This weekend I played La Cena, a scenario for KULT: Divinity Lost written by Jacqueline Bryk. It is part of Taroticum and Other Tales.
First of all I have to say that this is a different scenario to play. It is not the “standard” KULT story and it is something you will have to wrap your head around. Because, basically this is a scenario that is all about dialogue and acting than any other scenario I’ve played. I would say that it borders on being a LARP. The main scene is a dinner where we see how a family completely breaks down. And when we played it was glorious.
But, first. Let me tell you what it is about: Set in a steaming hot Miami in 1967 a family gets the unexpected news that the oldest son, Eduardo, is joining them from Cuba. The family had a great trauma when they fled from Cuba but Eduardo chose to stay and fight in the revolution. So there is a lot of broken relations there. And that is not the only thing that is messed up in the Cruz family. There is so many secrets, so much hidden pain, so much resentment there bubbling under the surface. And Eduardo will burst that bubble.
Now, Eduardo is not the one you think he is. The real Eduardo is dead. The “Thing” that wears his shape is a creature born out of dreams. He returns to his family pretending to be Eduardo.
The scenario is tight. Just a few scenes: The picking up of Eduardo at the airport. The arrival to the home of the Cruz family. And the Dinner which is the central scene. And here are some more things that I am not that used to see in RPGs:
Each scene has a suggestion of music that should be played in the background to set the tone.
Eduardo is a NPC. But there are 7 player characters in the scenario. Seven characters are far more than I would recommend in a KULT: Divinity Lost scenario. And since they are all tied to the family and the dinner you can’t really leave them out. So then they becomes NPC’s.
The Dinner is the central scene and it has seven courses. Each tied to a deadly sin. Now the courses are important to the story. They move the dinner along and each character as well as Eduardo has a description of a thing that the character is recommended to do in that segment of the scene. It is not like the characters are given lines, but they are getting suggestions how to act against each other.
And this works really well. In fact, it is what keeps the scenario together and creates the drama. All the players agreed that it was extremely helpful. It was not like they were scripted, they were just pushed in different directions.
The session I had was with 6 players and myself. I let one of the twins be an NPC. Two players were completely new to KULT: Divintity Lost. I had set a table just like a dining table and to make conversations easier I had dinner placements with the characters names. These could be folded up like a name sign so that they were easy to read. I had made playlists with the suggested music as well as a playlist with some dark ambient music. I did not have a full dinner but I had some snacks that the players could eat at different times. I also allowed all the players to have their character sheets in front of them so they could read their cues. I also had a little bell that I rang when a new course was carried in.
It became a really good session. There was almost no rolls. Only drama, family trauma and an intense and feeling of unease as Eduardo grew in power. But during that dinner the family somehow came together. And that weakened the creature. After the last course. I stood up as Eduardo. Threw my napkin on the plate. Said to Rafael, the father, “Your son is dead” and then described how he just faded away. The family sat there in silence.
It was all very powerful. Strong emotions and some bleed.
The scenario demands its players. If the players don’t act it all fall apart. And I would say that you want to have as many of the roles filled as possible. I think it could work well on a convention if you can get the privacy. The whole style feels just very unique when it comes to setting (the 60s is not really what you think about when you think about KULT), subject matter, story techniques and act structure. I also really liked the themes in this scenario: Family Strife, Claustrophobia and Assimilation as well as the guides how to use them. That and the tips for the Gamemaster made my job easier.
The scenario could have had a bit more love when it comes to art. It has a chapter heading which is really nice. But that is it. At least one of the small images within a frame would have been appreciated.
I highly recommend the scenario. It can be played very subtle when it comes to the supernatural. And it was just nice with a story that did not involve nepharites or lictors. This was a broken family living in a lie and having to face the truth. All us playing it had a really good time and we got to touch upon really dark themes. Dice rolls weren’t really needed at all.
So if you make the space and time for it. You get several players that likes roleplaying La Cena will be an experience that stays with you for a long, long time!