Monday, July 30, 2012

Delta Green "Legal" PDFs on sale at RPG Now

Getting a hold of Delta Green books has been something of an ordeal in recent years.  Copies of the main Delta Green book, and Eyes Only can be found off of Arkham Bazaar (with rather egregious shipping).  If one looked hard enough, and was unscrupulous enough to swipe books off of P2P, one could find a perfect copy of Targets of Opportunity, the latest sourcebook, and truly awful scans of the main Delta Green sourcebook and Delta Green: Countdown.  But finding legal, reasonably priced hard or softcover of some of these books, particularly Countdown, has been well nigh impossible.

To put this in perspective, copies of the Hardcover 2007 (revised with d20 Stats for the ill-fated d20 Call of Cthulhu) version of Delta Green can be found new for $40 off of Arkham Bazaar.  However, Delta Green: Countdown, first published in 1999, has been a lot harder to find in recent much so that I paid $105 last year off of Ebay for a mint condition softcover.

As a member of the Delta Green mailing list, I was very excited to get home today and learn that the much promised deal by Pagan Publishing and Arc Dream Publishing to get the existing print only Delta Green books into PDF format is live.

You can now pick up the first two Delta Green sourcebooks (Delta Green, and Delta Green: Countdown) off of RPG Now.  They're apparently available in both PDF and Print On Demand.

Apparently work is afoot to get the rest of Pagan's back catalog, including the other two Delta Green Sourcebooks, Eyes Only and Targets of Opportunity, as well as some of their non-Delta Green Mythos offerings in the coming months available via PDF & POD shortly as well.  Having never picked up Targets of Opportunity, I look forward to picking up a copy when it comes out.

It's also worth noting that the various novels and short fiction collections set in the Delta Green setting can also be found via PDF off of RPGNow as well.

If you're into Call of Cthulhu, and are at all intrigued by the Delta Green setting (which I did a review of earlier this month), check it out.  You won't find a better deal, believe me.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Emberverse: The Story So Far

OK.  I'll admit it.  I'm a sucker from Post-Apocalyptic stories and adventures.  From my original reading of Richard Matheson's I Am Legend to seeing a young pre-Miami Vice Don Johnson traipsing around a weird post-apocalyptic future in A Boy and His Dog to more conventional fare like the Mad Max series, The Day After, Jericho, etc.  I've enjoyed a number of great post-apocalyptic stories and played or run a few post-apocalyptic games, including Gamma World, and most recently, my current favorite, Darwin's World for d20 Modern.

Still, in a day and age when there is no obvious threat of nuclear war (conservative paranoia about Iran aside), and there are far more pressing concerns on the environmental front, nuclear post-apocalyptic survival stories look about as dated today as Cold War spy thrillers. In a day and age where the Department of Agriculture reports that 88% of the US corn crop is basically being trashed by a drought...where whole Pacific islands in Micronesia are being abandoned because rising sea levels are causing ridiculous amounts of flooding, or in some cases have risen to the point that there simply is no fresh water available on the island, it seems more than likely that if mankind is going to engineer its own destruction, it will be through global warming by burning too many fossil fuels, not some cataclysmic nuclear exchange (although such a scenario as an endgame where the world's powers compete for ever shrinking pools of resources isn't completely out of the realm of possibility). Unfortunately, mass death by global warming isn't quite as sexy as a game with implausible man-sized insects, and mutated humans and other critters in a post-nuclear setting, so this particular scenario generally gets ignored by RPGs, except perhaps as a peripheral issue in some cyberpunk settings.

And then there's something like S M Stirling's Dies the Fire, which along with its companion Nantucket trilogy, takes the modern world and shakes it up like an 8 year old kid who got a hold of his older brother's ant farm.

The base premise of the Nantucket trilogy, and its spinoff Emberverse series (the first novel of which is Dies the Fire), is that on March 17, 1998 (St. Patrick's Day, as it were) the modern day Nantucket Island is transported back nearly 3000 years to the Bronze Age, and effectively swapped with the Bronze Age Nantucket Island, which is transported to 1998.

The Nantucket Trilogy sees a post-industrial island dropped back into the Bronze Age, and is a tale of the small island's survival in a world where it boasts advanced technology, but not much of an industrial base to sustain it...literally an island of the 20th Century regressing, but still 3000 years ahead in technical knowledge compared to the world around it.

Dies the Fire takes a look at our world, after the swap of Nantucket Island, and the resulting change of physical laws that alters the world.  Specifically, a handful of physical laws simply stop working.  Electrical systems no longer work, including electronics, power generation, batteries, and any devices dependent upon electricity.  Gunpowder, and other explosives don't work, effectively knocking weapon technology back to high medieval, pre-gunpowder days.  And finally, high gaseous pressure systems (compressed air, compressed fuel, etc.) cease to function.  Goodbye internal combustion, all but the earliest and least efficient of steam engines, etc.  The novel then follows  two groups of survivors trying to survive a treacherous first year, through the initial dieoffs, the emergence of warlords all in Central Oregon.

It's been my goal since reading the Emberverse series in particular to run it as a setting.  I struggled to find a setting to run it with until I got hooked on Chaosium's venerable Basic Roleplaying (BRP) system, which contained a combination of ease of use (unlike GURPS), and a grittiness that is missing from other generic systems like Savage Worlds or the various flavors of d20.  So over the past few months, I've been tweaking BRP to run Emberverse.

We finished our fourth session today.  I'll be posting a report of the first few sessions in the next few days, along with a writeup of today's session.  Until then, consider this a teaser.  Also, in future posts, I'll provide documents on what I changed or added to the system, and finally, some character designs and other goodies.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition: My Thoughts.

The Unspeakable Oath has a post up about the upcoming Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition.  It looks like, unlike 6th Edition, which basically took 5th Edition and relaid it out in a nearly unreadable font, that this will be a major rewrite.

I like a few of the proposed changes.  Removing Fast-Talk and adding Charm and Intimidate seems like a good idea.  CofC has cried out for the need for an Intimidate skill for a while.

I'm lukewarm on the characteristic changes, though I think the old Characteristic x Multiplier was hardly a difficult thing to get used to.

I really, really don't like the changes to Luck.  I personally loathe excess resource management in games.  Too wargamey for me most times.  If I want players to spend points out of a pool, I might as well go pick up Trail of Cthulhu.  This change is a tough sell, and likely would be the first thing I house ruled out.

The changes to the Idea roll sounds like a great idea.

Frankly, there's not enough information about Sanity for me to talk about, but I do like the sound of constantly tagging back to the same indefinite insanity you developed earlier.

Anyway, I'll probably pick up 7th Ed when it comes much I run it depends on what it looks like when Chaosium gets done with it.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The What Have You Been Doing Lately Post

It's been a while since I did one of these, and I kind of like the moment in time feel of them.

Last (non-RPG) Book I've Read...

The Third Secret by Steve Berry.

Treading much the same ground as Dan Brown's terrible novel turned into a mediocre movie, Angels & Demons.  This one treads much the same ground.  In this case, the camerlengo is the hero, the Pope is murdered (and anticipates it), and the newly elected Pope pretty seems like he modeled his life after the Borgia Family.  It's a better read just because the characters involved in a lot of instances have conflicting agendas and loyalties.  Worth a read if you enjoyed either of Dan Brown's novels that tread the same territory, as I consider Berry to be a better writer.

This would make a great d20 Modern Blood & Relics game, if I ever found the time or the group.

Last Music Listened To...

Black Rain, Original Soundtrack, Hans Zimmer

I've been on a soundtracks kick again recently, and I've been collecting a lot of Hans Zimmer's early work.  While his later stuff is a lot more orchestral, and enters the same bombastic territory occupied by John Williams, a lot of his earlier stuff is more synth/light orchestra/chorale heavy, and trades the same ground as some of Vangelis's early stuff.  Most recently, I picked up a copy of the Black Rain soundtrack.  The movie was eh...but the soundtrack just screams cyberpunk to me...without being quite as familiar as the Blade Runner soundtrack, but treading some of the same ground.  It may wind up at the gaming table some day for a cyberpunk or neo-noir game.

Last Movie Watched...


Rewatched Inception a couple of days ago.  I tend to watch more TV series than movies these days.  I don't go to many movies and I tend to occasionally go on DVD/Blu Ray buying binges.  I'm about due for another one.  Anybody got any suggestions?  I'll certainly be picking up John Carter (I'm a Burroughs fan) and a few others.

Last Television Watched...

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Heroes, Supernatural, Fringe, every Sunday night.

I don't have cable, and I don't have Netflix (though the later should be rectified soon), as I read a lot more than I watch, but the family and I got in a habit of watching television series on DVD a few years back on Sunday nights, starting with Firefly and the reimagined Battlestar Galactica.  Since that time, we've worked our way through X-Files, seasons 1-9, and are currently working our way through Heroes, Buffy, Supernatural, and Fringe.

Supernatural is brilliant.  If you haven't been watching it, you're making a big mistake.  We're about halfway through Season 5, and loving it.

Buffy I saw bits of this series on the WB back in the day, but frankly I worked a lot of nights during its run, and I missed a lot more of it than I remembered.  It's been fun, though frankly, I thought the series may have jumped the shark in Season 4 a bit, and I'm hoping Season 5 (which we started just a few weeks ago) tries to restart some of the momentum.

Heroes we just finished Season 1, which was brilliant.  I understand the remaining three seasons represent a huge drop in quality.  But the complete series was $8 a season on a Black Friday special at Target last Christmas, and I'm figuring I'll get $24 of enjoyment out of the last three seasons at some point.

Fringe we just started with Season 1.  Looks like early X-Files with fewer supernatural terrors and more alien weirdness.  I understand it got better with later seasons, but so far, I could take it or leave it.

I'm also collecting True Blood and Game of Thrones as they come out.  Both television series are amazing.

Last RPG Book Purchased...

Physical Books:
Hollow Earth Expedition, Exile Game Studios
Wild Talents Essentials Edition, Arc Dream Publishing

d20 Deadlands Hell on Earth & d20 Deadlands Hell on Earth Horrors of the Weird West
Thrilling Hero Adventures (Hero System)

I'll talk about these in order.  Both were purchased from Darren from Imperial Outpost Games at Conflagration.

Hollow Earth Expedition (HEX) scratches my pulp itch.  For those who know me, pulp, horror, and noir are basically the main themes that run through my games.  Even when I run other systems, they wind up with noir or pulp elements, depending on the mood appropriate for the game.  Although I'm still learning this one, the Ubiquity System looks like it would fairly easy to run, and most of the obvious pulp archetypes can be created readily.

One of the things I like about HEX in particular is that unlike a lot of pulp RPG games and settings, its very tightly focused.  Most pulp games try to cover the gamut from boxing stories, to westerns, to car racing to space, to 1930's adventure yarns, and so on.  HEX's emphasis and inspiration, is based on things like Edgar Rice Burroughs' Pellucidar novels, and other novels using a Hollow Earth or Lost Island style adventures.  The setting is pretty tightly focused on that style of fiction, and doesn't try to be all things to all people.  If somebody's looking to dip their toes in the water with classic 1920-1940 style pulp gaming, you could do worse than HEX.

Wild Talents scratches my One Roll Engine itch.  I've come to admire A Dirty World and Nemesis, and the simplicity of One Roll Engine, so I picked this up for a song.  It's strictly the rules, but I'd probably roll my own as far as setting if and when I ran it anyway.  I mainly just picked it up ($9.99 sticker price, but I got a bit of a deal) to check out the mechanics.  One of these days I'll get around to picking up Reign as well...not enough money, too many games.

The d20 Deadlands stuff is a bit peculiar for me.  I love the Deadlands settings (including Lost Colony and Hell on Earth), not so fond of Deadlands system (or its successor, Savage Worlds, for that matter, which I know puts me in something of a minority).  Thought this might be fun in case I ever try to do a d20 version.  Besides, RPGNow was selling them for $5 apiece as part of their promotion for the recent release of the Savage Worlds compatible Hell on Earth Reloaded.  If nothing else, I've got some more creatures to throw in a Darwin's World game, so it's all good.

Thrilling Hero Adventures is more pulp.  Although I'm great at math, I don't run Hero System, as I prefer not to be that rules heavy these days, but this was a $10 volume, has a number of great pulp adventures, a lot more great pulp ideas, and heck, I'll convert some of it to d20 Modern Thrilling Tales or maybe even Hollow Earth Expedition one of these days.  I usually buy pregen adventures to steal ideas from, rather than run them whole cloth anyway.

What I'm working on currently...

I'm a bit of a gaming floozy.  Even when I've got campaigns running, I like to tinker around with campaign ideas for other genres.

As far as games I'm running, I'm running a Pathfinder game based on RPPR's New World Campaign.  It was originally written for 4E, but I'd rather rip my toenails out than play 4E, so I retrofitted it to Pathfinder.

For Basic Roleplaying (Chaosium's house system), I'm running my take on S M Stirling's Emberverse novel series.  The grittiness of BRP seemed to fit Dies the Fire rather nicely, and its an easy system to adapt to new settings and genres, and an even easier one to teach.

Stuff being worked on, but not run at the moment...

I'm working on another one shot for A Dirty World...going to be setting this during the Cold War, but still toying around with ideas.  No big rush, as con season is about over for Phoenix this year.

We're about to return to our Star Wars Saga Edition campaign, but I'll leave that for another post.  Needless to say I've been working on that.

I'm tinkering with adapting the first scenario from Thrilling Hero Adventures to d20 Modern Thrilling Tales for use as a one shot the next time the mood strikes me.

I'm also working on the beginnings of a cyberpunk setting.  Probably d20 Modern/Future, but I may try it with BRP...I'm not sure which direction I'll go.  It won't be run for a while yet.

I've also been asked to run a Supers game.  I'm actually thinking I may combine this with the Cyberpunk feel, and create sort of a Neo Postmodern/Iron Age in the near future sort of game.  Not sure yet.  At this point I'm just bouncing around ideas in my head, and haven't put pen to paper yet.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Anakin Takes A Bullet: The Story So Far

I'm back to work on the Star Wars Saga Edition game.  As I've said before, it's an alternate universe game entitled "Anakin Takes A Bullet."

The break in official Star Wars canon takes place during the podrace in Episode I.  During the race, there's a scene where Anakin's podracer is grazed by a bullet from a slugthrower shot by a Tusken Raider sniping the race course.  My assumption is that instead of striking his racer, it strikes Anakin in the skull, penetrating.  The combination of the gunshot wound, coupled with the blunt force trauma resulting from the subsequent crash kills him.

The net effect of this is that the A plot of the Star Wars timeline is effectively removed, thus allowing the player characters to become the A plot.  The Skywalker line is gone, so no Anakin, no Luke, no Leia.  The larger sweep of the galaxy is otherwise unaffected, but these deaths cause ripples in the timeline due to the absence of the Skywalkers (and the presence of the party).  The net effect is that the events of the Fall of the Republic seem to be playing out in the background, but there's just enough cognitive dissonance, and just enough new elements being introduced to keep the players just a bit uneasy.

The campaign itself has been episodic in nature, so far, three have been completed and resolved.  After a few months break where the group has been playing other games.  We're probably just a handful of weeks away from Episode 4's start.  Here's what the group has encountered so far:

Episode 1 dealt with the aftermath of Anakin's death and the situation on Tatooine (where Padme, Qui-Gon Jinn, and Obi-Wan Kenobi) are stranded after Watto wins the Naboo Royal Yacht in the podrace).  The Judicial Department reluctant dispatches another group to retrieve the stranded heroes, and see what can be salvaged of the situation in Naboo.  This group, naturally, is the PCs.

The three intrepid heroes are a human noble woman, part of Padme's Royal Handmaidens (and a distant cousin), a male Dug Scoundrel/Pilot who has an uncanny ability to find trouble, only to dig himself out, and a female Miraluka Jedi.

By the time the group reaches Tatooine, both Qui-Gon and Darth Maul are dead, as the lightsaber battle that punctuates Episode I's climax takes place on Tatooine.  Eventually, after a pitstop in Coruscant, where Chancellor Valorum's government has fallen based on his illegal use of the Jedi on Naboo, complicated by the stranding of the group on Tatooine.  In one of the first ripples, corpulent Twi'lek Senator Orn Free Taa pulls enough strings/hands outs enough bribes to become Chancellor.

Eventually the group makes its way to Naboo, where the heroes of the movie, in combination with the player characters, break the Trade Federation's hold on the planet, and Naboo celebrates its liberation.

Episode 2 advances the timeline a couple of years.  Several canonical things that happen in the timeline happen here.  Count Dooku resigns from the Jedi Order.  The Jedi Order begins to suffer a wave of missing Jedi.  Usually younger, recently promoted Jedi Knights, the Order is concerned enough to launch an investigation.

Meanwhile, in the Senate, Chancellor Orn Free Taa, whose greed is exceeded only by his waistline, becomes mired in corruption charges, just like his predecessor.  Calls for his resignation, like a dim echo of those for Finis Valorum just a few years before, can now be heard.

On Naboo, the combination of the loss of the Royal Yacht, the heavy toll in property damage and civilian life taken by the longer occupation by the Trade Federation, and the sense that Naboo's Queen was guided by rather than leading events during the occupation lead to bold calls that Queen Amidala step down, including some voices on the Naboo Royal Council.  While Amidala holds on to her office for the time being, there is a sense that barring a change in the fortunes of the Queen, she will be stepping down at the end of her term.

The group is given the task of following up on the disappearance of one of the missing Jedi, a Jedi whose mission had been to recover a possible Jedi or Sith Holocron on Eriadu.  There, they meet a younger, but every bit as taciturn, Eriadu Lieutenant Governor Wilhuff Tarkin (the same Tarkin of Death Star fame), and look for clues to the whereabout of the missing Jedi.  They find no Jedi, but they do locate the Jedi's ride, a Modified YT-2000 Freighter piloted by a now dead Mon Calamari pilot.  After a violent encounter with a Dark Side Force Adept who has already lost an arm to what she describes as a Sith Lord, she leads them to believe the Jedi may have gone rogue, and locate clues that she may have moved on to Carlass, an outer rim system that is mostly unexplored outside of a small mining colony on the system's mainworld.

Travelling to Carlass, they still fail to locate the Jedi, but do run into a number of beasts that have been twisted by the Dark Side of the force in the form of a crypt of a minor, but previously forgotten Sith Lord.  There, the group battles their way through a variety of Sith Abominations, a Dark Side Spirit, and a pair of fiendish puzzles/traps (I'm fond of that sort of thing at times), before locating what turns out to be a relatively unimportant Sith holocron.

After a stop at Naboo where the group foils an assassination attempt on Padme Amidala's life by a group from the Nebula Front, the group returns to Coruscant, with a vaguely disconcerting feeling that at least one of the missing Jedi Knights has gone to the Dark Side, and a sense that even though they have a better idea what happened to the missing Jedi, and did retrieve the holocron, that there was something more that should have been done by somebody.

Episode III was aimed firmly at the Naboo noble in the party.  The timeline is advanced to roughly six years after Episode I.  On Coruscant, yet another treason trial on Nute Gunray fails to convict him, leaving it very likely that the Neimoidians will walk away consequence free from the illegal occupation of Naboo.  Chancellor Orn Free Taa resigned not long after the conclusion of Episode II, leading to Palpatine being voted in as the new Chancellor.  The political entity that would become the Confederacy of Independent Systems is launched by Count Dooku,  The Trade Federation joins the Confederacy soon after.

Also on Coruscant, a devastating act of terrorism in Westport leads to the destruction of numerous starships, and tens of thousands dead, including two Senators.  As a response, the Senate passes (and the Chancellor signs) the CEASES Act, which creates an exception to some existing civil liberties protections for persons branded by the Chancellor as suspected of committing acts of terrorism.  While some civil libertarians bemoan the loss of liberties, the public, reeling from the Westport bombing, and similar terrorist acts on other core worlds, by and large approves of the measure.

It is against this backdrop of civil strife that the group of player characters is called upon to travel to a seemingly insignificant mining colony in the Outer Rim, Kitos V, a world considering joining with the Confederacy, which happens to be the linchpin of an interlocking string of alliances that could take most of three sectors with it. 

The group travels to Kitos V to meet with the governing council.  They quickly learn that all five members of the council, are less than conventional personalities, with conflicting goals and agendas, and with nobody really acting as it would seem.

Throw in the first real Sith Lord the group has encountered, a group of mercenaries and bounty hunters intent on killing anybody who threatens Ragga's plans, and the group has to tread lightly, finding the pressure points of the various council members, politicking to get their vote, and in some instances confronting the violence of Ragga's thugs head on.  Ultimately, the group is successful in keeping Kitos V loyal to the Republic, but not without grave consequences to the world, and more than one council member.

One other incident has set the table for the fourth episode.  Padme Amidala was assassinated on Naboo.  One of the things the players have been made aware of from the beginning is that events outside of their control will happen outside of their sphere of influence.  This was one such time where this came true.  Simply put, I removed Padme to put the Naboo noble that is a member of the party in a position of influence in Naboo politics.  She has been elected Senator, and the party has effectively been split into two groups...a Jedi focused one that will be investigating rumors of embezzlement from the Republic government offworld, and a politically focused group centered around her as Senator on Coruscant, and dealing with the corrupt nature of politics in the late Republic.

In future posts, I'll provide a few SWSE builds for some of the NPCs I've created, as well as session notes as we run the Episode.  For now, consider this a teaser.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Delta Green: A Review

One of the conceits of a lot of fiction, whether it be movies, television, novels, or even roleplaying games is that the reasons a character is risking life or limb is answered only sketchily, or not at all.  Why is the hero, now up to his neck in dinosaur riding Nazis, on the deck of a spaceship in a decaying orbit above an inhospitalble planet in deep space, or fighting a dragon that just roasted his best friend into ash, still fighting when most of us, when confronted with such danger to life and limb, would more likely stay indoors, order Chinese takeout, and maybe have a glass of wine and watch that episode of Law and Order they missed last night?

This conceit is most keenly felt with horror.  Horror takes this leap of logic to absurd heights, and there is no worse offender than Call of Cthulhu, though other horror games are undoubtedly just as bad about it.  There's no doubt, from Lovecraft's fiction, and from a meatgrinder like Masks of Nyarlathotep, the quintessential Chaosium 1920's CofC campaign, that players who confront the various baddies from the Cthulhu Mythos are pretty much doomed to either go irretrievably mad, or be devoured by some horror from beyond time and space (or likely, some entertaining combination of the two).  In fact, probably the best thing that could happen to your typical Call of Cthulhu character is being stabbed to death by cultists.  Graveyards are filled with the bodies of characters who have died solving Masks of Nyarlathotep.  Whole forests from London to Constantinople and back have been stripped of every last tree to build coffins for the characters who have died in "Horror on the Orient Express."   Never mind that two dozen characters have been killed in a trail of bodies from New York to Kenya, that kindly old history professor you met in Kenya is just eager as punch to have his head cut off in a ritualistic murder in Shanghai.

Almost invariably, investigators in Call of Cthulhu wind up investigating a location, or a strange happening in a sleepy (usually New England) town.  Why are they doing this?  Usually, it boils down to one of the following:

1. Because one of the investigators inherited the house/mansion/old hotel/office building.  This is quite literally the hook for the classic Call of Cthulhu adventure "The Haunting" which has been published in one form or another in every edition of the core rulebook since 1981.  Never mind that the house is old enough and dilapidated enough that it should have been condemned back during the McKinley Administration, but damn it, Aunt Emily bequeathed it to us, and we're going to stay here overnight, even if that horror from beyond time and space in the attic menaces us with an axe.

2. Because a family member suffered a (usually violent and bizarre) crime in the location, and damn it, even if the case has completely baffled the police, the sheriff, Scotland Yard, the FBI, (insert law enforcement organization name here), somehow, I, a rank amateur who learned everything I know about crimefighting from reading Murder in the Rue Morgue, am going to do them all one better.

3. A member of the group found this weird old book, or artifact, examined it, and even though it gave the owner nightmares for a week when he read it, and cultists keep trying to kill them to take it from them, the group is bound and determined that they're going to investigate it further, even though it will likely kill them (and usually does).

Delta Green solves this dilemma by giving a reason and a rationale for why a character might actually confront horrors from beyond time and space (because it's his/her job), and a framework for replacing characters who are devoured, killed, or given the proverbial 9mm retirement plan.

The origin story behind Delta Green is it was born out of the Navy/Marine raid on Innsmouth very sparsely described at the end of Lovecraft's short story "The Shadow Over Innsmouth."  In the wake of the raid, the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) was left with various artifacts, a number of captured and killed Deep One/human hybrids, and a mountain of data to sort through.  The working group assigned to sort through all this data (and indeed conduct a few operations against the Mythos in the pre-WW2 era) became known as P Division.

This was more or less the status quo until shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor.  In February 1942, P Division's commanding officer in a meeting with the OSS (forerunner of the CIA) Director William Donovan, provides information from P Division's researches, particularly emphasizing a division of Himmler's SS, the Karotechia, that is interested in harnessing the Mythos for the war effort.  As a result of the meeting, P Division is transferred to the OSS, given a special security clearance "Delta Green" which eventually became the name of the agency.  Delta Green successfully fights the Mythos and the Karotechia throughout the rest of the war, and continues as an agency until the OSS is disbanded, at which time Delta Green is also disbanded in 1945.

This might have been the end of the story if it wasn't for a certain crash in Roswell, NM in 1947.  As a result of the Roswell investigation, two organizations are created, both out of men who formerly served in Delta Green.  Delta Green itself was reinstated.  And the slightly more infamous Majestic 12 was launched as well.  Both organizations fought turf wars, with Delta Green coming to realize more and more that while aliens were real, the UFO conspiracy wasn't what MJ-12 thought it was.  Throughout the 1950's and 1960's, both organizations warred for Federal dollars, for recognition, and sometimes for turf.  This continued until finally, in 1969, Delta Green had a leader go rogue, get a lot of men killed in Vietnam, and the resulting closed-door Congressional investigation led to the end of Delta Green as a legitimate agency.

But the Mythos is still there, and someone still needed to fight it.  Enter the Delta Green Conspiracy.  At first, a loose organization of former members of Delta Green from its days as a legitimate Federal Agency, a Majestic 12 Wetworks squad put an end to that in 1994 when they killed Delta Green's legendary leader, Reginald Fairfield.  Delta Green, whose membership had dwindled in the intervening 25 years due to deaths and retirements, was reinvented as a tightly controlled conspiracy within Federal law enforcement, organized using a cellular structure more reminiscent of a terrorist organization, to fight the battles humanity is already destined to lose.  That, in essence, is Delta Green.

Now that you know what Delta Green is about, here's a synopsis of the contents:

Delta Green is a 336 page volume.  Initially published in 1993, it was updated with d20 stat conversions after Wizards of the Coast's brief publication of d20 Call of Cthulhu in 2001 at the height of the d20 craze.  The latter edition can still be found for sale for the reasonable price of $39.95+shipping at Arkham Bazaar which is where I picked it up a year or two ago.  Three other sourcebooks (as well as three smaller chapter books) have been published for Delta Green since that time as supplements for the main book.  Finding two of those three books will cost you a fairly pretty penny.

Chapter 1: The Big Picture

If no other piece of Delta Green had been published in any form other than this chapter, it would have been a remarkable work.  Effectively, this chapter takes Lovecraft's fiction, much of the better Cthulhu Mythos fiction written by people other than Lovecraft, turns them into a cohesive whole, and frankly does a whole lot better job than Chaosium's Cthulhu Now of making modern Call of Cthulhu gaming a reality.  It outlines the main villains (the Mi-Go, in this case), the never-ending turf war with Majestic 12, the Federal alphabet soup concept that is the heart of the rationale for Delta Green (Big Brother Then and Now).

Chapter 2: Delta Green

This chapter basically outlines Delta Green.  What it's about, how it was formed, its history, important individuals in the organization, and a Timeline of events.

Chapter 3: Majestic 12

This chapter outlines Delta Green's nemesis among government conspiracies in Washington Majestic 12, outlining Majestic 12's history, its leadership, and most importantly, where UFO mythology fits into the picture.  Let's just say, it's not pretty.

Chapter 4: Karotechia

Just like there are probably still nonagenarian Nazis living in South America, Delta Green's old World War II nemesis still exists, albeit as a gray shadow of its former self.  The Karotechia would be almost laughable, if its connections to certain Elder Gods weren't real enough.

Chapter 5: SaucerWatch

Every UFO Conspiracy story needs a bunch of kooks getting in the way, asking dopey questions, getting into things over their head, and basically being an annoyance to real investigators doing the real work of learning the unknowable.  SaucerWatch fits that bill just fine.  This chapter details them.

Chapter 6: The FATE

Just like Prohibition, flapper girls, and Tommy Guns, gone are the days of crazy cultists wielding primitive weapons, and blending in with urban life about as well as cactii on a glacier.  Now the cultists are smart, suave, sophisticated, every bit as insane, and several orders of magnitude more dangerous.  The FATE is one such group, lovingly detailed.

Those 6 chapters, ironically, are less than half the page count of the book.  Afterward comes the world's longest appendix, or should I say, appendices, since there are no fewer than 10 of them.

Appendix A is a great bibliography

Appendix B gives a glossary of terminology, effectively the lingo of Delta Green.

Appendix C gives a list of Security Classifications.

Appendix D gives a list of Delta Green related Mythos and non-Mythos tomes with very real looking copies of documents.

Appendix E contains two adventures and a short campaign.

The first of two adventures, Puppet Shows and Shadow Plays, is an introductory adventure that would be a great starting point for a Delta Green campaign.  A group of Delta Green friendlies (not full agents, friendlies are possibly aware of the Mythos, and certainly unaware of the nature of Delta Green) chase a string of bizarre killings across the Desert Southwest.  Each killing is perpretated by a different person, but the MO is the same in each case.  It's a good 1-2 session adventure that's wonderful for getting players nice and confident of their chances of battling the Mythos, a notion the next adventure, Convergence, will quickly disabuse them of.

Convergence, is an update of the original Unspeakable Oath #7 adventure that Delta Green sprung from.  A group of Delta Green agents is investigating a horrific killing by a teenager endowed with inhuman strength in a sleepy town in Tennessee that has suffered a rash of UFO sightings.  It's a deadly adventure, with lots of ways for characters (and NPCs) to die, and endings that range from horrific to merely awful.  It's also a great con game that I recently ran at Conflagration.
The short campaign is The New Age, a great campaign that takes a strange New Age religious organization with a bit more going on behind the scenes than even most of its membership understands.

Appendix F gives Occupations and information on Creating Delta Green investigators for both BRP and d20 Call of Cthulhu.

Appendix G gives a pre-9/11 list of alphabet soup Federal Agencies that your Delta Green agent might be drawn from, with occupations, typical agents, and a brief description of the agency and typical roles in the agency that might become agents.  This list is really the heart of character generation, occupying almost 20% of the book by itself.

Appendix H gives new skills for both BRP and d20 Call of Cthulhu.

Appendix I is a list of new spells for both BRP/d20 Call of Cthulhu.

Appendix J is a fairly exhaustive list of firearms, both of US and foreign manufacture, with relevant stats for both d20 and BRP.

Finally the book is rounded out with an extensive index, something that's always a plus.


* This is really the best, most logical, and cohesive way to play modern Call of Cthulhu.  Chapter 1 of the book alone should be required reading for any new Keeper thinking of running a modern Call of Cthulhu game.

* Each chapter is well-written, with numerous adventure hooks, and the character generation information is topnotch.  The adventures themselves do a great job of providing numerous examples of what a Delta Green game should be like.

* For the amount of material, the $39.95 sticker price looks very reasonable.


* One big one in particular.  Copyright 1997.  Delta Green is a product of the 1990s, and a Keeper had best understand it hasn't really been updated since.  Even the 2001 reprint to add d20 stats didn't change much, and the fact that a lot of law enforcement agencies have been consolidated under the aegis of the Department of Homeland Security (insert eyeroll here) leads one to question the veracity of some of the data in this day and age.

In a country, where in the last decade, we have literally thrown away trillions of dollars on national security, only to learn that we're not that much safer (and certainly have a whole lot less privacy).  Where we've funded Federal, state, and local law enforcement to the point that rural sheriff's departments are now requisitioning armored cars at the same time their school districts are laying teachers off by the score, its hard to believe that Delta Green is still an underfunded, illegal government conspiracy having to barely scrape by.

Fortunately, Arc Dream Publishing and Pagan Publishing are working on the Delta Green RPG, which should solve this, but until then, you'll have to tweak a few assumptions of running a post-9/11 game where such things are needed.

Content: 4 out of 5 (I marked this one down mostly due to the pre-9/11 setting material.  What's here is nothing short of top notch.

Art & Layout: 5 of 5.  Though black and white, Delta Green is a gorgeous book, nicely laid out, with an exhaustive Table of Contents, Bibliography and Index.  A lot of more modern game books would do well to emulate Delta Green for its ease in terms of finding what you need quickly as a GM.

Overall Value: 5 of 5.  Delta Green, like its later expanding sourcebooks, Countdown, Eyes Only, and Targets of Opportunity, (more on those in future reviews) all have one thing in common.  Exquisitely written material, tons of adventure hooks, some really well-written adventures, and tons of stuff you can use in your games.  If you play or run Call of Cthulhu, and haven't picked this one up yet, you're really missing out.