In this post, I would like to present an idea I have experimented with: to use the tarot deck for character creation. I thought of this one evening, and suggested to my wife that we try it out. We sat down with the deck, lit some candles, and I performed a reading using the “Individual” template in the rules.
Before we began, my wife selected an archetype she wanted to play: The Broken. After this, I laid out the cards as usual. The cards were turned over one by one, and I explained the card’s meanings to her using examples and wide concepts, mostly taken from the document. Together, we discussed what each card might mean for the character.
The result was incredible. I strongly suggest trying this out with your own players, provided you know they are comfortable with it. Once the reading is complete, you as the GM can build the character rules-wise, or you could proceed with character creation as normal. This method provides a character concept that, thanks to the Kult tarot deck being so well made, is certain to fit in with the game’s mechanics.
Here’s how the reading went.
Archetype: The Broken
Core Characteristic – Four of Skulls (Spirit)
I explain to my wife that the Four of Skulls represents Spirit. It represents the eternal soul of humanity, your innermost essence and true sense. Those in the know will know that there is more to the Four of Skulls, but I left it at this. The rest of the card’s meaning could become evident through play.
After some thinking, this suggestion comes up: the character is perfectly in tune with themselves. They understand all their innermost desires, and doesn’t lie to themselves. They have a strong relationship to their own mind and soul.
How the Past shaped them – Five of Roses (Predator)
The Five of Roses represents the predator, the hunter, preying on the weak. A fun card, no doubt, and my wife quickly comes to an understanding – her character has killed for pleasure. They likes doing it. We decide that they’ve murdered five people, as that’s the value of the card revealed. We feel happy with that quick interpretation, and move on.
Their Ambitions – Hod (Honor)
As the character’s ambition, we discover honor. Hod upholds inflexible values, bonds forged through the understanding that the alternative is to be ostracized and shamed. Hod demands you uphold your honor, destroy those who insult it, and shame those who can not measure up to it.
This one was tough, but we eventually decided that the character has made a pact with some entity, and that they’re bound by honor to uphold it. This is not a bad thing for them, but rather they take pride in it and strives to maintain their honor.
The specifics of this pact, and the entity, are left ambiguous for now. We decide to return to the subject once we have more information.
Their biggest Weakness – Six of Crescents (Merging)
We think on this for a long time. The Six of Crescents embodies two things becoming one, a melding of ideas, absorption.
Eventually, I give a suggestion that I found fitting for a Broken character: they suffer from schizophrenia. A serious mental illness seems a suitable weakness for a game like Kult, but my wife takes this idea of merging further. She suggests that this man – and this is where we decided that it’s a man – shares his headspace with the people he’s murdered. He kills them, and their minds are absorbed into his own. As for the Truth of this, that is to remain undecided.
Their biggest Strength – Chesed (Safety)
And finally, we explore the character’s greatest strength: Chesed. Safety, comfort, security, letting go of worries in the belief that you will be fine. What an excellent reveal to tie back into his core characteristic, the Four of Skulls.
We discover, after a discussion, that the people he murdered were all unhappy, likely mentally ill. The character was a good friend to them, caring from them and trying to give them comfort. He wishes to bring peace to those who suffer, and knows that in his own calm mind they will be safe. This is why he kills – it brings him comfort to protect those too weak and distressed to protect themselves.
The wife and I are both happy with this reading, so we begin to discuss the character as a whole, looking at the cards and re-iterating their meanings and how they connect to each other.
His name is Piran, and he has been mentally unwell all his life. He lives in a shabby apartment, has regular psychiatric check-ups, and works a variety of dead-end jobs when he’s not on welfare. Sometimes, he gets a little bit crazier than usual, and he is often in and out of mental institutions.
He is a loner, but his calm and friendly demeanor makes him good at approaching others like him. Piran met all his victims through psychiatric care, unhappy people who struggle to even stay alive. His first victim was not an accident, but he could not have prepared for the outcome. Feeling sympathy for their suffering, he decided to murder this person to give them the peace they deserved.
Once the deed was done, however, Piran regretted his decision. He was plagued with guilt, until some strange entity came to him and offered a release. It made a pact with Piran: as long as he murdered those he with good conscience knew needed it, those he killed would not be lost. The being guides those that Piran kills into his mind, and he allows them to settle there. As Piran feels in control of his own mind and self, it brings him comfort to know that his victims are safe.
This being and Piran hold a close bond – they communicate, made promises to one another that they keep, request favors that the other will grant, and this pact holds so long as Piran performs his selfmade duty with conviction.
As a game master, I adore Piran as a character concept. I see a lot of potential in ways to explore his character. Some examples include:
- The entity demands something out of the ordinary for him.
- Piran kills someone who turns hostile on him once in his mind.
- A detailed exploration of how Piran finds someone to kill, and how he does it.
- Piran becomes hunted by the police, or something else, for his actions.
And much, much more. The reading helped me and my wife create a character for her that’s fully steeped in Kult lore and themes.
Finally, I would like to share a picture of another reading we did that turned out very differently.
This was a horrifying read through and through. We decided not to select an Archetype before performing the reading for this one, which I am not sure I would recommend. It made it more difficult to find starting points to interpret the cards. However, the cards themselves were still telling enough to weave a rather vile character portrait.
The character we discovered through this reading is a former ISIS fighter and death magician. He has turned on his faith and cause, because he considers himself more powerful than God. His goal in life is to wage a lonesome, bloody war on any and all structures of power, religious or otherwise. He lives in isolation, fueled by his lust for conflict, and he has constant waking nightmares of his own death. The character is a skilled enough death magician to understand well enough what dying and being dragged into Inferno might mean.
A rather different type of character than Piran, but a fascinating Enlightened character with well defined goals and a host of enemies, human and otherwise, to pit against him.
I hope you’ve found this exploration of character creation interesting! It may not be for everyone, but if you have players willing to experiment, there is a lot to enjoy in this method. If you do try it out, be sure to comment on this post and share your thoughts on the process!