Resources for designing a cult.


I am wanting to add a human cult dedicated to the worship of a certain entity from adventure three (with the justification that the legends passed from the centaur shamans to the kingdom of Restov) to use as antagonists throughout adventures one (a kobold sized subplot that sets up a recurring villain) and two (an insidious cult infecting the new kingdom), as well as foreshadowing adventure three a little.

I'm looking for any resources for designing a cult for an rpg. Most of my google searches have already turned up nothing but the argument that dnd is satanism. Instead I turn to the august members of the board.

Anyone know any articles or general advice for forming the details?

In theology the word cult refers to the practices of a certain sect, a sect being a specific gathering of people who follow said cult. In common parlance, cult is more typically used to mean a wicked, insular and secretive following of a similarly wicked entity. Still, it is useful to think aboutit in terms of practices. What do these people do when they gather. If they worship Gnurk the terrible, eater of hairy dogs, do they sacrifice dogs to him? Do theyeat dogs? How do they get new people interested in eating dogs, i.e. Why would someone worship Gnurk? When you recruit fora secret group, you have to be extremely careful, and nonspecific questions would be very much the tune. They would observe possible recruits (who would they consider a good recruit?) for a while and only then approach them, sending in their best "face" character. At first, you need to show people a concrete benefit to joining, and you need to determinewhat this is. Political influence, martial force, magical knowledge, information, magic items, there has to be a point to worship Gnurk. Once someone has joined, do they mark their members somehow, to ensure the group has to maintain secrecy? The risk is having the entire group exposed if found out, but the fear of the outside world it gives might be worth it. Cults isolate their members in everything but the official capacity they hold (a recruited mayor keeps his chair because it is useful), seeing things like family life and friends as distractions and dangers. Once someone has bought into the concept and chosen to stand with the cult, there might be an entrance ceremony, see markings above, and a little something called a hook. The cult wants the members to be estranged from others, and one way of doing this is accepting them as members only when they have committed a crime of some sort, a crime they could be exposed for doing if they become problematic to the cult. This also all but ensures there will not be do gooder infiltration. Finally, you need to determine where they gather, what they do, what Gnurk wants, what resources they have, what the leadership structure is, and anything else you might consider relevant to the adventure.

I hope this helps you in some way.

That depends on what you believe a ‘cult’ to be. Technically a cult is simply a religion made up of few (a few hundred at best) followers with a strong (and usually charismatic) leader…that pretty much means EVERY single religion in the world at one point or another. No faith simply starts out with the majority’s support and a large chain of command, every faith starts out as a fringe element in society before (if) they grow.

While the raving Chaotic Evil cult worshipping demons is certainly cliché and somewhat expected, there is the problem that the simple answer to dealing with it is simply ‘kill em all1’. The fact that its so simple and straightforward is good enough by itself, but what makes it even worse is that there is no need for justifications for their actions (such groups are obviously harmful to the citizens and the kingdom, and no one will miss or question the methods used to destroy them).

If you want a ‘real’ insidious cult for them to deal with make the cult at (or one step) the same alignment as the majority of the population. The first benefit is that such a cult is not so different from the majority that hiding in plain sight or gaining the masses support is at all difficult, it may even been in a very positive light if the other faith(s) have seemed to have gone on unchallenged for too long and have become complacent. Second is that such a cult, as pointed out above, is not likely so different in ideals in comparison to the players (from what I’ve seen 9 times out of 10 the Kingdoms alignment is the same as the majority of the players) unjustified (or falsified) attacks on their person can be seen as unprovoked by the masses…and calls into question the beliefs of the rulers.

Lastly is that, in the case of simply killing the above mentioned cults without justification or trial, the citizens of ‘other nations’ may cause havoc as well. Perhaps the cult was an all female Halfling one, in which case it could be seen as a sexists and/or raciest (as rumors spread the truth can be diluted a little) by people within or outside the kingdom. Perhaps the Unrest is caused by ‘non-believers’ packing their bags and leaving (cutting business ties along the way) for fear that they may be ‘unlawfully’ attacked and murdered by the nation’s rulers for simply defying status quo.

Your Mileage May Vary However

Thanks for the quick replies. Some ideas I hadn't thought about before, especially the actual upside of physically marking members of the cult. It had never really occurred that it would keep members from ratting them out, and only the obvious downside of "make every member of this secretive order easy to identify".

some spoilers for Varnhold Vanishing:

Fair points regarding the definition of the term Cult, but when I was specifying "worships an ancient Lich" I had a specific usage in mind.

I am intending to make them Lawful Evil. My basic idea is that they are unaware that Vordecai is simpy a lich, and instead believe him to be some dark god or devil. It was started by a charismatic sorcerer who used the legends of the ancient being to start a cult for personal purposes. The cult outlived its creator, and the legends and laws that he created to keep them under control served to keep them hidden and safe.

They believe that their god will only grant them their reward when they gain sufficient arcane and political power, which is their explanation for the lack of divine power they have. All leaders within the cult are arcane spell casters (acquisition of arcane power is the core tenant), but many others join for the connections and influence membership can bring. I am thinking on modelling this on some kind of Masonic fraternity, with the majority of the lower tier members being there for selfish reasons.

Given that their goals are the acquisition of knowledge and influence at any cost -not "blood for the blood god"- and that members should be well connected within their kingdom, it will be complicated to [i]prove[/] that they are responsible for anything wrong, and difficult to excise the members without leaving key positions unmanned.

Vordecai is, of course, entirely unaware of this following.

Still a work in progress, but I'm hitting some ideas I like. Any suggestions or criticisms would be welcome.

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Greetings, fellow travellers.

just in case...:
Call me unimaginative, but wouldn't have the cult worshipping Charon, the horseman of Death make the most sense - and let you tie in a connection to V easily as well? In V's lair a shrine dedicated to the four horsemen is already described (W12) and it is said that they "fuel his vision". Let the cult be looking for that same shrine - maybe some kind of race entails, where you can pit the PCs against the cult in a last mad dash for a power base? Let have Charon whisper to the leader of the cult suggestions about where to find the shrine and that by finding it, they would also awaken another faithful, aiding them in their quest (to whatever - death and destruction most probably).
As to the logistics behind a cult - I would look towards AD&D's Game Accessory "Cult of the Dragon" #9547, where the evil cult (creating and ) worshiping dracoliches is described in detail.


Ah, a good point. I am unfortunately very new to the Golarion setting, so I'm finding my way as I go. That's probably the best way to to with it. I can stretch some GMing muscles on making the cultists, without having to make up the mythology first.

Can I find Charon in the Inner World guide, or do I need another book?

Ah, nevermind. Google, and all that.

Grand Lodge

Every good Cult needs a book.

And if you really want insight into the Cult.

Perhaps you're more of moving pictures kinda person?

How to fight the Cult.

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