Instinct – A Kult short story

On the 17th of January, 2020, me and my wife Larissa Darrah sat down to make a character for Kult: Divinity Lost. We used the game’s own tarot deck to concoct Dusty Williams and what would become his story. As game master, I spent one week writing some preliminary ideas I had for running a short scenario featuring Dusty. The gameplay took place over two sessions of about three to four hours each. We both enjoyed ourselves a lot. That scenario is what Instinct is based on.

Writing stories from role playing games is very fun, and sometimes difficult. The improvisational nature of it and the open-ended, player-first approach I prefer does not always lend itself to clean and engaging stories outside the personal experience. However, I was especially pleased with the end result of Instinct, originally just called Dusty’s Story, and once we were done playing I knew that I wanted to write about it in detail. I hope that as you read it, you can have some of the same fun that me and my wife felt in the winter of 2020.

Thanks to Auburney, Caphriel, Gabe, and other people who help me make things happen.

Read Instinct here

Read Instinct with dice roll footnotes here

Instinct is a horror story.

Additional thanks once more to Gabe, who created the PDFs. They look so damn good.

Gabe’s Deep Dive: The Conversation

Good day, Kultists! This post has been written by Gabe, a prominent member (and admin) of the Kult – Elysium Discord server, which you should definitely join if you haven’t already. Gabe is something of a Powered by the Apocalypse coach, and has excellent ideas for how to make the most of Kult: Divinity Lost. This post explores the process of conversation between GM and players, and how the rules facilitate it. Enjoy the read!

Disclaimer: This post is oriented towards GMs, so everything told here is put in the perspective of someone running a game of KULT: Divinity Lost. Players can benefit from reading this post, yes, but if they didn’t read the GM section of the book, some things said here might edge the maybe-I-should-go-back-and-read-the-book territory. Just know that when I say “you”, I’m looking at you-the-GM and not you-the-Player. Another thing to mention here is I assume you know the basics of PbtA, e.g. you’ve read the book and an article or two about it, but can’t wrap your head around the concepts just yet.

Before exploring combat and Wounds, Stability and Basic/Archetypal Moves, we need to first pinpoint how Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA from now on) — the mechanics on which KULT: Divinity Lost (KDL) is based — works. I’m assuming here you have experience with other games such as Dungeons & Dragons, World of Darkness, OSR, and/or others. These are games that approach the narrative in a traditional and sometimes simulationist/gamist light. PbtA, however, uses player-facing rules and favors fiction.

WHAT IS FICTION FIRST?

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Yesod, The Greedy

What joy it is to possess. To seize and hold. Few other things bring humanity such basal enjoyment, nor bring us to conflict so easily. Even those who would rather not admit it grow seeds of Avarice in their mind, little kernels of desire for wealth and material gain to do with whatever they will. To some it is as simple as improving their own life or the lives of those around them. For others, it becomes a never-ending quest taking them to depths and highs scarce imagined by the commoners who do not hear as clearly Yesod’s whispers in the back of their minds. The world’s economy rests on the backs and bank accounts of those who heed the call of the Archon of Avarice, and through their greed they allow Yesod unmatched influence in shaping reality as we experience it. Yet Yesod is not the Archon he once was. Avarice gives form to humanity’s prison as never before, challenging and disrupting the other Archons, and the turning cogs driving our economic machinery grind away at the foundation of Elysium.

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Malkuth, the Rebel

The Illusion woven to imprison humanity is fraying at the seams. What once was a clockwork construction grinding down our divine wills is now halting, hacking and screeching. The combined forces of the Archons, those godlike primal beings made to maintain it all, are no longer enough to contain us. Humanity is waking up, one mad and confused soul at a time. We see for ourselves the horrors and wonders created for us or by us and reach out past all we know to grasp at something bigger. At the center of this is Malkuth, the Archon of Awakening. Once created to hold us captive, she has become a guiding light to the world beyond the veil. It was she who began the War of the Archons, a monumental clash of wills which still shapes the world we inhabit. But why? How could this have happened? In examining the role Malkuth had in forging our prison, we may be able to learn something about the human experience she now strives to give to us all.

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The Archonic Pillars

Hello Kultists! I would like to present you with an idea, a thought, that the alliances forged between Archons run deeper than mere pacts of consciousness. These beings depend on each other, exist only within each other, and operate together in a multitude of ways, their Principles feeding into each other and bolstering the whole. By viewing these godlike beings as they are, emanations of a primordial Principle by which humanity is fettered, we can learn something about the ways their servants and incarnations empower one another, perhaps sometimes without realizing it. Our prison is multifaceted, and this is only one understanding of it, but I hope you will find it interesting.

The Archons are visually represented by the tree of life as envisioned in qabala, an old but living occult tradition. This tree is laid out in a rather specific manner, and there are many ways to analyze the various paths and interactions between the sefirot which make up the tree. One of these manners of looking at the tree is by considering it as three pillars. The left, middle and right pillars represent different aspects which are shared by the sefirot in those parts of the tree, and describe how developments in one point of the tree might affect another. Without ascribing too much detail to what each pillar represents within qabala, let us apply the same idea to the Archons in Kult, which are laid out in just the same way. What do the pillars represent within the Kult mythos, and how can we understand the Archons’ subtle alliances through them?

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Running Session Zero

Starting a new Kult campaign is a big endeavor. Other than the constant struggle of finding players who will be right for the game and your style of playing, Kult offers a lot of challenges for GMs and players alike. In order to get everyone on the same page, it’s a good idea to have a Session Zero. Dedicating time to explaining the game to new players, going over do’s and don’t, as well as creating characters together will help make the actual first session of the campaign that much cleaner. That’s the hope, anyway! As I’m writing this, the first session of my new campaign is rapidly approaching. Before then, I would like to share how my Session Zero went down.

Pre-pre-planning
Session Zero is meant for pre-planning. As a GM, you don’t know much about what your players want yet, so there’s not that much campaign prep you can do. Even so, I wanted to plan for Session Zero to make sure we didn’t miss anything important before and during character creation. I have four players for this campaign, and two of them are completely new to Kult. I decided to section our session into four major topics: Basics of Kult, What is Horror?, Stories, and Character Creation. My goal was to step through these one by one, explain and discuss the topics with my players, and only look back at the previous sections when necessary. I’m not sure what this Session Zero would have looked like without this planning, but I am happy I did it.

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Crescents – A Journey

The Kult tarot deck’s minor arcana is divided into five suits: Skulls, Eyes, Roses, Hourglasses and Crescents. Each of these are connected to one of the five schools of magic recognized in Kult’s mythos, but more than that they illustrate important concepts within each of those five schools and give the magic a more practical and digestible form. Each suit, from the ace to the nine, reveal a spiritual or metaphorical journey that explains something about the Kult mythos and the essence of magic. The exact interpretation is, of course, personal, but I hope that by presenting the suit of Crescents I can stir your thoughts to interpret all five suits in a similar manner. This is not always a straightforward process and I am still contemplating the details of it myself. If you have any insights into these mysteries, feel free to share them in the comments below or anywhere else I can read them.

The Suit of Crescents

Also aptly known as The Moon, the Crescents is the suit of cards in Kult’s tarot associated with dream magic. The card’s symbol is that of two blue crescents, one filled and one empty. The image may bring many things to mind. The passing of time through the lunar cycle, nighttime when sleep is common and most humans access the dreamworld Limbo, emptiness and fullness, and reflection of the known. All this and more might be leveraged by the student of dream magic to attune themselves to their dreams and the source behind them. By mastering techniques for lucid dreaming, dream wandering and manifestation, the dream magician might construct complex worlds of their own making and completely dominate the internal processes of another being. Limbo is a realm of pure creation, and through the consideration of the Suit of Crescents some knowledge might be gained of how to wield the power offered by that place.

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Review of The Summit – By Chrystal

Hello, Kultists! This blog post is written by Chrystal, a prominent and highly valued member of the Kult community whom you may recognize. The Summit is a controversial scenario, and in her review Chrystal tries to shed some light on mistakes made, ideas worth praising and what could have been. I hope you enjoy! //Kraetyz

After reading the summit my conclusion is there is a good scenario in there, somewhere. The following review is based on myself and Auburney’s conversation about the topic. As we have consensus of the scenario, I have included with permission some of his comments as if my own. 

I will break this down into sections: 

  1. An overview and what is worthy in the scenario: the Summit
  2. What is wrong with it from an agency and PbtA view. 
  3. Exploring mature themes and my feelings about them as it relates to the Summit. 
  4. Converting what is worthy in the Summit into a scenario that is more accessible to Kult: Divinity Lost.
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Session 14 – Sol

This is a session recap for my current Kult: Divinity Lost roleplaying campaign. Jessy Button is played by my wife, who also does the art, and I am the game master.

This post contains elder abuse.

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The pendulum of the old clock punctuates Jessy’s every step, the ticktocking of its exact machinery guiding the pace of all things in this place. She is guided down a hallway of closed doors, no names, titles or signs of life other than her and the withered receptionist. At the end, a heavy wooden door states with a gold plate: SOL. The door is opened for Jessy by the receptionist’s starved remains, and she is quick to step inside and confront whoever has orchestrated all of this. The man waiting in the room, tall and broad in a checked suit of brown, greets Jessy with a heavy handshake. He has a sturdy figure and small beady eyes. At the far end of the sizable office stands a desk of dark wood, a massive piece of furniture that looks completely immovable. Behind it, just above the exquisite leather chair, hangs a map of Toronto and all its boroughs. Every road, alleyway and tiny walking path is a thin line on the map, lines which continue past the black, narrow frame and out onto the wallpaper. The entirety of the room’s walls swarm with a myriad of lines, an endless city surrounding Canada’s finest metropolis.

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Session 13 – Sinking Deeper

This is a session recap for my current Kult: Divinity Lost roleplaying campaign. Jessy Button is played by my wife, who also does the art, and I am the game master.

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Despite her headache and definitely not wanting to go, Jessy does head out in the morning for her first doctor’s visit since her ‘accident’. The hospital’s bright lights and long wait times already have her in a bad mood by the time her doctor, Edward, enters the examination room. Jessy’s new bandages and wounds, sores made from a thousand needles burrowed into her skin, force Edward to ask many worried and intrusive questions until Jessy guilts him to stop. She had sex. It was consensual. Deal with it. While examining and redressing her shoulder wound, nearly healed, the doctor asks Jessy about her head injury. Has she experienced migraines, mood shifts, noises, flashes of light, anything else strange? While Jessy tries to explain to Edward that she’s been hearing and seeing her grandmother, he at first appears to ignore her response entirely and later dismisses it as dizzy spells. Jessy gets the sense that what she tried to tell him and the words that actually came out of her mouth didn’t match up. She told him something different.

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