Mörk Borg (2019)
Pelle Nilson (art by Johan Nohr)
Creative Consulation by Patrick Stuart
If your favorite game is Mörk Borg, I like you, but I do not respect you.
Mörk Borg is the latest ultra-lite Nu-SR game to contend for the throne of the Artpunk OSR in the wake of the fall of Lotfp. Dragged from a cauldron of boiling blood under a Witches’ moon and given hideous unlife by the razor-sharp guitar riffs of Monolith, Triptykon, Celtic Frost and Amon Amarth , Börk Mörg is a very light, ultra-metal grimdark dungeon crawl that succeeds fairly well at what it is trying to do.
I always thought ultra-lite rulesets were essentially a waste of time as they inevitably fail to measure up to the thing they are ultra-liting but recently a revelation came to me when I asked myself this question: What if you only had 2 hours to play D&D? Suddenly the existence of all those beautiful mechanics, all the complexity, the plethora of spells and monsters and equipment, becomes a hindrance or at most a vestigial organ for the guy just trying to get his fix. Is Mörk Börk as good as D&D? Hell no, but it’s a reasonably faithful adaptation for that time-frame. I will be reviewing it as grimdark Tunnels & Trolls, a game meant either for short sessions or as an introduction to RPGs, to be discarded in favor of the more serious and lordly D&D when one is ready to try the deep end of the pool.
It is easy to stare at Mlörk Pörg’s glaring yellow cover and deliberately clashing mixture of medieval/early-modern art with pink graffiti and dismiss it as yet another runaway art project thinly disguised as an rpg to snare in the flighty, high Openness-to-Experience hipster wallet-things but what saves it is that Blörk Börk’s design is actually remarkably tight, things are simplified where simplification is warranted but no essential elements are left on the cutting room floor. What we are left with is rudimentary but serviceable, maintaining the crucial mixture of resource management, exploration, combat and magicfaggery that differentiates OSR stuff from mere hack-and-slash tactical combat, all of it drenched in pitch-black almost-parody levels of Doom Metal. This is WHF at its most edgy, Slain: Back to Hell Edition and The Black Plot by High On Fire.
The opening random tables really set the tone with such crystal clear perfection that I can simply share the weather table and you will understand it better then I ever could convey.
1. Lifeless grey 2. Hammering rain 3. Piercing wind 4. Deafening storm 5. Black as night 6. Dead quiet 7. Cloudburst 8. Soup-thick mist 9. Crackling frost 10. Irritating drizzle 11. Roaring thunder 12. Gravelike cold
The setting of Börk Görk suffers from the Artpunk syndrome of setting writing in that it is clearly meant as an evocative mood-piece that is effective but at the same time there is a sense of the emphemeral, the setting exists as a wafer-thin backdrop against which grimdarkness may take place.
Görk Glörg takes place in the frost-wreathed mountain crags of a nameless last continent, dotted with city-spanning Gothic Castles, Tombs, Graves, Pits, Sepulchres, Gallows, Crypts and Dark Forests. It most certainly has Wolves. And Skeletons. And Plague. But not Flumphs. The time is the tail-end of the prophesied End Times and the game goes so far as to include a Doom-Counter with various apocalyptic events going off on a 1 every time you rise, with the GM given discretion to decide the dice and the commandment to burn Mörk Blörk once a black sun rises to rain fire on the world and the Two-headed Basilisk escapes from his accursed prison to lead in the brave new world. You do not play figures of awe but mutilated, cursed, terrible wretches, eking out an existence of mindless murder, disease and robbery in the waning handful of hours that are left to you.
Names and places exist to reinforce a mood. The Blood Countess Anthelia. The Shadow King. The forest of Sarkash. To investigate further would be meaningless. It does not truly matter if the She Basilisk is worshipped in the Black Cathedral of GalgenBeck or if it is the Black God Nechrubel, or what terrible force excavated the tunnels and catacombs of the Bergen Chrypt or what language is spoken in this accursed, black land. All that matters is that you roll up a band of the most grimdark motherfuckers in rpgdom and send them off to die ingloriously.
Or as the game says:
Create a Player Character (PC) 1. Randomize your starting equipment on this page. 2. Randomize weapon and armor. 3. Roll your abilities. 4. Roll your Hit Points. 5. Name your character if you wish. It will not save you.
I like to roll up a character to illustrate how a system goes through it so without further adu let’s get started. Mörk Börg does have character classes that modify your attribute roles, starting equipment and abilities but these are entirely optional so we shall not bother with them now. We start with…equipment! We roll d6, d12, d12 (6, 2, 9).
We are in luck. We begin play with a donkey, Our Presence Bonus+4 Torches and a shield. We are also generously provided with a waterskin, 3 days of food and 50 sp. We then roll for a weapon. We didn’t get a scroll during character creation so we roll D10 and get…a shortsword (d6). Weapons have a damage attribute only though they could be melee or missile. We roll for armor but don’t get any. It is interesting that in örk Trück heavy armor does not decrease your chance to get hit but reduces the damage you take by a dice, from d2 for light to d6 for heavy armor. Wearing heavy or medium armor while using scrolls is impossible, and it actually makes you MORE likely to get hit. A shield further reduces damage by 1 and can be sacrificed to negate any single hit, which strikes me as a cool optional rule, even though it means I will be spending the bulk of my extra cash on shields thank you very much. That Ulveig the Black goes through shields like no tomorrow I tell you.
We have cash so we should buy equipment while we are at it. Most of the items in Klörg Körgh are self-explanatory but a few of them interact with the systems unique mechanics like the Healing Kit, or are very much in keeping with the game’s bleak atmosphere, like Poison (it is not clear if it is ingested) or a Bear trap. We buy Light armor for 20s, a Backpack for 6s so we can hold our shit, a club for 10s so we can upgrade our damage to D6, and…a Healing kit for 15 s, leaving us with 1 s. It doesn’t really make sense to have weapons with similar damage dice with wildly different prices but at this point who cares?
There are but 4 stats for this game, Agility, Strength, Presence and Toughness, and 4d6 in order drop lowest for two abilities, 3d6 for the other two shalt be our commandment (or 3d6 if you use classes). Agility 12 (+0), Strength 8 (-1), Presence 17 (+3), Toughness 13 (+1). Everything in the game is a simple test of D20 + Modifier against a fixed number, to the point where you discard the actual number and use the modifier after Character Creation is done. The one major departure seems to be defence rolls: Mörk Börg resolves combat by having players roll Defence against any attacks they take, but the end result amounts to the same. There are no bonuses to damage but you get a bonus to hp if you have a high toughness. Which reminds me: We have…6 hit points!
There is, gasp, a simple but serviceable encumbrance system based on items as Str +8, so between 5 and 11 items, which seems fine. It doesn’t really differentiate between lard or zweihanders but this is a light game so these details are less important then the immediate visceral thrill. There are prices for rudimentary services and tame animals even if we largely have to infer their benefit and cost from our experience with roleplaying games at large.
Random Name and we are battle ready:
Armor: Light, Shield
Weapon: Club d6, Short Sword d4
Items: Backpack, Healing Kit, 7 torches, Donkey.
And there we go.
Combat is a simple affair. Group initiative, Attack rolls against a DR of 12 (like DC), Defence rolls against a DR of 12. Bad stuff happens if you hit 0 hp, anything below that and you are dead. Smart groups will carry a healing kit to fix bleeding wounds and recover quickly, though at any time you can take an hour’s rest to recover d4 hp. The game points out you need to have drink with you to do this, so I assume resting consumes a ration and keeping track of supplies is actually important, not bad.
1s mean you either lose your weapon or you take double damage from a hit and your armor is degraded by 1 tier. 20 means you inflict double and reduce their armor, or gain a free attack if you are defending. You will notice there are all these little mechanics buried in the ultra-light pretentious framework that do contribute to a nicely vicious and tight game, where careful consideration of equipment purchases and selection will greatly increase the longevity of your character. Status effects are briefly explored, in the form of Hemorraghing (death within hours if not treated), to infected wounds, which do not allow you to heal until you treat them. Seriously, healing kit (which has limited uses). Interestingly enough, the God statt in Klork Klork appears to be Presence, which is used for spellcasting, ranged attacks, encounter reactions and added to some equipment (meaning you bargain more?).
A point of criticism can be levelled against this game, in that the ultra-light framework it uses is probably only sufficient if one is at least tangentially familiar with old school games. This is probably acceptable given that people are unlikely to have their first RPG be Tork Work and gearing it towards these new guys is probably vainglory.
There is no XP, but if the GM decides its levelling up time, the game has rudimentary levelling up mechanics. Roll d6 for each score, if its higher then your score, your score goes up to a maximum of +6, if its lower it goes down. A 1 always goes down. The end result is that weaknesses tend to disappear quickly while exceptional ability scores are unlikely to grow much better and might even disappear. Hit points increase by d6 if you roll over them on 6d10, putting the max at an inconceivably powerful 65 hp.
Spellcasting has effectively been eliminated as a class profession, but is solved creatively. You can begin play with Scrolls. A Scroll allows you to use a certain power d4+presence times per day if you roll against DR 12. If you fail, you take minor damage and you cannot use your powers for an hour. These scrolls are divided between Profane Scrolls (Palms Open the Southern Gate, Lucy-Fires Levitation, Nine Violet Signs Unlock the Storm and the eponymous Death) and Sacred Scrolls (Enochian Syntax, Hermetic Step, Grace for a Sinner and the unbelievably overpowered Unmet Fate, which can raise people from the dead with no ill effects) that roughly preserve the old division between divine and profane magic. In keeping with the general atmosphere of the game, 1s result in nightmarish mutations that will quickly lead to instant death, which in Blorg Glorg is probably a small mercy anyway.
The first truly dirty modern conceit makes its entrance. Flork Blorf has
Fate Points ahem Omens that allow you to reroll damage, avoid hits, get a bonus etc, and do so up to 1-2 times per day. I think in Yorg Vlorff’s case this is probably a mistake. There is something about the agency that you get by being able to alter fate that goes against Yarp Barg’s pitiless grimdark imago, especially given the speed at which they regenerate. It feels, pardon my French, like a sub-system for girls and closeted normals, so they won’t cry overmuch if the dice treat them poorly. Perhaps this is offset by the Critical Hit system, but I say cut it out.
There’s three tables to flesh out your character with terrible traits and since these set the tone you would be a fool to skip them. There’s three tables and it just says roll twice so I picked Terrible Traits and Broken bodies and rolled once on each one. I rolled Endlessly Aggravated and Starved: Gaunt and Pale to give our boy some grimdark trappings, and we roll d20 for a quick group backstory (or we can throw a knife, the book suggests, and given the target audience I think it cannot be ruled out that in between the endless parade of soy-faced coomers there will be found the odd sub-culture of unwashed HEMA practitioners with a substance abuse problem to do just such a thing. I have rolled “Your Flesh Heals twice as Fast, but that of your companions Twice as Slow. You see a Many-Eyed Guardian Angel” which I guess will have to be our call to adventure. I am not a huge fan of having additional abilities show up in the backstory generator but this is not a deal breaker.
Classes are short and sweet. Picking one modifies Ability scores, omens and starting equipment and gives you one, often randomly determined power. They are all very grimy and gringy, all the exaggerated vibe of a reinassance fair during a cholera epidemic and praise the Dark Gods for it! a man with sharp teeth, The Gutterborn Scum, the Esoteric Hermit, a Heretical Priest, Wretched Royalty and the Occult Brewmaster. I was pleasantly reminded of Darkest Dungeon, the grimdarkest of grimdark dungeon crawl games. Each class is given some variety with the randomized abilities and the classes are nicely differentiated. Kudos for having the Gutterborn Scum have the Excretal Stealth Ability where you are almost impossible to spot as long as you hide in filth, debris and muck.
We have a bestiary to top off the setting which has to tackle an interesting problem. Doing an exaggerated grimdark aesthetic means that people are going to expect statts for certain stereotypical monsters but at the same time those monsters are essentially old hat and your game is DRIVEN by novelty and OPENNESS TO EXPERIENCE. The solution is admirable; re-imagine classics instead of making up nonsense monsters. So we have Goblins that will turn anyone they attack into a goblin if the attacker is not killed within several days. You’ve got a big regenerating troll (almost invincible in Glurk Thruk) that runs away and every time it returns it is stronger. There’s skeletons that are covered in blood, Gargoyles with a destructive gaze attack, Liches, zombies with the bite etc. etc. The twists just as often detract from the atmosphere as re-inforce it, but kudos for having a porcerlain doll filled with the re-animated dead in there. I kept holding my breath for an ultimate monster to erase the party from existence and strike fear into the hearts of Tramp Stamp players everywhere but ah las my blue balls were not answered. As an interesting feature, monsters can actually be captured alive or brought back dead and sold for loot, and this probably takes the place of treasure in the grimy, dirty, poverty-stricken hell of Blorgh Dorgh.
There is a nice quick and dirty section on henchmen, each of them imbued with a sort of surrealist Gothic atmosphere that goes…a little too far in this case. The introduction of a race of Wick-Headed men or demon ladies hearkens back to 5e’s bi-sexual furry avengers syndrome and leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth, and surely there are all manner of bizarre and baroque henchmen of mere human race to draw from? Madmen, Flaggelants, Cutthroats, Plague Doctors, Necromancers, Eternal Champions, Blood Knights, Witch Hunters, Cultists, Shamans etc. etc. etc.
Both the bestiary and the Henchmen roster are a little on the light side but I think the game sort of assumes you will have to devise your own shit sooner rather than later so it makes sense to leave some room for innovation before the inevitable deluge of trash-tier 3rd party content causes the designers to abandon the thing in disgust, hoping it will never be brought up again.
There’s one sample adventure called RotBlack Sludge which showcases the ultra-short format that will no doubt come to shit up the MB catalogue and this is very nice if done well but all but guarantees any novice-intermediate content will be trash tier as writing short adventures is something that requires you figure out what information to omit but maybe I am overly cynical. You have to recover the Shadow King’s Heir from The Accursed Den (good name!) a vaguely underground location of no discernable type in no specified area, a Waste! Though there is, unexpectedly, a rumor table, this approach showcases its weakness right off the bat by throwing any sense of immersion under the bus, then using a random encounter table but only in 3 rooms, then locking all the rooms together without intervening corridors so everything feels smashed together and small.
The format is interesting and it might work. Immediate sensory impressions in the form of a few words. A smell. A sound. A sight. Then bullet points for each individual object in a room. Then cardinal directions with each door and the features, bold printed. Then player actions that might interact with the room. Then monster stats. This MIGHT work, it might be too much, given the fact each room can essentially be described on a postage stamp.
It avoids the beginner’s trap of just having straight up combat by introducing stuff that can be interacted with, a monster that is too strong to fight directly and the odd natural obstacle (a pool of corrosive sludge) and even a puzzle (a statue with a missing eye socket with blood in it will open a secret door if you place an eye-ball in it! Yes! Yes!) but it suffers from the Skerples school of design  in that the map feels like a video-game, and obstacles feel like they have been placed to impede your progress because that’s what an adventure must be. There’s something artificial about it all, there’s no attempt at emulation. It doesn’t help the central feature of the thing, the eerie violin music, is just two skeletons standing on a giant pillar in a pool of acid that cannot possibly be interacted with in any way and do nothing.
I dunno man. I compare this with something like Lichway and you see so much has been lost, and the atmosphere, the one thing you would expect Mörk Börg to pull off, is always kind of…off? The impulses are good but it needs that little extra Oomph, and for a game that is basically all about atmosphere and style, that’s bad. Read Solomon Kane, then the entire K.E. Wagner ouvre, then read The Chronicles of Malus Darkblade, listen to Triptykon, Celtic Frost, Amon Amarth, then try again. It’s not terrible as an illustration of design but there are most certainly better adventures, the aforementioned Skerples one especially.
Okay, conclusion time. Mörk Börg is perfectly suitable as a light break between more hearty and rules heavy RPG fare, as an introduction to the OSR I would say its core is sound, and that is all it effectively needs, so kudos. The atmosphere is strong but there are unwelcome strands of random artpunk weirdness meta-stasizing inside that, I think, one might as well eliminate to get one’s grimdark metal vibe across all the cleaner. There is something lost from D&D once you abandon all pretense at emulation and depth and devote yourself entirely to style and gameplay and MB showcases this fairly well.
As a metal fan, I am pleased but not overwhelmingly entertained by the tone of Mörk Börg. Pelle Nilson seems like a nice guy but I have a lingering feeling that if I ask him what his favorite metal band is he would probably answer Fallout Boy. There’s something about the writing style where it’s trying to be apocalyptic and dark but also like it’s trying to do so in a manner that would allow you to enjoy it if you were a timid 12-year old girl. “Plëase dön’t hurt më, Princë.” MB does not meet the soaring metal heights of Xas Irkalla, the most metal game that ever can or will exist, nor by any means wins the coveted title of Most GrïmDärk in the OSR, a title held first and foremost by Black Sun DeathCrawl.
Make no mistake; This is like a hand-held port of D&D. It does not encapsulate ALL of the facets and elements of D&D but it does manage to lay its hands on the meaty core so it can bring you many 2-hour long blood-soaked sprint sessions that one might barely stretch into the 10 session mark until either the Players exhaust the bulk of its possibilities or the bong runs out, whichever comes first. For a lite version though, its not bad, provided you like your DnD dirty, violent and resoundingly anti-heroic.
Next week we continue the Artpunk Crawl by grabbing ourselves a handful of Mörk Börg 3rd party. God Save Our Souls.
 Ah las, these are nowhere cited, and the actual bands are much lamer
 I don’t actually have anything against Skerples I was just reminded of this style
40 thoughts on “[Review] Mörk Borg (Core Game): Tünnels & Trölls”
This sounds…more art than game, to be honest. I get wanting to slim down things but let me tell you, you can slim down anything. Hell, I play 2-hour sessions of slimmed-down Pathfinder that I’m pretty sure run faster and more brutal than this. At the very least, there’s only one die roll per attack which speeds things along. I see this thing and I’m confused about who plays it, just run D&D with a commitment to never consult the rulebook or else take your inner theater nerd out of the locker where you shoved him with a wedgie and play a Lasers and Feelings hack.
On the subject of Skerples, do you have his Magical Industrial Revolution on the docket? Seems like the kind of thing that would fill you with annoyance and admiration at the same time, which makes for good reviews.
You can slim down anything, but what you slim down matters. Pathfinder doesn’t taste as good without a feat every 2 levels and a special ability every 3. If you go for something that is already more about planning, thinking outside the box you don’t end up cutting away so much of the meat and bones or changing the essence of the game. D20 without all the feats and with 50% less powers is almost a different game I think.
Magical Industrial Revolution sounds like Steampunk, a genre I consider even worse then Artpunk. I’ll keep it in the back of my head but goddamn. Grützi is the only guy that ever wrote a Steampunk thing that managed to convince me people could play it without sacrificing their dignity as people.
LikeLiked by 1 person
High praise… I think… thanks for that 🙂
Now I feel the sudden pressure of having to write another adventure
But Aaron is so damn nice, so there is not a lot of pressure… dude is too chill sometimes.
Haven’T read much from him, but tackling the dungeon/game desing process from a video game perspective is not the worst way to go… IF you integrate the video gamey elements and the whole approach with the rules system and the background of your piece.
Your last point was about Vorn.
Your conclusions seem similar to your OG review.
I am interested in background thoughts. What promoted the revisit?
A lot of my Lotfp reviews were written when I just got started so I think its interesting to contrast I would rate it then vs how I would rate it now. Some of them are minor so it’s not worth the effort of revisiting but some of these are benchmark products that allow a reader to quickly glean how their taste differs from my own so they can get more use out of my reviews. Also its fun to dive into old reviews and see how your technique has changed.
Sounds like a pizza cutter game to me: all edge, no point.
You would expect me to like this, and yet, and yet; this commitment to THE GRIMDÄRK all the way down undoes it. I think it’s telling that your Warhammer touchpoint for this is Darkblade, a parade of atrocities committed because atrocities are what we do, dear boy, and don’t ask awkward questions about how there are any of us left. It’s the difference between D&D drow as weird high-end alien-esque Other and adversary (functionally incomplete, but fit for purpose) and D&D drow as society built on constant betrayal that only works because an interventionist god keeps shoving it back onto the catastrophe curve (illuminated and explained but there’s nothing there to see, A Witch Did It All).
Gormenghast is a fine place to read about but I wouldn’t want to set a campaign there as the whole edifice unravels when you think of it as a world where people eat and shit and so on. Darkest Dungeon works because we have travelled into this hellscape from an implied elsewhere that is less Grim and Perilous ™ and the awkward questions are palmed off into that. Somewhere in this thing is the Dying Earth game of my heart’s desire but this ain’t it.
I think I’ve figured it out. Mörk Mörk hurdy-gurdy yoobetcha feels like a world in which everyone’s an adventurer and there’s nothing else to be. There’s not that WFRP style grounding where an eel-pie peddler, a watchman, a failing student and a pimp are swept up in events beyond the ken of ordinary folk. Without the ordinary, you just have extra. Dramatic, spectacular, and superfluous.
LikeLiked by 2 people
I think you might be on to something there with Grimdark only working if you anchor it somewhere but this is a secondary concern if you are going for a short game, which this is, I mean, there’s barely an experience mechanism, not much progression in the way you play it, it’s a micro-game, its made to last so you can maintain an illusion for a few sessions before moving on. The evolution of the Artpunk genre turns the open-ended RPG into something flighty and limited.
You might be on to something about Darkest Dungeon. More worlds should consider consigning their magic and terrible shit to a very select few locations, and fighting Pig Men becomes a lot more interesting if no one has ever heard of them.
I think you could have something Grimdark to DA MAX which lasts for one adventure and has you recreate StormBringer as written by K.E. Wagner and then have it be fun, but having some grounding is good, sure. There’s a reason Palace starts off in Iotha, has a desert and a relatively normal Tomb section before really unloading the madness after all.
I think that’s a fair assessment, speaking as someone who makes the odd microgame. Experiments in tone and style are fine things, a shallow world may be what it takes to sustain the experiment, etc. etc. I know when I wrote all of my games the onus was on players to make up or select a world for themselves, as I have no inclination towards peddling a “canon” of any sort. Ideally I wish to encourage the wide-eyed energy of a young Ransome, Eddison or LeGuin (or, I suppose, a more earnest Pratchett) from fantasy players. Or they’ll just use Eberron or whatever else they own, and read that through a new lens. That’s an acceptable outcome, a C pass.
One-and-done is cheap game territory though. PWYW. Which is, I suppose, where the impetus to make these things objets d’art comes from: you can charge for that instead. Art sells RPGs, nobody reads novels for style, Age of Woo and so on. Is it too early to start drinking?
My favorite of your reviews are the lotfp and artpunk stuff, and these past two have been especially a treat.
I’m glad. If you like this style you are in for a treat. I am working through…6? Mörk Börg adventures so far. Dear god this is embaressing.
Welcome to Age of Dusk!
The best thing that came out of Mörg Björk is the comment section of this reddit post: https://www.reddit.com/r/osr/comments/k2y0tv/does_anyone_want_a_couple_of_dogs/
AND WHY ARE WE NOT WORKING ON MY PALACE REVIEW HMN? DO YOU NOT FEAR THE ASSASSIN’S KISS? I HAVE EYES THAT NEVER SLEEP. MOUTHS THAT DEVOUR BUT ARE NEVER SATIATED. A MISTRESS OF IRON YEARNING FOR YOUR EMBRACE. THE DARKNESS. THE SILENCE. WOE! WOE!
I simply held my breath until he reviewed the Cha’alt and Cha’alt: Fuchsia Malaise.
I was entombed in the Screaming Caverns by the Many-Faced One. But I got better.
LikeLiked by 1 person
As I contemplate quietly drifting into my twilight years, I have less and less interest in full artsy grimdarkness. The Black Company is as far as my rum-raisin-vanilla D&D games will go these days. Anyway, any review here is a treat, so keep up the good work.
Black Company is good. Reminds me to order the last two parts.
I always thought it rather strange how grimdark-stuff gets taken so serious by some, while other conceptual or thematic overdrives are largely ignored or immediately seen for the over-the-top parody they are.
Then again what do I know 🙂
I also want to add that Xas Irkalla was not only the superior game in my humble opinion (your mileage may vary of course)… but that it also was completely in home-printer friendly black, white and gray.
With some of these Artpunk games and supplements I sometimes think you’ll need a special printer with a pink, a yellow, a red gore and 4 black cartridges custom built for pamphlet style printing.
And yet in some corners of the OSR you’ll still get a bashing when you don’t procure a printer friendly version of your maps with an adventure -.-
LikeLiked by 1 person
Hi Grützi! Long time no see!
I think Grimdark, like any other style that inspires the easily inspired, suffers from a sudden influx of dirty tourists and thus suffers from a bad rep. I will point out that Grimdark has a bit more of a serious literary cred, in the form of Black Company, Bakker’s Second Apocalypse and Kentaro Muira’s Berserk series and clear roots in the S&S tradition. All these are non-ironic works, which is good. I think I have outlined my position on irony and how it is often used as a crutch for insecure or poor authors often enough.
Xas Irkalla rocked but the domain level stuff was kind of unplayable. I think Vail went back and salvaged it but its a real bucket list of a game, hard to play, hard to find the right people, probably incomparably awesome for the exact right crowd.
Any whining in the OSR with regards to useability is like sweet music to my ears. It has its limitations but I think its probably a standard that has a firmer grounding then most. Very Randian Objectivist. I like it.
Thanks 🙂 RL is a bit taxing right now… pandemic and such…you know:P
[Grimdark and irony]
If you can’t make it good, make it funny 😛 So when people inevitably laugh at you, you can claim it was planned from the beginning. I might need to revisit the lands of GRIM and DARK.
I just realized that my own definition of the term Grimdark was already heavily “tainted” by the influx of tourists as you call them.
I never got to the domain play part honestly. I mainly use Xas Irkalla for convention one-shots… you have to explain no shit, chargen is quick as fuck and the first adventure is basically “how not to die horribly 101″… works like a charm.
Though you are right that the game is not for everyone.
Then again, I always tell people exactly what they can expect from Xas Irkalla.
Once had a guy who played a strange birdthingy-endling who died 5 minutes in the adventure by failing a death roll with 10 doom. The guy was shocked, the table humbled… and everyone thought it was awesome (helped by the fact, that a) the death was entirely the guys own fault and b) he quickly rolled up another character.)
[OSR Whining and Quality control]
Some people will always whine 😉
Years of experience as well as a myriad of failed offerings have served the OSR well in that respect.
Maybe that is what irks me about some of the more well known Artpunk stuff.
The angry old man inside of me wants to yell:”That’s not how it is done! You should know this! You only do this for pretentious reasons.”… Well thems the breaks, but now I remember that pretentious/stupid/retro diagram from Jeff Rients 🙂
Add to that that I personally think that most of this stuff looks like garbage anyway.
At the time it came out, I needed MB more than anything. I was stuck in a railroady campaign, I was missing player agency and consequence of actions, it was not the tone I wanted and I was a beginner while my GM with his 3.5 suckiness acted superior. I lacked the experience to pinpoint what was going wrong back. I tried to reach out online with other games and saw no success. Then I randomly found the Kickstarter linked on /tg/ and backed it (first pledge to a KS) and got to know of the OSR. At this point I played more B/X than MB but I am still eternally grateful to MB for showing me the ropes when I got started only a bit over a year ago with its tone and openess to hack around with (my name is even in Feretory hell yeah)
I apologize for the ramble here but due to my obvious bias I wanted to balance out the (what I guess are mostly) negative comments (i dont even read comments lol)
If you want the biggest let-down I saw yet among 3pp go seek out the Album-Crawl. A cool concept led to a mediocre product.
Hahaha comments while stating comments are irrelevant 😛 What I take away from your story is that my hunch was correct, and that as an introduction to the OSR, its actually not bad. Good on you for ditching a shitty game for a good game, and moving on into the deep end of the pool. B/X is my favorite game, welcome to the OSR!
Nu-SR? More like NO-SR, am I right?
Mörk Borg is a border case, but I’m not quite ready to declare Jihad and cast out the infidel. Troika on the other hand…
I actually wrote that before reading your review, aside from the 1st paragraph.
All in all, it sounds kind of fun. More inspiration than an RPG you play and keep playing for years. The metal aspect is something a lot of OSRers appreciate. Incidentally, Aaron’s video reviews of Borg Mork led us to a new podcast.
Aesthetically, it’s overproduced. But it presents a middle-ground between mood piece and fully realized rules-lite hack that audiences lap up. I mean, the team behind Blorg Mok have to be making bank.
Also, I told you there was a market for introductory 2-hour D&D games back when I was pimping my own. At least Crimson Dragon Slayer D20 is a free PDF. Save your dollars, kids!
I think you make a good point that its a nice gateway drug for the more serious stuff, and I like D20 Crimson Dragon Slayer better with each iteration, so good on you.
That’s a great and honest view on MB. I very much enjoyed reading it. I really like your sense of humor.
I would add that I think MB is showing that we start to get something like “mainstream OSR” (?) or “teen pop OSR” (?). Dunno. I don’t know how to call it. Anyway I see lots of overhyped products which main feature is “they look awesome!!!!111oneone” and that’s pretty much it.
I think that OSR industry is lately starting to eat itself. Instead of often shitty physical form but great content, we now get glam and cool looking books with not so much inside.
Much too often I encounter opinion that OSR is about producing pretty looking books with silly things inside.
The silver lining is B’mork Milf will attract random mainstream 5e players to the OSR… and then they stumble right into the awesome.
Hey lvl80 wizard, thank you for pointing your buddy to my book! I hope it will restore some of the good faith in the OSR.
That OSR is starting to eat itself stuff is a recurring feature in anything from comic books to video games, any time people focus on a strategy that is geared towards something other then people actually using the product in the spirit it is intended it tends to produce short term gain to long term detriment. It was collectors for comic books, cut scenes and graphics for video games etc. etc.
OSR-wise I am not THAT worried but I do see the trend, it’s why I am often annoyed at the more Arty currents in the OSR. Palace is doing well (I made more on it then RPR did in the first year, but I am still very small), Castle Xyntillian got some recognition, there’s still Antony Huso, Guy Fullerton, Kevin Crawford, arguably Venger, there’s a lot of people out there making great stuff. I think the key here is marketing it properly, something hobbiests like us aren’t as adept in, and probably not willing to do. Reviewing and posting play reports helps, but I think sooner or later someone will have to bite the bullet and get on youtube or whatever.
TENOR: Since I don’t get metal, and as far as I am concerned, there is no difference whatsoever between one weirdo Scandinavian track and another, I feel comfortable in my expertise when I point out that Mörk Börg (Ha!) has a basic disconnect in its basic tone. On one hand, it is a spiked mace to your face™, but on the other hand, it admonishes you to respect its pronouns, and party responsibly. Oh.
No, the candy-coated mechanics (omens; “shields will be splintered” is an old O-S-R variant right from the Fight On! Mezozoic, and it is Fine as long as it is not overdone) are not glitches, they are consequences of trying to sit on two horses with a single arse (as the old proverb says). Good King Raggi, Abaddon rest his sovl, did not shy back from the ugly side of the metal aesthetic – he trvthfvlly confessed he’d give the stage to Varg Vikernes out of principle, and because he is Real, but he was cancelled for it. So Mörk Börg is a game that wants to be a game it cannot be, written by people who don’t dare to reach for what they have discovered. It is a mutant that’s not viable in a harsh grimdark world, and will die if it does not get its daily intake of ethically sourced Soylent.
GRIMDARK: Jonathan E. has a good point here. Single theme-games are suitable for dipping into, and may deliver a well-calibrated, focused experience, but it is not the balanced diet of the comparatively Real Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (sorry B/X fans, it is TRV). This is the same mistake made by Forge theory (re: “coherent” vs. “incoherent” games), and by people who take their genre cues from TVTropes instead of works with real complexities, and YES, digressions. This shows in Mörk Börg and its pop metal sensibility. It is not so in the better sort of WFRP game, where the grim darkness, filth and peril are counterbalanced by a strong element of comedy, and the fun of playing striving opportunists trying to make it big.
In practice, one of my players ran Mörk Börg for a while with a different group, and it is apparently very nice for a not very long amount of time. It has its limits in a mini-campaign of about 1d4+2 episodes, after which it is time to move on.
THE MODULE: This has to be the most perfectly written module about nothing in particular. Flawless! Look at those bullet points – the expressive terseness! – the keywords! – the mini-maps! The logical traps! But it is a vague something-something that’s not really all that connected to the game itself? I may not know what metal is, but this, this is not metal.
LikeLiked by 2 people
Woah… That was spot on what i was thinking… only articulated much better than i could 🙂
Or not so much what i was thinking but more what i was feeling regarding Mölk Bölk 😛
Just in: King James is issuing a CALL to ARMS out there in the dark Finnish Winter night, in his best Bernie Sanders “I am once again asking for your money” imitation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRwWbHJ3J0Q&feature=emb_title
This, my friends, is metal. For all its virtues, the creators of Mörk Borg never seemed properly crazy. King James? He is rocking it!
Holy fuck he either read my post or came to the same conclusions, but his pitch is retarded. He needs to rebuild his fucking A-Team, but instead he is looking for some drudges to help him shit out more material so HE can get back-sales. Dude. Just reach out to some of the third party guys that are already making good stuff.
Alright all the way through, what a fucking legend. I have my opinion on the authenticity of some of James’s positions but this is 100% fucking Big Boss calling all patriots, Outer Heaven Style nuts and I kind of love it. Snow falls on deserted streets, King James distraught and in in self-admitted mental peril. What have the stirrings of his besieged subconscious revealed to him? I cannot say. ‘We have an empire to rebuild,’ he says. ‘There’s six of you out there.” What a fucking, zero fucks given, immortal fucking legend. King once again.
Metal & Soy: the DnD Hackening. Has a nice ring to it, but that mutant won’t survive in this world, as you rightly predicted. The OSR is generous, lenient even… but demands a kind of purity of awesome that Boink Muff can’t provide.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I feel like you just named the entire lexicon of the Swedish Chef.
LikeLiked by 1 person
When you say “Tunnels & Trolls, a game meant either for short sessions or as an introduction to RPGs, to be discarded in favor of the more serious and lordly D&D when one is ready to try the deep end of the pool.” are you talking about MB or T&T? I really like T&T and I’m wondering what are your thoughts about it.
I’m not super familiar with it. I paged through it and basically consider it in the same vein as Mörk Börg, something that’s fun but that you will probably end up trading in for AD&D if you are looking for a more hardcore experience.
What do you like about it?
While T&T has some jokes (specially regarding spell names) it’s a serious game, geared for long-term progression, but with very quick combat, based upon dice pool mechanics and abstract movement and positioning.
Also, it is one of the first RPGs with rules for solo play, and also rules for playing monsters.
Finally, the existence of high level spells and a long list of weapons are a hint that longer campaigns are very much possible, if not encouraged.
The setting, with ample description in Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls is closer to traditional High Fantasy, which further diferentiates it from newer games such as Mork Bork, Troika and the like.
My guess is that Ken St. Andre looked at D&D and thought about making a game less focused on tactical combat and more on puzzle solving and interaction.
I personally think that the abstract combat is great, specially for the current trend of online play, where dragging a virtual token on a grid is not as fast as on a gametable.