Review of Delta Green
Pagan Publishing, 1996
by Dennis Detwiller, Adam Scott Glancy, John Tynes
Every once in a while, a group or product will come along and knock the RPG world on its ass. GDW’s Traveller game, Hero Games’ Champions, Magic: The Gathering, and so on. In the early 90’s, a small company, primarily made up of ex-Chaosium employees, was created with the intent of putting out the best Call of Cthulhu supplements possible. After a small number of high-quality adventure campaign books, Pagan released Delta Green, and thusly shattered all preconceived notions of the modern day world of Call of Cthulhu.
Delta Green starts on a decidedly eerie note, and descends rapidly from there. The last transmission of a highly ranked Delta Green officer graces the inside front cover; it’s a great way to hook the reader into the atmosphere of the story.
The rest of the book is divided into Chapters and Appendices. After a quick overview of the book itself, it delves into the first chapter that deals with the Fungi of Yuggoth, also known as the Mi-Go. From their beginnings on their own alien world to how they end up on earth, from their physiology to their psychology, this chapter is incredibly in depth. The number of hooks that this chapter alone gives a Keeper is mind boggling.
The next chapter explains the history of Delta Green itself. Again, the attention to detail and the depth of the history behind the group is incredible, and if you know anything about some of the stories that take place within Cthulhu universe, particularly Escape From Innsmouth, it makes so much sense. Most importantly, if overcomes a major hurdle that’s plagued CoC from the beginning, and that is how to bring a group of adventurers together in a logical way. Delta Green is a group with no government ties or support, and, if it was revealed to the public, would probably be disbanded. This situation only makes it tougher for the players, as their characters will be operating completely outside the law.
Following that section is one that centers on the Majestic-12, who could be regarded as Delta Green’s most direct enemy. If you want to run a government- cover-up type campaign, a la the X-Files, then the Majestic-12 is a perfect vehicle for you. Again the history behind the group is exhaustive and easily suspends the reader’s belief. The way Majestic-12 has let itself be manipulated by the “greys” is particularly unsettling, yet wholly realistic, given the overall incompetence and arrogance we’ve seen come out of our government.
Another enemy is detailed in the next chapter, one called Karotechia, a group which is comprised of Nazi’s that had escaped World War II, and bent on once again ruling the world. Obsessed with immortality and longevity, the Karotechia have been trying, by any means, to use the occult for their own means. With a group like the Karotechia, the Keeper is presented with another enemy to throw at the players, but one that is very distinct from Majestic-12, and no less frightening.
Rounding out the last two chapters are Saucerwatch, an amateur group of UFO investigators, conspiracy theorists, and so on, who are sometimes dead on the money with their theories of What’s Going On, and other times way off; and The Fate, which is the criminal organization in the States, based in New York. The Fate’s connection to the Cthulhu Mythos is nebulous at best, but one cannot doubt their influence and power.
In addition to all of the background information on each of these groups, every chapter ends with detailed dossiers on the major players for each group, giving their histories and motivations. Because of this, none of the villains are cookie cut outs. There are some, like the members of The Fate, that make a Keeper think, “do I really want to be that mean to my players?”
That takes care of the first half of the book. The second half deals with Appendixes A through I.
Appendix A: Bibliography. Very insightful, offering a wealth of further leads on such topics as UFOlogy, Navy Seals operations, the history of the SAS, criminology tactics, etc.
Appendix B: Glossary.
Appendix C: Security Classifications, and explains how to apply these to secret documents, of which several examples are given.
Appendix D: Examples of Appendix C.
Appendix E: Adventures. These range from good to excellent. A Keeper would most assuredly want to use at least one of these as a starting point for a beginning Delta Green campaign.
Appendix F: Profiles of 34 real federal agencies. Useful for character generation ideas.
Appendix G, H, I: Info on character generation, skills, and equipment. I have to admit that this section was rather a let down for me, and could have been a little more fleshed out, particularly where ideas for characters, and equipment involved are concerned.
To sum, Delta Green is an amazing supplement for any modern Call of Cthulhu game. There is such a wealth of information here, and so many twisted ideas, the mind reels. One way to tell whether a book like this is any good, for me at least, is if, while I’m reading it, ideas for adventures and plotlines start popping in my head.
Well, while reading Delta Green, it felt like I had a mouth full of Pop Rocks and Coke.
In fact, if you’re really clever, you needn’t have to make yours a modern DG campaign...there’s enough material here for the Keeper to pick and choose where in the DG history timeline he/she wants to drop the investigators. I should also comment on the production values and art of this book- it equals, if not surpasses, most Chaosium products. I can’t recommend this book enough.
Rating: 9 Sanity Points