It can be a challenge to get new gamers up to speed quickly, while also giving them a flavour of Symbaroum‘s rich setting and back story. The simple system always seems at odds with player expectations, and the depth of the setting can be a lot to take in. In most cases you can handle this with a simple adventure and a little exposition, perhaps using something like the Wheel of Misfortune.
However, thinking back to the games I first read in the 80s and 90s, not to mention the recently released Starter Set for The Call of Cthulhu RPG, it occurred to me that there’s another option… The solitaire introduction.
Using the Choose Your Own Adventure format might actually be an interesting and viable approach for Symbaroum, given the focus on the players to roll the dice. Instead of a GM, the paragraphs of text tell the tale and a roll on a short table or a coin flip might handle some basic decisions that would normal fall to the rule-keeper.
It would take time to put something together – but it could actually provide a very simple way to teach the system, set out some background and get the player up-to-speed before the first session. And it would be a prequel, too – of a sort:
The walk through the grim, grey fields of Alberetor’s northern reaches has dulled your spirits, aided by a steady flurry of fine rain. You trudge the well-worn path toward where you have heard traders gather intent upon making the dangerous voyage north across the Titans. You have little hope or prospect here yourself.
The war the nation fought against the Dark Lords took a terrible toll. Your grandfather and father join the charge under the banner of the King – and neither returned. When the King died and Queen Korinthia took the throne, some small glimmer of hope might have brightened your prayers – but that was before news spread that the enemy used black magic that corrupted the ground, blighted the crops and raised the dead to their bidding.
Your older brother joined the army, while you remained to defend your mother and young sister, eking what living you could from the crops on your farm. Years you toiled, getting by, when the news came of the battle that had seen the Queen lost to the enemy; you also heard that your brother had made a name for himself with promotion and a resputation. Rumour surfaced that forces of the Dark Lord had been seen close to home and you made certain to sharpen the blades once carried by your grandfather in service to country during the King’s youth.
When the enemy fell upon the local village and then your farm, no sword nor scant training in arms could aid you. The village militia fell and the buildings burned; then the army tampled your farm, too. Darkness fell as they stormed the farmstead. You wonder sometimes how you survived and bite your lip when you hear others give thanks to Prios, for the Lightbringer did nothing to save your family…
Ambria might serve to give you hope. You approach the scattered fires of the trading camp and see a scattering of people gravitating toward a large, brightly coloured tent. You hear word that one of the traders is seeking hired hands for a trip across the mountains – and those who wish to can seek a place by proving themselves. As you approach, a soldier in livery the colour of the tent steps in your path, barring your way. Beneath a helm of battered steel, his eye’s reflect the flickering flames of the fire.
“You’re not invited stranger; there are plenty who have waited weeks for this call and I can see your clothes still drip with filth from the journey.” His pole-arm drops, tip to the earth, and he points with his freehand to fires burning in the distance. “Take yourself back to wherever you came – and know the patience Prios gifted us all with.“
Tell the guard you wish to offer your services and that your grandfather served the King? Turn to 22
Tell him that you have money in your purse and that you can make it worth his while to turn and warm himself by the fire? Turn to 13
Attack him, while you have the element of surprise, with your sword? Turn to 9