The Ruins of Symbaroum 5e Books

Review

The Ruins of Symbaroum 5e Review

June 7, 2022

By: Andrew Stretch

 
 

Hundreds of years ago civilization fell. What used to be the stunning empire of Symbaroum fell to ruin, and was taken back by nature. The promise of magical items, treasures, and buildings resplendent in glory all lie within the Davokar forest, but that's not all… Under the canopy adventurers who dare to venture into the forest will also be met with all manner of monsters and the Corruption ready to infect them. This Ruins of Symbaroum 5e takes the incredibly in-depth Ruins of Symbaroum system and ports it to the Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition system making it that more enticing to jump into this cruel world and the Davokar forest.

As a port of the 5th edition ruleset Ruins of Symbaroum comes with everything you'll need to be able to run an adventure. A Gamemaster Guide that goes into detail on the world, lore, and unique mechanics of Ruins of Symbaroum, a Players Guide filled with information about the different denizens of the world and the roles they play, and the Bestiary chock full of powerful or creepy monsters ready to launch at your players. These books are no small reads either, each clocking in around the 200-230 page mark.

 

GMs pay attention, there are more than a few changes here

Reading through the Gamemaster Guide you'll find a lot of information that you expect to see. Breakdowns on what each of the player stats can be used for, what to prepare for before the game, combat and challenge ratings. These breakdowns are done in-depth and do a really good job guiding new GMs through the process while also reminding or even further detailing information that a GM might already know. A good example of the depth that this GM guide goes through is not only explaining the narrative concept of Deus Ex Machina but giving examples of where the solution to their problem may offer an alternative story path after the intervention. These more detailed examples of Deus Ex Machina allow the party to still be saved from a potential TPK, but it doesn't just feel like the GM overreaching to give the party a way out with no repercussion.

There is a brief introduction to the ideas of Shadows and Corruptions in the Gamemaster Guide too, where each character has a shadow-like aura around that only those with Shadow-sight can see. The darker your shadow becomes the more corrupted you are. This acts as an important value for a character as if their corruption gets too high their PC loses its mind and becomes a new NPC in the world of Symbaroum.

 
 
The Ruins of Symbaroum 5e Thistle Hold
An adventuring party approaching the gates of Thistle Hold

Careful detail is placed in the worldbuilding section of the Gamemaster Guide. This section goes into detail about the locations of Thistle Hold on the edge of the Davokar woods, Yndaros the capital and residence of Queen Korinthia, and Karvosti home to the Barbarians, as well as provided information on the Underworld and the Spirit World. It's not a complete picture of the world of Symbaroum but each of these towns has been fully fleshed out to provide for all of your player's needs down to a list of mercenaries for hire in the Adventurer's Academy. Ruins of Symbaroum gives GMs so much information that if even half of it gets relayed to the players during sessions it always feels like a complete world.

Primarily expeditions from the party will take place in the Davokar woods, this is where players will find the titular Ruins of Symbaroum. Davokar is intentionally left vague to allow the GM to fill it with ruins of fallen castles or prisons. Players will determine the purpose of their missions, equip themselves for the journey, and set out into the dangerous forest. This expedition format lends itself to the idea that players' quests are each contained expeditions, with dedicated time in between travel to rest and recuperate. Outside of expeditions this also allows for each player to have more autonomy with what they're doing not moving as a grouped unit, but instead free to travel around town.

 
 

For the GM that wants to enhance their games, there are also complete sections that delve into advanced traps, chase rules, ceremony rules, and detailed Social Challenges. A lot of these sections are quite specific to the world of Symbaroum, but many can also be adapted to any location. Even if the world of Symbaroum doesn't seem up your alley these sections are worth it alone. On the surface, the Social Challenges are about each of the factions across Symbaroum and how nicely they play with one another, but it quickly gets involved in the minutia of your character's social status, tastes, and history of dealing. This helps to make any kind of social deal or communication highly detailed and accurate to the people of the world.

Building your character from the ground up

Players familiar to 5th edition might come into Ruins of Symbaroum knowing a lot, but there are a few new interesting mechanics that might fundamentally shift the way that you play the game. The first of these is that there's a new Extended rest, longer than a Long Rest for 8 hours, this 24 hour rest will now function as a way to fully regain all of your Hit Points and Hit Die. Long Rests now allow players to use Hit Die to regain health, and they'll get to roll to regain some Hit Die too. This might mean on an expedition that you're constantly working from a smaller and smaller health pool, enhancing the danger of lengthy expeditions, as well as making that well-deserved Extended Rest that much sweeter.

The concepts of Shadows and Corruption are delved into further within this section. These shadows commonly exist in shades of grey for no person is truly pure of heart, and if someone was fully corrupted to have a completely black aura they would no longer be a member of civilized society. A character's corruption threshold is two times their Proficiency Modifier added to their Charisma modifier. When characters face harrowing foes or use non-permanent magic their Temporary Corruption may increase. While the Temporary Corruption is as the name suggests, temporary, there is also permanent corruption that can come through acceptance of feats in exchange for terrible powers or through large story events. As your corruption rises it will begin to take a physical toll on your character too. At corruption level 5 your fingernails will grow like claws or talons, if you manage to survive all the way to level 18 corruption then darkness itself can be seen as streams within your blood and you'll soon begin to stink of sulfur. Where HP will flow up and down regularly through combat and rests this corruption will be a value that will evolve over a much longer period of time and may ultimately lead not to the character's death, but for them to grow so corrupt they go wild becoming an NPC that the party may encounter at a later point.

While the Gamemaster Guide focuses on the world from a top-down perspective, the Players Guide looks at it from the ground floor launching players into explanations of each of the world's regions and the factions of people within them. As the relationships between races are well defined, and certain races wouldn't even be present in some places all of this information is key to breaking down who you want to be and where you want to be from. Relationships between species dive deeper than simply roleplay aesthetics as races like Goblins get disadvantage for persuasion checks against humans as a racial feature. Each of these races' positions is set in stone in the world, there's less for a worldbuilder to toy with without ruining the base concept of Symbaroum, but that rigidity also allows creators, Free League, to create mechanics based around those decisions.

 
 

The Ruins of Symbaroum 5e Player Races

The Player Guide comes with nine different Races and five different classes, each class with a number of different subclasses. Within the base Players Guide the subclasses can immediately get extremely expansive, spider-webbing out into the variety of different types of characters you can create. The Mystic subclass alone has nine different wildly different approaches. As a Mystic Artifact Crafter, you use your arcane abilities to infuse objects with your power, but as a Troll Singer, your voice channels your magic. If you're familiar with a lot of 5e Classes you'll likely spot some similarities across the board, like a Warrior Knight or a Scoundrel Guild Thief, but there's a lot mechanically different going on too. These Classes then have a chance to specialize even further with the introduction of the Feats available in Symbaroum.

Feats come in a number of different flavors. Boons are the traditional type of feat you'd be familiar with, there's a slight increase to your stats or other proficiency/ability that you obtain. After Boons are Burdens, these feats have a greater increase in stat or a more powerful ability but they also come with a negative aspect. A lot of these Burdens can add an interesting dynamic to your roleplaying, as well as give you an ability increase. The Wanted Burden will give you a +2 to Charisma, but once per adventure you need to pass a DC10 Deception check to not be noticed by the authorities who might want to arrest you.

Then there are Origin Feats which are connected to your race or background, and the Class Feats which are just tied to your class. This is where a level 9 Mystic might be able to take on a feat allowing them to delve into the realm of necromancy. Putting this additional specialization on a Feat within an Approach, within a Class gives better diversification between the party. You might have two characters with the same base Class that ends up as wildly different characters not only through roleplay but also mechanically.

I encountered a WHAT kind of monster?

Now you've got your world and party together and are aware of the stakes of the world the last part is to add the monsters that the players will face as they journey through the world. The enemies you'll face in the Bestiary are broken up into the 'Hordes of The Eternal Night', the dark creatures soaked in corruption, the 'Beasts and Monsters' that roam the forest, and the different factions of other humanoids that you might run into as adversaries in the forest.

The Ruins of Symbaroum 5e Outsiders
The terror of these monsters is perfectly captured by the artwork in the books

As you start leafing through the pages of the Ruins of Symbaroum Bestiary you'll quickly realize it's unlike any other that you've likely read. It isn't just a stat block with a paragraph of context before moving on to the next monster. For the majority of the creatures, you read about you'll be treated to multiple pages worth of information. You'll get to learn of the creature's habitat, tactics, additional lore about the creatures, stat blocks, and be given a plot hook that would be relevant to start a hunt for them.

By the time you're done reading about a creature you want to put in front of your party, you'll be an expert on every aspect of their lives. This can allow you to drop relevant hints into any of their speech to the party, or allow them to attack to the best of their ability ensuring that the Ruins of Symbaroum and Davokar Forest are as unforgiving as they should be.

What Are Our Final Thoughts on Ruins of Symbaroum 5e?

Ruins of Symbaroum 5e is a deep deep dive into the world of Symbaroum with newly refined 5e mechanics which might make it an easier hop for those enjoying Dungeons & Dragons but want more of a challenge. The level of details that the authors have gone into with this book are incredible to read, while it does leave a bit less up to the GM to put into the world Symbaroum has such a clear vision to it you'll likely just want to leave it be in such a high-quality form. New mechanics add depth to player characters and even taking on a negative trait can lead to all kinds of unique opportunities that make them hard to pass up. This world is so clear and realized even as you're reading about deadly and corrupted Killer Shrubs you can feel the love the creators have for this world.

Should I Buy Ruins of Symbaroum 5e?

If regular Dungeons & Dragons 5e just isn't doing it for you either by the source books not giving you enough information for you to feel comfortable running your latest games, or if you feel like your players are getting through situations far too easily then Ruins of Symbaroum 5e is definitely up your alley. Even if you're not wanting to dive fully into the setting the additional rules and Bestiary alone are worth checking out for ways to enhance how you already play.


The Ruins of Symbaroum 5e Digital PDFs used in the creation of this review were provided by the Publisher.

Review Summary

Review Summary

Ruins of Symbaroum 5e is an incredibly details dark fantasy world now adapted to the D&D 5e system. These books contain an incredible amount of detail to not only make a fun, but challenging world for players to join. If you're looking for something more difficult then look no further.