Symbaroum, named after the fallen realm of legend that new colonist powers and remnant barbarians inhabit, is a newly translated Swedish RPG heavily imbued with a dark Nordic flavour. The gorgeously illustrated 260+ page PDF provides you with a rich setting full of adventure, dominated by the ancient forest of Davokar, littered with the treasures of ancient lost Symbaroum and held under the protection of the watching elves and infested with the corruption of blighted beasts and monsters.
Content is roughly setting/players guide/GM guide in equal page count with an introductory adventure and ready to play PCs at the end. The game is evocatively written, focussing on a specific part of the game world to provide a detailed, rich and vibrant setting with enough spaces for you to make it something of your own. You can play civilised Ambrian settlers, barbarian clan, lone ogre, changeling, or short lived goblin, each arising out of the setting, providing motivation with which to start your adventures. The races and factions all provide immediate conflict and opportunity, before you even dare to gain a licence and explore the great forest.
The pasture lands south of the great forest have recently been aggressively colonised by the Ambrians, fleeing their blighted lands of Arbeletor to the south, now cursed by the shrivelling dark magics that swirled over the battlefields of a great war fought against the Dark Lords. Now, returning to their ancient homeland and once the realms of Symbaroum, they are quickly establishing a new realm under the hero-queen Korinthia. The barbarians of the land, inheritors some say of the Symbaroum past, have been unable to stop the invasion and now look to their own ways and guidance of the witches to set their path as worlds change.
Goblin workers have rebuilt ancient Linderos into Ynderos, the new Ambrian capitol. Ambitious nobles create new realms and settlements, the barbarians recoiling, and the watch of the forests, the elves, warn of consequences if Davokar is sullied with the presence of the newcomers. Solitary ogres, unaware of their own past also find a home in the new realm, huge and brutishly powerful and yet seeking an understanding of who they are. It is said that it is the elves that steal and swap newborns with changelings. Why do they do this? As they grow, they reveal their elven nature and are either discarded or simply outlive their parents, needing to find their own way in a world that neither trusts or accepts them.
The setting is also focussed in on a few key settlements in the new realm. Thistle Hold, a new town on the border with the forest a haven for treasure hunters seeking glory by discovering the secrets of ancient Symbar, the new capitol Ynderos, and the plateau of Karvosti of the barbarians deep within Davokar itself. All nicely drawn (literally) with plenty to get a group of players stuck in. It's unlikely to be quiet or sedentary...
These are my kind of rules. The system is a simple d20 roll under an attribute for a success. Attributes are opposed and modified by other attributes or a difficulty rating. Fundamentally, that's about it. Very simple to remember and, I expect to play. Only players roll dice, the GM simply describes and focuses on the scene and story. Characters and monsters are further defined by 'Abilities', which are known at one of three ascending levels. These provide extra capabilities and powers to improve the use of attributes and step the character up a notch or three. There are just the right number of abilities. Not too many that they become overwhelming, but enough to provide variety and flavour to PC design.
Look out for Corruption that taints and can, eventually, blight and twist you to abomination. Not pleasant, but if you will dabble with the mystical arts, or undertake the ancient rituals, well, I ask you!
Combat is simple and deadly, though swift adventurers with good defence ratings and stout armour are likely to survive, unless you are facing some of the larger and more terrifying denizens. Death saves give you chances to cling on before you cry your bitter last and are lost.
The magic traditions of corrupting sorcerers, pious theurge, witchcraft and wizardry provide for a nice array of competing world philosophies and mystical power. Any PC can use magic, but if you are not of a tradition (or a sorcerer who embraces the darkness), then this is the quickest way to gain corruption.
Before I enter Davokar...
I like this game very much. It is a full package. A setting, beautifully drawn with scope for expansion (and more books may come), coupled with an unobtrusive game system that riffs off the place in which it is set. I didn't feel any urge to Savage/Fate/Wordplay/D100 it. It works very well as an integrated game and setting.
It’s not just a pretty thing, I’ll be running it at my FLGS RPG games day in February. Looking forward to it very much.
[5 of 5 Stars!]