Wednesday, January 31, 2018


new demon city thing...
There are belief systems which demand devotion to principles not rationally discoverable, to unelected leaders who claim to speak on behalf of an otherworld which lies elsewhere and beyond the one available to the senses, and which demand fealty to only arguably extant entities whose ends may or may not be congruent with our best interests while living. Characteristics that make these belief systems interesting include…

-Rigid hierarchies with charismatic leaders (and often their family members) placed in a position above the others
-Members given exotic titles to define their place in these hierarchies
-Eccentric rules regulating appropriate forms of sexual behavior
-Encouragement of a personal or group-mediated relationship to supernatural beings or mundane beings believed to be supernatural
-Veneration of otherwise ordinary objects
-Regular meetings in consecrated buildings
-Special status conferred on members conversant with specific esoteric lore
-Complex rituals inexplicable to outsiders granting special metaphysical status to different members
-Extensive use of unique symbolism
-Constant, often subtle, attempts to recruit new members
-Deep, unexamined integration of members into public institutions (government, finance, medical etc)
-Concentration on interpreting sacred texts or other obscure artifacts of nature or culture
-Attempts to control or alter the outside world through mass action, often covert and/or violent

…such belief systems are called “religions”—unless they’re unpopular, in which case they’re called “cults”. In game terms, “cult” simply means any religion that causes its adherents all do creepy things in the game—or at least try.

The easiest way to understand a cult is to listen to the song “Children of God” by The Swans.

Design Notes:

When creating a new cult, examine the list of characteristics above and try to think of disturbing ways they could decide to do those things. Adventures involving cults can work in a variety of ways—in The Wicker Man and Rosemary’s Baby the protagonists comes to discover at the end that everyone they talk to about the crisis at hand is part of the cult, in The Void the cult is quickly established as a menace responsible for summoning a far greater menace, in many crime stories the cult only appears at the end, to give a murderer a motive.
Although on paper they are just people, cultists are useful and fun as ways to introduce unsettling behavior and esoteric lore into the game without revealing the ultimate threat too soon. Also, since they are usually lead by con artists with checkered pasts and consist largely of desperate and easily-lead people, they usually generate quite a paper trail—giving investigators lots of leads to follow up. Google a real cult like the Process Church of the Final Judgment to see the kinds of things a cult’s existence might leave behind.

Average Cult Member

Calm: 0 (when alone) up to 5 (when surrounded by their group)
Agility: 2  (Firearms or Hand to Hand: 3)
Toughness: 2
Perception: 1
Appeal: 2       (Deception: 4, Persuasion: 3)
Cash: 1 (they gave it all to the cult)
Knowledge: 1  (Paranormal/Occult: 3, Local Knowledge: 3)

Calm Check: 4 (when it becomes clear they’re a cultist)
Cards: 3 of Pentacles

Average Cult Leader

Calm: 4
Agility: 2
Toughness: 2
Perception: 4
Appeal: 5  (Deception: 7, Persuasion: 8)
Cash: 4
Knowledge: 3 (Paranormal: 4, Local Knowledge: 4)

Calm Check: 4 (when it becomes clear they’re a cultist)
Cards: Ten of Pentacles, Page of Pentacles (10), and High Priestess (2) or Hierophant (5)
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