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domingo, 22 de mayo de 2016

Review of Delta Green: Need to Know


Today i will talk you about Delta Green: Need to Know, the quickstart kit of the new incarnation of the game by Arc Dream Publishing which mixes the existence of conspirations inside North American government institutions with the investigation of paranormal activities related to Cthulhu Mythos.

Thsi quickstart kit appears after the successful patronage to finance the new edition of Delta Green, which will be publishe as a totally independent game of Call of Cthulhu updating its plot to more contemporary times.
Preparations for the test session

To carry out these review and properly evaluate changes of this new edition i refereed with part of my usual gaming group the adventure Convergence in the adventures supplement published by La Factoria de Ideas in Spain in year 2000 (in fact the publisher divided the original book in two different publications) and I will focus on the quickstar kit contents, although sometimes I will also refer to part of the contents of the test version number 4 of the rules (which download link you will find in the main page of the patronage), in addition I also offer you some ideas for adventures set in different moments of the history of Delta Green and a download of the Catalan ans Spanish translation of the character sheet and the gaming aids of the module included in the kit along with a Youtube playlist with music pieces appropriate to the game themes.

Contents of the quickstart kit

 

Delta Green: Need to Know has, as all quickstart kits, all the information needed for referee and players to see how the game works in a swift and simplified way without being the complete book, using for these introductory sections for the referee and the player as well as an enough clear and complete summary of the rules used inthis new edition of Delta Green, examples of game dynamics and already created characters allowing to play immediately Last Things Last, the adventure included in the kit.

It's also important to note that the rule system used by Delta Green from now on is offered under the Open Game License (OGL), allowing anyone willing to do it to create compatible contents or a completely new game under this license (remembering, of course, taht Delta Green as such is still owned by its creators and is considered Product Identity), so it would be completely feasible to create adventures or supplements inspired in the contemporary world, which leads me to wonder if these could be easily adapted to the game universe of Walküre (which I reviewed in this blog post).

Character's creation

 

Characters are created in a very similar manner as in games based in 80's Basic Role-Playing (Chaosium | Wikipedia) ruleset, so their basic statistics, the already typical Strength (STR), Dexterity (DEX), Inteligence (INT), Power (POW) and Charisma (CHA), with a score between 3 and 18 in each one and if have have a score high enough (or low) can deserve to be given a particularly distinctive feature, so it can be said that a character with INT 15 is "Very Clever" (although I really don't know if applyinf descriptions will have some practical use game-wise, like in Fate).

Need to Know doesn't offer any mechanics for making the rolls to decide thes stats' scores (it could be done rolling 3 six-sided dices for each one and add up the outcome), instead of it offers 3 sets of 6 stats for each one dividing 72 points which can be asigned as players see fit considering that the basic archetypes used in the game correspond to many government agencies' agents able to perform their duties properly.

Stat 1 Stat 2 Stat 3 Stat 4 Stat 5 Stat 6
13 13 12 12 11 11
15 14 12 11 10 10
17 14 13 10 10 8

From these basic stats other derived ones are calculated:
  • Hit Points (HP) to show how much damage the character can endure.
  • Willpower points (WP) to show his mental endurance.
  • Sanity Points (SAN) to show the degree of connection the character has with reality (i.e. how much can endure before he goes permanently mad) considering that every time he comes down to his Breaking Point (PR) or less the character acquire a mental disorder type.
In addition to of what I just explained characters also have the following emotional stats:
  • Bonds with other people around, whether his wife and children or platoon mates if he is a war veteran for example (something I didn't have time to test in the gaming session, but surely will be important in campaigns linking some sessions and with an impact in the family environment of the characters).
  • Motivations allowing them to carry on and that make their life worthwhile (which will be replaced for mental disorders every time they reach their Breaking Point).
  • Incidents of SAN loss without going insane, considering that the character can suffer mental instabilities, which don't meant a descent into madness, but could mark him somehow and overcome them he could be immune to incidents related to violence and/or impotence.
Once all these stats are determined it's time to decide the profession of the character and the skills gained with it (its level is stated as a percentage), and the number of personal Bonds available. The character types available are the following ones
  • Anthropologist or Historian
  • Computer Scientist or Engineer
  • Federal Agent
  • Physician
  • Scientist
  • Special Operator
When the characters are completed players will finish customizing them with the following methods:
  • Aplying a 20% bonus to 8 skills they choose considering that at the time of creation thir skills can't be over 80% (supposing these bonus make them over this percentage players can distribute the reamining points with the other skills).
  • Deciding if the character had a traumatic experience leading him to join Delta Green (this inevitably leads to modify his stats and skills scores, even having to reduce his SAN more or less depending on the incident in which becomes involved).
If players don't have time to create some characters there's also 6 samples which can be immediately used.

Basic rules

 

Having explained how characters are created it's time to explain the rules of the game and introduce some interesting variants of the Basic Role-Playing taking as a base the Legend by Mongoose Publishing (a version of which can be read in this link and this other one) and the Unearthed Arcana (which can be read in this link and in this other one) by Wizards of the Coast which I will comment now.

The number of available skills had been greatly reduced and percentage stat rolls had been introduced (stat score X 5) for those moments in which the referee thinks that any character can carry out a given activity without using a specialized skill, as can be seen in the following table:

  Stat Points X5
  Strength (STR) 11 55%
  Constitution (CON) 12 60%
  Dexterity (DEX) 11 55%
  Intelligence (INT) 13 65%
  Power (POW) 13 65%
  Charisma (CHA) 12 60%

Percentage rolls are still used in skills with the following parameters:
  • You are succesful if the outcome of the roll is less than or equal of the percentage skill.
  • You fail if the outcome of the roll is greater than the skill percentage.
  • Success can be critical (very good for the character because it's a really incredible success) if the outcome of the roll is 01.
  • Fail can be a fumble (really not favorable for the character, because he had failed spectacularly) if the outcome is 100.
Until here all is good and don't deviate from what had been seen before, although the test version made publicly available through the patronage also include the rule of double outcome in the dice roll for obtaining criticals and fumbles (something I don't know if it will be used in the final book of Delta Green), so a character with a skill of 50% will be subject to the following rolls:
  • A critical also will be obtained if the roll is 11, 22, 33 or 44
  • A fumble also will be obtained if the roll is 55, 66, 77, 88 or 99
Character's Luck isn't determined during creation (let's recall that its score was calculated as a derived stat using POW x 5), instead of this all characters have a 50% chance of being lucky, so it can be considered a matter of flipping a coin.

Character roll modifiers had also been greatly varied, so regarding the circumstances if the referee thinks it's appropiate characters can have a 20% or even a 40% as a bonus (added to the roll) or as a penalty (substracted from the roll).

Combat and damage

 

Regarding combat and damage it had turned to be comparatively more dangerous and lethal (someone would say more real) with the introduction of the following changes:

With some weapons and other damage sources it can be seen that:
  • The damage roll had been substituted for a Lethality Rating expresed as a percentage (a heavy machine gun would have a 20%, a rocket propelled grenade 30%, sarin gas 20%, an antitank missile 45%, an intercontinental ballistic missile armed with a nuclear head 100%...), if the roll is successful character's HP are imediately reduced to 0.
  • Otherwise the charecter continue suffering damage adding the number of each 1D10 of the percentage roll, so if it was for example of the 20% and fails obtaining a 23 the character would have received 5 HP damage.
  • A weapon which can affect many targets at the same time has a kill radius where the Lethality Rating applies (+20% if it's an explosive).
  • Characters not being affected will be forced to hide behind any available cover or stay prone, otherwise they will lose 1 SAN point (although they will be able to act normally).
Regarding damage characters may suffer:
  • They are unconscious during an hour when there are only 2 HP remaining and are forced to do a CON roll, if it fails the lowest die is rolled again and the outcome are the permanent lost points (to a minimum score of 3) in a stat choosed by the referee (so if the character gets a shot in the head the referee may decide the character loses INT or CHA points).
  • They die when Hit Points reach 0 most of the time (although the referee can also decide that the character can be saved if help, as surgery or First Aid, is near enough).
  • First Aid rolls allow to recover 1D4 HP, but only can be attempted once each time is hurt.
  • For each day passing the character can make a CON roll, if succesful he will recover 1HP.
  • A successful Medicine or Surgery roll (whichever is more appropiate according to the situation) allows the character to recover 1D4 HP each week.
Sanity and Madness

As characters will face situations where mental stability is in danger is logical to also have the needed rules to manage this fact (something wich of course happened before in Call of Cthulhu and Delta Green although in this case sources causing disorders with a possible sanity loss are divided in three types:
  • Violence (whether suffering it yourself or inflicting it).
  • Helplessness (be subjected to situations that the character can't control or affect someone who is known to him or one of its Bonds).
  • Unnatural (seeing the effects of any supernatural situation).
Sanity points (SAN) get lost as it was previously the case (i.e. failing a SAN roll) and there's also the chance of a temporal insanity if 5 or more SAN points are lost in a single incident.

Long-lasting mental disorders are acquired when characters' SAN decrease and reaches its Breaking Point, depending on the incident origin (Violence, Helplessness or Unnatural) the acquired disorder type and its symptoms will be one or another and although these will not manifest immediately inevitably will affect the character reducing his Breaking point and exposing him to acute episodes of said disorders provided that him face them again and fail his SAN roll (of course all characters whose SAN is reduced to 0 will be controlled by the referee and players will have to create new ones).

To be sane and minimize SAN loses or recover its points this new edition of Delta Green proposes a series of interesting mechanisms:
  • Reduce SAN loss in 1D4 points (as long as the character has WP) and substract this amount from Willpower and character's Bonds scores (this will make his relationship with this Bonds suffer somehow, something to be roled by the player).
  • Adapt to SAn loss in incidents provoked by Violence (losing 1D6 CHA points permanently) or Helplessness (losing 1D6 POW points permanently) without the character becoming mad and achieving it 3 times, making him immune to mental disorders originated by these (although if the character goes mad or reaches his Breaking Point he will be forced to erase those marks and begin again).
  • Supress Insanity Symptoms if suffering a temporal insanity or an acute episode of a mental disorder with the same mechanics described in the first point and a successful SAN roll.
  • Recover SAN points by means of therapy sessions (with a maximum equal to POWx5) or defeating supernatural menaces (with a maximum of 99 minus Unnatural skill score).
Willpower also will be important for characters to overcome the effects of fatigue and mental stress, considering that if WP lowers to 1 or 2 the character willhave a -20% penalty in all rolls (including all SAN rolls) and if it reaches 0 character suffers a colapse that will probably leave him unconscious and without the chance of making any roll (yes, this also includes SAn rolls again).

Willpower is recovered with prolonged resting periods or sleeping, something that can also be affected if suffering a temporal insanity or reaching the Breaking point, being necessary to make a succesful SAN roll to be able to rest properly, if he doesn't achieve it he will continue losing WP and chances of a successful SAN roll will diminish.

Some adventure ideas for Delta Green

The historical background of Cthulhu Mythos in wich Delta Green is based, beginning with the Innsmouth coastal town raid carried out in 1927 to desarticulate the Esoteric order of Dagon (events explained in the novella The Shadow Over Innsmouth by H.P. Lovecraft), gives a good set of ideas for referees to develop their own adventure modules, so coming up next I will explain you some facts I'm sure will be inspiring:

Himmler's briefcase
Heinrich Himmler, at the time Reichsführer-SS, German police chief, Home secretary and one of the main Holocaust architects visited Spain from 19th to 24th october 1940 to prepare the meeting at Hendaye between dictators Francisco Franco, winner of the Spanish Civil War, and Adolf Hitler.

In addition to these preparations he also was responsible for monitoring the German agent networks in Spanish territory and renew contacts made between both dictatorships with the signing of the 1938 police cooperation agreement between the Gestapo and the Dirección General de Seguridad (DGS). Nonetheless this wasn't the only activity of his visit, because besides attending various events and meetings, in October 23rd (the same day of the meeting between Fanco and Hitler) while in Barcelona he visited Montserrat monastery, one of the many sites it was said the Holy Grail could be hidden or where it was possible to find clues to its whereabouts.

Of course Himmler didn't obtained any useful information and the visit only served to incomodate the monks, however something certainly embarrassing for Francoist authorities ocurred because it seems a briefcase with documents disapeared for the Hotel Ritz room in which the nazi mandatary was staying (La Aventura de la Historia issue 86), not knowing who was responsible for its theft...

This fact is perfect for designing an adventure with the goal of stealing the briefcase given that Himmler was also the founder of the Ahnenerbe and its activities would be of interest to American and British secret services even before the foundation of Delta Green (and to some extent this had been used by a Spanish TV series telling the intervention of a certain secret time-travelling organization...).



To obtain more information of Himmler's visit you may also be interested in this chapter of the series Boira Negra (Dark Mist) of TVC (with Catalan, Spanish and German audio segments) as well as the visist chronicle as was published in the newspaper La Vanguardia (days 20, 22, 23, 24, 25 and 26 October 1940) and the exhibit Franco neutral? (and its informative booklet in Catalan, Spanish, English and French).

The Train
During the time in which Nazis ocupied Europe one of the activities they carried out was the pillage of continent's artworks, a task done mainly by Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg of Alfred Rosenberg. Artworks seized in France were deposited in the Jeu de Paume, used as a classification and distribution center, and where Resistance member Rose Valland, working in the museum as a curator, could make a list of the artworks there, allowing almost all of them to be restored to their owners in the postwar, an action in which men of Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program (Wikipedia and the Monuments Men Foundation) also played their part, and stoping with the aid of Resistance members the last German train with artworks that planned to leave before Paris was liberated.



Both historical facts were the objective of a cinematographic adaptation with the movies The Train (Wikipedia | IMDb) and Monuments Men (Wikipedia | IMDb).

The adventure that could be created from the foregoing of course would be related to artworks, something that many times had appeared in Mythos stories and Call of Cthulhu adventures, so let's imagine for a moment that one of the paintings of the Jeu de Pame is something more than a painting and it's really dangerous, as well as for a Delta Green commando to be sent to stop the train with the help of the Resistance before it gets out of France.

The 1968 Tet Offensive
Delta Green also had carreid out some missions in operational theaters of those wars in which the USA had intervened, including the American presence in Southeast Asia (in fact the OSS, the intelligence organization that ended up giving rise to the CIA, was inthe zone during Second World War giving support and advice to resistance forces oposing the advance of the Japanese Empire, in the 40s this included Kuomintang and Mao Zedong's People's Liberation Army in China and Ho Chi Minh's Viet Minh in French Indochina). During Vietnam War CIA continued with the tactic of giving weapons and training local groups for use against the enemy, so in the game universe they contacted the Tcho-Tcho, something that Delta Green strongly advised against given their cannibalistic practices and other evidences of creed related to Mythos Gods.

Those of you knowing about the game previously also will remember that in November 1969 a disastrous unauthorized Delta Green mission to locate and destroy a Cambodian temple months before the official invasion to prevent a dangerous invocation taking place resulted in the deaths of 300 American soldiers, this prompted US government to decree Delta Green organization dismantlment (something that of course didn't prevent its existence as a conspirative plot in the organs of American state power), and is this fact and all explained before that takes us to the next adventure idea, because hints and clues for the location of the temple site in Cambodia could be found in OSS mission reports of the forties, leading to Delta Green agents to get involved in 1969 Tet Ofensive and the battle that took place in the city of Hué, the ancient imperial capital of Nguyền Dinasty, while carrying out their investigations.



Films you may uses as a reference for planning the adventure setting are nowadays classic works: Apocalypse Now (Wikipedia | IMDb), Platoon (Wikipedia | IMDb) and Full Metal Jacket (Wikipedia | IMDb).

Roswell Incident, Area 51 and Majestic 12
Another recurring topic of the game is the investigation about UFO, including the Roswell Incident, Area 51 and the existance of the conspirative group Majestic 12 and that's why the basic book includes the group SaucerWatch, which can be considered the civilian counterpart of Delta Green (wich of course knows nothing about what is really happening...).




Of course the reference series you should see to get inspiration is The X-Files (Wikipedia | IMDb), although I also will include Fringe (Wikipedia | IMDb).

A possible adventure starring Delta Green and/or SaucerWatch could consist in Area 51 vigilance to find out secrets hiding in the base, and to adequately plan it referees may need to read FBI archives about Majestic 12 (basically declaring that Majestic 12 don't exist, but who knows...) and UFO Evidence, archives of Project Blue Book at FBI, National Archives and Blue Book Archive and declassified CIA archives of Area 51 and U-2 spy plane.

Downloads and resources

Arc Dream Publishing offers some resources you may find interesting begining with a product and downloads at Delta Green website (free and paid) as well as the wiki The Fairfield Project containing interesting materials like adventures, details about characters and organizations among others.

As for my own creations i offer you downloads of the Catalan and Spanish translations of the character sheet of Delta Green: Need to Know and the gaming aids for the adventure Last Things Last of thq quickstart kit as well as a recopilation of musical themes offered by Incompetech.com under CC BY 3.0 license.

 
Spanish:
Google Drive | 4Shared
  Catalan:
Google Drive | 4Shared





This entry it's also available in the following languages:
Castellano Català

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