The last days of Zoe Riemann – Reflections

One November Sunday, me and the wife were bored. Slightly stoned and with nothing planned for the day, I suggested we bring out the Kult tarot deck, perform a reading to create a character, and play a zero commitment one-shot scenario over the next few hours. The result of this experience was The last days of Zoe Riemann, which you can find a recap for here. This was a revelation for me. In the past, I’ve always strongly believed that I require at least some preparation in order to perform as a game master, especially for a game with as involved a mythology as Kult, but in just one afternoon I proved myself wrong. This may seem silly to some of you, as I imagine some amount of my readers are far more versed in Powered by the Apocalypse and this approach to roleplaying than I am. I come from a traditional-esque Dungeons & Dragons background, and so my deep dive into Kult: Divinity Lost over the past years has broadened my horizons. Like, a lot.

Welcome to Reflections! This is a blog segment in which I hope to explore some of my thoughts on stories I’ve shared in the past. This may include musings on the creative process, fun anecdotes from live sessions or downtime, mistakes I hope to never repeat or interesting paths left unexplored. Being a game master is challenging, so by sharing my experiences I hope to both gain a new understanding of my own work and share something interesting for readers to digest. One note is that these segments are not suitable to read if you are a Kult: Divinity Lost player who does not have full insight into the game’s mythos. Lore spoilers ahead.

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Jessy’s Return

Hello, Kultists! I hope you are enjoying your holiday season. I’m writing a lot, though unfortunately a lot of it is for projects unrelated to this blog. You will see it in due time. On the horizon in the short term is another one-shot recap, and the return to Jessy’s Story. Likely in early spring of next year, the second arc of Jessy’s Story will be posted with some regularity. Each session will still have an illustration by my illustrious wife. I am super excited for this, and hopefully you will be too after checking out the dope art and sneak peak below!

“The cult of Dehu and Mil undresses, spreading out through the large conference hall and helping Tan prepare for the ceremony. Tables are pushed aside, kisses are exchanged, a large black cloth is unfolded below the dark stone throne towering at the far end of the room. All of this is done under Tan’s guidance and watchful eye, directing his flock from the elevated platform the throne sits on and surrounded by truly grotesque, surreal art of a being with two goat heads breaking chains and violently penetrating its lessers.”

Art by my glorious friend Casey Oster

And The Rockets Red Glare: November 8th, 2016

This is a session recap for the Kult: Divinity Lost scenario And The Rockets Red Glare, written by Jacqueline Bryk. The art is by my excellent wife. Me and my three friends played this scenario in two sessions over voice chat. This post contains spoilers for the entirety of the scenario’s story.

This post contains suicide, murder, and homophobic and racist slogans.

Previous

It’s well past midnight. Kate, Blake and Ian cannot sleep. Blake is pacing around the condo, at one time trying to lay down, at another stress smoking by the window. Bad things are happening and he feels horribly powerless. Ian has turned inward, consumed by a gnawing madness. He stares at Gavin sleeping in the bed next to his and considers but briefly a sacrifice. To what end or dedicated to who, he cannot say. Kate, feeling the weight of the last few horrible days and the stressful months before, wants to ground herself with a tarot reading. Yes, it’s late, but she can’t sleep anyway and tarot has helped her calm down in the past. She sends Ian a text, telling him that she’ll head to a break room in the southwest corner of their floor. If she’s not back by morning, please come looking for her. She doesn’t risk disappearing without a trace, and it does feel like a risk.

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And The Rockets Red Glare: November 7th, 2016

This is a session recap for the Kult: Divinity Lost scenario And The Rockets Red Glare, written by Jacqueline Bryk. The art is by my excellent wife. Me and my three friends played this scenario in two sessions over voice chat. This post contains spoilers for the entirety of the scenario’s story.

This post contains violent, racist imagery.

PreviousNext

The interns for the Trump campaign wake up early, same as every day. The sun is just about to crest over the horizon and make everyone’s morning miserable with its burning light, but they have little time to dwell on their frustrations. Today, there is to be a press junket in Mr. Trump’s penthouse. Both him and Mr. Pence will be there, answering questions for a battalion of reporters. This has to run smoothly and there is no room for error. Everyone working on the campaign needs to be on full alert, ready for anything. One by one they head up towards the penthouse suite, most of them for the first time.

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And The Rockets Red Glare: November 6th, 2016

This is a session recap for the Kult: Divinity Lost scenario And The Rockets Red Glare, written by Jacqueline Bryk. The art is by my excellent wife. Me and my three friends played this scenario in two sessions over voice chat. This post contains spoilers for the entirety of the scenario’s story.

Next

A mostly unfurnished condo on one of the upper floors of Trump Tower is brought to life by a cacophony of cell phone alarms. It’s six in the morning, and while the November day outside the black-glass skyscraper promises warmth, the people waking up in the condo have no time to be excited about it. They’re interns, working for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. They’ve been at it non-stop for months, long grueling days running errands or staring at a computer screen as the internet slows down yet again. Just three more days until the election. Once they get out of their cots and folding spare beds their entire day will be dedicated to Make America Great Again.

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The Kult Take: It Follows

For this recurring segment of Beyond Elysium, I will step away from the nepharites and have a Kult-inspired look at other horror media. Welcome to The Kult Take.

The curse placed upon the characters in It Follows is a sexually transmitted mark of death. Early in the film, Jay has sex with her new boyfriend and finds herself stuck with the curse, the boyfriend abandoning her with only a warning to move fast and pass it on as quickly as possible. The curse manifests as a human, though its exact appearance can shift at any time. It is only visible to those who have been affected by the curse, others ignore its presence entirely. At a slow, steady pace, the manifestation walks towards the curse bearer with intent to kill. It can break through doors, cast others aside, and track its victim to the ends of the Earth. Once it kills its victim, the manifestation returns to whomever it last tormented. No matter what you do, it follows.

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The Kult Take: 1st Summoning

For this recurring segment of Beyond Elysium, I will step away from the nepharites and have a Kult-inspired look at other horror media. Welcome to The Kult Take.

1st Summoning is a film in which an amateur director, Mark, convinces his friends to help him make a documentary film about an allegedly cursed factory. It’s said that the Millbrook Factory was built on grounds used for satanic rituals, and that supernatural phenomena continue to happen inside even forty years after its discontinuation. Mark’s concept is to film interviews with locals about the rumors surrounding this place, then head inside the factory on the night of October 6th to perform a ritual which allows you to ask for anything you want. As the movie progresses Mark’s fragile mental state deteriorates, and his friends and girlfriend become divided amongst themselves as they help him realize his vision, with a gruesome end result.

That’s a good Kult story. Unfortunately, the film is a mess. It is shot poorly even for a found footage film, the plot is at times nonsensical in a way that doesn’t tell us anything interesting, the horror isn’t impactful, and Mark’s acting is unfortunately the worst in the group of four main characters. I did not like it, but it did have some good ideas worth salvaging. What better way to do it than adapt it as a Kult one-shot?

SPOILERS AHEAD.

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The Truth About www.coolmathgames.com

A good friend of mine messaged me, basically without context, and gave me a prompt to write something Kult-y about. The truth about ‘www.coolmathgames.com’. Bewildering, but interesting. I obliged, and this is the result. I hope you enjoy.

While playing around on the internet, you might find yourself wasting your time on ‘www.coolmathgames.com’. It’s an innocuous website, just one of a thousand dedicated to small browser games. There’s retro game clones, platformers, and the eponymous “cool” math games. They might not actually be the website’s main attraction, judging by the top games list, but it is in examining these number puzzles and educational experiences that the perceptive can discover the website’s true purpose.

Playing just one of these games is not enough. Beating one will not tell you anything but a piece of the puzzle, but an alert mind will recognize something offputting about what it’s just seen. There’s a rhythm to the answers, sequences in the solutions that seems to defy reason. Why is it there? Why is it in every one of these games? The few who catch these glimpses, who manage to put together the intricate patterns stretched across dozens of cheerful, colorful browser games, find themselves falling down a rabbit hole unlike any other.

As if a dream, the entire website opens up to them. Not just the code, not just the connections between content hosts and ad networks and the massive, humming server halls in some far-off locations. Like a world of its own, ‘www.coolmathgames.com’ reveals itself to the truth seekers and invites them in. They are lost in front of their computer screen, glued to the simple math questions flashing on their screen in friendly colors. They have entered a place beyond the computer, beyond time and space, a constructed reality of beautiful mathematics and intricate algorithms. It is immaculate, and it is forever.

Jessy on hiatus, musing about scene writing

As session 8 concludes, we find Jessy unconscious and facing an uncertain fate. Well… not entirely uncertain. She will return at the start of next year, facing new challenges and getting further involved in the madness that seems to surround her. This campaign is an undertaking. It’s bigger than I first anticipated when I started writing and certainly bigger than anything else I’ve done in this style. I come from a D&D background, so my concept of campaign writing was largely limited to building dungeons with more rooms and cooler monsters. More narrative-driven games, such as Kult or Tales from the Loop (another favorite of mine), are newcomers to my game arsenal, and so Jessy’s Story has been an opportunity for me to learn. A lot.

For instance: I think I have finally figured out how I like to write scenes! In the past, I’ve always written my own scenarios and campaigns in terms of locations and events, but Kult: Divinity Lost and many other narrative-heavy RPGs ask you to think in terms of scenes. This was a huge change for me, and I’ve stumbled quite a lot with it. I expect myself to stumble for several more years before it becomes easy for me. Even so, I’ve now come up with a way for me to write scenes that I enjoy and think works for me.

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