There is plenty discussion on KULT groups I frequent about magic. How does it work? How to interpret divinity? Where are the other magician archetypes (the death magician was a stretch goal to begin with, live with it)? Lots of people hoping to find more mechanical support for using magic in the game.
I have opinions on this. Hi, Kultists. I was going to write this as a chat on the KULT – Elysium Discord server, but it would be too long, so here it goes.
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.
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.
Good day, Kultists! This post has been written by Gabe, a prominent member (and former 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 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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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:
An overview and what is worthy in the scenario: the Summit
What is wrong with it from an agency and PbtA view.
Exploring mature themes and my feelings about them as it relates to the Summit.
Converting what is worthy in the Summit into a scenario that is more accessible to Kult: Divinity Lost.