Okay, dear readers, it has been a few weeks since I put something on my blog for your consumption and I feel bad about that. Some shit went down at my job that I can only describe as “mercenary behavior,” which, in turn, has required me to work some seriously long days to cover for the stuff the mercenaries left behind. As of this post, it has been 4 weeks and the work isn’t going to stop anytime soon.
This crap with my job has required me to cancel games I’m trying to set up, including a project I’ve been wanting to get off the ground since February. It has also placed me in a generally foul mood when sober. After a few nips of James E. Pepper 1776 Kentucky Rye, I lighten up a bit.
Anyway, so yesterday my in-person gaming group got together. It was an impromptu game as our schedules for the month of September suck. A few of us could not make it. We did have a guest as an old friend of one of the group’s members was in town, so I decided to try out Mörk Borg as a Game Master with a one-shot. I’ve played in Mörk Borg games before, but I have never run it. I own the main book plus the Feretory. I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to try this game out.
First, I ran a game I picked up on itch.io called “The “Fleshworks.” This is a one-page game by Michael Sollien which is both a game and an alternative means of generating characters for Mörk Borg. I highly recommend you pick this up if you are a Mörk Borg fan. We had an absolute blast running it. You should throw this guy some scratch if you download it. He deserves it.
I do think The Fleshworks is unnecessarily brutal (I opted not to roll random encounters), but my players had a lot of fun. They opted to run from the demons chasing them and they continued to fight in the vats of flesh in order to avoid ability point loss, which I found very clever. When the game ends it can lead into another game I picked up on Itch.io called “Graves Left Wanting.” Sadly, we ran out of time and could not finish it. I had the opportunity to play it run by Ian at Fantastic Dimensions. It is a lot of fun. I recommend you pick this one up too.
The fact remains we had fun with Mörk Borg. However, the consensus was, this isn’t good for our long-term campaign. In scrolling through Lamentations of the Flame Princess forums, I think most people agree that Mörk Borg is all style and no substance. I couldn’t agree more.
First, it does have some neat player facing style game mechanics. I really like how armor is addressed: it doesn’t make you harder to hit, but it reduces damage taken. I also appreciate the rules light aspect of it. However, to have staying power, players have to look forward to something beyond: “Hey guys! I didn’t die!”
Lamentations of the Flame Princess certainly has that vibe of being extra lethal. However, there is a concrete reward for surviving: your silver is converted to experience. If you have enough experience, you gain a level. You get tougher and there is more incentive to push on into the next adventure. I don’t see that with Mörk Borg. It is why The Fleshworks was such a great game to use for our one-shot: the players had little choice but to run through the dungeon to see what they become.
Which leads me to another part of why Mörk Borg lacks substance. The character classes have no real unifying mechanic that creates distinctions, other than hit points, when you do actually gain a level. Each character class feels like an entity unto its own with no connection to the other character classes such that the choice to play one over the other doesn’t feel like a real mechanical or strategic choice. Again, it is why the Fleshworks is such a great first adventure. It completely randomizes character generation; thus, hiding what players will intuitively see should you hand them the rule book and ask them to make a character. There is no real reason to choose a Fanged Deserter over a Wretched Royalty, other than personal style and aesthetics.
Which leads me to another criticism of Mörk Borg’s character classes: they are too specific. If you are a fanged deserter, you’re some weird warrior that bites people. That’s it. With LotFP, the fighter is generic enough to allow for some creativity on the part of the player. There is real role-playing there, not so much with the fanged deserter.
To be sure, I am glad I picked up Mörk Borg. I feel like I can use it as a go to game when a few friends want to hang out and roll dice when we have nothing much better to do. The main rulebook comes with a module, “Rot Black Sludge” and the Feretory came with “The Goblin Grinder.” There is also plenty of information in the main book to allow me to run what I want should I ever decide to run a one-shot or two with Mörk Borg. I probably won’t run anything long term with this game, however.
That’s all, dear reader. Please stay tuned as (hopefully) in the next few weeks I will be adding a few more 5e publications up on DMsGuild and DriveThruRPG. I’m still working on a few OSR modules as well. (I just gotta find time to play test them). Also, I am hoping to start an actual play/game review discussion channel called “Wizard’s Lab.” Hopefully, this will get off the ground once the dust finally settles at my job.
*The lovely sound of James E. Pepper 1776 cascading over cracking ice that tinkle upon the glass like Christmas*