Friday, June 4, 2021

Playing around with Kult's Tarot Rules

I've never played Kult, but someone on Discord (I cannot remember whom) linked to their document about using tarot to build scenarios.

So I did that. Imagine it's for Esoteric Enterprises. It uses Kult's custom tarot deck but with a bit of finagling I was able to make a normal deck of cards work (man i really need to get a good tarot deck)

A forewarning - this got real fuckin' dark when I did it, so I expect others will have similar experiences if they try it out. 

(Wow this one has been delayed)

Individual

  1. Characteristic - Forgetfullness; they are elderly, and their memory is beginning to fail them.
  2. Past - Love; they were a devoted spouse for over forty years.
  3. Ambition - Lust; they have built an idealized image of their beloved in their head, and grief plus the loss of memory has created something new and not altogether healthy.
  4. Weakness - They are violently opposed by the cult.
  5. Strength - They are unflappable, calm, charismatic.

Location

  1. Type - An abandoned orphanage, aligned with dread powers.
  2. Past - Repetition; the drudgery and everyday horror of those who lived here.
  3. Trait - A stairway down, down, down...
  4. Weakness - Old TVs are everywhere; corroded VHS tapes contain mind-numbing subliminals, with overexposure slowly blocking off higher brain functions.
  5. Exceptional Aspect - Gangs of orphans would fight each other for the favor of the staff.

Cult

  1. Power / Ambition - A return to untamed wilderness. Not even that technological civilization is to dismantled, but that higher thought itself must be eliminated.
  2. History - They started as backwoods pilgrims; cast-offs from the meatgrinder of city life and the modern age, looking for some way to escape.
  3. Goal - Pure, thoughtless philosophy; the enlightenment of the zoanthropic man.
  4. Weakness - They have their own enemies in the hall of civic power. No friends of yours, but they have gotten on the scent all the same.
  5. Resource - Cruelty; the orphanage was sponsored by the cult's wealthier members, a testing ground of sorts.

Plot

  1. Power - Scandal; a cult member of some public prominence is revealed, accused of abuses at the orphanage.
  2. Cause - Croudfunding campaign to pay for the victim's legal fees.
  3. Next Move - Wait & see; both the cult and the victim's supporters are waiting for the trial and its verdict before acting. This might still be swept under the rug, or it might still boil over.
  4. Opposition - Those who want to hide the cult's abuses and normalize its existence publicly.
  5. Support - An online community has sprung up to find and support more abuse victims.

Creature

  1. Origin - Torment; formed from the compressed suffering of the orphanage, crawling up out of the darkness of those interminable stairs.
  2. Who Knows? - The first leaks began in the local punk scene - rumors spread by one of the bands, whose lead knows a victim who has not yet come forward. Curious (and often intoxicated) minds have gone out exploring, come back with more rumors.
  3. Drive - To fulfill and spread its purpose; to put the fear of God in people, to perpetuate the cycle that created it.
  4. Weakness - It is hunted, on the run, ragged, desperate. We know not what chases it.
  5. Strength - It changes the environment and people around it, gradually shifting them more and more like the place it called home and the victims it first preyed upon.

Artifact 

  1. Origin - An ancient cipher.
  2. Who looks for it? - A hacker trying to break it.
  3. Danger of use - Susceptibility to law - authorities are aware of this document. There is a watchlist, they will hunt people down.
  4. Primary Power - Fragments, remnants, leftovers; the detrital wisdom of its composer.
  5. Secondary Power - Allure; it drives people to try and solve it.

Compiling The Pieces

The NPC was the founder of the Cult in its early years, but after creating the Cipher (which accelerated the memory loss they would have experienced normally) they fell away from it into obscurity. 

The Cult, as it develops its dogma and spreads its influence, comes into ownership of the Orphanage, which is uses as a testing bed for its experiments into zoanthropy. The abuses by the Cult give rise to the Creature, which escapes into the wild after the Orphanage is abandoned by the Cult.

Some time later, victims of the Orphanage start accusing members of the Cult. The lead-up to the first major trial is currently ongoing. The Creature has been spotted outside of town, wounded (It has been hunted by the NPC, though they do not know precisely why they are so obsessed with killing it). The Cipher has fallen into hands outside the cult and someone you know is working on breaking it, hopefully before the authorities swoop in and make the whole thing disappear.

Well, I think this worked out pretty well.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Delvers'

 

Othman Sahbi

There's a password you have to learn, a taboo that lives in your brain. It slips out of your head and off your tongue like a ball of static. The door at the bottom of the stairwell opens, welcoming you in. You're known by Delver's now, try to make a good first impression.

 

First Impression

The grotty beating heart of the City's occult underworld. The last call before hell, the last homely house, a nest of exposed pipes and graffiti-caked concrete, filled with the haze of demon liquor smoke. It's formed of three tiers, like an inverted ziggurat or a miniature Alighierian hell. The concrete walls are covered in mismatched doors and layers of graffiti. The bar's down at the center of the bottom level, as are the tables. You emerge on the upper ring.

 

These Facts Are Always True:

  • Delvers is (mostly) neutral territory. No feds, no fascists. The Musketeers will handle any disputes that come up.
  • The mismatched doors in the walls and floor of the bottom level lead deeper into the Underworld.
  • Anyone coming up from a successful delve gets first round on the house.
  • Private rooms, item storage, and long-term coffin apartments are available for rent.
  • Basic goods are always available for purchase.
  • Management has the final word. No exceptions.

There are other entries to the Underworld that you know of, but Delvers' is the largest and most stable within reasonable distance - this means that it is very well traveled, so you will be trading secrecy for safety and will lose direct access to more obscure Underworld locales.

Delvers' uses the die drop system by Hex Culture's "Home Again, Home Again". Every time the players visit Delvers', roll  4-6-6-8-10-10-12. If you roll a number higher than the NPCs listed, no one in that category shows up during that visit.

 

When You Arrive, the Place Is... (d10)

  1. Dead empty
  2. A few people
  3. A few people
  4. Ordinary crowd
  5. Ordinary crowd (special event)
  6. Ordinary crowd
  7. Packed
  8. Packed (special event)
  9. Standing room only

 

The Management

The Door is always present. Roll d6 every visit: 1: Baba + Door | 2: Mabel + Door | 3: Baba + Mabel + Door | 4-6: Door only.

  • "Baba Ghanoush" - An older gentleman in a finely-fitted grey suit. Speaks with the sort of quiet, polite directness reserved for mob bosses and the sorts of bishops who have connections on the outside. He is genuinely entertained by the nickname.
  • Mabel - 85 years old and sharp as a freshly-whet knife. Nothing gets past her.
  • The Sealed Door - Dandelion yellow bands of "POLICE LINE: DO NOT CROSS" cover rusting metal. A hand-painted sign is taped below the painted-over glass: "MNGMT."

 

The Three Musketeers

They are not actually musketeers. They have an arrangement, details unknown, with the Management. They keep the order in Delvers'.

  • Athos - You almost don't notice the statue. It's something like a man, heavily stylized, out of proportion. An enormous tafl piece. A heavy brow, prominent nose, big angular beard and mustache. The details, the links in its chain shirt and the calluses on its palms are nearly smoothed away with age. In those rare moments when it moves, it does so in a terrifying blur, crawling on all fours like an infant.
  • Porthos - You can hear a slithering sound under your feet, like someone dragging something heavy and wet against the concrete. A door opens up and a long red arm, the knobbled fingers forming a sock-puppet's mouth, rises like a periscope. Someone, at some point, affixed a pair of googly eyes to this extremity. The other limbs, encased in similar spiny exoskeletal plates, do not bear such amusing adornment.
  • Aramis - A woman in a wheelchair, old enough to have a bit of grey at the temples and a face weathered by time. A colorful blanket covers her legs, and a ball python lies draped over her shoulders. An ancient level-action rifle rests in her lap. She's easy to talk to, will remember your name, always willing to chat about her activism (environmental causes and native land rights) or her three children (all grown, now). There's a red ring on her finger, she turns it with her thumb while talking.

Behind the Bar

Roll 2d6 every time you enter to see who's working. Doubles mean someone called off and there's only the one.

  1. Mjoll - Doesn't talk much. Dark skin. Eyes like honey. Left arm is prosthetic up to the shoulder, left leg up to the knee. Combat veteran. Quick on the draw.
  2. Herschel - A charming man with heavy burn scars, will always have time to chat about his husband and kids.
  3. Lucy - A broad, brawny, friendly woman who has gone a bit soft around the middle. If you didn't know better (and honestly, you probably don't), you would swear most of her family tree are neanderthals.
  4. Duncan - Always has a sort of deer-in-headlights look about him, especially around the stranger guests. Fell into this all by mistake and can't really find a way out.
  5. Red-Hed - Stocky. Wears a big spherical red helmet. Voice modulator.
  6. "Barkeep" - A fat tabby tomcat.


Merchants (d4)

  1. Hoshino - Cheery fellow, always has sunglasses and a cigarette. Burn scars on his hands. Always shows up with his overhauled vending machines ready to dispense anything from tampons to bullets. Sells ammunition and basic supplies at a discount, as well as specialist goods (ie, non-weapons tagged "expensive")
  2. Papa Clink - Wide-waisted, barrel-chested, booming of voice. Bullet casings braided into a bushy black beard that obscures most of his face. Sells weapons at a discount
  3. Bri, Cartographer - They always seems to be wearing too much clothing for the weather. Eyes alone can be seen between hat and scarf. Sells maps of underworld nodes. Buys survey data of new areas.
  4. Pillbox - Naturally jittery and scatterbrained. Been sober for 15 years now. Has a sort of neon-goth thing going on, but it's mostly for advertisement. Sells 1d6 different drugs every time they visit. Buys any drugs they're not selling.


Specialists 1 (d6)

  1. Pen & Tam - Friendly couple from the surface who pop down every so often for a drink. Don't have any special powers, but Pen knows all about rare and magical books and how to get in touch with Book Club, and Tam can identify magical items.
  2. Julian Tull, cryptozoologist - Has a sort of Steve Irwin energy, if Steve Irwin was significantly worse at his job and was on social media too much. Pays for tips, more for photos and video, and even more for live specimens.
  3. The Apostate - A renegade from the Pure World Armory. Clean-shaven, tall, muscular, like a marble statue or propaganda poster come to life. Has devoted himself to the Gun Gods of An-Hehm. Deliberate and slow in his speech to make up for his uncertainty in social situations. Has access to special Armory weapons and armor as well as specialist ammunition.
  4. Mamadou the Mask Salesman - He always puts you in mind of a spider, and you can't shake the idea. Sells magical masks. Will offer 4-6 different masks every time he visits.

 

Specialists 2 (d6)

  1. Fisk - A "procurement specialist" for "human resources". Wears smoked glasses. Constantly eating sunflower seeds, spitting the shells into a mason jar he keeps at his table. The pacing of his speech is off; syllables are drawn out or cut short with no pattern or reason.
  2. Karina - Fruit merchant. Lazy eye, heterochromatic, intensely focused on something else beyond the walls of the room. Sells alien wares from far down below.
  3. Thimble Slim - A small, thin, pimply man with a tattered graphic tee ten years out of relevance and a terrible comb-over. No one likes him, and no one can seem to get rid of him. A fence for stolen goods and drugs.  
  4. Satchel Buck - A short, portly man who wears bright, poorly matched clothing. Proprietor of an Underworld speed dating service called the Lonely Souls Club, whose virtues he will detail at length to anyone showing even slight curiosity.

 

Doctors (d8)

  1. Tokamak - A bald man with an enormous white walrus mustache. His tweed coat is frayed at the collar and wrists. He has a pet, something he calls a "dream-eater". Something akin to a cross between a hyena and a small bear. It too is bald, though it does not have a mustache. A man of science, strange as those sciences may be, and very well educated in them. Not actually a doctor
  2. Melliferous Synapse, Fleshcrafter Novice - Offers grafting services. Human parts, animal parts, monster parts, so long as it's mostly fresh. They look radically different every time they appear, and are more easily identified
  3. Stitches - A pale, lanky teenage girl, limp cigarette dangling from her lip. Apathetic and emotionally inscrutable. Immensely skilled, but doesn't care much for aesthetics - you'll live, but you won't be winning any pageants.
  4. Nanoa - An elderly sage of the cult of Lu. Skin painted with delicate whorls of white, blue, green, gold. Knows of cult safehouses within the Underground, and may induct new members.

 

Occultists (d10)

  1. Anbara, Book Club Witch - Cultist of Aza-Thoth and professional pornographer. Will offer to trade a grimoire from her collection for one of yours, or maybe even gift you a new book. Knows the way to the Stygian Library.
  2. Mr. Deveroux - A pallid man in a yellowing and sweat-stained seersucker suit. Flies, cicadas, cockroaches all seem attracted to him. His face doesn't work right - all his expressions seem to be on a delay from what he's actually saying. Will teach you the infernal arts, given the right payment in souls.
  3. Amelia, Necromancer - Five feet tall on the dot, enormous glasses, enormous smile, and a propensity for dissection knives. She is a proper priestess of the dead, though she only breaks out her schema habit for special occasions. Offers Speak With Dead, funeral services, minor exorcisms, and the occasional zombification.
  4. The Blackthorns - A trio of witches - grandmother, mother, daughter. The latter two are dead, the first jumps her soul between their bodies. Folks don't like talking about it. She's a good person, though, worse people to go to for help than Maggie Blackthorn. Offers minor enchantments, spell identification, potions and tinctures, and advice.

 

Strangers (d12)

Strangers will not appear in Delvers' without first being encountered in the Underworld. Some of them can serve as replacement PCs.

  1. Ayo - Enormous red-skinned woman with black hair and horns. Loves eating, boozing, fighting and fucking.Always has some demon liqour on hand, always looking for something new to eat or fight.
  2. Cruel Tai - A positively mummified-looking man, hooked up to life support. The kind of person that everyone wants to hurry up and die, but who outright refuses to go. He has a chest with seven locks on it, each of a different material. The keys are long lost, down below. Each one will unlock a different gift. Bring him a key and an offering, and he will let you open a lock.
  3. "Alice" - A young woman with white hair and dark circles around pale grey eyes that always seem to be looking through and past you. Wears a dark blue shawl stitched with silver sigils. There is a thick, knotted scar in a ring around her neck. She smells strongly of potent magics
  4. FRIEND Terminal - A converted arcade cabinet. The old branding has been painted over with "FRIENDs in High PlaceS". Stick a quarter in and a smiley face will blip on the screen, and maybe offer you a job.
  5. Mr. Tamam - A weathered man in a long duster jacket. Enormous brown sideburns, arms tattooed with gemmatria. Postmaster of the underground. His services are reliable and affordable. He may call upon you to make a delivery.
  6. Dogmeat - Lanky woman wearing a rubber rottweiler mask. Long, tangled, dirty blonde hair. Torn jeans. Black t-shirt with the save point symbol from Silent Hill 3. Blood-stained baseball bat always within reach. Connections with Lighthouse.
  7. Doubtless-You-See-the-Connections - A der0 that can manage to interact with the greater world with a reasonable chance of success. Looks like an emaciated suffocation-blue macrocephalic infant. Encyclopedic knowledge of thousands of conspiracies, real and imagined, and a mostly reliable guide in the Underworld. 
  8. Jon Tatterdemalion - A handsome man in a beautiful, travel-worm cloak. If given a magical item, he will exchange it for another or teach the giver a spell. He is guileful, haughty, gossipy, terribly intelligent, easy to flatter and difficult to fool. He seeks to find Irem the City of Pillars deep in the Underworld, and to avoid his ex-wife.
  9. The Lamplighter - A militant cultist of Lantern Boy, utterly devoted to destroying the Lamplighters' enemies and tracking down their missing messiah. Scarily single-minded.
  10. The Titan - A huge glass tank filled with murky yellow clouds. Two attendants in spacesuits, visors down, are present at all times, and will speak on its behalf. It is content to observe, but if you were to gain its interested attention it might teach you secrets of
  11. Apotheamniot - A creature like long-lost austrolopithicus; its head replaced with a bubble of amniotic fluid and the embryo of a failed apotheosis.
  12. The Man in the Hot, Dark Room - A new door has appeared. Your presence has been specifically requested.


Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Don't You know The Devil Wears a Suit and Tie?

 

Cosimo Galluzzi

**

Saw him drivin' down the 61 in early July

White as a cotton field and sharp as a knife

I heard him howlin' as he passed me by

**

Exhausted from the river crossing and her battle with the whiskered serpent, Lu climbed up the bank and made camp there at the joining of two game trails. One ran along the embankment, the other westward into the deep summer forest. There were two large and weather-smoothed boulders there, and one of them had been worn so to form an overhang where she might be protected from rain or prying eyes. There Lu dug a fire pit, and set to cooking the fish she had gathered from the river (before being interrupted by the serpent).

As twilight settled on the land, she heard a disturbance in the brush, the movement of a large creature approaching. She rose into a crouch and grabbed her spear, and watched the figure of a man of her own people, emerge into the clear space where the two paths met, right at the edge of the firelight.

His skin was dark like Lu's, and his beard was black and bushy. He wore fine hides, richly dyed and masterfully stitched, that bore no dirt of travel and a wide hat of reeds sat atop his head. His eyes flickered like embers and his left foot appeared burnt, with blood and pus oozing from the cracked and blackened skin.

"Clever Lu of the Forest," he greeted her in a deep and pleasant voice. His teeth were stained black by betel leaves.

"You know my name, but I do not recall having given it to you."

"The spirits are chatty, and your deeds have spread far and wide. May I sit?"

"Upon the other side, stranger. And give me your name, since you have already had the pleasure of discovering mine."

The man laughed, and made a sound akin to a large stone dragged over bones.

"[Untranslatable], that is my name. But you may call me whatever you please." He sat across from Lu and the fire pit separated them.

"I'll see that I do, old man."

"Ah, that will do. It is a fitting name."

"Take what you will of my catch." Lu motioned to the remaining fish. "I have eaten my fill for tonight."

The old man smiled his black smile and took a fish, devouring it swiftly.

"Ah, a fish for an old man and all is well." He tossed the stick on which it was cooked into the flames. "I have heard, Lu of the Forest, that you seek to steal Hō-ō's crown of fire."

This she had not wished to hear, for she had kept secret the purposes of her journey to the west.

"And from whom did you hear this?"

"From a merry band of nymphs, with whom you shared a great deal of palm wine half a moon ago."

Oh. Oh.  

But Lu would not let this shake her, and kept her countenance still.

"They spoke truly - I shall steal into the very center of his court and swipe it from his brow, leaving neither sight nor smell behind."

"I praise your ambition, but are you certain that your cleverness might carry you through to success? If word has reached me, then word will reach Hō-ō's agents in time. Perhaps it will just be one of many such paranoid fancies as grip him these days and he'll pay it no mind, moving on to his next rumor come the morning. Perhaps the messenger will be waylaid and never reach the court. If none of that comes to pass, if he should learn of your little plot and recognizes it as a threat, if that happens..."

The wood of the fire shifted, sending up sparks.

"Then you're just fucked."

Lu said nothing, for she could not refute the old man. While her bull-head pride resisted and roiled within her, she still could not deny that she had been loose with her words among the nymphs, and that once gossip reached their ears it would spread faster than even she could run.

"I wish that it weren't so," the old man said when he saw that Lu would remain silent. "What of Tubalkhan Flint-Knapper? I had heard that he traveled with you.

"He has gone south to meet with the mouldywarps for a time. We plan on reuniting further along."

"Ah, good. Good."

The old man then took a small, smooth stone from the ground, held it up to his lips, and breathed upon it. Then he tossed it into the fire.

"I have given to that stone a hidden word of power. It is a weapon that will destroy Hō-ō utterly and all his court. Not even their bones will remain. It will bind the iron star Chicxulub that rides now above the dome of the sky to your hand and will. He shall have no defense against it, and in a single stroke it shall safeguard your people against his wrath. The crown will be yours.

"When the fire dies away and the last embers cool, what I have spoken to the stone shall be forgotten, and never again be found on or under the earth."

Lu had not expected this, and asked only:

"What then, do I owe you in return for this?"

"Nothing at all, clever Lu. I am a giver of gifts, I ask for nothing in exchange than they be used to their fullest. It brings me joy, to see what people do with what I give them. Take it, and may your people live happy and unafraid of dragons' wrath."

Lu narrowed her eyes.

"Who are you, old man? What manner of spirit are you?"

Again the old man smiled.

"I am [the shadow in the amygdala] just an old, old man."

The old man snapped his fingers, and at once a great plume of smoke billowed from the fire, stinging Lu's eyes and biting her throat. When her vision cleared and coughing ceased, the old man was gone.

The stone remained where it sat in the fire pit.

Lu sat by the fire in contemplation for a time. She was deeply troubled by the old man's words, and shamed by the thought that her own idle actions might endanger her whole quest. She longed for Tubalkhan's presence, but his counsel was many miles away and would bring no comfort to her doubts this night.

And so the night passed, in intervals standing, sitting, and pacing about like a stalking cat. Lu fed the fire as it burned low as her mind turned sleepless gyres. She did not trust the old man, whatever manner of man or spirit he was. But she had found no lies in his words (for Lu was a bullshitter and a tale-teller, and skill recognizes skill). Out of distrust of the old man or her own pride, she would have at any other time let the fire go out and covered the pit with dirt. But with her great error brought to light, and the danger that followed behind, she kept the fire fed in increasing desperation and shame.

Should Hō-ō prepare himself, and her cleverness be not enough, she could not resist him. He might end her in a breath or a lazy snap of the jaws. And in retribution he would likely go out among her people and make greater demands of sacrifice. Should Lu fail, many more than she would die through her failure. Any who survived would curse her name forever.

The night watches passed in agony.

In the grey mist before morning, when only dim coals remained among the ash and charred wood, she plucked up the stone and held it to her ear. In a fading whisper, it spilled its secret and spoke no more forever.

She kept the stone in her pouch for the rest of her journey, secret from even Tubalkhan. She had chosen in the end to learn its hidden word and unuse it - to rely on clever plans and cunning work and nimble hands as she always had, to better master those arts so that she might humble Hō-ō without resorting to the word that might kill him. (For without his crown, the great king of dragons would be no mightier than old Pan-Pongo)

Of course, her cleverness failed her in the end. Discovered and with death inescapable, she drew Chicxulub down from above the sky and smote Hō-ō and all his court, bringing to the world demon-haunted Winter with her great act of violence.

It was this act, and the long years of starvation and cold to follow, and the horror of the Daemonomachy to come, that led to some among the Ancestors to leave the fires of Lu's camp and go out into the world alone, and with them they had fear-gifted whispers of the Red Law.

Lu would never see the old man again, and spoke not of him to anyone, but during the tribulations to come and the peaceful spring to follow she would imagine him in the distance, laughing.