Down and Out in a Schleswig Sanatorium, Mork Borg adventure review

By Rugose Kohn
Self Published
OSR/Mork Borg
Level 1?

The Schleswig Sanatorium; home to members of the criminally insane, the disturbed, and the wretched of Schleswig. King Fathmu is fond of stocking its beds with rivals, family members, and rival family members. A place of utter despair, anyone unlucky enough to find themselves a guest, the gods have certainly deserted them. The outside is unassuming enough. A three story brick building. Leaded windows with ornate wrought iron bars. A stout solid-wood door. The inside is another matter entirely. Recently the staff has all been murdered by a patient gone rogue. That suits the King’s ends well enough, so no one has bothered to check on things recently.  That brings us to you. What exactly ARE you doing here? 11 pages of mayhem to help you figure it all out…

This fourteen page adventure is for Mork Borg. That’s all you really need to know. 

Well, I didn’t shoot a man in Reno just to see him die, but I did buy this when I saw it pop in my feed … and that it was for Mork Borg. “What a train wreck this will be!” I thought. I was not disappointed. Mork Borg. Mork Borg is that neighbor you have in your lower middle class neighborhood, the one that is a working artist. Nice guy, sits in their garage all day painting/using their pneumatic hammer to sculpt stone statues out of giant limestone blocks. Clearly gonna die of heart disease in a few years. But, hey, cool dude! It feels like DCC and Mork Borg are kissing cousins. Where DCC is very artist forward across most aspects of the game ecosystem, it still has a nice retirement fund socked away. Mork Borg feels like its artist led and it blew its retirement fund on hookers & blow … not for it, but for a community project. I love our art punk friends. I just wish to fuck they would follow through. And that is the problem here.

This is fourteen pages. fourteen digest pages, so they are small. Last page and first two are the cover nonsense stuff. That leaves us thirteen. One for the map. That’s twelve. Five pages for the monsters stats/appendix, about one per page. Three pages of hooks and random tables. That leave us three for the actual adventure. About eleven rooms. So we aee, already, that the content to bullshit ratio is skewed. Yes, digital pages are free and so it should mean that you can pump out as many appendix pages as you want. In theory. In practice, a low adventure to bullshit ratio means the content is generally lacking. 

We get a point crawl map here for the hospital. Each room, laid out in effective bullet point manner, generally has a few patients in it as well as a gruesomely killed staff member. That’s about it. One room has a washing machine monster. Another has a dude trying to sacrifice a small child, that might open a portal to the land of the dead. Oh, and the records room has d3 scrolls in it. You can now run the adventure because that’s all there is.

It’s using random tables to generate dormitory rooms and the patients. What they are doing and how crazy they are. This is, I think, a bad use of tables. “Tables are retro man! They are cool!” Yes, both are true, and tables can be put to good use. But, not for generating static content. Just create the damn rooms and stick them in. There’s no reason here for the rooms and patients to be random other than because the designer thought a table would be cool. It’s not. It’s lame when they are used like this.

The hooks are the usual nonsense. You woke up here. You are hired to go find someone. You heard there is treasure in the basement. Nothing of consequence, no specificity to hang your hat on.

The gruesomeness here is the selling point. “Edgy, man!” Dude with a table leg stuck through his head. Dead orderlies with their intestines intertwined. Patient hacking a dead orderly in to mincemeat long after they are dead. The specificity is good here even if it is tropy.

The main issue is … so what? The adventure doesn’t really have a purpose. “Go find treasure” or “Get my kid/your friend/whoever out” Meh. You walk in to a room, see crazy people, not the person you are looking for, and go to the next room. Nothing really interesting happens … aside from the crazy people interactions. And they don’t really have a purpose behind them. Not a part of the whole, so to speak, and so they are trivialities. I guess you’re meant to stumble on the Land of the Dead thing and do something about it. Yawn. Ok. I guess so. Why, again? It just feels empty. There’s nothing in it for the party, either in terms of loot or … development? It’s just some task to mindlessly perform. 

Someone had an idea. They write up a bunch of content around a washing machine monster and the land of the dead stuff in an insane asylum. But it never went beyond that initial concept. It was never fleshed out in a whole idea, put together, in a meaningful way. Oh, the adventure is coherent, all right. Most art punk stuff is. But it doesn’t FIT. It’s like the last step, the context for the players, if never completed. 

This is $3 at DriveThru. The preview is three pages. You get to see the map (note the stairs up/down label paradox), the intro, and the edgy “what are the patients doing” table. A page of encounters would have been nice also.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/345972/Down-and-Out-in-a-Schleswig-Sanatorium?1892600

Finally, a note about hypocrisy. We are all hypocrites. You cannot survive in the world without being one. Our designer notes “While I support making this your own at the table, don’t use this content for racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, or discriminatory games of any kind. I ain’t down with that.” Then, proceeding to make an adventure that leverages caricatures of mental illness? Touché sir! I salute you! Still, better than that adventure with the halfling plantation owners and the “indentured servants.”

Speaking of hypocrites, I’m now attending several old man meetups, in a socially distanced manner of course. Full of old white dudes, just like me! My new t-short came in today, that I’m wearing to all of our future “JACKED UP TRUCCCKKKSSS!!” and HAMM meetups:

Bryce Lynch

View Comments

    • As long as the list of crimes the bourgeois have committed against the proletariat?
      *ta da*! I'm here all week folks. Try the veal. Tip your server.

      • You might be surprised to learn, but there is no "veal" in the socialist utopia.

        This is how it goes. Even in the best of times, there is no veal. Even when there are no food shortages (like in multiple neighbouring countries, where there is no meat at all), there is no veal. Cows are being produced. Cows are first used for milk, and if they are all old, worn out and chewy, they get turned into beef. The plan is fulfilled, the people get their meat. There is no good beef on the market, only old worn-out cow. Sometimes, veal is reared, but it is immediately exported for hard currency. Veal is, of course, found on restaurant menus. Veal ragout, veal stew, veal in some kind of sauce with boiled potatoes. It is not veal, but the same kind of chewy cow as always, done "veal style". If you mention this to the waiter, he will laugh and come up with a glib explanation, usually "I did not ask the esteemed animal about her age, har har har.", or "We got it in the form of meat, not the whole veal, hyuck hyuck." You hate him, but there are not many restaurants around, and all of them are just as bad, because they are all cooking from the same state-approved "official cookbook" which specifies what can be put into which dish, and in what proportions. You take the "veal". It arrives late, half cold. The waiter smiles, and smirks "Bon appetit!" The wine has an acrid chemical taste, and smells faintly of petrol, because the wine quotas have to be met, and the Soviet market will buy anything. The bread, from the bread factory, is shit. The peas (if any) come from a recently opened tin, and till taste metallic.

        Welcome to socialism. Enjoy your stay, you will probably be here for what seems like forever.

        Coming soon to a country near you, except with more bug-based protein, and more pronouns. Yum yum yum!

        • What is your personnel history with this?

          I am interested because I suspect you might have a different perspective than a Berkley student who wears Che T-Shirts?

          • As an aside, my wife came here as a refugee from the former Soviet Union. She was at a panel at Boston College, about the International Criminal Court, I believe. As we made our way to the panel, it was apparently Student Group Registration Day, and all the groups had tables and sign-ups.

            And there he was, an earnest, neck-bearded young gent, manning the Students For Communism table.

            Even though we were running late, my wife made a bee-line for his table and set him straight. ;)

          • That's correct; it was called REFORM socialism, which meant small market reforms to supply the populace with food and consumer goods. This was considered a major deviation from proper stand-in-line-for-bread Marxism-Leninism by the much more orthodox systems of the GDR and Czechslovakia, but tolerated to an extent. Meat was available in the stores without queuing, but veal, or real chocolate, or good coffee, or good wine, or good tobacco, or other good things in life: those were not on the menu.

            I wouldn't call it a life of suffering, and I have no personal story of persecution or even hardship - the 50s were long over, people would say "at least it is not like in Poland", and besides, I was a kid. It was just crappy with no end in sight, until it was suddenly over and it turned out the aftermath would be no bed of roses either.

            But to bring it back to RPGs, consider this example. In the late 1980s, the main book publisher responsible for childrens' books and science fiction flat out rejected the idea of publishing AD&D or another similar game in Hungary, citing a lack of interest and an insufficient audience.* So here you are: in socialism, there are no RPGs either (except the tank-busting kind). Wear those Che shirts accordingly.
            _____
            * To consider what this "lack of interest" meant, it has to be noted that the flagship SF magazine, from the same publisher, sold in ridiculously high numbers approaching or surpassing major US magazines. SF was king and the appetite in fandom was enormous; if Traveller or Star Wars had been published at that time, it would have been bigger than Jesus. It is just that somebody said "no", and there was no alternative to pick from.

        • WTF do pronouns have to do with any of this? I get your perspective on socialism, whatever, but then a little bigotry to wrap it up? Pretty disappointed in you, you do some awesome stuff.

        • That's not echoing what ALL of the multi-billion-dollar international corporations is blaring 24/7/365 on ALL media outlets and their employees, the US government, would say, so you're wrong.

        • Whaaa Whaa! Look, a right-wing child or grandchild of people who lived under the yoke of the Russian Empire wants to blame socialism for all of society's ills and then jumps to transphobia. Eastern European meat production dropped after 1992 without subsidy, per the USDA.

          • Looks like the catgirl lmaoist squad has found the comments. Well, here is a tip for free: Marxism, like soy, will never make you anything but more miserable. Eat steak, not (hum)bug, commies!

          • It is really terribly rude of Melan for denying this poor college girl's rote-learned indoctrination by mere virtue of having grown up under a socialist regime and experiencing its practical implementation firsthand.

          • They just don’t get it. Melan and Prince, if you think that to be anti-communist you need to be racist and transphobic then you are retarded.

            Now go feel good about yourself because you know a lot about D&D. Retards.

        • Another one to add to the “OSR creators who turn out to be right wing assholes” file. What is it with white guys that feel like they have to show their shit politics to everybody.

        • What has suddenly happened to this thread? Would somebody care to explain? It is Americans grossly overreacting to stuff that makes no sense for us outsiders? I honestly don’t see where the accusations of right wing bigotry are coming from. Is it bad to criticize communism nowadays in that part of the world?

          Anyway, cheers from former Czechoslovakia, Melan. I only vaguely remember the fall of the Iron curtain but your post brought back PTSD memories of school canteens. It wasn’t much better in the 90s either.

          • I'm English. Melan has the right to his opinions. I don't disagree with his right to express them.

            However what he said is absolutely disgusting, and I have lost all respect for him. I won't be reading his blog or buying any more of his books.

            As the poster above says, just another author to throw on the "turns out to be a right-wing dickhead" pile.

          • @markuscz Believe it or not, all the rage comes from this part “...and more pronouns” . Yeah, people reactions are not absurdly disproportional at all...Unless they really hate to be called soy boys... or boys, for the matter.

          • Cheers, markuscz! :D Those canteens, yeah, those are vivid memories. And as for the 90s, I can only quote Michnik: "The worst thing in communism is what follows afterwards." Certainly, I did not become a big fan of the neo-liberal utopian experiment either, nor other grand experiments conducted on a browbeaten society. 1989, as a citizen's revolution for normality, had a point that was quickly forgotten, but should perhaps be remembered more.

            For anyone who does not wish to read, buy, or comment on my stuff because of my disagreeable politics: it is a free world, and your choice. You can just walk away. You know, unlike communism.

            But, back to Hitler's (apparently) favourite RPG: I have pledged to one of the better looking Börk Börk Zinequest campaigns, and a review will be written when I receive it.

          • @Anonymous "Believe it or not, all the rage comes from this part"

            Exactly. It's the context that matters. Pick a -phobia or an -ism, one that you strongly disagree with. Then imagine at the time of a civil rights movement, someone dismissing an important aspect of it as wishy-washy nonsense.

            It's also utterly bizarre to slip it into his post like that. I hate caramel.

  • So...why can't all these publishers addicted to tables (increasingly "trendy" and non sensical), simply put them as an add on in Excel with a macro to auto generate? Makes the life of your audience and your product value much greater.

    As for Mork Borg- just drivel of a different kind.

  • Do yourself a favor and review Cha'alt: Fuchsia Malaise! Also, what about the proletariat's crimes against the bourgeoisie? I'm mostly talking about the smell... oh, and the mass executions.

  • **First-effort low functionality 3rd party adventures are sort of a sign your rule set has made it!**
    Mork Borg stuff seems rather inconsistent, especially 3rd party stuff, but then it's a system and community young and full of glee - with plenty of folk fresh from the Forgotten Realms. I fully expect a few stylists will start putting out better 3rd party Mork Borg content regularly if it remains popular.

    Of course the other side of the issue is something common to a lot of classic inspired ultralights -- a pretty serious lack of rules for exploration: turnkeeping, exhaustion, risk and all sorts of things go into making a functional dungeon crawl and other then encumbrance Mork Borg doesn't really include much mechanical support. Who can know what the future holds - that the real grimdark...

  • Well, the author is right in that there *is* a forensic psychiatry in the small city of Schleswig, ~30 km from where I live. :D

  • Well, some of us were really puzzled by the extensive praise it got in the first place.

    I don't think it's a bad game, and it sure is pretty, but I always thought we old-school folks valued substance over style, and we already had more than enough rules-light games anyway (Microlite, The Black Hack, Into the Odd, Searchers of the Unknown, just to name a few).

    Plus, it's technically not Mörk Borg that's being critiqued but the host of third party products.

  • Has there ever been a good D&D adventure set in a sanatorium? They're up there with circus adventures as things I won't even bother looking at.

    On a different note, Bryce, have you ever seen the adventure in the Mörk Borg rulebook? Not to give anything away, but it was definitely written with usability at the table in mind.

  • Did this one also take the trouble to denounce Hitler? I refuse to buy anything unless it explicitly denounces Hitler. You can't be too careful these days.

    • Amazing though how no one seems to denounce Stalin huh? He was just as bad if not worse. So many people are up in arms about fascism (as they should be) but where's the outrage for communism? Scary if you ask me.

      • Partially because of a blithe belief that Communism is dead, whereas Fascism is not (yet).

        Also because we (the collective We) Americans are just awful at history and keep thinking the terms are synonymous and not two horrible separate things at the polar opposite ends of the spectrum. Two Godawful tastes that taste Godawful apart.

      • @Gnarley Bones, it gets even more confusing depending on who you talk to. A number of people on the Right use a different view of the political spectrum, one that puts Fascism and Communism in the same bucket. This is particularly true for Objectivists. In their terms, Left = Statist control and Right = freedom and less government.

        I suppose the Right/Left spectrum is like the D&D alignment system. Kind of useless because no one can agree on what it actually should be.

        • Oh, I agree they're confused, but they don't get to rewrite *defined terms* simply because they can't be bothered to learn the actual definitions. And, in my experience, those who can actually express why they believe two absolutely polar opposite belief systems are synonymous are Very Rare to Unique. Most never get past the blithe surface level of "the name of the party was the National Socialists, learn English!" and you wish you had a third eye to roll. I have found, however, that when I ask, "In Niemoller's poem, when he says, 'First they came for the Socialists,' who do you think 'they' are?", the most Common type slink away. I'm a cock-eyed optimist and I like to think that, for just a moment at least, they realized that there is more to the subject than surface-level trolling.

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Bryce Lynch

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