Praise for Twisted Tales Events
'In the past few years Twisted Tales has become a major force in the promotion and appreciation of horror fiction. As well as putting on author readings and signings at bookshops it has expanded into organising larger events, bringing authors and critics together for discussions of the field. I've been involved in quite a few of both and have found them hugely enjoyable and stimulating - I believe the audiences did as well. May Twisted Tales continue to grow and prosper! If you love the field, support them! I do.' - Ramsey Campbell
‘Twisted Tales consistently produce well-organised events for writers and readers of horror. What really distinguishes Twisted Tales for me is the intelligent themes and investigations they pursue, and the high quality of the discussions they always stimulate. As an author I've been invited to three of their events and have been pleasantly startled, to near shocked, by the attendance levels - two out of three were even sold out. I salute anyone who contributes so much to the literary and cultural life of horror fiction.’- Adam Nevill
Tuesday 29 March 2016
KULT: Divinity Lost Design Team interviewed by David McWilliam
Petter Nallo, Creative Director, has been involved professionally with RPG development and writing since the turn of the millennium. He headed the development of one of Sweden’s biggest fantasy RPGs, Eon, for over ten years, then co-wrote the critically-acclaimed and Game-of-the-Year-awarded Noir – a dystopic horror RPG set in a dreamy fictional film-noir world, together with Marco.
Marco Behrmann, Project Lead, is an RPG-industry veteran, and was co-founder of Sweden’s largest RPG publisher during the 1990s. Besides writing and publishing Eon and Noir, he has been involved with classic Swedish RPGs such as the cyberpunk Neotech and historical Viking.
Marco and Petter, together with other partners, run one of Sweden’s biggest RPG publishing houses, Helmgast AB.
KULT: Divinity Lost is about to enter the final 48 hours of its Kickstarter campaign.
DM: One of the most fascinating elements of KULT is its relationship to Gnosticism and the idea that reality is just an illusion. How would you describe KULT: Divinity Lost to someone who is unaware of its history?
PN: I think that the Gnosticism is something you discover when you dive into the game. To a newcomer, I would describe KULT as a modern role playing game of personal horror. The game is set in the world as we know it, except that what we know is a lie. Some of us have started to see through the veil that has been drawn over our eyes, to see that the world we live in is far darker and more dangerous. There are ancient beings living in our midst, hidden doorways and gates to other worlds. And we as humans are also the source of our greatest horrors, where our nightmares, hidden fears, passions, and dark desires may come to life to haunt us. It is grotesque, fantastic, and beautiful at the same time. And it does not hold its punches, but goes to places where most other horror RPGs wouldn’t dare to.
RL: I usually describe it as a game with a unique feeling of horror and vulnerability that other horror tabletop RPGs can’t recreate. KULT has this fantastic and complex universe with cool mysteries, weird designs, and philosophical groundwork that haunts you after you have experienced it. When you play it, you realise that this game is one of a kind.
DM: What changes have you made to the setting and system to update KULT for 2016?
PN: We have left the 90s behind us and updated the setting for 2016. KULT primarily takes place in our day and age, so the game has been revitalised with a modern setting where social media, the internet, and global politics are intertwined with the mythos of the game.
We decided not to use the old system from KULT, and instead created a completely new system based on the Apocalypse World engine, but rewritten and adapted for KULT. We wanted a fast-paced system where the rules always drive the story forward and which is really simple to understand for new players. We have had several groups of playtesters, many of which have never played an RPG before, and none of them have had any trouble to understand how the rules work.
RL: I loved the dark secrets and disadvantages in the first edition of KULT, but felt that they weren’t integrated to the storytelling mechanism. When I designed KULT: Divinity Lost, my number one goal was to find a way to create stories using the characters’ dark secrets and disadvantages as generators of plots and horror. It’s really easy to create stories the way the system works. The system helps the narrator to use dark secrets as background plots on which to build stories, and by letting disadvantages generate suggestions for events and twists. I think a tabletop RPG in 2016 should have a system that supports you to play the game as the creators intend you to. In KULT: Divinity Lost, the system will help you create dark horror stories with antiheroes haunted by their past, destined for great deeds or horrible fates. Every story will have its own life because of how the system integrates with the storytelling.
DM: Quite often, contemporary horror RPGs avoid linking their supernatural mythology to current political events. Can you give an example of how this works in KULT: Divinity Lost?
PN: KULT’s primary setting is our world, Elysium. The different powers (mainly the Archons and the Death Angels) that try to control us have their presence all around us. And, naturally, they are connected to the political events of our time. The Death Angel Hareb-Serap, for example, thrives on conflict, and tries to cause conflict. The being is also strongest in areas with a lot of conflict, such as today's Syria. On the other hand, the Archon Geburah is strongest where there are strict and clear laws and rules that entrap mankind and is of course strongest in police states with limited freedom. So, the influences of these beings sort of moves and shifts and changes in power and domain as the world changes - or they change the world. You also wanted an example. Well, even if it is not a current political event, 9/11 has a clear connection to the mythos of KULT.
DM: The concept of dark secrets is intriguing as a way of allowing the players to shape the horrors they will face. Will this edition of KULT focus on more personal stories than prior versions?
RL: In campaign mode, the players will shape the background of the story together with the GM. This type of play style will create very personal stories where the characters’ dark secrets are the focus. If the GM wants to prepare a scenario instead, she will control how much the characters’ dark secrets are connected to background of the story. I recommend always having some connections as it make the characters more important to the plot. The system for disadvantages also helps the GM to shape the story around the characters. The degree of personal horror is still up to the GM.
DM: Aside from previous editions of KULT, which influences have you been drawing on most while revisiting the mythology?
PN: KULT always had a close bond to the early work of Clive Barker. That bond is still intact. But we have also drawn inspiration from authors like Neil Gaiman and his fantastical and wondrous worlds that are interwoven with our own. The violence and cynical nature of Bret Easton Ellis and his book American Psycho, and the beautiful violence of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. When we come to movies we have visited the twisted worlds of David Lynch (Lost Highway, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me), and Lars von Trier (Antichrist), as well as David Cronenberg and TV shows like Mr Robot, True Detective, and Masters of Horror. But the book’s mythos chapters have their own particular inspiration, often rooted in the bizarre; grotesque, but also beautiful.
DM: Will the magic system still draw on elements of real-world occult belief systems? If so, how will they be integrated into the updated setting?
RL: The magic system in KULT: Divinity Lost is based on the magician’s belief in herself. The ritual is a tool for the magician to focus her powers, but can differ between different cultures. For example, a death magician could be a Brazilian Quimbanda practitioner as well as a traditional western occultist. Their belief systems and rituals are different, but it doesn’t matter as the magician’s power comes from within, not the powers she is invoking. A magician can do a lot of things that lie inside her school of magic, but more powerful rituals pose greater costs and graver dangers. There is of course a possibility to make pacts with demons, angels, and old gods. These pacts can give the human servant great powers, but they aren’t magic in nature and have different rules than the magic system. We also explain how magical artefacts work and how they can influence stories. A magical artefact in KULT is more likely to be like the puzzle box in Hellraiser: a mystical thing of great power that’s very dangerous to use.
PN: It is important to understand that in the mythos of KULT, we are all divine. How close you are to accessing those powers often depends more on you as an individual than the exact practice. Rituals and artefacts are ways to gain access to these latent forces within us. You can't just read books and learn spells—you need to expand your mind and find the nature of your own soul. So a person can be hell-bent on learning magic but never learn anything, because he or she is just staring blindly at the page, while another person may discover magic by accident. It is all about who you are.
DM: One Stretch Goal on the KULT: Divinity Lost Kickstarter that has caught many of the old players’ imaginations is the prospect of an English translation of The Black Madonna campaign. What is this and why is it so prized?
PN: The Black Madonna was the first massive campaign for KULT. It was never translated or released in English back in the day, which left the fans eagerly wanting it, and many probably lost hope of ever seeing or playing it. We intend to change that.
The campaign, as such, became legendary in Sweden. The events of the campaign started during WWII in Russia and reaches its peak with the characters in our time. It is a story with a lot of complex characters that have many of the classic pieces of an epic adventure puzzle. Dark magic, beings from the dream world, intrigues by higher powers, mental institutions, and several different parts of the world where the story takes place. From Berlin to Russia, and into the Dream World. The campaign will be updated to the new rule system and also tweaked at some places and patched here and there.
DM: What are your hopes for building and expanding the game line with this Kickstarter and beyond?
RL: My hope is that we will write books for KULT for years to come and explore new aspects of its universe together with the fans. I also hope that we can find talented people in the RPG scene to contribute as writers and artists to KULT: Divinity Lost in future supplements. KULT: Divinity Lost will reanimate the game for both old and new fans. Hopefully, this edition will invite people who are new to the horror genre to roleplay stories in the KULT universe.