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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