When it comes to the coolest-looking, most innovative RPG design I’ve seen in the last decade or so, it’s gotta be MÖRK BORG.
The books and folios are riots of color, unconventional fonts, unexpected use of metallic inks, and brain-hurting layouts. They basically go against everything they teach you when it comes to conventional print design, but that’s ok because this isn’t a conventional game. Powered by simple rules and inspired by a bleak, world-ending premise, the game is the heavy metal equivalent of a zine. The design reinforces its astheic; it’s a brutal, weird world, and it’s a brutal, weird design.
Is the game any good? I have no idea. I bought the core rulebook as well as several add-0ns, and I had a lot of fun reading them. Each page is a thing to be savored, as you take in the details and strangeness and think about how that would influence your game. But in terms of actually playing it, well, the world was bleak enough during the pandemic without role-playing in in a doomed reality (a problem I aslso had with ALIEN, another game that I bought the rulebooks for but haven’t played).
Publisher Free League also released a sci-fi, cyberpunk take on MÖRK BORG called CY_BORG. It takes a similar premise – the world is doomed and horrible – and adds the cyberpunk aesthetic (and a bunch of neon). It’s become a go-to reference book for my Cyberpunk RED campaign, mostly because it’s got a bunch of evocitive tables: corporate generator (with a random recent controversy), location features (with hidden dangers), and job targets.
MÖRK BORG remains a game that I’d love to play … and I’m more likely to do so since they released the plaintext version of the game. The “bare bones edition” strips the game of its eccentric design and reduces to simple black and white text. This makes it more accessible for anyone with vision difficulties while simultaneously making it easier to read (and browse) for everyone. I could see doing a 6-8 session “end of the world”-style run for this game, but I do think it needs use of an X card or similar mechanic so that people know what the limits are. That’s not a challenge I typically have with my gaming groups, since we’ve been playing together for years, but this game can get dark fast. Players being able to apply the brakes as needed (or just knowing they can) would be an important aspect of playing this game.
- This post is part of the RPG a Day 2023 event. Catch up on Nuketown’s posts via the project page and learn more about the event at its community page on Facebook.
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Three of the sourcebooks for MÖRK BORG.