Cultist Simulator Starting Hints (Spoiler-free and -lite!)

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Cultist Simulator is one of my favorite games (on desktops, and now on Switch as well!), but the early game can be a bit... unfriendly to beginners. The UI is intentionally a bit sparse, lending the "tarot" aspect to it, but that can make it confusing to navigate until you learn your way around.

Here's some beginner tips to get you started; initially spoiler-free, and later (clearly marked) spoiler-lite.

Spoiler-free Starter Tips

  • Experiment, experiment, experiment. Often the thing you're missing is just combining a card with a verb you didn't realize would go with it. Try things out!
  • Read, read, read. Read every card. Read every verb result. Don't neglect the little aspect boxes at the bottom of cards and active verbs, they give important information!
  • Related to both of the above: Click on a card; it'll briefly highlight what verbs it could go in. Click on a verb's slot; it'll briefly highlight all the cards that can go in it. You might be surprised what you can do!
  • Even a card that "doesn't do anything" in a given verb might give useful information when you slot it in anyway. Read, experiment, read, experiment.
  • Pause constantly. Pause any time a verb finishes, so you can read the results in peace and figure out your next move.
  • The various bits of story you get out of books (clicking on the book initially; reading the verb summary when you first put it in; and reading the verb result after you finish reading it) often have hints about advanced topics. Take notes when something sounds significant, particularly if it sounds like the author might be talking about using a particular aspect for something.
  • Level up your core aspects (Health, Reason, Passion) at least a little bit; it's pretty easy to gain the first few levels and it'll make things a lot less fraught.
  • The primary grind you have to deal with is keeping yourself solvent (easy after a bit), and keeping yourself from accumulating Dread or Fascination when the bad Seasons come up. Figuring out how to manage those is key to reaching the end-game.
  • Speaking of Seasons, read the Time Passes verb. The little icon in the corner tells you what season's coming up, so you have 60 seconds to prepare for it if it's gonna be bad. The progression of seasons is the primary RNG in the game, and staying on top of them is vital for avoiding problems.
  • If you're playing on Switch, use the Up d-pad button! You default to only seeing your "permanent" verbs; all your "temporary" verbs spawned as a result of a Season or various actions go in a separate pane that Up switches to! If you don't check this regularly you will absolutely die.

Spoiler-lite Starter Tips

Here I'll give some tips that technically skip a tiny bit of learning, but only the tiniest bit, and are really important for getting the ball rolling.

  • Whatever your starting scenario, use all your initial cards, and the results of using those cards, until you get all five of your basic Action Verbs (Work/Study/Talk/Dream/Explore).

  • Right away, Work your Health to get Vitality, and turn the first two you get into the Strength skill. Then keep working and studying those vitalities until you get it upgraded to level 2. With luck you've avoided getting injured so far (if not, Dream the injury with a vitality to get the health back); at level 2, the Strength skill has a 0% chance of injury. This is a dependable skill for keeping your money supply steady in the early game. It's easy to use your steady Vitality gain to level up to 3 as well. (Save the last level for a bit, see below.)

  • Once that's up, Study your Reason and Passion to get Erudition/Glimmer and use those to level up your stats as well. Getting each new skill to level 2 is easy and quick. Leveling to 3 is harder until you find Essay/Poetry books or find Sulochana.

  • In the meantime, Talk to your one follower to establish your cult. Then Talk with lore to start gathering cult followers. Don't worry about the Mystique; as long as you don't actually do crimes it's harmless. Getting a large following is vital, and the earlier you do it the better.

  • Similarly, Explore with your followers until you get all three of the starting locations. Whenever you have spare money, spend it at the bookstore until it's empty, then hit the Auction house until it's empty as well. Study all those books for your starting lores and languages.

  • Dream your way into the Mansus by using Passion, then try out lores until you find one that gives a promising message in the verb. (Read, read, read!) Getting into the Mansus is the primary way to find Secret History lore, which is how you Explore for more lores and items after the bookstore/auction is emptied out. Other than that, the Mansus is 50% influences by weight, plus some moods and a few ~secrets~. Take notes on what you get from each location, so you know where to return to when you need something in particular later. You'll get further into the Mansus with higher-level lores.

  • Explore with a Secret Histories lore to get a location, then explore that location. It'll cost some money, so make sure you've got the scratch. Once the minimum requirements are met the verb summary will give vague hints about what's in store; once the exploration has started and gotten past the first 10s cycle, read the little icons on the verb to see exactly what you'll face and how to defeat it. Add followers with the right aspects when you get the chance (you can add two things, followers or money, between each obstacle); >=1 gives you a small success chance, >=5 gives you moderate success chance, >=10 gives you large success chance (but never 100%). Note that this is a score in one relevant lore; sending 5 Knock and 5 Lantern against a Secret Door obstacle just results in a moderate success chance as it picks one lore to use. You can see your combined lore totals at the bottom of the verb.

    If you're scared about what might come up, you can always just send a hireling with a single Funds to scout the location first, so you can figure out who to actually send for a successful run. (Tho beware of Curses this way.) The obstacles will be the same every time.

  • Having trouble with influences or hirelings timing out before you can use them? Talk about them with someone! While a card is sitting in a slot, its timer doesn't go down. Sulochana, a Patron, is particularly useful for this, as she'll Talk about literally anything for a minute. If you have a pair of hirelings or spirits, have them talk to each other. Use Sulochana to get your Reason/Passion to level 3 or 4, as she can keep your first Lessons Learned alive long enough to use.

  • Talking does not prevent a card from getting grabbed by a "magnet" slot; it only loosely holds them. However, many actions do effectively "hide" cards from magnets (anything that you can't immediately retrieve the card from), and can save your ass in a tight spot. Painting with your Creativity skill is a great way to hide pesky Notoriety when the detective season is coming up, for example.

  • Talk to your cultists about your Cult to get them to do "cult business". Each cultist type (depending on their aspect) has a different type of business they can do, and several are very important. Experiment!

  • Maxing out your skills (level 4) requires a lore. Try out the different lores, as only some have an effect, and there are different possibilities. Each choice helps in different ways later in the game.

  • Dealing with Dread is simple - Dream with Funds to gain Contentment; you can then either Dream the Dread and Contentment together to get rid of it preemptively, or let the Season Of Dread grab one of each and cancel itself out. Occasionally you'll get sick from this; that's fine, just work your Strength to get some vitality to treat it. Still cheap and easy.

  • Dealing with Fascination is harder - Dream with Dread or Fleeting Reminiscence. There are several ways to grab those; sacrificing a Health (or letting an Injury linger until it expires) to get a Decrepitude, which you can Work to give you a high chance of Dread, is the most reliable, but Mansus runs (especially White Door) are pretty good too.

  • Another easy way to deal with either of these is to realize that they count as Influences. (Read their cards! It's right at the bottom!) This means you can use them in cult promotions or in Rituals (at least, ones that consume influence). Use them even if you don't need 'em, they'll still get used up! You can also, if the correct "real" influence is sitting around, subvert them to level up the "real" influence with Study. Restlessness, which decays into Dread, is a particularly useful mood for this, as it has 2 points each of five different aspects. It's great for summoning.

  • Rites are all the same; you can cast any spell with any rite. The only difference is in what they consume: every rite takes a Lore and two more ingredients chosen from {person, tool, ingredient, influence}, and consumes one of the things you put in. The rites you get from the Auction House are gonna be your main ones for the whole game, as they consume Influences (you know, those things that decay anyway), but the other rites can be useful in different circumstances.

    (Oh, and remember to click on the "Projector" slot when you're Studying STUMM!. It doesn't require what you probably think it requires.)

  • The most important thing you can do with Rites is summoning spirits; for this you'll always need Knock (as the help text states). The other rituals have some value, but mostly you'll be summoning. Play around with aspects and read (!) the help text to figure out how you can summon spirits; I recommend writing down your results on what aspect are needed, and how much, and where to easily get those aspects, so you're not frantically slamming things together when you realize you need a particular spirit.

    Note that most spirits already have the non-Knock aspects you need to summon them, so they can be used to summon more of themselves with an easy Sunset Rite when you need an army, or at least a spare so you can send the first one off to do something risky. (And don't forget, this means you'll have the Influence slot free in Sunset Rite to dispose of a pesky mood, if necessary.)

    If a spirit gets frisky during summoning, unless it's absolutely vital you get the spirit, just dismiss it with Reason. It's 100% reliable and safe, and you can just try again later. Using Passion to force the summoning is risky.

  • Once your Vitality is maxed, Working with Reason will get you an office job. It's another reliable way to keep yourself fed, but won't gain you much money; basically its profit is just slightly higher per second than working a high-level Strength, but it takes twice as long so there's less micro. If you get the good promotion it actually can be a reliable income source for a while, but it will eventually get in your way, as you can't take the necessary time off to do rituals and write essays. Still, it's a reliable way to get you into the midgame.

  • The midgame starts when you're finally Exploring locations, have a good set of cultists, and have collected all your Patrons. Once you can start taking Patron commissions (and have the lore to reliably complete them), you can finally quit your job, as occasionally auctioning off the rewards from commissions will make you far more money. Build up lore, accumulate items, make your cult strong.

  • Eventually you'll have enough ~stuff~ to feel like entering the endgame. Play around with your Temptation; the game will give you hints about how to proceed. Figuring out how to actually complete the game is part of the fun. There are six major "good" endings in the base game (three "base" and three NG+), several more in the DLCs, and the Exile DLC is almost an entirely new game. There's also a score of minor endings, both good and bad, which will earn you Steam Achievements, so don't feel bad about dying. It's Fun!

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