Suburban Nightmare Campaign

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We have now finished the Suburban Nightmare Campaign. A story inspired by the classic horror movie A Nightmare on Elm Street. The idea basically came from a discussion late one night about how one would take that concept and make it really dark.

A big thanks to my players for daring to go so far. All the emotions and the immersion. It was a slow campaign with 6 sessions with a lot of normal life when the facade cracked.

I will write down my notes to a scenario and publish it when I get the time.

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Helping a Depressed Soul

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This will be one of those personal posts. So if you are only looking for KULT: Divinity Lost material you can skip it. But I just felt like writing some of these things down. Perhaps it can help someone or there are people out there that can relate.

I have been dealing with depression in periods throughout my life. Luckily I have had the support from caring people that have stood by me through thick and thin. But I also know that it can be very tough to support a person that are suffering from depression. So I have decided to write down the things that work for me. This might be completely different for another soul.

So, here is my list on how you support me when I am in one of my periods of depression.

Stay in Touch: I might seem uninterested in everything. I might be reluctant and feel that I don’t have the energy. I might not call you back, text you or anything like that. But if you want to help me. Stay in touch. Send me messages, ask me how things are, send stupid memes. Anything. Stop by my place and ask for a cup of coffee. This brings light to my day. I don’t feel forgotten. Which leads to:

Make me feel Appreciated: Okay, that sounds materialistic and selfish. But for me it works. See, when I am in my darkest states of mind I feel 100% worthless. My mind is my own enemy. It twists everything that I does to the worst possible outcome. There is nothing I can do that is right, there is nothing that I have done that are good enough. But to be forced to hear that you like me, that you enjoyed something I did. That really helps. When I feel appreciated I feel that I have a worth. When I feel all down in my darkest place and someone starts to play about an RPG we played and how fun it was, well I am filled with energy. Sure, I might still feel 99% worthless. But that 1% of feeling that I brought joy into another persons life it means so much!

Don’t Judge: I know it is frustrating. I understand it sucks when I am like that. But understand that Depression is a disease. It can take a long time for me. In fact it may take a very, very long time. But if you are starting to judge me, give subtle hints that “i have been depressed long enough” or that it is time to “get back on my feet”. That has the opposite reaction. you will just force deeper down. If it is that frustrating please, it is better if you stay away.

Don’t be Overly Optimistic: Listen, I really like it that you care. And that you talk to me and support me. But there are some things that just don’t work. One of them are being overly positive. You know, the kind of fake happiness you only see in commercials. Or those dreadful self help books that tells you to look for a silver lining in everything. Or motivational posters. I HATE motivational posters. First of all. Overly Optimistic people tend to treat the ones around them like children. Secondly, to me it just feels false.

Take Walks With Me: I like walks. Even if I don’t want to go for a walk I will probably like it when I am out walking with you.  Try to get me to take a walk with you. Lets go and get a cup of coffee. Just by being forced outside and into the world makes it feel better. It is good to move your body as well.

Ask Me To Do Something for You: I like to feel needed. And if you ask me to do something for you. Something that is not to demanding but something that I still am able to do. Do so. It can be read the suggestions for a role playing character, make a playlist, edit one of your photos, draw a map, explain something. I guess this ties into the “being appreciated” but I like to reward you for being my friend. And I want to make you happy.

These are just my own thoughts about this. For me.

But as a person suffering from depression it is really helpful knowing what helps and what doesn’t help. And that my close ones knows it as well.

The Laraine Estate (Scenario Review)

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The Laraine Estate is written by Sarah Richardson. It’s a haunted house tale with a wet and sticky erotic vibe to it that can be found in Taroticum and Other Tales. Set on the countryside of southern US it is centered around an old mansion that is rumored to be haunted. Since the building is abandoned fans of the supernatural, explorers and teens that seeks thrills have sought it out. One of them, “Popper Polly”, a quite famous Youtube star has gone missing and the final upload was a strange video that is said to be from the estate.

The premade characters all have a connection to people that have disappeared in the mansion or to the mansion itself but it is easy to make own characters and tie them to the story. In fact, this scenario would work very well as a classical scenario of ‘a group investigators on a mission’.

The investigation begins with the mansion and there are some strange things that happens in the building and then an entrance is found to the subterranean levels where things turn… strange. And dark.

I don’t want to spoil what is down there but it is different and quite provocative.

This scenario is well worth playing. There are some cool descriptions and interesting scenes where the player characters really are challenge in how they should act. Still, I think that the mansion itself could have been described in a bit more detail right now it feels rushed over. For an investigation scenario there aren’t that many things to investigate. I think that the premade characters could have been tied tighter to the story now they have a clear role in it but it is not as strong as I feel it could have been. Also, I would have loved to have some more artworks in the layout. We get the chapter heading and some maps and I think the art for this could have made it more interesting to read.

What is especially intriguing is the backstory. This is what makes the scenario to stand out and be KULT and not just any kind of horror setting. I love that Sarah Richardson used an Angel of Tiphareth as the main antagonist and that the angel isn’t evil. Just broken and desperate and tries to do good. It gives me a lot of ideas how I can use them in my own KULT: Divinity Lost campaigns.

There is a nice mix of old and new. The old haunted mansion is mixed with Youtube celebrities. And I really like that it does not shy away from sexual themes and dares to be intense and “full frontal”. Perfect for a singe game session.

Interview with Jason Fryer

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The Atrocity Exhibition, a chilling quick play scenario, featured in Taroticum and Other Tales impressed me so much with its macabre story and nightmarish themes that I reached out to the writer Jason Fryer and asked if he would let himself be interviewed. Luckily he said yes. So here are my questions and his thoughts. 

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What would you answer to the rather basic and strange question: “So who are you?”

I’ve a freelance writer for over twenty year, and been playing and designing RPGs as far back as 1979—after discovering D&D. At a far-too-early age, I’ve loved horror and dark fantasy—books, magazines, movies, games, anime, etc. Clive Barker’s Books of Blood were an all-time favorite of mine, so when I discovered the original Kult RPG, I was pretty much destined to be hooked. I never actually thought I’d contribute to the Kult mythos, however.

In addition to my mundane job, I’ve been writing and designing for Pelgrane Press, Third Eye Games, and Wyrd Miniatures, well as editing/writing for Kult: Divinity Lost. Currently, I’m writing the PIP System conversion of the H.P. Lovecraft Preparatory Academy RPG—think cosmic horror for kids.

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You wrote the book Purgatory in the 90s. How did that come about?

Pure chance, honestly. I’d been running Kult for friends in Canada, and decided to send a writing sample to Target Games AB—mostly as a personal dare. Much to my surprise, the editor responded pretty quickly and praised the submission. Although the concept didn’t fit their vision, we stayed in touch and eventually I was offered Purgatory. It was like a dream (nightmare) come true.

Ironically, they told me to tone down Purgatory—whereas my original submission had been ‘too soft.’ There were darker elements left on the cutting room floor, but I was happy with the end result. From there, I wrote part of Kult: Second Edition and an unpublished supplement on Limbo. Fortunately, I stumbled across Kult: Divinity Lost and decided to contact the new staff, which soon led to The Atrocity Exhibition.

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What was your main inspiration for the Atrocity Exhibition?

In many ways, The Atrocity Exhibition is my love letter to Clive Barker’s Hellbound Heart and Hiroyuki Owaku’s Silent Hill. I’d jotted down original story seed years ago, but things truly fell into place after I discovered how Togarini—the Death Angel—was being developed for Kult: Divinity Lost. I researched Death in Renaissance art, drew from its various themes, and then wove them into the scenario. For me, purgatory has always been about imagery and symbolism, so setting everything inside an art gallery seemed the perfect choice. Everything else expanded from there, including the underlying stories between the various non-player characters. I really enjoyed the narrative freedom allowed by the new game-system, in this regard.

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Are you working on new material for KULT: Divinity Lost?

We’re currently discussing future concepts to expand the Kult ‘universe,’ including some non-traditional locales. Unfortunately, I can’t get into them in detail just yet.

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Which Archon or Death Angel is closest to you?

That’s a tough one. But, if I’m honest, I’d say I’m deeply connected to the Archon Tipareth. Art, literature, and music have always fascinated me—particularly, the profound influence they hold over our minds and cultures, overall. In my mind, our entire perception of reality (the Illusion) is heavily defined by the various forms of media—especially now with the Internet. Plus, as a writer, I’m not about to bite the hand that feeds me, as it were (LOL).

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If you would recommend a movie that feels like good KULT inspiration?

Heh, I need to see more movies, frankly. But, each and every year, I watch Session 9 for inspiration. While a slow burn, few other movies have succeeded as well at instilling profound dread. Its huge, yet still claustrophobic, setting is a character onto itself—and the stuff of nightmares.

The first Silent Hill movie, for all its faults, has some amazing aesthetics to draw from, as well. Of course, the early Silent Hill games are fertile ground for inspiration—Silent Hill 2 is a must for any aspiring Kult gamemaster.

While not great, Marebito (by director of The Grudge) offers up some nice imagery of the Underworld and the fragmenting Illusion. The infinitely better The Wailing is a glorious tale of suspicion, demonic forces, and mystery—perfect for weaving deep narratives.

Finally, I’d also suggest The Autopsy of Jane Doe. It seamlessly reveals how the simplest premise—a mysterious dead girl—can transform into inescapable horror.

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Thank you for then interview! And I am really excited to learn about what you are cooking up in the future for the KULT universe! You can find my review of the Atrocity Exhibition here: The Atrocity Exhibition

Prisoners of the Illusion

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While digging into the history of KULT: Divinity Lost I have found something very interesting. An old development blog called Illusionens Fångar (Prisoners of the Illusion). This blog was started in 2012 and lived on until 2015 and was created and written by Robin Liljenberg, the rule designer and writer of Book I, II of KULT: Divinity Lost.

This blog was written when KULT was just a hack/mod to Apocalypse World. It was abandoned when KULT: Divinity Lost was announced. The blog is in swedish and can be found here: Illusionens Fångar

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What do you find out by reading it?

So, if you don’t know Swedish. Don’t care to google translate or just want a quick summary I will give you my main takeaways of what you will find on the blog.

 

Long time in development

If the blog started in 2012 as a fan project it means that the creation that became KULT: Divinity Lost has been in production for at least 7 years.

Lost Downloadable Material

There are several Dropbox links that are dead. These are said to lead to early playbooks (the archetypes) and magic. If you have them! Tell me I would love to read them.

A slow move away from Apocalypse World

When following the blog you can see how a game that is very similar to Apocalypse World is turned into it’s own thing through play tests and a long development cycle. In the beginning the rules had a classic Apocalypse World rule-set with things like:

  • You roll 2D6 instead of 2D10.
  • Each Archetype has a Sex Move.
  • The Attributes are only 5 and the same as in Apocalypse World.
  • The move seize by force was still there.
  • Hx was a thing but renamed History.

Some things looks like they have been there from the start, such as the Dark Secrets, Advantages and Disadvantages.

Completely Different Art Style

Yes, the hack had art! The Art Style was different (and really cool) and made by Petter Nallo. He is the Creative Director of KULT: Divinity Lost and also the writer of Book III – the Truth. The nice things is that you can see how several of these artworks still exist in the game now and have been used as inspiration for the artists. Below are art I found on the blog (click them, they have quite a lot of detail):

The swedish text on the posters are all parts of the machinery that upholds the illusion, and I really love that you can see the sephiroth in the background. Wish they kept the brick wall with posters and notes as a concept for KULT: Divinity Lost. It explains so much of the illusion in one image. 

The game was test played a lot

Robin mentions on several occasions on the blog how he has test played the game and after that iterated on it. How new archetypes have been developed, rules have changed and it has been experiments with shorter and longer scenarios and bigger and smaller groups. You can find early Endure Injury rules, a completely different stability system. It is a fascinating read and I compare it with the rules in the core book.

Layout that was similar to the style of KULT 2nd Edition (swedish)

The hack was made to look like a real publication. It does not look anything like KULT: Divinity Lost but more like the second edition of KULT that was released in Sweden. Still, it is nice to see how the game could have looked. Here are some examples from the site:

It was a collaborative process

The material that was written was shared with everyone that wished to download it and it was feedback from other groups that tried the game and gave their feedback. Everything feel like this was a truly ambitious hack that was meant to be shared for free with everyone that wished to play it. Since it was only made in Swedish I guess that there were no plans of an official release. But somewhere along the process I guess that Robin Liljenberg decided to make a real game out of it or that they got an offer of those that owned the license.

Nahemoth – The Shadow of Malkuth

This is an insight after a discussion online and I tried to formulate my thoughts here. This dives quite deep into a very specific part of the KULT-mythology. 

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The Archons principles creates Shadows. These are the  the Death Angels principles.

It is the natural outcome when you establish a divine commandment that the commandment itself will cause a counter reaction. For example, Kethers principle of Hierarchy dictates that one should rule over many. When that principle is in existence it casts a shadow and that shadow is Power. Now when you can have different positions of privilege in society you create the hunger for power to reach these positions. Power is the principle of Thaumiel. Thus the Archons and Death Angels exists in pairs.

But then we come to Malkuth and her shadow Nahemoth. And here there are a discrepancy. Malkuth is the principle of Awakening (and rebellion to some extent). She is trying to tear down the illusion. And Nahemoth is Discord. The chaos and disasters in the world around us. Storms, large fires, chemical spills and so on. Why is that? That does not seem to have anything to do with Malkuth.

We need to go back to understand Malkuths original principle. The one of Conformity and her role in creating Elysium (the world we live in). She was the repetitive cycles that we took for granted and that lulled us to sleep. She was the night and day. The seasons. The tide. She was the natural order in the natural world. In Hebrew mysticism Malkuth means Kingdom. It is associated with the realm of matter/earth and relates to the physical world. Some occultists have also likened Malkuth to a cosmic filter, as it lies above the world of the Qliphoth, or the Tree of Death (the power of the Death Angels).

So even though Malkuth has changed principle Nahemoth is still the shadow of the old Malkuth. She is the Discord in the Conformity. The storms that ravages the oceans, the earthquakes that breaks our calm lives apart. She is the unknown outside of the conformity. She is the cracks in Malkuths creation. Now that mankind has started to tear Elysium apart in their own natural catastrophes (global warming, nuclear leaks, toxic spills) these are things where Nahemoth can become powerful. In Hebrew mythology she is associated with great disturbances in nature, the nighttime hours, witches and the name is derived from the demon Naamah, the sister of Lilith.

Interview with the KULT team well worth a read!

Found this interesting interview with the core team of KULT: Divinity Lost. It is well worth giving it a read. I especially enjoy Robin Liljenberg who lists a number of scenarios they have written and played. Just to give one example:

– A group of heavily armed elite mercenaries, venturing down through Metropolis, and getting stuck in a Citadel in Inferno – with no ammo, and no way out.

Link to the Interview

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