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.

Geburah copy

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.

Geburah copy

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

When one added sentence during translation destroys the game.

When I was reading the first edition of KULT in English I stumbled over a sentence that baffled me. The sentence claimed that mankind are in fact angels that the Demiurge created and then threw down to earth.

What the Actual Fuck!

Angels or not

This goes against everything else that is said in the book. I looked up the Swedish original and there are no sign of those words in that same passage.

Angels or not 2

So somewhere, somehow a translator or editor added that sentence to the book. Why? Because it sounded cool? Well, that is just the thing you need to do to destroy the mythology of a game and confuse the players.

No wonder the different editions of KULT derailed more and more into confusion. Thank the Demiurge for the people at Helmgast that understood what KULT was.

Kult is Kinky

BDSM_collar_back

You know what. Kult is Kinky.

To have the passion for Kult is the same thing as to be enthralled by “kinky” sexual acts. BDSM, Ponyplay, Domination, Humiliation, Whips, Chains, Shibari, Sweaty Gangbangs,  Golden Showers, Knifeplay and Asphyxiation. When you devote yourself to this you feel alive and you feel arousal in a completely new way.

Those that only like vanilla can’t understand the thrill. “How can you like those things?”,  “It isn’t normal!”, “Why can’t you just have normal sex?”, “It isn’t safe!”.

Some vanilla people will be interested and pick up Kult and immediately realize that it is not for them. Others think they want it but realize that they were looking for that light spanking after all.

And all this is of course okay. You should feel free explore and do so carefully.

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Time for a “gaming session?” 

What is NOT okay is when people within the vanilla crowd (or those that only like one particular kink) will try to impose their sexuality and make Kult more agreeable to them. They wish it to become less rough and more soft. More like 50 shades of grey, just kinder and more gentle. Sort of mainstream kink that looks dangerous but is just a tease. Instead of whips and gags they suggest some lights spanking and perhaps a little feather to tickle with.

Because they can’t understand the nature of the desire and accept that others have the need they will try to shun it, shame it (kultshaming), or perhaps even ban it. “That is just sick!”, “People will get hurt!”, “You must be self destructive or have been abused as a child.”, “It is just an edgy act!”. 

They can’t understand that the sexuality is nothing that you choose it is something that calls to you from deep within. That desire and pull towards the dark. It is nothing you do to stand out and be “cool”. It is entangled in your very soul.

So just accept it: If you are a Kultist you are a Kinkster.

 

 

 

 

Sanity vs Stability

Sanity vs Stability

I was playing a Call of Cthulhu one shot scenario and I had this reflection about how different the idea is behind the Mental Health system in that game when you compare it to KULT: Divinity Lost.

In Call of Cthulhu Sanity is something that is slowly gnawed away by facing the unspeakable, slithering, slimy, tentacloid, horrors of the Lovecraftian mythology. It is like mental Hit Points. When you reach 0 you are out of the game. Permanently mad and it is time to make a new character. It is never good to have low Sanity. And when each step down leads to the characters END. Reach the end and you can’t play it anymore.

In KULT: Divinity Lost you have your Stability. When it decreases due to trauma you start to loose control over your Disadvantages and they have a bigger chance of triggering. But, when you reach a critical stress level you also start to see through the Illusion. If you reach the bottom and becomes broken horrible things happen. The Illusion may Crumble, You might become suicidal, You gain a new Disadvantage. But, there might also be a change in Archetype, Attributes are switched around and you might even get Experience. So reaching the bottom is seldom a positive thing but instead like in Cthulhu where it means Destruction in KULT: Divinity Lost it instead causes CHANGE.

I think this is quite significant and at the very core of KULT: Divinity Lost. Madness changes the character, it does not end it. It makes you an outcast in society, you will seem strange but at the same time you will have a deeper insight in things that are happening. It might even change your body, open gateways and call creatures into our reality.

To me, that is a far more interesting system for KULT. Than most horror systems where insanity is the end and it makes a character unplayable.

“What Limits does your Character have?”

Limits to the character

When it comes to Questions to ask the players during Character Creation I often add this one.

“What limits does your character have?”

Especially if a player makes a character that have violent streak. Some players have the urge to create characters that has few limits and weaknesses since these can put them in problematic situations and tough moral choices.

So I ask, “What limits does you character have?” Then specify it if I feel that it is needed: Violence? Sex? Drugs? Dignity? If it is hard for them to figure it out I ask more specific questions to home in on it.

“Have you ever hurt or killed someone?”

“What do you think about cheating?”

“What do you care about?”

“What would you do if…?”

“Would you ever…?”

Test this on your players when they create their characters to lure out some more depth and humanity.

Great KULT: Divinity Lost review by Refereeing and Reflection!

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The blog Refereeing and Reflection has written a really great and in depth review of KULT: Divinity Lost.

I clearly agree with the reviewer in almost all things except that he feels that Taroticum & Other Tales is a weak product. To me it is really strong and all quick play scenarios are interesting, inspiring and very different from each other. They serve as an inspiration and shows that there are completely new ways to play KULT compared from previous editions.

You can find the excellent review HERE.