Kult: Divinity Lost

In 1993, the Origins Game Fair was held in Ft. Worth, Texas, and my college crew of gamer buddies and I made the trip from San Angelo for a weekend of fun and games.  It was my first BIG convention, and my first real exposure to the wide world of diversity in RPGs.  At that time, we were playing AD&D (Dark Sun) and I had become obsessed with Dangerous Journeys.  My two big takeaways from Origins that year were fliers for Darkurthe Legends and KULT.

The whole premise of Kult just blew me away.  At that point, I was familiar with Call of Cthulhu and Chill, though I wasn’t really a fan of either.  The former was to ubiquitous and overexposed, the second to archaic and uninspiring.  Vampire: the Masquerade was starting to take over the world, but the Vampire games I’d seen so far were heavy on pretense and self absorption (“Remember that time we turned Tori Amos into a vampire?  Oh yes, that was a delightful night!).  Kult was a different beast altogether: equal parts splatterpunk and psychological horror, a strange, horrific brew of Jacob’s Ladder and Clive Barker’s Books of Blood.  Yeah, I’m sure that “Mature Gamers Only” disclaimer on the cover didn’t hurt it.  In just four glossy, two-color pages, the flier presented a setting that was weird, modern and terrifying.  I regretted not buying it at the con and waited, impatiently I might add, for some two months for my FLGS to fulfill my order.  I ran several con events and a year long campaign, all of which are very hazzy in my brain.  I’m not sure how they worked, but they did.  We loved it!

Flash forward 12 years and two editions later (editions I skipped I should add – none of them really added anything to the original US edition except for trying to tell me the right way to run the game), Kult: Divinity Lost has been announced, with a Kickstarter campaign (naturally) planned for later this year and a 2016 release.  Immediately I’m interested.  My KULT 1st ed library is one of those my kids will be left to dispose of after I’m dead (fitting), so I’m eager to see if this edition finally offers something shiny and new (other than potentially full color art on glossy paper).

You can get the skinny on the Kult: Divinity Lost website.  Or sign up for reports on their facebook page.  But most of the concrete information has only been available to Swedish gamers (makes sense–Helmgast is a Swedish company, and Kult is originally a Swedish property).  Thanks to the enterprising folks on RPG.net, though, we have some translations of these initial rundowns:

Translated by capnzapp:

RULES SYSTEM
KULT Divinity Lost’s rules system has grown out of Apocalypse World but as with all bastards has gone its own way.

You can definitely see Apocalypse World’s bloody imprint on Kult Divinity Lost but the way we chose to focus moves and the way you play the game differs rather a lot.

Focus of the rules are on…
1) To inspire the games master and players to play the game
– Browse the book to get immediate inspiration for characters and horror stories

2) Being simple and very fast
– Dice rolling not to slow down the game into some kind of meta-narrative. The players should be here and now in the fiction.

3) Drive the story forward
– When you roll the dice SOMETHING always happens!

4) Create tension
– Die rolls lead to drama, action, revulsion and creeping fear

5) Act as games master tools to create horror stories in the KULT universe
– Gamesmastering horror can be one of your most difficult tasks, so Kult Divinity Lost provides lots of easy to use tools for creating horror and to showcase all the aspects of Kult’s complicated universe. Our motto is for the rules book and forthcoming supplements to show you how to use all the cool bits of the KULT Divinity Lost universe.

Translated by nobleTiger:

Every rule has a clear purpose. Where we noticed that the rules stood in the way, slowed the game down or made the players lose their flow, we removed them or remade them. In KULT: Divinity Lost, the players should think it exciting when the GM asks them to roll. You know that whatever the result, there will be effects in the fiction.

Unlike the old KULT, the drawbacks/flaws the players choose [for their characters] are of great importance to the story. Mechanically, they work as problem generators which drive the plot forward.

The rules in the AW hack “Illusionens fångar” [Prisoners of the illusion; the lead designer’s previous unofficial Kult-AW-hack] shares similarities with KULT: Divinty Lost, but a lot of things have happened since the last version was posted on that game’s blog.

More information, and some rule previews, will be presented at http://www.facebook.com/kultdivinitylost, in our forthcoming newsletters and interviews.

THE SETTING
You’re free to play in any time period and location you wish, but we have chosen to start by telling you how the universe of KULT: Divinity Lost looks in the 2010s, in order to update the archons and death angels and the ongoing power struggle to present time. To set your game in another time period, update the games of the higher powers according to what the world looked like at that time. Interesting aspects of the ’10s like Internet, extreme individualism, racism and ISIS are fun to theorize about from the perspective of KULT: Divinity Lost, the same way the first edition of KULT was based on the world as it looked in the early ’90s.

GAME MODES
There are two different ways to play KULT: Divinity Lost:

The “story mode” means you create a campaign based on the dark secrets of the player characters. The players’ choices for their characters influence the theme of the campaign, and what you the GM ought to focus on when determining the background and what sorts of threats are coming for the PCs. The story mode is great for GMs with more time for preparations, and groups where the players are happy to join in the creative process.

The story mode reaches from a few nights to months or years of play. It’s a good fit for experienced KULT players, and groups that want to play long campaigns with a lot of character development.

The “short story mode” means that you, the GM, create a background story beforehand, for which you either create pre-gens yourself, or let the players create their characters within the constraints you set. It’s reminiscent of a classical “fish tank” scenario.

The short story mode works better for one or a few sessions’ play, and works for con games, groups with less time, and GMs who want to decide more up front.

Regardless of your choice, KULT: Divinity Lost is not a collaborative story game [samberättarspel: Swedish rpg term with no clear translation; examples include InSpectres, low-prep AW, any GM-less game]. It encourages you the GM to let the players join in telling you about their characters, their backgrounds, their fears and their relationships but it is you, the GM, who knows the Truth and construct the threats the PCs face. Unlike the old KULT, the players’ choices during char-gen are of great importance to the story. They are the main characters of the story, not extras in the story of some NPC.

Ok, so my thoughts.  First up, not crazy about the whole *World link.  The more I see and read of DungeonWorld and Apocalypse World, the clearer it becomes that these games are not for me.  I don’t have a problem with player collaboration, but these games seem to be designed to really strip the GM of any agency or creative license with the milieu.  For KULT, that would be a deal-breaker.  But it sounds like the designers feel the same way (about the latter) and are trying to go a different way.  So I’m keeping an open mind until I see more.  I really need to see what a Kult “playbook” (*World version of a character archetype) looks like to see what’s really going on under the hood.  If the game is full of silly narrative “moves,” I’m out…unless the book is just too pretty to resist.  System has never been the strong point of Kult, so let’s see what they do with it.  It’s all pretty easy to port to any modern system of your choice.

Right now, I know maybe 3 people who I would want in a KULT game, so no telling if or when I might ever get a chance to play, anyway.  But interested?  Oh my.  Yes.

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6 thoughts on “Kult: Divinity Lost

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