Author Topic: Review of Mork Borg  (Read 443 times)

Offline Nanshork

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Review of Mork Borg
« on: June 26, 2020, 11:15:34 AM »

Mork Borg's official website is here.  Coincidentally, you can purchase them from Free League, the same company that makes the Alien RPG that I last reviewed.

Mork Borg is a game that I honestly have avoided looking at for as long as I've known that it existed.  It's an OSR game with a tagline, and the tagline is: "A doom metal album of a game. A spiked flail to the face. Rules light, heavy everything else."  The word Artpunk is also thrown around on the store page.  Just do a quick Google image search for "Mork Borg" and you'll see the insanity that makes up the inside of this book.  Therefore, this review is being written as I read the book for the first time.  We'll see how this goes.

Mork Borg came out in 2019.  There are four companies listed on the copyright page as well as a handful of names.  Ockult Ortmastare Games and Stockholm Kartell hold the copyright, my assumption is that Free League is just a distributor (two separate Free League companies are listed).  Also of note, Mork Borg is Swedish for Dark Fort and is pronounced Murk Borg.  I'll probably keep pronouncing it Mork Borg and nobody will notice because I don't actually talk to anyone about this game.

The book is 96 pages, including the covers, and has no index whatsoever.  My pdf has bookmarks in it but I don't know how trustworthy they are so we're just going to ignore them for the most part and do something a little more stream of consciousness.

From the very beginning I can tell that no matter what else this game has, it has flavor.  Between the front cover and the copyright/print information page are two pages worth of tables.  We have a name generator (roll a d6 to pick a table, roll a d8 to get a name from that table).  We have a d10 Occult Treasures table which has items like "This torch
burns for an immortal hour. Hold it and live. You can lose limbs and enter negative HP and won't die unless you drop the torch or it burns you."  That's a 7.  Why would you roll on this table? I have no idea, but it's pretty clear from the start that this game is fucking weird. 

Then we get a table for Traps and Devilry (which is a d12 table listing traps).  Next a d12 table for weather (and each weather type has an adjective).  "Sou-thick mist" and "Black as night" are two examples.

Continuing this table theme, the next page is covered with a d66 table for Corpse Plundering.  "The remains of something worthless crumbles in your hands."  Some would constitute as treasure, some are just weird ("Note with PC's names. One is crossed out."), and some are bad.  None of them are boring (except maybe the high ones that just give you silver).

After that we get the standard pages about who made the game and when was it published and a full page of art.

And we're now shoved directly into the rules.  No "what is an RPG" here.  No "get some dice and some friends and have a good time" language as is standard.  Instead, we get a page that looks like this.

We get pages and pages of how dark and terrible the game world is, with none of this "Grimdark" over the top worldbuilding that some games are known for.  Some of it is...difficult to read (and not difficult because of content, it is literally difficult for my brain to decipher what I am looking at), but honestly if you're ever wondering how to describe things in a horror campaign then here's your source material.

There's also a map of the world (kind of) and descriptions of major places/countries within it.  And more unique art.

Oh look!  Identifiable rules text!  The Calendar of Nechrubel (it appears that Nechrubel is the name of the world) says the following:
The world trembles. One can feel it in ways sharp and subtle, mysterious and clear. One by one, inevitable events demand their placce.

Illustrating this, the Game Master (GM) rolls a die each dawn. A result of 1 activates one Misery. The die used is determined by the GM and the group.

The GM then rolls d66 to determine which misery occurs. The same Misery will not befall the world twice.

There is a table going from d100 to d2 for what die is rolled based off of "When will all this agony end?" or how long you want the game to be able to go on.  The miseries are laid out as psalms with the results as flavor text and not rules text.  Psalm 7:7 (which can only happen when all other rolls of a d66 have happened) has the following rules text:

The seventh Misery will always be 7:7 and the world finally dies. The seventh seal is broken for the seventh and final time.

The game and your lives end here.
Burn the book.

I'm not sure what's going on exactly, but this might be one of the most enjoyable RPG book reading experiences that I've ever had.

Next: Character Creation.  Please note that I am taking verbose flavorful text and condensing them into actual rules.  I don't want to ruin the book by giving away all of its neat details.

Everyone starts with 2d6 x 10 silver, a waterskin, and 1d4 days worth of food.  You then roll 1d6, 1d12, and 1d12 to see what other starting gear you have from three tables (one die roll per table).  You can start out with magic scrolls, but those will be described later.

According to a handy chart, after you've randomly determined your equipment you will randomly determine you weapon and armor, roll your stats, roll your HP, and pick a name if you want to but "It will not save you".  There are then optional rules for starting with a class and then using the class instructions for all gear (so you can play this game either classless or with class), rolling on tables way later in the book, and rolling omens.  I'll get to all of those as they come up instead of flipping back and forth.

For weapons, you roll a d10 (or a d6 if you started with a scroll) and get the weapon shown.  You could start with a femur or a zweihander, and if you don't like what you started with you'll probably get a chance to roll up a new character and try again soon enough.

Armor is a d4 (or a d2 with a scroll) and higher is better. A 1 is no armor (and it just goes light/medium/heavy after that).  No scroll use is medium/heavy armor (or with zweihand weapons).

After that there's a 1 page equipment description chart with costs of gear (femurs are worthless) as well as services or pets.  There are also rules entries for gear that have special rules (such as what the medicine box does).

As for stats, there are four.  Agility, Presence, Strength, and Toughness.  Roll 3d6 per stat (or 4d6 if not using classes and drop the lowest), then compare your roll to a chart.  This will give you a modifier of -3 to +3, only the modifier is recorded on your character sheet.  Difficult Ratings go from 6 to 18, and rolls are a d20 +/- your modifier.

Carrying capacity is based off of item size (just like the Alien RPG, and being encumbered increases the difficulty rating of Strength and Agility tests.

Hitpoints is Toughness + 1d8 (minimum 1).  Zero HP makes you Broken, Negative HP makes you Dead.  We'll probably figure out what broken means later.  And we do, on the very next page!  When broken, roll a d4.  The higher the roll, the worse off you are.  A 4 means you're dead.

Combat in general takes an interesting tactic.  All rolling is done by the players, Creatures and NPCs do not roll.  For initiative, roll a d6.  1-3, enemies go first.  4-6, PCs go first.  Agility checks are made for individual initiative within a group.

Attack and Defence rolls are also all made by the PCs against specific target numbers.  If a player succeeds the attack test, they hit.  If a player succeeds the defense test, they are not hit by the enemy.  Both attacks and defenses can Crit and Fumble.

Lastly we have some more basic rules.  There are two kinds of rest, basically a short rest and a long rest although tye aren't called that.  Resting requires food and drink to restore health.  If you meet someone and don't know what their reaction to you will be, roll 2d6 and consult a table.  Lastly, enemy morale exists in Mork Borg but only for enemies.

"Leveling up" is explicitly at the DMs discretion.  Since Mork Borg doesn't actually have levels, and Mork Borg is a game of mixed blessings, at any time the DM thinks that a character should be improved a bunch of random stuff happens.  Roll some dice to see if you gain HP, roll a d6 to see if you get treasure, roll dice against your stats to see if they go up (or down, that can happen).

Okay, now we get to powers.  Powers are written on scrolls, and you can only use a certain number every day and successful use of a power requires a roll.  They can crit and fumble just like attacks.  Scrolls can be unclean or sacred and there are ten powers for each.

Characters also get a random number of Omens which help mitigate some of the randomness of Mork Borg.  Once you've used all of your Omens, you randomly get more after resting.

Lastly, we get EVEN MORE RANDOM TABLES!  Are you unsure of what kind of character to make in Mork Borg? Roll!  We've got traits, physical appearance, bad habits, backstory, and more, all with more of the amusing Mork Borg flavor that is growing on me.  You can have the bad habit of "Best friend is a skull.  Carry it with you, tell it everything, you trust no one more."  I love it.

Oh look, hey, the optional classes are here.  Each class has its own traits and stat generation, including HP and Omens.  Here the the classes that you can be (all descriptions are taken from the book).  Oh, and you can roll for your class because this is that kind of game.
 - Fanged Deserter: You have thirty or so friends who never let you down: YOUR TEETH. Disloyal, deranged or simply uncontrollable, any group that didn't boot you out you left anyway. But your parliment of teeth - enormous, protruding, thick and sharp - have always been your allies.
 - Gutterborn Scum: An ill star smiled upon your birth. Poverty, crime and bad parenting didn't help either. In your community an honest day's work was never an option. Not that you ever tried, what are you, some kind of mug? A razor blade and a moonless night are worth a week of chump-work.
 - Esoteric Hermit: The stone of your cave is one with the stars. Silence and perfection. Now the chaos of a fallen world disturbs your rituals and the caul of night grows blacker than your cavern's gloom. Irritating!
 - Wreteched Royalty: Bowed down only by the memories of your own lost glory, you could never submit to anyone else. Not you, of noble blood! (Not that you expect any of these peons to understand the depths of your sorrow.)
 - Heretical Priest - Hunted by the Two-headed Basilisks of the One True Faith, this heretic can be found raving in ruins, traipsing endlessly down dusty roads and desecrating cathedrals by night.
 - Occult Herbmaster: Born of the mushroom, raised in the glade. Watched by the eye of the moon in a silverblack pool.

After classes we get monsters.  Each has more of that weird, weird art and fun flavor text and the whole work is just more messed up the more I read this book (although we're almost done).  Did you know that goblins are cursed creatures and that if one damages you and you don't kill it that you will turn into one yourself, "a ruined mind watching its body-prison perform terrible deeds"?  Man that's dark.  I love it so much.

Lastly we have the obligatory introductory adventure.  THis one is called Rotblack Sludge -or- The Shadow King's Lost Heir.  It's a 15 room dungeon with random encounter tables and  is as dark and gloomy as I have come to expect.

Oh wait, that wasn't the last thing.  EVEN MORE RANDOM TABLES.  Also a handy one page rues overview sheet because this book actually needs it with its unique style and pages of art.

Final thoughts: As I mentioned, I've been avoiding this game.  I didn't think I would like the book, everything I read about it made it seem overhyped and like a weird art project more than anything else.  Banksy meets RPG.  However, I liked it.  The style works, the page layouts work, the system is actually pretty balanced for a game that flat out tells you that every PC will die if the campaign goes on long enough.  I don't know how it would be to run as a regular game, but I think this one is a keeper.