Saturday, October 31, 2020

REVIEW: Mörk Borg Cult: Feretory

For those of you not well versed in religious terminology, a feretory is a type of portable reliquary, which is to say, a container for the relics of a saint or saints. On the other hand, the Mörk Borg cult is the community content program for the Swedish dark fantasy RPG Mörk Borg. Thus, Mörk Borg Cult: Feretory is the first supplement to the game, presented as a 64-page 'zine and filled with fourteen articles of varying lengths. Nine of these articles were created by submissions to the aforementioned content program, while the remaining five were written by Pelle Nilsson, designer of the original game. 

Feretory shares with Mörk Borg the same riotous color scheme of yellow, black, and pink, as well as its fondness for chaotic passel of typefaces. Combined with the expressive artwork of Johan Nohr and strategic use of silver leaf, the effect is every bit as arresting as that of the rulebook. It's a striking esthetic unlike that of any other RPG, though I imagine it's something of an acquired taste. 

"The Monster Approaches" is two-page random monster generator after the fashion of the Random Esoteric Creature Generator, but simpler and easier to use, as befits Mörk Borg, which is itself a simple and open-ended RPG. "Roads to Damnation" provides tables for overland travel, focusing on the sights and events characters might encounter as they trek across the Dying Lands. "Eat Prey Kill" does something similar for hunting, with random tables offering numerous new creatures, divided according to region, as well as tables for mishaps and strange "treasures" one might find in the bellies of these beasts.

"The Death Ziggurat" is a short hexcrawl through the woods of the region of Sarkash, which is filled with death cultists, undead, and demon spawn. "d100 Items and Trinkets" is just what you'd expect, while "The Tenebrous Reliquary" uses a d66 format to offer up weird and wondrous magical items. "The Goblin Grinder" is another scenario, which takes place in the city of Galgenbeck and deals with the titular goblins and the curse that sustains them. It's moody and frantic and a little bit gross – and one of my favorite things in Feretory

"The Grey Galth Inn" is a series of tables to add the Game Master in describing inns, including a dice-based gambling mini-game called Three Dead Skulls. Feretory also includes descriptions of four new classes – the cursed skinwalker (a shift-shifter), the pale one (an alien being), the dead god's prophet, and the forlorn philosopher – all of which, in their small ways, paint a better picture of the doomed, black metal world of Mörk Borg. "The Tablets of Obscurity" are ten magical relics of a forgotten mind-cult and usable somewhat like scrolls. Finally, "The Black Salt" is a terrible phenomenon of the Valley of the Unfortunate Undead and the Wästland, whose effects are determined by a random roll. 

As should be apparent by now, much of Feretory's content consists of random tables or uses them in some fashion. That's because Mörk Borg embraces the oracular power of dice with gleeful abandon, using it not merely to introduce unpredictability into game sessions but also to add meat to the deliberately skeletal frame of the Dying Lands setting. At the same time, there continues to be a liberating disregard for a singular interpretation of the setting; the prominence of tables in Feretory underscores that there is no One True Way and that, to borrow a phrase from RuneQuest fandom, your Dying Lands will vary – note will, not may. This is where Mörk Borg's old school sensibilities are most clear and why the game continues to hold my attention.

Feretory is a delightful gallimaufry – or perhaps I should say smörgåsbord – of gaming content that should satisfy players and (especially) GMs of Mörk Borg looking for new sources of inspiration. However, I think much of its content could appeal to players of other old school fantasy roleplaying games. If nothing else, the anarchic joy that comes through in Feretory's content is infectious. Reading through its articles and scenarios, I was immediately seized to produce some of my own and then spent some time conjuring up a new character class and reworking an old adventure for use with Mörk Borg. That's as clear a testament to a game product's excellence as I can imagine.

Mörk Borg Cult: Feretory is available in both print and PDF.


  1. I decided to give in and bought both MB and the Feretory this week end.
    I'm just a sucker for rules-light, end-of-times fantasy, I guess. :D

    1. I'm curious to hear if you liked it as much as I did.

    2. The books will reach me in ten days, more or less.
      But I've been perusing the pdf of the rules for a few days now.
      The graphic design is really impressive, the rules a breeze.
      I like the idea of giving the game a hard time limit, with signs of the Apocalypse piling one upon the other as the End approaches.
      I like the ebb and flow of ability scores, the randomness of advancement.
      I like the simplicity of combat.
      Though I'm no metalhead, and not so much in doom and gloom, at least not since my 20s,
      I guess what really sold me is the dark humor.
      I think MB is, for all its blood and gore, or maybe because of it, very much perfect for the picaresque fantasy your have often posted about.

  2. ... I have to add that while my current opinion of MB is quite high, I approached it with a lot of bias.
    My impression when I first heard about it and saw a few previews, was that it was an art book disguised as an rpg, a lavish and expensive luxury product intended to trick gamers out of their cash.
    I was wrong, it's a very smart, minimalist game-book.

    1. I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment. It's a much smarter bit of game design than some give it credit for.