A while back I reviewed the first wave of products released for Kult: Divinity Lost, the fourth edition of the infamous horror RPG whose previous English editions had a patchy record when it came to the core rulebooks and supplement line and some adventures where… well, the kindest thing I can say about them is that they have aged very badly. To be fair, the latter is a perennial problem of modern-day occult RPGs: pretty much no prewritten scenarios for early World of Darkness games are particularly good examples of game design, and even Unknown Armies, perhaps the most accomplished of the genre during its 1990s boom, had an issue with adventures which might have been edgy and avant-garde but weren’t necessarily very fun to actually play.
I found that the new core book for the new edition was about as good a presentation of the concept as the game has ever enjoyed (and, reassuringly, includes some wise pointers about the use of safety mechanics and not cracking players over the head with content they’d find OOC traumatic), the support material was useful but not essential, and the adventures… meh. Now, thanks to the second Kult Kickstarter coming to fruition, I’ve received the second wave of support products for the line – a brand new referee guide and some additional adventure and support material in addition to that. Let’s have a look at the new books and bits and see what new goodies the Archons are offering us…
Beyond Darkness and Madness
This is billed as a referee’s guide, and is light on significant new crunch and heavy on refereeing advice, guidance, and tools. That, however, rather makes sense for a game derived from Powered By the Apocalypse, because that family of systems puts a big emphasis on the referee actually paying attention to the GMing advice and following the agendas and principles outlined to guide play. (Well, at least in principle. In practice… does any Powered By the Apocalypse game have any real safeguards against the referee abandoning one of the Agendas mid-play if they think it’d make for a better game? I’ve never seen one.)
The book is divided into three sections. The first goes into deep dives on the various scenario construction principles already presented in the core book, providing further details and explanations on such things as the concept map you are encouraged to draw as play progresses and how these may can be used; this is arguably the part of the book which risks tipping into being mechanistic most (a bit of a risk in game systems which purport to be about a fiction-first approach, but then try to define the fiction in a somewhat mechanical way), but I can see how these exercises can be useful to spur creativity and assist inter-session prep work, and it’s useful to be offered alternate ways to use these techniques rather than necessarily abandoning them. (Relatedly, an appendix provides a print version of the PDF guide for using the Kult tarot deck to designing scenarios.)Continue reading “Kult: Divinity Lost, Second Wave Released”