This is the same problem that the alignment system has, why are cults always shoved into these roles? Are cults intrinsically bad? Apparently they all suck and the PCs should feel good destroying them.
|I'd be in Jason Sudeikis' cult|
I am wayyyy more into the Portlandia imagining of a cult, built around a singular personality and at the least internally logical and appealing. Like I want to build cults that your players might actually get tricked into joining. Think how great it will be when they realize they have been the bad guys the whole time!
Build a Better Cult
This is what Wikipedia, the best of sources, has to say about cults:
"The term "cult" usually refers to a social group defined by common religious beliefs. It is from Latin cultus (worship). This, in turn, was derived from the adjective cultus (inhabited, cultivated, worshiped). A cult may be sharply or diffusely bounded, and share a commitment to a charismatic leader, organization, or transcendental ideology, which may be expressed through effective, socially established and ordered forms or in concrete external actions performed within the congregation or community. Cults range in size from local groups with a few members to international organizations with millions."
This is a good summary of where we get our fantasy ideas of cults:
"Doomsday cults predict and in some cases try to bring about the end of the world. Political cults are active in politics, most often on either the left or right extreme. Destructive cults engage in actions that are harmful to their members or to other people. Racist cults promote racism, and sometimes violence. Polygamist cults, which are sometimes on the fringes of main-stream religions, practice polygamy. Terrorist cults promote terrorism, often for political goals."These are all the bad things we have seen cults do. You usually don't hear too much about the quite cult-esque communities that are simply trying to live in an alternative way. Hell, monasteries might even look like a cult, a group living communally and practicing a shared belief system for self improvement. We generally view monasteries as beautiful and quite introspective places, but cults as communities of delusion and poisonous ideology.
Obviously the line is fine, so lets make it super blurry and give our players something to think about instead of unquestioningly exterminating them. Because most of the PC's are probably in/from some sort of insular community (druid circles, monk monastaries, cleric churches, wizard schools, etc...), they should hesitate before juding others living in similar ways.