The Lie, The Madness, The Truth – Dissecting the core rules!

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Following a request I’ll go through and talk about the Rulebook.

Book I: The Lie

This is basically the book that you can let the players read. Although, I can find that they describe a little bit to much of the backstory of the game in the introduction chapter.

This give a short introduction to the setting. Then the focus are the Archetypes. The characters that the players portray in the game. This is very similar to old KULT both in style and when it comes to the rules. You choose a Dark Secret, you pick Disadvantages and Advantages, you create some relations to other characters and to None Player Characters and you put out your attribute points.

You have the “normal” archetype such as the Detective, the Artist, the Criminal. Each of them discinct enough to make it stand out. There are archetypes here that you normally don’t see in other games. Such as the Cursed that is doomed to meet his or hers dark fate. Each session the clock ticks down but you may use the time that has been given to you to do extraordinary things. Even defeat death. Or the Doll that other people desires in a sick and possessive way, but can use that to his or her advantage. So even the “normal” archetypes goes from quite normal to somewhat weird.

There is also the Sleeper archetype if you want to play as a completely normal person that is trapped in the Illusion. And it is possible to upgrade that Archetype to an Aware archetype later on.

The rest of Book I contains descriptions of the Dark Secrets, the Advantages and the Disadvantages. As well as an explanation how you play the game, the basic moves and some equipment and weaponry.

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Book II: The Madness

Here we enter the Gamemaster chapter when it comes to playing the game. Here we learn how to set scenes, use the GM moves to move the story forward and there are a lot of examples which I really appreciate.

And then there is the Horror Contract. This passage is really good and one of the strongest points is that it clearly states that it is the whole group that are invested in creating the Horror Atmosphere. Not just the Gamemaster. You are all in this together. It has guides how to build the atmosphere, stay in the scenes and push the boundaries of how far you can go. But, there are also a guide for how to handle subjects that some players might not be comfortable with and even stop signs that you can use around the gaming table.

The next passage is about Setting up a Story. And here, finally, we get a really good guide how to create a tale of horror and drama.

In KULT: Divinity Lost the story is about the Player Characters and their dark secrets. That is the story. How many horror games aren’t there where you make a character and then that character are hired and send on some strange mission that has nothing to do with that person. Well not in KULT. If you make a character that is the Avenger a big part of the story will be about that. We get a whole chapter about setting up the first session. Introducing the characters. Making an intrigue map and tying the creatures from the Kult Mythology the characters dark secrets. Here we have a chapter about the themes of these powers and how to create monsters and adversaries.

The Downtime chapter guides the Gamemaster between the sessions how to add things to the intrigue map, update it, change it and explore it.

Let’s face it. KULT: Divinity Lost with its complex world, focus on horror and drama is not an easy game to Gamemaster. The characters are in focus and the Gamemaster needs to understand them, understand the plot and have an overview of all the Influences stearing the game. But Book II is a marvelous achievement. I have played RPGs for a long, long time but when I read this I got several new “aha!” and “of course!” moments.

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Book III: The Truth

This book takes up almost half of the pages. It is massive. And here we dive straight into the Gnostic Mythology of KULT: Divinity Lost. We learn about the origin of mankind, our imprisonment, the Higher Powers that are in control over our reality ant the Illusion that hides reality from us and keeps our divine souls asleep.

And damn, this is fine writing. The first three chapters Beyond the Veil, the Illusion and Elysium manages what no other edition of KULT has succeed with. Explaining the Illusion and how the Higher powers entrap us. Things just seem to be tied together. A giant machinery that is slowly moving. And we are a part of it. We mindlessly support it.

The Chapter Beyond Madness is a fine chapter, that handles mental illness in a way that is respectful and interesting. Beyond Passion dives into lust and perversions and how this is used to break free of the Illusion and beings that are born out of our lusts. Beyond the Dream explore the dream world (or dream worlds). And this is truly a chapter that is magnificent. It is written in a dreamlike way filled with surreal and beautiful imagery and strange creatures. The Underworld describes the realms that borders to Achlys, the nothingness, and beings that live here hidden from both us and the Archons. This is clearly inspired by Neil Gaimans Neverwhere and Clive Barkers Cabal (Or Nightbreed as the movie adaption was called). Also written in an amazing way, but still very different from the Dream World.

And then we have the big one. Metropolis. The chapter about mankind’s primordial home. And it is big, dark, mysterious and filled with secrets. I just want to send my player characters to explore Metropolis right now when thinking about it. We learn about the angel choirs that now are mad, the mysteries of the machine city and about the cycle of life and death tied to the citadels. A vital key in understanding the machinery of the Illusion.

Then Inferno. Metropolis bastard twin. For all those that longed (or missed) the body horror from old KULT. Well here you will have your appetites filled. It is as grotesque as it is beautiful.

Then we have the last “World” chapter which is Gaia. A place that I in previous versions of KULT has been mildly interested in. But here it is lifted up in its full glory. The untamed wilderness, strange creatures and many mysteries.

We then have the chapter about Pacts and Magic where we get a short introduction to Magic and how pacts work. More is sure to come.

And the final chapter is The Awakening. Here we learn how our souls are entrapped and how they slowly drift towards awakening. We are also presented with four Enlightened Archetypes. These are for those that wants to play KULT on a level closer to awakening and with characters that are more powerful and with an insight in our imprisonment. We are served two Children of the Night. A Death Magician and a Disciple. All of these are really cool and I can see a whole game based on this.

That is the end of Book III: The Truth. And I feel that I need to point out again the many strengths. The art is absolutely beautiful and imaginative. So many of the passages in this books are just beautifully written. Yes, you read it correct. Beautiful in a poetic way. Sure, they may be grotesque, sexual and violent but the writer has written about them in the same way as a loving mother cares for her child.

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Make me a Child of the Underworld

 

The Underworld

The chapter about The Underworld in the core rules of KULT: Divinity Lost is just so painfully good. It is written in a way that you feel the emptiness, the echoes, the whispers in the labyrinth. And for some reason I can’t really get it out of my mind.

I think the prospect of portraying one of the Children of the Underworld is an interesting one. Sure, it will be hard to portray something alien and strange. But they have such a fascinating story and I think they could become very distinct archetypes.

So, if I would have a request of an official supplement it would be a book, or a stand alone game, where you play a Child of the Underworld.

Famaria

I want to play as a Famaria! 

 

Polybius Review

Polybius

This fan made KULT: Divinity Lost scenario by Mattias Storm revolves around the urban legend about Polybius, a mysterious arcade machine that surfaced in shady corners of video arcades in the early 80s.

This scenario is about Coming of Age and Friendship. You get pre-made characters that all are 14-18 years old. They all have Archetypes that are pulled straight out of movies/shows about teenage kids. We have the Bitch, the Troubled, the Bereaved, the Nerd and so on. Really nice and well written characters that you easily can relate to.

The scenario is set in the 80s and the lover of Stranger Things won’t be disappointed. The scenario starts quite innocent at Gregg’s Arcade and then escalate. The grown ups are all sleeper and do not notice the strange things that are going on so it is all up to the players.

What I especially like with this scenario sit that it is so thorough. There is a lot of back story, well developed characters, maps, NPCs and well described locations. the author gives the GM a lot of tools and help with things that happens and that Bombs (both general, or tied to specific PC) that can be thrown in to drive the story forward.

Now, lets talk a bit about the layout and style because it is super gorgeous! This looks like a professional product. And I love the neon style that both hints at the time period and the setting.

It is so professionally made that I would have imagined it being written by one in the KULT-team or their group of freelancers. Download it, read it and play it! This is really great. My main question now is when do we get an official scenario from Mattias Storm?

The scenario is free to download and you can find it here: Here!

Exploring Emotional Pain

Emotional Pain

It may be my days as a LARP:er but I think that the Emotional Pain of the characters (not the players) are vital for creating good drama. But some players are very uncomfortable when it comes to this. Not because it triggers some painful in that persons past but because they want their characters to be “cool”, “badass” and “untouchable”.

Well a Cool, Badass and Untouchable character is the same as an Uninteresting character in KULT: Divinity Lost of you ask me.

The reason for this Untouchable-ness is of course the uncomfortable situation of having to display emotion, portray a character as weak, distraught, powerless and afraid in some situations.

There are ways to lead players that are uncomfortable with this in the right direction. And here are some suggestions I have for you as a Gamemaster if you want to push the players to play more daringly.

Be clear from the start: Explain for the players that this game is about daring to play human characters that will have put in situations that are emotionally challenging for them.

Define Character Weakness: Ask questions when the characters are created such as, “What is the worst thing a person could do to you, What would you find embarrassing.”

Use the Dramatic Hooks: Give players incentives to display their emotional pains. Use the system for dramatic hooks and give them Hooks in the style of: “Be Emotional Vulnerable. Tell someone about your inner pain. Have an Emotional Breakdown.”

Give direct feedback: If a players creates a character that is “safe” in all emotional aspects then say so. “What is your emotional weakness?” and be quite clear that the character won’t fit in the scenario unless it is added.

Use the Relations: Now relations can only be used if the characters care about them. But create scenes so that the character starts to care for them. Then put them in trouble.

So dare to play unsafe! And dare to demand that characters have emotional weaknesses.

Tarot cards for Character Creation

Character Creation

And here we have another excellent guest article from the talented Kraetyz who dives even deeper in the various methods you can use the KULT: Divinity Lost tarot cards. You can find his first article here: Link. Now I hand over the word to Kraetyz. 

Greetings! This is Kraetyz again, back to write some more about tarot readings in Kult: Divinity Lost.

In this post, I would like to present an idea I have experimented with: to use the tarot deck for character creation. I thought of this one evening, and suggested to my wife that we try it out. We sat down with the deck, lit some candles, and I performed a reading using the “Individual” template in the rules.

Before we began, my wife selected an archetype she wanted to play: The Broken. After this, I laid out the cards as usual. The cards were turned over one by one, and I explained the card’s meanings to her using examples and wide concepts, mostly taken from the document. Together, we discussed what each card might mean for the character.

The result was incredible. I strongly suggest trying this out with your own players, provided you know they are comfortable with it. Once the reading is complete, you as the GM can build the character rules-wise, or you could proceed with character creation as normal. This method provides a character concept that, thanks to the Kult tarot deck being so well made, is certain to fit in with the game’s mechanics.

Here’s how the reading went.

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Archetype: The Broken

 

Core Characteristic – Four of Skulls (Spirit)4 Skulls

I explain to my wife that the Four of Skulls represents Spirit. It represents the eternal soul of humanity, your innermost essence and true sense. Those in the know will know that there is more to the Four of Skulls, but I left it at this. The rest of the card’s meaning could become evident through play.

After some thinking, this suggestion comes up: the character is perfectly in tune with themselves. They understand all their innermost desires, and doesn’t lie to themselves. They have a strong relationship to their own mind and soul.

 

How the Past shaped them – Five of Roses (Predator)5 Roses

The Five of Roses represents the predator, the hunter, preying on the weak. A fun card, no doubt, and my wife quickly comes to an understanding – her character has killed for pleasure. They likes doing it.

We decide that they’ve murdered five people, as that’s the value of the card revealed. We feel happy with that quick interpretation, and move on.

 

Their Ambitions – Hod (Honor)Hod

As the character’s ambition, we discover honor. Hod upholds inflexible values, bonds forged through the understanding that the alternative is to be ostracized and shamed. Hod demands you uphold your honor, destroy those who insult it, and shame those who can not measure up to it.

This one was tough, but we eventually decided that the character has made a pact with some entity, and that they’re bound by honor to uphold it. This is not a bad thing for them, but rather they take pride in it and strives to maintain their honor.

The specifics of this pact, and the entity, are left ambiguous for now. We decide to return to the subject once we have more information.

 

Their biggest Weakness – Six of Crescents (Merging) 6 crescent

We think on this for a long time. The Six of Crescents embodies two things becoming one, a melding of ideas, absorption.

Eventually, I give a suggestion that I found fitting for a Broken character: they suffer from schizophrenia. A serious mental illness seems a suitable weakness for a game like Kult, but my wife takes this idea of merging further. She suggests that this man – and this is where we decided that it’s a man – shares his headspace with the people he’s murdered. He kills them, and their minds are absorbed into his own. As for the Truth of this, that is to remain undecided.

 

Their biggest Strength – Chesed (Safety)Chesed

And finally, we explore the character’s greatest strength: Chesed. Safety, comfort, security, letting go of worries in the belief that you will be fine. What an excellent reveal to tie back into his core characteristic, the Four of Skulls.

We discover, after a discussion, that the people he murdered were all unhappy, likely mentally ill. The character was a good friend to them, caring from them and trying to give them comfort. He wishes to bring peace to those who suffer, and knows that in his own calm mind they will be safe. This is why he kills – it brings him comfort to protect those too weak and distressed to protect themselves.

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The wife and I are both happy with this reading, so we begin to discuss the character as a whole, looking at the cards and re-iterating their meanings and how they connect to each other.

His name is Piran, and he has been mentally unwell all his life. He lives in a shabby apartment, has regular psychiatric check-ups, and works a variety of dead-end jobs when he’s not on welfare. Sometimes, he gets a little bit crazier than usual, and he is often in and out of mental institutions.

He is a loner, but his calm and friendly demeanor makes him good at approaching others like him. Piran met all his victims through psychiatric care, unhappy people who struggle to even stay alive. His first victim was not an accident, but he could not have prepared for the outcome. Feeling sympathy for their suffering, he decided to murder this person to give them the peace they deserved.

Once the deed was done, however, Piran regretted his decision. He was plagued with guilt, until some strange entity came to him and offered a release. It made a pact with Piran: as long as he murdered those he with good conscience knew needed it, those he killed would not be lost. The being guides those that Piran kills into his mind, and he allows them to settle there. As Piran feels in control of his own mind and self, it brings him comfort to know that his victims are safe.

This being and Piran hold a close bond – they communicate, made promises to one another that they keep, request favors that the other will grant, and this pact holds so long as Piran performs his selfmade duty with conviction.

As a game master, I adore Piran as a character concept. I see a lot of potential in ways to explore his character. Some examples include:

  • The entity demands something out of the ordinary for him.
  • Piran kills someone who turns hostile on him once in his mind.
  • A detailed exploration of how Piran finds someone to kill, and how he does it.
  • Piran becomes hunted by the police, or something else, for his actions.

And much, much more. The reading helped me and my wife create a character for her that’s fully steeped in Kult lore and themes.

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Finally, I would like to share a picture of another reading we did that turned out very differently.

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Core – Astaroth, manifested through Hareb-Serap.

Past – Chokmah.

Ambition Six of Eyes.

Weakness Eight of Eyes.

Strength Sathariel.

This was a horrifying read through and through. We decided not to select an Archetype before performing the reading for this one, which I am not sure I would recommend. It made it more difficult to find starting points to interpret the cards. However, the cards themselves were still telling enough to weave a rather vile character portrait.

The character we discovered through this reading is a former ISIS fighter and death magician. He has turned on his faith and cause, because he considers himself more powerful than God. His goal in life is to wage a lonesome, bloody war on any and all structures of power, religious or otherwise. He lives in isolation, fueled by his lust for conflict, and he has constant waking nightmares of his own death. The character is a skilled enough death magician to understand well enough what dying and being dragged into Inferno might mean.

A rather different type of character than Piran, but a fascinating Enlightened character with well defined goals and a host of enemies, human and otherwise, to pit against him.

I hope you’ve found this exploration of character creation interesting! It may not be for everyone, but if you have players willing to experiment, there is a lot to enjoy in this method. If you do try it out, be sure to comment on this post and share your thoughts on the process!

For now, though, that is it for me. Thank you for reading!

//Kraetyz