A few years ago, a soon to be author decided to play through a marathon of Dark Souls while listening to nothing but Swedish death metal. From the ensuing fever dream came the TTRPG entity known as MÖRK BORG (Swedish for Dark Fort). Okay, so that is not the real story behind MÖRK BORG, but I could certainly believe it! Today’s review is going to be something special. We don’t just have a TTRPG review, but a review of what can only be described as an experience.
When I said that MÖRK BORG is an experience, I truly meant it. From cover to cover (94 pages) MÖRK BORG stands out, and draws you in with the wild and chaotic visuals that are part heavy metal album cover, medieval manuscript, and game notes all in one. Each page is visually and stylistically different from the last, but flows in a way that conveys the story of the setting while setting up the basics of the game. MÖRK BORG is not a dense book in terms of content, but conveys everything you will need to run a game including setup, mechanics, along with a favorable sampling of adversaries. The last section of the book is dedicated to a dungeon crawl called The Shadow King’s Lost Heir, along with a few handy references.
Now there may be tens of you asking, “isn’t this setting just a mashup of Mork & Mindy combined with the Borg from Star Trek?” To which the answer is an emphatic.. NOOOOO! Although, now that I have put the idea in your head, there will certainly be many fanfic crossovers written on this absolute peanut butter and jelly IP combination.
What MÖRK BORG conveys is essentially the Scandinavian themed brother of Dark Souls power by Swedish Death Metal. There is even a fitting spotify soundtrack to go with the game! Gameplay is centered around a dying land of Tveland, which is surrounded by an endless sea. It is a dark, bleak place surrounded by threats, and completely devoid of light, warmth, and hope.
There are other darker powers in play surrounding this setting, but I don’t want to ruin the experience. Just know that the described regions of Tvelland combined with the greater looming threat will give you everything you need to know. Everything else is determined by both the GM, and players to a limited extent.
Mechanics & Character Creation
MÖRK BORG is a fast paced creature that wants you to dive in head first. Every element of character creation is down to a few quick die rolls that will determine the abilities/stats and equipment, powers, and name of your character. If you like there are optional charts to determine terrible traits, bad habits, and even physical deformities or other bodily damage. MÖRK BORG doesn’t’ care who you are because it knows that you are insignificant, and the setting will likely take you out just as fast as you came in.
The mechanics are simple. Roll a d20 + Modifiers versus an established Difficulty Rating (DR) to determine most outcomes. There are condensed rules for initiative, critical, powers, morale, and rest and NPC reactions. Every element of MÖRK BORG is tailored to fit a fast paced game. It doesn’t want you looking up or interpreting rules, but instead wants you to pick up your weapon and fight! In many ways, the game strongly reminds me of the brutal ruleset of first edition Dungeons & Dragons.
MÖRK BORG is an amazing creature. It sits on the razor’s edge of style and substance. This game knows what it is, and wants to pull you in by the face in order to embrace the chaos. Additionally, this game definitely fits well for “roll players” and not “role-players,” if you catch my meaning.
In terms of actual game content, MÖRK BORG is rather slim, and is best suited for short games (around 1-3 sessions). Players desiring more mechanical substance or crunch will be disappointed by the lack of expanded content. As noted above, the lack of social mechanics will leave some of the group thespians feeling a bit flat. But again, MÖRK BORG isn’t a game of social intrigue, politics, or clever one-liners.
Additionally, the layout of the book is rather chaotic, as every page may contain diverse aesthetic choices such as GIGANTIC flowing words, split/skewed text, or even something resembling a book of psalms. For some readers, finding information in this chaos may prove frustrating.
MÖRK BORG is a quick and dirty blood soaked romp oozing with style! Yes, buy it!