The Long and Varied Game

Elf-takenIn my opinion, I think Symbaroum has a lot of potential for playing a long and varied game. I touched upon this in my article on Story and Balance. As I said there,

I believe that players in Symbaroum should play characters that fit the adventure in hand and the phase of the campaign landscape faced.

With this in mind, it occurred to me that it would be both interesting and strangely satisfying for a group of characters to come across – or simply chance to pass – a collection of non-player characters, only to pick up an adventure later where those very NPCs become their characters for a different adventure.

I’m not certain where the idea sprang from, but I did feel a sort of warm and fuzzy feeling about how this might pan out at the table. The key would be to avoid any obvious connection and you would not want to overplay this mechanism with your group. If you make them feel that any NPC might become a future character, they might take advantage and start being nice to everybody!

To give you some ideas, I pulled out some Rory’s Story Cubes and gave them a throw!

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Traveling Entertainers | Spies for New Berendoria

(Story Cubes: Weight-lifter | Long shadow)
The triggering encounter might occur in Thistle Hold or Yndaros, but could equally occur on the road between minor and major settlements. The Sleepless Path from the west to Thistle Hold, for example, might be a viable choice – under the pretence that the entertainers have come from the fort of Otra Senja.

The player travelers might come across the entertainers in an inn or the entertainers might come across the travelers camp and ask to share their fire. The small group consists of a musician, a dancer, a strong man, a clown, a magician and a storyteller. If they come across the player travelers in the company of others they approach the owner of the venue and ask for permission to entertain and take money, offering the proprietor a share.

The whole troupe proves quite capable. Healthy, energetic and engaging, they take turns to entertain a smaller group or do the rounds with a larger audience. They have an easy attitude and happily engage in chat and gossip, offering their thoughts on events they have seen and rumours heard, often with a slight bias against authority. They rarely find themselves without support in this respect – and in an inn, the presence of drink might make this talk incendiary. Barroom brawl anyone?

In truth, the entertainers are spies for Duke Alesaro. They have certain contacts they meet along the road and also blind drops where they pick up packets of papers and information for return to New Berendoria. Switching focus, you can run one or more sessions with this group of spies seeking to gain entry to a key building within an urban centre or perhaps a notable temple or fortification further afield. Maybe, if the player travelers boasted about their exploits or noted an organisation they have had dealings with, the later adventure will involve the player entertainers targeting an artifact they travelers found or the HQ of the organisation.

Messengers from Afar | Guildless thieves on the take

(Story Cubes: Winged Boot | Jewel)

On the road, the player travelers come across an individual under attack. The travelers recognise him as a messenger wearing a distinct livery with a badge that shows a winged boot, white-gray on a crimson patch. He had been set upon by bandits who appear intent on taking his satchel. A horse stands distant from the encounter. Faced with resistance the bandits do not put up much of a fight – certainly they do not want to die for whatever the messenger carries. On the other hand, if they have the upper hand they will choose to beat the player travelers unconscious and take their money and possessions – this is not about murder.

If saved the messenger offers thanks and begs for their company on the remainder of their travels. He proves talkative, offering rumour and gossip, much of it highly implausible. He comes across as naive and gullible, a bit wet behind the ears. He will offer some food from his satchel by way of ‘payment’ for any assistance received. He will not offer sight nor information on what he carries – and if threatened, he will run.

If killed, the satchel contains food, a small amount of money in a leather pursue and a trapped scroll tube – containing both a Medium Poison that causes damage upon any contact with flesh [Quick–3 to avoid, unless the character has expertise with traps and makes a Cunning–3 test to deactivate the trap] and a scroll containing a length message written in code.

The messenger accompanies the player travelers to the next settlement or inn. Unless someone can make a [Vigilant–5] test, in the day after they part company the player characters will discover they have something important or valuable missing. If someone makes the test, they realise they’ve been robbed before they lose sight of the messenger and have the opportunity to give chase.

Actually, the messenger and bandits all work for the same group and they have been scoping out potential targets for expanding their unofficial franchise in this area. You can best site the encounter within a day and a half of a major settlement – as the key experience for these thieves will be the pressure they encounter to become guild members.

The player thieves can have the opportunity for a Ruinous Encounter to secure a base for their operations from the existing occupant(s). Once they have emptied the site and made something of it, they need to plan for their next job – perhaps securing supplies from a passing caravan using a similar bait-style approach to that used with the characters – only to find that this caravan had ‘insurance’ from the Guild against such robbery.

The final adventure of the run would see the player thieves facing off against a concerted effort by the Guild to put an end to their unsanctioned operation. The Guild might themselves use a ruse or disguise to achieve this or some form of misdirection – appearing as members of the Queen’s Rangers or Black Cloaks seeking to secure a holy site. The experience can come across as a mirror dungeon adventure, where the characters have to protect and secure their hideout from external attackers seeking to turf them out and take their loot.

Order of Healers | Elf-taken from Davokar

(Story Cubes: Sticky Plaster | Tree)

Elf-taken-2Like the Traveling Entertainers, this group probably works best if the player travelers chance upon them in an urban location. Any of the refugee camps along the paths and tracks from the Titans would also suit the group well enough. The Order offers healing and support to those suffering from disease, disability and malnutrition. They offer some measure of vague spiritual support to those seeking solace while working minor miracles with herbal lotions and fragrant salves.

If one or more player travelers have wounds or some threatening condition, the Order minister to their needs and mechanical restore 1D4+1 Toughness. The healers do not speak a great deal, [Lore Master | Cunning] but when they do they speak without accent or obvious dialect. If questions about it, they indicate the Order originates from some distant colony or somewhere in far Alberetor. The healers all have weathered and tanned skin, suggesting a life in the outdoors, and remain attentive and watchful at all times, servile in nature.

In reality, the Order are all Elf-taken humans (see Player’s Handbook for further information – but essentially, these are the other half of the Changeling equation, those taken rather than left behind) who have traveled out of Davokar and returned to the lands they never new beyond their cribs.

While they could be spies sent by the Autumn or Winter Elves on some task in Ambria, it might be more interesting to have them escaped, pursued by Summer Elves, and seeking out members of the Iron Pact in the belief they might give them sanctuary.

The individuals have a servile attitude because they have been little more in their time away. They have been raised well enough, but, in the process, they have been poked and prodded like rodents in a cage as the Elves have sought to learn more about them and their limits.

The treatment can easily border on abusive – but that very much depends on your own attitude, the tolerance of your gaming table and the themes you wish to pursue. Certainly, the individual characters have scars – physical, mental and spiritual – that they carry like weights. They remain wary and watchful for fear of retribution meted out by their masters and the prospect of forced return to Davokar – and a fate likely worse than the one they lived before.

The members of the Iron Pact may or may not welcome them – others might offer them succor instead. Nobles of Ambria, should they become aware of the nature of the Order, might see them as pawns worth rescuing, chips worth gambling for.

Oddly, an adventure centred on player Elf-taken could have a certain aspect of The A-Team about their existence. They can be a group with benevolent intentions to help and assist those in need while constantly on their guard for one or more groups determined to capture them and return them to captivity / bring them to justice / secure them for personal needs (a la General Stockwell).

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