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OSR Review of Mörk Borg, a Doom Metal Album of an OSR RPG

All will blacken and burn just as the Two-Headed Basilisks predicated. The world is dying; time is short. How will you face the final days? Robbing graves for corpse buried wealth? Or fighting the apocalypse convinced you can win? Find out in Mörk Borg.

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Mörk Borg is a digest sized hardcover RPG complete with book ribbon and of lurid color and heavy metal gaming bundled with a poster map of the setting and a pamphlet for traveling with a one page mini-dungeon. I received a complementary copy to review. Before the mechanics can be digested, the aesthetics hit you in the face like a spiked flail. An embossed cover of a skeletal warrior soaked in blood on the front, a goat demon on the back, and all surrounded by yellow and black color.

Each glossy page has its own vibrant color and layout, while an included adventure uses a matte page. A hundred different fonts are used and an occasional page even has silver or gold foil. The authors also provide a Spotify list of inspiration to go with the RPG and call the whole thing a blackened artpunk OSR.

The front cover and facing page has random tables. I roll a random name: Torvul, a vampiric phurba (a wrathful ritual implement) as an occult treasure, a trap of snake-cage on collapsing ceiling tiles, weather consisting of a cloudburst, and on a corpse I find a scalp with long black hair.

I venture in further. I learn my PC can either be a grave robber or mystic trying to prevent doom. His world is life locked and failing in a dark fort. Two two-headed basilisks whisper apocalyptic prophecies which are coming to rotted fruition. All is doom.

Even so a world remains even if plunged in darkness. Galgenbeck is a great and terrible city. More places beckon me to experience their haunted atmosphere: the gloom forest of Sarkash, the ancient cemetery of Graven-Tosk, the Palace of the Shadow King, the city-state of Grift and more.

Then, the first rule. A GM rolls a die (type determined by the gaming group) each dawn. A roll of 1 generates a Misery rolled with a d66. Deciding to see what result a 1 gives, I roll Psalm III 3:5 Then shall come rain unending and the day shall be made night by its coming. Guess that explains the cloudburst earlier.

Finally, a page opens and I can create my alter ego. Torvul has 30 silver pieces in one hand and a waterskin and 2 days of food in the other. He also has a magnesium strip (should help with that darkness) and a small but vicious dog (5 hp, bite d4, only obeys me). He has a knife and he has medium armor (-d4 damage).

Torvul has four abilities. He has Agility +1, Presence 0, Strength +1, and Toughness 0. Tests are d20 plus ability to meet or beat a difficulty rating. He ends up with 5 hit points.

The game details violence, rest, reaction, morale, and character improvement (more hit points possibly and abilities going up or down). Torvul doesn’t have any Powers but if he finds unclean or sacred scrolls he’ll be able to roll to cast those spells. Torvul also has Omens that he can use to change the chance of success for a die roll or to modify damage.

Many optional tables follow. Demands of the basilisks, trauma, childhood, history, and twisted fate. I roll a troubling tale. Torvul sees a many-eyed “guardian angel” and he heals twice as fast but his companions twice as slow.

Alternatively, I could roll a random class for Torvul and change some of his results. The six classes are fanged deserter, gutter born scum, esoteric hermit, wretched royalty, heretical priest, and occult herbmaster. Each has modified starting stats and several different abilities and possible origins or backstories.

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Torvul can go no further in the book as he is ready for adventure. A GM will find named creature examples for goblins, scum, berserker, wraith, wickhead knife-wielder, and more undead and monsters. The GM section wraps up with the dungeon crawl called Rotblack Sludge.

Random ending tables include reasons to risk your life (where to wander, contacts, and adventure sparks), random dungeon tables, rules summary, and an index.

Mörk Borg presents a lightweight game although bits and pieces can easily be lifted into other RPGs. The random tables are even easier to add (randomly throwing a knife at one table is a suggestion I liked) or a GM could just look at the art and maps for inspiration.

Is Mörk Borg juvenile? No. Because it provides a framework of rules and a specific design aesthetic it is instead an RPG of both dark fantasy and diabolical art. It does not cling to Gygaxian only truth but still remains compatible with the OSR. As advertised, Mörk Borg is inspiring, exciting, and terribly depressing. Get the book and stare at its twisted pages for d66 minutes and see it inform your future GMing style.
 
Charles Dunwoody

Comments

Banesfinger

Explorer
Thanks for the review: I've been waiting to hear how this game plays!
Apart from the art/feel, how are the rules? What is magic like (spell slots? Power Points?). Do the classes distinguish themselves, or do they just add minor bonuses to a specific task?
 

Which OSR books can you use with this or need for this?could you mix it with classes from Swords and Wizadry or stuff? The Rune Centric Gohdi seems like it would be Viking/metal to fit in with it.

Very interesting looking.
 
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I've never played the original DND back in the day and I'm clueless when it comes to the OSR movement today.

I'm mostly DND 5e.
 

Fredrix

Villager
Which OSR books can you use with this or need for this?could you mix it with classes from Swords and Wizadry or stuff? The Rune Centric Gohdi seems like it would be Viking/metal to fit in with it.

Very interesting looking.
You need nothing more than the book. Though some dark and crazy scenarios would probably work with it. For example, I think some of the Trilema adventures would work with it. There is a thriving fan-made community for it. All the supplements are free online.
 

You need nothing more than the book. Though some dark and crazy scenarios would probably work with it. For example, I think some of the Trilema adventures would work with it. There is a thriving fan-made community for it. All the supplements are free online.
I just was wondering IF other OSR materials can be used in class conjunction with it.
 


Thanks for the review: I've been waiting to hear how this game plays!
Apart from the art/feel, how are the rules? What is magic like (spell slots? Power Points?). Do the classes distinguish themselves, or do they just add minor bonuses to a specific task?
The rules are basically a mix of old school D&D and 5E (DC) but armor reduces damage. There are ten unclean scrolls and ten sacred scrolls. These twenty scrolls act like spells for characters who have them. The classes get special abilities and modified starting gear as well as background suggestions. Wretched royalty for example starts with 2 abilities out of 8 ranging from the blade of your ancestors to Poltroon' the court jester to Barbarister the incredible horse. The jester can annoy enemies with his capering giving you and your allies +2 to attack/defense for 2 rounds. Barbarister may help with checks based on Intelligence, may be smarter than you, and he knows he is smarter than you.
 

The rules are basically a mix of old school D&D and 5E (DC) but armor reduces damage. There are ten unclean scrolls and ten sacred scrolls. These twenty scrolls act like spells for characters who have them. The classes get special abilities and modified starting gear as well as background suggestions. Wretched royalty for example starts with 2 abilities out of 8 ranging from the blade of your ancestors to Poltroon' the court jester to Barbarister the incredible horse. The jester can annoy enemies with his capering giving you and your allies +2 to attack/defense for 2 rounds. Barbarister may help with checks based on Intelligence, may be smarter than you, and he knows he is smarter than you.
The Horse and the small vicious dog give each other glances and shake their heads at the stupid party members who head in the direction of certain doom.
 


I get where you're coming from. I bought the game yesterday and it has a certain Dark Souls- or Zothique-esque flavour to it. Which are pluses in my book. Definitely a cool game to run for convention one-shots but not a game for campaign play, I'd say.,unless you have a group that can handle the constant dreariness and impending doom for multiple sessions.
 



Skywalker

Explorer
In some ways that will be subjective. However, I was impressed by how readable the book is with all the layout changes. You can see detailed runthroughs of the interior on reviews on YouTube if you have concerns.
 

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