By Chris Bissette Loot the Room Mork Borg
Galgenbeck is palimpsest. Tumour. A city built on the ruins of itself. Beneath the sewers the bones of the old city fester. The troll-king Niduk was exiled, driven into the depths to rot and die. Now twisted by hatred and rage he oversees the small domain he has carved for himself, in a forgotten chapel to a murdered god. Why are you here? A lost bet? A doomed quest for silver? Boredom? Does it even matter?
Yeah, It’s Mork Borg. Someone told me that this one didn’t suck. They were right.
This 36 page adventure details a sewer point-crawl with around six locations, and then a more traditional dungeoncrawl with around eleven rooms. Good formatting. Evocative writing. Some interactivity beyond stabbing. Creative situations. This one is not bad at all, even with the required Mork Borg “tilt font 23 degrees to the left” formatting that shows up at times.
The Mork Borgians have a bad rep. I might summarize it as “someone who geeks out over layout and three color art had one conceptual idea for a room in an adventure.” Layout, as a means to facilitating comprehension by the DM, is a good thing. But, the reputation is that layout is pushed too far until IT alone becomes the focus, losing the fact that it is supposed to facilitate DM comprehension of the adventure. Pushed so far that it becomes a detriment to comprehension. And it’s clear that most Morg Borg adventure revolve around one idea, a single concept, and could almost be, or should be, one room dungeons. They don’t try to work toward something longer than two hours.
This adventure ain’t that.
Yeah, there’s some three color art (red, yellow and black, the Mork Borg “we’re PuNk!” staples.) And there’s some formatting nonsense in places, like using roman numerals on a die roll table and tilting the fucking text and varyng the font size, etc, to make a half page “art” die roll table. These are relatively minor though. The art contributes to the adventure vibe in a positive way and I can accept that you gotta throw in that table nonsense or they kick you out of the Mork Borg club. It’s just a couple of pages, anyway.
The Mork Borgians don’t get enough credit for their creativity. Generally each of the adventures has come cornerstone element that is quite interesting. The problem is that they don’t follow up. They have one idea and that’s it. Not so with this one. It delivers hit after hit, creative elements and interesting situations of diverse scope. For example, Stolen Wishes. A pile of coins under a sewer grate. Ye olde god of wishes is no more, but, if you seal a coin you’re cursed until YOU fulfill the wish. That’s fun! Good concept, nice push/pull. I’m down! And that’s just one of the ideas that this thing delivers. There are a lot, from individual room encounters to larger dungeon concepts and even treasure, that just reek of creativity. “A wooden idol bound with filthy bandages. Breaking it summons a small but vicious gore hound.” or “A darkened glass vial containing powdered sunlight. Worth a pretty penny to those who know its uses. Vampires and other undead monstrosities will give anything to see it destroyed.” Not just treasure, but a springboard to adventure also! Nicey done! How about a monster? “The finger collector
approaches in a mist of swirling spores. Visibly necrotic with tumorous growths on the shoulders and head, it clucks and clicks in a twisted mimicry of language. A necklace of fingers rattles around its neck.” Not bad! I could use a little more than “visibly necrotic”, but, still, not bad.
We get decent writing also. One sewer room has “Blood-red thorny roses sprout from the cracks between the stones.” Well, that’s a sight! A juxtaposition between a sewer environment and blood red roses, growing from cracks int he walls, should have the players shitting themselves! Formatting is pretty good to excellent. The pointcrawl sections, through the sewers, is randomized. I’m not a big fan of random for the sake of random, but, it works out ok this time. You rolls for a chamber and roll for people inside and it’s decent enough, with brief hits of evocative writing and good room formatting. Meaning a room title, a little brief overview, and then bolded bullet points with breif descriptions of DM text. The mechanics are nearby, but offset, so they don’t get in the way, and there are lots of minimaps. It’s done well.
I would note, also, tat the Nork Borgians generally eschew a lot of up-front “how to use this adventure” bullshit boilerplate text. I’m supportive of this. I don’t need to be told how to read a stat block, nor does any other person, ever, in the history of D&D. Yes, I know I can customize the adventure, thank you, no need to tell me. And thank god they got rid of this shit.
So, what could be improved?
There are, I think, two or three things that stand out.
First, the formatting fails in places because important things are not high enough up in the descriptions. A room with an alter in it, and little else, has no mention of it until pretty far down in the description. A room with a listing floor has no mention of it until farther in. Obvious things should be high up n the room description, generally in the player overview section, and not something for the DM to later discover as they scan the entry. “Oh, uh, yeah … and also the floor is listing a lot toward that door …” Well, fuck, Frank, you should have said so sooner! THis is a relatively common thing in this adventure. Thus the format is good but how to use the format to maximum effect falls down more than a little.
There’s also, I think, A kind of lack of knowledge of how D&D works, or, perhaps, what the imrportant thing are. Hoks are presented as individual hooks. YOU owe someone. YOU escaped, and so on, almost like it was solo adventure. Rumors don’t always match up well to gameable content (although, “Gas from the sewers does funny things to the light, and what you see can’t be trusted.” is a great fucking rumor, for the obvios reasons!) One room has a ceiling that hides chitterring things … with no mention of creatures, so I assume they are just noises? There IS anunderstanding of some design elements … the troll king is foreshadowed rather well, for example, but there is also a kind of “individual rooms” theme rather than a “cohesive whole” theme. I’m not talking a funhouse set piece, or the need to themne every room, but a little more of a wholistic view of the adventure would have served the final eleven room dungeon well. And, man, loud rings bells are likely to be heard from more than one room away?
But, it’s not a bad adventure. It’s just not a ten. It’s creative, the writing is evocative which helps the DM run it, it’s formatted well, and it’s more than four rooms … it’s an actual adventure, which may be a first for a Mork Borg product? Good job. Good enough that, if I can remember, I’ll go looking for other Loot The Rooms to review.
This is $6 at DriveThru. The preview is nineteen pages, showing you both parts of the pointcrawl and the dungeon. Check it out! I like it!