Follow TV Tropes

Following

Video Game / Cultist Simulator

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/iris.PNG
This is Iris.

The Wood grows around the walls of the Mansus. As any student of the Histories knows, the Mansus has no walls.
Advertisement:

Cultist Simulator is a Simulation Game from Weather Factory, a studio founded by Alexis Kennedy, formerly of Failbetter Games.

The initial release was as a browser-based pre-alpha, which was later expanded on. The game focuses on assembling a secret cult, delving into forbidden mysteries, and ultimately achieving some goal involving the Hours, eldritch entities that dwell in the Mansus. The browser-based pre-alpha required you to summon a Thirstly to destroy the city you were in, while you can survive the objectives of the current version with some work.

Gameplay is purposely obtuse and complicated, and the game is routinely based around experimenting and coming up with new questions, like any good cultist. The game is primarily a card game, where you have four stats: Health, Passion, Reason, and Funds. These stats can be used to do a number of things, and are used to interact with Tiles that represent different aspects of your life- studying, working, dreaming, and managing your cult. You ultimate end goal is to find and uncover a "desire", and by completing said desire, you win the game. Adding tension to the mix is that the game is almost constantly ticking down, endlessly. If you can't support yourself in numerous ways from health to money, to sanity, then you die.

Advertisement:

The game is available on Steam and GOG. A mobile version was released in early 2019.

Sooner or later, every page receives the Tropes.

  • Agent Mulder: "Erratic" hunters often fail to produce tangible evidence the normal way, but on occasion they produce evidence from nothing at all. The description box notes they've been doing stuff like consulting the I Ching or doing tarot to concoct their clues from superstition. (Failure to generate evidence the normal way, by contrast, yields speculation that the hunter has been messing around and not doing anything remotely related to their investigation.) Erratic hunters have about the same success rate as the actual Agent Mulder in trying to catch the bad guy (you), but sometimes they get lucky for ridiculous reasons.
  • Alternate History: There is one future. There is not one History. An unusual example, in that all of the Secret Histories seem to be somewhat true - the sample location for the Explorer's Build was built by an empire that never was.
  • Ambiguous Time Period: No specific date is provided. There are references to telephones in private (if upper-class) homes, so the game is set at least in the late 19th century. The secret societies and lodges fit the Victorian era, but the game might as well take place in the present day.
      Advertisement:
    • Some hints within the game and from the developers point towards the 1920s or 1930s as a possible time period. One of Teresa Galmier's books is dated from 1926, some of the female character portraits resemble The Flapper, and the game's mascot Iris is referred to as "one of the more successful occultists of the Jazz Age."
  • Animate Dead: The easier summoning rituals rely on turning corpses into various forms of zombie. The downside is that corpses don't last very long.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence:
    • Your goal for each of the standard victories. The Enlightenment path eventually has you become an energy being that drinks minds and becomes empowered by Lantern, the Power path has you forge yourself into something beyond human, and the Sensation path has you turn into an immortal monster that devours people completely.
    • The Baldomerian seems to have pulled this, seeing as it also answers to the name of Teresa Galmier.
    • A number of the Hours — the godlike beings that dwell in the Mansus — were once human, having overthrown older Hours and taken their place.
  • Ascended Extra: If you manage to get a standard victory, you unlock the corresponding "apostle" legacy, where you play a random member of the cult founded by your previous character, who ascended.
  • Ban on Magic: Entering the Mansus, forming cults, and using and studying Lore are illegal, though the laws in question are secret from the public.
  • Bad Boss: The game encourages you to be this to your temporary hirelings and summons. When they have outlived their usefulness, they make excellent sacrifices.
    • Mr. Alden may also qualify, often forcing you to work overtime (using a reason card) and will withhold half your pay if you don't. If you're lucky, however, Alden will notice your progress, peacefully retire and promote you to a senior position. Or you can retire him yourself.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: One book you can read suggests the infamous Roman Emperor Elegabalus was either an agent or incarnation of the Hour known as the Sun-in-Rags. Give that one of the obtainable occult treasures is an "Elegabaline Manacle" with a high degree of Winter power, it seems there may be some truth to the claim.
    • One of the locations you can explore is referred to as the "Voivode's Citadel," ruled by an ardent student of the Grail. The Voivode - a title given to local rulers in certain parts of Eastern Europe - was one of the many sobriquets given to Count Vlad Tepes, AKA Dracula. (Naturally, this is located in the "Land Beyond the Forest", which is just a literal translation of Transylvania.)
    • One of your patron, Ibn al-Adim, is heavily implied to be the historical al-Adim, except that he's not a mortal anymore.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: As one would expect, the Hours don't seem to map all that well to what humans would consider good and evil. Nor, consequently, do their followers.
  • Body Motifs: The heart gets a lot of play: it's the symbol for health/affliction, one of the principles that drives gameplay and shows up in a few contexts dealing with the Mansus, most notably the Tricuspid Gate.
  • Butterfly of Transformation: The symbol of the Change Ambition is a butterfly cocoon, and upgrading the Ambition card gradually hatch it to reveal a pretty butterfly emerging from it. However, the descriptions of what actually happens are anything but pretty.
  • Can't Have Sex, Ever: On release, the game's flavor text implies that while romances between different classes of entities - Mortals, Names, Longs, and Hours - are possible, sex is not. The text is ominously ambiguous on whether sex in these cases is forbidden by some external agency or physically impossible; both are implied in different stories.
    • What's known so far is that Longs cannot have heterosexual sex with each other (homosexuality is fine), and a romantic story involving a Name and a Long included castration as an essential prerequisite to bringing the lovers together. Teresa says that You Do NOT Want to Know what happens if a male and female Long have sex.
    • Further reading indicates that heterosexual sex is forbidden because it might lead to procreation amongst the Long, called "The Crime of the Sky".
    • Romance is one of the areas the creator intends to flesh out in expansions, so the rules may be clarified in the future.
    • Romance is already working since the Teresa Build and has been tested on the Gate of Horn beta for some time. But since Longs aren't playable yet, we don't know about ascended beings sex' details.
  • Capital Letters Are Magic: Everywhere. Being "a name" sounds much less dramatic than being "a Name".
  • Central Theme: As summarized by Alexis Kennedy here:
    The core theme of CS is the gradual revelation of the sublimely monstrous beneath the safely mundane.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: Through gathering Erudition, Glimmering, and Vitality, you can develop your Reason, Passion, and Health to superhuman levels. While this can come from magical work, it's entirely possible to get a rock-crushing body, a madly-burning imagination and a razor-sharp mind by doing nothing but grinding mundane tasks.
    • Since Teresa Build was released and for some time before on the Gate of Horn beta only, ability development changed. Now there is a cap for everything and the final improvement requires magic (there is a lore slot). This also means Legacy is even more important since the cap affects the improvements themselves and not your starting abilities.
  • Classical Tongue: The four fictional languages in the game act as this, being old tongues that more obscure occult lores are written in. You can study them either with a tutor note , or translating the rare language "book" with relevant language listed below. They're actually fictional variants of real languages, and the language that's required to help study these have real-life connections. To list:
    • Fucine, supposedly spoken "east of the lost lake Fucino." Sometimes called "the dry tongue" or "the tongue of witches." Fictional variant of Marsian. Can be studied using Latin because Marsian and Latin are both Italic languages.
    • Deep Mandaic, "the most secret script of the deep sects of the deep desert." Said to have been spoken by the Shadowless Kings, the Unburnt God and the Mother Of Ants. A fictional variant of Classical Mandaic. Can be studied using Aramaic because Classical Mandaic is a subset of Aramaic.
    • Phrygian, "the tongue in which the Thunderskin pleaded, at his ascension." A fictional variant of the real Phrygian. Can be studied using Greek because it's part of (hypothetical) Graeco-Phrygian languages.
    • Vak, the first tongue, spoken by the Hours, which is both a language and a living entity. You can "meet" "her" by crossing the Peacock Door. A fictional variant of Vedic/Pre-Vedic Sanskrit. Can be studied using Sanskrit because, well, it's an older version of Sanskrit. The fact that Vak is a living entity is a reference to Vedic goddess Vāk, who's the personified form of speech.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The various aspects and any lore or items that have to do with them are thankfully color-coded to keep you from getting lost in the sea of cards. Grail is bright red, Heart is vermilion (between orange and red), Forge is orange, Edge is pea green, Moth is gray, Knock is purple, Lantern is bright yellow, Winter is (of course) white, and Secret History texts are pink.
  • The Corruptible: A Detective player is most certainly this, as the game is centered around making your own secret society and delving into forbidden, addicting lore. Anonymous "Hangers-On" are also described as "usefully malleable."
  • The Corruptor: All successful players (and their cults) will end up as this to one extent or another, but those of the Grail aspect specialize in snaring others through temptation.
  • Create Your Own Villain: Sometimes your attempts to drive the hunters insane will instead make them hold their sanity through their awakening to the occult knowledge, becoming your rival in the process.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Your cult must devote itself to one aspect, which will define what they do best (as only followers of your cult's aspect can reach Exalted rank). While all the aspects have their uses, some are definitely less useful than others for exploring, warding off hunters, or contributing to your chosen path of ascension.
  • Cruelty Is the Only Option: Despite presenting you as a Villain Protagonist, it's quite possible to get through most of the game without hurting anybody: there are plenty of rituals that don't require a human sacrifice, and there are always nonviolent ways to deal with Hunters and Guardians. But the paths of Enlightenment and Sensation will, inevitably, demand a toll in others' blood and life. Averted with the path of Power or Change, however.
  • Cult: It's in the title. You can create one, and its specific focus will be determined by your preferred Lore snippet.
  • Cunning Linguist: You start out as one, but can go far further. Your character begins the game with at least rudimentary skills in Greek and Latin and passable German (enough to use a German textbook to improve your Greek). Then you can learn, via tutors or books, the aforementioned Latin and Greek, Aramaic, Sanskrit and four... more esoteric languages.
  • Curse: One of the possible obstacles on expeditions. Failing to suppress them won't stop you from reaching your goal, but they will have various negative consequences later, including the death of a follower or loss of stat.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: With a little work, it's easily possible for your character to achieve a senior accountant position, become a famous painter raking in the cash, an example of physical perfection or a beloved spouse of a noble - or all four at the same time. Retiring on the first or last one of those is considered a minor victory. Then again, all those abilities are also perfect jumping off points to start your cult...
    • You can use your knowledge of eldritch Lore to traverse the dreamworld, perform rituals and find secret places...or just use it to write commissions for wealthy patrons that give you coins that can be sold for an subsantial amount of money.It takes a bit more time than regular Work but if you have unlocked all four patrons that gives commissions then you will be practically rolling in cash.
  • Dancing Is Serious Business: Heart-aspect cults are all about the beat that can't stop. Their primary summon is the Percussigant, a "mighty and merry" yeti-like beast that never, ever stops dancing. There's also the Change temptation, which is about ascending to a Long by dancing enough.
  • Deity of Human Origin: The Gods-From-Flesh are said to be mortals who ascended through the Mansus to become Hours.
  • Despair Event Horizon: The "No More" ending, caused by accumulating too much Dread.
    • Also something that you can inflict on a vulnerable hunter via Winter lore.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: At Glover and Glover, your first boss — Mr. Alden — is a prick who often pressures you to work overtime. You can respond to this by sending an assassin, summoning a terrifying monstrosity, or tempting the man into ruining his life.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Present in-universe with the Peacock Door. It resembles splayed peacock feathers, but also looks somewhat yonic, and various occult documents contain stodgy monks referring to "entering through the Peacock Door" as an obscene act. And to pass it, you need to "satisfy" it with a powerful enough key, which is described as vibrating with anticipation in your hands. Or you can satisfy it by letting it crack your mirror instead.
  • Dream Land: The Mansus, and the Wood around it, are home to the Hours and Names, and can only be reached by mortals in dreams (barring certain powerful rituals).
  • Driven to Suicide: Implied in the "No More" ending.
  • Eats Babies: Male and Female Long mating and procreating isn't the Crime of the Sky, eating the resulting baby is. And Longs and higher beings tend to have irresistible urge to eat their own children. Note that children eating the own parents doesn't count. Those that do became Alukites, which Soucouyants are part of. Alexis - out of game- implied that all Ligeians, Sulochana included, are Alukites.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Hours, in several categories: Gods-from-Light, Gods-from-Stone, Gods-from-Flesh, Gods-from-Blood, and Gods-from-Nowhere.
  • Eldritch Location: The Mansus, home of the Hours, and the Wood that surrounds it. Also many of the places you can visit on expeditions.
  • Elemental Powers: The various aspects of occult lore. They're used in Ritual Magic and to navigate through The Mansus, and double as a blend of skills and Functional Magic for followers.
    • Edge cuts. It's arguably the most uncomplicated aspect, and is useful for combat and murder. It can also cut metaphorical things, allowing you to trade one stat for another by initiating a battle in your mind. Edge cultists are plain old cutthroats and murderers, but become refined assassins as they rank up.
    • Forge changes. It can be used to build and repair, but also burns and consumes. And can blast through warded doors. Finally, it's often valuable when navigating hostile terrain, be that icy mountain passes, vast scorching deserts, or dark churning oceans. Forge cultists tend to have robotic and pragmatic personalities.
    • Grail seduces. It offers the most delicious tastes and sensations, and gives more temptation in return. Useful for getting people to make bad decisions. Grail cultists are usually seductive people with strange appetites.
    • Heart beats, inexorably. It's associated with health, vitality, and celebration, but also with compulsive persistence. Can be used to maintain your reputation, restore your health, and ward off some life-draining curses. Heart cultists are described as being relentlessly cheerful.
    • Knock opens. It opens doors, and space, and people. It's an essential part of any Summoning Ritual and can be used to navigate nearly every door in the Mansus. Serpents, venom and wounds are strongly associated with Knock. Knock cultists are good at breaking and entering and are usually thieves, but have spaced-out personalities from being able to see through dimensions.
    • Lantern illuminates. It shows secret doors, and secret places, and secrets you didn't ask for and don't want to know. The Light is not merciful, and is one of the leading causes of Go Mad from the Revelation in the game. But it's also one of the most useful lores for navigating The Mansus, especially early on. Lantern cultists can be zealous visionaries.
    • Moth confuses. It's associated with shadows and chaos, and is good for sneaking by watchers, stealing inconvenient evidence, and navigating dark forests. Nonsense ("buzzing in the brain") and shapeshifting ("shedding of skin" is mentioned a lot) are also closely associated with it. Moth cultists are strange tricksters by nature.
    • Winter silences. Like the dead are silent. A vital component in Necromancy, and a good way to suppress curses or sustain an expedition through icy conditions. Winter cultists are usually creepy, dreadful folk who watch and wait.
    • Secret History remembers. It is technically occult lore, but doesn't offer power like the others. Instead, it provides directions to secret places that you can send an expedition to investigate. Also you need it to summon the Baldomerian. You don't get any Secret Histories cultists but all of your patrons could count as this, as they ask you to research stuff.
  • Elemental Rock–Paper–Scissors: The Hours aren't technically in conflict with each other, specifically, but each one is good at subverting another, so you can convert lore from one into another if you have enough on hand (Grail subverts Heart and so on). Knock is the "shotgun" of the rock-paper-scissors as it can be used to make more Knock lore from anything, and Secret Histories is just off the map entirely since it only combines with itself.
  • Elite Mooks: After inducting your Acquaintances into your cult, they are at first Believers. Get some more Lore and ritual trappings and you can upgrade them to Disciples. Raise your Lore even higher and acquire good Trappings and you can upgrade those cultists of your preferred Lore to an even more powerful status.
  • Everyone Is Bi: Your character's gender is never defined, but you can easily get offers of romance and even marriage from male and female patrons.
  • Evil Is Visceral: The Crowned Growth, a God-From-Nowhere that even the other Hours are afraid of, is depicted as a combination between a massive tumor sitting on a throne and tumorous flesh and bile spreading over everything else.
  • Eye Motifs: You see a lot of eyes - open and closed eyes are the Reason and Passion symbols (they'll blink at you occasionally), the Door-in-the-Eye shows up occasionally in Mansus-related contexts, and the game's mascot is named Iris (that's her up above) and is revealing an inhuman eye to the audience.
  • Eye of Newt: Magical ingredients are used in a lot of rituals. And true to the spirit of the trope, Lore cards will often tell that using them in a rite with "Byzantine Tinct" or "Martensite Paste" will summon something, without telling you what those are or what Aspect they use.
  • Face–Heel Turn: The inevitable fate of the Detective that does not accept the promotion within the Bureau.
  • Famous, Famous, Fictional: When learning a language from a tutor, you are told of two well-known real-life texts in the language and one fictional occult one:
    • Upon learning Aramaic from Dr. Ibn Al-Adim:
    The language of the Visions of Amram, of the Book of Daniel, and of the Account of Kanishk at the Spider's Door.
    • Upon learning Greek from Mme. Bechet:
    The language of the Metaphysics, of Procopius' 'Secret History', and of the menacing 'On What is Contained by Silver...
    • Upon learning Latin from Count Jannings:
    The language of Lucretius' 'On the Nature of things', of Aquinas' 'Summa Theolgiae', and of the notorious 'De Horis'...
    • Applies to the languages overall, too, as we have classical/ancient languages like Aramaic, Latin and Sanskrit leading to fictionalized variations on obscure languages. See Classical Tongue entry for more details.
  • Featureless Protagonist: Apart from very basic details (along the Change path, you cut your hair, so apparently you're not bald), the game strives not to make any assumptions about you. Certain origins are more stereotypically male or female, but nothing definitive is mentioned and every romance option is available to you in any case.
  • Flavor Text: Studying a Tome of Eldritch Lore will give you a Lore card representing useful occult knowledge, but will also give you a brief excerpt from the text in question. Sometimes this is just fluff, but oftentimes it contains useful hints or important advice.
  • Fountain of Youth: If you fail to heal your injuries and got your Health turned into Decrepitude, you can try to invoke Forge's Redemption in order to fix that. You will get Notoriety if you succeed, however, because people will become extremely suspicious that your supposedly chronic illnesses/injuries suddenly got better one day.
  • God Of Human Origin: A large minority of the Hours are Gods-From-Flesh, which is literally this.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Going bonkers is a perennial hazard for the aspiring cultist:
    • Some followers, such as over-promoted Pawns or Lantern cultists attempting augury, risk becoming unstable. Moth-aligned Pawns in particular are unstable, as once promoted their card will inevitably decay into a useless Lunatic (probably because of the inherently confusing nature of Moth).
    • Occurs to you in the Glory ending, caused by too much Fascination.
    Light LEAKS through the CRACKS. My mind is brighter than it EVER was. THE HIGHER I RISE THE MORE I SEE.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: "Scars" became a thing in a content update to go with the Dancer DLC; both you the cult leader and your followers can get them. Getting three of the same scar will kill a follower, but due to the mystical nature of the wounds in the game, they often upgrade the person's stats. For example, due to Knock's association with wounds, many improperly-healed wounds become symbolic gateways, or a cultist could have learned some hard lessons in battle that gave them some Edge, or a near-death experience imbued them with a bit of Winter. The player can develop scars by dancing a dangerous dance at the cabaret, which sacrifices a stat for a scar that counts as a "tool" to be used in magic rituals or the like.
  • Honey Trap: Grail-aspected followers can seduce and entrap prisoners to use as sacrifices, disgrace Annoyances standing in the way of your career, and Show Some Leg to neutralize human watchers on expeditions (but not monks, who are immune).
  • Horror Hunger: A common side-effect of pursuing a path of ascension. The path of the Grail applies this literally (or offers delicious fruits, depending on your perspective) while the path of the Lantern requires eating people's thoughts.
  • Human Sacrifice:
    • Several different occult rites require these, as well as the ever-THIRSTy Spider's Door (you can either use a member of your cult, an unsuspecting mercenary, or a prisoner you've kidnapped or seduced). The sacrifices don't have to be human, however, with summons and hirelings that have outlived their usefulness especially popular for the altar.
    • Also part of a Deal with the Devil: Poppy Lascelles is a patron who will offer you help, in return for providing someone to "end things properly." You're offered the chance to question her further and confirm that this is a Deadly Euphemism, but you can also just cheerfully accept and worry about it later.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The more human Hours, such as the Lionsmith and the Mother of Ants. To a lesser extent, the Long, which you can become in two of the three endings. And arguably the player, once they acquire the Third Mark.
  • Hypocrite: Even as they hunt down occultists, sometimes the Suppression Bureau aren't above of utilizing the Mansus for that purpose, like when they tried (and failed) to recruit the Baldomerian to their cause, which required them to enter the Mansus and pass through the White Door.
  • Ice-Cream Koan: The Level 6 Lore for Moth (one of the possible Stag Riddle answers) is the question "What may be lost?" The joke is that the riddle is always the story of someone else going nuts trying to find the answer, so the correct response is just overwhelming the Stag Door with answers.
  • Important Haircut: Haircuts and barbers are affiliated with Moth, because getting a haircut is as close as a human can get to "shedding" their skin and drastically changing their appearance in a short amount of time.
  • Intangible Price: "Influences" are just momentary things like brief passing memories or emotions that can be used in rituals...if your timing is right. They decay and disappear quickly, though, so it's definitely something that either requires luck or planning.
  • In Spite of a Nail: One of the Continent expeditions states that Vienna is called Vienna in every History.
  • Jack-of-All-Stats: The Society of St. Hydra. As a cult that venerates the Secret Histories rather than any specific Hour, they can call upon any principle to promote a Believer into a Disciple, but have no specialty Exalted role to promote Disciples into.
  • Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: Clear answers regarding the individual Hours and what each type of occult lore represents are doled out only in pieces and fragments of lore; paying attention to the books and lore flavor text is vital.
  • Kangaroo Court: Played with. The trials themselves are "fair", as the Suppression Bureau only attempts a trial when they have Damning Evidence — and even then, they'll only seek to imprison one of your cultists rather than going full siege on your cult Branch Davidian-style. But it's hard to accept that your followers are getting due process when the laws that you're on trial for breaking are a secret!
  • Koan: The description for the "In the Midst of my Life, in a Dark Wood" achievement.
The Wood grows around the walls of the Mansus. As any student of Histories knows, the Mansus has no walls.
  • Language of Magic: Most of the higher-level Tomes of Eldritch Lore are written in dead languages, ranging from Latin and Greek (which you can easily brush up on on your own) to Vak, the first language, which can only be learned at the highest point in the Mansus.
  • Les Collaborateurs: Playing a crooked Detective working for the Suppression Bureau can result in this.
  • Loophole Abuse: The Ordo Limiae's laws forbade commerce with the Hoursnote , and there's an entire book devoted to exceptions, clarifications and indulgences for doing so, since you can't really be an occultist without calling upon the Hours in some capacity.
  • Loss of Identity: When you Exalt a Winter follower, they stop being referred to by their name and become "[description], who is silent".
  • Lovecraft Lite: It'd be a Cosmic Horror Story, except you're the cultist. And not only are you not wrong about achieving immortality (if you make the right moves), some paths to that goal are decidedly less predatory than others. Also, while the eldritch stuff is "sublimely monstrous", the actual setting and cosmology are distinct from (and far less misanthropic than) anything Lovecraft came up with. A significant portion of the gods are ascended humans, though as entities they now subscribe to Blue and Orange Morality.
  • Mad Artist: One of the best ways to make money once you have a decent Passion score is to paint. As for the "mad" part...you're an eldritch cultist, that comes baked in. Also inverted, in that painting can consume Restlessness and produce Contentment, making art a surprisingly good way of keeping yourself sane. And Double Subverted if your painting inspires Fascination, which causes you to go insane from the other direction.
    • With the right materials and subject, you can even create your own masterpiece, which can be used in rituals as an artifact.
  • Mauve Shirt: Your Disciple-rank cultists are significantly more powerful than their starting Believer-rank, and can more often than not defeat any expedition challenge you throw their way (assuming they have the right aspect). But they can still fail and die if things go badly.
  • Mind Rape: Exposing a Hunter to Dread or Fascination (or high-level Lantern or Winter lore) can cause this.
  • Mirror Monster: The Hint and the Maid-In-The-Mirror are both described this way, though it appears that summoning them brings them to this side of the mirror and avoids the drawbacks this would otherwise imply.
  • Money to Burn: While the Sensation and Enlightenment endings require copious human sacrifices, the forge-aligned Power ending has you consume lots of money to pay for materials to forge your body into a perfect weapon. Since you burn those (and yourself) to do it, it's Money to Burn in more ways than one!
  • Monty Hall Problem: Passing a door in the Mansus shows you three cards you can bring back with you. One is revealed, and the other two are hidden, and picking a hidden one causes you to lose the other two. The stuff you get is only slightly randomized (it tends to be specific to each door) but it's still a question of giving up a sure gain over a possible dud prize.
  • Morton's Fork: In Apostle Legacy, if you don't counter enemy Long's actions, bad things happen to you. If you do, the Long will gets more resource that increase their timer until they attack you directly. Learning which action to counter and which to suffer is important for preparing for the eventual Final Battle between your cult and the enemy Long.
  • Multiple-Choice Past: All of those alternate histories are sort-of true at once.
  • Multiple Endings: The three objectives in the base game are Enlightenment, Power and Sensation. The DLC adds the "Change" temptation that leads to both a Moth or Heart ascension, depending on how you approach it.
  • Mundanger: "Watchers" refers to any group of mortals guarding a location during an Expedition. "Possibly quite ordinary humans, but a lot of them." Sometimes they're more than mere guards; an expedition to an island reputed to be inhabited by cannibals will have them represented as "Watchers."
  • Mutant Draft Board: Any mortals who succeed in becoming Long are given a choice: swear themselves to the service of an Hour, or be exterminated by an order of secretive assassins loyal to The Colonel. Some opt instead to flee to Port Noon, where they drink water that makes others forget them.
  • New Game+:
    • Every new run references the name of the old player character as someone the new player character heard about or is researching. Normally this confers no actual benefit, but in the works is a new type of start where you play as a cultist following your last player who already ascended.
    • Completing an Ascension ending will allow you to select an Apostle legacy for your next playthrough.
  • No Communities Were Harmed: You're playing in "the Capital", a place where detectives wear peculiar round custodian helmets and you have the option of conducting expeditions "on the continent, across a narrow sea". Yeah, it's London. In fact, pretty much all the major expedition tiers have analogous to real life regions, as follows:
    • "In the Capital": London
    • "In the Shires": English countryside
    • "On the Continent": Western Europe, with a location specifically set in Vienna.
    • "In the Land Beyond the Forest": Eastern Europe, with one location being Vlad the Impaler's castle in Transylvania note .
    • "In the Rending Mountains": Zagros Mountains, going from Turkey into Iran.
    • "In the Lone and Level Sands": The Sahara desert.
    • "Among the Evening Isles": The Caribbean.
  • Noble Demon: It's possible to be this. Taking the Power path and refusing to engage in Human Sacrifice, using Moth to trick Watchers instead of going into combat, and letting Hunters live and just destroying the evidence are all options for being a less evil cult leader. You're still a criminal just for looking into the Mansus and the Histories, and at the very least you're usually stealing occult lore and items from their present holders.
  • Non-Standard Game Over: The Inspector start potentially allows you to pursue investigating the cultists from your last save until you lock up the main suspect and get promoted to a corner office for the rest of your days. Or you could do clerical work for the rest of your life when your horrible boss retires (or gets retired).
  • No-Sell: Most Hunters have traits that make them immune to some forms of attack: Mystics will always survive attacks from summoned minions, for example, and Idealists can't be seduced. It's possible for all of these to appear on a single hunter, though thankfully hunters can only become resistant to mundane attacks, but not total immunity, and there's no trait that makes them immune to poison.
  • Not Enough to Bury: Rituals that require a human sacrifice tend to involve destroying the body pretty thoroughly. Which has practical implications, because it means they don't generate a Corpse card.
  • Not Quite Dead: While Longs can be killed, they're very hard to kill permanently. Especially with Julian Coseley, who , even after the game said that's he dead, still said in his letter that he's alive due to his nature as a Winter Long note . The other hostile Longs you faced can be killed off permanently, however.
  • Only Sane Man: Christopher Illopoly, the author of Traveling At Night and known as "the only readable occultist." He describes his dream journeys with caution, and lacks the obsessive madness that drives others to delve deeper into the Mansus. He's contrasted against Theresa Galmier, the author of The Locksmith's Dream, who's books get progressively less coherent as she pursues what's implied to be the same path that the player is, and eventually becomes The Baldomerian.
    Traveling at Night: To reach the Stag Door, I believe that all you really need is to want something enough. But I've never wanted anything that much, except of course Baldomera. I'm afraid that the knot in the story might be this: what Baldomera wants is the Stag Door.
  • Only Smart People May Pass: Eventually, you'll reach the Stag Door, which will require you to answer a riddle correctly. If you can't figure it out, look at the fluff text for your level 6 lore cards.
  • Our Demons Are Different: The Names - they reside in an alternate dimension (the Mansus), owe fealty to higher beings whom they can rarely ascend to become one of (the Hours), and can be summoned with occult rituals and made to give occult knowledge or attack the summoner's enemies.
  • Our Vampires Are Different:
    • The result of pursuing the Temptation of Sensation to the Third Mark is a hunger for blood... and more. Once you have done feeding from a prisoner, there isn't even a corpse remaining. (The icon, for whatever it's worth, depicts a Frankensteinian mishmash of man, beast, and spider, and the description of your transformation is pure body horror).
    • Also counts for those seeking Enlightenment- the difference is that the hunger is psychic, rather than physical.
    • In some of most difficult areas to explore, you may sometimes come across the Soucouyants, who look like old women until they remove their skins. They are described as a kind of Long (or, at least, half-Long) that has committed the most terrible crime their kind can commit, and have an aversion to light.
  • Power at a Price:
    • Every magical rite requires sacrificing something, whether it's an ingredient, a mystical tool, your knowledge of the occult, or a person. It's absolutely possible to finesse this, though: A few rites consume Influences, which can border on Loophole Abuse when you "sacrifice" something dangerous like Dread or Fascination. Also, you can sacrifice summoned creatures - even in a rite to summon them again. There is an upside: by the endgame, you'll be awash in extra cards, so having a reason to throw them away and clear up your desk will be nice.
    • Played especially straight with the infamous Rite Intercalate. It allows you to place five cards whereas the other rites only use four, which makes it substantially more powerful. The price? Unlike other rites where only one card is sacrificed, here you lose all the cards you used.
    • However, while all rites have slots for things that will be sacrificed, it's not necessary to actually use them note . The only thing that's actually necessary to finish a ritual is having enough influence, so given a suitable rite, invoking minor rituals (which have pretty high failure rate), or major rituals with very powerful lore, implements, or assistants, you can do it without any sacrifices.
  • Powerful, but Inaccurate: The "The End is Beautiful" ritual ends someone, or something. You don't get to pick who. Beware casting it on a map where you have more minions than enemies.
  • The Power of the Sun: The Sun-in-Splendour was the most powerful of the Hours, and it ruled the higher Mansus beyond the Tricuspid Gate. It's dead, but that doesn't stop it from having influence on the world and the Secret Histories. Its four children are all Hours in their own right, particularly the Sun-in-Rags, the god of beautiful endings.
  • Puppeteer Parasite: The "Second Worm War" was lost when the worms learned to work people from the inside. Other flavor text says that the "Third Worm War" was too recent to have entered into the Secret Histories.
  • Reality Ensues: No matter how much mystical power you accumulate or how many followers you have, at the end of the day, you still have to pay your bills. Fail to have a regular source of income and your eldritch cult leader will go hungry and die.
    • Sulochana points this out deep into a Change victory. "The Mansus is all well and good, but we need to sell tickets!"
    • Getting appointed to the Board of Glover and Glover provides you with a non-taxing job that pays well and extremely quickly...with the drawback of the Slave to PR aspect inherent to any high level executive position. Build up enough Notoriety while working on the board and your partners get sick of looking the other way and kick you out permanently (with some hush money for the road).
  • Red Shirt: Present in a couple of varieties:
    • Pawns are unnamed cultists, converted from the hangers-on you sometimes meet after casting your net out for new followers. Pawns will never amount to much (as they have no aspect stats unless promoted, and even then not much), but they're oh-so expendable as a result...
    • Hirelings are nameless and temporary recruits to your cult. Accordingly, they make great canaries for unknown missions, and if they come back alive and their term is nearly up, it's perfectly possible to have them stay for dinner (yours or something else's). They're also perfect for sending on risky errands like murdering hunters or burning evidence.
    • Summoned beings are very powerful, but they have a short lifespan so throwing them at problems and hoping they succeed is also a common use for them if their timers are almost up. If they die, no big deal, right?
  • Refuge in Audacity: The hunters can't find Notoriety while you're using it in paintings. If you paint a painting with some eldritch lore as inspiration, it'll generate even more Notoriety. The card description notes that you are practically taunting the cops with your art when you do this. Even better, paintings with Notoriety generate a ton more cash.
  • Refusal of the Call: If you don't want to sacrifice your humanity, morality, and friends in an obsessive quest for immortality, you can achieve a minor victory by settling down at a mundane job. In Apostle Legacies, the defeated Long will also provide you a way to betray your Mentor, allowing you to try to ascend yourself to a Long instead of helping your Mentor becoming a Name or an Hour. That is, except for J.C.'s method, which destroys any chance of you ascending and all, so it's best to settle down for a mundane job.
  • Resources Management Gameplay: Money is consumed over time, and sometimes you'll catch an ailment and temporarily lose Health (it's fixable, but you die if you go too long with no Health).
  • Revealing Cover-Up: Trying to destroy evidence or kill investigators can result in more Notoriety, which is counterproductive.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: This is probably the most charitable interpretation on how Erratic Hunters are able to make evidence without Notoriety. Less charitable interpretation would be Framing the Guilty Party. Of course, if you haven't founded a cult yet...
  • Ritual Magic: A big part of the game, once you've learned how to do it. They use a neat system of Spell Construction: Knowing a Rite specifies a format of what type of cards you can use: One might call for a Lore, an Assistant, and an Ingredient, while others might substitute a Tool or an Influence for one of those.

    Meanwhile, the cards themselves have one or more Aspects that describes their mystical strength: a cultist might be strong in Lantern, while an ingredient might be a powerful source of Knock. It's the combination of Aspects you use that determine what the ritual actually does. This means that there are potentially any number of different ways to cast the same spell, but that you're limited by what Rites you know and what specific sources of power you have.
  • Room Full of Crazy: With everything else that happens in the game, it's no surprise that a few of these turn up:
    • One potential cultist, Slee, writes poetry on the walls while imprisoned...not necessarily in ink.
    • The final rooms of a few expeditions count, when they're not an outright Eldritch Location.
      In the red tent, a madness of paper. The circus folk have pasted diagram-crowded paper to every surface: the anatomies of time, the dissections of old weather. The place stinks of Nowhere. We should burn it when we leave. A trestle table holds an unceremonious muddle of trophies and keepsakes.
    • The game itself can even come to resemble this, depending on how fastidious the player is about keeping their cards organized. Thankfully, the game is later updated so that cards auto-snap, making board management easier.
  • Sanity Slippage: Nearly everywhere, with nearly everybody. Your cultists as they're promoted, your Pawns as they're over-promoted, occult authors when you get to their later volumes, Hunters you've shown powerful mysteries to.... and the player character, inevitably. But whether your descent into madness is careful and controlled or rapid and catastrophic is up to you.
    • Unusually for most Cosmic Horror games, sanity is not a single stat in and of itself. Instead, you've got Dread and Fascination, representing being consumed by despair or being so overwhelmed with rapturous visions you can't tell what's real. One can even be used to cancel the other out. Additionally, Dread and Fascination only kill you if you get three of them at once during the wrong season.
  • The Scapegoat: The most reliable solution for problems involving the law pursuing you with Damning Evidence is to throw one of your followers under the bus, clearing out the evidence.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Three possible endings (as of the release of the Dancer DLC) involve this, all considered minor victories:
    • One possible ending has the protagonist retire to become an accountant and weekend occultist, abandoning any dreams of higher, eldritch powers.
    • Another one, available only to the Inspector background, involves accepting a promotion after successfully arresting a Troublemaker.
    • A third, available to those employed at the Gaiety Theater, involves accepting a Benefactor's proposal of marriage.
    • The bookshop, Morland's, also closes its doors and its shopkeeper vacates once you've bought a significant number of books there, due to the Suppression Bureau sniffing around.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: If the hunters bring you or one of your followers to trial, there's a slight chance you'll get off — but having a Favour From Authority card is far more reliable.
  • Secret Police: The Suppression Bureau have inspectors, courts, and laws that are themselves secret, and they can punish crimes that were literally only committed in dreams. The people that they convict are never seen again. On the upside, they do hold actual trials, and will not arrest a cultist without Damning Evidence.
  • Self-Deprecation: If you've purchased every other available item from Morland's Bookshop or Oriflamme's Auction House, you'll purchase a book clearly intended to mock the other tomes you encounter, titled "Something something DEEP MYSTERIES something." Although it can be resold, it's otherwise completely worthless and its description reads as follows:
    A dreadful souffle of half-digested rumour about the "Secret Worlds" and the irrelevance of contemporary morality, including a catalogue of unlikely, and likely invented, debaucheries.
  • Self-Duplication: Downplayed, but some summoned creatures provide the same aspects needed to summon them. Just add some Knock, and you can have another one!
  • The Shadow Knows: If you summon the Baldomerian, she has no shadow.
  • Skeleton Key: The Frangiclave is a key designed more for destroying doors than opening them. It's the most powerful of the artifacts of Knock, and can get you through the Peacock Door of the Manse without any sacrifice at all.
  • The Skeptic: The Physician starts out as this; you even need to sacrifice a bit of your Reason to acquire your Ambition. (Though before you take the plunge, you can study occult lore and gather resources for as long as you can keep away from the hunters.)
  • Someone Has to Die: When the enemy Long decides to attack you directly, the only way to fight back is to sacrifice cultists against them. Summons and Hirelings are not allowed to be used here. Those that does not have required aspects are only temporary distractions, while those with enough required aspect has a chance to wound the Long.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: According to one of the texts, the Sun and Winter have a doomed romance.
    • It's eventually revealed that Christopher Illopoly and Teresa Galmier were once lovers. Whether this happened before or after Teresa became the Baldomerian is unclear. At any rate, they can't be together as Longs for a variety of reasons, one of which being their inability to abide by the Can't Have Sex, Ever rules concerning male/female Long relationships.
  • Talking the Monster to Death: Most sapient creatures can be deceived or seduced during Expeditions (usually meaning Moth or Grail cultists). The Long guarding Port Noon are unkillable so this is actually the only way to deal with them.
  • Tall Poppy Syndrome: If you develop a "steely" physique (the highest level of physical perfection you can attain without magic, and it's quite likely that you had a little assistance from the Velvet already), the description that comes when you complete a manual labour job indicates that not all the glances from the other workers are complimentary.
  • Things Man Was Not Meant to Know: The entire game is based around learning said Things and relishing in them. Certain high-level books produce Dread and Fascination when you research them.
  • Thoughtcrime: The Suppression Bureau has many warnings for its agents against dreaming of specific dreams or doing certain actions before dreaming, since that's how you get into the Mansus.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: Though no year is ever given, the game's atmosphere is suggestive of the 1920's. But you can find things from much later than that, and even with the things from before 1920, you don't necessarily know which "before".
    • The game itself says there is only one Future, but many Histories, and all of them are (at least partly) true.
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: Morland's bookshop provides a startling number, ranging from suppressed books about various Histories to epic poems and satirical plays. And as expeditions take you to more distant and ancient places, the tomes you recover get progressively more eldritch and loreful.
  • Transgender: The Church Solar's priesthood was all-male, but one of their books contains rites allowing for women to ceremonially assume a male role.
  • Trolling Creator: During the stream prior to the beta release of the Apostle victories, Alexis Kennedy named two of them and referred to the other as simply "The Third Way." Come release, the Victory texts and uniqueness groups for the Lantern Apostle victory are referred to as "The Third Way."
  • Trophy Wife: If you start with the Dancer origin, you have the option to become one to one of your two benefactors (one of them male, the other female). Or maybe you become a Trophy Husband. In either case, doing so is considered a Minor Victory and ends the game.
  • Tutorial Failure: Intentional. There is no tutorial because you're supposed to learn to play through screwing around with the game. To drive this home, your first run casts your character as a no-name hospital porter who has about as much of an initial understanding of eldritch mysteries as you do.
  • Ultimate Job Security: The Physician is the only starting profession where their day job doesn't disappear or decay with time. Presumably they have tenure or something like it.
  • Villain Protagonist: The game sets you up as a classic 'cult leader' antagonist. You start out fairly innocent, but are drawn inexorably by curiosity to investigate the world's mysteries, found a cult, and do increasingly shady and horrific things.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: This is the idea of having Heart followers deal with your Notoriety. They also consume Mystique (which is not as bad as Notoriety but which can cause problems).
  • Was Once a Man: The Baldomerian. Also some of the Hours, especially the ones who invaded the Mansus long ago and usurped the older, more primordial gods.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: The eldritch creatures known as Hints cannot survive the gaze of a living mortal. Gameplay and Story Segregation applies, though: they're still very dangerous in combat, and there doesn't seem to be a risk of one of your cultists accidentally banishing one by turning around at the wrong time. Of course, it's still better to test out new expeditions and their perils with summoned monsters rather than elite cultists...
  • We Have Reserves:
    • Averted with your actual human cultists. There's a finite cast of characters you can recruit into your cult, and if you get them all killed, you'll have to do without. Even the otherwise expendable Pawns will stop showing up after a while.
    • On the other hand, you can summon monsters as many times as your resources will allow, with the only exception being Names who are unique (thus allowing only one of them to exist at a time).
  • We Wait: If Winter cultists get sent out to kill hunters, they simply watch and wait for an opportunity to do so. As such, they'll often do nothing at all, but are less likely to fail when they do act than more-direct Edge cultists.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Books that teach you the most powerful and secret occult lore also usually give you Dread or Fascination. Also a major theme of the game, as yourself and your cultists become increasingly out of touch with reality as your power grow.
    • Somewhat averted with Teresa Galmier, the Baldomerian, who despite having been turned into the powerful, immortal servant of an eldritch god, is one of the nicer, more humane characters in the game and sounds saner than most of your own human cultists.
  • Work Info Title: The game has its genre in its title.
  • You Require More Vespene Gas: Sprintae are the currency of the occult underworld in this game; you are paid in Sprinta whenever you do a research commission. You can sell them for a load of money, but they're also consumed when you get language training from a patron or when you need to repair a broken magical artifact.
Top

Example of:

/

Feedback