I find KULT: Divinity Lost to be the purest and most well written version of KULT. No disrespect to the first edition but it was a child of its time. It had strong concepts and interesting ideas but the pieces did not fit together.
But that was nothing compared to the tragedies that were to follow. Because after the first edition KULT started to spiral out of control. It lost it’s way from that dark, edge, that it balanced on and sort of ended up in a confused and watered out limbo.
To make horror disturbing the chose to throw in gore, gore and more gore.
The magic of the game was gone.
The first steps towards this decline can be seen in the second edition. And in a book about the Swedish company ÄVENTYRSSPEL, who published KULT there is a clue. Here is a letter preserved from the time when the editor of the second edition of KULT was given a set of rules to follow when he made the edits.
It is a picture of it below. It is in Swedish but I will do a translation below.
Problems to look for in the existing text
1. All references to God and Jesus shall be removed.
2. The text should be rewritten so that all goofy stuff disappears, we will discuss what is goofy and what is mystique.
3. All intro stories should be rewritten so that they include our heroes.
4. Less of a fixation regarding terrible events that have affected peoples childhood.
5. Remove most of the rules that are connected to sexuality. It is a big difference to include a sense of sensuality in the setting and to write about masturbation and anal sex.
6. In a clear way present the hierarchy in Kult, Archons on one side, Death Angels on the other. These two powers wants to on the one side oppress us and on the other side destroy us. The motto of the game must be that we live in an illusion but that it is an illusion that must be preserved because it makes life worth living. Humanity is the good side, the only power in the universe of Kult that is capable of sympathy and love. Since it is a faction that is in the middle of this great power struggle it is also capable to the most evil and cruel acts. Our light side is a reflection of the original thoughts of the Archons and our dark side is a reflection of the Death Angels.
7. Establish Metropolis, Inferno, Time and Dream as understandable platforms to play in. And add references and guidelines how you can create rifts through reality to these various platforms and how they can relate to each other.
8. Remove magic completely. In Kult there should only be rules for how monsters, demons and powerful NPCs handles magic.
9. Expand the monster gallery, have finished enemies that you can fight. We need more demonic creatures with the same charisma as the Nepharites. All of them should be described with text and artworks.
10. Set the mood. Kult is not a game that gives you rules to recreate adventures from famous books of all horror categories. Kult, who might even change name, has its own world, its own monsters and demons (based on modern horror). We must create a standard of how you play and what it is about.
11. In my brain the setting is clear. Cool heroes that, one way or another, are thrown into a dark world. An ancient hierarchy that are collapsing.
That was a harsh list to get as an editor. I feel sorry for the person that was forced to do all those changes. But it was clear that the bosses at ÄVENTYRSSPEL had freaked out from all the criticism and the moral panic. I guess being banned by the pope did not help.
But the thing that makes KULT work is its edge. And here they removed it.
And what are all the plans about Heroes? Well, there was this idea to create a big brand of KULT. Make it into an Intellectual Property for Computer Games, Books and Movies. And to have a chance to do this they felt that they did have to make it more friendly to the moralists of the USA and Sweden.
Well… in a way they succeed. People stopped worrying about KULT and it actually was a comic created in the setting. But that is another story. A dark… dark… and horrible story.