One-Shot Symbaroum

Symbaroum-Funnel-CharacterOne-shot quick-start games matter a lot. If you can sit down and run something with only 15 minutes of warm-up (or less), then you have a valuable asset in your gaming pocket. A good example, yesterday I didn’t really know what I would be running, but what I did know was that I needed to fill a 3.5 – 4-hour slot with a one-shot game and I wanted that slot to be more game than book-keeping.

Symbaroum has a simple enough character generation system, but the challenge comes in the choices. I managed to run a game of Into The Odd because the game prep at the start of the session minimises player thinking time. I ask what general sort of character would you like to play – and then the rest of the process involves random rolls on a bunch of tables for weapons, adventuring gear, hit points and even the character’s name. A player rolls for everything – including the character’s three attributes – and that randomization makes for a speedy “in” to the game and a minimal character sheet, with only three stats.

Well, Symbaroum has eight stats and a bunch of Abilities and Power that mean you probably won’t get out of character generation in less than 15 minutes because of the analysis-paralysis of choice.

We need more random!

The Funnel

The Symbaroum Funnel proposed a method for generating a character with a more random approach, with a Zero. A Zero has no experience and, therefore, doesn’t have any Abilities or Powers. You pick the spread of Attributes, roll for equipment and also for a goal – and then you get adventuring.

To assist with this process, I have come up with a very basic – but flavorful – character sheet based on my emblem for The Iron Pact. You can download a sheet of nine Symbaroum Zeroes character summary cards from this link to Drive.

You can either record information directly on the card – or you can stick the card in a top loader sleeve (heavy duty plastic cover used to store trading or collectible cards) and write on the sleeve with a dry wipe pen. In principle, a combination of the two probably works as mostly the character’s Attributes won’t change. The only change will likely come from the derived scores – like Toughness – and the accumulating values – like Corruption. The name, goal, occupation and base scores should stay the same.

For the rest of the character information, use a scrap of paper or a dry wipe card – like the one in the picture. Makes for a neat and portable combo – even when you later acquire an Ability or two. Just take you cards – character and Ability Reference – and keep them together with a bull clip or an elastic band. Or, you could print the sheet on a piece of card and then the player can scribble on the back with additional information without it showing through. Or use a pencil.

More Random, Please

You have a card for recording you Attributes, goal, name, and occupation – and the rest goes on another sheet. You can roll most of that information up on the tables provided in the Funnel article – but you still have the issue of analysis paralysis on those aspects not covered by a table.

Don’t hold back from letting the players consult the core book when it comes down to choosing a name for their character. You can always let them choose or quicken the pace with a D6 or D8 and randomise the selection, depending on the length of the list in the Race section.

And those Attributes… that might take a while. Well, I have that as a work in progress and plan to have a table completed with options there. It occurs to me that if the basic decision can be fixed – i.e. where they stick the high scores, the rest will come soon enough.

  • Academic – C, P, Archivist
  • Architect – C, A, Hideout
  • Ascetic – R, V, Memory Master
  • Barber – C, A, Business
  • Barrister – P, C, Commanding Voice
  • Bounty Hunter – Q, V, Bloodhound
  • Bureaucrat – P, R, Manipulator
  • Groom – S, C, Beast Tongue
  • Gravedigger – D, S, Pet
  • Herald – P, Q, Privileged
  • Monk/Nun – V, R, Contacts (Church of Prios)
  • Scribe – A, C, Archivist
  • Storyteller – P, Q, Storyteller

That’s not a complete list, but the idea would be to propose the two highest Attributes and an Advantage (which I have roughly translated from the Swedish Symbaroum Spelarens Handbok, so pardon any confused meanings… I’m not done yet). I think it might also be an idea to propose what might be the lowest Attribute – and then the player only needs to fill the numbers in around the middle, where the difference is less extreme.

It’s a work in progress, but I hope it might make Symbaroum more useful as a one-shot drop-in game. With simple adventures suited to Zero heroes or just a few encounter ideas jotted down around a simple sketch map, you can have a game up and running, from nothing, in moments.

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  1. A is for Attributes – The Iron Pact

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