Mörk Borg, the metal AF old-school-style RPG

Even though I cover tabletop gaming professionally and spend a lot of time consuming gaming media, I am often embarrassingly late to the party on the hip, killer game du jour. Case in point: Mörk Borg.

This Swedish-based RPG (Mörk Borg is Swedish for "dark fort") has been around for a couple of years now. In 2020, it took home four top ENNIE Awards for Best Writing, Best Layout and Design, Best Game (Silver), and Product of the Year. A lot has been made of it — its doom metal album vibes, its artpunk RPG design, its suffocatingly dark and nihilistic background and play style.

Reminiscent of other smaller games with rabid followings, like Frostgrave, Mörk Borg effectively points to a rich and evocative world, but relies on player creativity to flesh that world out (or in this case, maybe deflesh?). This has resulted in a vibrant indie market of zines, pamphlets, player-created adventures, even an ambient doom metal LP-based adventure, and soon, a line of miniatures (see below).

One of the other things that has attracted many to Mörg Borg (and turned others away) is that the game is very minimal on rules (or "rules light, heavy everything else" as the game's motto goes). There are only 4 character stats (Strength, Agility, Presence, and Toughness) and combat resolution is very simple and straight-forward.

The "artpunk" design of the game means the rulebook is gorgeous to look at, but it can be hard to figure out what you're supposed to pay attention to in actually learning the game. This is a heavy style-over-information presentation (as in a black metal album cover, you can spend a few minutes trying to figure out what the text on a page actually spells). Ultimately, all of this ridiculous darkness, punky design style, and simple rules are there to communicate the idea that this is supposed to be taken as seriously as the over-the-top artwork and Cookie Monster-growled lyrics of a black metal record.

"One day, all will blacken and burn, just as the two-headed basilisks have predicted. The world is dying… The road to salvation lies through the mortification of the flesh."

Kerrang! \m/ \m/

Here are some videos about the game to get you started.

Image: Screengrab