KULT is a Swedish Dark Fantasy/Splatterpunk (self-description) Role-Playing Game by authors Gunilla Jonsson and Michael Petersén. It takes place here and now, in the reality of today. But reality is not what we think. Around us the world is dark and dangerous and nothing is what it seems to be. Our reality is an illusion, created to keep us captive. We are imprisoned since the ages past by a dictatorial creator. The true world, invisible to us, is ruled by creatures who dominate the false facades, our prison wardens and torturers. And if your characters happen to steep too far into Evil, they might actually turn into monsters physically.
KULT can be used for any kind of horror game, from "splatter the attacking zombie hordes" to "solve the occult mysteries of the universe" to more subtle paranoia and conspiracies. Players play characters who somehow came into contact with darkness - whether purely theoretical, like students interested in the occult, Mad Scientists or Mad Artists; in reality, like muckrakers, private detectives or COPS; or actively fighting it, like soldiers, gang members or street fighters.
What can you do in KULT? You can fight evil... or become evil yourself... or simply go mad. Or outgrow such childish things as Good, Evil, Madness and Four-Dimensional Space-Time. But don't expect that to be easy.
A Powered by the Apocalypse reboot called KULT: Divinity Lost was released in 2018.
Warning: contains spoilers about the setting and characters.
Contains examples of:
- Beware the Nice Ones: Acts of kindness will usually keep everyone mentally balanced - and this is a setting where "mentally balanced" = "to be blind and trapped in hell forever".
- Blessed with Suck: Luigi Cantorre is an extremely powerful death magician because he's the incarnation of Death Angel Togarini. He's possibly the most powerful incarnate of the Angels of Death, and is described as being more of Togarini's mobile citadel. He has to be, for the real citadel disappeared when Astaroth crushed Togarini for the latter's failed rebellion. Without the Citadel, Cantorre become the sole avatar of Togarini, and to kill him is to destroy Togarini for real as well.
- Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: Possibly the only inversion. It seems every other eldritch horror broke its arm trapping US in the illusion, and it seems inevitable that we will eventually break out.
- Co-Dragons: Golab and Hareb-Serap, the two Angels of Death that are most loyal to Astaroth. They hate each other, but will ignore that for the time being.
- Cosmic Horror Story: It's difficult to judge whether this setting or the Cthulhu Mythos are more horrific. On one hand, at least in Kult there's a chance (however astronomically remote) to escape, regain your divinity, and become stronger than any of the cosmic horrors. Then again, in the Cthulhu Mythos, the horrible universe is indifferent to you, while in Kult, the horrible universe hates you and wants you to suffer.
- Crapsack World: Even most horror settings have at least one faction who are not pure evil, even if it's just the mundane police. In Kult, ALL the governments, religions, and armies of the world are puppets of the lictors or the Angels of Death, who want to keep mankind ignorant. Worse still, God Is Evil... and this is not a world where Satan Is Good.
- Demoted Memories: This is a core part of several recommended character backgrounds. The character starts out as a normal human with a denied supernatural or at least abnormal background.
- Disability Superpower: Schizophrenia is actually the ability to see behind the veil covering mundane reality. Mental illness in general is one of two roads to supernatural mojo. Sainthood is the other one, but power-wise they're mutually exclusive.
- Disposable Vagrant: In the supplement Rumours the Caregiver archetype says that monsters feed on vagrants.
- Eldritch Abomination: Almost everything that exists, but most notable are the Forgotten Gods, who remain dangerous and beyond our understanding even after we Awaken. They're so powerful that the conflicts between Archons and Inferno (over reality itself) are beneath their concern.
- Enemy Civil War: Since Demiurge's disappearance...
- First the Archons start fighting each other. Hod, Yesod, Chesed and Chokmah were destroyed. The remaining Archons don't get along too well either, with Malkuth being the enemy of the rest (except Tiphareth, whose MO is to work everyone else's side to her own benefit).
- In Inferno, Thaumiel, Togarini and Gamaliel rebel against Astaroth, with various degrees of success. Chagidiel also wants to join them, but doesn't have the courage to oppose Astaroth yet.
- Enemy Mine: Notably Netzach, who will join forces with Malkuth or even Angels of Death if it will help him defeat Astaroth.
- Evil Counterpart: Angels of Death to Archons, and Astaroth to Demiurge. Actually Eviler Than Thou Counterpart since neither of the pairs are truly good.
- Expy: The Nepherites, the priestly torturers of Inferno, bear a great resemblance to the Cenobites from Hellraiser.
- Extreme Doormat, Hikikomori: The first version of Nahemoth, the Death Angel of apathy. Nobody cares about him except Malkuth, and Malkuth only cares because she wants to kill him (and will probably succeed in due time).
- Fighting a Shadow: Downplayed. Archons and other superbeings can have multiple incarnate avatars and it takes less than one day to create a replacement when one is destroyed. However, getting killed hurts and if several incarnates are killed in a short period, the pain can actually kill the being.
- Go Mad from the Revelation: There are many things in this setting that can cause madness if you discover them. And that's not necessarily a bad thing, as insanity is the road to Awakening.
- Have You Seen My God?: Even Astaroth is looking for him, since the Demiurge is the only one who gave his existence a meaning.
- Hell: Inferno. Nowadays most souls end up in Purgatory instead. Catch is, Astaroth no longer gives a damn about Inferno and lets his subordinate Death Angels manage the realm as they please. The Death Angels, of course, are less than fair, so you can end up getting punished for sins you never committed. And with fewer souls coming to Inferno, they will give you some extra (torturous) attention For the Lulz.
- Humans Are Bastards: Despite being embodiments of evil, Angels of Death found that the darkness in humans' hearts surpasses theirs.
- Humans Are Cthulhu: Humans are immortal superbeings; we are just slumbering and are unaware of our power.
- Humans Are the Real Monsters: In a sense. While it's rather difficult to see the Demiurge/Archons as the good guys, the truth is that the divine, pre-Illusion humans were completely amoral bastards that destroyed zillions of lives and caused untold suffering to countless weaker species across the universe. Perhaps the setting's deepest, most interesting question would be "Do we deserve to Awaken?"
- Jesus Was Way Cool: Jesus himself is still active in the world as the founder of one of the Ascension cults, ie the guys actively working to free humanity. He calls himself the son of the Demiurge, whatever that could mean, but doesn't seem to like his dad very much. The nature of their relationship remains unclear to the few who know him.
- Light Is Not Good: The Demiurge. For all of human history, he masqueraded as the all-powerful, all-loving God of western religions, but he is the one who robbed humanity of our divinity and imprisoned us.
- Masquerade: Our reality is an illusion, a Veil created to keep us captive. We have been imprisoned for ages by a dictatorial creator. The player-characters are working to break free of the Veil and regain their innate godhood.
- Masquerade Enforcer: If you are witnessed doing anything in public that might threaten the Veil, the agents of the Archons, like the Lectors, will appear in force to shut you down.
- Moral Guardians: Kult was and is, a very controversial game in Scandinavia thanks to two specific incidents: A teenage murder in the south of Sweden perpetrated by two boys who were alleged to have played KULT, and an incident in Norway where a teenage boy committed suicide mid-game. As a result, some stores removed the game from the shelves, and the Swedish parliament voted to cancel funding for roleplaying youth communities.
- Off on a Technicality: Mentioned in the description of the archetype of the frustrated cop.
- Possession Burnout: There is a kind of body stealer that will indulge in orgies of sex, drugs and violence after possessing a human body, with the result that said body really won't last very long.
- Religion of Evil: There is no shortage of psychopathic cults in this setting, but the major religions are also arguably evil, as they are all tools of the Archons to preserve the Illusion.
- Room 101:
- The Abyss, the great chasm where Demiurge's citadel once was. Only Astaroth (arguably the most powerful being in the cosmos now that the Demiurge is gone) has ever entered the Abyss and returned, and only barely alive at that. And he refuses to speak about the experience at all.
- Inferno specializes in this trope, as the Nepharites love to create personalized tortures which will drive you, and only you, completely insane.
- Sanity Meter: The mental balance meter. However, it differs from traditional sanity meter that the sanest (i.e. closest to normal human) point of the meter is 0, and going either way makes you less sane/human in one way or another: positive number indicates a tendency towards order (and stoicism), while negative number indicates a tendency towards chaos (and emotion and instinct). Going too far in either way makes you no longer recognisable as a human being.
- Satan: Astaroth fills this role in the setting, being the opponent and dark mirror-image of the Demiurge. Neither of them have ever had humanity's best interests at heart.
- So Beautiful, It's a Curse: The "Sexually Tantalizing" disadvantage. You're so beautiful that everyone wants a piece of you and nobody can listen to what you're saying.
- Soulsaving Crusader: The player can potentially become one of these, since driving someone over the Despair Event Horizon can allow them to break free of the Illusion.
- War Is Hell: Hareb-Serap the Angel of Death and personification of meaningless battle with no winners. According to the Metropolis sourcebook, Netzach as well.
- Hell Is War can also apply, especially in Inferno.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Malkuth's servants kidnap humans and perform wild experiments on them. She actually wants to free all humans from the Illusion.