Our spoiler-free thoughts after playing the first act of Baldur’s Gate 3.
We’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of Baldur’s Gate 3 since we played early access three years ago. The thing that appealed to us most was that we could create our own characters within a TTRPG setting, allowing us to create Taliesin and Ruuda. We always play them, and other characters from our game/book series when allowed to create an entire party. We’ve done it for Pillars of Eternity II, Neverwinter, WWE 2K23, and Solasta. As soon as the game was officially out, we jumped at the opportunity to begin this new adventure.
The character creation is decent. Since we tried to recreate our characters exactly, it was disappointing. When games with less development time like 2K23 allow you to enter your character height by inches and weight by pounds to adjust their physique, we expected to see a game with this much detail allow sliders at the very least. We were super happy you could play a duergar, however. That race always gets overlooked and it is a joy to finally have that option.
The graphics are certainly very pretty; the hair looks soft enough to touch. And the ability to dye your clothes to further customize your look is a wonderful addition. We wish you could preview the dye look before committing to it, though.
The gameplay is extremely user-friendly. You can toggle the camera between characters and swivel it around, giving you much more flexibility than the typical top-down perspective of similar games. You point and click where you want your character to move instead of having to fuss with directing yourself through the keyboard. It is easy to target enemies, and the hot bar has simple navigations to find what you are looking for.
Combat flows really well. You are allowed to scale the difficulty based on if you want to focus more on the story and less on fighting the same boss over and over. The three-dimensional environments allow for some really fun fighting locations.
The story is the heart and soul of Baldur’s Gate 3. The characters have depth, are complicated, and have interesting backstories that influence your quests. You are allowed to make moral decisions, and it isn’t always clear on who to trust. You care about NPC’s, you are driven to explore, and the absolute vast amount of dialogue options allows you to feel like you are truly part of the story.
The first act of Baldur’s Gate 3 is an epic and dark adventure sweeping you into a fully-fleshed out world. You truly lose track of time when you play this game due to how simply fun it is.
Pros: Beautiful graphics, compelling story, great characters, user-friendly gameplay
Earlier this year Dorian co-founded a website called Game Sandwich. With how busy we’ve been we’ve neglected to talk about it! Though it’s only been around six months, it’s already seeing tremendous growth and success. We would be remiss not to let you know about this exciting venture and its backstory.
In the spring of this year, Dorian was one of a large number of freelancers all suddenly let go from a gaming website. Everyone was devastated. Freelancing is difficult enough as it is, with very little pay, sudden cuts in hours, and limited work availability. Many of the people let go relied on that job to afford groceries.
“I’ve had nothing to eat but chips and pop-tarts all week,” one of these people told Dorian. “I can’t afford anything else. I don’t know what to do.”
This got Dorian thinking. While he couldn’t do anything about the money, perhaps he could do something to lift everyone’s spirits, and give them a new purpose. He suggested the idea of bringing together everyone that was laid off to create their own gaming website. One where they could create quality content based on their expertise and experience, and not what an executive who had never picked up a controller deemed to be acceptable.
The response was immediate. For days Dorian was bombarded with messages of everyone interested. Writers, editors, SEO specialists, website creators, and more. After a few meetings, talking with a small business specialist, and submitting for an LLC, Game Sandwich was up and running!
The passion each of these creators has drives the website. All of them do this for the love of it, and that love is paying off. Game Sandwich continues to grow, giving these once voiceless creators and platform and a purpose.
The second annual “Days of Tales” is coming to Twitch. We were a part of the stream last year, and though we won’t be playing this year, we again are donating copies of our Thread of Souls books to this cause. In anticipation for the upcoming TTRPG event on March 24 – 26th, we reached out to the creator of “Days of Tales”, known across the web as TheLionKnight42, to talk about what to expect.
“Days of Tales” was wonderful fun last year, it’s so exciting to see it make a return! What has inspired you to do this event?
Ha! There are so many answers to that one. If I had to keep it simple, the fact is that the first event did so amazingly well, and was such a huge tool for both supporting an amazing cause in the National Network of Abortion Funds, and for forging so many new relationships between some really great people in the community. I loved seeing everyone get to meet each other and come together to tell these amazing stories while also providing an opportunity to fight back against something absolutely awful that was going on.
It’s also no secret that I was dealing with a lot during the first event. I was still fairly new to the community and just sort of threw myself into this major event, and I lost my father just before we kicked off the weekend. The event was such a big bonding experience between us, and it made him so happy to know so many people wanted to come together for such a great cause, so for me, the hope is that we can run these events at least a few times every year.
NAMI is awesome! We try really hard to vet charities before we raise money for them, and everyone had such great things to say about NAMI. So many people struggle with mental illness and we as a society only really recognize so much of it on a day to day basis, and it can lead to a lot of misconceptions or a lack of respect for those struggles. NAMI does so much work to provide support for people who otherwise might be overlooked, and who don’t necessarily get the tools that they need to deal with the struggles that are both inherent to mental illness and those that arise as a result of a lack of understanding or respect that exists in the day to day.
Educational programs that help with families and educators so that they can better understand the issues, advocacy for people struggling and for smaller groups that fight in endless uphill battles to ensure support and programs, emotional support, and events meant to raise public awareness. These are all such important tools, and NAMI focuses on all of these things. By ensuring that people get financial, emotional, and engaged support and by providing the opportunity for people to get a better understanding of what these issues that people with mental illness look like, NAMI just really does such an amazing job.
What are some of the games we can look forward to at this year’s event?
Oh we’ve got some great games lined up this time around! From big book games like Vampire from Renegade Studios (World of Darkness) and Pathfinder 2e from Paizo, to an amazing PBTA game called Thirsty Sword Lesbians by April Kit Walsh and Mutants & Masterminds from Stephen Kenson and Green Ronin Publishing, to smaller (but still amazing) games like Eat Trash, Do Crime by ThoughtPunks and When The End Comes by Sandra Catharin, we’re really excited to be hitting all points on the spectrum of games.
We’ve got a really cool japanese TTRPG that hasn’t had an official translation yet called Dracurouge where you play as vampire knights in a time when the sun has been blotted out, and the players struggle with finding passion and positive emotion to stave off their thirst, lest they become monsters. There’s so much room to explore there, and really all of our games are going to provide some really interesting spaces to explore, some emotional, some ridiculous, but all compelling and, most importantly, fun!
It’s really exciting to have such a wide sweep of games, especially at a time when people are looking for alternatives to the Big One, and it’s a great opportunity to give people a look at some of the other fantastic games that exist out there.
Last year’s event had many wonderful creators and players within the TTRPG space. Do you know of any that will be joining this year, or is it too early?
There’s just so many incredible people along for the ride! We’re really excited to be working with Amber (Thespacejamber on Twitter). They were a huge part of pulling off our first Days of Tales, helping us find the National Network of Abortion Funds, helping us figure out how to reach out to people and how to set up the call sheet. Unfortunately they weren’t able to join us for any of the games and I’m really just so glad to get the opportunity to have them with us, so they can hang out and have a good time with a wonderful game from an amazing GM in Justina (JustinaRevolution on Twitter)!
We’ve got Rev from ThoughtPunks who is running the game he wrote, Eat Trash, Do Crime, which is a completely unhinged game of anarchist raccoons and the crimes they commit to amass their shinies and fill their bellies! Rev does some amazing stuff, and it’s always so much fun, so I can’t wait to see that one in action!
You’ll also get to see a bunch of other familiar faces from a lot of our weekly games as well, both as players and Taleslingers (our term for GMs), as well as a number of people coming in from other studios for the cause, all of whom I am beyond excited to get the chance to produce for and host.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about “Days of Tales 2”?
Alongside the games we’ll be running across the weekend, we’ve also got three panels across the weekend, one each day. We did one for our first event and it went so well that I really wanted to expand. I thought this could be a really great opportunity to provide some space to different groups and concepts that exist within the community that everyone could do with more of, while also providing insight and tools for more than just the TTRPG setting, but things you can utilize in your day to day life as well.
On Friday we have a panel that focuses on Disabled Experiences in Gaming and Accessibility, hosted by Esther, a game designer and the Storyteller for Chromythica (dungeonminister on twitter), which will offer some really wonderful people with an opportunity to share what they’ve gone through and ways that we as the community at large can provide more accessibility, understanding, and support so that TTRPGs can continue to be for everyone. It’s a great panel to kick off the panels for the weekend, and from what I know of the plans for it, there’s going to be a great deal of information and insight laid out that I can’t wait for people to check out!
Saturday we have a panel on Burnout hosted by Julian of Everyday Superhero Podcast (ESHerocast on Twitter). Burnout is such a huge, wide sweeping thing and can take so many different forms, and it’s something that, even if it gets brought up often, doesn’t usually include suggestions or tips on how to combat it, or resolve it. The hope is that this panel will provide a number of tools and concepts that can be put to use in order to better understand, deal with, and avoid burnout where possible.
And on Sunday we have a BIPOC Experiences in Gaming panel, Hosted by RPG Scholar and Pop Culture Historian Stefan Huddleston (UmbralKnightX on Twitter) which will delve into a lot of the underlying issues that are still rampant in the TTRPG community, offer insight on how some of these problematic concepts came to be, and how we can go about working on removing these issues as we grow together to provide better, safer, and more comfortable experiences for everyone, along with providing their own experiences at tables, what leads them to the stories they tell and characters they play, and why it’s so important to be cognizant of those experiences and voices.
All in all we’ve got a really fantastic crew of people along with us for these panels, and judging from what I know of the plans, they are absolutely cannot miss.
We’ve also got some really great giveaways that we’ll be running through the event, dice and dice trays from Phoenix Dice (phoenixdice on Twitter), a really neat dice box from The Shady Sail (TheShadySail on Twitter), custom art from both our in studio artist Miss Moon & Andy from LostHavenArt (LostHavenArt on Twitter), a bunch of stuff courtesy of Steve Jackson Games, A number of things from Thought Punks library, including a bunch of their games and even the opportunity to have Rev run a game for you and your friends, and of course, your book series as well!
It’s another example of how amazing the community is and how everyone comes together for these opportunities to show love and support in a way that will always warm my heart. Days of Tales 2 runs March 24th through the 26th, from Noon to Midnight EST all three days, and even if you can’t donate at all, sharing the info and showing up to voice support in the chat means the world to us all. I can’t wait for the event, the taleslingers and casts are super pumped, and we hope y’all are too!
You can watch the “Days of Tales” stream on Twitch from March 24th – 26th 12pm-12am EST.
You can learn more about TheLionKnight42 through his page!
Somehow, by now we thought this whole fiasco with WotC (Wizards of the Coast) would be over. But it carries on with more and more ridiculousness added each day. We are talking about this because we are active members of the TTRPG community, and until recently had a channel on Dungeon Master’s Guild. Here is what is going down.
For those just now reading up about what is going on with Dungeons and Dragons, here is the short version recap. Years ago they put out an Open Game License (OGL) that allowed third-party publishers (3PPs) to create content that used portions of the D&D system. This created a thriving TTPRG community, where home-based indie creators could build adventures, subclasses, monsters, and more for people to use in their D&D5e games. The community thrived. WotC made lots of money. Everyone was happy.
Until WotC decided they would destroy everything they’ve built over the years. And it hasn’t even taken long to do it. First came a leaked copy of a proposed new OGL 1.1 that was, basically, no longer “open”. Creators would have to pay royalties, and WotC could take content made by small ma-and-pa shops and use it for their own purposes royalty-free. There was a lot more in this new OGL, but what it boiled down to was shutting down any creator that wasn’t Wizards of the Coast. Small businesses that depended on the original OGL to pay their bills and feed their kids were now in danger of actually OWING WotC money. You know, so the C-Suite can go buy a third yacht.
While the community was in a panic about what this would mean for the little guy for nearly two weeks, WotC remained completely silent. They did not respond to the large-scale public outrage and cry for answers. That all changed with a leaked statement from an employee at WotC who kept themselves anonymous. Their statement was fairly incriminating, claiming that WotC just wanted this to blow over, that they saw the fanbase as obstacles to their profit, and that they were looking at D&D Beyond subscriptions to gauge what was profitable and what was not.
Well, the community responded quickly and decisively. So many rushed to cancel their subscriptions that the site began to have technical issues. And what many considered a saving grace in all this took the form of the company Paizo, the creators of Pathfinder. They announced they would be partnering with other major gaming companies to create a new OGL they were calling ORC (The Open RPG Creative License) that would be non-profit so no corporate greed could get involved. They also offered indie creators and 3PPs to contact them to stay up to date on the ORC so it could be rolled out in a way that was most beneficial to everyone.
So it was rather not coincidentally that WotC decided to finally, finally issue a statement the following day. The day that the OGL 1.1 was supposed to go into place.
Only, they didn’t do themselves any favors. In fact, it made the entire situation worse. The statement came through D&D Beyond, not even their official account. They claimed the OGL 1.1 was only a “draft”, that everyone was overacting, and that the words were being misconstrued. Perhaps the most damning phrase of all in this statement was a fierce claim that they were still on top.
“You’re going to hear people say that they won, and we lost because making your voices heard forced us to change our plans. Those people will only be half right. They won—and so did we.”
Wizards of the Coast truly could have saved themselves here if they had done the exact opposite of everything they did in that statement. It only worsened the anger by the community who were quick to pull apart the lies in the statement, the heavy PR tone, and lack of anything of real substance in terms of what the future held.
One would think that was as worse as things could get. But in the following days, it’s only gotten more and more shady and complicated. More leaks from inside employees warn fans of heavy D&D Beyond paywalls that WotC wants to put into place, of establishing AI Dungeon Masters, and of trying to use a survey as a platform for people to complain on and thus clear up the angry Twitter / Reddit / etc platforms. WotC denies each and every leak, although their denials keep coming surprisingly late and always behind a “face” that they choose to speak for them. Whether that’s D&D Beyond or random employees, it’s never the actual person that is making the decisions.
From an outside perspective, one would think WotC decided to wage war against its own player base. And it is losing.
Players are flocking to Pathfinder so quickly that it is sold out in local stores. Major companies like Kobold Press are leaving 5e behind and doing their own thing. Everyone from large influencers to small-time streamers are also leaving behind D&D for other TTRPG systems. Why? Because trust has been broken. Because WotC has yet to promise anything of real value, instead using PR-language to try to hide the lack of meaning behind their messages. Because they refuse to make the original OGL irrevocable, and thus people are worried they will keep trying to push the new version forward no matter how long it takes them. Because for little creators that are paying their bills, they have a guillotine hanging above their heads that WotC could drop to destroy everything they have made and take it for themselves.
Why would any creator even want to stick around in this circus?
WotC truly could have saved themselves from this nightmare if they had been upfront with their fanbase and been honest. Without any sincere apologies, without any communication directly from the source, and without any real action, the community loses more and more trust in the future of Dungeons and Dragons. Many who are now refusing to buy or support anything that Hasbro (the owners of WotC) decides to release.
So where does this leave everything in the future? What we’ll likely see is former D&D players gravitating to Pathfinder and their new ORC to create content. We are likely to see more smaller TTRPG systems get attention as people look for new games to play. And the once near-monopoly WotC held on the industry will die. And they will only have themselves to blame.
You sit at a desk in a dimly lit classroom. The windows are covered by large tapestries depicting the various studies of the arcane: divination, protection, defense, potions, and the like. The smell of old tomes, incense, and ink fills the space.”
Suddenly, the tapestries snap open bringing harsh sunlight in the room. Other students shield their eyes at the change of scenery. A burst of magic erupts from the doorway and in strides the teacher. They wear a robe of pink with blue sigils and a matching pointed hat that hangs slightly askew. “Welcome to Magical Studies I, I am your professor. Turn to page 157 and we shall begin with how to summon a simple light spell.”
Magical academies, such as the Citadel in Thread of Souls, are all the rage in fantasy, right? As authors, we love sensory details but what does it sound like within an academy? Music is a great way to get ideas and inspiration. Imagine the above scene with the following tracks playing in the background.
Magical and mysterious is Eothas. It’s soft and soothing and is great for lore drops and providing details about locations, people, and items. At the Citadel, it’s a wonderful backdrop for sweeping shots detailing the school and its three spires of law, study, and research.
The Crystal’s Shimmer and the Wind’s Revelations is a mesmerizing track for showcasing wonderful magic. It’s light and full of wonder. A great backdrop for the crystalmancers of the Citadel as they learn and teach about the eight disciplines of magic.
How May I Serve You? is an eerie discordant track for untrusting moments. Magical academies are full of many interesting people and not all of them are to be trusted. Each and every person has their own agenda. The Citadel is home to powerful mages, without giving any spoilers, not all of them are as they seem.
Bonus Dragon Prince song. I See You pairs nicely with How May I Serve You?
Mages are scholarly and Cyrus, the Scholar fits nicely for a library.
Alabastra is for those moments when the students explore the restricted section. It’s way more fun to venture into an unauthorized zone. Forbidden is just an invitation for curious mages.
Death, healing, and natural order. The dogma of Lady Raven, Goddess of Death in Thread of Souls. She is featured heavily in the Spider Octology, our eight-book fantasy series, and is one of the many included Protector gods in our world.
Often depicted as a dark hooded and winged figure. She guards those that pass on and is actively opposed to necromancy, murder, and the perversion of death. Her Deathwalkers are an order of warriors that fight against the necromantic arts.
This Bardic Inspiration focuses on her. We chose music tracks that invoke a sense of mystery, darkness, the unknown, and themes of life and death.
The Sea of Ghosts
As the Goddess of Death, she ferries souls after they pass. Souls that do not cling to any god are welcome to stay with her in her realm of the Sable Mausoleum. Sea of Ghosts is a reverential track that brings to mind lingering souls, whether trapped or free to explore.
Reverie of the Netchimen
A lighter more free-feeling track perfect for a cleric or worshipper of Lady Raven. The cycle of life and death is one everyone experiences and this is a great fit for exploring the traversal between one and the other.
Mists of Morthal
Mists of Morthal plays when visiting sacred or hallowed ground related to Lady Raven. Whether it’s a temple devoted to her or a cemetery honoring the dead. It ebbs and flows between dark and moody to harmonious and soothing.
A Cold Wind Blows from Atmora
Soothing strings and a choir bring to mind peaceful moments. Life and death can bring peace and while having the title of Goddess of Death sounds sinister, it’s one of respect and hope. She doesn’t seek to reap souls, but rather help them find solace in the afterlife.
You’d think we have a massive crush on Elder Scrolls Online, and you’d be right. Its soundtrack is vast and these are just a few examples of songs fit for Lady Raven, Goddess of Death.
Here is our Lady Raven playlist you can use for your game.
Video games are as great an escape as reading a book. They let you become another character and play out an adventure. Games allow you to discover new lands, save the world, or go on a side quest. Very much like a fantasy book, you join along in the adventure to see what happens in the end.
And like a book series, games can have several in the series. That’s why we split our list of the best video games to design your character into two posts. Sequels are popular. Everyone wants more of what they enjoyed. It worked for Avengers, Narnia, Lord of the Rings, and it’s how we’re building Thread of Souls.
Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfirequickly became one of our favorite games. Inspired by Baldur’s Gate, you build a party of characters in an attempt to stop a god from wreaking on the world. You can make a party of five custom characters, each with their own voice and skill line. It’s another great example of a D&D party in video games. You can outfit characters with armor, weapons, and choose a color unique to them to make them stand out.
WWE is a big part of our lives and W2K22 is one of the best games when it comes to designing a character. From their looks, clothing, and attitude, the game offer plenty of options when it comes to design. You can choose any skin color, select from hundreds of outfits or clothes, and give your character a specific fighting style. It’s one of the most fun games we’ve found when it comes to building a character. Characters are restricted to how tall they can be. So if you play a shorter or taller race, you are limited to height.
8. Neverwinter – Free
Neverwinter’s character creator is the best choice for free games to choose from. It pulls directly from the lore and official D&D books, so those familiar with the mechanics should find it simple to build a character. If you have a drow paladin at the table, you can build them in Neverwinter and get them pretty close to how you imagine them.
9. Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous
Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous is robust. There are 25 classes and 12 races to choose from when you build a character. Classes have their own unique look — rangers wear a hood, paladins wear heavy armor — but you can change certain elements by giving them armor during the journey.
10. Dragon Age: Inquisition
Elves, humans, dwarves, and Qunari make up the characters you’ll be able to choose from in Dragon Age. While it isn’t a lot when compared to other games, it fits the lore of the world. One of our favorite things about the character customization options for Dragon Age is the clothing. There are so many outfits to find and equip in the game and you can customize the color and style of them as well. You can tailor outfits to fit the personality and skill of your specific character.
Seeing your character come to life in a video game can give them more life in your writing. Watching them move around the map or interact with objects and characters can give you new ideas in roleplaying them at the table. Give it a thought the next time you sit down to play.
Visualizing a character in a book series or tabletop game is all up to the imagination. Authors, readers, and players have an idea of how a character looks but they both may be entirely different from one another. No two will see a character the same, and that’s a good thing. As long as the author describes how they look, the reader forms a complete image in their head.
Yet, as authors ourselves, we like to see our characters come to life. To get a better picture of them, we turn to art and video games. Along with Talia’s original art of each character, making them in video games is a great way to take them from our imagination.
Whether you’re an author or a reader, here are some of our favorite video game character creators.
1. Elder Scrolls Online
Elder Scrolls Online is a game where you’ll spend plenty of time with your character. The world is massive and you’ll spend hours adventuring across Tamriel so having a character you enjoy playing is key. Even more so, having one that is nice to look at is a bonus. The game is beautiful and provides so many customization options for your character.
From their height, build, muscles, and race, there is plenty to choose from. There are even accessories to go through and several hairstyles and colors to choose from. Though we’ll count off a few points for not having dwarf as a race but that’s more related to lore than a problem of the creator. For those who want to play a dwarf, as we do for our character Ruuda, we suggest making a dark elf and roleplaying them as a dwarf, or dwemer in Elder Scrolls lore.
Once you’re through with customizing your character, the next best thing is selecting their clothing. Which can be done an unlimited amount of times throughout the game.
2. Baldur’s Gate 3
Baldur’s Gate 3 is one of those games that just keeps giving. While the first two came with character creation, they were halted by the era in which they were released. Characters were little more than pixels on a screen, and while you could tell what class and race they were, it was difficult to make out finer details.
The technology of today allows for a wider range of character customization options. You’ll be able to build just about any book character you can imagine in the game — even more when it’s fully released. However, for those who want to make their character taller or smaller, you’re out of luck, at least for now. One day it would be nice to see drow women taller than drow men. One of our favorite additions is the ability to have two-toned hair. A great option for characters with wild hair such as Ruuda.
3. Solasta: Crown of the Magister
Solasta is what Dungeons & Dragons looks like when taken from a tabletop game to a video game. It’s a near exact adaptation and it works rather well. Its character creation is simple when compared to others but it’s no less worthy of being on our list. When you make a character, you choose their race and class, the class is the important part we’re focusing on here.
Classes come with their own clothing and weapons. So, if you are wanting to build an archer character from a book series you like, go for the ranger. Or perhaps you want to see what a thief may look like, select the rogue class to get a character with dual daggers and light armor. You can even give them a tattoo or face paint to hide their identity.
4. Elden Ring
You’ll spend a lot of time dying in Elden Ring, but its character builder is a worthy rival for stealing your time. It is one of the most dynamic creation systems we’ve come across. You can make characters any color you wish, which is great for making dark elves, dwarves, gnomes, and dragonborn-type characters. Everything is so in-depth, from your character’s hair to their eyes, nose, and mouth.
Choosing your starting class also gives you fun clothing and weapons. So, a mage will start with a staff and robes while a fighter will have armor and a weapon like a sword. Once you’re in the game properly, you can find several weapons and clothing to choose from to better equip and detail the specific character you are building. The one major downside is there isn’t a slider for height.
5. Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-reckoning
Kingdoms of Amalur is one of Dorian’s favorite games. Well before Thread of Soulswas conceptualized, he made characters just for fun, never having one that was his own. That is until characters such as Ruuda, Taliesin, or Jasita came along. Now, in every game he’ll build a character from Thread of Souls. Kingdoms of Amalur was one of the first that comes to mind.
You can choose from race, skin tone, eye color, makeup, hairstyles, facial hair, and tattoos. From there, you’ll play a bit of the game to unlock class options. Classes are based on abilities and your choice of weapon rather than a specific class. You can also multiclass and choose to be a fighter and wizard if you wish. So, you can make a character who specializes in melee and magic.
We’ve got plenty of other video games to choose from as well! This is merely part one of the best video games to build your characters in. Stay tuned for part two!
The Hobbit is among one of our favorite books so when we heard Free League Publishing was making a Lord of the Rings tabletop game, we got excited. It’s like having the extended extended editions of all the movies in one, except you’re the Loremaster. The One Ring is as alive and vast as the world you see on screen and read on the page.
Right away the pages make it very clear that everyone around the table is part of telling the story. It isn’t just led by the Loremaster. Every player is there to be a part of the tale and make sure it’s a thrilling and memorable one.
It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were.
The Lord of the Rings
The One Ring comes with a core rule book, and a starter set. The rule book is worthy of J. R. R. Tolkien. It’s a massive 248-page tome stuffed with everything you need to start adventuring in Middle-Earth. It’s also a rather pretty book with a stunning cover and beautifully drawn art inside. Every page feels like diving into The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings paperbacks. It’s a grand adventure.
Once you’re through creating a character and learning how to play, you can dive right into a quest. The final few pages contain a thrilling adventure called The Star of the Mist. It’s a journey that fits right into the lore of the Lord of the Rings and is a great starting point for a fellowship. It’s got bandits, dwarves, a dwarven city—a mine— a ghost, and a mystery to solve.
Going on an Adventure
Each game is split into two phases: the adventure and the fellowship. The first involves scenes related to building the overall plot. These can be a tense social encounter or a fight. Whereas the second phase is what happens between each adventure. Characters have time to take for themselves to rest and relax.
Free League enjoys using a d6 system and it’s featured in The One Ring as well. Though this time around, they’ve added a d12 to the mix. Characters have 18 skills they can use to overcome challenges and will use both d6—Success Die—and d12—Feat Die—to determine an outcome. The combined total of all the dice is compared to a target number (TN). If the rolled total is equal to or greater than the TN, the roll is a success; otherwise, it has failed.
Each Feat Die features a Gandalf rune (12) and the Eye of Sauron (11) rune. Gandalf’s rune is the greatest result you can get on a Feat Die and means you automatically succeed regardless of reaching or succeeding the TN. Whereas the Eye of Sauron icon is the worst result possible outcome, resulting in a zero on the Feat Die.
Being favored in a skill means you’re proficient in it. When using a skill, players roll one Feat die and a number of Success Dice equal to the Player-hero’s skill rank. Only one Feat die is rolled if a Player-hero is unskilled.
Instead of occupations or classes, The One Ring includes Callings. Callings are your character class and allow you to be as dextrous as Legolas, strong as Gimli, or wise and powerful as Galadriel. Callings range from Captain, Champion, Messenger, Scholar, Treasure Hunter, and Warden. Coupled with a Heroic Culture, this decides who you are in Middle-earth.
There are three Attributes in The One Ring: Strength, Heart, and Wits. Each score describes an adventurer’s physical, emotional, and mental capabilities. These are broken down to hit points, resisting spells, and the effects of dread.
Along the way, the fellowship gains access to a patron. This sponsor is the one who provides them with quests, items, and information to push the plot forward. They also allow you to re-roll dice, summon them to your aid, or other circumstances that aid the fellowship. It’s a fun system that brings back familiar characters such as Balin, Bilbo, and Gandalf the Grey.
Like Tolkien, The One Ring is a beast of a tabletop book. The fantasy author made everything feel spectacular and worthwhile. From the novels to the compendiums and the movies, the world of Lord of the Rings is massive and exciting to see. The One Ring makes it that much more excited to jump into and explore.
They say untold treasure lies within the forest of Davokar. That and corrupted beasts and shadows of former adventurers. Be it you’re the one looking for an Explorer’s License, I’ll not keep you from your quest. The dark forest awaits. Good luck out there.
Symbaroum is a dark fantasy tabletop roleplaying game from Free League Publishing. It’s set in a world where adventurers venture into the vast forest known as Davokar and search for fortune and glory. Players build a character and party up with others to explore, solve mysteries, and make a name for themselves in this dangerous world.
It follows similar tabletop tropes. You build a character, choose attributes to see what you’re good and bad at, select your archetype, and venture out into the unknown. One major difference is its dice system. Instead of rolling a d20 and aiming for a high number, you’ll want to do the opposite.
Building a character comes down to choosing from three archetypes: mystic, hunter, and warrior. Each one is broken down into occupations, of which there are numerous. Occupations are your character’s background and can be wizards, rangers, knights, sorcerers, duelists, sellswords, and more. Altogether there are 15 occupations.
From there you’ll select attributes and each is linked to the roll of a d20. They are broken down into the following categories: accurate, cunning, discrete, persuasive, quick, strong, resolute, and vigilant. These are what you’ll focus on throughout each session.
Welcome to the Upside Down –the D20
One of the most interesting features of Symbaroum is found in its d20 system. It’s built in such a way that you’ll need to roll low to succeed. It’s backward from other popular games out there.
Say for instance you want to pick a lock on a door and have a discreet of 13. You’d roll a discreet check versus the lock’s modifier of -3. The modifier subtracts 3 to your discreet attribute making it a total of 10 for this one moment. You would have to roll under 10 to successfully pick the lock.
This makes attacking targets rather more engaging as well. Each enemy and player character has a target defense that impacts the d20. To successfully hit a target, the roll has to be below the target value. Yet, armor and character abilities can affect the overall number as well. So, it’s not as simple as hitting that goal number sometimes.
Shadow and Corruption – Who turned out the lights?
Symbaroum utilizes shadows as a way to build tension and show the spread of corruption. Both work in tandem with one another and make for great role-play opportunities. Each character and creature in Symbaroum has a shadow cast by light. It’s when a creature has two shadows, people should begin to worry.
A creature with a second shadow is considered to be corrupted. This means, they have spent too much time in an area of heavy corruption, such as the forest of Davokar; they’ve messed with magic they should have stayed away from, or cast a spell. Once the corruption spreads too far, characters become supernatural beings and become part of the forest ecosystem.
The lore is as vast as the forest you’ll be exploring. Corruption spread throughout the land and Queen Korinthia searched for a place for her and her people. She established the kingdom of Ambria but it is at constant war with surrounding barbarian tribes and the monsters of the forest.
Those who wish to earn a living are tasked with venturing into the forest to find treasure, fight back the hordes of monstrosities, and defend the kingdom against barbarian attacks. There’s quite a bit to do in Symbaroum and plenty of quests and sessions to build multiple campaigns around.
Symbaroum is a thrilling tabletop experience that is wildly different from other tabletop games around. It can be daunting to figure out at first, like any tabletop game, but is worth it. The d20 system is engaging and makes you think about what skills to use in order to succeed. The world is dark and full of horrific monsters and it’s built upon such wonderful lore.
There are several books available from the Player’s Guide, Core Rulebook, Starter Set, and Alberetor the Haunted Waste adventure. Free League also makes Forbidden Lands, another excellent tabletop game.