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Treasures of the Troll King is an excellent example of the Mörk Borg indie design space

Abandon all hope (and a tenner), ye who enter.

Treasures of the Troll King, a new adventure module for black metal RPG system Mörk Borg now on Kickstarter, doesn’t just look like a filthy and fun romp - it’s emblematic of an ever-growing deluge of interesting work from independent designers.

For those not yet aware of Mörk Borg, it’s the blood and pus, doomcult tabletop creation of Ockult Örtmästare Games and Stockholm Kartell that revels in an artistic portrayal of the dirtiest parts of both humanity and the world. Published by Free League - the company behind Symbaroum, Tales from the Loop and the Alien RPG, Mörk Borg is somewhere between art school, a mosh pit and the very best of 40-year-old game design.

The rules-light system relies on four abilities and a mixture of d20-based rolls for tests and 2d6 rolls for random tables, effects and so on. The Swedish studio behind its creation wanted to lean in to the Old School Revival tenet of keeping players from constantly flipping through references books and focused on their likely imminent death around nearly every corner.

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Created by artist and musician Chris Bissette under their Loot The Room label, Treasures of the Troll King punts a group of players into the feotid sewers of Galgenbeck, a city built upon untreated disease and rot in either an attempt to ignore the infection or suffocate its influence.The ruler of that cursed place is the troll-king Niduk, and he’s not keen on interlopers. The adventure is meant to take place over one or two sessions and provides all the necessary plot hooks, character motivations and unique occult treasures.

One of the best features Treasures of the Troll King provides is a split design: the first half of the adventure takes place as a point crawl through Galgenbeck’s sewers, letting the group fumble their way from one perilous trap or interesting find to the next as they sniff out Niduk’s chapel, while the second zooms in for a more classic room-by-room sweep in search of the monstrous monarch. The result feels like a foreboding sense of dread and doom that seeps into the corners of rooms at first but gradually begins to choke out any other sense - delving ever deeper feels like passing threshold after threshold of no return.

Bissette - who also created solo journaling RPG The Wretched - mentions in the description that the dungeon section on the module intentionally mimics the adventure included in the core material for new players, meaning Treasures of the Troll King shouldn’t turn off those new to Mörk Borg’s mechanical workings. Additionally, all of the treasures, enemies, NPCs and other creations can be used in ongoing games or serve as material for a new campaign - a group will need the sourcebook in order to make the most of Bissette’s adventure.

With art by Johan Nohr, who illustrated the core Mörk Borg book, Treasures of the Troll King seems to nail the setting’s tone and feel - a marriage of class and rot, a bit of both Bach and Bosch. But Bissette and Nohr’s adventure is far from the only supplemental material to split the uprights, so to speak. Since Mörk Borg released, indie creators have been churning out adventures, tables, supplements and hacks using Ockult Örtmästare Games’ third-party licence.

Searching through indie storefront and digital platform for compatible work provides entries ranging from the inspired - undersea adventure series The Mausoleum of Waves raises my hackles - to the hilarious, such as the Disney-by-way-of-death metal module Dukk Börg. Alright, that one is also pretty inspired.

Even more lives on Kickstarter, using the crowdfunding service’s audience reach to produce gorgeous zines with artwork and layout design that gives the core book - which found its own success via Kickstarter in 2019 - a run for its money. The indie design community tends to support its own and work together when a system or idea gains popularity, but Mörk Borg's relatively short life has already spawned enough stellar off-shoots to keep the most industrious gaming table busy for years to come. This is due largely to studio and publisher’s joint efforts at fostering trust with third-party artists through its licence but also the officially supported Mörk Borg Cult sub-label for select fan submissions.

The Treasures of the Troll King Kickstarter campaign runs through May 17th, providing backers a digital or physical A5 zine of the adventure for £8 ($11) and £15 ($20), respectively. Shipping is expected to begin in July of this year.

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