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Into the Dark! Symbaroum: Yndaros – The Darkest Star Reviewed

Title: Symbaroum – Yndaros – The Darkest Star

Publisher: Free League Publishing

Author: Mattias Johnsson Haake

Artist: Martin Grip

Year: 2018

Genre: Third chapter in the Throne of Thorns dark fantasy campaign for the Symbaroum roleplaying game

Pages: 168 pages

MSRP: $39.99 for the hardcover (with PDF) or $14.99 in PDF at DriveThruRPG

In the wake of a devastating attack on the capital city of Yndaros, players must root out a deadly threat — one who just might lead them right to the treasure they seek.

The Dark Star opens explosively with a catastrophic attack on the Cathedral of Martyrs. As far as timing goes, things couldn’t be worse as the city prepares for a marriage to cement the alliance between Ambria and the High Chieftain. Throw in the worsening threat from the north, the crumbling of the Church, and the misery of winter and the stakes immediately feel much greater.

Each successive installment in the Throne of Thorns chronicle has seen the situation deteriorate even further in some major way. In less deft hands, this might feel melodramatic or unbelievable, like a bad superhero comic or an overwrought soap opera. Instead, this feels like a natural and believable progression of events, even as it does trend to inspire a certain (likely intentional) sense of doom. The idea that player choices have meaningful and long-lasting consequences is the rule of the land in Symbarorum, even when players may not fully grasp just what it is they’ve done.

Compared to The Witch’s Hammer, The Dark Star is a somewhat more linear adventure with a clearer path towards similar set of resolutions for all parties. Player agency and choice remain narrative drivers as the story unfolds, but it’s clear that this is an attempt to bring all parties to a roughly equivalent landmark in terms of world state and player knowledge before moving the campaign forward.

The Dark Star offers a potential callback to the players’ experiences in The Wrath of the Warden in the form of its antagonist, but the impact of the reveal will largely depend on what, if any, interaction players had with the character during the adventure, as well as any impact those interactions had. In a campaign as detailed, complex, and well-populated as the Throne of Thorns, those are both substantial variables, though neither should seriously impact the dramatic arc of the adventure.

Reveals, of course, are a major component of this installment. While players find no shortage of answers in their own pursuits, GMs receive an even more detailed and intricate look at the goings-on behind the scenes, providing needed context and ample fodder for any unexpected situations that arise as a result of player actions. Players and GMs alike, however, should be able to marvel at the narrative-crafting skill on display as The Dark Star truly allows its big moments to shine.

The Dark Star offers GMs a chance to ensure the table is in a strong position to move onto the next adventure while simultaneously rewarding players with important and shocking new information. Choices here feel weighty and there is a clear sense that players will need to think carefully before committing to any long-lasting decisions. While the campaign remains a labor of love for GMs, it also remains a stellar example of worldbuilding and narrative crafting for player agency.

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    Into the Dark! Symbaroum: Yndaros – The Darkest Star Reviewed

    A city in chaos brings new secrets to light and sets the stage for an all out race to the lost city of Symbar in The Dark Star.
    8.5
    10
    Great

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