Prepping the Disadvantages


When I am GM:ing KULT: Divinity Lost things tend to move on in a quite nice pace.  The characters have their Disadvantages, the Antagonists have their plans and NPCs act on things that happen. And of course, since I know the most of the plot I can also predict things that the Player Characters might do or at least locations that they most likely will visit.

Now, to get most out of it I do something that is often frowned upon in the PbtA community. I Plan and Prepare specific scenes. The thing is that I am not that great at improvising all the time, I find that I can craft scenes that really puts the players on the spot and that they remember but then I need to put some time building that scene in my mind. This is extra helpful with the Disadvantages. For example. A character that has the Disadvantage Haunted. Well I can plan a really nasty scene in quite the detail with sights, sounds, smells and then save it in my back pocket until I want to activate that hold. Sure, I can do it in the spur of the moment during play. But if I have time to plan it I can create a more difficult dilemma and a more powerful and memorable situation.

Also, in some morbid way I like to have these scenes in my mind between the sessions and sort of reiterate them again and again. Coming up with the worst possible way of doing it. Or the way that is most fitting for the campaign.

So this is my advice.

Look at the player characters and the Disadvantages they have chosen. These will come into play. Now, sit down, and start to write down different scenarios how they could play out. Just a sentence or two. Do this for each Disadvantage.

Then, pick the ones that seems most interesting and start working on them. What scenes do you want too paint for the players. What is the sensation, the smell, the setting, the situation. What fits the theme of the campaign and what has happened so far in the scenario.

See to it so that you at least have one scene for each disadvantage. Save them. These are your bombs. And you will find that they can carry quite a more powerful punch if you spend some time on them.

2 thoughts on “Prepping the Disadvantages

  1. “I do something that is often frowned upon in the PbtA community. I Plan and Prepare specific scenes.”

    I believe this is not so unconventional as you might think. Even in the original AW, where “Play To Find Out” is a big and important cornerstone of the entire concept, Vincent encourages the GM to “brainstorm scene ideas, daydream apocalyptic imagery, sketch out possible hard choices that might arise for the PCs…” (quoted purely and probably awfully badly from memory, don’t have my copy handy atm).
    Of course, he then emphazises to “never plan the OUTCOME (of such scenes)!”

    Now, PTFO is tuned way down in Kult, obviously. It’s no longer such a central thing (It’s not listed under the GM’s Agendas, for example). But, as I’ve been known to argue, you can’t really get PTFO out of PbtA entirely.

    For one thing, many of the other elements of AW that are closely aligned to the PTFO philosophy are still there in Kult:
    “Ask Questions and Build on the Answers” [p.147] (“When an answer has been provided, the GM should follow up on it. […] incorporate the answer into the story later on.”)
    “Be a Fan of the Player Characters” [ibid.] (“… the GM offers opportunities… let their choices matter… what player enjoys playing a story where their actions don’t matter?”)
    “Put Someone in a Bad Spot” [p.150] (“The GM sets up a difficult situation or a hard choice […] and then observes the result.”)
    “Give the Possible Consequences and Ask” [p.152] (“…giving the player an opportunity to change their mind…”)
    “Offer an Opportunity, With or Without a Price” [ibid.] (“…provides the PC a choice of whether to accept it or not.”)
    “Use Disadvantages / Hold” [p. 153] (“…framing a scene in which a PC’s Disadvantage is activated…”

    In addition to that (and with regard especially to the last point above, Activating Disads), I feel that the very structure of a typical Move in the game is by necessity afflicted with a certain mandatory amount of PTFO – both a full success and a fail result can, on the majority of basic moves for example, easily run a very high risk of completely derailing an all-too-meticulously prepared “plot” or “railroad” (as many new-to-PbtA GMs have had to find out the hard way, myself by no means excluded 😉 )
    This can be translated as the game telling you: “don’t roll if you’re not willing to run with any possible result, yo!”
    Which in turn means that, if you don’t want to cut any and all rolling from your game sessions entirely, you’ll have to PTFO at least to a certain degree, right?

    And finally, the sections on “Bombs” [p.174] and “Throw in more Bombs” [p.177] describe pretty much exactly what (it sounds like) you’re doing. I think – as long as you’re not preparing OUTCOMES (which would make Vincent a very sad bunny, it is known) – you’re getting it totally right! 🙂

    (I too suck at completely improvised scenes, btw. I’ve had to learn running my PbtA games (and I’ve been running almost nothing else in the past 6 or 7 years) less with a “plot” in mind, and more with seeing the game “unfold within a certain possibility space”. It’s been a very rewarding experience, although far from easy in the beginning.)


    1. I guess you may very well be right. But I have found that certain PBTA-players are adamant that you should never prepare. So there has been some heated discussions online.

      But, I agree that you should NEVER plan for the outcome. That is just to railroad it and I hate that.

      Thank you for sharing your insight!


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