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The Saga of Symbaroum

The Saga of Symbaroum

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Project Blog by onlyonepinman Cult of Games Member

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About the Project

I currently participate in an ongoing RPG campaign using the Symbaroum rules and setting. The game takes place over a single, long weekend of intense gaming once per year (Friday - Monday). One of my great passions (and a subject that I disagree quite strongly with Gerry on) is painting miniatures for RPGs - even if some of them don't actually get used. Because we only play a single weekend a year, I actually put a lot of effort into making it look visually stunning, as far as is possible because a good RPG setting and game can really fire my imagination and Symbaroum has done just that. However because of what the GM asked for, I realised earlier this year that I actually had the beginnings of some warbands that I could use with Saga, possibly using Age of Magic. This project will chart the "design" of the characters and faction within the world and the miniatures ranges I opted for to represent them. Following on from that I will then expand each of those RPG factions into a Saga faction, taking them from around 12-15 miniatures up to 30-40 miniature warbands.

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The Characters

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The first place I always start when painting miniatures for RPGs is the characters.  The reason for this is that even in games where miniatures may not be used, I love searching for miniatures and just bringing the characters to life.  It’s like having a character portrait on a sheet only in 3D and this game is no different.  The intention with these miniatures is that upon the conclusion of this campaign, the character miniatures will become the property of the players themselves as a gift from me and a momento of what has thus far been an incredibly enjoyable game.  In addition to that, the GM doesn’t have a character so I have picked a character from the lore and chosen a miniature to represent her even though it’s highly unlikely that we will ever see her in game.  Finally I wanted to give everyone a version of themselves on foot and on horseback.  This extra dimension made finding miniatures for some of the characters a lot more difficult.

I should point out that about half of these were painted at the start of last year, the other half were done in January this year so they were done well before I started this project.  I really wanted everyone to just have their little avatars sat on the table while we were playing even though a lot of the game was focused on politics which doesn’t have any combat maps or anything like that.   Also, because these are RPG characters and are eventually going to be gifted to my fellow players, they won’t actually make it into the Saga game

So who are the characters?

Osric – The Hunter

Osric is the ranger of the party, or an equivalent thereof.  Born the third son of a noble family and promised to the Church of Prios, he had other ideas and ran away from home the night before he was supposed to join a monastery, earning the eternal ire of his family.  Eventually he landed in Thistle Hold and,  taking on the name of Osric (not his birth name), until recently he made a quiet living by hunting the creatures of Davokar and selling the pelts and trophies.  He is accompanied by Reave, his faithul pet Jakkar, a type of large dog  – but not a wolf – native to the forests of Davokar.  Occasionally he would take work guarding some of the trade caravans that travel the roads through Davokar, which is how the adventure party met in the first place.

During my searches for miniatures, I spent a lot of time looking at the Footsore ranges and conquest games, both of whom have some really nice Robin Hood miniatures, however I was really struggling to find something to match it on horseback.  As he uses a Longbow, primarily, finding a mounted longbowman isn’t that easy because Longbows are not really a mounted weapon.  Many of the Horse Archers have a more Eastern look, which wasn’t what I was going for and also isn’t really in keeping with the Ambrian feel.  Eventually I settled for one of the Dunedan Rangers from the Middle Earth Strategy Battle Game because there was also a really nice version of Aragorn on horseback that was a great match in terms of its look.  The fact that he uses a sword isn’t a problem because Osric’s backup weapon is a sword (although if he has to use it he’s probably fucked because he’s a bit useless with it).  Finally I managed to get hold of some of the Wolf Hounds from the Footsore Dark Age Irish range and used one of those for Reave.

Osric & ReaveOsric & Reave

Seebor – The Sellsword

Seebor is an uncomplicated kind of guy.  He fights, he gets paid and he likes a drink at the end of a day’s work.  Not wishing to get drawn into the politics of the world, he shares much in common with Osric and the two have formed a friendship and will often be found drinking together whenever they’re in a town.  The two have taken to hunting together seeking larger quarry for greater spoils and in a fight, Osric will often soften targets up for Seebor to finish off.

Seebor favours his axe and a shield and there are in fact a nice number of miniatures out there for this, especially in the Baron’s War range from Footsore.  However I spoke to the player and he said he wanted a more Dark Age look to his model, like a fighter who hasn’t necessarily earned enough to buy the latest in heavy armour.  Luckily I already had in my posession a miniature from Wargames Illustrated – Harald Hardrada – from the Giants in Miniature range that was absolutely perfect.  Finding a nice matching mounted model also wasn’t too hard because although mounted viking miniatures are not really very common, the Sons of Eorl from Middle Earth SBG are a great match.  I managed to find one on eBay so I got the exact one that I was looking for rather than chancing a random one from Games Workshop.  By not using the Green colour scheme of  Rohan, I think the result is really nice.


Koromai – Queen’s Assassin

Koromai is also of Noble birth and is also hiding who he truly is.  Having witnessed his father murder his mother and fearing he was next, he fled his ancestral home.  He has since manged to forge a reputation as a skilled blade and attracted the attention of one of the Queen’s spy masters who have helped him develop his skills even further with the introduction of alchemy.  He now secretly serves the queen whilst plotting his eventual revenge against his father.

This was one of the more difficult miniatures to find, mostly because trying to find lightly armoured (or unarmoured) noble miniatures with either a matching infantry version or that just looks vaguely like another miniature out there was next to impossible.  Well, impossible within the medieval aesthetic, it gets easier the further on in history you get but even renaissance miniatures felt a little anachronistic.  There were plenty of miniatures to choose from on foot.  Eventually, after a lot of discussion with the player, we eventually settled for the Bard of Laketown miniature from Middle Earth SBG.  It wasn’t really a perfect choice and to be honest, I still keep a look out for possible alternatives but as yet nothing has come up.


Karin – Mage of the Ordo Magicka

Not much is really known about Karin’s background and she doesn’t really share.  All we know is that she’s a member of the Ordo Magicka.  She is accomanied everywhere by Feynor, her flaming servant, little more than an animated suit of armour filled with fire.  It doesn’t speak or interact in anyway beyond carrying out Karin’s instructions.  Feynor is formidable in and of itself however Karin herself wields the power of flame which she uses to great effect when threatened.

As with Koromai, Karin was quite hard to find a miniature for.  There’s loads of really nice sorceror miniatures especially from the likes of North Star in their Frostgrave range but trying to find a mounted, unarmoured female is actually quite difficult.  There are some but quite often they are nobles and royalty and don’t really look like adventurers.  However I came across a miniature by a company called Elladan miniatures who make some “I can’t believe it’s not the Starks” miniatures and their Mounted Daughter of the North looked like a perfect fit.  I then coupled that with an elementalist from North Star.  Feynoor is actually an old Reaper Bones miniature I had lying around

Karin & FeynorKarin & Feynor

Benedictus – Theurg of Prios

Benedictus is a pious man and has served the church for many years.  Like many priests he spends his time travelling and bringing the light of Prios to the masses – and cleansing holy flame to his enemies.  He is currently undecided about the Heretic, Friar Sarvola, and has not yet picked a side which has earned him some suspicion among his order.  However his devotion to his God is unquestioned and this has put him at odds with his travelling companions from time to time, especially when they face trouble with the Tempar Order or the Black Cloak Inquisitors.

This was one of my favourite models to paint and it didn’t take long to decide what I wanted.  The King Baldwin IV miniature from Fire Forge seemed like a perfect mactch – it looks regal and proud, especially with the cane in the hand of the dismounted version.  The fact that it wears a face mask was also a great fit for the Theurg class. I opted for a different colour scheme than the white that is used by Fireforge and went for a gold and red colour scheme.  I put an emphasis on the Gold rather than the more typical red that is associated with the church of Prios, essentially inverting the colour scheme, just to set him apart both from the Church itself and also from Karin who also wears predominantly red.


Queen Korinthia

Queen Korinthia is the head of the Ambrian State however unlike the model, in the lore she is currently old and horridly disfigured following a battle long ago in the Ambrian homeland.  She wears a mask to hide the burns to her face and sits upon her throne brooding and scheming as to how she can find the lost throne of Symbar, the first human empire, and claim it for her own.

When looking for a miniature for this, I decided to go for a younger version of the Queen, how she would have looked 30 or 40 years ago when she was fighting against the Dark Lords in the ancestral lands of the Ambrians.  I made this decision when I saw the Jeanne de Clisson by Bad Squiddo Games.  This is the miniature that will be gifted to the GM so that all players have a momento of the game

The Characters

Background - Ambria

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The first faction I am going to look at is Ambria, mostly because in our particular group the story focuses mostly on Ambrians because all of the group chose to be Ambrian.  There’s nothing in the rules that forces this, however because of some of the politics of the world, it can make mixed groups of Ambrians, Barbarians and non-humans more difficult.  It would present some interesting roleplay opportunities, however these can sometimes overshadow the wider adventure.  So we just all agreed to play Ambrians.  There’s also far more lore and artwork depicting Ambria than anything else, certainly in the core book, which kind of steers you towards an Ambria-centric game.

Ambria exists in the south of the game world.  Clearly the world is larger than the map below, however it is strongly implied that the lands south of the mountains are no longer inhabitable, which is why the Ambrians left their homeland of Alberretor and founded of the Kindom of Ambria.  Each of the areas in red text is a Duchy however only major cities are marked on the map, small towns or villages are ignored leaving the GM quite a lot of scope to invent.  Most of the action so far has taken place in the north, at Thistle Hold, which allows easy access to the Forest of Davokar and all of the ruins (and treasures) contained within.




While the story of Symbaroum is very much about the Ambrians they are by no means the “good guys”.  They are people who have had to fight to survive and fight they have done.  Their biggest city, Yndaros, is built upon the ruins of the ancient city of Lindaros the capital of a great civilisation that was present in the north around 200 years ago.  That city was destroyed by some kind of plague that all but wiped out the inhabitants leading to a societal collapse.  For the following 200 years, the region was controlled by warring tribes of Barbarians, none of whom dared approach the ruins of Lindraros for over 100 years after its fall.  However by the time the Ambrians arrived, a new settlement had been founded there by one of the Barbarian tribes.  It took the Ambrian’s superior army, with its knights and its war machines and its wizards 3 days to force the Barbarians into submission, making the Kadiz tribe the first of the tribes to fall and be subjugated by the Ambrians.  In but a short period of time, 21 years, the Ambrians have conquered all of the lands between the Titans in the south and the Forest of Davokar in the north.  The Barbarian tribes given the option to either accept Ambrian rule or be destroyed, many being used as labour and slaves to rebuild the Ambrian capital city.  With the new kingdom gradually stabilising, the Queen has turned her attention north, to the forest of Davokar and the legendary lost Throne of Symbaroum, the ancient, first empire.

Ambrian Architecture

Looking at Ambrian architecture, there’s a real mix of older, wooden buildings, wattle and daub and even some stone buildings.  There’s also examples of stone city walls and wooden walls.  In the game world, the wooden buildings and walls are part of a town called Thistlehold, which is a walled, frontier town in the north of the Ambrian Kingdom, right on the southern edge of the forest of Davokar.  However larger settlements, such as Yndaros and the Fortress of Temple Wall have much more “modern” buildings in either wattle and daub or stone.  It creates the impression of a civilisation that is gradually moving from the early medieval period (Norman Conquest) and into the high medieval (Hundred Years War/War of the Roses), for want of better analogies.  This will help to determine miniature selections in the future.


Ambrian Society

Ambrian society is split into various institutions and bodies, the three main ones I will describe here.  Obviously there are others such as artisan guilds, labourers etc but they play no role in the politics and governing of Ambria.

  • The Nobility – controls the army
  • The Curia – the governing body of the Church of Prios, the state religion
  • The Ordo Magicka – a body concerned with the study and control of magic

Each of these is further sub-divided, although details on the internal structure of Ordo Magicka is quite vague and is generally just centred around “faculties” with different knowledge specialisms rather than competing interests. So I won’t really dwell on the Ordo Magicka, I shall just share some images of wizards.

The Nobility and the Military

The Nobility, or rather the army, because it’s the military strength that enforces their right to rule, is divided into a number of subdivisions.  Each of the six Duchies maintains an army, paid for by the Duke, his Counts and Barons and other land owners.  This is generally a mixture of professional soldiers and levied men and is drawn from the inhabitants of that Duchy.  There is, in addition to that, a seventh army of the Grand Duchy of Yndaros, paid for by the Royal Family, more commonly known as The Queen’s Army.  As well as the typical soldiers that you would see in the other armies of Ambria (although with far more professional soldiers), the Queen’s Army has two additional distinct elements.  Firstly it includes the Queen’s Guard, known as Pansars, which are a body of eliten troops and act as the queen’s personal guard.  Where the Pansars would typically be drawn from the regular army,  the second branch that is unique to the Queen’s Army are the Rangers who share only the commander in chief (Queen Korinthia) and the Field Marshal as commanding officers.  Everything below that rank is a completely separate hierarchy to the rest of the army and they recruit separately.  The primary role of the Rangers is to patrol and police the highways of Ambria but also extends into the forest of Davokar to ensure that travellers do not enter the forest without permission, those that have permission do not take anything they should not take and also to try and stave off any attacks from the denizens of the forest. In times of war, they act as scouts and undertake reconnaissance missions.

The final tier of the military would be town watches and militia.  In some small towns and villages this would be little more than the residents armed with pitch forks or spears with maybe a couple of people with military equipment and training.  But in larger towns and cities this could be professionally trained soldiers.

There’s a few images below to indicate the breadth of  the styles of warriors and although I couldn’t find any of “peasant levy” it stands to reason that they would just look like peasants from a given period of medieval history

The Curia

In addition to the Nobility, the Curia is also split into three very distinct bodies.  There is the Clergy, which represents the priestly classes (also known as Theurgs, Liturgs and a whole host of other roles) and these are most closely identifiable as the Catholic church.  They have similar views, although many of them are justified in the game on the grounds that Demons and Devils (known as the Blighted) are in fact real and must be guarded against.  They even have a “reformist” in their midst by the name of Father Sarvola (why does that name sound familar…) who has, for now, found the Queen’s protection despite being declared Heretic by the church.  Alongside the clergy there are the Templars and they are exactly what you might think – they are a military order whose primary focus is to defend the realm, in the name of Prios on behalf of the church, from external threats.  They are separate from the Queen’s army as they are in theory governed by the Curia and their focus, ostensibly at least, is to protect Ambria from the threat posed by corruption, such as undead and blighted monsters, rather than being a tool of conquest.  However they are highly skilled warriors with excellent equipment the equal of anything in the Queen’s army.  The final branch of the Curia is the Inquisition, known as the Black Cloaks or the Twilight Friars.  The role of this order of monks is the reverse of the Templars – their job is to protect the realm from internal threats.

By this stage I already had some plans forming in my mind about where I wanted to go with Ambria in terms of miniatures.  Rather than opting for Fantasy miniatures, I am leaning more towards the historical with a few fantasy miniatures thrown in just to add some flavour and give a slightly other-worldly feel whilst still being firmly rooted in real life

Some Background

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The world of Symbaroum is a psuedo-medieval setting with many comparisons to real life.  It has some really evocative, watercolour artwork which is truly breathtaking and in part is what has inspired me to start this project, or rather to take the project beyond just a simple set of miniatures for use in an RPG.  What the game doesn’t have is a dedicated set of miniatures to support it so part of the fun of this project will be selecting miniatures that I can use to capture the ambience of the world.

The Inhabitants of Symbaroum

The sentient inhabitants of Symabroum are split into three broad groups;  Ambrians, Barbarians and Elder Races (Elves, Goblins, Ogres etc etc).  These are very broad groups and there is a great deal of variation within each group, however there are many cultural similarities which define the groups.

The Elder Races are a collection of non-human races loosely based on traditional fantasy lines, but always with some weird twist.  Elves for example look like the Elves we know at certain ages but turn into some weird monstrous creature as they age.  I will cover the non-human races at some point in the future

Ancient ElfAncient Elf

The humans are split into two broad factions, although disctinct sub-factions exist within each.  There are the Ambrians and the Barbarians.  The story generally seems to centre on the Ambrians,  although it is possible to play any species or human faction.  They are technically invaders, having migrated to what is now known as Ambria from the south after their homeland was destroyed.  The Barbarians are humans who inhabit the forests of Davokar to the north of Ambria and the plains to the west of the forest.  The Barbarians and Ambrians do share, some distant history, or at least it is hinted as such in the game but culturally they are very distinct.   In the story the state of Ambria has for some time and they have established several thriving cities.  Culturally they are very much a medieval faction.  Although there are sub-factions within the nation of Ambria, it is still very much a unified state.  The different factions that the for influence may have their own agendas, hidden or otherwise, but when threatened, the whole state would rally to her banner regardless of their own goals.  The main factions are the Church of Prios (itself formed of three branches), the Ordo Magicka, the noble houses and of course the Royal House (i.e. Queen Korinthia) and her Army (the Queen’s Army)

The Barbarians are not as culturally or technologically advanced as the Ambrians; the difference being something akin to that between mid-medieval civilisation (Ambria) and late classical/dark age (Barbarians).  They are a real eclectic mix that can include anything from woad and tattooed barbarians to dark age vikings or saxons to tribes of nomadic horsemen.  Each clan is a unique, distinct and self contained entity.  While they do form a loose confederation under the High King (an elected position but which lasts for life), there are rivalries, grudges, feuds and disputes between them all.  Some are more amenable to the Ambrians and some openly hostile.  If threatened it is by no means guaranteed that they clans would unite and it is even possible that some would side with Ambria if it came to a war.

As well as the main human and non-human factions and species, the forest of Davokar, where most of the adventures occur, is full of mysterious, dangerous, terrifying and majestic animal life, from spiders to huge bears and boars.  Not to mention bands of undead that linger in the dark places and the ruins.

My mind was absolutely racing with ideas seeing all of this beautiful artwork and reading all of the background and I will be dedicating more posts to the factions to share my thoughts on them and how that influenced decisions about miniatures

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