Review: The Ultimate Guide to Remarkable Cults & Their Followers (System Neutral)

Product: The Ultimate Guide to Remarkable Cults & Their Followers (PDF & Hardcover)
Author: JVC Parry, Jeff Lee, RP Davis
Publisher: Loresmyth
System: None/System Neutral
Summary: Remarkable Cults & Their Followers is the ultimate GM guide on roleplaying evil fantasy factions. This system-neutral sourcebook is compatible with any fantasy roleplaying game ruleset and contains everything you need to create and roleplay your own unique villainous guilds.
Snap Judgement for Busy Wyverns: Need a cult faction, fast, with pre-made NPCs? Need guidance on how to create a cult? This is the resource to have. Drop one of the pre-made cults in your game, with minimal prep needed – guidance is given on how strong or weak they are, how rich or poor they are, etc – in a system neutral way. Have a little more prep time? Randomly generate or choose attributes for your unique cult and off you go.

What is it?
Here we have a 180-page book devoted to those most mysterious of factions and antagonists – cults. The book has 4 main sections: 10 pre-made Remarkable Cults, a section on Bringing your Cults to Life, tools and tables to Create your Own Cult, and finally some advice on how to handle Player-Operated cults (something we’ve almost never considered). Three Appendices round out the book – Creating Infernal Items, Blackstar’s Vile Relics (pre-made relics that could spark cult formation), and some Maps for Cult Headquarters. This is an ambitious resource that pretty much does exactly what it advertises – covers the depth and breadth of evil cults in your fantasy role-playing game.

What makes it good?
First off – this book is laser focused on cults and is very well organized. All the sections flow well, and each of the 10 pre-made cults is presented in the same format. They all have a “stat block” of sort up front, telling you about their wealth, resources, defense, influence, what services they offer, which classes they favor and disfavor. For each one you get a well-crafted NPC leader, a description of their motivations and activities, what each rank does, some high level NPCs in the cult, specific services they offer (and at what cost), cult-specific items and Rumors & Secrets around the cult – essentially adventure and plot hooks. These aren’t one-liners either, but well written adventure prompts and outlines. Not every cult intrigued us, and not every cult would fit into our game – but we could definitely see a few right off the bat that would be really intriguing for us. The Prophets of the Void are an interesting cult that would definitely fit into a sci-fantasy or even a sci-fi game, obsessed with the Far Realm. The Heirs of Salvea could land in a town in your world, as they offer “healing”….with a dark fey price attached. Our favorite was Nox Libris, a cult devoted – fanatically of course – to finding all the dark and forbidden knowledge in the world. This cult could harry your adventurers at every turn, showing up at the least convenient times to steal away dark artifacts and grimoires.

Bringing Your Cult to Life really does a deep dive into the inner workings of cults, how they pay for things, how they recruit, how they keep, exert and amass power. There’s even a section detailing the numerous types of missions a cult may request, as a way to jumpstart your adventure hook creation. The authors did a great job covering all the facets of what a cult needs to really shine….basically how to get your cult to achieve the magic of verisimilitude.

Creating Your Own Remarkable Cults is a section to help you craft your own. It’s not just stacks of tables – though it does have that – but opens with a really good philosophical discussion of the mindset of a cult. The refrain you should have as you build a cult is “Good is a point of view” – since most cults take a “good” idea and end up twisting it beyond recognition.

Player Operated Cults is a section we don’t think we’ll ever need – we just don’t run a game where it’s likely to happen! A player cult definitely walks the line of “evil party” that many GMs won’t dive too deeply into. But if it does happen, if that is the campaign you run – the rise and fall of the cult – this section has you covered with good advice on how to guide the game around that theme.

Don’t skip the appendices – Creating Infernal Items will let you throw some really unusual magic into your game, or just grab one of the many pre-made relics included. These can absolutely anchor a campaign arc.

How do I use it?
While cults have a long history in fantasy role-playing games, and fantasy stories, honestly we’ve never really run a true campaign antagonist that is a cult. It’s just never been the kind of thing we’ve been comfortable building on our own – cults are complicated, and the weirder they are the better – without being so unrealistic as to break the immersion of the game. It’s a tightrope we’ve shied away from in our GM career. That said – it began to feel like we were missing out, and our players were missing out, on some classic RPG cult action. When we saw this book go up on Kickstarter, we backed it right away. Finally, a resource that would do all the hard thinking work for us! We have not been disappointed and hope to introduce a cult or two into our campaign world soon.

Using the book is very straightforward. The only real work you’ll have to do is translate the system-neutral language into mechanical stats for whatever RPG you’re running. If you’re an experienced GM, or experienced in the system, this won’t be too hard – there’s lots of guidance that should get you in the right ballpark. Most of that prep too will be one-time prep – and you’ll be able to hit the ground running with secret society that will plague your characters to no end – maybe literally.

Edit: We in fact show you how to Create a Cult in our follow-up post.

The biggest downsides are basically if none of the pre-made cults strike your fancy – half the book isn’t going to be very useful to you. They take up over half the book. That said, you should still find solid use from the Create Your Own section. If you never have a player-operated cult, that section will be merely academic as well – but it’s only 20 pages.

Final Thoughts
We really like system neutral supplements like this. This is a quality book, from quality writers, about a really ubiquitous topic in fantasy RPGs. It’s one we’ve not seen explored and broken down like this before, and this is a good one. Nothing deep here – it’s cults and how to run them.

Recommend or Not?
Recommend. A great resource for any GM to have on hand. Don’t get stuck with writer’s block trying to come up with some weird cult that shows up in the basement of the old mansion at the end of the street in your game – use this book to quickly generate one. Sure, your big city has a Thieves’ Guild, just like every other city…but does it have a quarter run by “justice” obsessed cultists? Now it can.

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