Symbaroum Starter Set


Solitary Role Playing
I've been eyeing this game for a while. I did not participate in the kickstarter.

I received my starter box set last week. The box set comes with a set of dice (d4, d6, d8, d10, d12 and d20). Two books. A double-sided poster map of the regional area on one side and the town of Thrisle Hold on the other side. A second map has illustrations for the adventure. It also has 5 pre-generated character sheets.

The box is sturdy and should last a long time. The dice are two tone jade coloured with silver numbers. Easy to read. All the illustrations are beautiful water colours, drawn by a single artist, Martin Grip. The style is dark and foreboding. Perfect for the setting.

The first 64 page book 'Starter Rules' is for the players and the DM. It explains the dark fantasy setting info the characters know. It supplies all the rules needed to play the 5 pre-generated characters: combat, equipment, races, traits, abilities, caster powers and background for each character.

Symbaroum is a traditional rpg. There are no resources management and no modern narrativists elements. It's an easy read. Two columns with slim side bars on the side when needed.

It's a d20 roll equal or under system. Attributes used for rolls are accurate, cunning, discreet, persuasive, quick, resolute, strong and vigilant. Rolls in the system are opposed rolls. For example an attack is Accurate VS Quick of the target. If you have 15 accuracy - 2 for 12 quick the TN is 15-2 = 13 or less. If the creature as a weak Quick attribute it gives a bonus. If you have 15 accuracy VS 9 quick +1 the TN is 15+1 = 16 or less.

In this system the GM never rolls any dice. I really like that. When a monster attacks it's the targeted player that rolls a defence roll. If he misses his PC takes a fixed number of damage. Damage is reduces by an armour die roll. The higher the protection the better the die (d4, d6, d8 ,etc). Characters roll damage (they are not fixed).

There are four generic classes: The Mystic, the Warrior, the Hunter and the Rogue. The character is then customized by buying Abilities. which gives you knights, witch-hunters, wizards, theurgs (cleric) and other character concepts. The full rules to character creation are not given in this product. Only what you need to play the pre-gens. You will need to buy the Core Book.

Adventures takes place in the ancient and dangerous Davokar forest populated by human barbarians, goblins, ogres and many horrific threats. It was once the seat of a great empire. Groups of characters cannot simply walk in the forest to explore it. They must first buy an explorer's license from the authorities. The Queen's Rangers can catch Adventurers without permits and consequences can be dire. Fingers or hands can be chopped off!

Magic: There are no spell slots. Instead casting a spell gives 1d4 temporary corruption to the character. Temporary corruption is lost at the end of the scene. The caster must be careful because he can also gain permanent corruption. Too much corruption leads to loosing the character to the evil blight which transform the caster into a dangerous creature. It sounds dire but in practice with the appropriate caster abilities it is possible to keep corruption in check and not loose your character unless you are reckless, which can be good role-play given some circumstances.

Corruption: The Davokar forest is a dangerous place. The end of the Symbarian civilization was caused by a terrible blight that transformed its citizens into nightmarish creatures. Corruption over the region stayed for a long time but diminished over the centuries. Now, only certain parts of the forest are corrupted. If the PCs enter these areas, to find treasures, they gain temporary corruption. It's a management game. Temporary corruption can be remove by leaving the corrupted area. The rules lets the group decide how long it takes. You could say the corruption goes away just be leaving the area or you could decide it takes 1 hour by point of corruption. Depends on how gritty you want to game to be. Personally I think I would say it takes half a day to remove any amount of temporary corruption to avoid needless math.

Weapons have interesting Qualities. The heavy flail has Jointed. Even if the attacked is blocked there is a chance (odd number of the d20 to defend) that the flail deals 1d6 secondary damage, not affected by any abilities.

Characters earn 1 experience point per challenging scene they participate in. Point are spent to buy new abilities or to raise abilities by one level. Each ability has 3 levels Novice, Adept and Master. To gain a new ability it costs 10 XPs. To raise an ability to level 2 (adept) it costs 20 XPs, to level 3 (master) it costs 30 XPs.

There is no mention of raising Attributes, which is a good thing in my book.

I really like what I have read so far. Onto the second book 'Setting & Adventures' for the GM's eyes only.

More later.
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Solitary Role Playing
Book 2 Setting & Adventures

This 64 page booklet is for the GM eyes only. It begins with a 3 pages section explaining the role of the GM and also very useful tips of what to do before, during and after the game session. I’m always amazed when writers can pack so much useful info in such a short space.

Next section is a description of Thistle Hold, the home base explorers use to launch expeditions in the ancient forest Davokar. It describes the foundation of the town, defences and population which varies from 6,000 to 10,000 if you include passersby. There are short descriptions of taverns, entertainment, inns, trade and how to gain knowledge & information. There is a keyed map of the town with mention of prominent individuals. Don’t expect a Gazetteer level of details. It does provide enough info to answer the majority of questions the players may have.

The third section is titled Expeditions in Davokar. It details procedures for travelling, orientation, foraging, events, locations and treasures the characters will find while exploring the forest which used to be at the centre of the Symbaroum civilization. 

How does Exploration work?

First you must have a guide with bushcraft. You can hire him or a member of the party could have the bushcraft trait.

The booklet supplies a hex map of the forest. There are three zones. Bright Davokar, Wild Davokar and Dark Davokar. You will have guessed that the deeper you go inside the forest the more difficult travel becomes and the danger level grows proportionally. The colours of the three zones on the hex map could have been more contrasted. But it’s not a deal breaker.

Every day the guide must make an Orientation roll. If he fails a misfortune happens to the group. An example is ‘Toxins in the Water’ that causes 1d4 damage for 1d4 turns for those who fail a Strong test. There are 10 misfortunes that can be rolled randomly by the guide who failed. Failing Orientation also gives a penalty on the two Event tables.

 If the Orientation roll is successful it gives an advantage to the next two Event rolls. One table is for Enemies in Davokar the other one is for Ruins in Davokar. Both tables are d20. Rolling low means less danger but also less reward. Rolling high is more lethal but can generate greater finds. The GM decides if the enemies are near or inside the ruins.

Once the threats have been dispatched the characters begin excavation to find rare items. Items in Symbaroum are not laying around waiting to be picked up. Much like an archeologist the PCs must dig and search for artefacts. They can find debris, curiosities, mystical treasures and artifacts. Each worth more than the other. Every day each PC makes a Vigilant roll to determine what they find. Characters can stay as long as they want at a ruin but danger lurks. Noise will attract monstrosities invariably. That is why the starter set is titled Treasure Hunts in Davokar.

There is a d100 list for curiosities and a 12 list for mystical treasures. Artifacts are extremely rare. The booklet supplied the descriptions of two. Finding an Artifact is worth 1000 + 1d1000 thaler (gold).

As someone who likes hex crawls this is a very good random system to generate adventurers. You could even use it to do solitary games. Which I will do this summer. That is the best part of the Starter Set in my opinion.

The next chapter is monsters and adversaries. Then are classified as abominations, beats, cultured begins and undead. The section defines 2 abominations, 3 beasts, 3 types of treasure hunters, elves and trolls. Finally it details 2 undeads. The section ends with a monstrous traits description. Acidic blood, corrupting attack, etc. It’s a short section, a bit underwhelming when you are used to the D&D plethora of monsters.

The book ends with two adventures that read like Dungeon magazine side treks. They have believable backgrounds and good hooks. They both offer good roleplaying opportunities. The writer offers suggestions on how the players can avoid combat. The second one is more complex. I didn't want to change anything while I was reading them, a good sign. Each adventure will take one evening for finish.

Final Thoughts
As usual for Free League the artwork and quality of the material is top notch. The setting is intriguing. The adventures are interesting. The system is simple but not simplistic. Hoping to plays this game in the coming weeks. I would house rule experience a bit. The rules simply states how to gain new abilities and how to raise the ones you already have. To avoid the rush to optimization I would rule that you cannot raise the same ability twice in a row. Also the ability would have to have been used meaningfully during the adventure to qualify to be raised. Maybe the Core Book experience rules are more detailed.

Where to go from here?
You can download the free quick start from drivethru. If you are broke use the random system to generate adventures and keep using the pre-gen characters until they max out their abilities. The official Free League forum could be a good source of free material made by members. Link:

Looking at the product line there are two paths going forward. If you prefer loose adventuring you should buy the Adventure Packs. They are episodic mysteries from what I understand. If you prefer an arc story you should purchase the Chronicle books which form an epic campaign.

Hope you liked my review.



Solitary Role Playing
Getting ready to test combat and magic with a solitary play encounter.

The play mat is from Loke Battle Mat. It is not included in the starter. Neither are the models.

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Solitary Role Playing
A knight, a theurg and witch-hunter spot a 'Rage Troll Famished' munching on what appears to be a human leg. 'Rage Trolls Famished' are the smallest of trolls at 6 feet tall. They have a foul mood.

The group tries to surprise the troll to get free attacks. The knight has the lowest Discreet (5) VS the vigilance of the troll (+1) = TN 6. The knight steps on a dried up branch alerting the troll.

Symbaroum does require a grid to play. I'm using one to illustrate the encounter.


Round 1
In order of quick (no rolls required)
  • Knight
  • Theurg
  • Troll
  • Witch-Hunter

The troll and witch-hunter have the same quick but the troll has better vigilance so he goes first. In case of a tie roll d20.


The knight uses one move (10 spaces) to reach the troll and attacks with his great sword (1d12). The ability Iron Fist gives him +1d4 damage and he uses strong to hit instead of accuracy. A rage troll is easy to hit (+7 defence). The knight inflicts 9 damage - 4 armour = 5. The troll is now at 10 Toughness.

The theurg makes a successful resolute roll and unleashes the spell Prios' Burning Glass for 1d6 damage. Roll 5 - 4 armour = 1. The troll is at 9 Toughness. The theurg rolls 1d4 for corruption since he cast a spell = 3 temporary corruption. His corruption threshold is 8. No worries yet.

The troll attacks the knight since leaving to attack someone else would give a free attack to the knight. The knight makes a defence roll (10 - 3 = 7) against the troll's claw attack. He misses. 8 - 1d8 (chainmail) - 1. The troll inflicts 7 damage to the knights. He is at 15 - 7 = 8 Toughness. Since the amount of damage was higher than the knight's Pain Threshold (half toughness) the troll can either make a free attack immediately or decide the knight is knock prone on the ground. The troll makes a second free attack but misses.

The witch-hunter moves to the left flank and shoots an arrow with his bow. There are no restrictions against shooting in melee other than having a line of sight. Range weapons don't have ranges. The game assumes range weapons have enough range to hit anyone a on regular battle mat. Hits the troll (1d8) 8 - 4 armour = 4. The troll is at 5 toughness.


Solitary Role Playing
Round 2

No change in the order of initiative. it is possible to delay to change order.

The knight hits but deals only 3 damage reduced by armour 4 = 0 damage. Very unlucky roll on both dice.

The theurg moves next to the knight and use his medics ability with healing herbs. He cures 1d6 roll = 6! The knight is back at 14 toughness.

The troll hits the knight scoring 8 damage (a fixed value) - 4 armour = 4. The knight is at 10 toughness.

The hunter reloads his bow as a free action and shoots the troll. He hits and rolls a 10 - 4 armour = 6 damage. The troll is at -1 toughness. He dies.

The encounter is over. All temporary corruption points are removed.



Solitary Role Playing
Our treasure hunters rested after the combat with the troll. The theurg used Lay on Hands to heal (1d6) 5 damage on the knight which is now at 15, his maximum. He gained (1d4) 1 corruption. The comrades decide to try to find the lair of the troll, if it has any. Maybe it has a few prized possessions. They continue their trek in what is known as Bright Davokar. The less dangerous part of the forest.

The witch-hunter finds a trail (vigilant 10 with a -2 difficulty for a TN of 8 ). Roll of 6 on the d20 = success. As they follow the trail in the woods they are surprised by two Mare Cats who jump out from behind bushes. The hunter has vigilant 10 -5 discreet for the Mare cats. TN 5. Roll 10. The hunter didn't spot them.


Surprise Round
One cat (silver) attacks the knight for free. Hits 4 damage + 2 dmg poison. The knight blocks 2 damage (1d8) thanks to his chainmail. But he needs to pass a Strong 15 test against Cunning +1 of the cats (TN 16). He rolls 19 = fail. He is poisoned for 2 rounds taking 2 damage each round. In total the knight looses 4 toughness. He is at 11.

The other cat (purple) attack the hunter for free. Hits 4 damage + 2 dmg poison. The hunter blocks 2 damage (1d4) thanks to his leather armour. But he needs to pass a Strong 5 test against Cunning +1 of the cats (TN 6). He rolls 5. He is not poisoned but looses 2 damage from the claws. He is at 8 toughness.

Initiative Order (fastest Quick)
  • Knight
  • Cat silver
  • Cat purple
  • Hunter
  • Theurg


Solitary Role Playing
Initiative Order (fastest Quick)
  • Knight
  • Cat silver
  • Cat purple
  • Hunter
  • Theurg

Turn 1
Mare Cat imposes -3 Defence. The knight (15+1* -3 = TN 12, roll 9) hits. d12+d4 damage = 8 - 4 armour = 4 damage. *Great sword Precise quality.

Cat silver damage 4 - 1d8 armour 6 = No damage. Knight passes Strong test against poison.

Cat purple miss.

Hunter hits purple cat. The cat have 0 armour. 5 damage. The cat is at 6 toughness.

Theurg moves to flank the purple cat. He gains against advantage +2 on his accuracy test against the cat. He hits with his wooden staff (1d6) roll 5. The purple cat is dead.


Turn 2
The knight hits the silver cat and kills it. He takes 2 damage from the poison. He is at 9 toughness. The poison effect ends since this is the second turn.


The theurg makes a successful Lay on hands on the knight. 1d6 = 4. The knight is at 13 toughness on a maximum of 15. The theurg takes (1d4) 4 corruption! He is at 5 total. 3 short of his threshold of 8. 

The encounter ends. All temporary corruption are removed.

The characters have earned two XPs so far.

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