Make me a Child of the Underworld

 

The Underworld

The chapter about The Underworld in the core rules of KULT: Divinity Lost is just so painfully good. It is written in a way that you feel the emptiness, the echoes, the whispers in the labyrinth. And for some reason I can’t really get it out of my mind.

I think the prospect of portraying one of the Children of the Underworld is an interesting one. Sure, it will be hard to portray something alien and strange. But they have such a fascinating story and I think they could become very distinct archetypes.

So, if I would have a request of an official supplement it would be a book, or a stand alone game, where you play a Child of the Underworld.

Famaria

I want to play as a Famaria! 

 

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.

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.

The Archetypes & The Movies

When you look at the archetypes in KULT: Divinity Lost. What characters come to mind? What images from movies and TV first pop up into your brain? Well here are the characters that me and my players first thought about.

The AgentThe ArtistThe AvengerThe BrokenThe CareeristThe CriminalThe CursedThe DeciverThe DescendantThe DetectiveThe DollThe DrifterThe FixerThe OccultistThe ProphetThe RoninThe ScientistThe SeekerThe Veteran

Does it seem sensible? Does some of them feel completely wrong in their category?

When your players have trouble deciding what archetype to play you can show them this list and hopefully it might inspire them.

Also, thanks to Jenny for the hours spent in Photoshop.

When the Nepharites are not Cenobites anymore?

Or… KULT, in a post Clive Barker world.

There is no secret that KULT has drawn a lot of inspiration from Clive Barkers creations. And in KULT: Divinity Lost it is still there. The idea that a puzzle box can open a gateway to another world, that there are something secret and hidden among us, and that demons don’t have horns and pokers.

But. Old Kult relied heavily on old “Clive Barkerism.” In the center of this were the Cenobites (in Kult they are called nepharites, hardly a coincidence). Demons that were tortured creatures that brought pain to others. They were all disfigured. Their leather clothes sewn into flesh, spikes in their heads, lips cut away. It was an aesthetic that in many ways defined the first wave of Clive Barker Horror that was introduced with the movie Hellraiser.

It was also a style that quickly aged. Just like a black coat and sunglasses made the characters in the Matrix movies seem awesome at the time, but now they feel cheesy.

clivepinhead

Clive Barker with his prime creation. The Hell Priest. 

Anyway, old KULT threw itself head over heals into the Clive Barker style of things. Every monster felt like it had escaped from a BDSM-club and they became weirder and weirder. They were all about steel, glass, machinery, flesh and torture and everything had some sort of chainsaw appendix. These creatures, the Nepharites and the Razides were the central creatures for the KULT universe (sharing the most iconic creature spot with the lictors) and what most people associated with KULT.

So when I got the PDF:s of new KULT it was refreshing to read how they had updated the monsters. They are not just Cenobites anymore. They have evolved into something different. Even creatures that were portrayed in republished material from the 90s have been tweaked for the new releases. And thank the Demiurge for that because it would just not work today.

For example. In the classic campaign The Black Madonna the players will encounter three Nepharites central to the story. In the swedish 1991 version of the scenario they were depicted as characters that were tortured, wore tight leather, had sunglasses, automatic weapons, high heels, tight dresses etcetera. In the book they were depicted like this:

nepharites bm 1991The three nepharites from the 1991 version of the Black Madonna

In the new version. They have been rewritten (and re-illustrated) when it comes to their appearance. They have gotten a more religious aura and are in many ways more noble and tragic. Their bodies are still broken but in different ways. Instead of having a jaw of plastic the nepharite now lack jaw all together. The hair is long with hooks in the end. There is just something much more menacing about them.

nepharites madonna2018The three nepharites from the 2018 version of the Black Madonna

This was just one of the many good choices when it came to updating the game. To shed the aged Hellrasier aesthetic, increase the religious mystique, dividing the Nepharites into clergies connecting them to the different Death Angels and giving them a new depth.

As a side note, when you look back at Clive Barkers creation and the Hellraiser Movie you realize that these also need to change. That the looks and appearances of those demons are dated. They have become the red skinned, horned, devils of our age. So lets hope the Hellraiser Franchise dare to reinvent its demons just the way KULT: Divinity Lost did.