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Dark Albion: Cults of Chaos $7.50
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Dark Albion: Cults of Chaos
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Dark Albion: Cults of Chaos
Publisher: DOM Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/13/2020 05:14:02

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 94 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page introduction/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 89 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

I received this book in its Lulu softcover PoD-version by one of my readers for the purpose of a review, to be undertaken at my convenience. I also consulted the pdf version, but the review is primarily based on the print iteration.

Okay, so the first thing you need to know, is that this book is not necessarily Dark Albion-exclusive; the lion’s share of the book is not even OSR-exclusive; depending on your skills in the target system, you can use this with pretty much everything; there are rules-components here, but since the book does not subscribe to a singular OSR-system, much like Dark Albion, there might be some minor tweaks required when using this in some contexts. The book contains two pages of character sheets, and two pages of worksheets for the GM, which is certainly appreciated.

What is this book? In short: It’s the largest and most encompassing chaos cult generation toolkit I’ve seen so far. The generator operates in 7 simple steps: First, you determine the social class of the chaos cult – and yes, mixed cults are possible, but statistically are actually the rarest ones – which makes sense. Both of these come with tables. After this, you determine the size of the cult, and proceed with a simple decision: Has the cult been exposed or not (yet). Then, we come to the largest consideration – determine the cult type. Fake cults, witchcraft, old religions, heresies, elf cults, object cults, sex cults (PG 13, in case that bothers you) –here is the best thing about these: There are different cult types for different social classes: Nobles might e.g. follow immortality cults and the like. These cult types come btw. with more detailed descriptions.

In step 5, we get tables for cult secret lairs, once more with different tables for different social classes of the cults; step 6 is optional, but I’d recommend it: A massive table lets you determine special resources the cult might have – veterans, protection of local lords, monsters, etc. Also optional: Step 7 nets you a variety of chaos cult complications, with the table spanning 2.5 pages.

This generator alone is already an impressively potent tool for the GM, and from here, we only go further: We get tables to determine how cultists recognize each other, and a rather cool table on cultist obligations and taboos. Random tables for ceremonies are provided as well: One to determine the place, one for the required garb, and one to determine the ceremony type.

With these, an experienced GM already has the tools to make a cult adventure, but we haven’t started yet! The book then proceeds to present a wide array for actual reasons for joining a cult, which allows you to generate surprisingly plausible allegiances within the cult.

What’s that? You want CHAOS? Well, we have mutation rules here – in short: They are permanent and almost impossible to revert, which is how they should be; we learn about the church’s stance on mutation within Albion’s context (hint: It involves the words “kill” and “extreme” and “prejudice” and/or “pyre”…), before the book goes into a variety of mutations in 3 different categories: Minor, moderate, severe. Minor mutations can include witch marks, blood thirst, loss of hair, small horns, being worm-infested, etc. – is the fellow just diseased or a cultist? The fact that these are subtle is great – it lets you get into the witch-burning paranoia-mindset.

The major mutations are more rules-relevant and include being haunted, developing canines, loss of limbs or gaining the evil eye. Severe mutations, finally, include a familiar (with subtable including individual benefits), becoming fish men, green men, growing pincers, etc. These are the…well, nasty apotheosis kind of mutations that may see the target become the focus for a cult.

After these mighty generators, we get a step by step guide for running chaos cult adventures and potentially, even whole inquisition campaigns, with suggestions for current objectives, as well as a variety of really diverse hooks for getting into adventures; then clues. Get it? Now that the cult generator is done, the book proceeds to present a chaos cult adventure generator, and it’s a genuinely well-crafted one, including massive tables of clues to scavenge. This section btw. also include a means for players prodding in the dark to be rewarded, so if your players stumbled into an aspect of the adventure you have not accounted for, this’ll help.

The book then proceeds to depict, in detail, a massive array of tables for questioning NPCs: We get tables to randomly determine whether a random NPC is a cultist, how cultists and their allies will react, how non-cultists will react, and what non-cultists will tell. The book also features a total of 20 detailed baseless rumors – essentially detailed red herrings. Suggested events and encounters and a huge amount of sample cultist personalities, as well as a whole page of old-school statblocks for run-of-the-mill cultists are also featured.

This out of the way, we get a low-level, mid-level and high-level chaos cult dungeon – these come with nice b/w maps, and are functional; not brilliant, but they certainly do their job. No player-friendly versions of the maps are included. If the book has one weakness, it’s that the space taken up by these sample lair would have imho been better served by more material for the investigation generators.

Finally, since elves are chaotic and pretty evil in Dark Albion, we have notes on elf cults alongside a variety of different cults – from demonic cults to bacchae and good ole’ blood god we get detailed notes on daily practices, rituals, etc. There are notes for the heresy of the Cathari, Donatists, and there are notes for cults of Eros and Venus, Gaia, Green Man, etc. – and yes, Gnostics, Manichaeism, and the Hawk, deity of the Scots Men, Hecate, Mananan – this book delves deep into the whole aspect of mythology in Dark Albion that I’d have loved to see focused on more in the main book. And yes, frog cults are presented – but I have no problem with frog cults per se; I have a problem with the nation of high fantasy, decadent frog people breaking the setting’s consistence…so no problem there. We get appropriate notes like alien artifacts for star cults, magic item relevance, etc. – nice.

The final appendix of the book deals with locations of power, covering rules for magic-dampening locations and magic-enhancing ones; chaos-enhanced and planar-crossover locales, as well as a chaos backlash table can be found here – and since drugs are obviously involved in a pretty serious way in dubious rituals, the book covers a massive table of visions, hallucinations and bad trips, finishing what must be called a truly encompassing generator.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level, with everything being precise, didactically sound in sequence, etc. – no complaints. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard, and is just as well-executed as in the campaign setting. Artworks are a mix of well-chosen public domain art and stock pieces; personally, I preferred the public domain art here. Cartography is nice and b/w, but there are no player-friendly iterations of the maps. Much to my dismay, the pdf has no bookmarks – if you just want that iteration, detract a star.

To get that straight from the get-go: This expansion/generator book is pretty darn awesome.

After the inconsistencies of the main book, this one focuses on dark fantasy themes and manages to depict chaos cults and making them in a holistic manner; it lets you not only create a cult, it also has all the tools to run an investigation into it in a pretty fluid manner, without much prep work. If you’re good at this type of thing/an experienced GM, you may well use this to run a spontaneous cult investigation sans any prep-work – heck, I’ve done it. That is a fantastic thing to achieve. RPG Pundit and Dominique Crouzet deliver in this book, big time. This is not only useful for Dark Albion, but far beyond the setting and system – whether WFRP, Greyhawk, The Witcher or some other dark fantasy setting, this can very much yield helpful results. An impressive achievement! 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Albion: Cults of Chaos
Publisher: DOM Publishing
by Jeffrey D. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/03/2018 09:53:47

I wrote a short RPG review of this product for Knights of the Dinner Table (mag) last year and recently got to post that review in full on my blog... This product is pretty much workable with any system.

Here is couple a snippets from that review:

"At its core, Cults of Chaos provides richly detailed framework for creating and applying a variety of cult types or organizations, as an antagonist plot piece to your campaign. The purpose of which, you will use this very supplement to determine. I would say, just about any type of cult you could imagine, but actually this supplement has it covered well beyond what most, or at least those (including myself) not educated in cult history, would think to imagine. It’s a flexible product."

"Cults of Chaos delivers a richly detailed framework for running an inquisitor style campaign leaving few stones unturned. The format is cleanly executed and writing is concise. As a product it’s not only a Game Master’s toolkit, but probably the best system neutral plot-kit device I’ve read. I’d give Cults of Chaos eleven and a half Aleister Crowley’s out of ten, but then again I don’t do ratings and such evil must be stopped! Hopefully, my players will be up for the task."

The review in full is on my blog here: https://withinthedungeon.blogspot.com/2017/12/dark-albion-cults-of-chaos-rpg-review.html



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Albion: Cults of Chaos
Publisher: DOM Publishing
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/19/2016 15:13:34

The newest supplement for Dark Albion is now out, Dark Albion: Cults of Chaos. With a name like that how can I possibly say no?

A bit of history, I worked with author Dominique Crouzet quite a bit back in the late 90s and early 2000s. I know what sort of thing he likes (or at least liked) in this area, so I know I was going to be pre-disposed to like this. Kasimir Urbanski is also the author and his contributions were going to be a bit more of a mystery. But I liked Dark Albion so my expectations were pretty good. Like Dark Albion, this book can be played with any flavor of D&D you like. It is simple enough and light enough on the "crunch" it can actually be played with just about any RPG really. While reading I Was thinking about it in terms of Pendragon, Cthulhu Britanica and other games.

Dark Albion: Cults of Chaos is the cults and cult-like groups book for the Dark Albion campaign setting/rules. The book itself is 92 pages (94 with covers). This includes 2 pages of character sheets, a cult sheet and the ogl. Minus title page and various bits we are looking at 80+ pages of solid content. The art is all black and white and is a mix of newer art and woodcut designs. I am rather fond of the woodcuts myself, I love seeing these in books. I recognize a number of pieces as belonging to Dominique; so he is one of the artists as well as one of the authors. The first part of the book deals with the cults. In particular their size, composition, what social class they come from (very important really) and of course their motivations and where their secret lair might be. Life of the cultist within the cult is also detailed to a degree. Enough anyway to get you thinking more about them. In particular what they do in the cult, why they might have joined and possible mutations. That one needs some more explaining. Some cults are so exposed to the forces of Chaos that their cultist can begin to mutate. A great idea that I am glad to see here. Dom and I did something similar for Warlocks back in my 3.0 edition of my Witch book. So immediately I grabbed on that as something to use. The idea though has a lot of traction. There are similar ideas in Lamentations of the Flame Princess and I believe Dungeon Crawl Classics. The next section covers running advnetures involving these cults. Obviously these cults are not menat to be a one-time adversary. They are meant to be reoccuring antagonists and potentially even the "Big Bads" of your game. This includes a number of NPCs, mostly normal level humans, that are involved in the their cults. Don't assume though that "0 Level" = powerless. Nobility wield a lot of power regardless of level, a noble in a cult can be very bad for a party of adventurers. I might as well acknowledge the inclusion of the "Frog Cults". I still think "Frogland" is kind of dumb to be honest, but I don't mind these cults at all. In fact wasn't "Temple of the Frog" the first real adventure played in D&D and certainly one of the first ever published. The "Keepers of the Frogs" from Blackmoor could certainly fit as a DA cult.

Packed amongst all of this information are also tables of rumors and other information PCs can learn. I thought of this as the "Scooby Doo" section of the book; the PCs split up and search for clues.

We next get some sample cults and some examples of some cults in various dungeon settings. These are split up into low, medium and high level.

The appendicies are very interesting and include a section on Elves in Albion. This section reminded me a bit of a similar direction given in Castles & Crusades Codex Celtarum. Indeed, one could use both books together to get a large, more detailed picture of the elves/fae/sidhe. DA tends to be low-fantasty compared to the C&S High(er) Fantasy. Still in niether case are these "D&D Elves", they still have more incommon with the likes Obereon, Titania and Puck than Tanis or Legolas.

The next appendix details a score cults of various types. All ready to drop in your game. The last appendix details sorcerery and chaos and the strange things that can happen when they mix. We end with a cult creation sheet and a character sheet. The character sheet should be offered for free download, I think people would like it.

All in all a fun book. There is nothing here we have not seen before in one form or another, but to have it all one place with this particular presentation is great. I am reminded a bit of the old Witches and Pagans book from White Wolf that covered similar territory. I even pulled out my Mage: The Sorcerers Crusade to see if this would work well enough with it. It would take some work, but it could be done.

What strikes me most is how easiy it is to integrate this into any game you like. The crunch that exsists is easily converted. Since a lot of the die rolling deals with tables and their results, conversion is a simple process.

I mentioned in the past that Dark Albion is particularily friendly to Jeff Talanian's Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. Using a page from DA:CoC one could easily add DA style elves (and of course their cults) into the world of AS&SH. AS&SH style witches and warlocks seem particularily suited for the the chaos magic of DA.

In the end I thought this was a fun purchase. Glad to have it and glad to mine some ideas from it.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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