The Compound

A DramaSystem Series Brief

A cult leader and his flock establish a new compound to shelter themselves from a hostile world. But the world isn’t done with them yet.


The players portray the leader of a cult, his family, and others in his circle. Example characters:

  • The leader himself. Since the typical cult leader behaves like a monstrous villain, you might decide to instead relegate him to supporting character status. Historically abusive sect leaders have all been men. You might choose to gender flip this, resulting in either a nonstandard cult, or a benign but misunderstood wacky sect. The second choice radically alters the tone of your series.
  • The leader’s original and/or primary spouse.
  • An additional spouse or spouses, if the cult overtly practices polygamy.
  • Sect member(s) covertly sharing the leader’s bed, if not.
  • The outwardly respectable factotum who interacts with the outside world.
  • The taciturn fixer who covertly solves the cult’s outside problems in effective but underhanded ways.
  • The doubter, beginning to question the leader’s edicts.
  • The firebrand, urging the leader to more extreme defenses of the sacred ways.
  • Children or grandchildren to the leader.
  • The leader’s siblings.

Backstory Questionnaire

Fill out the details of your cult using the rotating question method.

Is this cult an extreme offshoot of a more accepted denomination?

If so, which one?

If not, which occult tradition do the prophet’s revelations extensively plagiarize?

Is the cult leader also its founding visionary?

If not, who was the founder and why is this person no longer in charge?

Also if not, what changes did the current leader make to cult doctrine and practice?

Does the cult overtly practice polygamy?

If not, does the cult leader carry on affairs with members of the flock?

Aside from disobedience to the leader, which sin must cult members never commit?

After that, what is the second worst offense a member can engage in?

Does cult doctrine predict an imminent apocalypse, in which its members will be raised up, and its enemies cast down?

If so, have past dates for this event already come and gone?

If so, how did the leader rationalize this?

The cult has recently relocated, quickly using group labor to construct a new temple and compound in an isolated area. In what largely rural state does the action of this series take place?

What event precipitated your relocation?

Does the cult currently maintain an armory full of guns?

Supporting Cast

In addition to GMCs inside the cult who fill roles mentioned under “Characters” but not filled by players, the supporting cast might include:

  • Steve Morales, the local sheriff who doesn’t want trouble but doesn’t like the looks of that compound.
  • Amy Dalhart, town mayor, whose first response to any conflict is to paper it over.
  • Doris Meacham, crusading churchgoer and business owner who wants the cult run out of town, pronto.
  • Esteban Chang, investigative journalist, whose desire to write an award-winning piece on the conflict between cult and community earns welcome from neither.
  • The leader’s excommunicated brother, who hopes to either regain his spot among the elect, or blow the lid off the cult’s criminal activities.

Given the abuses inherent in a typical cult, run this only with full buy-in from your entire group.

Hillfolk is a game of high-stakes interpersonal conflict by acclaimed designer Robin D. Laws. Using its DramaSystem rules, you and your friends can weave enthralling sagas of Iron Age tribes, Regency socialites, border town drug kingpins, a troubled crime family, posthuman cyberpunks and more. Purchase Hillfolk and its companion Blood in the Snow in the Pelgrane Shop.

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