The World Is Doomed: Why Mörk Borg and the Mechanoid Invasion are basically the same game

I recently ran a one-shot of the RPGs Mörk Borg and The Mechanoid Invasion. Both games were fun, but I found myself thinking about the strange similarity between them, and how I could steal stuff from one to use in the other.

Mörk Borg is the new Swedish hotness, a ENnie-award winning OSR fantasy game released in 2020 by Fria Ligan. It’s a fantasy set in a bleak, dying world. Here’s the fillable version of the official character sheet I made.

The Mechanoid Invasion is a science fiction RPG from 1981. It was Palladium Games’ (the RIFTS guys) very first role-playing game. It’s mostly forgotten, but is still available. It’s set on Gideon E, a distant planet at the edge of human-settled space. One day, a vast continent-sized ship appears, and attacks the isolated world. The invaders are the Mechanoids, a race of cyborgs with an insane hatred of humanoids. Here’s my character sheet for it.

Clearly, they’re wildly different in setting – gothic fantasy tomb crawls for one, military battles vs. cyborg invaders for the other. In terms of the system – though they’re both OSR-ish, Mörk Borg is a clean state-of-the-art OSR system, while Mechanoid Invasion is a clunky (but fun) proto-RIFTS.

However, in play, I found they both felt the same. They both center around characters battling against an inevitable, unstoppable doom. Be it demons or Mechanoids, eventually you’re gonna lose. In Mechanoids, there is some small chance for escape, but the planet itself is clearly doomed. Though characters can improve in both, neither game is really about advancement or victory. The interesting part of both games is how the players choose to spend their final days.

This is the Way the World Ends – With a whole lot of banging, and perhaps a little whimpering.

Mörk Borg has the Miseries – a roll is made each day on a die. If a one is rolled, a Misery is added and the GM rolls for a Misery on the The Calendar of Nechrubel, and describes the terrible events that follow. On the seventh Misery, the world ends.

The Mechanoid Invasion has a a three-month timetable that describes how the Mechanoids initially attack, destroy the ecosystem, obliterate the cities, and eventually start disassembling the planet. We aren’t given a mechanical way of keeping track of this, so I thought I’d try to adapt the Mörk Borg Miseries system for tracking the fate of Gideon E.

Situation Report (SitRep)
A number that keeps track of the failing hopes of the defenders of Gideon E.

The Situation Report die uses a d20 (this can be changed for longer or shorter campaigns). Each day, (or whenever) the DM can roll that SitRep die. If it is a one, the players get one SitRep point. When 7 SitRep points are received, the Mechanoids start disassembling the planet and the game is over. For each SitRep point, the GM can update the players with the following reports (taken directly from the timetable in the book). The whole idea here is to impress on the players how doomed their fight actually is.

SitRep 1

Second wave alien attack is devastating. Defenses crumble:
Human Casualties: 39%
Property Loss/Damage: 72%

Mechanoids begin defoliation of planet Gideon-E.
Human Casualty: 3%
Rover Casualty: 7%
Vegetation Casualty: 98.5%
Animal Life Casualty: 74.9%

SitRep 2

Falzon colony falls. Human casualty 96.3%, property 100%. Major Mechanoid base established.

10 additional Mechanoid bases established.

Partial evacuation of Orz and Stelvenson to Gideon colony and tunnel mountain retreats (near Gideon) successful. Both reduce population by 36%, while still maintaining full manufacturing capacity.

SitRep 3

Malibur colony totally isolated. Evacuation impossible.

Mechanoid bases located over deposits of fossil fuels and gas reserves. Begin mining operations.

SitRep 4

Rover situation: Black Fist increasingly hostile to colonists – Arrowhead tribe and Long Teeth have allied themselves to colonists – Red Band, Black Band and Sand Pirates
slowly perishing, refuse colonial aid.

Timbok mountains (entire 2800k m length) leveled by Mechanoid mothership as show of power. Malibar colony 400km away untouched.

SitRep 5

Massive Mechanoid devices (diggers) begin to carve the planet Gideon E into sections. Devices cut an unbroken line/canyon 2km deep and 1 km wide across the entire
planet. Bridge and bridge fort areas built approximately every 1800k m (5900ft).

Increasing geological disturbances indicate Mechanoids have tapped into Gideon E’s molten core as a power source.

SitRep 6

Long Teeth Rover tribe wipes out Red and Black Band tribes. Only scattered fragments of these tribes remain. Extremely hostile.

Black Fist tribe may have allied itself with Mechanoids.

Mechanoid assault atomizes the Kucharski colony and damages the Gideon colony.
Kucharski: Human casualty 89% (43,857 die)
Property 99%
Gideon colony: Human casualty 13% (10,346 die)
Property 20%
Rover tribes: Black Fist 42%
Sand Pirates 95%

SitRep 7

Intergalactic Federation aid will not arrive in time (2 months too late).

Plan to evacuate Gideon E via orbital shuttle dock and penetrate the massive Mechanoid mothership (This ship is approximately the size of North America)

Mechanoids begin disassembling planet.

The Wasps of Galgenbeck

I couldn’t really think of anything to bring from The Mechanoid Invasion into Mörk Borg. Mörk Borg is ideally designed to do it what it does, and needs no help from a 40-year-old RPG. However, I wanted to put something here, so I’ve made Mörk Borg stats for a Mechanoid Wasp – perhaps the coolest type of Mechanoid. If you want to maintain the traditional bleak, Gothic tone of Mörk Borg, do not use this. If you want your players to survive, do not use this.

The Wasp

“The Wasp is the most intelligent and deadly of the Mechanoid predators. These fast-thinking strategists are the very heart of the Mechanoid assault and defense network. Daring and flamboyant, they thrive relentlessly in battle fighting, and are without mercy or conscience.
Encased in a powerful environmental body shell, they are able to withstand both the rigors of space and heavy assault while maintaining high maneuverability, speed and strike potential. The Wasp is legendary for its ability to maneuver with unerring accuracy while flying at top speed (1500kmph), and/or under under adverse conditions.
A unique coupling of technology and psionics makes this possible. It is this science which allows the Wasp to go from 1500kmph to a dead stop instantly.

No one knows how the hell they got to Galgenbeck.

HP 56
Morale –
Wasps are equipped with 4 particle beam cannons (2d10 damage). They can make 4 beam attacks per round. They can ram a target for 1d10 damage.

Sometimes they like to scoop up humans and drop them. Agility DR 12 to avoid this. A fall will cause 3d6 damage.

Armored: All Melee attacks are at DR 16
Flying: When flying at low speeds, they are DR 15, DR 18 at high speeds.

Psionic Abilities

Aura of Truth: Presence DR 14 to avoid letting the Wasp know you’re lying.
Presence Sense: Presence DR 12 to avoid being detected even if hidden.
Extended Telepathy: Presence DR 12 to avoid being having your mind probed.

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