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.

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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.

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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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Session 8: Wilma

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 violence.

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Jessy’s left shoulder has started to hurt, the wound from her clash with the monster getting worse by the hour. She talks with Honey about her plan – go back to the sewers they found themselves in earlier, and try to find a way up from there. Honey has his doubts, but Jessy has the flashlight. They snake their way back the way they came, often turning off the flash light in the long corridors to conserve battery. Darkness and silence, interrupted only by their own footsteps and the occasional flickering emergency light embedded in filth. They find their way back to the stinking sewage, and explore from there. Somewhere out in the darkness, a person calls out for help. Jessy turns the flashlight off and makes sure both her and Honey stay quiet. Splashing in the water and the panicked voice of a young woman pass them by, and Jessy waits until she’s long gone before they continue moving. She can’t afford another person slowing them down, if it even was a person. Hard to know in this place.

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Thoughts on player agency

I often end up in discussions about roleplaying games with friends who share the interest, and recently a topic that’s come up multiple times is this:

How much should the Game Master allow the players to affect the story’s outcome?

Now, the short answer to this is obviously ‘it depends’, but that doesn’t make for a good blog post. So instead, I will explore in some detail my thoughts on how I, as a GM, approach writing depending on what kind of game I am running. I will here make the same separation as the upcoming Alien: The RPG by Free League, and I will praise it for its decisions any time I talk or write about this. In Alien, gameplay is strictly split up into two categories: Cinematic Play and Campaign Play.

  • Cinematic Play involves playing a published, or at least pre-written, scenario. It is separated into Acts, has pre-written characters with their own agendas specific to the scenario, and is generally meant to be played until it’s done and not continued past that point.
  • Campaign Play instead allows the players to create their own characters, give them flair and backstory and rapport, and then explore the universe of Alien as the GM gives them new challenges based on their choices.

Both of these forms of play should be familiar to seasoned roleplayers, but it is the strict distinction in Alien: The RPG that makes it interesting. In Alien, premade cinematic scenarios will (so far as I can understand) always involve pre-made characters, while campaign play should always (again, to my understanding) demand of the GM to write and adapt. Alien even goes so far as to make the rules different for cinematic and campaign play. This makes me really excited, because it is almost exactly how I like to think about writing for other games, specifically Kult: Divinity Lost. Let us cover some terminology to make sure we are on the same page.

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Session 7: Desperate Measures

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 sex, violence and gore.

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Jessy makes her way back to the apartment she’s currently staying at – Ethan, a college student living with two roommates, allowed Jessy in after hearing about her break-in. Ethan is in his room when she comes to grab new clothes. If she’s going for a shower, he’d love to join. Jessy relents1, and hurries to hide her blood-drenched clothes at the bottom of her bag of makeup before Ethan comes into the bathroom. She can’t hide the bruises Tan gave her, but explains it away by being ‘oh so clumsy’. Ethan, overjoyed at having Jessy naked with him, doesn’t question her further. 1 Influence Other
Result: <9
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