, perhaps because I can better imagine medieval Europe than the fantasy Celtic background of Esteren?
Symbaroum’s world fascinates me and inspires me to play this game.
Originally, I expected the system to be more “indie”/narrative but it is surprisingly combat-oriented. Despite its quirks, it is a solid, moderately lightweight/medium-crunchy system with some neat ideas from the PtBA-games. Optional rules allow you to tweak it a bit. The game mechanics are somehow neither fish nor fowl and not consequent enough to be ground-breaking. Symbaroum could use some more tools for the Game Master and a dedicated system for social conflict. Still, for me the synthesis of two gaming style works fine but there may be others who might find the blend a bit disjointed.
The artwork and style of the book are simply astonishing. (I wish I’d backed the limited edition but alas, it was quite expensive.) In conjunction with the intriguing setting Symbaroum excites me a lot although I would have liked to see more background details.
I really hope that there will be additional material in English, the game certainly deserves a wider audience.

Symbaroum @DTRPG (aff) (PDF USD $18.99, ca. 17,70 €)
Järnringen webshop
Indiegogo campaign

3 thoughts on “Symbaroum Review

  1. I love the art. Aaaand, as a long-time Glorantha-fan, I absolutely love the Duck character with a cool illustration that is available for download. Who said ducks looked silly in a roleplaying game? Eh? 😉

Comments are closed.