B is for Boons and Burdens

Approximate time to read: 6 minutes.   

The nicest thing about Boons and Burdens, introduced in the Advanced Player’s Guide, has to be that they have a much less obvious connection to the core occupation / profession of a character. With a good choice from the list of available options, you can create a character with a little spice, something unusual, perhaps just something taken up as a hobby or suffered as an accident.

It does require a bit of a change of mindset. A player might not consider Boons and Burdens worthy of their time or investment, especially if they’re on a career path to creating a battlemaster in less than 100 Experience. Why invest in a Boon or suffer the minor drawbacks of a Burden, when you could just press on toward demi-godhood?

Well, this is not high fantasy nor a slugfest toward power and treasure. Symbaroum embraces the possibility of dungeons and wizard’s towers, but they’re not at the heart of the game! Symbaroum isn’t about fairness and balance in favour of the characters, either. Symbaroum is about survival, harsh conditions, dark magic, corruption, refugees, struggle…; Symbaroum is also about intrigue, adventure, exploration, ancient lore, discovery, and the balance of right against wrong.

In simple things like Boons and Burdens you can make your mark, set your character above the crowd not in pursuit of ultimate power, but as a means to enrich and enliven the game world of Symbaroum.

Damage and Destiny

In the scheme of your ongoing campaign, you can add a Burden to drive home key developments that impact your character – and will stick around to haunt them.

  • A character who suffers a near death injury in combat might agree to take Slow to show the burden of a lingering injury, a bone that won’t set right or an infected wound that leaves the character in constant pain unless they restrict their pace.
  • During the course of running through a campaign, one character might have the opportunity to put an end to a key opponent, only to fail, miss, or be fooled into letting them go. Therein lies the potential for an Arch Enemy. On the other hand, maybe the confrontation with the opponent left them doubting their convictions and they let them go or took a path grounded in greed and avarice over heroism or loyalty – in which case a Dark Secret forms and adventures that follow will challenge the character’s motivations and friendship.
  • The situation in Ambra is dire and for many the honest truth rings clear – hope is lost and none will see the light of a new day. The storm will never end, the clamor of voices will never cease. In this instance, Addiction becomes a possible route to relief and escape – and with the shortage of supplies, such a Burden may also push the character to theft or dark dealings with criminals, unethical alchemists, or other more unsavory individuals. Nightmares cross over with Addiction in some measure, as many residents of Ambra have taken to never rising from their beds, determined to escape the gloom and danger in dreams. However, that pursuits of the perfect dream state leaves the character drawn and tired, dark rings encircling their bloodshot eyes. The haven that Ambra once was seems distant, a place of light, possibility and celebration… now, somehow, lost forever it would seem.

Finding a Place

In the same way, Boons too can add to the advance of the character as a personality within the township. Each has the means to make their mark, leave a legacy, and perhaps find a way home. Those Boons associated with professional talents (Archivist, Cartographer, Cat Burglar, Con Artist, Enterprise, Gambler, Green Thumb, Musician, Pathfinder, Storyteller) can become key to where the character finds their place in the community – and these are relatively cheap roads for progression into areas that otherwise an Archetype might not pursue.

As you settle into Ambra and find your place, you can establish a business and make friends (Enterprise and Contacts), make a home with hired help and loyal companions (Servant, Soulmate, Pet) and establish a place in the plans and schemes of the community (Manipulator, Hideout, False Identity).

At the start of the game, choosing Boons and Burdens can feel all too much like the mechanical pursuit of a few more Experience to spend on “more important” aspects of your character. However, choosing them as you progress, spending the Experience from a short adventure session on a Boon instead of saving it for later because that choice fits the way events turned out – that can provide something altogether more special for you and the whole group. Investing yourself more thoroughly in the community gives you more reason to fight, a strong bond with the non-player characters that you meet along the way, and more hooks for the Game Master to key future adventures into and make them sing, rather than feeling like forced associations or unimportant errands.

More Paths to Travel

The following are suggestions for additional Boons or Burdens to offer as part of the campaign in Ambra, or within your own adventures within Symbaroum. As with those listed in the Advanced Player’s Guide, a Boon costs 5 Experience to acquire and a Burden offers an extra 5 Experience to spend. You should discuss any choice to add a Boon or Burden with your Game Master before committing to it, as the selection should fit into the concept of the game. Indeed, a well chosen option to enhance the game and expand the potential options for future play.

CONTACTS (Boon, Expanded) – The existing power extends to include other organisations, including Ordo Septimus, the Seekers, the Gaoia, the Solstrålar Sect, or other key groups in Ambra.

INNER FAITH (Boon) – The character has unusually strong faith and gains a +1 bonus on all Resolute tests where belief in hope and a greater power hold sway or when rolling to see the impact of Despair (see D is for Despair and Dismay). The bonus does not apply to Active actions, as defined in Abilities or Mystical Powers.

OFFICE (Boon) – The character holds a position of authority within society, and can attain certain advantage and sway as a result amidst those who hold that office in respect. In many ways, this is a non-species specific version of Privilege and something that can be acquired after character creation. The character gets Favor when making social challenges within their own organisation, and then only when asking, demanding or commanding something out of the ordinary.

In addition, the character gets a +1 bonus to Persuasive tests when dealing with common members of the wider community who have no reason to ignore, despise or deride requests.

The Office brings with it a small financial benefit of 10 thalers; ongoing, the character will have to willingly participate in activities and tasks associated with their position.

Office may be taken in the following circles: Bureaucratic (amongst settlement administration), Entrepreneurial (amongst traders), Martial (amongst guardians), Sectarian (amongst cults), or Seekers (amongst treasure-seekers). Other options may exist.

CODE OF HONOR (Burden, Expanded) – The version in the Advanced Player’s Guide suggests that the character can never opt to run from a fight which has begun. However, other codes may apply:

  • Fear Prios, Maintain Faith: You fear the majesty and might of Prios. Faith must never falter. You never turn away from a slight against the name or word of Prios and will seek to bolster the faith of those around you with chapter and verse, whether they like it or not.
  • Protect the Weak: Those who came to Ambra did so in good faith and intention; you cannot allow personal sacrifice come to nothing. You will never turn aside a cry for help or leave the defenceless without protection, no matter the personal cost; though, if you can requisition assistance and support, all the better.
  • Eschew Monetary Reward: You do not seek vile prize in return for tasks you undertake. You will receive recompense where offered, but will never seek it; just as you will stand up against those who seek to extract payment in return for nothing or seek groundless tribute.
  • Speak the Truth: You value honesty, openness and sincerity as virtues; without these values, how can a community under siege hope to survive? You will never tell a lie or wilfully misguide anyone; sometimes you might guide the conversation away from a sensitive subject, but if asked directly you will not deceive.

SELF SUFFICIENT (Burden) – The character will not concede to reliance on others for goods and items that they might craft themselves. If the character possesses any Abilities that would allow the character to craft, create or otherwise fabricate an item – whether common or mystical – they will never buy a similar item from anyone else. In addition, the player should clearly identify the character’s previous occupation – what they apprenticed to become or left behind to become a traveller and ‘seeker; they will never choose to accept the wares of someone else if they could make it themselves.

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Post is part of the #AtoZChallenge.



  1. I could see stealing some of these for gaming in a completely different system.

    Also, I’m really glad this year’s A to Z led me here…I’m pretty intrigued by this setting at the moment…!

  2. I saw this error a few time: Ambria, not Ambra 🙂
    Keep up the good work, thanks for all the content you bring to this little community

    • No. Not an error. Ambria is the region South of Davokar. Ambra is an ancient abandoned city colonised by ‘seekers and the Ordo Septimus on the northern coast, 100 miles west of Davokar.


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