So I’m starting a brand new BitD campaign with three brand new players who have decided to run a cult. In looking over the sample opportunities under the Cult section and just thinking about possible scores for them it occurred to me that there doesn’t appear to be many obvious opportunities for them to make coin. Most of the other crew get hired to do criminal things that they’ll get paid for, but it seems like cultists are more into furthering their own agenda. I suppose they could rob their targets in the course of stealing cursed tomes and what not, but it doesn’t feel like there’s opportunities for them to be hired by a third party. Given how important coin is I’m hoping folks can give me some insight into how the cult makes money.
The crew consists of a Whisper, a Slide and a Leech, and I was thinking that maybe they could be hired for more traditional scores between their own scores, but that seems a little clumsy and still turns their income down to a trickle.
Any advice would be much appriciated!
I feel your pain.
I said to my group “any crew other than a Cult as I’m not sure how to do them”.
Their reaction, since they love to make me twitch, was “cult then, definitely being a cult.”
The cult had 5 members and at least 2 of them were not devout believers and would pinch things along the way such as taking an expensive painting while also stealing an important artifact of the Father of the Abyss.
Aside from that I was happy to handwave that they had money coming in from supporters of the cult and leave it at that.
I did struggle with how some of the types of score would be interpreted for a cult but after the first few scores they were mostly coming up with their own agenda and it wasn’t such an issue.
The ending of our game, after our finale “The Raising”, was highlighted by the Tycherosi whisper’s statement, “Well people are just going to have to accept that there’s a demon on the city council now!”
I’ve always assumed that every crew type dabbles in all the criminal endeavour - and that the suggested scores are the thematic core to their activities, not the full extent.
For example, I ran a game for a crew of bravos, but not every score was smash-and-grabs and fighting in the street. We had spooky cult-like scores, and sneaky thief-like scores. Likewise, I would imagine that a cult also does theft and murder and blackmail and anything else they need to do to get coin.
If I was running a game for a cult, that’s how I would pace it - one or two “mundane” jobs to fund their activities, in between regular “set piece” cult scores that push their own agenda.
It’s also worth remembering that Doskvol is full of ghosts, cults, and secret societies, and that the relationship between private citizens and the world of the occult is heavily regulated by the church and the spirit wardens. I think there’s plenty of scope for cults to be hired as private ghost busters, or an illegal alternative to spirit wardens, or to accomplish dark acts (on behalf of paying patrons) that the church would frown on. Or to work for other, larger, cults that have similar beliefs or goals (at least until your brand of heresy threatens to become more popular than their brand of heresy). Or perhaps your cult has parishioners who have their own dark deeds that need doing (in exchange for a generous donation to your cult, of course).
These are some excellent ideas, some of which I was partially leaning toward, but more that I hadn’t considered. Thanks very much for the input!
I had a group of cultists that from the first score decided that the cornerstone of their rituals will be drugs. In few sessions they converted to hawkers and never looked back.
Yeah, Cult is the one which can expect less money straight from scores. What we do is kind of balance the money as income from donations, selling relics and offering services. The more daring your scores, the more money you can expect from impressed people and hopeful new adepts.
This is a bit of a campaign-specific excuse, but my players worshipped a goddess of secrets and blackmail, so whenever they expanded her reach, she could cause money to flow back to them, indirectly.
My group had trouble with this, too, and they’re Hawkers! We’re more used to traditional games where you rifle the pockets of everyone you kill and mark down 20 gp worth of opals, etc. So when bags of silver and precious gems or artifacts don’t come with the scores organically, we still sort of wonder how 4 coin were made. The coin they get from their Vice Den has a clear provenance. The rest not so much.
Our last session was entirely social and was about spreading rumors and innuendo to force a candy store owner to get out of the business so they could take it over as a front. There was literally no direct coin involved from anyone—if anything, the Hawkers now have to pay rent on the candy store! So how’d they get 4 coin for a standard complexity score? Ongoing operations, of course.
I’m trying to figure out how to make this feel a little less like passing Go in Monopoly without resorting to counting coins and gems, which I and my players find tedious.
On the other hand, we have no trouble just assuming the crew has plenty of actual money for their ongoing Tier 1-type operations. We’ve never felt the need yet to make Fortune rolls or anything like that because they’ve never tried to buy really expensive stuff.
I had the realization recently that, as a Blades GM, it’s not my job to come up with how my players’ crew makes money. The tension between getting to do what you want and having the money to support yourselves is intentional - and a big part of it is the players’ agency and responsibility. It’s part of the conversation and the shared creation of the fiction.
A cult may want to spend all their time on nefarious activities to summon their dark god, but the reality is they have bills to pay. How they choose to deal with that reality is an awesome part of the story.
I’d recommend 2 things:
First, ask the players what they do. When they want money, they’ll get creative. With just the threads from character and crew creation, they can ask contacts for leads, attack rivals, and steal from enemies.
Second, I’d say look at your world and your starting scenario. What factions exist around this cult that know them and want to lean on them (and their crew specialties/reputation) to further their own needs? This is your part of the game as GM. Do the Spirit Wardens need to smack down another group (another cult, maybe, with powerful patrons the wardens don’t want to piss off by directly intervening?), and see the pc crew as a tool they could use? Does the ward boss want them to get rid of a ghost or a rival’s pet demon? In any case, there’s likely some coin involved.
These relationships (and their symbiotism or antagonism) can be good for a random job or two, but can also create the fodder for an entire campaign if the crew decides to latch on to any of these friends or enemies.
In the long run, it’s your job to support their choices and offer honest (to the fiction) consequences and rewards. If things are rough, or you’re inspired, you can offer an opportunity based on a relationship they already have, or just an idea you had for something that seems fun. But I’d say definitely let them share the responsibility for their finances.
I always thought it was a feature of the Cult crew that they could get coin indirectly and it would make more sense than any other crew.
They are serving some higher power right? Coincidences can suddenly be hand-waved as that invisible hand influencing the world for pious worshipers.
It’s already established in the setting that if you want something you have to take it from somebody else. That’s even the core of the faction system, war, etc. So who is to say that Duskvol citizens aren’t going around making “offerings” to the cult’s patron for a turn of fortune? The crew’s score might effect some person on the other side of town, six degrees of Kevin Bacon style. The unnatural nature of supernatural dominoes falling on top of each other just supports the other-worldness of having a god-like presence being the focus of your life.
So let the crew set their own agenda. Have coin show up with weird people and in weird places as “offerings” to their god. (Also never forget that coin doesn’t always have to “money”, it could be physical goods, weapons, etc. that could be sold off). Hell, people might throw coin at the crew to stop doing creepy stuff in their neighborhood too, which is basically a protection racket…
Oh where were you with your cool ideas when i was running the crew!
I’m currently running a Ghost Lines game where some weirdness is creeping in so I might use some of these “random” offerings to unsettle the players.
Yeah, you could mix all kinds of creepy stuff in with the valuables.
Why does the crew keep finding pieces of bone mixed in with their valuables? All of these bones are from the same skeleton, right? What happens when all the pieces are assembled? Why does it not look quite human? Etc…
My players picked a cult as well. I’ve been handling income in a few different ways.
Firstly, we made a collective assumption that the ‘minimum’ 2 coin reward represents business as usual - i.e. they didn’t get any direct profit from the score, but they still get some income from the turf they hold. A mix of protection money from honest businesses and a tithe from other scoundrels there.
Beyond that, they’ve mostly been hired as occult troubleshooters by folk who can’t go to the Spirit Wardens:
So, the Billhooks are suddenly doing much better in their gang war with Ulf Ironborn, and the word is that they’ve got a new-in-town witch spying on him. Not really Ulf’s specialty, but he knows this bunch of occultists…
Or a senior member of the Red Sashes wants an old painting retrieved from a decrepit Six Towers mansion. But the resident of that mansion doesn’t seem to be entirely human, their first attempt went really badly, and they don’t want to lose any more of their own people.
Each Crew playbook comes with 4 default types of scores (criminal activities), and the book implies that doing your criminal activities is supposed to generate coin. So I’d argue that when the Cult successfully pulls off a big sacrifice or consecration or acquires a relic or does some augury, they should end up with some money. You could put the money-making opportunity in as a coincidence, if you like – the artifact they needed was being kept in a safe with some cash, the person or object they need to sacrifice is wealthy or has a bounty on them, etc. You could say that the money comes in the form of donations from followers or patrons. The more impressive activities the cult pulls off, the more eagerly their followers give. The Offertory claim (a formal place to collect donations) increases the coin payoff for your occult scores, so I think it’s implied that tithes may be a big part of your funding.
Personally I think the most fun option is to find a way for your god to pay the cultists directly. If they worship the Lord of Depths or the Blood-Dimmed Tide, then the god can probably dredge up sunken treasure.