Arrai took a cautious step back from the robber. He did not seem like a significant threat, but there was something strange behind those eyes that had not been there a moment ago. A fury. An unhinged wrath. The hunter’s head pounded as it often did when he was in danger. Jak growled deeply – the hound-familiar sensing something that Arrai was not certain he could see, except for how the shadows gathered strangely around the robber’s arm as he lifted his axe to strike.
A Hostile World
The world of Symbaroum is not a still land. Just beneath the bountiful soil and lush canopy is a dark flesh wreathed in raw nerves, nerves that extend into the plants and creatures of the land. Davokar is a scab covering the rotting wounds of a giant that still thrashes in pain, and mankind is a colony of termites burrowing into the meat for treasure.
Wratha’s raging hunger is not a desire to quench a thirst. It is the desperate reaction to scratch an itch, to swat a fly, to lick a wound, to protect a bruise.
At the game table, this can be expressed by inflicting corruption and unleashing dark creatures in response to the players’ actions, but these are very anonymous and directionless. It does not betray the notion that the darkness is almost sentient, and deliberately hostile towards the players.
A fellow GM and I have been exchanging ideas for the adventures we’re constructing, and as part of those conversations she asked if Symbaroum uses anything like the Darkness Points that can be found in games like Coriolis (another Swedish-made game with fantastically atmospheric worldbuilding). For her adventure she needed a “Doom Counter” of sorts to build up to an encounter depending on the actions of the players – so that the players would be rewarded for putting thought behind their actions and punished for acting rashly.
It struck me that this seems exactly how Davokar and many other things in Symbaroum should be structured.
In Coriolis, the Darkness Points represents the Darkness Between the Stars – a malevolent magical energy that saturates the universe and threatens to unleash demons and other dark occurrences against the players in retribution for them invoking the powers of the world’s deities. Each action that offends the Darkness gives the GM a token to represent the group’s Darkness Points. These are visible to the players and visually indicate how much danger they are in.
The GM can then spend the tokens for a number of purposes. Some examples include re-rolls for NPCs, jamming or emptying the ammo of a player character’s weapon, allowing NPCs to make actions normally reserved for PCs such as reloading or making reactions, declaring that a player character has lost something valuable to them, triggering a player character’s personal problem, triggering natural hazards, throwing innocents into the crossfire of a battle, temporarily driving player characters insane, or granting special powers to NPCs.
I’m sure you fellow Symbaroum GMs already have a bunch of ideas rolling around for how to use these points just by reading that.
Let me present my thoughts…
Wrath is an indicator of the darkness that surrounds the player characters as they travel Ambria and Davokar. As they take actions that may upset the natural order of things, the world reacts to lash out against them. For most travellers, this rarely registers as more than the occasional stint of bad luck, but for those who brave the depths of Davokar to challenge the taboos of the Barbarian clans the darkness is a constant companion. Seasoned treasure hunters may speak of it as if it was a spectre that haunted their steps, turned the land against them, and guided the blows of their enemies.
Garner the Wrath
Certain actions and activities will curse a player group with Wrath. Wrath is represented by dark D6es hoarded by the Game Master, which they may employ to darken the day of any character in the group.
These actions always cause Wrath:
Using any Mystical Power: +1 Wrath
Using any Ritual: +1 Wrath
Using artifacts and mystical items: +1 Wrath
Opting not to take Temporary Corruption*: +1 Wrath
On journeys in Davokar, these actions also cause Wrath:
Making a campfire: +1 Wrath
Killing beasts: +1 Wrath
Excessive harvesting: +1 Wrath
Disturbing tombs and graves: +2 Wrath
Daily travel in Dark Davokar: +2 Wrath
Entering a cursed place: +3 Wrath
* One potential way to play with Wrath is to let players take Wrath instead of suffering Temporary Corruption from any source, as the darkness of the magic spills into the world around them rather than them taking it unto themselves. Note that this is a dangerous and selfish act, one which may cause injury to the character’s comrades as a result.
The Game Master can spend their Wrath point at any time, but ideally they should be saved for a crucial moment to make life difficult for the player group at a time when it makes for the best story.
To accomplish this, the GM has a number of ways they can use Wrath:
- Add to a player’s D20 when rolling a test. If the result of the D20+D6 is over the character’s Attribute, they fail.
- Give +1 armor-ignoring damage to an adversary’s attack against a player character.
- Give an adversary a temporary +1 to an attribute, lasting for the rest of the scene
- Allow an adversary to make a roll for damage or armor rather than using their static value.
- Reduce a player character’s weapon damage or armor reduction by one dice tier for a single roll.
- 1D6 food rations are spoiled
And for especially cruel Game Masters, here are some ideas for even bigger effects of large pools of Wrath:
- Add an additional adversary to any encounter that uses the number of player characters as a basis.
- Roll the dice. 2D6 rations of food are spoiled.
- Reduce a player character’s weapon damage or armor reduction by one dice tier for an entire scene
- Inflict 1D4 Temporary Corruption on a player character
- Permanently reduce a player character’s weapon damage by one dice tier. It must be repaired to be restored.
- A part of a player character’s armor (Use Hit Location) is damaged beyond use. It must be repaired to be used again.
- Add a wave of 1D6 Weak adversaries to an encounter
- Inflict 1 Permanent Corruption on a player character
- Damage a player character’s weapon beyond use. It must be repaired to be used again.
- Open a sinkhole 2D6 meters from the players. It has a radius of 2D6 meters and is 1D6x1D6 meters deep.