|Cults of Chaos|
Written By: RPG Pundit (blogger site) & Dominique Crouzet
Published By: Dom Publishing (site)
Review By: J.L. Duncan
Welcome to a brief review of the Dark Albion Cults of Chaos PDF. Unlike most products I review, Cults of Chaos is a system neutral Game Master’s toolkit. This product is a companion module for the Dark Albion campaign setting, but is serviceable as a standalone product for just about any fantasy setting. The Dark Albion campaign setting is also authored by RPG Pundit & Dominique Crouzet. You can pick your poison be it the The Cults of Chaos PDF or purchase a black & white dead tree version. Both can be purchased at RPGNOW.com and DriveThruRPG.com.
Disclosure: This review includes affiliate links. I receive a token % if you purchase something on the landing page. Thank you for your support.
In truth, the main reason I’m reviewing Cults of Chaos, as this column usually focuses on complete game systems and/or settings, is two fold. One, to find out if the product is as advertised. Or, functional with most systems assuming the framework of a fantasy setting; the ladder of which, is actually an assumption based on authorship. And I might add, this is totally a selfish reason because the game I'm running is D&D Basic. And two, I've been wanting to review products outside the scope of what I usually review!
In my mind, the most important thing relevant in a product like this is if its form follows function. This is especially prudent for this reviewer, since I have not read Dark Albion. I can think of a couple of supplements which have made such a promise and utterly failed to deliver… Ultimately no longer on my shelf but… Ah, I digress…
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. There are plenty of Easter Eggs (I’m not sure what else to call them) which reference the Dark Albion itself, but these are rarely a distraction. The bulk of this product is system neutral, or if not, totally explained in reference within this module. That said, what will be most likely is that if this product appeals, you’ll likely go out and buy Dark Albion, which after reading Cults of Chaos is any good author’s intent. This is a product that not only shows me how to use it, but does it well enough that I needn’t look elsewhere for the details that come with creating an antagonist cult and unleashing it upon my hapless victi-I mean players. Needless to say, I’m impressed.
The most serviceable sections include a Cult Generation System from which in utilizing a series of tables you can create your antagonist cult from scratch or use dice to determine its scope and the Running Chaos Cult Adventures section. Both sections are very good reference material to help you hit the ground running. The detail involved with the Cult Generation System allows the GM to custom fit to just about any fantasy system. OSR friendly-yes, but actually, with a few easy tweaks I would argue ANY fantasy system. Cults of Chaos provides the GM many useful tips in running an inquisitor style campaign and then closes the deal with the Running Chaos Cult Adventures section, which provides even better advice on running investigative style adventures.
As you can easily guess and especially based on the infomercial style of approval this is a product I thoroughly enjoyed. I sought very hard to find something about it I didn’t like, but not for lack of trying, I failed.
I would recommend it for mature reading and viewership based on the detail of the content in relation to the subject matter, and based upon the graphic nature of a good deal of the public domain art. Still that is not to say it’s not maturely written or presented and as a product it doesn’t aim for the cheap seats. Each illustration is relevant to the content and is well placed. If you think about it-it would be exceedingly impossible to write such a module and not cover the bare bones in relation to the practices and behaviors, many of which are well documented throughout human history and what many of the more infamous cults are best known for. In fact I might point out in relation, that there are a lot worse elements which could have been more explicitly detailed and weren’t.
To bring it to a close, 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.
Edit: Since this review published with KoDT I've had the opportunity to use this product. I usually knew what I wanted to do, but I found the chapter: Running Chaos Cult Adventures & the inquisitor style adventure section, very helpful. I'd be remiss not to mention it.
Note: This RPG review is property of Kenzer and Company and republished here with permission. Cults of Chaos was provided free of cost for the purpose of this review.