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Play Matt: Delta Green The Role-Playing Game Review

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25 Oct 2021 06:00 #327416 by Matt Thrower
Enter Delta Green, a 1997 sourcebook for the game. It’s...

Call of Cthulhu has always enjoyed an exalted reputation among role-playing games, despite being based on the stories of the arch-racist H.P Lovecraft. But my early experiences didn’t chime with that acclaim. Despite some fantastic scenario design, the 1920’s setting felt difficult for modern players, at once too far to easily internalise and too close to just fantasise. Player motivation felt forced, and giving stat blocks to unbeatable extra-dimensional deities cheapened them.

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25 Oct 2021 12:29 #327417 by Shellhead
I'm a big fan of the Call of Cthulhu rpg, at least up until the 5th edition or so. But I didn't like the Delta Green material that I saw in issues of The Unspeakable Oath, primarily because I felt that the government conspiracy stuff was what eventually ruined the X-Files tv show. I also think that the Roaring 20s was a great setting for the rpg, because it was such a dynamic decade. There were still enough unmapped locations in the world to hide mythos activity, but significant technological advances offered very different adventures in cities. Hollywood was just getting started, Prohibition led to a large increase in organized crime, and Europe was still recovering from a major war. Jazz, art deco, women's suffrage, psychoanalysis, etc. By contrast, the modern world is too comfortably familiar, and the GM will need to thwart mobile phones in many situations.

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25 Oct 2021 12:47 #327420 by jpat
I picked up some of the PDFs in a Humble Bundle. I haven't gotten very far into the player's book, but the flavor text is exceptionally good.

I have some very, very tangential relationship to Delta Green, as The Unspeakable Oath was originally being produced at Mizzou when I was going there, and I interviewed some of the people who worked on it for a journalism story. So I have a DG soft spot, as it were.

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25 Oct 2021 17:14 #327428 by jason10mm
I always thought that if a Lovecraft story could be resolved with a Thompson submachine gun it was a failure as a story :P

That kind of stuff was always more Howards field, or the other ancillary mythos guys like Derleth. As much as I love "guns guns guns", when paired with cosmic horror it always falls short, at least in creating tension (Monster Hunter International is a lot of fun to read, tense and creepy it is not). I think I've read some DG stuff, might be confabulating it with Lumley, Stross, or someone like that.

Does this have a lot of occult artifacts or magic items? Things like the Laundry Files basilisk gun? That kind of stuff is always fun to read even if I don't play the game that comes along with it.

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25 Oct 2021 17:44 #327429 by Shellhead
Ideally, guns would only work on cultists, but CofC adventure writers often throw a bone to the gun bunny players by making a variety of monsters at least partially vulnerable to gunfire. That's assuming that player characters successfully make their sanity checks when they see the monsters. In my personal experience, a lot of role-players are willing to try Call of Cthulhu, but some give up after one disappointing experience with guns. The people with the D&D mindset are looking for a dungeon crawl with guns, and they tend to go away bitter. Other players quickly learn that the key to a successful Call of Cthulhu adventure is to find out as much as possible before encountering a monster, and to run away from the monster after encountering it.
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25 Oct 2021 18:18 #327430 by dysjunct
Delta Green has some artifacts, but they are always a Bad Idea. I think in one of the scenarios that has a random 2x4 with a mathematical equation carved into it. Some of the symbols look weird. The board constantly projects a 10G wall of force from the side that has the equation on it. Don’t walk between it and the wall. DG would love to figure out how it works; unfortunately the guy who figured out the equation was standing in the wrong place when he put the finishing symbol.

Generally I think DG is the only coherent way to run modern CoC. Between the internet and cellphones, everyone would know all about the mythos UNLESS you had an active conspiracy suppressing knowledge of it.

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26 Oct 2021 05:17 - 26 Oct 2021 05:18 #327433 by Matt Thrower

Shellhead wrote: I'm a big fan of the Call of Cthulhu rpg, at least up until the 5th edition or so. But I didn't like the Delta Green material that I saw in issues of The Unspeakable Oath, primarily because I felt that the government conspiracy stuff was what eventually ruined the X-Files tv show.


This is why I'm glad to see it's been sidelined in this new edition. But at the same time ...

Shellhead wrote: By contrast, the modern world is too comfortably familiar, and the GM will need to thwart mobile phones in many situations.


... the fact it's still presented as a secret government agency makes this much easier to deal with. That's not a comfortably familiar world for most players, especially with the secrets of the mythos, and the fact it needs to be contained makes mobiles and the internet as much of a liability as an asset.

It may be that the '20s are more familiar to US players than to me as a Brit. When running games in the '20s it's hard to remember that things like prohibition even happened, because it's not my history, let alone how it might impact the unfolding narrative.
Last edit: 26 Oct 2021 05:18 by Matt Thrower.

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26 Oct 2021 05:21 #327434 by Matt Thrower

jason10mm wrote: I always thought that if a Lovecraft story could be resolved with a Thompson submachine gun it was a failure as a story :P


I don't feel that's too much of a problem here. Despite the presence of automatic weapons, a lot of the entities that players encounter are too tough for them to shoot their way out. And there's a clear emphasis in the scenario design away from firefights and toward investigation and containment: it's hard to keep things quiet if you're going to have a mass shootout with an unspeakable entity from the nether dimensions.
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28 Oct 2021 19:14 - 28 Oct 2021 21:31 #327509 by Sagrilarus
I just think something like this could detach from Lovecraft in a dozen possible ways and get some clear air to run in. Is the IP so damn valuable that no one will do that?

It’s not just Lovecraft’s personal baggage. The genre has been so heavily worked . . . I don’t know. Maybe everyone still loves it in spite of the overuse and the racism.
Last edit: 28 Oct 2021 21:31 by Sagrilarus.

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28 Oct 2021 20:11 - 28 Oct 2021 20:13 #327513 by jason10mm
I don't think many associate "Cthulhu mythos" with racism at all. How many folks consuming Arkham Horror have ever read Lovecraft? He has been so distilled as a free IP that I don't think there is a lot of value in trying to tie the current idea of his brand of cosmic horror with him specifically, especially since a lot of his more problematic issues can be easily excised or retconed or just smoothed over.

Every creator is problematic in some way, or will become so in time. Every creation is at least partially rooted in the culture and times of its birth and good or bad ideas come with it.

Just remember that Cthulhu hates all of us equally :p

I do agree that cosmic horror could use more fresh air. In time more stuff will enter public domain and make it easy to source from.
Last edit: 28 Oct 2021 20:13 by jason10mm.

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