Mörk Borg Cult: Heretic – A Zine Review

In an ill-fated world full of hunger and sorrow there comes… more content! Mörk Borg Cult is the community content program for Mörk Borg. Content creators can send content to the Mörk Borg team to be potentially selected for editing, artwork generation, and free publishing on morkborg.com. Mörk Borg Cult: Heretic is Free League Publishing’s latest community-made expansion to Mörk Borg. 

Mörk Borg Cult: Heretic (MBC:H) expands the core rules with an optional feat table, two optional classes, and blackpowder weapons. There are new tables to advance the lore by creating cults and curses to torment player characters, and NPCs to literally siphon the souls of characters. MBC:H also contains four new adventures each with new enemies seeking to deny your party’s desire to survive all the way to the end of the world. 

Unheroic Feats

The new Unheroic Feats table is my favorite feature from the MBC:H expansion. Half the fun of Mörk Borg is the utter helplessness of the characters in the face of what stands before them. The game is brutal, but it doesn’t mean that the characters shouldn’t have a bit of fun too!

MBC:H recommends only allowing feats if the characters are not using the optional character rules. The zine gives three considerations for how characters might gain feats upon advancing the character, called ‘getting better or worse’: roll 2d6, stylized as d66, and compose the resulting roll as a two digit number to choose one of the 36 entries from the table.

Alternatively, the too-kind GM might let a player select a feat of their own or reward a feat as a narrative achievement. As a GM, I will be the sucker that lets the players choose feats for their characters because I see feat selection as a way for the party to create not just up-and-coming cadavers, but instead a party actually likely to survive until the end of days. I view this table as a great supplement to allow players to make their characters their own, especially if none of the optional classes catch their eye.

You Are Cursed

… is the name of the section describing curses. A d20 roll assigns a curse to a player. These curses span the range from inconvenient: “You cannot talk normally, only scream at the top of your lungs” all the way to deadly: “Black mold spreads in your veins. You must lift the curse in d4 + 7 days or die. A ghost tells you each dawn how many remain.” A d10 roll may let the party know who knows how to lift the curse. A second d10 names the price to be paid for the knowledge. Once the character has paid the necessary price a d12 roll selects the solution to lifting your affliction.

This table is fantastic as a bridge between modules or arcs in a homebrew campaign. I can imagine bestowing a curse to a player at the end of a dungeon and giving the clue to who knows how to cure this in the form of a ghastly apparition’s ravings or a blood-soaked insignia on a cloth. The act of curing the curse might start in motion the next narrative arc in the party’s adventure. 

Wretched old Mikhael – The Merchant

Wretched old Mikhael is a wandering merchant selling fantastic equipment for the bargain price of a piece of your tiny soul. Mikhael was cursed with eternal life, leaving him to peddle his trade to heretics and outcasts. He’ll buy rare, magickal, or extremely heretical items too, giving a piece of someone else’s soul for the deal.

A character buying from Mikhail will roll a d6 with equal likelihood that they’ll give up one point from one of their four ability scores, a point from their maximum HP, or need to roll two dice on the table instead of one. As happens quite often in Mörk Borg the careful GM will notice that potentially a character might drop to 0 HP. Surely this kills the character. Perhaps the grave will reject this sold soul the same as its original owner.

Similarly, can a character roll sequential sixes leading to needing to roll twice on the table over and over again until their soul is consumed? I’d like to think so. A character selling an item in exchange for a piece of a soul rolls on the table, but gains the boon instead. 

What are these items that your players’ characters will be trading in portions of their mortal souls for: a dagger that when plugged into a creature’s body turns that creature to stone until it is removed, a rat that loves you unconditionally while fighting at your side and dancing on command, or a compass that always points to the nearest, most immediate danger.

As a GM I see Mikhail as another plot hook generator: the items listed are wondrous and will bring the party great pain and sorrow, but the wily GM would also use Mikhail as a mcguffin vending machine doling out plot hooks in the fashion of cursed items tied to untold fortunes.

A second thing to love is that seeking items to sell in exchange for a guaranteed character improvement might drive the characters down many a dark alley. Given Mörk Borg’s ‘getting better’ mechanic’s penchant for punishing more advanced player characters a GM might choose to instead let player characters regularly engage with Mikhail trading their hard won prizes for boosts to their performance. 

Adventures

MBC:H also has four new adventures to test the mettle of your forlorn party. I’ll avoid spoiling anything within the adventures while saying what I can about how a GM might consider weaving them into their own sorrowful story. Two of the adventures give multiple ideas for hooks to sink into your players’ minds as you play a longer campaign.

A third, Sepulchre of the Swamp Witch, could be played as a one shot or easily integrated into any campaign. The culmination of this adventure has the potential to have great worldly importance. The fourth adventure that closes the zine is Nurse the Rot. This adventure checks the boxes for inducing horror and dread providing a mission and a story that would allow a GM to traverse from malaise to anxiety to dread to horror.

Ready for more Mörk Borg?

Mörk Borg Cult: Heretic is available for purchase now! Don’t be scared of the krone; there is a toggle at the top left to change the currency to a few other options. In addition to the physical copy you’ll receive a digital copy shortly after purchase.

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