Kult: Divinity Lost (2018) Horror RPG Not for the Faint of Heart

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Voros

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T Trippy and Edgewise Edgewise talking about this convinced me to take the plunge and I ordered a hardcopy, reading the pdf and about half way through The Black Madonna campaign while I wait for it to arrive.

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First off, yes it is a modified PbtA mechanic. If you hate that system this won't change your mind. I find the minor narrative elements in AW over-emphazied by its critics but here there are really no OOC narrative mechanics, the game just uses the AW rules-light central mechanic of roll 2d10 (instead of AW's d6) and get a failure, success with cost or straight up success. Chargen is light-medium with a good straight-forward system for selecting Dark Secrets, Advantages and Disadvantages. Also a good simple Stability (aka. sanity) system like any self-respecting horror game.

Combat looks to be naturalistic and nasty. PCs will be lucky to survive being shot by a shotgun and not dying or going into shock. The very grotesque supernatural creatures, mostly unique to the game, of which there are a large number detailed throughout the book are mighty deadly and probably best dealt with indirectly. Magic is reminscent of Unknown Armies: powerful, ritual based and left pretty open to the GM to define. PCs can use magic but outright magicians are intended to be NPCs although they do promise future supplements for those who want to experiment with a fully Enlightened magic campaign. Pacts with higher supernatural creatures are possible and grant some powerful spells but are also very, very dangerous and corrupting.

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The art and layout is great and there is a lot of background and play advice. The game's Gnostic cosmology is elaborate but also well sketched in way WoD background/history usually isn't to me. Maybe it is my Catholic background but I understood the broad ideas, factions and levels of reality quickly. This is helped by some fine diagrams outlining the powers and very memorable art.

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This is definitely not a setting for the faint of heart, it deals overtly with heavy subjects like suicide, torture, sexual assault and child abuse. I didn't find that it lingered over these subjects in a juvenile manner but it doesn't back away from them either. It is very much a modern horror game that reflects the changes in the genre both in fiction and film from the turning-point of the 70s to the modern day. Cronenberg and especially Barker are obvious influences as well as the stream of ultradark and psychological literary horror in the 80s from the Abyss line to splatterpunk (you can see traces of T.E.D. Klein, Ligeti, Kathe Koja, Lansdale, Poppy Z. Brite, Etchison, Thomas Tessier, John Shirely, Spector, the Tems, etc).

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There is a good use of bullet points throughout that provide the GM with loads of vivid and surreal horror images and ideas. The creature and God descriptions and Dark Secrets suggest all kinds of adventure seeds. Terrifically flavourful and promising, unlike a lot of Lore heavy RPGs this one calls out to be ran. Highly recommended to any fan of horror rpgs.

Plase feel free to share your thoughts on this as well. I'll post my thoughts on the Black Madonna campaign soon.
 
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Is this the edited version?

Tell me, flicking through the third book segment, have they removed the imagery of the S&M demonic figures with prominent genitalia? If so, that'll be what they censored out from the Kickstarter edition.

You'll note that there was some talk about the Stability mechanic replacing Mental Balance from previous editions, as the latter actually had some important themes integrated into it's use. When I communicated with the writers they suggested that they may return to these concepts in supplements. I am hoping they do, along with incorporating some ideas from the Conjurer's Guides about integrating real world occult practices into the Lores presented in the book, and expanding into playing Enlightened characters. This would change the game a bit in terms of scope, but it would be a good development. The current game is a more street level horror style, which is still pretty awesome.

In terms of it's niche, it's basically like condensing a load of the signnature concepts found in WoD games, giving them a gnostic twist, and having it all concisely presented into one focused game and setting. You can get some overlap ideas from both.
 
Didn't Kult get banned for import to the US or something at one point?
 
Tell me, flicking through the third book segment, have they removed the imagery of the S&M demonic figures with prominent genitalia? If so, that'll be what they censored out from the Kickstarter edition.
I see no demon genitals. I'm pretty disappointed; you should be able to pick the censored or uncensored version. This is an appropriate product for adult artwork of that sort.
 
But does it have Sex Moves ? :hehe:

Beautiful book. How are adventures supposed to roll? Does the game provide more concrete methods or examples of play or is this like Vampire 2e where the group is supposed to find out through divination spells? :dead:
 
I am quite of a fan of the Kult cosmology but the rules of the former editions were too crunchy to my taste. The new edition cover is quite a sight !
 
Didn't Kult get banned for import to the US or something at one point?
That sounds like an urban legend to me, like the way old Fleischer cartoons are always marked "BANNED CARTOON WITH DRUG USE" on Youtube to draw clicks.

I was in gaming retail in the '90s, I carried Kult, and I don't know of any issues.

Anyway, it looks pretty good. I might pick it up after the holidays.
 
What is the premise of this game? Are the horrors created from people’s prior bad experiences festering in their minds? Is it a form of universal karma? I’m trying to get a handle on this.
 
I see no demon genitals. I'm pretty disappointed; you should be able to pick the censored or uncensored version. This is an appropriate product for adult artwork of that sort.
I think it was the fact that the genitalia was at full salute and/or in a state of disrepair.

Anyway, it was the USA outlets where the problem was. I'm not sure if text has changed, but I'd see it as less likely.
 
What is the premise of this game? Are the horrors created from people’s prior bad experiences festering in their minds? Is it a form of universal karma? I’m trying to get a handle on this.
The premise of the game is based on a gnostic vision. The most commonly cited pop culture reference is The Matrix, but basically the idea is that humankind are imprisoned in an illusion (reality) by a God figure (The Demiurge) along with a full pantheon of angels which act as jailers and control society in certain positions of influence. Humanity has lived for an eternity in 'Metropolis' as an eternal city, constantly recycled (death isn't real) and living through their lives, unaware.

Recently, it appears that the Demiurge has disappeared or is at least weakened and reality is beginning to break down. However, this leaves humanity at the mercy of their jailers who no longer have a heirarchy to control them. Certain lores detail methods in which they can awaken to the true nature of reality - and in so doing practice magic - most of these involve extreme preparations though.

The default narrative is Noirish - playing flawed individuals with Dark Secrets who live generally alienated lives, dabbling into shadowy mysteries that make up the world.
 
But does it have Sex Moves ? :hehe:

Beautiful book. How are adventures supposed to roll? Does the game provide more concrete methods or examples of play or is this like Vampire 2e where the group is supposed to find out through divination spells? :dead:

There is a section dedicated to how to create and GM a session. I’d say it doesn’t stray too far from the CoC investigative structure. Wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the original Kult grew out of CoC play.

You are encouraged to draw inspiration for play from the PCs Dark Secrets and those secrets and Disadvantages will be exploited by the supernatural creatures they encounter.
 
Is this the edited version?

Tell me, flicking through the third book segment, have they removed the imagery of the S&M demonic figures with prominent genitalia? If so, that'll be what they censored out from the Kickstarter edition.

You'll note that there was some talk about the Stability mechanic replacing Mental Balance from previous editions, as the latter actually had some important themes integrated into it's use. When I communicated with the writers they suggested that they may return to these concepts in supplements. I am hoping they do, along with incorporating some ideas from the Conjurer's Guides about integrating real world occult practices into the Lores presented in the book, and expanding into playing Enlightened characters. This would change the game a bit in terms of scope, but it would be a good development. The current game is a more street level horror style, which is still pretty awesome.

In terms of it's niche, it's basically like condensing a load of the signnature concepts found in WoD games, giving them a gnostic twist, and having it all concisely presented into one focused game and setting. You can get some overlap ideas from both.

Are you aware of any other changes or has anyone compiled them online yet? Hope my print copy is not messed with.
 
Are you aware of any other changes or has anyone compiled them online yet? Hope my print copy is not messed with.
Not yet. We backers were told about this a while ago because it caused a major delay in the design process. I do note that when I saw some of the imagery in the earlier PDF copy, I thought the images were a bit strong - even noting the game's previous notoriety. They could have changed some wording - as I haven't read the retail version to compare - but I doubt it will be much, seeing as the playtest files were available throughought and I'd have probably read the transcript of it, if the changes were major.

In short, I don't think the game itself is affected much.

silva said:
It sounds like an older, taciturn brother of Unknown Armies.

Damn, I wanna play this now.
It has a more European flavour than Unknown Armies - and feels more uncompromisingly bleak - but the actual gameplay in terms of the scenarios is pretty similar, as is the central notion of humanity's unconscious link to reality.

Voros said:
There is a section dedicated to how to create and GM a session. I’d say it doesn’t stray too far from the CoC investigative structure. Wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the original Kult grew out of CoC play.

You are encouraged to draw inspiration for play from the PCs Dark Secrets and those secrets and Disadvantages will be exploited by the supernatural creatures they encounter.
Yep, Kult is very much targetted at experienced CoC Keeper's who may just be a bit jaded and looking for an alternative premise and style. The horror is probably more aggressive and visceral than the more ephemeral style of Lovecraft's writing. While Lovecraft has a vision of a vastly uncaring universe, humanity becomes the centre of attention in Kult, and the jailors actively hate you.
 
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Yep, Kult is very much targetted at experienced CoC Keeper's who may just be a bit jaded and looking for an alternative premise and style.
That's pretty much how I ran across it, back in the day. I wasn't attracted by the seeming melodrama of Vampire but wanted more modern/urban horror. Riffing off of Clive Barker was also a big plus.
I only ever ran it using CoC though (but kept Kult's Mental Balance), which is how I'd still choose to run it if I was to go there again.
 
It has a more European flavour than Unknown Armies - and feels more uncompromisingly bleak - but the actual gameplay in terms of the scenarios is pretty similar, as is the central notion of humanity's unconscious link to reality.

Both games also are interested in the humanity as a central point of the universe. In Kult, humans are divine beings that have lost sight of it. In Unknown Armies, the divine being that define the universe arise from humanity.

Unknown Armies was partly a reaction to both Call of Cthulhu and Vampire. Unlike the two big horror RPGs, UA is about humans, as opposed to a universe where humans don't matter.

Yep, Kult is very much targetted at experienced CoC Keeper's who may just be a bit jaded and looking for an alternative premise and style. The horror is probably more aggressive and viseral than the more ephemeral style of Lovecraft's writing. While Lovecraft has a vision of a vastly uncaring universe, humanity becomes the centre of attention in Kult, and the jailors actively hate you.
I'd already run a lot of Call of Cthulhu when Kult came out, and it was a refreshing change. For me, it was actually that the setting was a little more nuanced. It's a really dark setting, but it isn't inevitably eternally dark. In fact, the horrors caused by the Illusion falling apart are actually an opportunity for things to get better.
 
For me, it was actually that the setting was a little more nuanced. It's a really dark setting, but it isn't inevitably eternally dark. In fact, the horrors caused by the Illusion falling apart are actually an opportunity for things to get better.
Yeah, I think CoC is infinitely darker. In the Mythos, we know that humanity is doomed because he's a microbe in a universe of gods. In Kult, there's actual hope, and humans can become gods. Still, I expect campaigns from both games typically end in blood and madness.
 
Played Kult back in the 90s, loved it and still want to run it some day.

I am actually quite curious about the new edition, but I suspect PbtA is actually a poor fit for the game.

Does it have playbooks?
 
In Kult, there's actual hope, and humans can become gods. Still, I expect campaigns from both games typically end in blood and madness.
Is your sanity meter still tied to your potential for godhood ? Did t the old editkon have somethibg like that? (or am I confusing it for another game?)
 
am actually quite curious about the new edition, but I suspect PbtA is actually a poor fit for the game.
Good point. I find PbtA too much on the cinematic/pulp side of the spectrum to fit something dark like this. But who knows..
 
Good point. I find PbtA too much on the cinematic/pulp side of the spectrum to fit something dark like this. But who knows..

PbtA is less a rule set and more a set of design principles (playbooks, moves, etc.) that really shines when you want (1) strongly archetypal PCs, and (2) intra-party conflict as a game driver. I fail to see how Kult benefits from #1, though a case might be made for #2.
 
PbtA is less a rule set and more a set of design principles (playbooks, moves, etc.) that really shines when you want (1) strongly archetypal PCs, and (2) intra-party conflict as a game driver. I fail to see how Kult benefits from #1, though a case might be made for #2.
The archetypes were already there in the previous editions of Kult, so it wasn't really that radical to convert them into the standard PbtA format. I'm not sure that the intraparty conflict is really that prominent in this new edition of Kult though.

To be honest, I tend to just see the game system as rolling against a target number with 2d10 and the rest is not that big of a deal to me.
 
Is your sanity meter still tied to your potential for godhood ? Did t the old editkon have somethibg like that? (or am I confusing it for another game?)

Yes, it had a mental balance stat that had a baseline of 0 and could go up or down. If your mental balance got really high, you could become a messiah-like figure and eventually fully awaken from the Illusion. If your mental balance got really low, you developed increasingly monstrous, but it also led to awakening when you got low enough.

One of the examples in the book was a PC being attacked by a vampire (the vampire being a person with low mental balance). The trauma of the attack gave the PC a major loss of mental balance, so they too began to manifest vampire traits.

The Kult Players Guide had a whole campaign model for playing PCs that started with these traits.

Good point. I find PbtA too much on the cinematic/pulp side of the spectrum to fit something dark like this. But who knows..

Well, a standard Kult PC could have martial arts that gave them Chi powers, so the original had an awful lot of pulp in it.
 
Did t the old editkon have somethibg like that?
Basically, yes. On either end of the sanity scale you started to ascend.
Is your sanity meter still tied to your potential for godhood ?
Not sure if it still does...I've cracked the book but I haven't gotten too far yet. Lots of distractions...
 
As I said earlier I don’t think the PbtA mechanics are that radical or central, it just imports the resolution and Harm system. In terms of pulp, I think PbtA can do gritty quite well, the need to roll Endure Injury here seems to ensure that. You’d be lucky to last longer than two attacks from a mundane enemy let alone the supernatural foes.

In terms of Mental Balance, there is now Stability and as you start to lose your sanity at the high end you get a bonus to your See Through the Illusion rolls as I recall but nothing as radical as achieving Godhead.

There is a chapter about the path for the Enlightened and Awakened. The core game intends to keep things at a human street level but they say they will provide Englightened play options in a future supplement along with more detailed magic as an option for the Enlightened. There are a handful of optional Enlightened playbooks included in the core.

Once you’re Awakened the game would be pretty much over as that grants you incredible Godlike powers.

Considering that magic rituals often require murder, torture and even self-mutilation I’m not sure I’d be too interested in playing a magician or Enlightened. My impression is that most if not all the Enlightened are mad and murderous.
 
As I said earlier I don’t think the PbtA mechanics are that radical or central, it just imports the resolution and Harm system. In terms of pulp, I think PbtA can do gritty quite well, the need to roll Endure Injury here seems to ensure that. You’d be lucky to last longer than two attacks from a mundane enemy let alone the supernatural foes.
Males sense. The fact Apocalypse World moves make it cinematic doesn't mean Kult moves will do it too. My bad.

In terms of Mental Balance, there is now Stability and as you start to lose your sanity at the high end you get a bonus to your See Through the Illusion rolls as I recall but nothing as radical as achieving Godhead.
Interesting. I could see some conditional Moves opening up after you reach a certain Mental Balance threshold, like Monsterhearts' Coming of Age moves. Maybe they do something similar in the supplements.

I like this approach btw. Keeping the corebook focused on streets (with solid and coherent tools to make adventures about that) and then expanding that scope through supplements is better than trying to fit everything in one single package and ending up with instructions/advice too loose or incomplete, imo.
 
That sounds like an urban legend to me, like the way old Fleischer cartoons are always marked "BANNED CARTOON WITH DRUG USE" on Youtube to draw clicks.

I was in gaming retail in the '90s, I carried Kult, and I don't know of any issues.

Anyway, it looks pretty good. I might pick it up after the holidays.
It got held back for import to the USA, during the Kickstarter, while they made alterations due to retailers saying they couldn't stock the original version as it was.

It's also the case, in the 1990s that the game was debated in Swedish parliament on a motion to restrict funding to youth clubs that involved roleplaying games. There were a couple of cases of murder/suicide in which claims were made about the game being influential, but nothing conclusive.
 
Well, a standard Kult PC could have martial arts that gave them Chi powers, so the original had an awful lot of pulp in it.
Happily, the system for Kult (then and now) was never the main draw anyway. Not a big deal to run it with rules better suited to it, or just easier to get along with.
 
That sounds like an urban legend to me, like the way old Fleischer cartoons are always marked "BANNED CARTOON WITH DRUG USE" on Youtube to draw clicks.

I was in gaming retail in the '90s, I carried Kult, and I don't know of any issues.

Anyway, it looks pretty good. I might pick it up after the holidays.

Yeah, I followed Kult and it was one of the games I bought everything for. I never heard of anything.
 
Played Kult back in the 90s, loved it and still want to run it some day.

I am actually quite curious about the new edition, but I suspect PbtA is actually a poor fit for the game.

Does it have playbooks?
Never played Kult, but want to try:smile:!
I also can't see this working with PbtA, but who knows. Still, I might need to track an older edition.

Also, the premise reminds me of In Dark Alleys much more than UA. IDA is a Gnosticism-inspired game from the start.
But I just want a cosmic horror-inspired game without a tedious Mythos, is that so much to ask for:wink:?
 
Just to say that Kult doesn't have playbooks, as such, but you can buy a pack of the Archetypes,, which are two page spreads of each one. You can also just use character sheets. The format is like that used in games like Mutant: Year Zero.
 
There are a few reviews that could help one see whether PbtA Kult works or not. I'm not linking any because of the two I've found, one is political and the other is purple.
 
Just to say that Kult doesn't have playbooks, as such, but you can buy a pack of the Archetypes,, which are two page spreads of each one. You can also just use character sheets. The format is like that used in games like Mutant: Year Zero.
Spirit of 77 is also like that.
 
Yes, it had a mental balance stat that had a baseline of 0 and could go up or down. If your mental balance got really high, you could become a messiah-like figure and eventually fully awaken from the Illusion. If your mental balance got really low, you developed increasingly monstrous, but it also led to awakening when you got low enough.

This is a big reason why I find the game too morally squicky for me: Good and Evil are both completely valid paths to "winning". A saint is no "better" than a brutal pedophile -- both are on their way to awakening, at which point Good and Evil become completely irrelevant. I just can't bring myself to care about PCs in a setting like this.

Don't get me wrong: Kult does what it does well. It's just not my cup of tea.
 
here there are really no OOC narrative mechanics, the game just uses the AW rules-light central mechanic of roll 2d10 (instead of AW's d6) and get a failure, success with cost or straight up success.

Umm, in PbtA, the "success with cost" is a place where the OOC narrative control usually sneaks in, if the player can choose the "cost" that a character obviously would not be able to determine.
 
This is a big reason why I find the game too morally squicky for me: Good and Evil are both completely valid paths to "winning". A saint is no "better" than a brutal pedophile -- both are on their way to awakening, at which point Good and Evil become completely irrelevant. I just can't bring myself to care about PCs in a setting like this.

Don't get me wrong: Kult does what it does well. It's just not my cup of tea.
Yep. Absolutely true. The game goes 'Beyond Good and Evil', as a cosmic truth, in the manner that Nietzche himself may have envisioned. However, the core human morality remains up to the players and the characters they play. They face an existential crisis when they Awaken to the truth of the world. This is why it is a horror game after all.
 
I've never really minded that the paths to awakening could be absolute good or absolute evil. I don't think most players would go for the latter, but NPCs who do could make useful antagonists if that's the direction one wants to go. I'm not sure awakening is generally a focus of Kult games, though.
 
Well, I'd rather have something like Kult than D&D alignments moral objectivism, which I find kinda silly and make me feel like I'm in a Masters of the Universe animation everytime I engage with it. But to each their own.
 
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