Have you heard of Dark Fort? I just stumbled upon it. It seems to be a precursor to Mörk Borg with simple rules to generate a dungeon and meet its inhabitants, like the Necro-Sorcerer who might turn you into a maggot even after you defeated him. The game was published as part of a zine with interesting Mörk Borg content, but isn’t worth the 10 Dollar/Euro, if you are not interested in the other stuff.
Actual game play
The sky is gray and the world is colorless, dark and gruesome sounds fill the atmosphere, sometimes vibrating in my chest, at other times screeching in my ears, as I descend the rotten stairs to the Dark Fort. After my recent adventures, I don’t have to worry about loosing my footing as I’m light on baggage. With only my trusty dagger and a nearly full bottle of healing potion, my heaviest burden are 20 pieces of silver. And I have no idea what I might need those for in the deep caverns.
The first rooms shimmer in a dim, reddish light that allows me to see well enough. No need for torches here. As always, the first rooms are empty, except for pitfalls and minor inconveniences like dead ends and such things. But then I stand in front of an Undead Hound. Actually, the fort seems to be crawling with those annoying beasts. Soon I meet a Ridding Soothsayer. I hate those bastards. They never say anything worthwhile and literally explode when you can’t answer their stupid questions. Well, nothing, that a sip from the healing potion won’t cure. The peddler from beyond the void is a much more welcome sight. I’ve heard about those guys, but have never met one before. I decide to spend my money, I don’t see what else I should do with the silver at the moment. A slightly battered but very serviceable armour should make me more safe, and topping up my flask of healing potions leaves me nearly pennyless. But then, it’s health before money, isn’t it?
Afterwards I find a plethora of pitfalls, some before crashing into them, some after the fact, and meet more riddlers. They seem to take pity on me, as I can solve most of their riddles and make a bit of easy money on the way. Then I stumble upon a Ruin Basilisk. Those are tough, and I take quite a beating before I can finally stab him to do death. After catching my breath, I stand him to death again. Just for good measure. It surely didn’t help that I forgot to don my armour after crawling out of all those pitfalls. Remember: The armour in the backpack protects your glasses, but not your liver. I have been downing healing potions like weak beer by now, but after the fight, I feel like I’m getting the hang of it and look much more confident into the future. Especially since the herb master that I freed from the Basilisk’s terror gave me five healing potions as a token of gratitude before he made a beeline to the exit. Even better, a peddler I met soon after sold me a Cloak of Invisibility that should still be good for two uses. I feel fine.
The next hours are boring. I hit a lot of dead ends that make me back track. I now wish that I did put more effort into the map I half-heartedly drew while crawling through the chambers. Once or twice I find another door in a room that I could neither remember nor see on my map. More Hounds are making their rounds as well, and I have to kill a lot of them. I’m getting impatient while back paddling and nearly stumble into a room, I haven’t been to before. That room, of course, is occupied by a Small Stone Troll who sits in a corner and does like the stalagmites do. I decide to test my new cloak and walk right through the chamber, silently and apparently invisible. That’s a nice experience. I hope that I can find a different way back, though.
Some time later, I run into a Medusa. No time to slip into my best cloak, so I have to tough it out. And that bitch is tough. We slug it out for a while, and I start thinking that I need a longer weapon. Ever tried to fight something without looking at it too directly? I manage to defeat her, but only after getting a lot of cuts and bruises. But financially … well, let’s just say, that I will have a large order the next time a merchant visits my plane of existence.
And there he is. On the last room in the north-east corner of this forsaken place. At least, I believe that it is the north-east corner. The next peddler. This dungeon is the flea market of dungeons. There are more merchants down here than in my whole hometown. And they have exactly what I require. This one has a lovely slender sword that should widen my reach without compromising speed. I trade it against my trusty dagger and some silver. And for a bit silver more, I top up my healing potion flask. Better safe than sorry. Now it’s back again for a couple of rooms. At least my map is a bit more readable now.
Getting the hang of it
I don’t find any interesting rooms for a while and even the peddlers seem to ignore me now. It’s getting lonely, and I would even welcome a Soothsayer, just to have some company. Even worse than my loneliness is the realization that I might have explored most of this dungeon now. I have to back-track more and more and meet a couple of undead hounds on the way, but their heart isn’t into it and i defeat them rather easily. Then two Catacomb Cultists attack me one after the other and manage to wound me pretty bad. I finish them and start looting, but don’t find anything useful on their corpses. Damn. To add insult to injury, my flask with the healing potions seems to have gone bad. I suck down all there is, but don’t feel much better. The bleeding stopped, but I feel weak and sleepy. Let’s hope that I find a merchant soon.
After back-tracking for a bit again, I find the last door, which I haven’t opened yet. It leads to a small, cross-shaped room, which seems to be empty at first, but then another Stone Troll attacks from behind …
The diary ends here.
Survival may be an option in Dark Fort, but it isn’t an easily achievable goal. The game design is minimal, but very fitting for the game.
You are Kargunt! ’nough said. I like the mixture of typewriter font and “handwritten” explanations on the single sheet of instructions. The character sheet should have been A4. There just wasn’t enough room for my map and scribbles on the A5 sized sheet, although I didn’t even reach level three.
All in all, I had fun for two evenings, but honestly: I didn’t mind dying on the third evening. A simple dungeon crawl gets old after a couple of rounds if there isn’t any backstory or a goal to achieve. Nevertheless, the game mechanics are well-balanced, if a bit on the hard side, and especially the first evening, when I played in a dimly lit room with a candle and a great soundtrack, was really enjoyable.