Mork Borg review: "This game will consume you"

Mork Borg book on a gray background
(Image: © Free League)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

If impending doom and visceral, screeching turmoil are your bag, Mork Borg will deliver. The vague and mysterious lore is underlined with a simple rule set that lightens the cerebral load with plenty of roll-tables. It’s one for my fellow chaotic souls who are looking to embrace the darkness welling up inside them.


  • +

    Free doomy expression

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    Light on rules, heavy on eldritch vibes

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    Beautifully presented graphic design


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    A little vague and haphazard

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    A fair trigger warning is needed

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Advertised as a "pitch-black apocalyptic RPG", Mork Borg is a fanatical fanfare of twisted, brutally macabre aesthetics. As part of the Old School Renaissance (OSR for short), Mork Borg is one of many TTRPGs rehashing the utterly iconic, free-creative D&D rulesets of the '70s. And I have to hand it to Ockult Örtmästare Games, they’ve achieved that and more with an intensely ghoulish flair.

"The world dies even now." It’s a somber entry into the decaying bosom of this well-fleshed, feral landscape. Doom is the main player in Mork Borg. This game will consume you, and you will have no choice but to submit. 

Naturally, all that capital 'D' Darkness makes it especially appealing for metal-heads. The game cites artists like Domkraft, Bongzilla, Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard (amazing), and Tiamat in the 'Music that helped' section of the credits, so if any of those resonate, you’re already part-way indoctrinated into the veritable hellride that is Mork Borg.

Mork Borg - features

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Price$19.99 / £15.68 (PDF)
SystemMork Borg (OSR)
PublisherFree League
Players2 - 6
Lasts2 - 3hrs per session
Play if you enjoyOld school D&D, Viking Death Squad

The Mork Borg rulebook plummets you into the lore of Tveland, an inescapably lightless world, born of the dark mother bearing the twin heads of Denial and Deception. She, the fist of the basilisks, is one of many divine beings noted in the darkly poetic mythos, and she will call upon the party with viscous demands from her own roll table. Accompanying her, a smattering of lesser, grief-stricken beasties marr the world, each with their own devastating special attacks and harrowing curses. 

With roll tables for everything from weather to deadly traps, occult treasures, and arcane catastrophes, you can expect any campaign to take a turn toward the grisly. One moment you’re leaning over a spider-infested corpse in the crackling frost, the next a backfiring spell sees five "twisted skeletal arms burst from your back" and reach to destroy everything you love.

A large, horned monster roars in this two-page spread from Mork Borg

(Image credit: Free League)

Similarly, a bleeding map paints the lay of the land and is accompanied by narrative-rich descriptions of each place, complete with the secrets whispered in its streets, its main inhabitants, and indications of their dark desires.

In short? It's a lot bleaker than many of the best tabletop RPGs. In fact, it's cut from the same cloth as the equally grimdark Viking Death Squad - or even Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.

You’re pretty much on your own. For some that’ll be a blessing, and for others, a curse

There’s a single premade scenario included, which is simple and well laid out, with dungeon maps and random encounters, but it’s relatively sparse compared to some systems. GMs are instead encouraged to roll up their own adventures with the tables under 'Even more reasons to risk one’s life,' which will set up the where, who, what, and why of your session.

Aside from the mass of roll tables, a vague map and heaps and heaps of lore, you’re pretty much on your own. For some that’ll be a blessing, and for others, a curse.

Mork Borg - how it works

An open Mork Borg book, showing a woman removing the head of a kneeling knight

(Image credit: Free League)
  • Super-simple ruleset with a lot of freedom
  • The world’s end is imminent, so survival isn't guaranteed
  • Streamlined roll system

The dice rolls in Morg Borg are simple, and even though they're similar to those seen in Dungeons and Dragons books, they strip away the fluff; all you need is a d20 plus your ability modifier against the GM’s assigned difficulty rating. While physical skills are lightly boiled down to Toughness, Strength, and Agility, the more cerebral skills of perception, charm, and power wielding all come under the Presence ability.

Mathematics is all but worthless in a world where Basilisks rule, and the GM won't need to add modifiers to enemy d20 rolls either, so they can concentrate on bringing the unbridled decimation (much like a certain Index Card RPG). The only other calculation you’ll need to do is doubling damage, rolling your armor tier’s assigned dice to negate damage, and a great deal of subtraction as your health depletes. 

Turns are simplified into bulk initiatives for the players and enemies, which can work as a group effort or be split into individual turns based on your agility plus a d6 roll. Since nothing in the rulebook is as hard and fast because the cold grip of death is coming for your players anyway, just play it however feels right. In fact, you’re encouraged to submit yourself to the rotten whims of a vengeful, old-testament RNGsus with each wary dice roll, and Mork Borg’s ruleset will have you reveling in the carnage.

“Name your character if you wish. It will not save you”

Turns are simplified into bulk initiatives for the players and enemies, which can work as a group effort or be split into individual turns based on your agility plus a d6 roll. Since nothing in the rulebook is as hard and fast because the cold grip of death is coming for your players anyway, just play it however feels right. In fact, you’re encouraged to submit yourself to the rotten whims of a vengeful, old-testament RNGsus with each wary dice roll, and Mork Borg’s ruleset will have you reveling in the carnage.

Roll a natural one on an attack roll? Expect your blade to crumble or abandon you. In defense, a ‘fumble’ doubles enemy damage, or reduces your armor rating by one tier. So the game is just as likely to leave your character scrambling to replace their entrails, as a natural 20 might see them gaining the upper hand with a free swing of the blade. 

Still, it's not all gloom. There’s the option to use the small pool of Omens assigned to each player to fix mistakes in one of a few ways, including the ability to neutralize a particularly messy fumble, deal max damage, or reroll (yours or someone else’s) dice. Omens replenish on a long rest, too - but we’ll get to that later.

Expanding adventure

A combat two-page spread from Cy_Borg

(Image credit: Free League)

Having been out a good while, there are plenty of supplements for Mork Borg already. From 3rd party rule, companion, item, and background sets like Suffering Extended, to official rehashings in distinct settings, such as the Mörk Cy_Borg and Pirate Borg rulebooks. There’s even the comprehensive Cult: Feretory with missions, hunting and travel rules, terrible treasures, more classes, etc, to extend your dismay ever further.

While player failures can be utterly demoralizing when your Omens run out, and will undoubtedly have them rerolling characters when death knocks early, there’s just as much chance to double your damage and reduce your enemy’s armor class as there is to be utterly eviscerated by an unclean or sacred scroll someone’s just pulled from the grip of a maggot-ridden corpse. 

It all balances out when both parties' limbs are dangling by a tendon, anyway.

However, since character creation is such a rewardingly narrative-driven affair, the need to create multiple characters won’t feel like much of a burden to the creatively inclined, especially as there’s an online character generator awaiting. Not only are there six mostly-pre-rolled character classes - such as 'Gutter born scum' and 'Wretched Royalty' - every character is also tormented by some aspect of their past, and it manifests in a double whammy of fucked up traits and ticks, with a 'broken body' to match. “Name your character if you wish. It will not save you.”

Two styles of character sheet can also be downloaded from the Mörk Borg site, both of which are impeccably designed.

Mork Borg - gameplay

A two-page spread from Mork Borg showing the Basilisk's demands

(Image credit: Free League)
  • Heaps of randomness means every adventure and encounter is unique
  • A sparseness of joy will make players appreciate the small wins
  • Misadventures are exciting, and failing really feels epic

Right up front, Mork Borg sets the scene with a barrage of dark lore to give you a taster of this festering world, with plot hooks aplenty and a focus on your inevitable doom. The game also encourages you to add a smattering of bloodcurdling chaos at every turn. Roll tables are king, which helps to lighten the load on a Game Master desperately trying to conjure eldritch evil on every corner.

The main notable mechanic injecting carnage into the game is the Calendar of Nechrubel, a ticking clock told by the one who whispers apocalyptic prophecies in the ears of the damned. As dawn breaks on each in-game day, the GM rolls for a Misery told in the form of a Psalm, and the calendar ticks ever closer to the world’s end.

The vagueness of the initial intro material leaves much open to interpretation. While this is great for those with an unhinged creative urge, the nondescript nature of it all is likely to alienate not only the metal-averse, but those in need of more hand-holding. You see people online asking whether this or that is allowed, with the main comments in the vein of "just do what you want, it’s all about the feeling anyhow."

Mork Bork is a tabletop marvel

And feel you will. The game is a heartstopping excursion into a world of turmoil and despair. With sparsely glinting treasures and limited resources, your players have to think creatively - and will grasp tightly to whatever fleeting hints of joy the GM deigns to deliver.

The Omens mechanic, while useful for deflecting some of the cruelties the system inflicts, seems to undermine the theme of submission to chaos, and it feels wrong to have them replenish so easily on a long rest. It would make more sense for the prophecies to have foretold something about your journey because the gods had taken notice, rather than because you had a little sleep.

Should you buy Mork Borg?

A two-page spread from Mork Borg, showing the 'Western Kingdom'

(Image credit: Free League)

Other than some minor niggles, such as the Omens system seeming to sap the game of the lush impending doom we metalheads crave, Mork Bork is a tabletop marvel. An apocalypse inbound, turmoil in every waking dice roll, and chaos at every turn. Delicious.

Buy it if...

You are willing to roleplay to the max
Half-measures are unacceptable here. You channel your inner darkness, or die trying. With the latter being inevitable, you may as well face your shadow self.

You value randomness
You will be subject to the cruel whims of RNGsus, and the chaos is encouraged at every level, from character creation to world-ending prophecies.

Don't buy it if...

You think rules should be fixed
You’ll likely have to invent rules for different situations. It means the basic rules are easier to digest, but you’ll need to support gameplay with your own rolls to turn the tides of fate.

You’re squeamish
Rot, decay, and maggots aplenty, Mork Borg leans into the visceral descriptions. You will need a bucket.

For more recommendations, take a look at the equally-bleak Alien: The Roleplaying Game. In terms of something lighter, check out the One Ring Starter Set.

More info

Available platformsTabletop Gaming
Katie Wickens
Freelance writer

Katie is a Hardware Writer over at PC Gamer, but she also moonlights as a freelance reviewer on occasion. Besides earning a Game Art and Design degree up to Masters level, she is a designer of board games herself and an avid TTRPG Games Master as well.