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This is Iris.

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

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

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  • Abandoned Hospital: St Agnes Hospital in an abandoned hospital in the capital itself, making it a low-level vault. Its name and the stories about higher-than-average amputation rates suggest that it was a hiding spot for a cult dedicated to the Mother of Ants. It is empty now, but power still lingers and the expedition can activate a curse if they’re not careful.
  • Abandoned Mine: One of the mid-level vaults is Keglin's Scratch, an ancient silver mine from the antiquity. However, it is not full of restless dead now and at the bottom lies a sarcophagus with treasure plus the corpse of a mutated woman.
  • Abandoned Warehouse: Cater & Hero Limited is a low-level vault situated in the capital. It is the site of a desolate factory which was partially destroyed in an explosion, killing the owners. It contains little danger besides the treacherous ground and your expedition will discover that Cater had hidden some esoteric books and tools beneath his desk.
  • Addictive Magic: Occultists are well aware of how dangerous the world they're entering is if they have a lick of sense. They also almost always find it impossible to leave once they begin because of the power of the sensations and experiences in the Mansus.
  • 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.
  • Alien Geometries: Tower Revek’s cellar runs on it. The expedition members say it should be a perfect cube but that is has too many corners.
  • Alluring Flowers: The scent of the flowers of Foxlily Meadows induce a ferocious appetite named lily-hunger. It apparently trapped many explorers with its hunger, forcing them to devour each other. Fortunately, the flowers only grow in high altitude. The Flowermaker, an Hour, is also named for this concept.
  • 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. There are five major Histories - an early book says they are defined by blood, silver, design, and the Worms - and most have at least a few events noted.
    • The First History is defined by the Shadowless Empire, and the origin of The Colonel and the Lionsmith's rivalry.
    • The Second History is the origin of both Hersault and Julian Coseley
    • The Third History is defined by the Worms and their ultimate conquest of Europe.
    • Another history is defined by the War of the Roads and the Sovereigns of the Leashed Flame.
    • The Fifth History was abandoned by the Great Hooded Princes, who evacuated to another. Which isn't specified.
  • Ambiguous Time Period: No specific date is provided; however the presence of Rhenish Aachen and mentions of the Beer Hall Putsch in the new Exile DLC sets the game in late 1923 / early 1924. But given the nature of the Histories, it's hard to say which 1923-1924 it's happening in.
  • Ancient Tomb: Several vaults are tombs of some kind or another.
    • Crowkiss Hill. It is the mound of an ancient warrior-king in the shires and a relatively low-level vault.
    • Lagun's Tomb, which is a hidden tomb for Lagun, who was once a Long, and which rests in the middle of the desert. Your expedition discovers his corpse which seems perfectly preserved but then quickly decays as they approach.
    • The Mausoleum of Wolves, a chilly monument from Antiquity. It was built supposedly to await the fragments of the Sun-In-Splendor for its funeral procession. But the procession never happened. It is instead occupied by more “mundane” undead monsters and an echo of The Wolf Divided's power.
    • The Tombs of the Shadowless Kings, the resting place of the rulers of the Shadowless Empire, associated with Persia or Akkad. This is a repeatable vault, there are many tombs and you can return to raid more of them.
    • Voivode's Citadel - The tomb of a Transylvanian Grail adept, haunted by the ghosts of his victims. Conspicuously empty. While never specifically stated, it definitely belongs to Vlad Tepes.
  • 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 and are much weaker than other summons.
  • Arc Words: "Into the fire we fly" comes up a few times in various contexts, as does "Dream furiously." "All scars are weapons" is a quote featured prominently in Edge lore, associated with The Colonel.
  • 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 and now needs your help to become a Name.
  • Bad-Guy Bar: The Ecdysis Club is a more high-class version of this than normal. It's a cabaret whose performers and patrons are known for dabbling in the occult. Visiting it can relieve you of mental torment or inspire you, but it may also get you a little Notoriety if occasional police raids happen. For some reason, the Suppression Bureau never finds enough evidence to shut them down for good. Likely because Sulochana employs the same methods as the PC, and since she's an extremely powerful Alukite the Bureau might be trying to avoid a confrontation that they can't win. The player can become a Dancer working there with the Dancer DLC.
  • 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.
  • Banishing Ritual: When you summon a spirit, it can sometimes prove to be rebellious and will attempt to attack you. However, you can use reason to safely banish the spirit.
  • 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 was one of the many sobriquets given to Count Vlad Tepes, the inspiration for 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.
  • Bioluminescence Is Cool: The occult influence in many vaults is shown by glowing fungus.
  • Black Cloak: Worn by the game's mascot Iris, as well as the cards representing your cult.
  • 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. Eyes are also featured prominently, open and shut.
  • Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: If a Long is coming for you directly a supernaturally strong character can fight them rather than sacrifice minions. It works but also destroys the card, crippling you. It turns out that, while you may be dangerous and supernaturally tough, Long are on a whole other level.
  • 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. And then loops around to becoming a Literal Metaphor if you take the Moth path, which turns you into a Carapace Cross.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': The things that will result in Notoriety include, but not limited to: almost all cult actions, talking to wrong people, being at the club at the wrong time, incidents at work, using specific inspirations for paintings, locking your own cult members in the headquarter's cupboard or clearing empty ruins in another country. You need to take care of Notoriety before Suppression Bureau does, as just one card on a very bad roll can lead to you being sent to court, even if you haven't commited any crimes. It's implied that Suppression Bureau isn't above using the supernatural themselves to find potential threats.
  • Capital Letters Are Magic: Everywhere. Being "a name" sounds much less dramatic than being "a Name".
  • Cast from Hit Points: Health cards tend to be a proxy for hit points. Many early abilities tend to depend on them for casting, which causes them to be temporarily exhausted.
  • Cast from Lifespan: Late game abilities tend to require permanent sacrifices, which can include your ability cards, especially health.
    • This is a feature of the Exile DLC as well, where the player character is a Reckoner, which trade in years of human life. You start with 77 years and they will be your main source of doing most of anything else. Ruler connections are the most expensive purchases in this regard, as they require a full decade to establish.
  • 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.
  • Circle of Standing Stones: The Unnumbered Stones are megaliths laced in obsessive, inerrant rows by priest-castes long dead. They stand in the middle of a forest, guarded by watchers, and among them, a hidden door conceals treasure.
  • Circus of Fear: Grunewald's Permanent Circus, a mysterious troupe perpetually financed by a certain nobleman named Grunewald. Your expedition discovers that it is worm-touched, and they are so horrified by the cult there that they burn it all down when they leave.
  • The City Narrows: The Forsaken Reach, a lawless part of the capital which is full of criminals and where the smuggling of forbidden goods is conducted. It only reliably yields funds but your expeditions can sometimes find esoteric books or rare pigments and poisons. Getting this location means you’ve discovered all the noteworthy vaults in the capital.
  • 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". It's a fictional variant of Marsian. It 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". It's said to have been spoken by the Shadowless Kings, the Unburnt God and the Mother of Ants. It's a fictional variant of Classical Mandaic. It can be studied using Aramaic because Classical Mandaic is a subset of Aramaic.
    • Phrygian, "the tongue in which the Thunderskin pleaded, at his ascension". It's a fictional variant of the real Phrygian. It 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. It's a fictional variant of Harappan language that preceded Sanskrit and was used by sort-of real Precursor civilisation. It can be studied using Sanskrit because you find a Rosetta artefact with both. The fact that Vak is a living entity is a reference to Vedic goddess Vāk, who's the personified form of speech.
  • Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere: Cult leaders pursuing the Power ascension aren't compelled to devour lives, but instead become worryingly addicted to being burnt, which tempers them into something more than human but leaves them shivering when not near flame.
  • Collector of the Strange: You the player will become one during your career as a cultist, collecting esoteric books of more and more obscure languages, curios that can serve as instruments in forbidden rituals, ans so on. Another non-player character named Mr Fraser Strathcoyne, is also a collector and you may break into his collection as part of an expedition.
  • 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 pink, Forge is orange, Edge is pea green, Moth is gray, Knock is purple, Lantern is bright yellow, Winter is pale blue, and Secret History texts are magenta.
  • 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. Especially notable if you have high level Winter or Lantern lore, giving you secrets that can easily drive hunters mad or into pursuing the occult.
  • Crapsack World: Both in the mundane world and the occult underground. At first glance, the Capital is "just" a heartless place where casual laborers and low-level clerks can barely feed themselves. But under the surface, there's occult conspiracies that kidnap and murder people for more power, a Suppression Bureau that arrests people for violating secret laws, immortals with an inherent and uncontrollable urge to eat their children which turns them into monsters if they give into it, and a dreamworld where you can be destroyed either by despair or by greater knowledge than you can handle. Assuming that you aren't killed by more literal monsters, of course. And if you can't handle your life, there are more than one active occult mafias who will buy it from you.
    • Even from a divine perspective the world is broken, and has been ever since the Forge of Days divided the Sun-in-Splendour.
  • 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 a rival in the process. Later patches made this always the case as it was too much of a Game-Breaker once the proper high level Winter and/or Lantern lores were achieved.
  • Creepy Cave:
    • The Cave of Candles, occupied by a Younger Sister kept a bay by a mass of lit candles, or so the cave’s keeper claims. But it's implied he's bringing sacrifices to keep the serpent sated. One must bypass the sister to access the treasure she's amassed.
    • The Hunter's Pits, a cave guarded by the Tearing Tribes in the Rending Mountains. It contains trophies from the tribes' hunters, some being from prehistoric creatures.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Your cult must devote itself to one Principle, 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. The exception is the Society of St. Hydra, and it can't make cultists Exalted at all.
  • 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. Double Subverted with the Apostle Aestulant, since a Power ascension to Long is possible without human sacrifice, but ascending further requires killing the Apostle, the blinding of the Compass, and depending upon one's interpretation their death as well. Additionally, if you refuse to indulge in human sacrifice you are locked out of the Spider Door. This locks you out of a fifth of the Mansus and will make your life unnecessarily difficult in the midgame to the endgame. Especially since this is the easiest way to get a number of valuable resources that are important for what would otherwise be the least murderous ascension path.
  • Cult: It's in the title. You can create one, and its specific focus will be determined by your preferred Lore snippet.
  • 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 permanent loss of a stat. They can still be lifted shortly before they take effect, but only with specific high-power Influences.
  • 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 research papers for wealthy patrons. It takes a bit more time than regular Work, and you have to auction the coins they pay you in, but if you have unlocked all 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 transforming into an immortal being by performing special dances.
  • Death of the Old Gods: In ancient times all but one of the Gods-From-Stone, the primordial Hours that predate mankind, were slain by the Gods-From-Blood and Gods-From-Flesh. The Flint was shattered by The Forge of Days, The Moth usurped The Wheel from within and stole its skin, The Grail drank The Tide, and two mortals arose to become The Mother of Ants and The Colonel after slaying The Seven Coils. The Egg Unhatching's exact fate is unclear, but it seems to have also died. The only one that survived was The Horned Axe, who was convinced not to pursue revenge, but only after a great deal of argument and compromise with the other Hours.
  • Death Mountain: Snow's Keeper, a particularly challenging vault with high passes to cross, the fretful dead to neutralize, and the Worms in the World’s curse to ward off.
  • 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.
  • Disposing of a Body: After killing somebody, you may find yourself with a human corpse. It smells horrible and after a minute will decay into notoriety. It is best disposed of with the help of a Heart follower. However, it can also be used as nourishment in specific scenarios, to ward off a curse, or in a ritual; either to create a Risen, or simply for its Grail and Winter aspects.
  • 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.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Grail followers can use their charms to seduce and distract watchers. However, monk watchers are immune to them.
  • Do Well, But Not Perfect: Advancing to the highest position at Glover & Glover may provide one extra fund and take twenty seconds less to complete, but now any time you gain notoriety on the job, there's a chance of losing it for good, making it far more difficult to manage your cult and make a living at the same time.
  • 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.
  • Dreaming the Truth: Dreaming in the Mansus can yield secret histories which can go to a high level, if one knows how to pass the doors and has a bit of luck when picking cards.
  • 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.
  • Drugs Are Good: Opium can help you cope with Dread getting out of control. Just don't use it too often - your body can't handle it.
  • Dungeon Crawling: Another important activity in the mid to late-game. With the Explore verb, you can send parties of followers or spirits to different vaults scattered across the world, which can range from secluded chapels in the capital itself to forgotten tombs in other continents. You don't participate yourself to the expeditions but you can send a limited number of followers plus funds in order to assist them. Each vault has its particular combination of obstacles and guardians and it is important to anticipate or react accordingly by putting the right aspects into your expedition to ensure success. Successfully clearing a vault can yield rare books, instruments, or the unoccupied vault could be used as a new headquarter.
  • Easy Sex Change: The Church Solar's priesthood was all-male, but one of their books contains rites allowing for women to ceremonially assume a male role. The rite of Forge's Redemption would probably work for the purpose.
  • Eats Babies: Male and Female Long mating and procreating isn't the Crime of the Sky, eating the resulting baby is. And Long and higher beings tend to have irresistible urges 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 usually deals with physical violence in the physical world, but the mystic aspects allow combat to occur in metaphorical ways (like in the mind during a ritual). Edge cultists are plain old cutthroats and murderers, but become refined assassins as they rank up. In Exile, where Edge naturally has a lot of focus, it becomes clear that Edge encompasses all aspects of conflict, rather than simple mortal violence - everything from wind and trees to the process of evolution.
    • Forge changes. It can be used to build and repair, but also burns and consumes. And can blast through warded doors. In general it is excellent at solving expected and unexpected problems and is valuable when navigating hostile terrain, be that icy mountain passes, vast scorching deserts, or dark churning oceans. Forge cultists tend to have driven and pragmatic personalities.
    • Grail hungers. It represents all aspects of hunger, from appetite and greed to sex. It offers the most delicious tastes and sensations, and gives more temptation in return. It also represents the nature of animal life as being born from self-consumption, which is a grim but accurate assessment of biology. On a mundane front it is useful for getting people to make bad decisions, through seduction or drugs or simple greed. Grail cultists are usually seductive people with strange appetites.
    • Heart drives. The power of Heart is complicated - it entails preservation and endurance, vitality, and celebration, as well as compulsive persistence. This mixture of physical and emotional aspects makes it difficult to get a handle on. It can be used to maintain your reputation, restore your health, and defeat almost all 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 make good 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. Lantern includes both figurative and literal brilliance, and can be a guiding light in terms of both inspiration and fascination. The Glory is strongly associated with Lantern, but light is not merciful, and is one of the leading causes of Go Mad from the Revelation in the game. However, Lantern is 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 (since it's also linked to The Wood). Nonsense ("buzzing in the brain") and shapeshifting ("shedding of skin") are also closely associated with it, as are haircuts (the closest a human can come to "shedding" rapidly, and there's also a symbolic link to the Hour of the same name). Moth cultists are strange tricksters who act in ways only they can understand.
    • 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 morbid, quiet folk that range from the misanthropic to the oddly kind (if overly fond of euthanasia). Fittingly it is also associated with Peace - the emotion of Tranquility, for example, is a combination of Winter and Heart.
    • Secret Histories remembers. It is technically a Principle, but doesn't directly 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. Plus, cultists as a whole end up involved with it due to the need to explore said secret places for more power and knowledge.
  • Elemental Rock–Paper–Scissors: The Hours aren't always in conflict with each other, 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 nearly 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.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: The Bureau. Your health. Your mind. The Mansus. This is a game where simply waiting too long can kill you.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The occult terminology can be opaque, especially since most entities involved have a variety of names and titles. But, once you understand where they're coming from, it actually becomes remarkably self explanatory.
  • Eyeless Face: Ezeem, the Second Thirsty rocks the Del Toro monster look.
  • 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 ingredients like "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 which can be found in-game:
    • Upon learning Aramaic from Dr. Ibn Al-Adim:
      The language of the Visions of Amram, of the Book of Daniel, and of the Account for 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.
  • Fantastic Nuke: Not even entirely fantastic in this case. Forge Apostle legacy has you build and set off so-called "Dawnbreaker Device", fueled by an alchemized substance called "Blue Gold". The picture on the substance's card is heavily reminiscent of fuel rods in a nuclear reactor, and the flavor text mentions it being surrounded by deadly "blue fire outpacing light" - which is a somewhat poetic description of Cherenkov's radiation. Even before this, the high level Forge Lore "Formula Fissive" is a poetic description of splitting an atom through sheer force of craft.
    "Break a thing, and you have fragments. Break those fragments, and you have dust. Break the dust, and then break what remains. Here is fire."
  • Fantasy Gun Control: Averted. The Colonel's assassins traditionally used blowguns. But by the 1920s blessed rifles with special bullets are used to hunt monsters and kill immortals. And even conventional firearms are effective, if weak.
  • 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.
  • Forced Sleep: Watchers can seemingly be hypnotized to go to sleep if the expedition brings enough Moth influence. In Exile a cult of the Thunderskin tries to do this to you as well, requiring a great deal of either Vigilance (Lantern) or Persistence (Heart) to resist.
  • 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.
  • Frequently-Broken Unbreakable Vow: The Ivory Chain was the law forbidding the Ordo Limiae from having commerce with the Hours. There's an entire in-game book explaining how they broke that rule, between exceptions, clarifications, and indulgences for when they did (because you can't practice the occult without it), and the entire society had an accord with the Ivory Dove.

    G-O 
  • 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. It's implied that anyone who goes too far into Moth will go mad, because it's the Moth's nature to seek out the Glory, and "into the fire we fly."
    • 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.
  • Gratuitous Latin: A set of words that pops up every now and then in the context of Moth lore ("In gi rum imus noc te et...") is actually a mangled old Latin palindrome/riddle: "Into the night's circle we fly, and the flame consumes us". Fittingly, the answer to the riddle is "moth".
  • Great Offscreen War: Several large scale mystical conflicts are mentioned, most notably The Worm Wars and The War of the Roads.
    • The Worm Wars - all three of them - are the long battle to contain the Worms that bred in the corpse of the Sun In Splendor after its division. They aren't going well, which is bad news for everyone. In one of the Histories Europe is overrun entirely.
    • The War of the Roads is a fantastical version of the British Empire, the Sovereigns of the Leashed Flame, who had bound or made a treaty with the Forge. They tried to conquer the world and were stopped at terrible cost by an alliance of other Hours and mystical societies. Ultimately the Sovereigns destroyed their foes but lost control of the Forge in the process, and they were also consumed.
    "In that battle between the Imperishable Legions and the Leashed Flame, the Legions will perish and the Flame will be unleashed."
  • Guide Dang It!: Invoked. Just like how a actual cultist dedicates their life to trying to figure out the hidden connections in the world, so will you. There's no guide for any of the more complicated features of the game like Rites or Ascending, and experimentation is encouraged. This goes double for the win and lose states, of which there are plenty. The result is that you might fail a few times before you can figure out exactly what's going on, and even past that it's not uncommon to still get stuck. Despite this, the game gives a lot of hints in figuring out the different riddles it presents you, and carefully reading each tooltip and tile can make the experience much easier.
  • Haunted Castle:
    • Chateau Raveline, an ancient chateau from the Raveline dynasty who were rumored to be werewolves and heavily implied to be worshippers of the Wolf Divided. No concrete danger lies in Chateau Raveline except for the curse here.
    • The Voivode's Citadel, the old keep of a voivode from the times the Turks were a great power, implied to be Dracula. His victims still prowl the vault of the castle as undead monsters.
  • Haunted House: The Forman House, a mid-level vault on the continent. It was the propriety of Filip Forman, a helminthologist who studied worms until his subjects escaped. The house was burned down and its ruin is occupied by the fretful dead.
  • Hell Hotel: The Gwaer Inn is a downplayed example. It has a hidden library containing esoteric lore and guarded by aggressive guardians. It is also a low-level vault in the shires - not very threatening. And, of course, the only danger is because you are attempting to steal their secrets. Ordinary guests have no such trouble.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: A particular lore secret. The Wheel still turns. It says so right in the timer that you've been staring at all game.
  • 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. The Ghoul DLC penalizes you for not indulging in this, and to reach the ending of that path you must at some point devour even your own body parts.
  • 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.
    • During the final phase of the game, the easiest method to earn your Marks while going for the Enlightenment and Sensation paths is to sacrifice a prisoner. Each of the different Desires does this differently, but it never ends well for the victim.
    • 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.
  • Humanity Is Superior: At least where the Moth aspect is concerned. Mansus spirit moth aspect tends to cap out at 8. Your followers can go much higher than that. Not to mention that, among the Hours, humans rose up and killed most of the Gods Who Were Stone. And the Carapace Cross considered becoming human enough of an upgrade to transform into us en masse, losing their wings.
  • 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, because there isn't only one. The correct answer is to find the answer that is true for you, personally.
  • Immortal Breaker: Several sacred weapons like this exist in Exile, and are the only way to wound your Nigh-Invulnerable Foe. They would work just as well on Long, except Winter, but for most of the game's paths your character is not very combat oriented.
  • 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.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: Ebrehel the Ragged Sword in Exile. It is actually only moderately powerful in terms of sheer Edge, but stands out in other ways. It also provides significant Knock and Forge, your foe can't break it, it functions as an Immortal Breaker, and is even a Pentiment for certain endgame conditions. Overall it's by far the most powerful item in the game.
  • 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.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One!: Heart cultists can smooth over unwanted Reputation cards, such as Mystique (rumors about you that make hunters stick around longer), Notoriety (rumours that can be directly converted to evidence against you) and Human Corpses. They do so by grabbing a Reputation card at random and destroying it, so it's entirely possible they spend all their time explaining your meteoric rise as a painter or your dancing career at a weird cabaret while you're under investigation for several burglaries and murders.
  • The Constant: One of the Continent expeditions states that Vienna is called Vienna in every History. The same is true of Kerisham. Both are also home to holes in the world.
  • 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. As a result they have an advantage early on but struggle later into the game... until you get the resources to recruit Hunters.
  • Just Between You and Me: It is possible to talk with your Hunters about forbidden mansus lore. While it risks creating notoriety on a failure it may be at times worth it to do so even against a foe immune to being shaken by it. Namely creation of Dread and Fascination to ensure you don't go mad.
  • Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: Clear answers regarding the mysteries of the setting, the Hours, and what each type of occult lore represents are all available. But they are scattered in pieces and fragments of lore throughout the game; 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 they'll often only seek to imprison one of your cultists rather than going full siege on your cult Branch Davidian-style. It's even possible (rare, but possible) for you to get off at trial which implies you're allowed a competent defense! 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.
  • Kill the Ones You Love: This is a bit of a trend for Grail, as mentioned in The Account of Kanishk at the Spider's Door. The mystic, Kanishk, promised his lover Lok Kahuli that they would become immortal together. Instead he sacrificed her to become a Name. This is a hint that a Grail Ascension Victory is FAR easier to achieve if you sacrifice a lover.
  • Koan: The description for the "In the Midst of my Life, in a Dark Wood" achievement, itself taken from Christopher Illopoly's Travelling at Night.
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.
  • Magikarp Power: The Society of St Hydra is a combination of this and Crutch Character. Early on, it gets a head start over the other cults due to its ability to call upon any principle to promote a Believer into a Disciple, but becomes weak in the midgame as it cannot exalt regular cultists at all. However, it is VERY good at seducing and recruiting Hunters- the most effective followers by far- making it a good choice for the lategame.
  • Magic Mirror: Several tools with the Lantern aspect are this. There are notably the Wildering Mirrors which show strange vistas in the glass. There is also the Watchman's glass, used to peak through other dimensions.
  • Magic Music: Several tools are magic instruments, and both music and dance are strongly associated with Heart. Examples include tools such as Wakeful Tympanum and Kingskin Bodhrán, which release heart energies when they are played. The other aspect with several instruments is, strangely, Winter - in that case with 'instruments' that produce magical silence.
  • 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.
  • Meaningful Name: Ecdysis is the process whereby certain insects and spiders shed their exo-skeleton and grow into something larger. The word stems from the Ancient Greek ἐκδύω (ekduo), meaning to disrobe,take off or strip. All in all, a fantastic name for an erotic show with occult undertones.
  • 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.
    • Adding complication, once you know the options available, it can be advantageous to pick a known lesser prize that helps something on the board over a small chance of something better. It all depends on the situation at the moment.
  • 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.
    • You die/go nuts/get arrested. Occupational hazard for a cultist.
    • You forego your goal of immortality to live a fulfilling but normal life.
    • You forego your goal of immortality to live with your lover.
    • You manage to ascend and become a Long via Enlightenment, Power, or Sensation.
      • As an Apostle, you gain access to Major Victories where you help your master (the PC who became a Long) become a Name, at the cost of the Apostle's life.
    • The 'Change' route from the DLC adds ways to ascend through Moth, Heart, or a mix of both.
  • 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.
    • The Bright Young Thing, in specific, gets more than references - the book you receive as an inheritance is the highest lore of your last game. Depending on how far you got before you lost this can be very powerful.
    • 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": Transylvania, and Eastern Europe in general, with one location being Vlad the Impaler's castle. Transylvania can be literally translated to Land Beyond the Forest.
    • "In the Rending Mountains": Zagros Mountains, going from Turkey into Iran.
    • "In the Lone and Level Sands": The Arabian Desert, past the Zagros Mountains.
    • "Among the Evening Isles": The Caribbean.
  • Noble Demon: It's possible to be this. Taking the Power, Change, and arguably Ghoul 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.
  • No Heterosexual Sex Allowed: Long of Obliviates are forbidden to have heterosexual sex with each other, out of fear of committing the mysterious Crime of the Sky. This is a real concern with terrible consequences, which is why 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 why this is so important, though it is hinted that it has to do with the possibility of children.
    • Studying several locations, books and revelations allows one to piece together the whole truth. Having sex isn't the problem itself, even if it's referred to as "the Detestable Act." But all Long have an urge to eat their own children, which is the Crime of the Sky and transforms the Long who did it into an Alukite. Theoretically you could have a child and give it away or otherwise not eat it, though this would involve some preparation. Or the child could just eat their parents instead, and then no crime is committed.
  • 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 Long can be killed, they're very hard to kill permanently. Especially with Julian Coseley, who, even after the game said that he's dead, still said in his letter that he's alive due to his nature as a Winter Long note . The other hostile Long 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 Teresa Galmier, the author of The Locksmith's Dream, whose 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 the Knowledgable May Pass: The Stag Door's first riddle is actually a test of knowledge, seeing if you are up to scratch in your lore for one of several fields. If you can't figure it out, look at the fluff text for your level 6 lore cards.
  • Only Smart People May Pass: Once you have solved the Stag Door's first riddle, proving yourself worthy, it is satisfied with puzzles. This requires you to invest a Reason to solve them.
  • Open and Shut: The power of Knock, one of the eight Principles.
  • 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.
    • There are the Thirstlies, high level entities in service of the Red Grail, who certainly give this impression. Lovelies and Ivories are also mentioned in the same context, implying there may be more than one variety.

    P-Z 
  • Parental Savings Splurge: If you pick the "Bright Young Thing" legacy, you play as a character "endowed from birth with wealth and talent", counting on allowance from your father for Funds. After he dies, while sorting out matters with the will, you find out from some puzzling papers that Papa has squandered most of the family fortune. Only by going through the papers and his diary do you find out what the money was spent on.
  • 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.
  • Practical Currency: Spintria, the occult currency, all have an Aspect and can be used as ingredients in Rites. This works out quite well for summoning, and could even be considered paying the spirit for its service. The cheapest Spintria denomination is Iron and conveniently carries the Edge aspect most Summons require. Ezeem is slightly more expensive, requiring Bronze for Forge.
  • 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.
  • Purple Prose: Kennedy brings that distinctively loquatious writing style over from Failbetter Games, never using five words when fifteen will do. While other games might simply say "The door is locked", Cultist Simulator holds itself to a loftier standard...
    "Doors have two purposes: to open, and to remain closed. Today, this door remains true to its second purpose."
  • Random Event: As time passes, the game can randomly trigger seasonal actions that directly affect you and are dangerous if not taken care of. It is mostly here to not make your cultist work too peaceful. For instance, there is the season of despair which can consume you with despair if you hold too many Dread cards. The season of ardours forces you to interact with a lover if you have one. The season of suspicions triggers an investigation against you and will result in your trial if you have too much notoriety and haven’t disposed of the evidence of your crime. Finally, the season of visions will make you go mad if you have too much Fascination.
  • 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.
  • Religion of Evil: Several examples - aside from your cult of course.
    • The Congregation of St Felix of Schüren is an extremely esoteric Christian sect in the capital. But the chants aren't in Latin, the membership is hereditary, and the priests castrate themselves when ordained. Since it's implied they are very similar to the church the Priest path founds there's likely to be a fair amount of mutilation and scarification as well.
    • The monks of Fermier Abbey practice a suspicious harvest festival, and remains of ritually destroyed cups indicate they are involved in the conflict between The Malachite and The Red Grail.
    • St Tentreto of the Deep Door, a monastery by a cliff's edge in the Evening Isles. The monks drown victims to have the protection of the Sister-and-Witch against the destruction of their monastery, but as soon as your expedition breaches the hidden chamber of worship the protection is voided. The monastery crumbles into the sea in a series of devastating earthquakes.
  • 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).
  • Resting Recovery: Dreaming with fatigued health will restore it in thirty seconds instead of waiting a minute for it to recover on its own. However, it does take up the Dreaming action whereas you may feel you have better things to do with it.
  • Retconjuration: The Hours are constantly engaged in this, weaving the infinite alternate pasts into a single coherent narrative. Sometimes they slip up though, leaving isolated fragments and ruins from other timelines that you can explore. In one location, Tower Revek, your expedition even escapes just before the Hours notice the site and erase it for good.
  • Retired Monster: Several endings have you wind up as this, whether becoming a senior partner at an accounting company (likely after hurrying the promotion along) or especially after retiring to build a life with your lover.
  • 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.
  • Sealed Evil in a Duel: A particularly strange (and spoilery) example from the Exile DLC, associated with Edge naturally. This is the means of Edge ascension to immortality, forming an intense mystical rivalry that mirrors the one between the Colonel and the Lionsmith. In the process of forming the dyad your rival also becomes immortal, and you spend eternity enjoying trying to kill each other and growing stronger in the process.
  • 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! Worryingly, this means that the right artifact - even the wrong book - in the hands of a knowledgable Mansus spirit can result in an army.
  • The Shadow Knows: If you summon the Baldomerian, she has no shadow.
  • Shop Fodder: Jumble and the "Something something DEEP MYSTERIES something" book are items that are utterly useless except for being sold at Oriflamme’s auction.
  • Shout-Out: If you play the Apostle legacy and end up besting Lady Tryphon, she will refer to herself as your "delicious friend", a phrase that players of Fallen London will be familiar with.
  • 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.)
  • Snakes Are Sinister: The Younger Sisters are monsters described as being sisters to the Mother of Ants. They are described as enormous snakes, and they guard several vaults where visitors will be devoured. Thankfully, they can be killed by Edge or tamed by Knock
  • Snake People: The Great Hooded Princes, who rule India in several Histories and resist colonial powers in all of them.
  • Soap Opera Disease: The Creeping Breath Curse is essentially magical tuberculosis.
  • The Social Expert: Your Heart and Grail cultists will probably the ones most directly interacting with the public, though in different directions. Hearts get rid of Notoriety by smoothing over the cult’s public image, while Grails seduce people in order to kidnap them or to get past Guardians. And Moths, of course, will happily con people or hypnotize watchers.
  • 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.
  • Spooky Painting: The Masterpieces you create with enough Passion, the right amount of Aspects, and the pigments will depict the Hours, the gods living in the Mansus.
  • Summoning Ritual: Summoning rituals are an important part of your activity as a cultist. By adding Knock to a rite and with the right aspects, you can summon different spirits. This can range from weak necromancy, summoning a spirit to possess a human corpse for a while, to summoning eldritch powerful monsters. These powerful entities are dispensable but also powerful, possessing a lot of aspects which will make them highly successful at the right tasks.
  • Stairway to Heaven: The Mansus is a particularly elaborate one. All paths in the Mansus are stairs up to the Glory or down to Nowhere, to the point where there are no actual walls. Just platforms, arches, windows, and chambers formed by the architecture.
  • 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 Long 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.
  • Stealth Pun: There are a number of these in the menu, with the different options having associated Lore symbols. 'Purge Last Save' is Edge and 'Options' is Grail, the mark for appetite, for example. But the most sophisticated is the credits, labeled 'Who Is Responsible?' with Forge. Forge is the symbol of Craft, so fair enough. And it's a pretty funny bit of accusatory self deprecation. But on top of that The Forge of Days is indeed directly or indirectly responsible for most of the setting's current state, particularly the Intercalate and the Worms.
  • Summoning Artifact: Knock aspected artifacts all allow summoning, making them especially valuable. But in addition to that any artifact can be used for different results, as long as you have a source of knock aspect from somewhere. It is even possible to summon a monster from a portrait you yourself painted of it.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • 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 even points this out deep into a Change victory. "The Mansus is all well and good, but I still intend to get paid."
    • Though the Exile plays with this a bit. It is specifically noted that even Adepts have to eat...but in Exile time passing doesn't consume your funds. Presumably the cash you are raising by selling years of life is of sufficient quantity that you don't have to sweat the small stuff.
    • 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).
  • Talking the Monster to Death: Humans you encounter during Expeditions can be deceived or seduced by Moth or Grail cultists. The Long guarding Port Noon are Nigh-Invulnerable, 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.
  • Temple of Doom:
    • Averted for the Forgotten Mithraeum. It was a place of worship but nothing dangerous remains - simply a hidden inner sanctum. Of course your cult can take it over as a headquarters...
    • The Star-Shattered Fane, a ruined temple in the Lone and Level Sands. It was once a place “sacred to the gods of earth” until a meteor struck the site. Now the inhabitants worship the meteor, which resonates with energy and can cause a Curse.
    • The Temple of Seven Coils, presumably dedicated to the eponymous God-From-Stone. It is a crumbling ruin in a shadowed defile and built during the Third History, the one where much later the Worms overran Europe. The place is cursed by Worms in the World.
    • Snow's Keeper, another Worm touched temple, this time in the Rending Mountains.
  • The Wiki Rule: Naturally a game this opaque would have a wiki to help some people through it; it happens to be named "Frangiclave" after the key so powerful it unlocks everything.
  • 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.
  • Thunderbolt Iron: An important material for Edge tools, and what the Meteoric Bullet is made of. It is described as “Taenite-iron”, a real-life metal wrought by meteors. As a result, the bullet is an Edge tool.
  • 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 pre-alpha version had the setting as the 1920s.
  • 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.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Messana, a village in the desert whose long-lived inhabitants secretly feasting on the flesh of a embalmed human implied to be a Long. The locals are understandably hostile to your expedition.
  • 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.
  • Tropical Island Adventure: Many of them are found in The Evening Isles, the most distant and secretive locations in the game.
    • Raven Isle - A tropical island inhabited by Soucouyants, fallen immortals wearing human skin.
    • Fort Geryk - A former fortress of the Sovereigns of the Leashed Flame, the part time refuge of a particularly insufferable Forge Alukite.
    • The Wreck of the Christabel - A Shipshape Shipwreck carrying powerful occult treasures, both cursed and guarded by a Sea Serpent that fell in love with the ship.
  • 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.
  • Überwald: Many locations in The Land Beyond The Forest - which is, in fact, a literal translation of 'Transylvania.'
  • 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.
    • In DLCs there is also the Priest, where their day job is actually running the cult and keeping the authorities off their back.
  • Undead Author: Entirely literally on occasion. Particular mention goes to Lok Kahuli, the author of The Account of Kanishk at the Spider's Door, who was betrayed and sacrificed by her lover. The Colonel sensed the momentous nature of the betrayal and took an interest.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: The Exile DLC plays very differently than the other legacies, as while the others can have smaller or bigger flavor differences they all invariably lead you back to running a cult and ascending for knowledge. The Exile not only changes that around to a more protagonist-centered adventure, but even changes your verbs. Health, Reason and Passion no longer exist. Funds are rare to get and hard to keep (you need to mail them if you're evacuating a location) but neither does time demand money from you. And while you don't get a cult, you can obtain a network of associates, all of whom can help you against the other Reckoners after you for the Years you stole.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Every in-game description is flavored by the character conveying it, even the main character. Example: “Job: ‘An arrangement where one exchanges life for money.’” The Suppression Board could very well just be the FBI trying to reign in the player’s level of creepy.
  • Urban Ruins: The Ruins of Miah an ancient city located in the middle of the desert.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: There is absolutely nothing stopping you from sacrificing your own cultists in rituals, or imprisoning them and experimenting on them to improve your understanding of certain Lores. One particularly cruel and petty possibility is raising a cultist to the exalted level, making them fanatically devoted to you and your cause, romancing and gifting things to them for a little more of statistic boost, and then sacrificing them to summon a creature of the Mansus just so it can teach you how to read some old books.
    • Permanently dealing with investigators can be seen as this too, as you can get by with destroying the evidence in many situations. But sometimes you will tired of them, and it would just be so easy to send a Maid-in-the-Mirror to slit their throat, or forcing them into insanity with the secrets of the universe.
  • Vanishing Village: Kerisham is a vanishing village situated on the Atlantic coast. It is a high-level vault which usually indicates you’ve found all the interesting places with your Furtive Truths.
  • 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. Unless you play the Detective and decide not to undergo a Face–Heel Turn (which is entirely possible), or, depending on what path you go down, the Exile.
  • 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).
  • Violation of Common Sense: If you're struck by an Affliction and have at least one extra health, it's entirely possible to perform grueling manual labor to earn yourself Vitality that can be used to cure it without dipping into your funds.
  • 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. Surprisingly, 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. It's noted that they're ''very'' good at hiding and slipping behind objects.
  • 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.
  • Wipe That Smile Off Your Face:
    • Passing through the White Door doesn't just take your voice, it heals your mouth shut "like an old deformity." This happens to all the dead, unless they enter the Mansus through an unusual path.
    • The aforementioned Voiceless Dead are one of the summons that you can call up. The image on their card just has skin where their mouth should be.
  • 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 - at least mundane reality - as your power grow. Downplayed 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. Before her ascension she is shown to become progressively less sane with the progression of her books, however.
  • Work Info Title: The game has its genre in its title.
  • Wound That Will Not Heal: Downplayed with the Biedde's Blade, an Edge tool and sacred weapon. Those injured by this blade will not cease bleeding until the wound is healed, but the wound does heal over time - just very slowly. In Exile you can receive an unhealing wound from the Ligean Medusa. It is unique because she killed you but then took it back, realizing who you were. This leaves it in an ambiguous state of existence in the Histories, both real and not.
  • You Require More Vespene Gas: Spintriae are the currency of the occult underworld in this game; you are paid in Spintrae 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. Having a steady supply of Spintriae is especially important for accessing The Peacock Door. Opening it requires enchanted mirrors, which are shattered in the process of opening. You will be kept quite busy restoring them, and that requires funds.
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