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.
I want to play as a Famaria!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
In chapter 5 of the core rules of KULT: Divinity Lost we learn about the Horror Contract. And in this excellent (and quite unique) guide in how to portray Horror we get the following advice: Dare to be Unpleasant. Take things in different directions and further than the RPG norm when it comes to horror.
So how do you do that?
How are you Unpleasant in an interesting way?
I find that the loss of control is a very efficient way of creating tense and memorable situations. There is an example in the core rules when a Lictor uses its commanding voice on a Player Character and makes him/her lift up an infant child. And the description of how warm and soft the skin is, how it chuckles and laugh is in stark contrast to the fact that it is carried towards the oven.
Just reading that gave me chills. The good kind. What would you not promise, what would you not swear to do to let the Lictor let go of its mental grasp.
But I think there is a key learning in this. Making the players observe disturbing things is one thing. Making their characters partake in it. That takes it to a whole new level.
Why let a player watch a cannibal act if you can force the player to eat the raw, steaming meat!
So dare to involve the players. And make them partake in the gritty scenes!
Red Moon Roleplaying has again created something really nice. The first session of the mini campaign Island of the Dead. The adventure is written by Robin Liljenberg who is also the Gamemaster in this scenario. The scenario is from the book “Taroticum and Other Tales”. You can get your own copy of that book, The Black Madonna, the Core Rules and many more in Helmgast’s shop right here: https://webshop.helmgast.se/en/kult/
I have written a review of the scenario here: https://kultrpg428229752.wordpress.com/2018/09/28/the-island-of-the-dead-scenario-review/