MÖRK BORG CULT: HERETIC
Author: Pelle Nilsson, Johan Nohr, and Friends
Publisher: Free League
Page Count: 68
Available Formats: PDF & Print
PDF (DTRPG) – $9.99
Print – $20.09
MÖRK BORG fans through the MÖRK BORG Cult have a way to bring their creativity to the attention of the game’s design team. The best of the best is curated, illustrated, laid out, and published by MÖRK BORG design team. First through the MÖRK BORG website and later collected and published in their house publication, a zine series entitled “MÖRK BORG Cult:” is then appended with a catchy title like Feretory and Heretic.
MÖRK BORG Cult: Heretic is the second issue of this
68-page digest-sized zine. It is fueled by fan-created content, augmented by additional publisher content with all the trappings we expect from anything MÖRK BORG-related. Heretic collects seven previously released MÖRK BORG cult releases and adds seven new, unpublished releases. The print version includes a large multifold artistic adventure.
Note: Insert Publisher provided Rolling Boxcars with a review copy for this article. If you have an item you’d like Rolling Boxcars to review, please visit our Product Review Request page.
Heretic’s content runs the gamut from massive random tables, alternate classes, and devious non-player characters to full-fledged adventures. This issue has it all.
Seeds of a Cvlt
Do you need to create a new cult for your game? Do you lack the creativity to put all the pieces together? Seeds of the Cvlt is a one-stop collection of six tables defining aspects of your burgeoning cult. It is all here, their name, headquarters, what they truly hate, and more. This excellent set of tables is nicely placed on the inside fold-out front cover for those times you need to create a new cult or flesh out an existing one with additional details. The chart’s aspects are also adaptable for use outside of MÖRK BORG.
Players opting for a core class now have a new option for improving their character. In lieu of “getting better,” players may take a Feat instead (maximum 3). How the feats are actually “gained” is up to the GM. Using a d66 table, feats are chosen randomly or assigned through specific narrative achievements, letting players create distinctive, supportive character builds. Each Feat offers a boon and, in many cases, a bane to the character—allowing for greater narrative muscle flexing while playing. While I can see the benefits of taking a feat, I think the very nature of MÖRK BORG—encounter something, defeat and survive it (if you’re lucky), rinse and repeat—does not lend itself to a deep exploration of a narrative where feats would really shine.
Sacrilegious Songbird & Shedding Vicar
This issue provides two alternate classes—Sacrilegious Songbird and Shedding Vicar. The Sacrilegious Songbird is a Bardic class, while the Shedding Vicar is termed a “Flaying” class. Although no Flaying class is defined, it is easy to see that it is a thematic name for this priestly class.
The Sacrilegious Songbird is an impoverished, failed musician who has traded their soul for a throat that now sings sweetly. They are tour de force with an unnatural charm that unsettles enemies and soothes allies. When the Sacrilegious Songbird made their life-and-soul-altering deal, in addition to a beautiful singing voice, they are gifted a random accursed instrument.
The Shedding Vicar are religious adherents covered in grotesque, unhealing wounds. As part of their devotionals, they allow the wounds to fester; monstrously unnerving, they use their grotesque nature to their advantage. As a priestly class, they are granted one random blessing; these range from skin whip, which is exactly as it sounds, to blood trail, which gives them the ability to track wounded creatures.
Each of these alternate classes is unique and interesting. However, it is the absurdity of the Shedding Vicar that I envisioned when I first learned of MÖRK BORG and its strange backstory. The Shedding Vicar for the win!
Graves Left Wanting
“Graves Left Wanting” is a cemetery adventure with ten keyed locations. It is intended to serve as the starting point for a campaign, one-shot, or even as the author suggests, a post-TPK adventure. This adventure will be a treat or the demise for many. Like most things MÖRK BORG, it is no walk in the park. Players awaken in a plague pit, and their troubles only worsen in this fog-shrouded nightmare. Gamemasters will need to incorporate an exit strategy for the players, as there is none built-in. Graves Left Wanting offers unique challenges worth undertaking (Ha! See what I did there?)
An unspecific number of months or years ago, a wet, hungry, and desperate vagabond seeking shelter from a storm in an animal’s burrow found a connected and long-forgotten labyrinth once housing an obscure cult of bacchanalian priests. Finding an ancient artifact, he was then enticed to remain within and to feed his now insatiable appetite.
Lately, there has been a rash of local villagers disappearing. Are these disconnect events connected? Bloat is a ready-made dungeon that can easily be inserted into an existing game or used as the premise to launch a new game. As cool as the premise is, the hooks—find the missing villagers or stumble upon the entrance when hiding from brigands or inquisitors—are very stereotypical. With just a little refinement to the hook(s), Bloat could be that much better.
You Are Cursed
Have you ever found yourself in a position where you were laying a curse upon a character’s shoulders? If that curse came across as lackluster and lacking meaning, “You Are Cursed” has what your need to solve that problem. Four random tables now allow you to give sadistic meaning to each curse. Like the Seeds of a Cvlt, this is another excellent set of tables that solves a problem not necessarily exclusive to MÖRK BORG.
Wretched old Mikhael, the Merchant, is cursed to ply his trade in the land of the living. Traveling the land, Mikhael only trades with Heretics and Outcasts, having no trust in others. He sells a finite variety of interesting and useful things, but buyers must be willing to pay his price—a portion of their soul [a random game stat]. Sellers are also buyers, and Mikhael is no different. He buys rare magickal and heretical items—paying/returning a portion of their soul [a random game stat]. Wretched old Mikhael, the Merchant is an interesting non-player character that doesn’t follow the usual mold of “here let me offer you a way to unload or restock.” No, he has what he has, and his price is his price. I like the Merchant.
Blackpowder Weapons For The Rich And Foolhardy
Expensive, exotic, and very loud, black powder weapons are only for those that can afford such luxuries. Blackpowder Weapons For The Rich And Foolhardy is a single page of black powder firearms that includes weapons like the blunderbuss, arquebus, cannon, and exotic setting-specific basilisk gun. Each entry provides cost, damage, and further details for these eleven weapons. There are also additional rules like “Loud” and “Reloading,” along with ammunition costs. What more is there to say about firearms? Other than that, if you have them, they have them too!
Sepulchre of the Swamp Witch
In the Swamp Witch’s ancient sepulchre is an altar of dead roots covered in lost symbols. They say if you utter certain forbidden words at this altar, any wish may be fulfilled. You have stumbled on these forbidden words on the corpse of a murdered messenger wearing the mad King Fathmu crest. You just need to get past the strange serpent drug cult lairing in the tomb and reach the altar. Easy, right?
Sepulchre of the Swamp Witch is a full-fledged scenario with a developed story rather than simply a stocked dungeon. Each page of the adventure features a sidebar map with numbered areas in yellow that correspond to the areas detailed on that specific page—a common MÖRK BORG practice. Like other things in MÖRK BORG, this one is a little off the rails, but in all the right ways!
Sepulchre of the Swamp Witch is not without its issues. The adventure opens with players at the tomb’s entrance. However, creative Gamemasters will surely piece together the events leading up to this starting point—how did the king’s messenger come by these forbidden words? What is the king’s intent? There is also a lack of knowledge for the characters to learn in the Swamp Witch’s dominion about wish making.
The Bone Bowyer
Want a demonic creature to pit against your players? The Bone Bowyer is a horrid, stealthy fey creature lurking in the Sarkash’s tangled depths. This demonic entity fashions bows from the bones of children it hunts and slays. It slays the elderly, infirm, and innocent, stitching together supple flesh and fashioning blood dyed cloaks. The Bone Bowyer is a force to be reckoned with should characters find themselves caught unawares. The Bone Bowyer is cool but not as good as some of the stock monsters in the core book.
The Borg Bitor is another monster for the Gamemaster’s toolbox. This one is a doozy! Similar to rot grubs of old-school D&D but far larger and centipede-like, the Borg Bitor lives in caves and has a diet of stone, mortar, and wood. These territorial pests ruthlessly attack anyone getting too close to their nests; rarely spotted until it is too late. The Borg Bitor, its various bodily excretions, and body parts are valuable to some and, as a result, are hunted. These not-so-little baddies are a great addition to any cavernous environment and will prove to be a challenge for characters.
Two dozen nurses aided and abetted the horrific necrobutcher Vretul. These Rotten Nurses, for their part, were brutally flogged. Their bloody and broken bodies were then lowered into vats of acid then yanked free before they could die. They were then entombed in coffins and buried alive. Their graves were unearthed after their screams subsided, but the coffins were empty. They now hide underground away from prying eyes and pointing fingers. Unable to be killed, they are deadly opponents in a mental battle of wills to all who encounter them. If they are bested in this battle of wills, they will move on to another opponent who threatens them. This is an interesting and unique way to challenge the characters.
Nurse the Rot
As you put one of your dreg’s aunts to rest, you recall her final wish: restore the Staff of Awful Light from Chapel Olundan, or the village of Tunstall will forever sink into darkness. Nurse the Rot is a short, fast-paced mini-adventure that fills out the fold-out back cover. Moreover, it is designed to showcase the Rotten Nurse. It can easily be dropped into any existing game, but I would not use it as the basis for starting a new game.
The Hexed Gauntlet of Kagel-Secht
Note: this is not included in the PDF version. This is the apex of art-punk adventure design. Presented as a multifold map of sorts, it presents rows of square and rectangular story blocks, some of which contain game info. It appears to flow much as a comic book might, but I am unsure how to put it all together into a usable piece of gameable material. It is visually badass, but I have no idea what to do with it. On the backside is a black and white creature depiction which is equally badass.
Like everything else in the MÖRK BORG product line, MÖRK BORG Cult: Heretic oozes the art-punk vibe, from its use of bright pinks and bold yellows to metallics and over-the-top layout decisions, varying fonts, and dark and grotesque art. This digest-sized zine continues what the core book began, the art-punk roleplaying revolution! It brings the best fan-made content to the masses in a physical form.
If you are remotely interested in any of the MÖRK BORG Cult content currently available on the website, picking up Heretic is very much a worthwhile purchase. Having the content in print alone is worth it. Let me end this review by saying that although I found a few of the contents slightly more run of the mill than others, it should not detract from their usability or creativity. Everything in Heretic is incredibly creative, including the strange multifold adventure thing that I have no idea how to use.
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