Kult: Divinity Lost by PurpleXVI
2Edgy4UOriginal SA post Kult: Divinity Lost
So, years ago I did a review of the original Kult(http://projects.inklesspen.com/fata...purplexvi/kult/), and though it wasn't exactly the best written review, the basic gist of it was: "It tried really hard, had some neat ideas and evocative images, but a horror game where the superior(and certainly viable) options are to play as Chun Li, a vampire yelling people to death or a guy who's asleep and dreaming he's winning the game, has lost the thread a bit." I've been following the development of Divinity Lost zero percent, so I'm curious to see what changed, how it changed and what they got right.
To start us off, here's the cover in full.
Clickthrough for the non-censored version. Yeah, we're off to a good start. The art is competent, but already deciding to be a bit edgy on us. Next we have the index and then 38 pages(out of a total 392, so close to 10% of the book) that's just single pieces of art interspersed with one-sentence "mood-setting" stuff. These can be summarized as: "The world is dark and spooky, bad people are doing magic, there are monsters and angels. Now play the game." None of the art is really memorable OR ugly enough to link in that section. HOWEVER.
You see this shit? This is every page of the index(there are FOUR PAGES of index), the text is slanting away slightly left or right for no apparent reason except to make it look like their editor forgot to wear his glasses.
There's also this "font." Did you know that top thing said "book"? I would've thought it was just random mood-setting graffiti if the bottom part wasn't more legible.
BOOK I: The Lie
So it starts off with some DEEP LORE which is largely unchanged from the previous version: Humanity used to be divine, until the Demiurge showed up and flimflammed us out of our powers by convincing us, essentially, that we weren't divine. Then he set up a hugely elaborate illusion to keep us continually convinced of this(i.e. basically all organized religions and our entire society), enforced by jailers called the Lictors. Now, in the original game, it was hinted at that things started collapsing after the Demiurge vanished, his power no longer keeping everything in line and everyone on-mission. In this, it's hinted at that humanity questioning ages-old ideas was what caused things to start collapsing, which either killed the Demiurge or drove him into hiding because he knew what was coming once humanity properly woke up.
This means we're getting weirder cults who can actually cast magic, monsters that claw their way into reality through the mentally ill(I guess they might still be keeping the part where either being a super-buddhist or a raving flesh-eating murderer is required for a proper connection to the divine), if you go insane enough you can see the forgotten and abandoned Metropolis which is humanity's true home, etc.
Predictably, we're meant to be people who see through the chinks in the grand illusion and get drawn into the weird shit that dwells beyond and in between worlds. It's still described as a horror game, and then we get the usual section on "what are RPG's," complete with gameplay example. It's... one of the better ones I've seen, really? We're not confronted with a bunch of meaningless terms and rules, just a short 100% roleplaying session where the GM sets the scene, describes what the characters know, and then the players act on that. I kinda like it.
We get a brief taste of the system, which seems to be something along the lines of 2d10+modifier as the roll, 15+ is a total success, 10 to 14 is a success with some sort of drawback, and 9 or less is a failure that results in something unwanted or unintended happening. Like in the original Kult, I'm glad that it sticks to a relatively simple mechanic rather than giving in to the temptation to have some super-novel, over-complicated resolution method. The game also encourages the GM not to necessarily do much in the way of rolling, but just to arbitrate that what's appropriate to the story/event/circumstances happens in many situations.
Feels like something out of Prometheus. And that movie sucked shit.
From there, we head straight into the Archetypes, which are the various starting points intended for characters. They all have art. This, for instance, is an Artist:
The problem is that none of it is particularly good or evocative. All of the archetypes either look stiff and artificially posed, or they look dull-eyed and uninteresting. There's not a single archetype out of, I think close to 20, where the art makes me go: "This looks like a cool and interesting character. I want to play this person in this dark world."
It feels like they wanted to make all the characters look a bit grim, worn out, washed-out, hurt, etc. to communicate the GRIM DARKNESS of the Kult universe, but mostly it just gives a sense of "all these people are walking corpses anyway. Why bother?" than "these people have a shit existence, but they've all got a divine spark, that's a reason to keep going against the odds."
Each Archetype has us choosing 1 Dark Secret, 2 Disadvantages and 3 Advantages from provided lists. Then we have some positives and negatives to assign to some of our Active and Passive attributes, the meaning of which I'm sure will eventually become clear. Mechanically the only thing that changes from character to character is the Secrets, Disadvantages and Advantages lists as well as some minor changes to our starting relationships. But the latter is extremely minor stuff. Considering that we also have the option to free-form design a character outside of the archetypes, and considering how basic they really are in their minor differences to each other, I'm not sure why they bothered to have them at all. Like, just to be clear, all of these just describe someone's day job, pretty much: Cop, soldier, teacher, homeless person, mentally traumatized person, evil cultist, evil cult leader, etc.
Glancing at the index, chargen seems to eat up some 138 pages, with the actual rules for how characters and the game work being somewhere after that. Game design!
Sadly they seem to have removed the Yelling Vampire as a character concept.Original SA post Kult: Divinity Lost
So, we're still in chargen, and it's immediately obvious that they've changed this a good deal from the original. Primarily, it's been simplified more. You've got your Dark Secret, which is your personal plot hook, they have no actual mechanical effects, which is kind of a shame. It would be interesting if your Dark Secret somehow defined your availability of Advantages and Disadvantages(and, in fact, possibly more interesting than the archetypes we've got, which more or less just tells us what your day job is). Then you've got your Disadvantages, which I already fucking hate just from reading them, which is more or less "you pick these situations, and whenever they come up, the GM can roll to fuck you over and disrupt the story." Most of them are just "if you roll bad, you get a random encounter with some people who don't like you," while others are stuff like, "you've got a permanent tickdown to your eventual death, roll badly and one more spot gets marked on that ticker, lol." And a few are just "do this dumb thing if you roll badly, or you lose Sanity."
I'm sorry, not Sanity, Stability. Totally different thing, guys. Don't sue us.
If you want an idea of what's on the list, just imagine every list of 90's game social disadvantages you can think of. Everything from being greedy to being cursed, it's ALL there, short of, like, being a werewolf or a vampire. Sadly they seem to have removed the Yelling Vampire as a character concept.
Why yes, I'll go ahead and pick Sexual Neurosis so the GM can literally COMPEL that my PC has to fuck an NPC. What the fuck, game.
Some disadvantages also give the GM "holds," which he can later spend to fuck over the PC's.
And I'll be honest, I feel like this is a shitty system. I GM a lot myself, and I can never make use of systems like this, not even if a PC picks something like "Unlucky" in a game with disadvantages. Because when I consciously reach in and go: "Okay, time to fuck this guy's day up." It makes me feel like a shitty, adversarial GM who's doing a bad job of it. If something bad happens to the PC's, it shouldn't be because I want it to happen. Or rather, not because I want it to happen, it should be because the PC's did something that logically leads to a bad consequence, or because some NPC in the game decided it was time to ruin their day. And while I realize those are still things I'm in control of, they feel much less arbitrary, to me, and like something the PC's can actually react to, or avert, or not cause in the first place, rather than me going "lol fuck you guys for playing this game."
A much better implementation of Disadvantages would be to have them be "do something long-term or short-term disadvantageous, gain some benefit to spend at a later time." So players choose to fuck THEMSELVES and the rest of the party over for a gain. Player choice is important.
Anyway, RANT OVER. Next up is Advantages. Basically they're our special abilities, and man they are most definitely not equal. For instance, compare Academic Network, which would allow you to be friends with people at universities, with Artistic Talent, which allows you to hypnotize an entire audience with no apparent save to resist for an entire "performance" or Authority, which more or less allows you to bluff yourself access to ANYWHERE as long as you can bullshit it being related to a given research field that you've chosen to be an authority on.
Kult, Divinity Lost posted:
Gain access to people or places under the pretense of engaging in your research or studies.
Nowhere does it mention anything about a sanity check, or a limit or anything like the GM having a fiat say on whether it works or not. By RAW it just works. So just say you're a professor of Applied Metaphysics at the University of Stockholm and bluff your way into Hell.
Other comparisons would be Parkour allowing you to "scale an impossible obstacle" vs Elite Education letting you get literal government favours. That impossible obstacle? Hell, just get a fucking military helicopter to give you a lift over it! Like... so many of these abilities are so incredibly poorly worded with, again, no form of sanity checks or limits, that you can just... do whatever. Who the fuck needs divine magic when you can pull this sort of garbage out of your sleeve from chargen.
Now, note. Any sort of acrobatics lets us make a roll. If we hit 15+, we get to save one of our successes for later, but it doesn't say how much later, some of the abilities at least try to define it as a "scene" or some such. So in this case, we can do handstands in our apartment, in perfect safety, until we hit a 15+, which will allow us to bank a perfect action for later. Also nothing really defines "seemingly impossible obstacle." Can we leap over a skyscraper? Do a backflip over Mt. Everest?
10:31 - Ghost Robot: i need the Parkour to get over the mental blocks keeping me from improving my life in any meaningful way, can it do that?
You know what? MAYBE IT COULD. Because nothing defines the fucking obstacle, or what's seemingly impossible vs what's actually impossible!
10:34 - Ghost Robot: it's also hilarious to me that "Coolness" is a stat or skill in TYOOL 2018
10:35 - Ghost Robot: that's something i imagine White Wolf thinking about for oWoD and saying "Hm, nah, too kitschy."
10:36 - PurpleXVI: You can also mind control animals with one of these.
10:36 - PurpleXVI: And talking to your cat at home lets you bank up to two perfect animal mind controls.
10:36 - Ghost Robot: so you can talk to your cat, then use that to mind control a blue whale or a grizzly bear.
10:36 - PurpleXVI: Oh my God.
10:36 - PurpleXVI: There's a fucking YOU CAN USE THE INTERNAT advantage.
I'm sorry to just be posting chat logs like some shitty Homestuck roleplay here, but I had to share some of the dumber shit with a friend and my raw bafflement is hard to replicate.
But it's not all insane, and there ARE some sanity checks, I mean, for instance:
We're limited by our time and resources. So we can't just, you know, straight up build a nuke, because reasonably only governments would have acc-
PSYCH. WE DO HAVE ACCESS TO URANIUM. Shortest fucking "time to nuclear weapons" I've seen in any sort of RPG chargen so far. I mean, notice, if we have the time and resources, we don't need to roll for making our nuke. On the Elite Education, we can either get tons of options, some options, or one option with a "debt" attached. Nothing will NOT get us an option. So we will ALWAYS get our uranium, or plutonium, or whatever fissile product we require.
Also without getting too much into the mechanics yet, with our primary stat, we're likely to roll up with something approximating an 85% chance of getting a 10+ on our rolls.
Just. I know this is a short post, but I'm fucking EXHAUSTED by it already. There are already SO MANY POOR DECISIONS on display. What the shit, Kult Guys.
I'd also like to note that having both Serious and Critical Wounds which can be inflicted by failing to resist them is a stupid idea, if terms mean different things, fucking differentiate them properly when naming them.Original SA post Kult: Divinity Lost
So, reading this chapter, I shared some of what I considered to be the dumber parts with my friends, and learned that depending on your point of view, apparently what I consider to be the dumbest shit in this game, others will consider to be the very point of the game. So, you know, be warned, you may disagree heartily with me!
Anyway, last time we covered the specific things that people can only do if they have the requisite Advantage, and how they're stupid, badly designed and pretty much every single one has something dumb about it, so I couldn't even go through all of them. Now we're coming up to the things everyone can do, and how they're stupid, badly designed and pretty much every single one has something dumb about it, but at least there's few enough of them that I can go through most of them. As usual they're all triggered with a 2d10+stat, where a 15 is "total success," a 10 to 14 is a partial success and a 9 or less is a failure of some kind. Usually. Kind of. The game isn't very consistent about it. Sometimes a 10 to 14 roll will also ruin your day and a 9- has a negligible penalty.
For instance, with Avoid Harm, a 15+ is, indeed, us avoiding all harm, but the other two categories are us maybe taking some damage, if the GM thinks we should.
Which is basically the core of this entire chapter, which is that ostensibly the reason we have dice involved is to invoke a random element. Except in something like half the cases in this chapter, we invoke the random element, and then the random result is "The GM decides what happens." Most of the thinking is also highly confused. For instance, with Endure Injury, the GM picks what happens if it's a 10 to 14 roll, but we pick what happens with a 9- roll. I'll note, though, that we may be unable to die against our will. With a 9-, we choose whether we get KO'd, suffer a Critical Wound or die. We can only have one Critical Wound, but we can always choose to get knocked out instead of dying. Why would we ever choose to die? Why is it even an option?
I'd also like to note that having both Serious and Critical Wounds which can be inflicted by failing to resist them is a stupid idea, if terms mean different things, fucking differentiate them properly when naming them.
This is also some of the most stupidly roll-heavy combat I've ever seen. A given attack, assuming no rolls are critically flubbed, involves four rolls. First you roll to see whether you get to act(more on this in a moment), then you roll to attack, then the other person rolls to dodge, and then they roll to resist being hurt. We may also need to roll for SAN(Stability, whatever) loss when getting hit, so five, when a few static modifiers and removing the stupid "do you remember to actually do things?"-check could perhaps get us down to two(damage and hit opposed by static modifiers in one roll, then stress in another).
But anyway, being stressed is hilarious, because when you flub one of those rolls, there's a long list of descriptive effects... and behind basically every one, in a paranthesis, is the exact same MECHANICAL result. Also a total flub means the GM takes over your character for a while because getting to play the game isn't cool and fun. Also when we lose enough Stability, the GM, gets the option to make us roll vs instant suicide(they really love character death at the drop of a hat here. Note that this roll uses the stat that we're already HEAVILY PENALIZED with for being this unstable) or to give the character a permanent mental scar. Alternately, it's suggested that the GM present the player with three options: Reroll your character, swap two stats around or gain XP and get a boost to seeing through the Illusion. Real tough choice.
Anyway, remember how I said you needed to roll to do stuff in combat at all?
When you do something risky, under time pressure, or try to avoid danger, the GM will explain what the consequence for failure is and you roll +Coolness
So if that doesn't define pretty much anything done in a fight, I don't know what does. Anyway, this is basically just an incredibly dumb chance to fail literally everything important you might ever do unless you've got enough Coolness to resist it regularly. Like, you need a straight 15+ for things to go off without a hitch and for it to not be a partial success... but you're already rolling for the thing you're actually doing, and less than a 15+ is also a partial success there(except when it isn't or is up to the GM to decide, but okay, whatever, you get the idea). Like, why have the EXACT SAME MECHANIC twice? Why? Fucking explain yourself, Kult, you trash game.
Anyway, this is about bad things that can happen to us. What about bad things we can MAKE happen to others? Like being a violent dickhead? Basically unless you can roll straight 15+, don't bother, in fact you're probably better off waiting for others to flub attacks against you. Because the arbitrary options left open to the GM on a 10-14 roll involve being subjected to instadeath checks(an enemy counterattacks, and it's an automatic success and hit that you must Endure Injury to resist, and Endure Injury can, as noted, instantly kill you if you blow the roll and fail to convince the GM that you can, in fact, be knocked out while already being knocked out) or your weapon becoming useless(running out of ammo, breaking, being lost, whatever). Really, against enemies who are sufficiently bad at Violence, it's safer for you to just let them do all the attacking and waiting until their mistakes kill them(assuming they attack like PC's do, anyway. In fact the game has yet to establish if NPC's are statted and treated like PC's are at all.).
It suggests that a 9- should involve losing something important, but this is also one of the options open to the GM at 10-14. Did anyone edit this shit or are the authors just morons?
Anyway, the next thing in this particular section of abilities is Influence Other, which is the first skill so far to have any sort of limitation or sanity check at a 15+ roll! Wow! It's actually NOT literal mind control and you can't tell people to kill themselves and have it actually work. Of course, this only applies to people. With the proper advantage we can just bypass sanity checks and roll to convince national governments instead, as we learned. Playtesting! Editing! Stupid things that no one needs when making the next cool groundbreaking RPG of the 21st century!
Also they lose points for letting players try to use diplomatic skills against each others' characters, that's never good design.
The two perception skills, for reading people and situations, straight up state that they can be used to ask the GM how to solve a situation. For people it's "what will convince this guy to do X?" and for situations it's "what's the solution to this/what's the best way through this?" Investigate, meanwhile, hilariously, suggests that the players get to ask the GM: "How can I investigate this more?" "Hello Mr. GM I just used this skill. What do I have to do to use it again please." Or maybe just ask a goddamn question that will actually give you information you need and want.
Then there's a really vestigial "relationships" mechanic which amounts to "the people you like can hug you to help you recover SAN," "you can't murder your friends without a roll to see if you'll really do it" and "if your best friend gets shot in the head, you lose SAN."
Now these mechanics are really bad. But do you know what's even worse? THE ADVANCEMENT MECHANIC. Yeah, it's fucking worse than HSD's, somehow. Basically, every session, the other players get to more or less offer you two dares, or "dramatic hooks" as the game calls them, but whatever, they're just dares. Like, "I think your character should divorce his wife" or "You should visit some place that really traumatizes you!"(more or less straight up the examples from the book) and if you do it, you get bonus XP. Like, this is INCREDIBLY STUPID for a variety of reasons, where the fuck do I even start. Like, it's obvious that what they wanted was to reward you for doing cool dramatic shit relevant to your character.
Except then have the GM set the hooks or something instead, having the other players, who cannot know the character as well as the character's player, suggest DRAMATIC HOOKS for him, is just stupid and results in OOC shit being done for bonus XP. The second issue is that there's limited screen time and space for each character during a given session. What if someone else gets great opportunities for his hooks and I get none for mine? Grats, now you've got an XP-unbalanced party. So just fucking JUNK that mechanic entirely. Fuck that shit.
Not that the other way of getting XP is any better.
"After each session, the players answer the following questions:
◊◊Have we discovered anything new about the Truth?
◊◊Have we learned anything new about our characters?
◊◊Have we challenged ourselves?
For each question the players can justify answering “yes” to, every PC receives 1 Experience."
So basically you ask the players if they want more XP, then they say "yes," and they get more XP.
But you know what's more important than XP? How we can spend that XP. And what can we spend it on? Killing ourselves! Ha ha you think I'm kidding, but I'm not.
What we can buy are, literally, attribute boosts(but capped so low that our starting +3 attribute, essentially our trademark/character role thing, can only ever be marginally improved. Which feels like bad design. If I make John Punchman, then that means I probably want to play a Punchy Guy, and want to be good and better at being a Punchy Guy, not that I want to spend all my advancements on getting John his PhD.
Anyway, once we've levelled up three times, we get the following option:
"End your character’s story arc as you see fit, and create a new Aware character, who starts with two advancements: The player creates a new PC and immediately chooses two advancements."
I.e. kill yourself and start over as a character of a lower level for some reason. On the other hand, "as you see fit," with no sanity checks... I mean, by the writing here, the GM doesn't get a fucking say. I can say that my character ends his story by becoming president of the moon and giving a rocket ship full of ray guns and gold to the rest of the party, or that he infiltrates a nuclear missile silo and nukes Hell or whatever.
If we stick it out for ten level-ups without killing ourselves, though, we get to become a wizard or other Enlightened thing, which has yet to really be defined and explained. Which seems like a great place for the game to seque sharply into weapons which... uh. It feels like they forgot they were writing New Kult and not Kult Classic, since we get get a decent-sized armory thrown into our narrative-heavy game(even though every gun really only has two stats: Damage done, ammo capacity, and whether it can attack more than one enemy by sweeping fire across them). Also why bother defining ammo capacities for these guns when any non-perfect attack lets the GM just arbitrarily state we ran out of ammo anyway? Most of the weapons also have various different attacks... but quite a few of them aren't defined. For instance, for punching and kicking:
"Excessive force  [focus entirely on killing your target, disregarding your own safety]"
We basically do double damage in exchange for "disregarding [our] own safety" which the game doesn't define as having any mechanical effect. With a knife we can paralyze someone by holding it to their neck until they "break free," but it never tells us what they have to roll, or what we have to fail to roll, for them to break free. Then there are flashbangs which "momentarily neutralize" NPC's without any sort of save or check(only PC's get a save against this), but what does this mean? Like what can I do with them "momentarily neutralized"? Can I go around cutting throats and collecting ears? Or is it only enough to run away? Define this fucking stuff, Kult, at least vaguely.
Throughout all of this, I also realize I haven't seen any sort of actual description of what happens in situations where lots of people want to do something at once, like a fight. How do we determine who goes first? Is there some sort of initiative mechanic? After a glance at the index, it doesn't seem like any of the GM-only sections cover it either, and we're now literally at the end of the player-facing part of the game book.
I was also pretty sure that the game never defined how much damage we could eat without dying, so I scrolled back to Endure Pain and realized something weird. If we get badly hurt enough, we get Critical Wounds, which won't heal on their own and require medical treatment. If they get treated, they become Serious Wounds, which eventually heal on their own with a bit of care, rest and painkillers. BUT, check this out, this is how it describes a Critical Wound:
Examples of Critical Wounds include: punctured lung, severed aorta, intestinal evisceration, severed genitalia, ruptured eyeball, shattered collarbone, internal bleeding, spinal cord damage, or cerebral hemorrhage.
Like, I don't think that any amount of rest, even after an ER visit, will fix your "severed genitalia" or spinal cord damage back to anywhere near normalcy. Hell, most of these sound like the sort of thing that would result in never-healed injuries of some sort or another.
The game also fails to actually say it, but I think the intent is that when we have four Serious Wounds and a Critical Wound and next roll a 9- on Endure Injury, we should only be able to choose to Die. But it never actually comes right out and says it, so I think we should just pretend it's possible to get knocked out again even while already knocked out and... who ever thought this game was a good idea? And how could this game be delayed? Like what were they spending that time on? Not the fucking playtesting and writing, that's for sure.
THIS SECTION OF THE BOOK GETS KIND OF CREEPY AND RAPEYOriginal SA post Kult: Divinity Lost
I DON'T USUALLY DO "TRIGGER WARNINGS" BUT THIS SECTION OF THE BOOK GETS KIND OF CREEPY AND RAPEY AND I QUOTED SOME OF THAT BECAUSE WHAT THE FUCK AUTHORS. SO, UH, READER BEWARE.
So, now we know that we can easily build nukes and control national governments, but shouldn't ever try to shoot at or punch someone. So what do we actually do with these abilities? That's for this next part of the book.
BOOK TWO: THE MADNESS
This font still sucks titanic amounts of raw ass.
So this next bit is more or less just "players control the PC's, GM controls the rest of the world" and all the other things we expect from chapters like this by now, with the only noteworthy deviation being a large sidebar explaining that stats are not in-game things(i.e. my character, John Punchman, is not aware that he has a +4 to Violence, he's just aware that he's got rippling muscles and is really good at punching mans.). We're also told that anything a player says their character does or describes their character as doing, they should be allowed to get away with, at most with a "but then" or "and also" caveat attached afterwards by the GM. The written example is then a player describing that they stab a bad dude right in the face, and the GM's response is "okay but the bad dude just no-sells it and tosses you around like a rag doll without giving a fuck."
Which feels a bit disingenious. I mean, the idea that "you can't say 'no that doesn't happen' or 'no that doesn't happen like that.' if a player describes an action" isn't necessarily a game I'd want to play, but if that's the game they're designing, then go design that game. Don't, uh, immediately wimp out of it by encouraging the GM to nix the character's actions in a creative fashion instead.
The GM is also encouraged to hide the mechanics of the game from the players, by literally never addressing what's happening mechanically, and instead only describing things. While I get that the idea is to increase immersion in a Spooky Spookgame, as a player it would, to some extent, make me wonder when the rules are being adhered to and when the GM is just making shit up.
Generally this chapter is mostly GM'ing advice that's either painfully obvious to anyone who could ever even hope to be a good GM, or stuff that I mildly disagree with, but there's one section I feel every game should have:
Being a fan of the characters means the GM offers the PCs opportunities to be cool, as well as vulnerable, and not to thwart the progress and successes they’ve earned through hard work. The worst thing a GM can do is remove or inhibit what makes a character cool. If a player has put in time into describing their character’s faithful German Shepherd and pointed out how the dog is their character’s entire life, it’s not okay to have the dog get run over and killed during the first game session for no reason. It’s a different story if some of the character’s enemies kidnaps the dog, giving the character an opportunity to fight to get it back. In the latter case, the GM is validating the player’s character concept regarding their relation to the dog, while in the former case she’s just destroying it.
Another thing to avoid is denying the PCs successes they’ve fought for and won. It’s more interesting to let consequences arise from the characters’ successes. Have NPCs react to the character achieving one of their goals. What threats might now view the PC as a possible ally? What threats now perceive her as a dangerous enemy? Allow the PCs to affect the world. Let their choices matter. If the characters depose a lictor from its position of power in the city, it would be pretty strange if there were no consequences. And what player enjoys playing a story where their actions don’t matter?
Like, I think this entire chunk here is probably one of the most important pieces of GM'ing advice ever, and I eagerly encourage everyone to take it to heart. Of course, that means it has to be followed by a section I absolutely fucking loathe. The GM's "moves." In the same way that the players have their list of cool tricks, the game tries to separate all of the things a GM can do into a bunch of easily categorized actions and I just... I hate it so much that I have trouble expressing it. It feels aggressively artificial. Like congrats, everything you experience is gonna come from the same list of 20 or so verbs or short sentences. Also they're doing that thing I fucking hate, where they say something, and then instantly do or write the opposite. Barely ten pages back they say that the GM should more or less never refer to the actual mechanics if he can help it... then drop in two examples-of-play where almost every sentence has a reference to rolls and mechanics.
Also the fucking slanted paragraphs keep happening. AND SOMETIMES THE PARAGRAPH ON ONE SIDE OF A PAGE IS SLANTED, WHILE THE OTHER IS STRAIGHT, OR ONE IS SLANTED AT A STEEPER ANGLE THAN THE OTHER. THIS IS DOING MORE SANITY DAMAGE THAN LICTORS. I WANT TO BOIL THE EDITORS OF THIS BOOK IN A VAT OF DOG PISS.
Anyway, there's some damage and combat stuff. The threat to us from just about anything, before we reach the various supernatural dangers at least, is a 4 harm, which includes stuff like being hit by a chainsaw, standing next to an exploding grenade, touching high-voltage wires or being in a car crash. After one level-up, we can have the necessary stats to shrug this off 20% of the time, to establish our starting characters' power level. Also the game's combat rules means that bribing a gang of 20 hobos and having a chainsaw or a pocket full of hand grenades is the strongest weapon we're presented with so far, since those two weapons give us a straight 4 harm to fucking dudes up, and having 20+ dudes help us gives a flat +3 to that with no apparent cap.
There's also a section on PC vs PC combat here which is where I'm reminded that we're literally only capable of hindering or helping other PC's. If two NPC's are throwing down or something, all we can do is watch or threaten them with our nuclear weapons.
When hinting at how we can make the game scarier, it's pointed out that one challenge is that players often feel safe because the PC's, not being complete morons, will tend to stick together. So the GM should just roll the necessary dice and abuse the required GM fiat to force them apart. Because fuck that great section you wrote earlier about the importance of player agency, right? Also WOW. I just... HM. Well, the book straight up encourages you to have your players' characters be sexually molested by random PC's. It just comes out of the writing with zero fucking warning or anything just: "SAY THAT THE NPC GRABS THE CHARACTER BY THE DONG AND STROKES IT LOVINGLY."
Now you might think I'm exaggerating, but just so you know I'm not, here. Have some verbatim quotes. The title for this section is "DARE TO BE UNPLEASANT."
Take the players to places you don’t normally want to go, where it’s sensitive, difficult, and disconcerting.
Have no mercy. It should be difficult, offensive, and transgressive to the player character.
- You’re held in place while the bookie you’re in deep with undoes your pants and slips his rough fingers around your cock. He strokes it, almost tenderly, grinning. “When do I get my money,” he asks, while the laughter rings in your ears.
- You feel like you can’t control your own body. The lictor’s commanding voice has entangled your mind. You feel your newborn son’s warm, soft skin. You lift him up and he babbles and coos happily, unaware of what is about to transpire. You start walking towards the oven, your feet betraying you with every step.
- There’s a taste of blood in your mouth. Your head spins and one of your front teeth comes loose as he throws you onto the asphalt. There’s a ripping noise as he tears your pants down. He pushes his dick into you. You scream. He keeps going.
- You wake up coughing. It’s difficult to focus your vision and your face feels swollen and smashed. You’re in fetal position in the bed of a cheap motel room. Hardcore porn is on the TV. There’s a taste of semen in your mouth. The bed is drenched in blood. One of them got everything on camera.
SO. There are six "horror examples." Three are rape, one is babies in ovens, one is a mass shooting and the last is a horrifically detailed description of a police officer casually carving out the character's eyeball. This is followed by a section on "talk with your players about it first before you tell gratuitously described stories about their characters being raped!" I'd maybe have that first and also once your game needs a safe word, as they encourage, it's closer to some sort of weird sexual roleplay than anything else. Jesus Christ. Also maybe have the warning BEFORE the rape stories, Kult.
I'm not usually squeamish, but this bit got to me a little. Fucking Kult. But it's cool, we're past that, now we're getting to the section where they describe how to use monsters, and how to hint at them before they show up, how to get across the idea that they're otherworldly and-
The nepharite pulls her clothing aside to reveal her glistening sex. You’re struck with the strong desire, a lusty pull, to put your tongue on the moist slit, to be permitted to kneel in front of her, to please and worship her.
KULT PLEASE. FUCKING STOP IT ALREADY.
A LUSTY PULL
WHAT THE FUCK.
I'm taking a break from this review for now because fuck this shit.
THE TRUTHOriginal SA post Kult: Divinity Lost
Okay. With all that weird rapey shit over with(I fucking hope. I browsed the rest of the book real quick and didn't see anything quite as egregrious, though there is certainly some weird shit left), maybe we can continue reviewing this hot garbage.
The remainder of the GM'ing specific section which isn't the straight-up lore-and-bad-guys third book is mostly just full of sage advice like "have the characters meet up," "prepare some dramatic reveals" and "have their Dark Secrets be related if you can." Mostly it's only there for if you're a first-time GM and somehow get past the "have your characters raped"-advice without throwing the book on a fucking bonfire or reformatting your HDD to purge it permanently from your collection.
It does have some neat art, though.
Though, why did these weird creatures(which I think are actually never statted up or described anywhere) have to have perfectly human tits(click through if you need/want to see the uncensored version)? Like, come on. Come on. Also I think it's "charming" that they're replicating a flaw from the original books, which is that while the GM section has a section called "opponents," that only has one example enemy and then the elements for clapping your own bad guys together from parts. While all the pre-made monstrosities and potential enemies are scattered throughout the lore chapters at the back in the lore section/region where they'd appropriately be encountered, making it a bitch to track them down.
Also, they're actually something even worse than the original Kult there. Original Kult statted up almost every creature it mentioned in any sort of detail, but Divinity Lost leaves something like half of the enemies/creatures/NPC's described just as a vague sketch that the GM has to fill out by himself if he wants to use them for anything. Shoddy, lazy fucking work.
There's also some strange bits in the GM'ing advice sections that I suspect are once again copied at least partially from whatever PbtA template they were cribbing half their shit.
A final desperate firefight against the mafia family who murdered the PC’s family.
A tragic suicide in the PC’s apartment.
A mad experiment where the PC is launched into an alternate dimension.
The sealing of a demonic pact, which ensures the PC’s promotion to CEO of their company.
These are supposed to be ways to end the game's story or a characters' personal story. The first two sound entirely too mundane to be the apex of a game where your characters are aware, from chargen, that reality is at least mildly fucky(you can also play "Sleepers" who are entirely unaware at game start, but the game more or less advises against you actually doing this). Kult "demons" also aren't classic demons in most senses of the term, this again just feels completely out of whack with the game, plus playing a game where your character's greatest goal is to become a CEO feels... uninspiring? At least if it's not a setting like Shadowrun or something where you can accomplish this with mercenaries and high explosives. And being launched into another dimension sounds like the start of a story, not the end of one.
In fact, for Kult, all these sound like where a story should start. You fight the mafia goons, you come out on top... and realize their leader wasn't human at all. You commit suicide in your apartment, but somehow survive and see beyond the Illusion. You're launched into an alternate world, and must find your way back. You seal a demonic pact of power... and now the rest of the campaign is trying to avoid the consequences/costs of the pact.
But, you know what, let's just pretend this chapter doesn't exist. Because we're about to hit the last third of the book...
I.e. where we actually get all the lore and locations that totally aren't copypasted from the original Kult with more rape and better art. Oh wait did I say that out loud? Good. Because I mean it.
So anyway, we've been over the basics before: Humanity were Gods, humanity were dickhead Gods, the Demiurge(who may have been a less dickhead human, a more dickhead human or something else entirely) decided to lock humanity up in the Illusion so we couldn't fuck up the universe constantly(our prison is called Elysium, that's basically the real world), with the help of his ten Archons and Astaroth's ten Death Angels. Each of them representing something that would help keep us locked up and running in circles within Elysium.
Then one day, the Demiurge suddenly vanishes, so rapidly and completely that even his servants can't properly remember him. The Archons fight among themselves, destroying or toppling several. The tenth Archon, Malkuth, rebels against the others and devotes herself to breaking humanity free of the Illusion. So now all of the divine cops and guardians are off balance, old monsters and alternate dimensions are seeping back in. And that's where the game starts.
But, now, let's just start off with the fact that this is entirely incoherent. Yes, the Archons enforce normality and keep our focus away from personal growth in favour of community, ideals, greed and lust essentially. But the Death Angels are actively dangerous to the Illusion. They work for concepts that cause suffering and terror... and the entire point of the sanity track is that when it drops low enough, caused by suffering and terror, we get a bonus to See Through The Illusion, or otherwise risk suffering supernatural shit.
Anyway, the Archons are named after the aspects of the Qabbalistic Sefirot(I'm sure I mangled some of that spelling, bear with me, please).
The broken gears are the Archons who are either destroyed utterly(Chesed, Hod) or have been severely reduced in strength during infighting(Chokmah, Yesod). We're also informed, in the classic fashion, that almost all bad things are caused more or less directly by the Archons and their servants. Suicide bombers with religious causes? Fanatics fighting for Chokmah and his servants. Feudalism and kings abusing their authority to rule autocratically? Kether's work(though, apparently, ruined by communism). If you like Communism or your family, though, you're actually doing Binah's work(also while the Roma are mentioned nowhere else in the book far as I can tell, here they're specifically namedropped as Binah's worshippers)! Nationalism is her doing, too. The only nice one was Chesed, who gave humans stuff and whose servants helped cure diseases and alleviate hunger, without any apparent sinister motive behind doing so(the Red Cross is his creation, it seems, or his servants' at least). So of course he got blown up during the Demiurge's disappearance and the Archons' infighting. Trashy videogames, lingerie and shitty romance novels are all created by Tiphareth to distract us from the Illusion. If you've got any countries out to conquer others, or "create a new caliphate," then it's Netzach's fault.
Hod is all about the poisonous influence of inflexible personal "honour" and... well... does this feel a bit racist to anyone else?
Kult, Hod posted:
Duels at dawn, large-scale wars, the murder of one’s sons and daughters, century-long blood feuds, and ritual suicide are just a sliver of what one might do in response to a dishonorable act.
Hod’s suffocating influence has faded from large parts of the west, but in the Middle East and large parts of Africa and Asia, his will still corrupts the minds of mankind.
Maybe I'm just on a bit of a hair trigger after all the other weird shit. Also note that Malkuth, the Archon of Enlightenment and seeing the truth(formerly Conformity) is strongest in Europe and basically nowhere else, because of course that's where people are good at seeing the truth and being rebels against THE MAN. Of course it is. Anyway did you know that the World Trade Center was a phylactery for Yesod, the Archon of Greed? True story. Having it blown up almost killed him, and severely reduced him in power. Also speaking of power, I wish the game was better at articulating what it meant. When it speaks of the Archons' power ebbing and waning with their portfolio, it's hard to tell if that's in the straightforward sense of political power and number of mortal servants, or if they get some sort of supernatural power from their portfolio's expansion, too. Because fuck telling people what's actually going on, I guess.
South America also totally vanishes when they're talking about spheres of influence. North America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, all mentioned repeatedly. South America? Just once.
So basically the Death Angels are all dumb edgelords responsible for everything really bad. Dictators? Thaumiel. Child porn and children being beaten? Chagidiel. Suicide? Sathariel. Racism and anti-vaxxers? Gamichicoth. Torture and snuff porn? Golab. Revenge and hatred? Hareb-Serap(who is, of course, strongest in Africa and the Middle East. Because of course he is.). Internet porn and snuff films(again?)? Gamaliel. Being a Captain Planet villain? Nahemoth.
Also rest assured that I'm sparing you oodles of shitty prose about how an archon's symbol is a cracked coffee cup full of menstrual blood or how a death angel represents all that we try to shamefully purge from our browser histories, how one of them is primarily served by the results of generations of incest and etc. etc. etc. Because if I wanted to share all of that I'd be copypasting this fucking chapter in full. Just imagine the edgiest shit you can think of, then double it, and you'll be where the book is at.
I honestly hate it when all the evils of the world are placed at the feet of creatures like the Archons and Death Angels. On the one hand it pisses me off because it trivializes a lot of these things and stops us asking questions about why we're doing it, because the answer is "SUPER SATAN MADE ME." And on top of that, it just seems to make everything too simple. Like... this is a shittier version of the Technocracy, really. The Technocracy gives us a bunch of nice stuff but, based on the fluff, is also holding us back from our full potential because they're worried we'll use it to snap reality in half. So it gives us kind of a gray-zone scenario where you can wonder about what's actually the 100% correct path to take, and argue about it, and there's some shades of gray and humanity still matters. Like, here, what even is humanity's character once we're past the Archons and Death Angels?
Spoiler: We're galactic-scale awful dickheads when we're divine, or at least we were, so I'm not sure why we needed the Archons and Death Angels to encourage it at all.
Also speaking of the shitty prose, apparently the archons control our fucking DNA, too? What?
The Illusion is our entire reality, ranging from the terrifyingly grandiose to the mind-numbingly ordinary. There is nothing the Principles are not concerned with. We are caught in a world of fast food, lattes, sex, and mortgages. We are distracted by imaginary enemies, violence on TV, acts of terrorism, invasions, carcinogens in our food, and the menace of genetically-modified crops. All the while, we drown in fashion, advertising, innumerable ideologies, and unattainable aesthetic ideals. We buy and sell each other every day. Digital currencies are paid for humiliating occupations, sugar daddies fleeced, and black market work accepted. We all lie on the meat counter, offered up to consumers. We are all bought and paid for. We are all guilty.
Everywhere there are false truths and alternative facts. If you’re unhappy with one version of the truth, there is always a new angle, truth, or conspiracy theory a single click away. Choose the worldview you want and you will be served whatever supports your belief.
Our jailers hope these oceans of information will drown us and distract us from the Truth. They create this incessant static to be so pervasive that we do not stop to look around and think about our existence. The world’s endless complexity is paralysing.
Oh and the Demiurge is also responsible for the fact that we have genders and ethnicities, just so you know. Because this wasn't IDA enough.
Our jailers fear us. They dread what will happen if we break free of our shackles. When the Illusion crumbles, we see, just for a moment, what is around us. For every new life, for every new reincarnation, we become that much more difficult to manage and manipulate. To our jailers, this is an eternal crisis of keeping us distracted, weaving new and different lies for us. They must keep the Illusion’s machinery alive, even with thousands upon thousands of different parts, all of which are slowly breaking down. The shadows of our former tyranny continually haunt their worlds. Horrors we once inflicted still spread death and terror, and all the suffering we created lingers on as frail echoes. There are anxious whispers of the fantastic terrors we will bring after tearing the veil from our eyes. In this, the Archons and the Death Angels are united. Neither side wishes to risk our awakening. For them, and for all of Creation, it would be disastrous.
See here's another of the core problems of Kult. We're meant to feel sorry for poor, imprisoned humanity, to fight the Lictors and Razides, the Nepharites and monsters, the Archons and Death Angels, to try and get free and... for what? So we can resume our old roles as time-travelling, space-conquering fucking war criminals? Like, legitimately. With this game's proposed concept, the PC's should be the ones maintaining the Illusion, if we want to be fucking protagonists. It's extremely hard to see any human as a sympathetic main character since it's stated outright that we will be dickheads again if we break loose. I mean, maybe if they entertained the idea that some, if not most, humans had been reformed by having to spend eons being reincarnated as fragile mortals, the kind of creatures they once bullied and abused. That maybe that was the point of it all, to teach us the ability to empathize with the weak by showing us the terrors the weak have to endure.
But anyway, enough of me complaining about this. Because I'll have plenty of complaining to go. Now the game starts telling us about the alternate dimensions of the world, of which there are basically four: Metropolis, Interno, the Underworld and Gaia. Metropolis is our old realm from when we were Gods, and in fact us building cities has destabilized the Illusion in this direction, since all major cities are reflections of Metropolis, which make it easier to slip in there. Inferno is where souls are given the old wash-and-clean with brimstone between incarnations, and where people get tortured for the Nepharites' entertainment, usually that's accessible through places where really shitty things happened or are happening. The Underworld is what leads to total oblivion, yet there are civilizations down there, mostly consisting of those who survived our divine genocides and are still hiding out and dreaming of revenge or just of rebuilding. Gaia, lastly, is the primordial wilderness that Malkuth stole a chunk of to build Elysium(i.e. the "real" world) from.
Also if you use the Internet(specifically THE DARK NET) you can fall into Limbo, i.e. the dream realm just by being thoroughly distracted by hyperlinks.
Many times, tears in the Illusion are connected to specific individuals; a homeless person ridden by insanity, a confused young girl who bears a family curse, a captured soldier being tortured, or the YouTube celebrity struggling against his repressed addictions. Indeed, it might be anyone.
Seriously, though, they mention the internet so much and so aggressively that it really feels like they want to remind people that this isn't 90's Kult any longer, this is 10's Kult. It's kind of hilarious and a little bit sad.
did you know that the internet is spooky?Original SA post Kult: Divinity Lost
Just assume it's content warnings from here on out, because I don't think there's really gonna be a post that doesn't mention rape till the end as long as I'm quoting from this fucking book. Jfc.
So more or less the remainder of the book is all location descriptions and NPC's, and man is this gonna get bad, so buckle up and prepare for dealing with some long, bad quotes and some censored art. Because yes, there will be tits and dicks incoming. Like, the "Beyond Passion" section is even more puerile than in the original Kult, where it was generally tastefully dealt with. At least by comparison to how many games would deal with it. Here it's... it's just wait. You will see. You will all see.
Meanwhile, did you know that the internet is spooky?
With science and mathematics, we construct primitive tools to pierce the veils of Illusion. The Internet is one of these instruments. It is more than a network of computers and server farms, it has become a pathway into our collective unconscious and Limbo’s swirling labyrinths. It is a place of accumulated knowledge and innumerable secrets, but an equal amount distractions and amusements. Hackers, explorers, and prophets make use of this knowledge to unlock entrances, reveal secrets, and change the world.
There is a hidden realm in the depths of the web, where you cannot use search engines or browsers, but must feel your way through in the dark. With its anonymity and shadowy existence, it has become a place where criminals, pleasure-seekers, and cultists are drawn. After one has trudged through the Dark Net’s outermost layers of gore, pedophilia, drug and arms sales, black hat hacker forums, and illicit registries, they discover even murkier depths. Like Alice tumbling down into Wonderland, explorers should be careful of what they touch, do, and who they talk with.
Here in the depths one encounters strange phenomena, users who are not human, and people who have disappeared after they delved too deeply. Curious glitches, private messages from those who should be dead, and sacred rites written in meandering code all appear. In buzzing server farms, the barriers between the dimensions are flung open and inhuman presences stare back at you from the computer screen. Travelling deeper and deeper into the Internet can lead you to the domains of Limbo or the realms of the Dream Princes – and even the outskirts of the Vortex.
I really wonder how old the authors were, because this seriously feels like someone in their 50's or 60's trying to show off that they totally know what this "internet" thing is and how they're "hip" with the "Dark Web" that all the kids are using. All it's lacking is a bitcoin reference. Also I guess you can browse your way into other dimensions, I wonder if there's a Vivaldi extension for that. Also while they don't outright say it, they more or less imply that while the ordinary web with its YouTube and videogames and etc. are part of the Illusion keeping us captive, the DARK NET alone can help set us free.
Also, despite being cheated out of our divinity, we're still the coolest guys around, which is why Elysium, our little pacified chunk of Gaia, still attracts visitors from all over the cosmos who'd rather give up their own domains and divinities just in exchange for hanging out with humans, even deceived humans, and being our buddies and getting our attention.
Why accept a sacrificial gift presented on a silver platter by intoning priests when a sacred offering might be made in the form of passionate sex, pressed against the tile wall of the club’s bathroom?
Well, hygiene for one.
These creatures see divinity within us. Some realize who we truly are, concealed inside our shells of meat and bone. They can encounter lovers, philosophers, tyrants, and enemies from thousands of years ago, who peer out from uncomprehending eyes. Some take the opportunity for reconciliation. Others exact their revenge.
Maybe there is a certain melancholy to them. Perhaps they are nostalgic for this time, despite our cruel deeds. They still yearn to touch our celestial flame, now extinguished in the world, and realize the Demiurge’s promises are not as beautiful as they initially sounded.
This bit, combined with the whole part where Elysium is a crystallized chunk of chaotic Gaia, the primordial physical realm, really makes me feel like maybe the authors read a bit too much Exalted. I mean, don't tell me this whole mess doesn't remind you immensely of the Solars.
Then there's a bunch of quest hooks/scene-setting bits which are just... oh my God the edgelordery in some of them. This requires yet more quoting. Not copy pasted: Literal wizard meth and child rape.
Children of the Night live amid heroin addicts under the bridges of London. They drink blood from rusty hypodermic needles and sacrifice fat-infused dolls’ heads to the black lictor at Sandburn Psychiatric Hospital.
The gang rape at the Windsor retirement home makes the old woman give birth to a being beyond Death. The catheter tube is torn from her like a second umbilical cord, as the beast crawls out and makes its way down into the salt mines beneath the city.
The death magician carries out necromantic rites in the basement of an abortion clinic in Bangkok. Every soul is used as payment for the debt to one of Gamaliel’s nepharites.
In a speakeasy in Ibiza, the Borderliners eat each other alive. They are chained to cement walls or crawl around on blooddrenched mattresses with raw meat in their jaws. Around them, a boisterous mob stand watching, filming the entertainment with their mobile phones and downing cheap beer.
In the fashionista’s Milan estate, models mutilate their genitals with scalpels and razor blades in front of Tiphany Reeder. Unmoved by this beautiful, euphoric act, she simply crosses her legs and lights up yet another cigarette.
In dirty lavatories in Hamburg, purgatides lick the wounds of self-mutilators, who whimper and beg for more. Inferno’s reality lurks just behind the yellowed tiles.
In Poznan, suffocated infants are dumped in the garbage cans. Their little withered faces all bear sweet smiles.
And the sad thing is that I could go on. What the fuck, Kult dudes?
Then there's a bit on the non-human, non-Archon deities haunting Elysium. We've got the God of Highways, who's basically just a hobo that thumbs rides and rewards you if he gets them. The Nightingale of the City who'll bang you into enlightenment. A pair of twin gods described as "digital" and "analogue" respectively who want human sacrifices in exchange for murdering things for you.The Swap Dealer, an alien entity that trades random things for other random things. The Herald of Violence, who's an edgelord like the rest of them, but has guns and will share them. There's Persephone, who just kinda likes artists and want you to pay them money in exchange for helping you out. There's the "Eyeless One" who sounds suspiciously like Slenderman, considering that he's an "eyeless humanoid, with 'distorted limbs'," that causes phones and TV's to emit static when he's nearby, moves in disconcerting ways, pursues people and considers you spreading rumours about his existence to count as worship/sacrifice.
Oh and then there's the Slumbering Predator, which I'm going to copy in full because what the fuck, Kult dudes?
She was once a predator, a being from a world of thorns, ink-black lakes, and clear, starry skies deep inside Gaia’s wilderness. She was blessed with strong muscles, sharp senses, and an instinct for predicting her prey’s movements. She pinned her victims to the ground with her powerful claws and ate of them alive. Then, she strayed into the borderland between Elysium and Gaia, where she saw the city lights and was enchanted. Then she ate the first leftovers from the trash. Then she heard our music. Then she witnessed all the colors of our movies and televisions. She assumed our shape and soon forgot who she was. Now, she sits there on the sofa of an apartment on the outskirts of the city. She has grown incredibly fat and cannot walk. Fungal infections grow in her skin folds. She stinks as she cannot wipe or clean herself. She simply eats and eats. The TV is her only company. Her heart beats painfully, her once-proud body is ready to give up. Her hand squeezes one of her breasts and milk squirts out and runs down her belly. There is a wheezing sound – the old man, her sole worshipper. Thin as a thread, bony arms, and naked with his big, bald head and bushy pubic hair, he crawls across the floor to drink the milk pouring down her body. Once nourished by her fermented discharge, he dresses and takes the car to the supermarket to buy more junk food. If something could make her remember, she might become the predator she once was.
Like just. What the fuck.
ANYWAY, the main hostile entities you're likely to be dealing with, aside from other humans, will be Lictors. Basically they're the Archons' errand boys who manipulate humanity, etc. probably the Pope is one, the American president, etc. pretty much anyone in any major position of power is either a Lictor, was put there by a Lictor, or does the Lictor's bidding from there because of blackmail and threats.
They're gross, biologically immortal, hit like a truck and can disguise themselves as humans pretty much effortlessly, though changing the disguise into another human is apparently long and painful. It's also mentioned that they're "permanently extinguished" when killed, and that Archons can turn promising human servants into Lictors, which implies that the Archons could've just slowly converted all of humanity to Lictors and then, now that we're properly mortal, killed us off, rather than bothering with this whole Illusion charade.
They really only exist so that you can get to the seemingly human source of some problem, and he tears off his mask and goes: "I was a Lictor all along! Ha ha!" and suddenly things are supernatural. They're supremely uninteresting in a mechanical or fluff sense.
whatever else, the artist they got for this knows how to draw some cool fucking angels
So, this lady here, is kind of proof of how the creators of this game have no idea how the system works. Like, she's supposed to be an ELITE SUPERCOOL ANGEL OF VENGEANCE THAT CAN DO COOL STUFF except because they forgot to give her any Armor, the party can just stand there and blow holes in her with pistols and she'll probably die before the first round of combat is out. In fact, it feels like the authors generally forgot that players and NPC's die differently in this system. Basically, players just have Harm as a penalty to their Endure Harm roll, and they need to flub that five times(or choose to die) in order to tap out and be corpses. Enemies, on the other hand, don't get to roll to avoid hits or endure harm, if a player lands a hit the enemy just eats the Harm the player's attack does. And considering that players will likely be handing out between 2 and 4 harm per attack(or up to 7 if they have a posse of random panhandlers they paid to fight for them), enemies need a shitload of health boxes to survive anything.
Akrasiel here, for instance, has 9 health boxes. Assuming we don't try to break the system and just pack some big ol' handguns and assault rifles, we're likely handing out 3 damage per character per action(more yet if we're hitting her weak spot for massive damage, it's even bright red). And I think we can assume the average PC party is three or four players, sooooooo... yeah, not so scary now, is she?
Madness is the soul’s protestation against an impossible existence. When we lose our minds, the world around us becomes distorted. We create new lies in order to explain – and cope with – our existence, but as a result we catch a fleeting glimpse of what lies behind the veils of Illusion. Madness is a failed attempt to escape. In our psychoses, we can tear the walls and peer into true reality, yet we cannot handle what we see. We invent innumerable excuses to dismiss these insights, desperate to regain a fragment of our peace of mind.
In your madness, you are utterly alone. People regard you with distrust, and recognize you are not one of them. You are branded, ostracized, and condemned to wander on society’s fringes. It is our jailers who constructed our prison, so anyone close to the Truth is viewed as a threat by them and the rest of us. We instinctively react with suspicion toward people who behave abnormally. The woman sitting on the park bench talking to herself, the wildeyed man on the bus, or the neighbor manically checking that the front door is locked, while muttering people are “after her.” Their mere presence sparks collective alarm. In the past, they were presumed to be possessed by demons and we burnt them at the stake, beat and tortured them to death, or drilled into their skulls to release the evil spirits. Nowadays, we consider ourselves more ‘civilized’ and explain away their behavior through psychiatric diagnoses, pump them full of psychotropic drugs, and lock them up in mental institutions. If you are afflicted with madness, you are vulnerable; the illness impedes your handling of everyday tasks and few people will take time to listen to what you say. This turns the victims of mental imbalance into easy targets, and there are groups of people searching for these wounded and rejected individuals. They harbor a morbid fascination for the frightened gazes, the crushed self-esteem, and the dark cloud of insecurity hovering above them. The mad are often so battered that they have learnt to see assault as being tantamount to love, or feel they don’t deserve any better. This is not merely confined to human perpetrators. The Illusion is more fragile around those afflicted with madness, and beings from other worlds are drawn to them like parasites.
So each of the Beyond chapters more or less deals with a way to break through the Illusion, the worlds related to that particular method, and the creatures related to that/those particular worlds. And somehow this chapter really grates on me from the first word, just the whole assumption that sanity means you're giving in to THE MAN's plan and how the mentally ill are super-enlightened and how treating them is actually an evil crime, and it's implied that all nurses and psychiatrists, at least in this world, are evil creatures who enjoy torturing their charges. It's a pet peeve of mine, really, I guess, when settings make real medical/psychiatric care into a villain, because it feels just one step short of unironically being a fucking anti-vaxxer or whatever.
Though, I will say that in some ways Kult deals with mental illness more maturely than some other games. It's not just a wacky one-line penalty or whatever. It's actually considered to be something crippling that can destroy your ability to have a "normal" life and connect with other people, and for the various types of mental illness they mention, they also note how people try to self-medicate or work their way around it outside of the system so they can function at least semi-normally. In essence, what I'm saying is that they don't just consider mental illness to be an excuse for fishmalk behavior, but actually a somewhat-nuanced subject that requires a roleplaying guide to portray even semi-realistically. So props for that.
Each of these chapters also has a bit on Cults related to their subject matter. In this case we've got a Cult of Crazy People, a Cult of People Who Experiment On Crazy People and a cult of sexually abused girls and women(and a minority of men and boys) who seduce, kidnap, torture and eventually kill sexual predators. Because we have to make sure we're edgy enough to keep our Kult license. This is closely followed by the description of the various insane Death Angel cults, just so we know which ones kill their victims, which ones rape their victims, which ones eat their victims and which ones do all three. Because it's important to properly roleplay our sadistic murdercults.
Then they stat up some spooky ghosts that make you feel bad if you're insane and give us these cool guys:
Which are what you might turn into if you're sufficiently insane and start dancing with someone else who's also sufficiently insane(because insanity in Kult makes both reality and biology quite malleable once the crazy meter's turned up high enough). They're essentially living portals, half alive, half undead, all insane, their dances tear holes in the Illusion into other worlds.
Next on Kult: Divinity Lost! Beyond Passion. Here's a teaser, though keep in mind this clickthrough is NSFW
And no, that's not the only penis we'll be seeing in that chapter.
BEYOND PASSIONOriginal SA post Kult: Divinity Lost
Gonna keep rolling with this fucking content warning because Jesus Christ this is getting grosser by the minute
Brace for more censored images than usual, clickthroughs for the hilarious NSFW originals
So yeah, this is the boner magic chapter. Original Kult had this, too, because it emphasized that all extremes of human emotion and experience could allow you to see through the Illusion, so an exceptional orgy or an experimental drug high were just as likely to propel you to Metropolis as being tortured at a CIA black site was to catapult you to Inferno. Let me be frank and say that this version is worse, simply because of how it's written if nothing else, and the fucking art. It's like... it's just a step back. Look at what I just fucking censored, there was nothing like that in the original Kult. There didn't need to be! And there certainly didn't need to be in this version either!
The intro to this chapter goes on about how Humanity Classic was genderless(or any gender it wanted to be, really) and effortlessly shapeshifting, so even shackling us to two genders is part of the Demiurge's plan, and stuff like piercings and bodymods are part of our attempt to escape our "wrong-feeling" static bodies. A bunch of crimes related to being sexually repressed(stoning adulterers, marrying off young children, etc.) are listed which feel like a pointed stereotype of conservative muslims, and combined with some of the earlier stuff from the Archons and Death Angels, and the whole EUROPE IS THE CENTER OF ENLIGHTENMENT-thing, makes me wonder if the Kult authors might not be slightly right of center, politically.
Lifestyle blogs have become our new Bibles and models and celebrities our new saints and gods. We covet them, want to be them, want to fuck them – but this is not true desire.
And of course we can't go half a page without mentioning THE INTERNET.
Passion can be something slowly sprouting within you, eating away like a cancer. It is the painful, perverse desire for a person you dare not approach, who rejects you, or appears unattainable. It is situations where you feel powerless and inadequate, such as your first teenage crush, lust for your married coworker, dreams of the hot looking boy bands, or illicit cravings for your teacher. Your inner life is consumed by your fantasies. You misinterpret every remark, and read hidden messages and innuendo into gestures, glances, text messages, and words. Here, in this suffering, there are insights to be gained too, no matter how painful they may be.
So if you're someone's creepy Incel stalker, you're more enlightened than they are! What the hell, Kult guys. This is like some of the strangest shit to connect to TRUE ENLIGHTENMENT imaginable.
God I'm gonna be quoting a shitload of this chapter in full because what the fuck is this unholy prose?
We are bound by society’s sexual norms, but these increasingly disintegrate as we begin to emerge from captivity. We live in a world where sex and self-expressive experimentation are constantly available. With one click, you can find an infinity of free pornography online, where can you browse among films attempting to surpass each other in their extremes. It is a smorgasbord of flesh, desire, fear, vulnerability, body fluids, ecstasy, and humiliation offered up to an insatiable audience. Those who find their way onto the Internet’s non-indexed wilderness easily find hidden forums and streaming sites, where they can take part in forbidden pleasures. They can caress themselves while watching torture, vivisection, snuff films, and other, darker things. In this place, they vicariously experience the thrill of life and death.
In the hunt for experiences and pleasure, we can engage in our own experimentation. Power exchange, humiliation, roleplaying, and other kinks allow us to touch the edges of Passion. Some devote themselves to sadism, while others explore their masochistic desires. Behind our perfect façades, we relish the hidden bruises and lacerations on our bodies, mementos of giving ourselves completely over to another human being. The temptations of transition and death inspire us to be suffocated during the sensual act until we hover in the borderlands of death.
However, desire may also be found in the inexplicable attraction to something you also find repulsive – so alien it frightens or disgusts you, but which you cannot resist. Perhaps, this yearning is for something nonhuman: the desire for ragged or rotting bodies, someone who is covered in rustling skin flakes, slimy tongues, mechanical parts, or sharpened feathers. These shameful enticements keep escalating. You admonish yourself for these cravings, but are continuously dragged deeper into them. The curious abomination the housewife keeps in her bathroom. The wrinkled woman living in the school’s attic, who whispers secrets to the children in exchange for kisses. The sweaty, hairy man with his stinking breath, but possessed of a voice so smooth and warm that you forget all else. The rusty machine in the industrial hall, which appears in recurring dreams. The alien being with chattering teeth, wild gaze, and orifices aplenty. Our appetites are warm, vicious, and alluring. They distort our thoughts, make our hearts pound, and our genitals swell, but they also unshackle us.
This is all just bad.
At the end of the day, what constitutes a transcendental experience depends on the individual. Some subordinate themselves completely to another’s power and strive to become totally broken and objectified in order to attain ecstasy and truth in their utter vulnerability. Some inject heroin from filthy syringes in the slums of Johannesburg, while others rape minors in a luxurious hotel room in Bangkok. There are those who achieve insight as they mutilate their genitals in front of a webcam. Others carry out ritualized sex magic in sacred temples.
Two paragraphs with weird pedophilia in a row. Just. I think we believe that you're edgy now, Kult. We get it. You can knock it off.
Thank goodness for angles that give me less censoring work
We get two Passion-themed Cults. The first one, Coq Rouge, is a creepy child abuse conspiracy. The second, Urban Elite, is a creepy child abuse conspiracy that also does a lot of cocaine because they're rich! Like, again, the fucking original Kult even did this better. Like, yeah, there were gross "let's abuse our way to enlightenment"-conspiracies, but there were also like... more imaginative and, frankly, more believable cults in it. What would you even use these for? They're not involved in anything except fucking a bunch of children and prostitutes because they're weirdos. Yeah, you could have them show up as villains and... then what? The protags hear they're violating children, then bust in and leave a nuclear warhead in their HQ or stare them deeply in the eyes while carefully carving apart their brains.
These things are humanity's old Realdolls, more or less. These days the Archons used them, in disguise, of course, to distract humans who are too close to figuring out something important or unravelling a conspiracy, but who can't just be killed. Which is actually a reasonably interesting use for these. They're not combat monsters or anything, but that new guy or girl that's been distracting your source, keeping them out of reach seemingly by coincidence with dates and whispering in their ear that they should get a job rather than helping you translate ancient Babylonian texts about demons, could actually be part of the conspiracy. It's the sort of thing that could increase someone's paranoia. Or it's the sort of thing that could prompt a heavily-breathing, furiously sweating GM to describe every wrinkle of their monstrous penis in painful detail.
A darthea is an entity of dreams and madness, which has been created out of humanity’s desire for sex. It is an uninhibited abomination of bodily perversions, dripping genitals, twisted limbs, and slick bodily openings. It lives in the borderlands between dream and reality, and seeks out those with the darkest appetites – or alternatively the most innocent, in order to corrupt them. It arrives in dreams and settles like a seed deep within the victim. In contrast to most other possessing creatures, darthea do not suppress the consciousness of its victim.
Flickering cam shows, streamed porno clips, thumbed sex novels, and forbidden fantasies provide nourishment to the being. Stained mattresses in filthy brothels, incestuous assaults in the home, and violent sex in the lavatory booths of nightclubs are its birthplace. In time, a metamorphosis occurs and the creature is drawn from Limbo into Elysium’s reality. In an obscene tearing and ripping splash of intestines, the darthea is born of the human who nourished it. The darthea has transformed into becoming a libith – a creature wholly and completely existing in Elysium.
I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but what's the point of having all these evils of the world be caused by the Archons, Death Angels or supernatural creatures? What room is left for humans to have some sort of agency or moral/ethical character? What's actually left for humans to be or do if all these things are just evil supernatural monstrosities having a laugh by invading us with their thousand dripping dream dicks and making us be rapists? It feels like it cheapens a lot of these things.
Anyway, then some Libiths are described. Anyone remember Dogma? And the Golgothan? The demon made of evil poop? That's the first Libith. It's a poop demon that comes out of your toilet at night and injects you with dream heroin. Then you get addicted to secretly fucking the poop demon until you die. I swear I'm not making this garbage up and I will fucking quote it if I have to. I'll take screenshots. Then there's a Libith that doesn't do anything except domestic abuse, which is kind of amazingly fucked up and why would your game even feature that. Then there's an evil porn star Libith, whose followers tend to commit suicide a lot for no apparent reason except that she's apparently the superhottest superhot thing. Next there's a Libith who turns into a BAD BOY who seduces girls and bones them and them drops them because he's bad and mean and a sexhaver or something.
He is invariably beautiful and there is something wistful, dark, and alluring about him. He seeks out teenage girls who do not feel validated and allows them to be close to him, soon having them wrapped around his little finger. One moment he may be romantic, but he is cold and reclusive the next. There is something shattered about him and the girls dearly want to mend his broken heart. They are increasingly torn asunder as his mood swings escalate. He makes them abandon their friends and spite their families, and even start fights with other girls who crave his attention. Only when his victim is completely destroyed, driven down into the darkest depths of anxiety, on the verge of suicide, does he abandon them and move on to the next unfortunate.
I mean I know it's vague but it's just got this weird tang of the whole "GIRLS JUST WANT A BAD BOY EVEN THOUGH HE'LL BREAK THEIR HEARTS"-thing. I may be over-analyzing it after all the other shit, though. Anyway, as the last Libith there is, of course, a spooky little girl/boy Libith who hunts down pedophiles that haven't yet given in to their broken desires and encourages them to fuck children. This, of course, is also the only of these Libiths that's statted. Because this game desperately needed more fucking child rape and child abuse, right guys. What the fuck.
It also turns out that while they have the creatures related to a certain part of the fluff in that section, they sequestered all the magic at the very back and they removed all of the funny and interesting parts of it. So I guess in KDL we can't fuck a toaster to create a new superior species with our magic powers. There also aren't, it turns out, any actual rules for how any of this shit lets us be enlightened, I guess that's just up to the GM to improvise.
On the bright side of it, that should be most of the censoring I need to do until we get to the angel dicks.
BEYOND THE DREAMOriginal SA post Kult: Divinity Lost
BEYOND THE DREAM
So, cutting through all the dense fucking prose, the point here is that when we sleep, our souls go to the astral plane to party, because dreams are just some sort of collective unconscious thing that's centered on the mysterious spooky place called THE VORTEX. Now the secret here is that there's very little reason for us to give any sort of fuck about Limbo, the dreamworld astral plane, because we can't kill someone in a dream and have them die for real and unless we encounter one of the rare spookcreatures that can actually make us DIE IN THE DREAM, DIE FOR REAL, there are no stakes whatsoever there. It doesn't even work as a cheap shortcut to Metropolis, Inferno, Gaia, etc. because it's something ONLY THE MOST POWERFUL DREAM WANDERERS CAN ACCOMPLISH(unfortunately there's no actual dreaming skill or other measure of how powerful a dreamer we are in this game. Oops. Guess they forgot that part. There IS a Dreamer skill, but that only lets us find people in dreams and talk to their dreaming self.). If the GM could be fucked to think up rules for it, though, we could dream ourselves into Godzilla and then go rampaging across the world of our choice(Elysium included) as a giant monster.
If we die while dreaming, though, we just become a permanent Dream Ghost(tm). So I guess that's a thing that there are no stats or other consequences for so who gives a shit.
The art for this section is legitimately good, though.
The DREAM PRINCES are super dreamers who've created more-or-less stable dream worlds that are all terrible dystopias and... again, why would we ever want to go there? They're realms of pointless danger and the Dream Princes are mostly just busy jerking off to their ideal worlds rather than being a danger to anyone. Also it's strange how all their dream worlds are named "Dream World of X and Y." Which reminds me strangely of Homestuck. I also realized why I hated the game's examples of play, which was because they reminded me of fucking TVTropes when they went "GM: 'some gibberish(HERE THE GM IS USING NAME OF MOVE)'" and all it was lacking was a fucking hyperlink to resemble some of the dumb shit on that site. But you're not here to hear me complain about dumb internet shit, you're here to hear me complain about stupid edgelord shit! Here you go!
Visitors to this dream feel groggy and bloated, many soon begin bleeding from the eyes, mouth, and genitals. Everything seems to vibrate and tremble. Creatures initially appear two-dimensional and colorless, only to become painfully alive without warning. In a moldering temple hall at the dream’s heart lies the Maiden of Torment – blinded, genitally mutilated, bloated from pregnancy, and writhing with maggots, which crawl from the infected wounds of her amputated limbs. She is surrounded by grotesque apsara, which detach from the walls on which they have been carved, and dance on quashed feet around her bloody, stone bed. The Maiden wants everyone to suffer as she has suffered, filling her fevered nightmare with undead children, pregnant torture victims, and bestial demons in ivory masks.
It's eight dream realms which each have a short paragraph of description and zero reason for anyone to ever want to interact with them, ever. It's not even like in the original Kult, where at least one of the Dream Princes was actively capturing real-world dreamers and holding their minds captive. So journeying into Limbo to rescue a captive friend was a potential, interesting hook that could be spun off into some sort of lasting conflict with the Dream Prince or whatever.
In the waking world, we have two cults. The first is a bunch of religious fanatics who want to create Dream Heaven, and the second is a bunch of hackers who are, unintentionally, hacking into Limbo. Yes, that's right, because as you remember, Limbo connects to the internet. And so these guys are actually chatting with Dream Princes on AIM and literally hacking people's dreams, and some of them have started disappearing as they accidentally enter https://www.dreamworld.zzz into their browser and get sucked into the PC like fucking Freakazoid or whatever. This is literally getting dumber with every fucking line please send help.
We also need some DREAM MONSTERS, like the Icthyria that are weird tesseract dream leeches.
Ichtyria exist in more dimensions than we are accustomed to or normally perceive. A dream wanderer viewing an ichtyrium from certain angles can see its true form: a mass of folded layers of skin, which move hypnotically like a sea anemone in an invisible current of water. The wanderer can enter its fleshy interior, crawling through these wet layers of skin, past corpulent outgrowths and pulsating veins, until they reach right into the creature’s eye. This turbid pearl, large enough to hold in your hand, can be pulled from its sinewy roots, and the helpless ichtyrium screams and rots away as a result. Everything the creature devoured remains conserved in the eye – all the memories, thoughts, wanderers, and predictions.
And yet again, no fucking rules for it. We get this elaborate Mortal Kombat death maneuver to pull, but they're not statted up, there's no description for how you mechanically do this sick glory kill and there's no statting up of what you can actually do with the fucking eye. Instead we get more spooky kids except this is just some great little baby full of moths that tries to drink your blood. Why does it keep statting up creepy children rather than the at least vaguely interesting monsters? Eat shit, Kult.
Next there's a LEGENDARY DREAM CRITTER, the Seamstress. Who gives you a nightmare where she cuts you apart and sews you back together... except for one important organ which she keeps as collateral so you're basically forced to be her servant. Except nothing says this actually affects our dreaming self and that we can't just wake up and forget about her. She also apparently has the MAGIC POWER to just arbitrarily rip people apart with dream magic, but this isn't actually statted up for fighting her.
There's also something called the CHILD COLLECTOR which like... okay, it starts out semi-interesting for Kult and then it goes fucking downhill. Expectedly. Read this shit, emphasis mine:
Late at night, a wardrobe’s doors slide back, and the shadows emit the lilting melodies of a music box, or colorful images sparkle on the computer or the TV. In this fashion, the Child Collector lures children into its dream world. In the morning, parents find empty beds, their little ones vanished without a trace, leaving only vague and anxious dreams from the night before. The Collector’s dream world is a nocturnal waterfront choked with rusted vessels, where fish float bloated and rotting in the bay. On an oil platform, wreathed in mist, the children are kept captive.
The creature feeds them and forces them to play with it. Hide and seek, peek-a-boo, dress up, and charades. During these moments, the Collector is truly happy. It wants the children to always remain its friends, but they always betray it by becoming adults. When this happens, the creature screams in sorrow over the victim’s treachery, tearing them apart and devouring them in front the other captives. The Collector constantly measures the children’s height, pokes and prods at them, sniffs their skin, and feels around to see if they are starting to develop breasts or pubic hair. Cunning children can conceal these signs of puberty for a while, but are only prolonging the inevitable. Some have succeeded in escaping back to Elysium, although the Collector never stops searching for these traitors.
Isn't the Dream Collector's realm just the fucking City of Lost Children? You know, the fucking movie? I swear to god these fucking hacks. Like if this thing just stole children because it wanted to play with them forever but then got enraged when they grew up, you could kinda use it for a "RESCUE THE KIDS"-adventure that didn't have any creepy parts but then oh, wait, it gropes the children and smells their dicks or whatever to see if they're adults yet and for fuck's sake, guys, you almost had it, but then you had to put in some more kiddyfucking.
Fuck the rest of this chapter, it's all garbage. Let's move on.
(really all there is are stats for a single DREAM PRINCE, we're not missing anything)
Okay, this place they actually slightly improved on compared to the original Kult by giving it a purpose. Essentially, if you go down deep enough, especially if you're moving through urban infrastructure, you start to move out of orthodox reality(Elysium) and into the Underworld, which perches on the edge of total oblivion. It connects to the other realms(what doesn't, at this point? I'd expect to get to Inferno by walking out the back door of a Starbucks by now) but is also a realm of its own. In the original Kult it was more or less exclusively a spooky crossroads with a few minor locations and Achlys, in case you wanted to end the cycle of reincarnation and forgetting not with Divinity or Dream Immortality but by just completely annihilating yourself with zero takesie-backsies.
This time it's got something more, once you've pushed through several layers of further spookiness(level 1: urban infrastructure, level 2: spooky caves, level 3: spookier caves, etc. all that really is to deal with here is random monster encounters) you reach KTONOR, the city more or less at the edge of the abyss.
lookin' pretty Dark Souls, and I mean that as a good thing
KTONOR is an interesting location because it's what should, if we changed nothing else about the game, have been the starting point for the PC's. Because it's essentially the ravaged refugee camp of humanity's former victims. Everyone whose world we enslaved, whose lives we destroyed, who survived, in part or in full, now hides out in Ktonor where they try to retain some of their life and culture, occasionally dreaming just of survival, but as often dreaming of revenge against humanity, even in some cases being willing to ally with forces like Inferno to get back at us. Aside from the alien locals, there are also the descendants of some humans who ended up lost in the Underworld, the descendants of kidnapped children, etc. Everyone in Ktonor is having a bad day, because oblivion isn't an entirely static force, it actually resides just beyond their city and keeps whispering at the back of their heads that everything could be better if they'd just step outside and toss themselves into Achlys. They're not friends of the Demiurge, the Archons or their servants either, because to them, Ktonor and its residents are basically Divinity Evidence(tm) that could clue humans in to the past very effectively, often by having actually lived through it.
The residents of Ktonor deserve better, really, and they feel like they deserve to be fought for much more than humanity. Hell, playing characters who discover Ktonor and want to atone, want to help the residents there, is actually the first particularly compelling story hook I can imagine for the game.
Wide stone steps lead downwards through a petrified sea bed. You wander amid forests of blackened coral, salt deposits, polished stone plateaus, and strange fossils. At the bottom of the steps stands the Coral Portal: a simultaneously beautiful and grotesque creation, which marks the entrance to the City of Ktonor. The portal requires a sacrifice. Anyone wishing to pass must smear their blood on its glossy surface. Doing so allows you to pass through, as though stepping through a wall of water.
It even feels like the prose improves for a bit, here, conjuring up an image of an interesting location.
Ktonor gets even more fucked when you learn that it's had dictators and wars, at least until they turned over rulership to the Biomechanical Keepers. Some race or another hammered, welded and cut them together as the ultimate power in Ktonor, by giving them control over every survivor species' continued survival... their reproduction. A lot of them can't reproduce well any longer, because of various forms of genetic damage, inbreeding from having been reduced by humanity to a comparatively tiny group of survivors, or simply the decay and hopelessness of living right next to Achlys. So the Keepers, instead, control their future by being in charge of the Birthing Chambers that produce new citizens for Ktonor, and continuity for the survivors. Of course, uh, the instant we get near anything vaguely related to sex, that's where everything breaks down.
Because, you see, the genetics of the residents of Ktonor are so severely damaged that it doesn't just take a quick paint job to fix their crippled DNA enough to make a new member, no. They need fresh genes. From humans. Yeah let's just get this show on the road.
Only the Keepers have permission to set foot on the Birth Chambers’ hallowed ground. Here, the reproductive materials from the Children of the Underworld are manipulated and augmented with fresh genetic matter, usually obtained from humans. Stepping into the sealed halls, you are assaulted by an unspeakable stench and a grotesque sight. Humans of all types have been hooked up to the biomechanical machines. They have been crudely lobotomized and are fed via tubes in the nose and mouth. Waste matter is pumped out through catheters in their abdomens. Many of them have had their limbs amputated. All of them simply gaze uncomprehendingly into empty space. The men’s genitals are kept painfully erect and their semen collected in sacred vessels. Women are harvested, their stolen eggs inseminated and cultivated. The bodies of the Underworld’s peoples are preserved in containers with nutritional solution, cryotubes, and electrical fields, while their DNA is manipulated and interwoven with new genetic material. It is allowed to develop in tubes until the surviving fetuses are transferred to the wombs of the members of the Biomechanical Keepers.
Right after that it just makes a rapid, jarring step into the Underworld bestiary(the local cults are extremely dull and not worth mentioning). You've got Zeloths, which are corpses skinned by a cult and fed to giant, immobile poop leeches, which turns them into skinless zombies, until they melt into Cairath which are clumps of giant skinned corpses that just Katamari Damacy their way over victims, absorbing them into their mass and slowly digesting them into more Cairath matter until they become big enough to form Gransangthir, which are the poop leeches that create Zeloths. It's a beautiful, horrible garbage ecology. Also only the Cairath are statted so good luck using them in your game.
Gross weird shit aside, literally all of the game's missing plot hooks are here. The bestiary chapter provides a look at the weird residents of Ktonor, giving a good idea of just how varied they are and why they're in conflict with each other, because their only unifying trait is "humanity fucked us over."
You've got the Keepers, who though they control Ktonor's reproductive services, cannot themselves reproduce, and though it's rare that they die, as they're powerful and biologically immortal, they do die, and slowly their numbers are dwindling. You have the Famaria, who keep vast riches and vast slave hordes to serve them, who plot against the Keepers and make pacts with Inferno in their desire for revenge. The Azadaevae, whom humanity almost hunted to extinction just out of their desire for pretty slaves. The amphibious, swollen, toadlike Beryn that the Keepers keep around as advisors and technological savants. The Zatars, who may just hate humanity, but may in fact be renegade angels who rebelled against the Demiurge after being used for enough genocides to sicken even them, who carry around casks full of strange weapons that may be the swords of angels, react to mentions of the Demiurge with displays of screaming fury or abject sorrow and definitely had wings once.
In addition to the above, there are Besh-Tanath, who live in their tightly-knit, reclusive families; the Tamars, whose songs echo sadly in the empty vaults; the Laishi, weapon-smiths who have been incarcerated in their grey halls after a violent revolt; and the Kadash, who can sculpt their own and others’ bodies. There are the Ones Without Names, who channel nothingness within themselves and discharge it as a black flood. The Kilotherna, who remain enshrouded in white veils of sorrow ever since their ruler took his own life. The magnificent Menonveem, who reside dreaming in ethereal thoughts. All of these and many others live beside tattered dream creatures, creatures of passion and insanity, and lost gods who wallow in their solitary existence. The Underworld is home to them all.
Ktonor is pretty much the strange Sigil analogy of Kult, and I love a lot of things about it. It's more or less the one bright spot, aside from the art, in this big turd of a shit game. Fuck playing a tortured artist or a weepy drug addict or whatever who's looking for meaning until a demon makes her put her baby in the oven. Let's play renegade angels, the former pleasure slaves of humanity and weapon-smith prisoners questing for survival and meaning in a bleak, merciless universe. Fuck you, Kult, for having the seeds of something good and then burying them under a big fat pile of gross rape garbage.
METROPOLISOriginal SA post Kult: Divinity Lost
It's mostly all downhill from here, Ktonor was really the one noteworthily cool thing in the game. Now it's mostly just the shitty SUPER ENLIGHTENED ARCHETYPES section and the last of the DEEPEST LORE which does, thankfully, feature some cool art of cool angels.
So the problem with Metropolis is that it's meant to be like... humanity's ancestral realm and host to all this weird and cool stuff and... the problem is that no one you want to interact with resides there and it's haunted by the Archons and their servants probably more densely than any other place than Elysium, so it's a terrible idea to go there. Plus, an infinite abandoned cityscape of urban decay is probably one of the least exciting places I can imagine to go adventuring. It also has that issue where it has no established character beyond "URBAN" to make it have, well, character. Potentially you could raid it for cool futuretech since it has aspects of all cities that ever have or will exist, but at the same time the game has no stats for that cool futuretech or ideas for what you could actually use it for.
They also keep around the MACHINE CITY from the original Kult, a region of Metropolis full of inscrutable, still-active machinery that can do pretty much anything the story needs them to, and thus has no real character or mood attached, and the CITY OF THE DEAD which is just... fuck-you-ville full of vague plot threads like before. Like, it contains those few humans who have died a True Death... but what is it and how does it work and where is it ever defined? NOWHERE, MOTHERFUCKER. It contains the tombs of gods... but wait, what's the difference between a divinely unleashed human and an actual god? Are they actually the same thing? WHO KNOWS, THIS GAME SURE DOESN'T. And of course, we still have the tomb of the Demiurge with its immortal guardian. What does it mean? What's inside this potentially cool plot location? NO ONE BOTHERED TO FIND OUT. Because it's much easier to just throw vague, spooky terms and plot threads around when you don't actually have to decide on what they actually mean. Fuck this game.
And then there are the Archons' Citadels which remain as places that no one could ever conceivably give a fuck about, since entering one just means you'll be assaulted by a horde of undefeatable bad dudes that will inevitably bury you in murder, because the Archons don't like humanity existing outside of Elysium at all. Like, the Citadels don't actually serve a function, at least none that's described, except that they may be the Archons' actual bodies and thus bringing the nuke we started the game with there might make sense. It might also not. Like... if they were part of some celestial bureaucracy and we could fiddle with the files to misdirect the Archons' servants or give ourselves advantages, that would be cool. But there's none of that. We've also still got the Abyss, where the Demiurge's citadel once stood.... and it still contains a big ol' fuckload of nothing so there's no reason to go there.
On the bright side, it's probably the only place in Kult where no one's raping anyone, or at least not any children. Gotta take what we can get.
Azghouls used to be our slaves, now they mostly want revenge on us and they're smart enough to get it without arousing the Archons' suspicions a lot of the time
It's weird, I had decent memories of the Gynachide write-up in the original Kult, but here it just feels creepier and grosser. Possibly because they decided they needed art of the Gynachide's alien dongler. Like, the concept remains the same, they're only capable of reproducing by having human women carry their children to term, the kids then look human for a year or so, during which the Gynachide arrives to whisk them away to Metropolis and raise them as their own, leaving some sort of strange, but well-intentioned, gift for the baffled parents. Occasionally the Gynachide child then revisits its human parent(s) and any human siblings it had once it's grown up. It's implied that they have no real ill will towards us, even though we're responsible for the strange state of their reproduction, due to not being the brightest species around, and that they could just as easily be allies as enemies(since they explicitly hate and hunt angels, sometimes successfully).
Like... reading the original Kult book, I always went: "Whoah, yeah, you could have a mysterious disappearance and it turns out the returned Gynachide child is spiriting its human family away to Metropolis because it wants them around and etc. and you could unravel all the weird shit like the original missing kid and the left-behind artifacts and archon cover-ups and yeah!" But part of that was because it was kinda... vague on how Gynachides "implanted" a fetus in a human mother. Like. I had imagined it as being kind of surgical, or just a magic ritual or something.
But now we've got a great big fat weird sea cucumber-looking tentacle cock thing. That just makes it seem a whole lot more rapey.
Honestly not sure if I should be censoring this or not. So don't click the timg if you're unsure.
Lastly, there's a bit on the angels which is wonderfully insufficient for actually using them in the fucking game. It doesn't stat any of them in any way, it doesn't outline their powers or abilities, or even their power level. Are they more dangerous than Lictors? Less dangerous than a Razide? Able to take an Azghoul in a fight? All we know is that Gynachides(also unstatted) can school them bare-handed, apparently. There's also a bunch of art of them, and here are my favourites.
I'm a sucker for the multi-wing thing
Spoiler: I'm not a fan of this one because it looks cool, but because why does this one particular angel need to have his dick out? For fuck's sake, Kult dorks
As dumb and pointless as Metropolis is, Inferno is even worse. At least in Metropolis a GM who's willing to do all the hard work could potentially make it worth visiting for some reason. Inferno is like a box that only contains things you hate. There is no reason for anyone to ever go there. Ever. Like, not unless you want to be knee-deep in a mess made up of intestines, bile, blood, semen and vaginal discharge would crazy, skinless people weep at you and nepharites come chasing after you to drag you into torture. Like. This is just staggeringly meaningless to even really have in the game. It's like detailing the Eye of Terror for a game of Dark Heresy. Your characters will never want to go there, they have no reason to go there, and if they go there, they will die choking on their own intestines.
But at least it's a Hell that knows good customer service and are willing to provide the personal touch of creating your very own pit of specialized suffering intended to drive you, and only you, completely insane and over the edge into mindless oblivion so you can be reborn. Could be worse, I guess.
So then they start up on telling us about Astaroth and, again, they just manage to be vaguer and more pointless than Kult Classic. In the original, Astaroth had a bunch of detailed-and-statted incarnations that were fucking around on the material plane, trying to set things up for either Total Doomsday or a takeover by his Death Angels and their legions. In this case we're just told that he has incarnations and that they're probably pretty spooky and then the authors shuffle us on to the next sideshow on the moron trip(and what little we're told about the incarnates is... terribly stupid. One of them is a fucking MTV show, another is the severed head of John the Baptist, one is just a fucking revolver and another is a prostitute. This is considerably less scary than the literal Antichrist or Randall Flagg from the original. I mean, yeah, it's not the actual Flagg, copyrights and all, but holy shit the inspiration felt really obvious way back when). We're told that Inferno wants to, as a whole, take over Elysium from the Archons but... we're never really told... why? What do they get out of it? Do they need/want worship? Are they just dickheads? Do they feel like they'd have a better shot at maintaining the Illusion(and thus not getting their asses deep-fried once Divine Humanity returns) than the Archons? Who the fuck knows, these guys are less detailed in stats and motivation than child rapist cults. Fuck you, Kult.
Rather than angels, each Death Angel also has their own dumb "Clergy" which is a more varied institution made up of basically anyone who applied for a job and was really good at dressing like a shitty S&M cenobite. Dead gods, renegade angels, angry lictors, demons(which are undefined in any way), nepharites, humans, ghosts, probably someone's Golden Retriever who got his head stuck in a gimp mask and accidentally walked into the interview room. Because seriously they all look like incredibly edgy, tryhard morons even by this book's standards. Let me line them up for you, I'm sure you guys are gonna love this dumb shit.
As usual, clickthrough if you wanna see the NSFW garbage.
Then there's Inferno's bestiary which is just Creature That Tortures People, Guy Who Got Tortured And Had His Dick Chopped Off and One Hand Replaced With A Hook and Tortured Guy That Got Even Bigger Body Mods(Nepharite, Purgatide and Razide, in order). Like I'm not even gonna show you the art, because it's dumb and I'm pretty sure you guys can guess that yes, we see that the guy who had his dick chopped off actually had his dick chopped off. There's also a single paragraph on the actually interesting aspect of Inferno, which is that Metropolis is made out of plundered alien realms, pretty much, but Inferno is made out of the cosmic refuse from that. The spoil pile of humanity's strip mining. Like, why did you even need Edgelord Angels in there? Just have it be full of angry alien rebels like some of the residents of Ktonor. That'd actually give them a reason to want revenge on us, even at the risk of endangering the Illusion. It'd give them a motivation, you could have Ktonor as the "want to survive"-faction and Inferno as the "want revenge" -faction and it'd... it'd... it'd... oh I fucking give up. Fuck this game.
And now we're just, thank God, one last fucking post of my complaining away from being done with this dumb fucking sack of trash game.
GaiaOriginal SA post Kult: Divinity Lost
Time for the home stretch.
In the original Kult book, Gaia was only vaguely detailed as a sort of counterforce to Metropolis. Infinite wilderness to oppose infinite urban-ness. Here she/it gets as much of a writeup as any of the other realms. Gaia, along with Achlys, are more or less the two Final Bosses of the setting, that no one's managed to put the smackdown on or circumvent so far. We avoid Achlys by staying the fuck away from raw, unfiltered oblivion, and in Gaia's case we steal away chunks of her realm to build our own stuff with. They describe how Gaia is this vast and amazing nexus, filled with gateways to other worlds... and then forget that they've already described Limbo, Inferno, Metropolis, the Underworld or just having a mental illness in the same way. At this point, somewhere being rock-solid reality not peppered with tiny gaps that'd let you slide through time and space at the drop of a hat would be more staggering than this shit.
The only real contents of Gaia are raw, untamed wilderness which I guess is cool if your players are questing to hug the biggest tree they can find and then to get murdered by the feral maniacs dwelling in Gaia's wildernesses or Malkuth's lost angels that have also become feral in Gaia's wilderness. Everything here is feral and wild, if you hadn't guessed. Also, I haven't mentioned it much since the cacophony of stupid rape-related things, but every section has its own little lump of... story prompts, I guess? They're more like one-paragraph descriptions of a place the players encounter or something that happens to them. The ones in Gaia are the first ones, since all the rape-y ones, to catch my attention on grounds of being fucking awful enough to notice.
You feel strong, potent, and powerful. Wounds heal, tattoos fade, and your hair grows. You feel like a predator. Your sexual lust is strong, as is your will to dominate and make others obey you. You are now the leader of the pack.
It starts with a stabbing pain in the bowels. Your stomach slowly swells to an unnatural size. You break into a cold sweat, and your bowels and bladder empty just to make room. A grotesque, wormlike creature, as big as an arm, starts to push its way out through your rectal opening. It sings and hums with a hundred tiny mouths.
In a shallow pit lies something that looks like a meaty egg, big as a human head. It is surrounded by a swarm of foot-long spermatozoa that slithers in a slimy fluid, trying to penetrate the egg.
Your breasts swell up; soon thick, yellowish milk starts to flow from your nipples. There is a crawling sound from the underbrush, and small twisted creatures start to lick the milk from the ground with long pink tongues.
Just in case anyone had any suspicion that the game had stopped being fucking creepy, there's loads more where this came from, including one where the player is made to inadvertently fist a tree's giant vagina.
Iramin-Sul wanders through the borderland in order to find its twin, who ventured into Elysium. With the music and accolades, the god aspires to reach in through the Illusion and find its beloved sibling, awaken him from his obliviousness, and then lead him back to Gaia. The god is capricious, but if approached with respect and offerings, you can eat, drink, and sing with it for a night, as well as pose questions to it. Suitable gifts include objects removed from Elysium. The god studies these with fascination, turning them around in its clawed hands, trying to understand how they work and for what purpose they were made. Should you enrage the god, there is a considerable risk you will become its slave and be forced to follow along in its eternal dance.
So it's like... Gaia, right? Is this primordial realm full of ancient secrets and detritus from ancient civilizations. Inferno is a hellish realm full of ancient secrets and detritus from ancient civilizations. Metropolis is an urban realm full of ancient secrets and detritus from ancient civilizations. The Underworld is a cavernous, depressing realm full of ancient secrets and detritus from ancient civilizations. Fucking everything here is built on the paved-over battle machines and war crime evidence of the ancients. It's like the game is trying to tell us how special each of these worlds is for having these specific traits that all of the others also have. At this point the only really distinguishing traits between them is the color palette and whether we're in danger of being raped by worms, madmen, robots or demons with hooks for hands.
The fact that there isn't any more detail on Gaia, even, because seriously, it's a much shorter chapter than the rest, really enhances the feel of Divinity Lost being a "we bought the license for the name!!!!"-piece of fanfiction. These guys didn't have access to any unpublished cool shit from the original authors, they don't have any of their own ideas for the metaplot or the world. They just rewrote everything with, incredibly enough, a worse fucking system(or, at least, a worse application of a a potentially decent system) and more rape! Fuck. These. Nerds.
PACTS AND MAGIC
So, pacts are fucking stupid, following a really lame generic structure apparently no matter who you make a pact with. Every creature just wants murder and human sacrifices in exchange for whatever services. It's like, hey, yeah, I guess there's no room for any nuanced or interesting shit here. All these guys just want blood and murder and rape. Also, arbitrarily, when your pact buddy demands payment, you only have one game session to complete it. Never mind that a game session can encompass anywhere from a tense five minutes to several years' worth of actual game world time.
Then there's a list of MAGICAL ARTIFACTS like the BLACK ARMOR which if you put it on either makes a DEATH ANGEL show up and high-five you, giving you a magical bonus and offering to just do whatever you want because he's in a good mood, or he's gonna be really pissed and just haul you off to Inferno, no saves or do-overs, which is more or less instant death or eternal torment for any PC. There's a 999-piece puzzle that, when finished, opens a gate into someone's personal FLESH HELL which... contains... nothing interesting at all and is really just a death trap. There's a CURSED DVD, which if you watch it, turns out to be a recording of a mass rape. The GOOD result is that you get sucked in and can leave whenever you want. The BAD results range from being forced to rape someone, being raped yourself(and being permanently possessed by a rape demon), being mass raped by the other recorded participants or being eternally stuck in the rape DVD and presumably not spending forever playing Uno with the others when the TV is off. No, it's probably worse than Uno. THE BONE FLUTE that when played makes everyone in the area, player and allies included, have to make a literal save vs killing themselves. And... that's kind of it. Those are their ideas for magical artifacts. Better copyright those so no one tries to rip them off, guys!
Like in the original, Magic is tied to Madness, Time/Space, Death, Dreams or Passion. Unlike the original, we don't get an actual list of spells for each school of magic, or a description of how they work, really. We just get a vague list of things they can potentially do and how Passion magicians tend to be REAL SEXY. Like... they managed to make magic MORE boring and uninteresting than before. Fuck you guys. And with that the chapter just kind of, you know, ends, after reminding us that magicians are RARE AND MIGHTY people with abilities like OPENING PORTALS(in case you can't find a gateway to Inferno or Metropolis in your closet), leaving us with the last chapter.
So way back during the dumb chargen chapters, I mentioned that we could spend XP to kill our own character. If we resist that temptation for long enough, though, we can upgrade to an ENLIGHTENED archetype rather than our previous, lame-o, AWARE archetypes. This means we can be stuff like a ghost/zombie, a hobo with claws, a pale guy who summons skeletons(and judging by his moustache probably fucks them, too) or someone who's sold their soul. Like, if we're rolling with the basic archetypes, those are literally our options. Because they only bothered to pre-stat Death Magician as an archetype, none of the others. They are also hilariously lame all of them. Like, we get the amazing power of COMMANDING VOICE with some. Which... more or less has the exact same disadvantages as normal diplomacy does, that people won't do anything that irrationally endangers them when we tell them to, no matter how well we roll. Totally worth becoming a ghost for. We can have NATURAL WEAPONS... which means trading in an arm for a tentacle or something to have all the destructive power of a gun except harder to hide and without the range. We can take UNNATURALLY STRONG... or HIGHER POWER which does the exact same thing except twice as well, also protects us like body armor and the only cost is we look like a bad special effect when we use it. But because this isn't fucking oVamp we don't have to give a shit about the Masquerade and can just toss someone through a truck without thinking twice.
And that's kind of it. Like their amazing chapter on the NEXT STAGE OF GAMEPLAY is ten pages full of shitty advantages that we shouldn't really care about when we should just grab some bigger guns and more hobos instead.
Guess what, this stupid fucking game is done and I'm through reviewing it. I apologize for leaving this thread devoid of poop rape until I find another long-awaited pile of garbage.