Hello, Kultists and curious fans of morbid arcana. As someone who invests deeply in Kult: Divinity Lost and its world, I end up in a lot of conversations about the game. Some are philosophical, some are educational, some are frustrated arguments with grognards, but a good portion of them at some point end up being about the game’s world. Kult is a horror roleplaying game with a vast and unique Cosmology that draws people to it, but it is also the source of much confusion and hesitance. How does one “see” through the Illusion? What is Inferno, really? Where is Limbo, and how do I awaken in Metropolis? So many questions, in sore need of answers! Let this be an introduction to Kult’s Cosmology, the world in which a thousand horrible stories have been told and thousands more are yet to come.
But before that, a few words on mystique and secrecy. A major component of Kult’s Cosmology is the idea that Reality is a Lie, and that the characters of the stories told in the game (not to mention the sleeping masses) do not know what or who lurks beyond the veil. Within the context of roleplaying, this means that the players create troubled characters with archetypes like the Detective, the Fixer, and the Artist, and through those slowly unravel the mysteries and terrors of the world they inhabit, hopefully coming away from it all with some insight into themselves and their situation.
Why do I bring this up? Because game masters around the world sometimes take this to mean that the game’s central idea and the crux of the Kult Cosmology should or must be concealed from their players. This is… unhelpful, when speaking about the game. In truth, I hate this entire mentality. I will not go into details about why here (ask me some time!), but understand that I do intend to divulge most of the core concepts of Kult’s world in this post. If you are reading this as a player and your GM thus far has been tight-lipped about the workings of the Illusion and the cosmos beyond it, consider asking permission before continuing. Have a conversation with them about how effective storytelling is done, perhaps.
Now, we begin…
… with the world that surrounds us. In an incomprehensibly vast universe, massive clouds of gas collapse and form stars. The stars accrete matter to shape balls of gas and rock which we know as planets. Around the G-type main sequence star called the Sun, eight planets and countless icy rocks orbit in an ancient and ongoing cycle. Earth, a pale blue dot circling the Sun, is the only home that humanity has ever known. Microscopic remains of Precambrian worms await discovery on distant cliffsides, and fossil fuel deposits lay as reminders of long gone forests and extinct beasts. Tens of thousands of years of history teach us from whence we came, colorful hands on cave walls and careful clay depictions of beautiful mothers and animals in flight which make way for ancient inscriptions and indecipherable quipus. Hundreds of nations, thousands of cultures and subcultures, towns and cities which swarm the surface and shape the environments and even the skies to its needs. Walled borders, violent suppression of rights, exploitation of the lesser, horrific acts of terror, ever-clashing strict demands and selfish desires. It makes for a confusing and frightening existence, but again: it is the only home we have ever known.
So we are told. The Illusion of it all is that this entire world, this cosmos and history and the way we treat each other, is all a construction. A prison of the senses and the mind. It is a reality conjured by a distant godlike figure we name the Demiurge. The prison is all-encompassing, representing everything from our physical reality of Earth and the Universe to the ways society develops and shapes us and even the very thoughts we have. The Illusion, or Elysium as it is also known, exists to trap and control human souls, as they are divine and the Demiurge could not allow them their divinity. The world beyond the Illusion is a foreign land to humanity, for in our prison we have learned to only know that which the Demiurge has allowed us to know. His Archons and their Principles shape how we act and think, the monstrous lictors control what we see and hear, and the false nature of reality resists our attempts to undo it and reach our true, original home.
The Illusion can break, however, and when it does humanity is allowed glimpses into the realms beyond. They may see the vast apparatuses which control their lives and attempt to make sense of them, could catch a whiff of their divine past, walk through dreams, see monsters in plain daylight, or even stumble through time. Demonic horrors wait in the beyond to carry off human sacrifices, the furious dead claw their way back to life, and hallucinations become real. All these horrific, magical, or inexplicable events reveal the Illusion’s existence, with mysteries which can only be answered by going beyond it.
But how do we portray this? What are the practical implications? There are many answers, and ultimately it must be up to the storytellers to decide exactly how this relationship between human, Illusion, and truth is shown and how it plays out. I will offer a few notes and examples to give an idea of how I see it. Take from it what you will, and never stop thinking on the subject for yourself.
- Human divinity is the reason for the Illusion’s existence, but its relevance to the story should be gauged with care. When we tell horror stories, we generally have a purpose for doing so. Some part of the human experience we want to explore, some guilt to struggle with or twisted machination to survive or undo. Whatever it is, it will likely happen within the Illusion, since that is where the characters of Kult stories live. Within that context, ask yourself how likely it is that the final and ultimate truth about humanity’s prison will be important. Focus on the characters first. The Illusion has an explanation, but it is also a bouncing board for the inexplicable and supernatural.
- The Illusion misbehaves in ways both big and small, but the portrayal is still personal and no two stories need to be internally consistent. Part of the Illusion’s all-encompassing nature is that any aspect of reality can be challenged. Do you want a departure from Elysium to be represented by phone calls from a hidden number, or a great gaping abyss through which impossible skyscrapers grow like mushrooms? An elevator ride with a lictor could mean inexplicable suffocation, seeing strange deformations in the mirror, or pass by without incident. The storytellers, and the dice roll outcomes, determine the exact nature of how reality shifts and breaks.
- Anything within the Illusion could be a representation of the world beyond it… or not. It is tempting to ascribe to the world only falsehoods. Kult tells us, however, that humanity still subconsciously attempts to recreate their original home. A trace of the true self exists in the false self. The same is told of the places where the Illusion is weak: tunnel systems are inextricably linked to the Underworld, vast nature echoes Gaia, and so on. If something is relevant and interesting, it may come from outside the Illusion or at least serve as a proxy for it. Strange insects, apocalyptic writing, microchips, you name it. However, there is no need for absolutes. Sometimes a smartphone is just a smartphone. Normalcy heightens the strange. There need not be hidden meanings behind every obnoxious marketing campaign.
Home. In the time before humanity’s imprisonment, this was our residence. No one description of Metropolis can do the place justice, for it encompasses the totality of human ingenuity, architecture, knowledge, and technology. Twisted spires of iron and glass scrape the skies, endless service tunnels still hum with aged servers maintained by the tekrons we left behind. Mad azghouls worship the last remaining artwork of their lost slavemaster, and frustrated magicians study the monoliths and scriptures of an impossible and divine past. We will return to the topic of divinity some other time, but for now embrace the idea that Metropolis, the Eternal City, is where gods lived. Lived, because since the Demiurge’s construction of the Illusion the city has lost its original rulers. Left are only our machines, our works, our slaves, and our past. Along, of course, with the Citadels of the Archons, those enormous and oppressive spiritual beings created to shape and uphold the Illusion and humanity’s imprisonment.
Our home begs for our return, and we beg for it. Every city on Earth, every opulent monument, every road reaching across wilderness to weave humanity together yet tighter, seeks to recapture the splendor of Metropolis. Humanity has built grand cathedrals and hundred story tall business centers, unconsciously striving to reclaim hazy memories of our original home. We have seen that twisted house before, we know which path holds a secret. The dances we teach each other may be reflections of ecstatic movements of the divine, the songs we compose hymns from our worshipers. Our constructions and actions in Elysium reflect places and events within the Eternal City, and it is this innate recollection and recognition which brings humanity towards it. The homes are long bombed out, mutilated angels now scream in the gutters, and the tekron phlegitarch has rewound our old data center circuits, but it is all still there. The humans who experience Metropolis do not fully understand the scope and context of what they see and learn there, but the power it holds is intoxicating and frighteningly familiar.
Metropolis is our home, but it is also the origin of our prison. The result of this is a constant push and pull, a gnawing human desire to reconnect with our roots challenged by the forces that seek to contain us. The Archons and their ten Citadels manifest as impossible towers dedicated to controlling humanity and the Illusion, and their power emanates across the Eternal City. The lures and distractions of everyday life, from our inherent understanding of Hierarchy to the niggling whispers of Avarice, grow to profound and terrifying proportions in Metropolis. This power repels us from The Eternal City with intrusive thoughts and violent emotions, whispered worries or deadly terrors. Even within the Illusion, the servants of the Archons work tirelessly to oppose the latent knowledge of our home. Offending artwork is purged, streets are renamed, oppressive messaging on every channel and news stream remind us of our spiritual impotence. The mad and burnt out scream about the churning machinery behind the world until they are dismissed and dragged off for treatment. Metropolis surrounds humanity in every aspect of its being, but it is always, always, kept from us.
So what can we make of this? Metropolis offers people a dangerous answer to their troubled yet mundane life: the power of divinity. It might express itself as a miracle cure to end death itself, an eerie yet perfect reconstruction of your childhood home, a secret server with rituals still cast by its aged processors. Metropolis as a realm is the realization of humanity’s fullest potential, told through post-apocalypse. No matter the desperation, no matter the curiosity, Metropolis could contain what you need, and you might even remember where to look. However, The Eternal City teems with danger. It is dilapidated and rusted, but ferocious beasts and mad terrors still roam the streets, foreign Gods with unknown agendas wait for their moment, and the Archons have eyes everywhere. I offer again some thoughts.
- Metropolis is infinite and infinitely diverse, so portraying it as a whole is futile. There is no shortage of astounding, beautiful, and surreal landscapes one can describe in Metropolis. The architecture spans all space and time with no regard for either, technology ranges from obscure to mundane, and there is never an end to it. As such, pick your locations carefully. If a visit to Metropolis is in the cards, ensure that it is the place within Metropolis that drives the experience, not Metropolis itself. Few great insights are had while sightseeing, but reading inscriptions can reveal much.
- Humanity’s past and unrealized futures contain every cruelty and misdeed imaginable, so practice extreme judgment in presenting Metropolis. This follows from the above. Metropolis contains the aftermath of divine humanity, and with that comes devastating realizations. Mass slavery, biological experimentation for plain joy and convenience, the torture and reshaping of souls, and more. Not all of it will make sense to the characters of these stories, but it should all be impactful to them. With an infinite platter of violences and misdeeds to pick from, take care to pick the ones dearest or most reviled to the characters of the story. No power in Metropolis comes without the reckoning of it.
- It doesn’t have to be plot essential, I promise. Sometimes, Metropolis is just cool. Infinite skyscrapers glimpsed on a rainy night, deformed azghouls hunting humans in the docks, the scattered remains of a nachtkäfer from the aftermath of a madman’s ritual. A thousand more examples will still not scratch the surface, but the point is that Metropolis is undeniably Kult and sometimes, that just makes for a good mental image or a fascinating encounter with danger. Steep the world around your characters in Metropolis, poke at the borderlands between the Eternal City and Elysium, and just enjoy that spectacle.
Inferno is a blemish on our reality, the refuse pile of all that didn’t fit our eternal city and the most vicious perversions of all our thoughts. Through His impossible fortress, the God-being Astaroth manifests and is manifested by the Death Angels. These are the shadows of the Archons, husks of principled will which all feed on the excess and corruption of humanity’s prison. Their servants, from purgatides and razides stalking victims within the Illusion to exalted nepharites expanding their consciousness to catch the desperate and unwary, seek only to deceive and abuse imprisoned humanity. Our sorrowful and guilt-laden souls nourish Astaroth and the Death Angels, who are always hungry. Through elaborate schemes or chance encounters when the veil between worlds is thin, Inferno’s faithful seek to capture those overwhelmed by the Principles of the Archons. Humiliating hierarchies are challenged by Thaumiel’s raw power, and when our fragile safety is challenged, Gamichicoth nurtures and fans the flames of fear. The necessity of violence between men spirals out of control with Hareb-Serap watching and cheering. Their methods are as multitudinous as our own grievances, shames, and cruelties, yet their ultimate goal remains the same: suffering.
The Death Angels do not desire humanity’s awakening, only for us to recognize our own misery within the prison created for us. It is the suffering itself which motivates them, no matter the shape it takes. In purgatories wrought from our own dreams and inadequacies, in rusted hospital beds soiled by frightened children, in pitch dark rooms where every intrusive thought is whispered aloud by a grinning nepharite, on porcelain floors where steel-toed boots again and again stomp on melancholy faces, the human experience is reduced to its inevitable and horrible core. Inferno is distant from humanity in Elysium, but by seeking out our murder scenes, gas chambers, mental hospitals, and political offices, its servants can mark and latch onto those most susceptible to the machinations of the Death Angels. They know how we struggle, they see our pain, and know to abuse us for it, even if it feels like a way out. Doomed prophecies and false promises lead us out of the Illusion, yet no closer to truth.
Inferno manifests within the Illusion through all the little cracks in society and in the mind. The prison’s cosmic rules set in motion by the Archons near demands that the human mind eventually reaches that dark consciousness where abuse, compulsion, and vengeance can burn hot enough to sear holes in the soul. Politicians are urged to strike selfish deals to assure their future, lonely men disappear in the basement of their favorite whorehouse, and snuff film producers and consumers alike satisfy themselves with the debasement and murder of kin. Humanity’s prison has produced environments ripe for harvest in the eyes of the Death Angels, and so their servants may be anywhere and take whatever role is necessary to orchestrate and prey on our misery.
The end result of this cosmological machinery is dedication to suffering, and the tending of perpetual torment. Inferno’s servants care about the pain they inflict, they find it important and fulfilling and joyous. Personal trauma opens gates between Elysium and the numerous realms of Inferno, and beyond that veil waits someone ready to take advantage of it. They might be envisioned as demons, aliens, monsters, gods, or even other humans. Every slight and sin has its own proper place in the hell that feeds on us.
- While suffering is universal, its nature is personal. This is the main driver of inviting Inferno into the Illusion. People’s traumas may resonate broadly, but are still each unique experiences with deep roots in the personal psyche. While Inferno contains no shortage of murder-loving heralds of violence breaking down the essential will to live, its inhabitants and clergy are as varied as ways to suffer. The twitchy thoughts and whispering voices, degrading and violent office environments, and guilt at the death of a loved one may all bring visions, nightmares, and the inexplicable presence of Inferno. This serves storytelling well. Nightmarish and violent experiences, when devoid of connection to the characters or plot, do not enrich the narrative.
- Violence is subjective, as is torture. Who can say what suffering is greatest? While nepharite courts may argue over such intricacies, to the human mind, suffering has endless creative expressions. Physical pain is visceral, debasement and violation like poison, loss like a soul-eating void. The stories told through Inferno may delight in these and so many more forms of suffering. Take that opportunity.
- Plot leads to suffering, and suffering leads to plot, and that is the purpose of the game. I feel this may not need elaboration, but I will offer some regardless. Kult invites players to write characters who will experience miseries. These miseries are themselves catalysts for character and plot development, events of great importance where the outcome may drastically change the narrative. Embrace this at all times, whether playing with the forces of Inferno or not.
The dream is more than a colorful chemical cocktail in your brain, a way for your mind to assess and cleanse itself. The sleeping mind wanders inward, and in that deepest state experiences the endless cosmic potential of creation itself. Here we paint mosaics from our own memories and emotions, from claustrophobic nightmare realms to blissful fantasies come true. The unmade is created and the lost is found. We call it Limbo, a realm of spiritual creativity upon which anyone can leave a mark. Most of what is made in Limbo fades and falls apart, drifts back into Vortex to be reborn or left forgotten. What remains there when we wake are the dreams which refuse to die, the palaces and gardens of dream princes and gods who reject existence beyond their self-made worlds, and the shapeless horrors who hunt from dream to dream or infest the sleeping mind to make a home for themselves.
Limbo allows humanity to, even in their fettered state, tap into some forgotten splinter of their lost divinity. Dreams can reflect memories of past and future lives, giving the potential for dire omens or mind-boggling rabbit hole chases. The raw and dangerous desires of divine humanity give birth to frightening or tempting fantasies, and though we leave those dreams behind when we wake, their inspirations might linger and drive us to action. These dreams are fueled and driven by the self, a tethered mind grasping at little straws the Archons have yet to sweep away, digging into all the cracks in the facade of the Illusion. Repressed thoughts come out craving exploration, creative muses whisper and sing praises to genius, and irrational dream logic somehow carries over to the waking world. There are infinite ways in which Limbo intersects with and reflects the human mind’s hidden aspects, and how they manifest depends on the knowledge and essence of the dreamer’s soul.
But what of the dreams of others? What of the nebulous, fluid space between dreams? Limbo is an endless space of expression, and ultimately all dreams and all things created must revolve around Vortex, the source of it all, the roaring engine of creative force. The moment this border is breached, the collective subconscious of humankind beckons. The curious or unlucky may be able to encounter dreams that are not their own, and through them learn much of their original creators, though they may be lost or merely awake. Dream cannibals and sentient nightmares travel between dreams to descend on the sleeping, disrupting their pleasantly mundane rest with upsetting visions of violence and abuse, or even deadly danger. Those who wander far off the beaten path of their own dreamscape might even glimpse the raw creative force beyond, and learn something divine from the infinite prism of True Genesis. The possibilities are endless.
Limbo may appear as an undefined, immaterial realm with little concrete information to take away. That is on purpose. Limbo, being a realm upon which dreams are imprinted and made real (in a sense), is undefined save what we make of it. Waking life might imprint on dreams which in turn imprint on waking life. Quarrelling with your partner in your dreams will leave you waking up angry at them for real, your emotions inexplicable to them but no less real for that. Going to sleep in the wrong place could stir up an ancient dream lingering there. Memories could be treated as interactive movies, complete with fast-forward and rewind buttons and perhaps a settings menu.
- Dreams can serve many purposes, but not all of them. With all of the above, you hopefully have plenty of ideas for fascinating dreamscapes, but the key to Limbo is that in the end, less may be more. If dreams are already the conduit through which we uncover visions of our personal divine past, perhaps the psyphagoes will not make an appearance. When dream walking becomes the focus, the endless creativity of Vortex may not be as important. As with other advice, pick what feels most powerful for the narrative and characters and expand on that. Explore the nooks and crannies of one concept, rather than force all of them at once.
- Night terrors thrive on fears already present. Scary visuals are fun, inexplicable horrors coming at the characters in a hundred ways can feel stressful and horrific, but there is only so much that can be done in a vacuum. The worst nightmares are the ones that know you. Consider the dreamer and the fears they face in their regular lives, the things they’ve repressed or hope to one day forget, the worst worries and imagined futures. When those nightmares gain power in Limbo, pain is more potent and the outcomes more interesting.
We lay foundations. Whether we use these foundations to build a house or advance a trade or develop an idea, we construct the means to further whatever it is the foundation is meant to stand for. Creation is construction, and construction is of our minds. It is arbitrary and, ultimately, has no inherent meaning. The Underworld’s existence, centered on the concept and state of being known as Achlys, posits that the same is true for all reality. As we head into the depths below our cities, we see storage halls on top of service corridors on top of older machinery on top of ruins on top of nothing. Meaning is harder to derive here, because there is less to see and less to reach. Darkness swallows the senses and forces the visitor to wonder: what am I doing here, and why does that feel so wrong?
Achlys is the Nothingness, a pervasive sense of unexistence that permeates the Underworld and even lingers in the resting divine mind of imprisoned humanity. It questions whether the actions we take are worth what we say they are, whether our beliefs are justified or even whether justifying them matters. Achlys wears at the soul, strips it clean of delusions and ideals, and the deeper into the Underworld one gets, the stronger that sensation becomes. Achlys poses a challenge to the Archons and the Death Angels, offering a nihilistic rejection-via-apathy of their rule, and through that many can experience enlightenment or divinity itself in the dark and mysterious corridors below the world. However, even this is a grasp at meaning where there is none. The Underworld’s physical manifestation questions even divinity itself, for even the most grand power buckles and eventually turns to dust in the face of timeless Nothingness. Nowhere in the Underworld does this play out in a more visible manner than the city of Ktonor, the last bastion of materiality before Achlys.
All the crumbling designs and tattered peoples of Ktonor serve as a reminder to humanity that all they create will falter, break down, and fail. They are the survivors of our wars, the end results of our art and science, the refugees of places and times which can no longer support their existence. We see Metropolis and believe that we can reinhabit it, but wallow in Ktonor to know that it does not matter. From the lethal bickering between seething famaria and desperate biomechanical keepers, to the constant need for fresh genetic material to maintain a flickering flame of life, there is an air of futility and impotence to Ktonor and its inhabitants. Yet these desperate acts of raging against the dying of the light are common to the Underworld. Achlys imparts a fear in many, mocks their desire for meaning and value in existence. All that exists rejects the Nothingness, and when the Nothingness is as intimately close as it is in the Underworld, that rejection breeds a dangerous mind. There is no telling what the frightened and overwhelmed consciousness might discover about itself when faced with the yawning abyss of Achlys.
That’s pretty bleak, but a lot of beliefs are bleak and a lot of art is too. Achlys is a nihilistic force made real, made not to be understood and dissected but merely accepted into the heart as a fundamental truth of reality. At the heart of that unlit labyrinth dreams and passions fade, madness and death lose potency, and time and space is dissolved. Achlys breaks down existence into unexistence, and it does this regardless of what you or I might think the value of that is. The Underworld is an uncompromising place, and those who experience it should be ready to face some uncompromising observations about themselves and the world. Achlys is not to be dissected. It is the dissector.
- I didn’t mention She Who Waits Below in any of the above text because I do not view her as integral to understanding The Underworld. Within the Cosmology of Kult, She Who Waits Below is presented as, I suppose, a personification of Achlys. She is a God, then, who exists to represent the lack of existence. I believe that there is no amount of words I can write here to make that concept justice, so think on it for yourself. If you wish to include She Who Waits Below in the world you present, consider long and hard the implications not just of Her but also Her actions. There is contradiction here, but contradiction leads to beautiful philosophy and imagery.
- Ktonor may as well use the poem Ozymandias by Percy Shelley as their anthem and creed. My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings; / Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair! / Nothing beside remains. Round the decay / Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare / The lone and level sands stretch far away. Shelley expresses the weakness inherent to desire for grandeur and memory: the inescapable loss of meaning. The Underworld embodies this loss. The actions taken are self-centered yet accomplish little, harm is given and taken in the name of thoughts and persons who cannot possibly be worth it, structures and systems lose their grip and are exposed for the arbitrary bags of assertions that they really are. No one wins by ascribing meaning and worth. All it accomplishes is building eroding foundations on top of nothing.
The material world chokes us with its immensity. All the glory and horror of Gaia runs wild towards us at every moment, an endless blast of physicality and desire from an unknowable and distant source. The soul strains at the notion of abandoning its sad and dying body, reason stands aside as lust swallows the brain, and carbon dioxide heats the planet no matter your preference on the matter. Gaia is inevitable and unavoidable yet what humanity sees of it is but a narrow slice, a curated prison yard of dim passions and sensible, shackled forms. In Elysium, the natural world is a barrier, from imposing mountains and forests to the human body itself. It has been our home, ally, and adversary all at once since the dawn of time. It is beyond challenge, and with few hints as to what awaits those who try. It takes true ecstasy to unlock the primal fires within, and monumental effort or desperation to tear through the Illusion and face the eternally untamed Gaia.
Past the borders of our prison, Gaia expresses life itself. All that lives flourishes, the heart beats with renewed strength and bacteria multiply at impossible speeds. There is no preference given to any life but the liveliest, no consideration given to the dead save how they may benefit the living. The cycles of life and death, of joy and sorrow, play out into infinity and nowhere is a reason given. Gaia simply is. None can escape as she imbues the existence of everything with this primal, physical nature. Black holes feeding on stars, complex ecosystems, evolution, chemical reactions, the movement of electrons and particles strange and unknown to us, all of it stems from this pervasive yet foreign power. Her true nature remains unknown, for she is too distant and too vast for even the divine mind to interpret in full. We can see nature, red in tooth and claw, even feel it in ourselves, but nothing will ever answer the question: Why? The interwoven chaos and structure of material existence serves no grand purpose, strange life bubbles and pops pointlessly, and the desire to exist finds no justification anywhere but in the very emotions which fuel it. Gaia persists and refuses to be questioned. All we can do is accept her, allow her to guide us, and in turn hope to shape her for our benefit.
So who lurks in the night below foreign stars? What strange Gods might still construct realities of their own within the untamed wilds? Where does the Illusion crumble and give way to Gaia’s invasive vines and sturdy roots? The prison constructed for humanity is strongly linked to Gaia, but its purpose is to keep that wilderness at bay. It cannot. Whether through the violent process of natural selection or by the stirred curiosity of alien minds, Gaia’s purposeless dominion imposes itself on our prison. Far from civilization she finds her way in, while rotted holes and dark caves bring us towards her. Impossibly deadly viruses spread from mutated insects, Iramin-Sul calls in the night for its lost twin begging to be heard, and feral humans lose sight of their divinity in favor of Gaia’s relentless whirlwind of life and death. Violent ideation is justified as the righteous hunt of prey, forbidden lusts are celebrated by witches dancing in the moonlight, and the body itself is reshaped into its perfect form. Beautiful monuments are unveiled and torn down, unwanted children disappear but come back, and passion magicians give birth to something entirely new. There is no end to Gaia. Life goes on.
If this all seems like a lot, that is because it is. We cannot produce a map to the nature beneath nature. Humanity’s relationship to nature and physical existence is a vast subject and the basis of much philosophical and religious thought. We seek enlightenment through our disembodied souls, yet no expression of the soul is more known to us than the human body. There is no escaping the flesh so far as we know. Gaia roots all of Kult’s worlds in the physical and in the emotional. It can be questioned, it can be welcomed, it can be rebelled against or grudgingly accepted. Either way, everyone experiences it.
- The metaphysical relationship between Gaia and the other realms of the Cosmology is multifaceted, and you should cherish this. Is Limbo separate from Gaia, or can the two intersect? Yes and yes. If Gaia is all material existence, does that mean it also has links to physical locations in Metropolis and Inferno? Yes. If it matters, Gaia can be introduced and represented. Gaia’s presence in the story depends on the questions asked of the characters, not merely on their location. If issues of life, desire, and raw human nature cannot be avoided, Gaia provides a stage on which to play them out.
- Gaia manifests in remote nature, but also belongs in the home. While it is tempting to allow Gaia to seep through the veil in deep forests and remote rocky islands, she resides just as much in the human heart. What of appearance? What of passionate lust? What of the desire to bring new life into the world? Or to end it? The Archons and Death Angels both combat and prey on these questions and the emotions from which they come, desperately seeking to harness them because they fear what Gaia’s unbridled presence might do if they do not.
Back to Elysium
With all this information in mind, we can explore the nature of the world within the Illusion in an endless variety of ways. If the hit and run driver is wracked with guilt because of their actions, there may exist an entity from Inferno looking to capitalize on their misery. However, the hit and run driver high on hallucinogens considers their murder as just another balloon popped as they shift between Limbo and Elysium. For one of these people, the aesthetics and thematic guidelines of Inferno become an integral part of their life, their entire worldview shaped by this supernatural reaction. The driver drifting through Limbo, however, might never encounter a razide or even hear about the demonic worlds of Inferno. Repeat examples ad nauseam. All these things exist at once, at all times and at infinite scopes. But not for everyone.
When we examine a person within the Illusion, we learn about their dark secrets, their regrets or lack thereof, how they view the world, and what they believe is right. By exposing them to some aspect of Kult’s Cosmology, whether that be an Archon’s principle or the indifferent propagation of Gaia, we can make this person re-evaluate themselves and the world around them. Beliefs are challenged, safety and stability becomes shaky ground to stand on, and what was once thought of as immutable fact becomes anything but. Their life remains rooted in the Illusion, but in telling our stories the game makes the Illusion not just perceptible but critically relevant to that life. An infinity of personal miseries can be framed through the many surreal lenses of this cosmos.
Humanity’s relationship to the Cosmology, defines the Cosmology. It exists there for us to be able to look at ourselves. Disregarding the in-universe perspective where this is also true, think of the people who wrote about these worlds to begin with. Metropolis does not exist if not for what the human characters can gain from seeing it. Inferno is not a senseless pit of malice added to generate big bads, its Death Angels have impactful principles they follow which relate to human behavior. The world of Kult invites the characters to address difficult aspects of themselves, often through terrible circumstances and actions. It is a horror game, after all.
So that’s the basics! At least, that’s what I think. If you read your way all through that, please share your thoughts on the world of Kult! What are your impressions of it? Theories, concerns? What I find so beautiful about the game’s Cosmology is how malleable it is. The way we interpret and represent these vast concepts will vary by necessity and by taste, and it can change over time or between games. So long as the core of the game is maintained, of caring about the tumultuous inner lives of the main characters, the rest of the world can be built to fit their twisted needs.
In the above text, I left out almost all details about the Archons, the Death Angels, the layers of the Underworld, and more. This is deliberate. In considering this as a short (yeah sure) primer to Kult’s Cosmology, I aimed instead to capture the thematic essence behind these strange worlds. It is a storytelling game, after all, so what good is the world if it does not allow us to tell effective and interesting stories? Besides, if you want more information on what Kether represents or learn about the lictor Tiphany Reeder, Kult: Divinity Lost’s core book already does an excellent job. I want this text to serve as a small supplement to the descriptions of the Cosmology already available, not replace them.
I hope this can be of some help when learning about Kult or talking about it. I truly love the community that Kult: Divinity Lost has built for itself, and I hope it grows in all the right directions.