Thoughts After 20 Sessions Of Delta Green

Delta Green is an investigative horror role-playing game set in the modern day: think of it as The X-Files plus H.P. Lovecraft. The player characters work for various US government bodies. A few times a year they are lent to a secret programme that investigates, combats and quiets down incursions of the Unnatural and Alien. The rules are a slightly tweaked Call of Cthulhu (that is, not much changed since 1981), prominently featuring the Sanity Death Spiral, where the agents gradually go nuts from the horrors they encounter. Think of it as mental health hit points that are difficult to regain.

Over the period May ‘22 through March ‘23 I’ve run nine DG scenarios* for four players. Most of them were written by Shane Ivey and Dennis Detwiller and collected in the anthologies A Night at the Opera (2018) and Black Sites (2020). The scenarios took 1-5 four-hour sessions, median 2. The players solved all the cases except one, where they failed to shut down an exotic physics experiment that was letting Azathoth into our reality. Instead we continued play in a parallel reality where the experiment had never even been built, but where the agents remembered what they had been through and remained severely traumatised.

We’ve had a lot of fun with this game and I have really enjoyed prepping the solid scenario material. Compared to our previous campaigns in Ashen Stars (space detectives) and Swords of the Serpentine (fantasy Venice), a major difference though is how unimportant the player characters’ life histories and identities have been to each case. I don’t recall any point where the story would have played out differently if the agents had all been swapped out.

Linking your player group’s characters into the pre-written scenarios you buy is part of the game master’s job. But it’s unusually difficult when the characters are secret agents operating under false identities in locations they’ve never visited before. Delta Green agents definitely aren’t supposed to form meaningful long-term relationships with the people they interview briefly about alien weirdness. Or with the people they threaten to make them keep quiet about supernatural sightings. Or with the people the agents kill because they think they’re tainted with the Unnatural. Still, the players loved their investigations, so it wasn’t really a problem. Good RPG, highly recommended!

* Viscid (3 sessions), Star Chamber (2), Sentinels of Twilight (1), Observer Effect (2), Hourglass (5), Last Things Last (1), Reverberations (1), Extremophilia (3), Ex Oblivione (2)


Author: Martin R

Dr. Martin Rundkvist is a Swedish archaeologist, journal editor, skeptic, atheist, lefty liberal, bookworm, boardgamer, geocacher and father of two.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: