First verse

I’m writing here about a single session for a group that met last August, playing Mörk Borg just once. That sounds simple, but it’s the beginning of my intensive and complicated play-history with the game which continues through today. Briefly, I have been playing the hell out of it ever since across a variety of groups and circumstances, and I’ll post about all of that soon.

For perspective, this session was played the evening before The Electric Bastionland session presented in A glimpse of the future sewers, during Alan Barclay’s visit. The participants were me, Helma, Alan, Emil, and Johan. As with that session, we played at a participant’s flat, so the recording is audio-only.

The game is available in plain and usable form at the publisher’s website, for free. Scroll down for the Bare Bones edition. That’s what I use, and also, as it happens, this plain text does not feature the canned adventure in the fancy book, but instead an extensive set of tables for preparing adventures. That’s in fact my topic: the processes of doing so will serve as an excellent doing-and-learning source for people who are interested.

Here are my preparation notes, beginning with the rolled results. You can find the tables I used in three places: pages 3-5 (apparently atmospheric), pages 72-74 (apparently situational/scenario oriented), and pages 75-78 (apparently dungeon/structure oriented). I say “apparently” in each case because, as I hope to show here, each section provides rather striking potential for overlap and mutual context.

Note at the bottom of the page: I chose a d6 for the daily check for a Misery (it requires rolling a 1). If you can read my handwriting, you’ll see that the first check is recorded as null, i.e., no Misery yet … which, as you can see a little bit abve on this page, is overtaken by the condition rolled for the Night Crypt. So a Misery has indeed occurred, beginning the countdown to the end of the world.

To put all this together, I found a suitable map for this Night Crypt place among my Dyson Logos collection, and listed the things I’d rolled. Then I just drew circles and connectors for things which could be combined into one or which seemed tightly associated.

At this point, I was pleased by the apparent confluences. All of these worked well for me as causally connected.

  • The light of the Immortal Torch [“occult treasures”], the disappearance of the sun [required by the Night Crypt rolls + rolled on the Misery tables], and the “darkness” from which the Wickheads are fleeing [“who or what dwells here now”] + the Wickheads being themselves candle-headed things.
  • The abyssal Pits [one of the “sample rooms”] and berserkers appearing [“imminent danger”] (after all, they have to “appear” from somewhere, right? the pits are just sitting there …), both of which seem sensibly tied to the Misery which has just appeared, i.e., darkness
  • I went a little farther than I might ordinarily do in combining all the following rolled features into one person: the tortured traitor (“who or what contacts you”), the blind hermit rooted to the ground, spreading corruption [“distinctive feature”], the kidnapped blood wizard [“adventure spark”], and the room full of blood [one of the “sample rooms”] – I also dipped into the “heretic priest” class description, which added considerable content regarding Grittr’s outlook.

I brought the following character sheets to the session, simply to pass them out and say “start.” They are generated entirely by rolling on tables, so my only contribution which supplanted players’ choices was adding the pictures. I did not use the character classes or the background tables, as I prefer the most minimalistic possible options for starting characters in this game, i.e., they are scabby little nobodies. The players chose as follows: Helma: Belsum, Alan: Aerg-Tval, Emil: Ferban, Johan: Karva.

Play. You need the map to follow along!

One lesson learned was that I should have oriented everyone more about the specifics of this game before passing out the sheets. People immediately fixated on “what does this scroll do” and I wasn’t able to land enough context about the Basilisks. You’ll see that I had to fight a little to get enough attention onto the situational elements, including at least one person thinking that we were conferencing instead of me telling them something important, and that it wasn’t clear to them just how dire and all-encompassing the metaphysics were.

However: play itself made all of the content directly relevant and, ultimately, led to diverse and changing developments among the characters. I want to stress this hard: that the preparation materials in the book are a GM’s delight toward the end of that one person’s sense of unity and focus, but that the processes of play do the real work in “coming together” for all of us as a dynamic and ultimately unique set of apocalyptic fantasy events.

After all, if we had continued to play, they have come face to face (to face) with Verhu/Gorgh himself – from scabby little nobodies to confronting the actual demon-god of the apocalypse. And this right after one of the characters has literally converted one of others from nihilism to hope. I did not dream that anything so consequential would or could arise from my casually-constructed preparation and equally casually-picked-up play among us.

I hope you’ll pay attention to the upcoming posts about more Mörk Borg play. The Bare Bones game text is quite strong and stands well apart from all the other high-end Swedish games I’ve encountered.

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3 responses to “First verse”

  1. Very informative to follow your prep and then on through the session. Relatively simple tools + good inspiration + not overthinking it in terms of how it all comes together. I’ve been reading a lot of texts lately and paying more and more attention to how preparation leads into situation–in fact valuing that highly as a feature of any given text. Good tools go a long way and I’m eager to put the Mörk Borg ones to my own use.

    • Discussing what might or could be the case, in a story conference sense, including suggestions and the assumption that we would reach a conclusion by agreeent.

      As opposed to the person with the job to say X being able to say it and to know that it had been received and processed.

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