Apocalypse World vs Mörk Borg

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Trippy

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The title is a bit of a clickbait, in as much as I am not really trying to get any conflict in preference between the two, as much as suggest that they both have quite a lot in common. This is remarkable because they both nominally are part of gaming movements that are sometimes seen as being diametrically opposed (by certain critics anyway). For the point of record, I’d also like to make it clear that I’m not here to bash either game or movement in this thread.

As it goes, Apocalypse World is sometimes pushed as a flagship game for 'narrative’ and ‘indie' games. The writer, Vincent Baker (along with Meguey Baker) is well know as a contributor and previous designer of indie games like Dogs in the Vineyard and, indeed, his company Lumpley Games still hosts the archives of The Forge - a sometimes controversial online group well known for promoting the indie/narrative movement in the 2000s. As such, Apocalypse World is something of an über-indie/narrative game in as much as it survived the end of The Forge and has itself spawned lots of spinoff games under the Powered by the Apocalypse brand.

When the question was asked a couple of weeks ago or so, Mörk Borg was suggested as a lasting RPG that would be significant from the OSR (Old School Renaissance) movement. It certainly identifies itself, openly as being OSR and takes a mindset of a looser, rules-lite roleplaying style while being in some ways compatible with D&D in some form or other.

The similarities? Well, both are packaged in smaller books and each have a very particular, graphic design. Both are obviously set in R18/slightly gonzo apocalyptic settings, although AW is more sci-fi-ish whereas MB is more a fantasy pseudo-medieval. Both games eschew skill lists in favor of a more centralized set of stats that impart simple bonuses/penalties on dice rolls. Both games rely upon other character qualities being self contained as rules-references - whether you generate particular scroll powers randomly on a table (MB) or select traits that specify what happens for each respective dice roll result. Both are open or at least encourage third party development.

There are some technical differences of course - AW uses 2D6 and MB uses polyhedral dice, for example. However, my question is if these are both held up as exemplars of the Indi/narrative and OSR movements respectively, what are the fundamental differences between the two that make them so?
 
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Séadna

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However, my question is if these are both held up as exemplars of the Indi/narrative and OSR movements respectively, what are the fundamental differences between the two that make them so?
I feel like I'm giving a dumb and naive answer, but isn't that the main difference. Apocalypse World is narrative and Mörk Borg is not. That and the setting SciFi vs Dark Fantasy differences. One is a traditional game taking place in a Dark Souls-esque world and the other tries to tell personal stories of living after a more realistic apocalypse.
 
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Trippy

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I feel like I'm giving a dumb and naive answer, but isn't that the main difference. Apocalypse World is narrative and Mörk Borg is not. That and the setting SciFi vs Dark Fantasy differences.
Well, the contention is that there isn’t much difference between a game that is narrative or not. Can you elaborate on what the difference is in this case?

In the case of the sci-fi vs dark fantasy elements, I actually find both games to be more about the apocalyptic feel rather than genre tropes specifically. Both are more implied settings rather than detailed ones.
 

Necrozius

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Both of them are definitely about “Games with ATTITUDE”.

AW was all about printing the word “fuck” in their rules (causing many monocles to pop out in shock) and sex moves. Don’t like it, grandpa? Too IN YOUR FACE, church lady? Get outta the kitchen! Vince Baker puts on black shades.

Mork Borg is all about presentation and style. The ideas are cool and interesting, but it wouldn’t have been as “hip and cool” if it had been released more traditionally. Oh did you hear that it’s inspired by... HEAVY METAL? Hell yeah hail Satan! Swedish guys put on Corpse Paint.

I love both games and admire their creativity, but let’s be honest here... they’re getting lots of attention due to their character more than anything. Luckily for them, it works because they’re well written.

...ATTITUDE! *Abbath guitar soloing on a Mad Max truck full of spikes and sex moves*
 
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Séadna

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In the case of the sci-fi vs dark fantasy elements, I actually find both games to be more about the apocalyptic feel rather than genre tropes specifically. Both are more implied settings rather than detailed ones.
They're very different implied settings. One is like Dark Souls and the other is like Mad Max. Mörk Borg is about a fantasy world about to face an apocalypse. Apocalypse World is about personal stories set after a more conventional apocalypse.

Well, the contention is that there isn’t much difference between a game that is narrative or not. Can you elaborate on what the difference is in this case?
I guess the standard aspect of directly controlling the narrative, e.g. the Battlebabe's ability to pick who dies or not. There's also that Apocalypse world is full of classes with individual abilities. Mörk Borg is more minimal with characters just being attributes and equipment. I don't care about the exact dividing line between storygames and other games or even if there is one. Arguably many PbtA games are actually more "trad" than the newest Savage Worlds. However regarding Mörk Borg and Apocalypse World specifically there's very little similarity between their rules I think. Mörk Borg is far more toward a minimal dungeon crawler ruleset and Apocalypse World is much more a targetted rule system for telling post-apoc stories.
 
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yojimbouk

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The similarities? Well, both are packaged in smaller books and each have a very particular, graphic design. Both are obviously set in R18/slightly gonzo apocalyptic settings, although AW is more sci-fi-ish whereas MB is more a fantasy pseudo-medieval.
I think there is a strong attachment to graphic design in both camps, including aping the amateurish production values of early RPG products in the OSR. Personally, I feel that both camps emphasise style over substance. I have seen too many OSR games that are just some minor house rules on BX D&D (OSR) or are some neat game mechanic and not much else (indie games). In both cases, a blog post would seem more appropriate.
 

Fenris-77

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In both cases, a blog post would seem more appropriate.
You don't generally get paid for those. I have no issue paying for an OSR game that's based on BX and has some neat bespoke mechanics, or an interesting setting, or even that matches what I already have in my library in terms of tone. I would never tell anyone that's good at something that they should do it for free.

I bought Mork Borg in hardback specifically for art and layout which don't come across the same way in a PDF. I love the tone and writing too, which would have been just as good via PDF. I don't buy many physical gaming books, but when I do it's generally not about the rules.
 
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Bourbonjack

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I feel booth these games are similar in that the fans Ive interacted with are similar to people who were active in the early CrossFit phenomenon.

Namely, how when a friend or acquaintance started CrossFit, they really, really wanted you to know how much they liked CrossFit.

Maybe this is just me.
 

Necrozius

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I bought Mork Borg in hardback specifically for art and layout which don't come across the same way in a PDF. I love the tome and writing too, which would have been just as good via PDF. I don't buy many physical gaming books, but when I do it's generally not about the rules.

Oh same here! I did the same with a Red and Pleasant Land, Frostbitten and Mutilated, Torchbearer and Tales from the Loop. All games I purchased in PDF and then thought "wow, I want these on my shelves as artbooks too". And I was right, I frequently flip through those books purely for the browsing pleasure. Would love to play them too, of course.

I do prefer Mork Borg over Apocalypse World, because the art "feels" more organic, less digital. They made an effort to make it look hand-made (hell, some of the works might've actually been done in ink and paint). Mork Borg's art is nicer to me than than AW's stock photography photoshopped into two-tone vectors.
 

Bourbonjack

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You don't generally get paid for those. I have no issue paying for an OSR game that's based on BX and has some neat bespoke mechanics, or an interesting setting, or even that matches what I already have in my library in terms of tone. I would never tell anyone that's good at something that they should do it for free.

I bought Mork Borg in hardback specifically for art and layout which don't come across the same way in a PDF. I love the tone and writing too, which would have been just as good via PDF. I don't buy many physical gaming books, but when I do it's generally not about the rules.

I've had a chance to look through a hardcopy Mork Borg and it's an amazing piece of art. I do think it's a very well done RPG book. The tone of the game is well reflected in the rules.
 

Fenris-77

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Well, lets be fair, AW wasn't even remotely designed as any kind of art book. It's popularity has everything to do with the PbtA mechanic, and nothing to do with the stock art that accompanies it. Mork Borg, on the other hand, isn't particularly ingenious on the mechanics side, but is amazingly tight in terms of tone, in every regard including the art. I don't think I've ever seen another game in which the art was such an integral a part of the overall game experience.
 

TristramEvans

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I feel booth these games are similar in that the fans Ive interacted with are similar to people who were active in the early CrossFit phenomenon.

Namely, how when a friend or acquaintance started CrossFit, they really, really wanted you to know how much they liked CrossFit.

Maybe this is just me.


lol, what is Crossfit?

I keep picturing people excercising with crossbows...
 

Bourbonjack

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lol, what is Crossfit?

I keep picturing people excercising with crossbows...

https://www.crossfit.com/what-is-crossfit/

At it's core, CrossFit is based on dynamic exercises, often using large range of motion performed at high intensity. However, IMHO, it has morphed into a "lifestyle" (some might say near-cult). When it really took off, almost anyone who was doing CrossFit couldn't wait to tell you how awesome, amazing, and lifechanging CrossFit was. It came complete with it's own jargon (you don't go to a gym, you go to a "box",) uniform, look, etc. It definitely achieved the primary goal of making some people a LOT of money. Also some people got fit along the way. And some got hurt.

Me, I just stuck with 5x5.
 

Ladybird

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Both of them are definitely about “Games with ATTITUDE”.

AW was all about printing the word “fuck” in their rules (causing many monocles to pop out in shock) and sex moves. Don’t like it, grandpa? Too IN YOUR FACE, church lady? Get outta the kitchen! Vince Baker puts on black shades.

Mork Borg is all about presentation and style. The ideas are cool and interesting, but it wouldn’t have been as “hip and cool” if it had been released more traditionally. Oh did you hear that it’s inspired by... HEAVY METAL? Hell yeah hail Satan! Swedish guys put on Corpse Paint.

I love both games and admire their creativity, but let’s be honest here... they’re getting lots of attention due to their character more than anything. Luckily for them, it works because they’re well written.

...ATTITUDE! *Abbath guitar soloing on a Mad Max truck full of spikes and sex moves*
I... actually don't think Apocalypse World is anywhere near as edgy as people make out, or even that it may want to be. It uses blunt language and it's open about the fact that PC's may have sex (Although it doesn't go into that beyond showing how each of the classes react to that level of intimacy, particularly as anything good is in such short supply in Apocalypse World), but ultimately it's a soap opera.

On the other hand... it is hard to stand out in the market today, and you need a differentiator, especially as there are so many D&D-but's out there that slavishly strive to look straight out of the 80's or indie games about people in a bad situation. One thing you cannot deny is that these games stand out on a shelf, and getting a customer to notice you is probably the hardest part of a sale.

lol, what is Crossfit?

I keep picturing people excercising with crossbows...
It's a cross between keep fit and clown college.
 

Trippy

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It is interesting as to people discussing these games as art books (or not). I wonder how many people picked up HöL back in the day? It was entirely hand drawn (scribbled really) and was essentially a spoof of a game. It too, however, had a doom laden backstory.
 

Fenris-77

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Would you count it as indie/narrative or OSR?
Its not OSR, it has its own 2d6 mechanics and doesn't owe much of anything to D&D. I'm not sure why it needs to be one of those two specific things though. Those two labels don't describe rhe entire RPG market outside of D&D. Could you expand on what you were thinking there?
 

Fenris-77

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That just makes it more fucked up, hiding a decent game system underneath the batshit stream-of-conscious derpness!
I actually loved the writing. One of the funniest things I've read. Not for everyone though, not at all. The mechanics are buried under a load of satire and waxky, for sure. At the time i used the mechanics to run some other games, and it worked well.
 

Brock Savage

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It is interesting as to people discussing these games as art books (or not). I wonder how many people picked up HöL back in the day? It was entirely hand drawn (scribbled really) and was essentially a spoof of a game. It too, however, had a doom laden backstory.
HöL was one of those products that languished on the shelves of my local gamestore in the 90's along with the likes of Phoenix Commando and World of Synnibarr. In the 2000's it was joined by luminaries such as Book of Erotic Fantasy and The World's Largest Dungeon
 

Bourbonjack

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It is interesting as to people discussing these games as art books (or not). I wonder how many people picked up HöL back in the day? It was entirely hand drawn (scribbled really) and was essentially a spoof of a game. It too, however, had a doom laden backstory.

I'm not familiar with HöL? Can you elaborate?
 

TristramEvans

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It is interesting as to people discussing these games as art books (or not). I wonder how many people picked up HöL back in the day? It was entirely hand drawn (scribbled really) and was essentially a spoof of a game. It too, however, had a doom laden backstory.


yup, loved HoL. Ran an incredibly fun year-long campaign in art school

I'm not sure I'd compare it "artistically" to something like Mork Borg though - HoL was like a junior high student's notebook scribblings, as opposed to a designer's illuminated manustript
 

TristramEvans

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I'm not familiar with HöL? Can you elaborate?

lol, short for "Human Occupied Landfill", it was an incredibly off-the-cuff game made to look deliberately like some outsider artist's insane scribblings that was full of over-the-top grimdark humour. Imagine an amateur version of Warhammer 40K mixed with Heavy Metal but waywaywayWAY more EXTREME!

The system was simplistic and hand-wavey, epitomizing the concept of a "beer & pretzels" game
 

Gringnr

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I feel booth these games are similar in that the fans Ive interacted with are similar to people who were active in the early CrossFit phenomenon.

Namely, how when a friend or acquaintance started CrossFit, they really, really wanted you to know how much they liked CrossFit.

Maybe this is just me.


Crossfit is like being a vegetarian, an atheist, or an adherent of the OSR: there's nothing wrong with it in and of itself, but some folks can't help but be hugely annoying dickheads about it.
 

Trippy

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Its not OSR, it has its own 2d6 mechanics and doesn't owe much of anything to D&D. I'm not sure why it needs to be one of those two specific things though. Those two labels do I guess the standard aspect of directly controlling the narrative, e.g. the Battlebabe's ability to pick who dies or not n't describe the entire RPG market outside of D&D. Could you expand on what you were thinking there?
Well, in it's opening passage it states that 'if you have bought this game then you have "fucked up" and you need to and play a game sounding like Truncheons and Flagons (but we can't mention for copyright reasons) for about 6 years then get back to us'. It also claims ORKS as being entirely in the public domain ("Sue me , Gary"), so I think it is fair it owes something to D&D!

I agree that it doesn't need to be part of any particular movement, but my view is that other games don't either especially. There is more in common between RPGS than differences, and the differences within movements are often as great as outside - so categorisation is difficult to do.

Séadna said:
I guess the standard aspect of directly controlling the narrative, e.g. the Battlebabe's ability to pick who dies or not
There are lots of Class/Archetype specific abilities in all games, including MB, though. Regarding the controlling the narrative, is this what it amounts to - Narrative games eschew random tables in favour of player/GM negotiation?
 

Séadna

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There are lots of Class/Archetype specific abilities in all games, including MB, though. Regarding the controlling the narrative, is this what it amounts to - Narrative games eschew random tables in favour of player/GM negotiation?
Yeah although the classes are optional in Mörk Borg and grant a single perk where as your playbook frames your game of Apocalypse world, each class having individual char gen rules.

I guess I just don't see how somebody would look at Apocalypse world and Mörk Borg and think they're similar systems or settings beyond very high level details. I mean 5E and Mythras both have attributes and skills and default to fantasy, so in your sense they have a lot in common. Is there any particular commonality to Mörk Borg and Apocalypse World you're driving at beyond very high level similarities like this.

I think the Storygame vs Trad stuff has been explored a million times elsewhere.
 
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Fenris-77

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That little warming at the beginning is because there's no how to's and the book, throughout, assumes you're famiar with RPGs generally, both in terms of executing (and even understanding) the rules and also getting the many many in jokes and levels of satire and homage.
 

Trippy

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Yeah although the classes are optional in Mork Borg and grant a single perk where as your playbook frames your game of Apocalypse world, each class having individual char gen rules.

I guess just don't see how somebody would look at Apocalypse world and Mörk Borg and think they're similar systems or settings beyond very high level details. I mean 5E and Mythras both have attributes and skills and default to fantasy, so in your sense they have a lot in common. Is there any particular commonality to Mork Borg and Apocalypse World you're driving at beyond very high level similarities like this.

I think the Storygame vs Trad stuff has been explored a million times elsewhere.
Well, there isn't any reason why it can't be explored again, is there?

And while I could find similarities between 5E and Mythras, neither of these games try to associate themselves with particular movements like Indie or OSR. What I am asking is what makes these clear examples of games from these particular movements categorically different?

I have pointed out some of the clear similarities between the AW and MB games above, which in my view are quite palpable.
 

Fenris-77

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I would think that the mechanics and stated goals of play would be where to look for similarities and differences. General setting stuff doesn't index all that much about the teleos of play.
 

Trippy

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Is there a separate category for 'just plain fucked up?'
The funny thing here is that the personality trait of every single character in HoL included (called "Bent") began with "All fucked up and....." :grin:
 
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Séadna

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Well, there isn't any reason why it can't be explored again, is there?

And while I could find similarities between 5E and Mythras, neither of these games try to associate themselves with particular movements like Indie or OSR. What I am asking is what makes these clear examples of games from these particular movements categorically different?
It can be explored again certainly, I just don't think I'd have anything new to say.

I'd say the games are quite different as rulesets, like 5E and Mythras or 5E and Cepheus Engine etc.

Are they categorically different? Above I said I don't think there's some rigid trad/storygame boundary, so I don't know how much one would get out of trying to rigorously classify them on this divide. I think the main reason one is called Indie and the other is called OSR is that one tries to tell personal stories and the other is dungeon crawling dark fantasy. These just tend to get called Indie and OSR. Some will see the narrative elements in Apocalypse World as a categorical difference and those people are common in OSR circles. I think that's basically it.
 

Trippy

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It can be explored again certainly, I just don't think I'd have anything new to say.

I'd say the games are quite different as rulesets, like 5E and Mythras or 5E and Cepheus Engine etc.

Are they categorically different? Above I said I don't think there's some rigid trad/storygame boundary, so I don't know how much one would get out of trying to rigorously classify them on this divide. I think the main reason one is called Indie and the other is called OSR is that one tries to tell personal stories and the other is dungeon crawling dark fantasy. These just tend to get called Indie and OSR. Some will see the narrative elements in Apocalypse World as a categorical difference and those people are common in OSR circles. I think that's basically it.
Well, certainly through some of the reviews and articles about Morg Bork has suggested that the players feel liberated to create narratives through its style, while we have seen Powered by the Apocalypse games that are basically dungeon crawling fantasies - Dungeon World for example.

For me, as I've said before, I prefer to assess the merits of individual games rather than whole movements. The reason is that I do find a lot of the categorisation (including self categorisation by creators) to be quite arbitrary at times. I'm just exploring why people may think the opposite.
 

Fenris-77

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One of the reasons I like Vagabonds of Dyfed so much is that it's overtly OSR but uses the PbtA mechanics. Categorize that evildoers.
 

Séadna

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Well, certainly through some of the reviews and articles about Morg Bork has suggested that the players feel liberated to create narratives through its style, while we have seen Powered by the Apocalypse games that are basically dungeon crawling fantasies - Dungeon World for example.
Certainly. Like I would say there's a clear categorical difference between GURPS and Storybrewers stuff (e.g. Alas for the Awful sea), but for Mörk Borg and Apocalypse World it's not near this stark. As I mentioned above Savage Worlds in the newest edition with the adventure cards has many narrative mechanics and many PbtA games are closer to simply player-facing than narrative, but they're each grandfathered into their respective categories.

However despite the absence of some deep categorical difference, if one isn't interested in movements I would say they're quite different mechanically and the overall settings are very different, much more than say Traveller and Eclipse phase. In that regard I would say they are quite different games.
 
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