The Mörk Borg release party in early March was a great event, where I got to meet a lot of awesome people. Among them of course the creators of the aforementioned book. They were gracious enough to let me do a short interview with them, in the middle of the festivities. 🍻
Mottokrosh: Please introduce yourselves and tell us a bit about how people may know you.
Pelle: I’m Pelle Nilsson, I wrote the game Mörk Borg, and I’ve also made some other RPGs, like the Swedish Barkhäxan, a horror game that we’ll maybe translate into English some other time. But right now it’s Mörk Borg 100%.
Johan: And I am Johan Nohr, I have done the graphic design and artwork of Mörk Borg, and I was also the graphic designer for Symbaroum, and I have worked with Mutant Year Zero, Vampire: the Masquerade, stuff like that.
Mottokrosh: So, Mörk Borg release party—there are a ton of people here! Naturally, the book has had an amazing reaction. It’s interesting to hear you talk onstage about how in Sweden people have been lukewarm to it, but internationally, everyone’s been “this is amazing!”. But overall, how do you feel about the reaction towards your book?
Pelle: I’m very happy about it. I’ve been writing lots of other books, which are not RPGs, like poetry and such. With what’s happened with Mörk Borg, I got my low self-esteem buckets filled with good energy, so to speak. I’m very happy about the reaction. Extremely happy.
Johan: I think it’s unreal, actually. Like I said onstage, some people make games to be big in a way, we didn’t make this game to become big. If Free League makes a game, for example, they anticipate how many people will like it. We never did. We just made it in our basement, basically. We just made a game that we thought was cool, and then people liked it all over.
Mottokrosh: It’s not been made to sell?
Johan: No, we haven’t made a cent from it.
Pelle: We don’t care about those kinds of things, like money or stuff like that. We just made zines, and that became a book. What happened after that is a fantastic bonus.
Johan: Definitely, it’s amazing.
Pelle: But I’m still the same!
Johan: You haven’t turned rockstar! (*laughter*)
Mottokrosh: I’m seeing this more and more in the indie/OSR scene, where people are more interested in bringing an artistic value rather than a capitalistic one to a product. Did you think about that when you made it, or was that just what happened?
Pelle: We just wanted to make something without limits. I wrote the text without limits. Johan made art without limits, and we combined it in a symbiotic way, and we didn’t care about whether it was cool, or whether it would be successful. We just did what we wanted to do.
Johan: In a lot of other projects that I’ve been involved with, there has been a set “you have to have 230 pages”. We didn’t have that, we just said let’s fill this thing with as much art as we can. I don’t care about the page numbers. We just do what we do, whether it’s 40 pages or 100 pages. I don’t care. Just do every spread the way we wanted, and fuck it, let the print cost be as it may. I mean, we have silver foiling on the inside, because we could. We didn’t earn money on this, we spent every cent on production.
Pelle: The Kickstarter was 980% successful. Everything went into making the book better.
Johan: And also—maybe this is the beer talking now, be careful here, Nohr—I have an understanding now after running this KS that a lot of RPG producers do get some money out of it, because we could do [a basic version of] this book without problems. If they do ones with less artwork in it, and still charge the same…
Mottokrosh: People have started to cotton on to that now. I come across a lot of Kickstarters where I think they look pretty shit.
Pelle: And they still charge 40 euros for it. We did €25 and people said it was cheap.
Johan: That’s more than we needed to make the print for the book itself.
Pelle: For us it’s more important that people enjoy the game. And that we can have parties like this, and have a good time together.
Johan: One goal that I had during this was that if one group plays this game, then that’s good.
Mottokrosh: (*laughter*) Well, there’s one group just next to us, right here, right now.
Johan: Yeah. We made it! That’s all I need.
Pelle: The only thing—we don’t have enough haters. (*laughter*) It’s a rules light, very easy game to play, but for lots of people it’s also complicated because of our artistic approach, and because we don’t explain everything in detail. We don’t explain what an RPG is.
Mottokrosh: Interestingly, there’s a game from the 90s, called Human Occupied Landfill…
Johan: We’ve been compared a lot to that!
Mottokrosh: It starts with “A roleplaying game is… oh fuck it, you know this shit.” (*laughter*)
Pelle: I’ve been skipping the “What is an RPG” part in books for 25 years.
Mottokrosh: What is an RPG to you? What is the most important part to you when you sit down with people, or online, to play a game?
Pelle: For me it’s very important that you can meet together, discover things together, explore things together, without making too many rolls, with social interactions. You might make some dice rolls to see if you’re dead, or something like that. But not a dice roll every 2 minutes or so.
Johan: When we sit down to play Mörk Borg we laugh our asses off, all the time. We don’t take it seriously for one second.
Pelle: I have to mention that I wrote the game, but I haven’t tried the game yet. I haven’t played it. But it seems like lots of people enjoy it.
Johan: I have done playtests with my groups.
Pelle: Yes, lots of other people have playtested it!
What I knew though is that these rules that I wrote, they cannot fail, they’re very easy and uncomplicated. Roll a d20, add your ability value, and hit the difficulty rating or above. I didn’t need to playtest that.
The most complicated rule is the armor rule. Minus a die off the damage (d2, d4, or d6).
<Interlude with Skullfungus appearing and my last question totally derailing several times.>
Mottokrosh: What’s next for Mörk Borg?
Pelle: We have lots of stuff on our hard discs, but it’s secret!
Mottokrosh: I need something saucy and sexy for my blog. What can you tell me?
Pelle: I can tell you this—
Johan: Be careful though!
Pelle: It’s very easy to write for the game, and very easy to grasp the rules. We have this Mörk Borgs Cult, as we call it. They have written a lot of stuff, and want to honor that. That’s it.
Johan: We want to make something.
Pelle: Yeah, we want to make something out of that.
Johan: We can say that, and also that we can’t stop doing stuff. More will come.
Pelle: It’s impossible not to think about Mörk Borg. There will be more material!