Kult is a contemporary fantasy horror role-playing game originally designed by Gunilla Jonsson and Michael Petersén, first published in Sweden by Target Games in 1991. The first English edition came in 1993. The game is no longer published in either language, though copies can be purchased through secondary and specialized markets. Kult is notable for its philosophical and religious depth as well as for its mature content.
Kult is set in contemporary times, usually in large, real-life cities and metropols. In the game, the world we see is an Illusion which the player characters see cracking up to reveal an even darker backdrop which in the game is called Reality
. This Illusion was created by the Demiurge
to hold humanity prisoner and avoid humankind regaining the divinity we once had. Humans regaining divinity is done through a game concept called Awakening in which the character has an extremely high or low mental balance and is no longer restrained to the rules of the Illusion. See more about mental balance below.
The cosmological backdrop of Kult is largely based on the Tree of life (Kabbalah)
and the Sephirot
. It is balanced with Demiurge and his Archons on one side and Astaroth
and his Death Angels on the other. Each Archon or Death Angel represent a value, group or an action (aid organisations, child abuse, mafia, apathy, judicial systems, etc.) over which they have great influence. The Archons and Death Angels have various creatures and cults (thereby the name of the game) to do their bidding and promote their values. Many of these are our jailers who work to maintain the Illusion. Many of the adventures
revolve around how these entities' conflicts affect the player characters and the world around them.
Disappearance of the Demiurge
One of the more central elements of the game is that the Demiurge has disappeared since just before the 20th century, and since then Astaroth, the Archons and the Death Angels have been struggling for power. Many entities have vanished since, and the Illusion has been weakened. The game leaves a lot to the imagination of interpretive game masters
regarding reasons for the Demiurge's disappearance as well as the earlier mentioned divinity of mankind.
The game concept relies on there being several realities that may appear when the Illusion shatters: Metropolis
is the original city which interconnects with all great cities, Inferno
and its purgatories
where humans are held captive and tortured after death, and Gaia
which connects to nature and nature's destructive forces.
The system is a skill based system utilizing 20-sided dice (it is however not
the d20 system
published by Wizards of the Coast
), with point based characters. In the game, a natural 1
usually is great success with added bonuses and a natural 20
means a complete failure.
Some symbols and creatures appearing in Kult can also be seen in other Swedish games to which the Kult authors and production team also have contributed. The Mutant Chronicles universe (created by Nils Gulliksson and Michael Stenmark) its spin-offs share creatures such as Nepharites and Razides which appear in the game.
Central to the game is the aspect of Mental Balance, which is a sanity-gauge of sorts. The closer to equilibrium
the character is, the more easily he or she is shocked and the harder it is for the character to see through the Illusion. A Kult character can have positive or negative mental balance affected by shocking events, influence from creatures or places or by advantages and disadvantages. The advantages and disadvantages are typically talents and traits that work for or against the character, such as having animal friendship, artistic talent, body awareness, or from the negative spectrum being socially inept, drug addiction
There are two different official rulesets for combat. The second and third English rules use a system based on Damage Effect Factors (DEF).
Kult's magic system is largely drawn on the same real-world occult
belief systems as some modern magick
societies. Dragon Rouge
magic beliefs, in particular, are similar to the magic theory described in Kult, if one ignores the more extreme aspects of the game (such as the supernatural creatures that function as "enemies" to the players characters, or the idea that the world is an illusion). Sorcerers can cast spells from one (or rarely more) of five different Lores; Death, Dream, Madness, Passion and Time & Space. Due to the fact that these spells have (very) long casting times (up to several days), highly specific and exacting verbal, material and somatic requirements, and can only be cast inside the sorcerer's consecrated temple, these spells are actually more like quasi-religious rituals.
Kult was originally published by the company Target Games
in 1991 as a Swedish role-playing game, and has later been translated into several other languages. Kult has been published in Swedish, German, English, Italian, Spanish and French.
Currently, Kult is owned by Paradox Entertainment
and is being published in English and French by 7th Circle
and in Italian by Raven Distribution
. The third English edition of Kult, subtitled Beyond The Veil
is currently out of print, and indications seem to point towards the English line being moved to a strictly electronic format, PDF
The current state of the French production line is also vague at the moment, due to poor sales of supplements.
In Sweden, Kult has been noted by the general press several times, and in 1997 the Kult core rules was quoted in a motion
in the Parliament of Sweden
. The motion was to remove funding towards subsidized youth groups that were active with role playing. It refers to a murder in a small town in southern Sweden called Bjuv
, where a 15-year old was killed by a 16 and a 17 year old friend who (according to the legal motion) were influenced by Kult.
Critics of role playing games have also have tied Kult to a 16 year old Swedish boy who committed suicide by shotgun in November 1996.
The local newspaper Tønsbergs Blad in Tønsberg, Norway similarly used Kult in relation to the disappearance of a boy called Andreas Hammer on July 1, 1994. Andreas Hammer allegedly played Kult the week prior to his disappearance. He is still missing.