Symbaroum: The Gloaming Roads

Led by their Barbarian guide Tior Huldrasson, the party walked the Gloaming Roads and found themselves at the crumbling ruins of an ancient fortress deep in Dark Davokar. Tior called it ‘the bastion of Kal’Nohr’ and claimed it was here that the party would find the artifacts they were searching for.

The group advanced cautiously down the stone stairs and walked the path between the collapsed buildings. Dark as it was, one of their number noticed a pattern of strange, intricate symbols drawn in the dirt off to one side. A careful check revealed these drawings were made with black salt and they surrounded each of the buildings. The symbols seemed to change through the course of the pattern; arcane glyphs twisted into letters that morphed into numbers that formed beasts and astrological signs. It was difficult to determine where one ended and the other began.

It was Tior who finally gleaned some meaning from them. “They’re warding symbols. The oldest, most powerful kind. What I can’t tell is if they’re meant to keep something in, or something out. ”

“We didn’t come all they way here to sight see,” the Cleric of Prios said. “We need to search these buildings.”

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Which was true, but the question was how to get past the wards without disturbing them?

One idea then and another was batted back and forth, finally the Ogre decided he would get a running start and jump over the salt barrier. He would check out the nearest building, a small one, and report back.

A Quickness test. At +1 no less. (He’s a big guy. Not like the warding pattern is tall or anything. And it’s maybe three feet wide.)

Critical Failure.

The Ogre backs up, jogs toward the ruins and just as he’s about to leap, catches his boot on a root and tumbles face first onto the ground, flailing and sliding through the dirt smearing a wide, messy path through the carefully laid, complex drawings.

The Ogre gets to his feet sheepishly, brushes dirt, salt, moss and twigs from his jerkin.”Sorry.”

The rest of the group stares, mouths gaping. Silence reigns for the space of maybe ten heat beats. And then a loud groan erupts from the forest around them.

There’s a rustle in the dense undergrowth and six, massive, Blighted dryads emerge. They are the guardians of Kal’Nohr’s Bastion.

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A vulgar brawl ensued. Several party members were hit hard and came close to death.  But the Ogre redeemed himself and took down a number of the Dryads on his own and got an assist on one more. The rest of the party accounted for the others, the Wizard’s ‘Brimstone Cascade’ spell coming in very handy here. Finally, the last of the creatures was felled.

At last, the party limped into the largest building at the end of the path and started searching.

***

Symbaroum is a great game; rich lore, evocative art, a dark and dangerous setting. Focused on storytelling, the combat scenes are easily shifted to the table top. It’s simple to pick up, deep enough to make mastery worthwhile and satisfying, and loaded with potential. If you play RPGs, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Large ZONA ALFA mission next week. Have a great weekend. (Get some painting done, will ya?)

Symbaroum: The Gloaming Roads, part 2

The Adventure Continues in Davokar

More Symbaroum last night as the party made its way deeper into the forest, heading toward a Lone Gate. These ancient structures are portals that lead to the Gloaming Roads; the mystical pathways that allow one to travel swiftly across the trackless leagues of  Deep Davokar.

 

Three incidents worth noting: the first was the appearance of a wizened trapper. Hunched, wrinkled and worn, with intricate blue tattoos in precisely half his body, he was accompanied by a blind and mute boy who carried his bags. While one member pondered attacking the seemingly defenseless duo (bad idea) common sense and common courtesy prevailed. The party left the scene with less gold but a number of useful provisions.

Next was a campsite. The bodies of five novice treasure hunters were discovered, all with terrible wounds and signs of corruption.  Unfortunately, the ogre tripped while searching one of the tents, knocked over a cooking set and smashed one of the camp stools. The racket alerted a blighted toad, demon… thing. Some minor wounds but the ogre redeemed himself and killed the vile creature.

Last was the Gate itself. Barbarian raiders had been tracking the party, having recognized one of the characters as a wanted fugitive. Their ambush wasn’t as successful as they’d hoped, but the ensuing brawl was quite ugly. Here again, Max’s ogre was in fine form, absolutely destroying barbarians with his hammer and sword. (twin attacks, each 1D8, +1D4 damage. It is a beautiful thing when it works.)

The last of the raiders was dispatched just as the sun set and the full moon rose. Ritual performed, the Gate opens and our heroes step onto the Gloaming Roads.  To be continued next week.

 

Game Night: Symbaroum

Apologies for the silence on the hobby front – I have the good problem of an abundance of work and when you’re self-employed, you have to take it when it comes. Our weekly game nights have been consistent despite that, (priorities, right?) but due to the hectic schedule, we’ve been focusing on RPGS. And when there are six regulars, it makes sense space and time wise to dial the scale of battle down so everyone stays engaged.

So with that in mind, John recently ran an excellent DnD one-shot wherein our party investigated an ancient crumbling fortress rumored to be tainted by evil, not to mention the most likely cause of a number of local peasants disappearing. Despite the rescue and subsequent accidental death of one of said aforementioned farmers, (Alas, poor Kevin, I knew him well…) we defeated the ruinous powers lurking beneath the fortress and freed the land from its malignant influence. It was a good time and lots of fun.

Now there are some very nice reinforcements on the painting table for our upcoming ZONA ALFA campaign, modern Russians and Chechens sculpted by Igor Karpov for SASM.  (Igor is the putty genius behind Lead Adventure Miniature’s ‘Last Project’ post-apocalyptic figs.)  That means six full crews should be entering the Zone some time in November.

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In the meantime, I’ve discovered the dark fantasy RPG ‘Symbaroum’. Created by Jarnringen in Sweden, I was first captivated by the artwork’s brooding menace and melancholy. Now games don’t always live up to the marketing, but I took a chance on a hard copy of the rules. Fortunate for me, this one did. In fact, this game is downright excellent.

I’ll spare you the review – there are plenty of good ones circulating on the inter-webs already – but suffice it to say the mechanics are smooth and solid, and translate easily to the tabletop – which is important for me, a long time war gamer. Having said that though, I want to stress Symbaroum is about story telling, not loot and leveling – which is important to me as a writer.  The back-story and aesthetic of Ambria and Davokar is dark and rich, a gold mine of inspiration. I confess that in 40+ years of hobby gaming, I don’t recall ever being this intrigued by a game setting.

So, while I catch up on glass work and brush my way through the painting queue, I’ll be running a one shot adventure titled ‘The Gloaming Roads’. Basically a treasure hunt, I wrote it up after  reading the rule book and advanced players guide. It’s an introduction to the game and world. To make things easier, the players start out a couple levels up, sort of seasoned adventurers entering the forest of Davokar for the first time.

I can post specifics if there is interest but for now, here are some pictures of our first session and the player characters.

You can click on the images for larger versions, but basically you can see a town near the forest, a Barbarian Mystic, a Changeling Hunter, a Cleric of Prios, an Ogre Fighter, an Ordo Magica wizard, and an Ambrian Man-at-Arms.

The next episode of The Gloaming Roads is slated for Tuesday evening. More on that as it develops.  For now, I’ll leave you with this:

When the Moon’s Womb is ripe, the Lone Gates open

By Blood and Root, the Learned may stride the Gloaming Roads

That span the breadth of sacred Symbaroum.

 

 

Have a good weekend.

Tharnulf’s Crypt – Part 2

“Where have you been?” the Paladin snapped. “Spiders, roaches, ogres, all manner of creepy crawlies coming out of the stonework, and you’re upstairs looting bodies.”

“Scared of bugs, are you?” the Dark Elf corsair smiled thinly. “Don’t tell me I have to hold your hand.”

***

The party was joined by a Dark Elf Corsair, (Max) who probably was looting bodies. He arrived just as his woodland cousin the Druid handed the keystone to the Orc mercenary who unlocked the pillars blocking the way into the rest of the crypt. Together, the five of them advanced down the corridor to the library.

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Advancing cautiously, the group entered the library, weapons ready. When nothing dropped down out of the ceiling or sprang from the shadows, the proceeded to search the bookshelves in the far wall and the pile of debris on their right. The only unusual thing about the room was the loose flagstones under their boots – as if the library’s floor was poorly set on sand – and a strong odor of freshly turned dirt.

“That’s human masonry for you,” the Dwarf muttered. “Shoddy work. Doesn’t even last two centuries.”

A search revealed several items including a tome of engraved copper plates, half a dozen strange gold coins, several jars of mystery ointments, and a thin, silver letter opener.

“What am I supposed to do with this?” the Ork asked. “Help a werewolf open his mail?”

Before the Paladin could come up with a snarky reply, the floor erupted in a shower of dirt and rocks…. a carrion worm!

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The ensuing battle lasted a number of rounds, with the worm retreating back into its hole only to reappear somewhere else. Consequently, the fighting moved from the library to the next corridor to the large pillared room outside Tharnulf’s Chamber.

As the larger half of the party moved down the passage in pursuit of the worm, they triggered the next wave of hostiles: a mob of goblin scuttlers, backed by a gibbering shaman and a drooling brute.

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“Never split the party”  is time-worn, proven advice. But they did and it almost cost the adventurers the game. Fortunately, some good rolling and a Gruesome Kill helped our heroes fight off the attack.

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When the last surviving scuttler had fled wailing down the dark passages, the bloodied, exhausted party found themselves outside Thernulf’s Chamber. The passage however, was blocked by a mysterious well. An eerie glow emanated from its depths and the head of an ancient goddess was carved on the standing slab behind it. From one angle, it appeared the goddess was smiling at the viewer – from another, she snarled.

“Wait a minute…” said the Dwarf. “That looks like the face that’s stamped on those weird coins I found in the library.”

Yes. It is.

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Tharnulf’s Crypt

“Well, that’s kinda obvious…”

The party had been hired by a local duke to pursue a gang of thieves that has been terrorizing the towns and villages on his lands. After the most recent raid, the group – an Elf Druid, an Orc Mercenary, a Dragonborn Paladin, and a Dwarf Runemaster –  tracked the bandits to their hideout in some ancient, unnamed ruins, deep in the hills.

They watched and waited, and attacked after midnight once most of them were asleep. It was quick work, bloody work. After all, the Duke made a point of saying all trial costs would be deducted from the bounty, so proof of death was all that was really required here.  The Orc made sure you had several small barrels and a large bag of salt on hand to preserve the necessary evidence.

However, a few of the thugs tried to make a stand in what was left of the old keep. That just made the job take about 15 minutes longer. Once that was over though, the Elf noticed a draft coming from a fissure in a stone wall at the back of the ground floor. Even more odd, he noticed the masonry didn’t match the rest of the keep. It was old yes, but different stone, poorly cut, crude.

Curious, another 15 minutes, a crow bar, and some sweat revealed a passageway behind the false wall, with steps that lead down into the dark. Someone raised a lantern and there on the second step under the dust and cobwebs was a gold sazide: a coin from the first Prahan Dynasty. The last of that line died two centuries earlier, but the detail on that coin is as crisp as the day it was minted. The gold alone is worth a month’s wages, easily; the coin as an artifact is worth twenty times that to a collector or historian.

The Dragonborn Paladin snorted. “Well that’s kinda obvious.”

Down they went.

***

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THE INSCRIPTION ROOM

The steps end in a corridor. Raising a lantern, the party spies the Inscription chamber dead ahead. Aside from the usual muck, musty air, and rotting barrels, the passage is clear.

Inspection of the Inscription Room reveals a carved dedication to

‘Lord Aolin Tharnulf who secured the Northern March for the Empire, ruled justly and wisely for 68 years, and brought Light and Law to the land.’

There is a diagram of the Tomb that shows both Lord Tharnulf and his Seneschal are interred here. This Lord Tharnulf must have been part Dwarf or had serious connections with the clans because the Crypt Builder’s mark is a very ornate Dwarf rune. And his Steward’s name was Manus Graybeard.

“A Dwarf named ‘Graybeard’… that’s not cliche,” snarked the Paladin.

 

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Meanwhile, the Elf takes up guard facing the right passage while Orc moves left to find the hall barred by a pair of interlocked pillars. No way past them but there’s a clear opening for a keystone to unlock them.

“Guess we’re going right,” the Orc calls out. “Eyes peeled for a keystone, everyone.”

The party moves into the other hallway only to be attacked. A huge spider and four giant cockroaches drop from the ceiling.

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The insects prove incredibly difficult to kill, to the point of mauling the Orc so bad he needed healing. Eventually (far longer than expected) the party dispatched the insects and proceeded into the large chamber.

All four members were so excited about two chests in a small side room that yielded useful items that no one noticed the large black pillars covered in arcane symbols in the middle of the chamber.

The Dwarf spotted the Seneschal’s Tomb and in his haste, stepped between the pillars on his way to the hall.

The air quivered and popped. The room temperature plummeted. There was a deep grind of stone as a section of the wall slid back and out stepped three ogres. Angry ones. With clubs.

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‘Nasty, brutish, and short’ was the phrase that came to the Orc’s mind as he reflected on the battle afterward. (for he was a rather pensive greenskin) Fact is, the ogres were destroyed in the time one would think it would take a group of experienced adventurers to squash insects.

Once the smiting and slaying were accomplished, the four comrades entered the Seneschal’s Tomb, located more treasure, a rather ornate keystone which definitely looked like it might fit in a pair of interlocked pillars, and (finally) noticed an inscription engraved around the base of the stone throne.

Four are the Guardians of Lore

Three are the Doors to the Tomb

Two are the Keys forged in War

One is the Portent of Doom

“Oh great, a cryptic rhyme,” muttered the snide paladin. “Probably some kind of long lost prophesy. Guess we’ll find out next week in the other section of…

*cue scary music and echo-y voice*

THARNULF’S TOMB

Start: the dungeon of Sagra-Bayar

The modular dungeon of Sagra-Bayar, that is.

 

Completed the latest round of glass work this weekend and allowed the hobby to take over one of my shop tables for a couple days. Now this idea had been bouncing around my head for a while: 3D dungeon tiles using faux-stone vinyl tiles. Seemed like a fast and simple way to get a sturdy, stone floor. Add a hunk of 1″ insulation foam, some cheap craft paint, a couple paint pens, lots of elbow grease scoring the stone work, and glue.

The result is three 12″x 12″ rooms, six 6″ x 12″ corridors, and eight 6″ x 6″ rooms.

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I know there’s lots of detailing yet to be done. I’m going to scour my bits box and the internet for details and banners, and I suspect I’ll want to pick up a couple sets of 28mm scenics and furniture, but I think this is a good start. So far, the project cost less than $50.

More pictures coming as I progress. I’m looking forward to our next dungeon crawl even more now.

Have a great day.

 

Dark Rituals

Our ASOBH game continues as the adventurers come upon the Necromancer Varro Desecrae conducting an dark ritual at the Shrine of the Sky Stone.

In addition to his Hell Knight bodyguard, the vile mage hired a goblin shaman and a mob of goblin scuttlers (backed by a Toad Demon) to insure the ritual is goes off uninterrupted.

The forces of evil dominated the first portion of the game with the goblins swiftly advancing on the attack and Varro Desecrae banking 6 successful actions to summon a skeletal giant.

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The battlefield
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Goblin mob with extra demon power!
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Minions of the Necromancer
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Desecrae invoking the power of the gibbering dark.

Our heroes responded sluggishly. (poor dice rolls, esp by the Elf Druid and Werebear) While the Dragonkin cleric squared off against the Toad demon, the two Ork trackers were overwhelmed by the goblins.

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Fierce combat see-sawed back and forth. The Dragonkin couldn’t catch his breath to summon his dracolisk.
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It was like fighting a mob of 6-year olds. Death by a thousand cuts: a brave attempt but the Orks eventually succumbed to the incessant slice and jab.

THE TIDE TURNS

Perhaps it was the Orks’ death. Maybe it was sheer bloody tenacity, but there was a distinct sea change midway through the game. The slow and steady Dwarf advance paid dividends as they felled the Hell Knight, then advanced on the Shrine itself, interrupting the Necromancer at his fell purpose.

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Down goes the Hell Knight!
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Down goes the Skeleton Giant.

Bodyguards dead, Dwarf warrior approaching, Desecrae flees the field and leaves the ritual unfinished and a mysterious icon on the shrine dais.

Squealing in triumph, the goblin scuttlers attack the Druid and Werebear, only to be bloodied by spear and broad axe. The survivors scatter.

On the other flank, the Cleric finally lands a solid blow with his mace, crushing the demon’s head.

With heavy casualties and their leader gone, the forces of darkness flee. A near thing but the adventurers claim victory.

The severely wounded Orks will recover but have to do battle next week with penalties to either their Q or C. (their choice)

Hard fought, hard won. Game over.

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However this campaign turns out, the consensus is the Dwarf Warrior’s victory over the Giant Skeleton will be remembered in song and saga for generations to come.