Móęrk Bąrg Review
Everyone who says Mąrk Bórg is plug-and-play is partly right. It still has a lot of steps, though I don't recall all of them.
- Roll name? (is it optional?)
- Select class (or not)
- Roll your 3 stats (they go from -2 to +2)
- Do something with omens (what exactly are they?)
- Weapons table
- Armour table
So we have about 6 page-flips, with a brief index hidden at the back. Everything about this game is brief.
Onto the game, we found ourselves threatened by bandits. I threatened them back, while making up obscene cosmic powers. I rolled Presence (1D20 + 2), and won, so they backed off.
So the system indeed spat out a result quickly, without any looking things up. The combat system worked the same way.
Within a couple of scenes, this became tiresome.
Investigating a barrel?
Hiding in the outer shadows of the tavern?
Throwing a barstool?
Firing a crossbow?!
Casting a spell!!!
That's the entire game. Of course it's fucking 'streamlined', the entire game is 1D20 + Presence, except for combat. Calling it 'streamlined' is like calling a unicycle 'streamlined transport'. It's like eating nothing but porridge and calling yourself 'minimalist'.
Thematically, the book's beautiful. Or hideous. It gives you so much, so quickly, from all those random tables, because the random tables function as bullet-point lists. (I've seen it in practice a lot, but Mork-Bęrg does it best)
I've wanted to write a lot of ideas - a mental picture of a world or recurring theme - and in the past I turned to standard writing. There must be scenes, and a plot, and people, and you must weave the scenes together, with the 'plot', 'theme', and 'mood', and when that all fell to shit, I blamed my poor writing ability. And maybe I write badly, but that doesn't matter, because when I turned to bullet-point lists, the results made me happy. They made me think 'yes, that's the idea I wanted to say, you can see it clearly on a single page'.
I've learned better writing because of this putrid-yellow book.
My character came from a heretical cult. The others all died (or so the random background told me).
It sounded like a meaty backstory, but then I started to wonder.
- "What did the cult believe in? Why were they heretical?"
- "Did they just not like the basilisk? Or did they think following the whims of a mad monster might not lead to the best possible results?"
I could make up answers to these questions, but I don't want to guess what might conflict with the rest of the world, or what would make sense. I also have no interest in adding mad beliefs to my character without a reason. My character wanted to live, so he acted sensibly, and never mentioned the previous heresy. The backstory fell dead-born onto the minimalist character sheet, never to find use again.
So the random tables sound good, and make excellent flavour for throwaway GM comments about local happenings. But bullet-points about the character, which must be rolled and recorded, should mean something. Perhaps they could be tied to Attributes, so they came with reasons?
The best weapon in the game is a big sword. The others deal tiny-dice damage, while the big sword deals 1D10 damage. Despite the encroaching apocalypse, it seems a little more could be done for multi-session play.
The GM was new - perhaps their first time GMing? They did an excellent job of repeatedly setting the scene clearly, then resolving actions. Some of that's due to a methodical mind, but having a simple ruleset clearly helped. Nobody stopped to look up the rules on ranged weapons, because the answer would always be 'a Presence check'.