Ghosts, Galleons, and Games: Luke Discusses PIRATE BORG’s Creation
Ahoy, shipmates of The Geek Post! Ever wondered what it would be like if the dark and doom-infused world of MÖRK BORG was combined with the salty sea air and the dangerous allure of pirates? Well, anchor down, grab a mug of your drink of choice, and get ready to set sail into the dark waters of PIRATE BORG. Luke, the brilliant mind behind this gritty pirate adventure, sat down with us to share his inspiration, the game mechanics, and the unique flavor he’s brought to the tabletop RPG scene. Prepare to embark on a tale of ghosts, grimdark pirates, and… cursed chickens? Let’s dive in!
Geek: What inspired you to create PIRATE BORG? How does PIRATE BORG stand apart from MÖRK BORG, its parent RPG?
Luke: Over quarantine, I was running a Dungeons & Dragons game online, and I was out of work. That led to starting a Patreon drawing battle maps of pirate ships. After a few months I was getting pretty burned out prepping the campaign and drawing maps all day, so I took a break from running the game and let some of my players run games for a few weeks. Kevin, one of my players, was dying to run Mörk Borg for us. I was aware of the game but hadn’t played it. We played 3 or 4 sessions, and it was the MOST fun we ever had playing an RPG.
I joked to a buddy of mine that I should hack Mörk Borg to fit my pirate setting, as it fits the vibe of a grimdark pirate setting better than 5th Edition D&D. I got to work, and what started as a short pirate hack zine turned into a book about twice the size and triple the word count of the original!
As much as I love Mörk Borg and its heavy metal and punk roots, I was more interested in making a pirate game that, while still dark, had a slightly different feel. Pirate Borg is a little lighter in tone. Drinking rum and talking like pirates will do that. I also added rules-light naval combat.
Geek: Can you give us a brief overview of the game mechanics?
Luke: At the core, it’s the same as Mörk Borg: a roll over d20 system where you generate characters by rolling 3d6 “down the line” to get an ability modifier. But in the Dark Caribbean, there is a lot more shooting than in a medieval fantasy setting, so I made the decision to move magic use into a new stat called “Spirit”. It’s used by both “magical” classes, and to use Ancient Relics and Arcane Rituals, both of which replace scrolls.
Interview Continues Below, check out the trailer for the game before you continue.
Geek: Can you tell us about the unique mechanics used for the naval combat rules? What went into designing them?
Luke: Over the years, I’ve played a lot of different pirate games: Pirates of the Spanish Main by WizKids, Oak & Iron by Firelock games, and then video games like Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Sea of Thieves, and Sid Meier’s Pirates! About a year before starting Pirate Borg, I had written a rules supplement for 5th Edition D&D called Limithron’s Guide to Naval Combat. It was designed to be a little less “realistic” and more fun for a group of RPG PCs to engage with. It was very well received by that community, so when I got to rewriting those rules for Pirate Borg, I just made them even simpler and faster to understand to match the vibe of Mörk Borg. Essentially, one player acts as the captain – they decide where to move the ship. Then each PC can take one action for the ship. They aren’t stuck to taking the same action each turn like in some game systems where you pick a role or station on the vehicle.
Geek: There are eight different character classes in the game. Tell us about a few of your favorites and why.
Luke: You have the 6 “core” classes, inspired by traditional fantasy classes. But my favorites, and the ones that I think really make Pirate Borg a different experience, are the two optional classes. The Haunted Soul lets you play as a ghost, a zombie, a skeleton, etc. It is really fun at the table, and it gives GMs a way to bring back recently killed PCs. The Tall Tale class is a blast in that you can play as a sentient animal like a parrot, a rat, a monkey, or the “foul fowl”… which is basically a cursed chicken. You haven’t played Pirate Borg until you’ve been on a ship captained by a chicken!
Interview Continues Below
Geek: What challenges did you face when adapting the doom art-punk style of MÖRK BORG to a pirate setting?
Luke: At first, I really was going for the same style as Mörk Borg: bright yellows, splatter inks, neon accents and what not. But I was playtesting with some friends and the vibe didn’t match my map art style at all, and it just didn’t feel very “piratey”. When you are playing a doom-metal game, it’s really easy to just use the book and zines for core Mörk Borg as inspiration for the vibe, but then the game you imagine in your head looks totally different. Probably more like Dark Souls and less like a punk poster. For Pirate Borg I shifted to make the book and art a little more in-world, and added the treasure map look, using more old newspaper fonts and a little less of a modern magazine look. For the actual printing I went with all uncoated paper to give it more of an old book feel.
Geek: How does the game encourage players to be “greedy, filthy, scoundrels”?
Luke: Stealing ships and looting plunder is pretty built in. Also, almost all of the starting background tables you roll on when making a character are drawbacks. You can start missing a limb, or with a terrible event in your past like betraying your crew. Pirate Borg isn’t a game about heroes. It’s about surviving, finding the loot, and becoming the most notorious pirate in the Dark Caribbean. You don’t accomplish that by being a nice guy.
Interview Continues Below
Geek: With 80+ NPCs & monsters, do you have a favorite that you can tell the readers about?
Luke: Honestly, I just enjoyed the classic D&D monsters, as I wanted them to be a big part of the game: skeletons, zombies, and ghosts. I also like the twist that Davy Jones is basically a colossal sea turtle (with a tavern of Deep Ones squatting in his stomach… see Buried in the Bahamas)! Also, the Psychedelic Macaw is a fun one.
Geek: What historical references did you use in developing the game?
Luke: At this point I am practically a 17th and 18th century Caribbean history scholar! Lots of the lore in the game is based on real history. Books I’ve enjoyed and learned from include Empire of Blue Water, Republic of Pirates, Sea Rover’s Practice, Under the Black Flag, and War at Sea in the Age of Sail. But I’ve also worked just as much pirate fantasy influence in there as well: Tim Powers On Stranger Tides is my favorite novel of all time!
Geek: Can you share a memorable moment from playtesting PIRATE BORG?
Luke: While playtesting our new adventure Buried in the Bahamas, I had a player with 1 hit point and no good weapons try to “smoke a ghost” with a conch shell. I let her do it and had her roll on the ASH table. It was the most memorable session yet!
Geek: Do you consider yourself a geek? What does that mean to you?
Luke: Geek for life! Basically, we are smarter than normies and know how to have way more fun doing cool things with our imaginations!
There you have it, our geeky friends! From spirited parrots to the lore-rich depths of the Dark Caribbean, PIRATE BORG promises a gaming experience like no other. Whether you’re a seasoned sailor or new to the pirate-infested waters of RPGs, Luke’s creation serves up a treasure chest of adventure and dark comedy. So, hoist the Jolly Roger, gather your crew, and get ready to make your mark in the world of PIRATE BORG. Remember, it’s not about being the hero – it’s about survival, loot, and a chicken captain leading the way! Until next time, keep those imaginations sailing and may your dice always roll in your favor!