Posted on December 12, 2004 by Flames
Kult – Beyond the Veil
From Seventh Circle Games
Beyond the Veil is the second English book released from Seventh Circle for the Kult RPG line. The first was a players guide called Rumours that came out over a year ago. Originally this book was to be the GMs guide but with the delay of its release it appears that they have instead turned it into a core rulebook for the game. Which is fine by me.
Originally this was said to be a hardback. But, according to their distributor, there was a mix-up in communication with the printer and it was done in soft cover instead. I’m not to overly concerned about this since 35 dollars for a 300+ role playing game is not a bad price to pay in today’s market.
First off the cover is quite nice looking with art by Didier Florentz. The back has a nice run of description about the theme of the game and the section of the book itself. Another blurb near the bottom states that this edition contains the complete Magic system including the Conjurer’s guides. This is one excellent step up from the 2nd edition version of the book, which did not include the details of the magic system that provides a lot of the flavor to Kult. There is an inside flap for each cover, the front one lists the table of contents and the back lists the credits. I thought this was a neat little touch that ended up looking very well.
It is illustrated throughout in black and white with a lot of grayscale. Most of the art is stock from the previous editions and the collectible card game. The grayscale has an odd affect on various pieces that were originally used in full color on the card game. But by owning a complete set of the CCG and its expansion I will say that some of them look better in this medium than in full color. But there are a few that loose some appeal at the same time. The borders of every page are the same with a new design that tries to capture some of the mood of the game. It shows various occult objects, a partial skeleton and archways near the top. The amount of space it takes up is not that great and helps give a uniform look to the pages.
The layout is clean and simple. Standard double column with inserted pictures and charts. It stays consistent throughout so there is no variance.
Section one: The Lie.
This part of the book begins with a general description of the game world a quick overview of the basics of the cosmology. A lot of this is stock, word for word, from previous editions. But it is necessary and is probably about as well written as one could get. The rest of the section covers character creation, how skill checks work, combat and experience. Everything needed, system wise, to run the game is present so no one should have a problem in that area.
Here is a quick overview of the game mechanics. Characters have a skill rating from 1 to 20, the goal is to roll a twenty sided die under that number. The further under the number the better you did. There are also rules for automatic successes, perfect and disastrous rolls. Combat works pretty much the same way except you check the difference on a chart for a bonus or negative to a weapons DEF stat, this helps determine the amount of damage done.
There are also advantages and disadvantages. Advantages are beneficial to your character in the game and mentally while the disadvantages are detrimental to your character in both aspects. They do this by affecting the characters mental balance. The higher you go the more stable minded they are with a better chance of controlling themselves. While the lower they are the more unstable the characters become mentally and their control continues to slip away.
I do have a few complaints in this section though. One is the presence of only nine archetypes. Although this is remedied on the Seventh Circle website with a pdf download of fourteen more. The skill list is incomplete to match the character sheet provided in the book. Basically the character sheet is the one from Rumours that had a more extensive skill list. Either the character sheet could’ve been changed or those skill descriptions included.
Section two: The Rumors.
In this section we have the details of creating characters that are beyond the normal level of humanity. They purchase various powers at the cost of gaining limitations. This enables the creation of such things such as vampires, werewolves or an endless variety of creatures.
After that is an area talking about how to handle terrifying events and how they affect the characters themselves. When confronted with terror or something completely out of the laws of reality there is a chance that the mind of the PC could be affected. This could put them into a state of shock, cause them to flee in terror or drop their mental balance lower. When ones mental balance starts dropping there is a chance of gaining new disadvantages or, if they are already down pretty low, physical changes could occur. Also the lower your mental balance the harder it is to cope with some of these events, so be wary.
Following that is the section covering a lot more rules of damage. This is mostly the damage that occurs from things such as electrocution, suffocation, fire, smoke, falling and others. Also covered here are the rules for drugs and poisons.
Time and travel covers how to work time scale within the game. From actions to combat rounds to how much distance a character can cover. General information in other words.
Finally there is the section covering magic. In the Kult world magic works through long and complicated rituals that test the mind and body of the caster. This is no easy feat and those who practice magic are dedicated to it more than anything else in their lives. It all falls into five categories called the Lore’s, they are as follows: Death, Time/Space, Passion, Madness and Dream. I feel that the magic an essential element if just to get the person running the game into the right mind set of the setting. Not only did they include the complete system in this edition, but they also included all the extra material that was released in the Conjurers Guides for 2nd edition.
Besides the Lore’s you also have seven occult sciences that help the conjurers unravel the way the world works. Each has their own special abilities and information on how to use them in the game. Here there are also eleven more archetypes for those who wish to play a ritualist.
Each ritual is detailed with information on the necessary equipment, protective circles, gestures, visualization and much more needed to perform them. The more the ritual dose the longer it takes for a character to perform. The longer it takes to perform the more of a toll it takes on the conjurer’s body through endurance loss.
Section three: The Truth
Finally is the section of the book that lays out the true reality of the world of Kult. I will not go into great detail here because it may take away some of the surprise of new players. But I will cover a few basics.
The Illusion. Mankind is trapped within a prison that we cannot see, one that exists all around us always. We see only what we are supposed to see. But that prison is starting to have cracks in its walls. The true reality is being exposed a little at a time and there are those who can find their way through them.
Metropolis, the eternal city. Our former home, a city that all cities are based off of since it is engrained within our subconscious, one that we want to reclaim. It’s streets are endless, it’s dangers are overwhelming at times, but in it are the secrets that may set us free.
Inferno. Where are souls go after we die. The hell where our former memories are purged from our minds so we can be reborn into the world.
The Demiurge. The god who imprisoned us in the Illusion long ago, who is now missing, and without him the illusion crumbles. Astaroth the Demiurges dark half, the ruler of Inferno, who hates mankind. The Archons, former servants of the Demiurge, who are now fighting among each other to see who will become the new leader among them. The Death Angels, the opposites of the Archons, who fight a similar battle as their counterparts.
There are various creatures that exist between the various worlds. Some stalk us down, while others wish to rule over us, each with their own end goals. A few have the ability to warp the Illusion itself.
Finally there is the truth of humanity. The fact that we all used to be gods in our own rights, with powers beyond anything we could imagine. There are those who have found their lost divinity called the Awakened.
All of the detail of the world and its creatures is crammed, and I mean crammed, into eighty or so pages. There is plenty here for source material to run an endless amount of games with, all with very little chance of repetition. It is all quite a read and it will take some time to take it all in.
Following all of this there is a gamemasters section on how to run the game itself. With notes on how to handle combat, rules, horror affects and other such things. Information on how to set up and run a campaign and keep it flowing. Finally ending with an introductory adventure called ‘Frozen Moments’ that was originally presented in the 2nd edition rulebook.
A few problems to note at the end.
There is no index. With a world with this much detail, creatures, places and other information an index is almost a necessity. I feel that this will make it a little tougher on first time Kult GM’s using this book.
The character sheet. There are numerous problems with the character sheet itself. First off is the presence of skills that are not in the book as noted earlier. The weapon slots are set up for the first edition combat rules that don’t use the DEF stat. In the armor section there aren’t slots for the protection type of the armor. Add into that the gray scale pictures in the background make the character sheet very photocopy unfriendly. But you can use a character sheet from the 2nd edition rules since they are fully compatible. These are available on a few Kult fan sites online.
So in the end I recommend this book to anybody interested playing in this type of dark horror game. By the rules it can be used to run several types of horror from splatter punk to psychological terror. The rules are complete and the few errors here and there do not break the system or even come close to it.
Reviewer: Peter Amthor