In the latest episode of their world classic podcast, Ken and Robin talk skill lists, Criterion Collection basics, Robert W. Chambers, and the Book of Jasher.

Officially, the Delta Green setting never indicates that the Dreamlands underwent a radical transformation at the hands of Parisian surrealists in the 1920s and 30s.

However, in the privacy of their own Gaming Huts, GMs who ran a Dreamhounds of Paris series and want to connect it to their current Fall of Delta Green games might just indulge in a callback or two.

Careers of key surrealists continued for decades after the Trail of Cthulhu period. As I researched Dreamhounds, I saw how events might unfold after its era—an extended continuity I had no place for. Until now.

The period of surrealist involvement with the Dreamlands reaches a natural endpoint when most of its cast of historical characters flees France in advance of the Paris Occupation.

The book hints that their departure triggers a freezing over of the Dreamlands. The few surrealists who remain in Paris, like the heroic and doomed Robert Desnos, use it as an otherworldly transport and staging area for their Resistance activities.

The post-war period finds the surrealists swept aside by art world trends. In Paris, hardcore Stalinists, including recent convert Picasso, shut them out of the avant garde scene. The center of art world gravity shifts to New York, where abstract expressionists like Jackson Pollock and color field painters including Mark Rothko take painting far from the psychological and pseudo-mystical imagery that gave Ernst, Dali, Tanguy and the gang the ability to reshape the Dreamlands.

The sleeping realm thaws out but remains static in reaction to the austerity of the artistic times. The surrealists’ bulb-headed automatons and melting clocks might remain. Or maybe the place reverted back to its old Symbolist, Dunsanian imagery, as seen in Lovecraft’s tales.

In the 60s and on into the 70s, simultaneous with Delta Green’s collision with the Age of Aquarius, a new generation of artists takes inspiration from the surrealists, and from pop culture images previously deemed unsuitable for museum consumption. To various degrees, the likes of Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Kiki Kogelnik draw on the influence of advertising and entertainment on the psyche. This allows them to enter the Dreamlands, achieve lucidity there, and begin to alter its environment, just as the surrealists did before them. When your Delta Green agents arrive there, they find its skies dripping with Campbell’s soup cans, weeping comic strip duotone, and cotton-candy colored skulls. Sixties rock mainstreams both surrealism and pop art. In the Dreamlands, this development could find ghouls bobbing their head to a Zappa polyrhythm and Hendrix riffs reverberating through Dyath-Leen.

Agents might look to these new oneironauts for information, or seek out the old school surrealists now enjoying rediscovery and a fame that eluded them during their peak creative years.

Next up in See Page XX, I’ll survey the Dreamhounds characters active in the 60s to see what they might be up to when Delta Green drops in on them for a consultation.


The Fall of DELTA GREEN adapts DELTA GREEN: THE ROLE-PLAYING GAME to the GUMSHOE investigative roleplaying system, opening the files on a lost decade of anti-Mythos operations: the 1960s. Players take on the role of DELTA GREEN operatives, assets, and friendlies. Hunt Deep Ones beneath the Atlantic, shut down dangerous artists in San Francisco, and delve into the heart of Vietnam’s darkness. Purchase The Fall of DELTA GREEN in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

In the latest episode of their daring daylight podcast, Ken and Robin talk alternate history games, the North Korean embassy raid, Mark Morrison, and Franz Nopsca.

In the latest episode of their sweet and flaky podcast, Ken and Robin talk playing Janet Armstrong, Chicago politics, Canadian desserts and the Gárgola de Barceloneta

In 1996, an RPG appeared in which you played agents of a secret conspiracy within the Federal government, one that battled Grey aliens, black magicians, and rival government programs. It was perfectly tuned to the late-90s X-Files ambiance, and won plaudits for its deep dives into the cryptic worlds of anomalous science and government bureaucracy. I refer, of course, to Conspiracy X by Rick Ernst, Shirley Madewell, and Chris Pallace.

The system was kind of all over the place (the 2nd edition ported it over to Unisystem with good results) but it had a couple of nice touches. One of them was a mechanic called “Pulling Strings,” which amounted to cool discounts and activities your characters could buy depending on their originating agency. In very broad strokes, the Agency and Bureaucracy abilities in Fall of DELTA GREEN model that sort of behavior: calling in favors, carefully wording a field report or phone call, or just filling out a TPS form and waiting for the machinery to grind out a result. But the corebook leaves matters up to the players’ imagination, which may not always reach to the upper tiers of Pentagon mission prep.

Your request is very important to us

So here are some strings your Fall of DELTA GREEN Agents might pull, some outcomes they might pursue. The relevant ability is always Bureaucracy (FoDG, p. 063). Difficulty varies by department, and assumes at least a colorably plausible excuse. Remember, you can spend relevant Agency points (for double their value!) on Bureaucracy tests against a given organization; when Cooperating (FoDG, p. 081) the Agent (if any) in the relevant organization always counts as the “leader.” Remember the standard Difficulties: Diff 4 (you have clearance/jurisdiction/tasking already; it’s part of your normal job), Diff 6 (you have to pull strings), Diff 8 (you have no business asking). And the standard modifiers: Raise Difficulties by +1 for state or local agencies or rival divisions of your own agency, +2 for other federal agencies or military branches, and by +3 for agencies of other governments. Add +2 to cut turnaround time by an increment: weeks to days, for example. Equipment requisitions (FoDG, p. 135) have similar, overlapping modifiers and Difficulties. As with all Difficulties, the Handler should apply them based on her notion of game reality and the needs of the mystery.

Aircraft Access

To borrow a restricted hangar or just get a hangar of your own for a week: AFOSI, CIA DPlans domestically, any CIA overseas (Diff 4); other USAF personnel (Diff 5; Diff 4 overseas); Customs, FBI, FBN (Diff 6). Borrow a USG (US Government) helicopter or small plane, like a Forest Service or Customs aircraft (with or without pilot; the more expensive the plane, the more likely you have to borrow a pilot also): Customs (Diff 5); FBI, FBN, US Marshals (Diff 6; Diff 5 with Cop Talk); ARPA, AEC, CDC (Diff 6). Requisition an armed aircraft, only in a war (or active training) zone: Active duty Army or USMC, CIA SOD (Diff 5 for a Huey helicopter gunship, +2 or more for more powerful craft); other CIA (Diff 6); other Defense Department (Diff 7). Getting an armed aircraft off a domestic military base requires a falsified training order: Diff 8 minimum, and certain discipline if you fire its weapons outside an established firing range.

Air or Artillery Strike

To call in an air or artillery strike, only in a war zone: active duty military officer, MACV-SOG (Diff 4); CIA DPlans or SOD (Diff 5). Agents can also task a bombing run (1d weeks delay) through the Pentagon: any DoD (Diff 5); CIA (Diff 6). Outside pre-established bombing and “free fire” zones, an air strike ensures an investigation.

Dossiers

By and large, getting a photograph and dossier on a person of interest reduces the Difficulty of General tests (or at least Stealth surveillance tests) against them by -1. Dossiers on Americans: FBI (Diff 4 or 5); US Marshal (Diff 5); CIA (Diff 6). Dossiers on foreigners: CIA (Diff 4 or 5); DIA, ONI (Diff 6 unless specific mission calls for it). Specific types of dossiers might come in handy. A counter-intelligence (CI) dossier analyzes a US subject’s foreign contacts and weak points: FBI (Diff 4 or 5); AFOSI, CIA, NSA, ONI (Diff 6). Criminal record: FBI, FBN, US Marshal (Diff 4); other Justice Dept (Diff 5); other USG (Diff 6). Financial records: FBI, FBN, Treasury Dept (Diff 5); Customs (Diff 6). Medical records: CDC (Diff 6). Security clearance reports: FBI (Diff 4); AFOSI, DIA, ONI (for military personnel, Diff 5); AEC, AFOSI, ARPA, DIA, NASA, NRO, NSA, USAIC (Diff 6); any Defense or Justice Dept (Diff 7).

False Papers

DELTA GREEN supplies you with the credentials it believes necessary. If you disagree, many Federal agencies provide cover credentials of various sorts. Fake civilian papers: CIA Domestic Ops (Diff 5); FBI, FBN, USAIC (Diff 6). Fake US passport: CIA DPlans or PAD (Diff 5); other CIA, State Dept (Diff 6). Fake foreign civilian papers (foreign passport, +1 Diff): CIA DPlans or TSD (Diff 5); other CIA (Diff 6).

Fingerprint File

Since 1924, the FBI has maintained a card file of fingerprints of everyone who has: been arrested for a federal crime, served in the military, applied for or received a sensitive position, legally immigrated. State and local law enforcement often send duplicate copies of their own fingerprint files to the FBI. It takes weeks to match a set of fingerprints if a match exists. FBI Lab (Diff 4); other FBI, FBN, US Marshals, Justice Dept (Diff 5); other USG (Diff 6). To quash or “lose” a fingerprint card: submitted from outside (+2 Diff), already in system (+4 Diff).

Interrogation Suite

Agents may need to interrogate suspects or persons of interest. Borrowing a room in a federal facility: FBI, FBN, US Marshal (Diff 4; Diff 3 with Cop Talk); USAIC, AFOSI, DIA, ONI, NRO, NSA (Diff 6; Diff 5 with Cop Talk). Borrowing a CIA facility: CIA (Diff 5; Diff 4 with Agency (CIA)); USAIC, DIA, ONI, NRO, NSA (Diff 7). Borrowing a trained interrogator (+1 Diff per point of Interrogation, and a good enough story to fool a trained interrogator). Access to truth drugs (only available at CIA facilities; see FoDG, p. 153; +2 Diff).

Laboratory Testing

Sending something off to a government lab for testing runs the risk of exposing outsiders to the Unnatural, but sometimes that beats the risk of testing a volatile Whatever in the high school science lab. Turnaround and response time is 1d weeks. A laboratory qualified to test the substance or evidence in question: ARPA, AEC, CDC, CIA Sci & Tech, Customs, FBI, FBN, NASA (own agency request Diff 5; other agency request Diff 7); other USG (+2 Diff).


The Fall of DELTA GREEN adapts DELTA GREEN: THE ROLE-PLAYING GAME to the GUMSHOE investigative roleplaying system, opening the files on a lost decade of anti-Mythos operations: the 1960s. Players take on the role of DELTA GREEN operatives, assets, and friendlies. Hunt Deep Ones beneath the Atlantic, shut down dangerous artists in San Francisco, and delve into the heart of Vietnam’s darkness. Purchase The Fall of DELTA GREEN in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

In the latest episode of their hobson-and-jobsoning podcast, Ken and Robin talk low-tech settings, film rewatching redux, Lynne Hardy and word root magic.

In the latest episode of their merry, forest-dwelling podcast, Ken and Robin talk envisioning game writing in play, John Hays Hammond Jr, Robin Hood and alternate ecstasy history.

GMs sometimes fear that certain RPG abilities give away too much to the players. In GUMSHOE the abilities that most trigger these fears are the ones that actually act as the GM’s best friend.

Intuition in The Yellow King Roleplaying Game is one of these. We can get to that one later.

The classic example is Bullshit Detector—or as it is known in games set in a more genteel era, Assess Honesty.

GMs read the description and worry that the capacity to spot the telltale signs of deception will ruin their mysteries. When you think about it, though, very few mysteries hinge on the simple question of whether a suspect is lying.

Remember, the ability doesn’t necessarily tell the character what witnesses are lying about, just that they’re fudging or withholding something.

Drive this home in play by including witnesses who have an unrelated secret they’re anxious to to conceal, from investigators and everyone else. They’re denying professional screw-ups, cheating on their partners, cooking the books, indulging in a reputation-destroying vice, or hiding their involvement in crimes the investigators don’t care about.

With many investigative abilities, I’ll prompt players who don’t ask to use them. Not so with Bullshit Detector. Players who have it get used to actively invoking it.

When I want to make it dead obvious that a character isn’t telling the truth, I don’t mention Bullshit Detector. Instead I play the GMC as obviously shifty, with darting eyes, a worried look, or blurted phrases.

Even when the investigator questions the main bad guy, knowing that he’s lying rarely does more than confirm an existing suspicion. It rarely moves the team further toward the solution of the mystery. It certainly doesn’t let the group short-cut its way to the ending.

Sure, you’ve got a hunch that he’s hinky, but that doesn’t get you a warrant, or prove to the Ordo Veritatis head office that it’s okay to call in the commandos. It narrows down your range of leads but rarely even serves as a core clue moving you to the next scene.

Yeah, Bullshit Detector tells you that Old Man Grisby is pulling your leg about something. But that doesn’t tell you to go to the ghoul crypt, or reveal his immortal past, or lead you to the confederate who can be bribed into turning over his document collection.

As a GM I find Bullshit Detector most useful in ruling out deception. Players often fixate on innocent secondary characters, deciding that they must be the dread masterminds. Or they might not like what a witness has to tell them, because it contradicts their current speculation on the nature of the case. “Mrs. Chan doesn’t strike you as dishonest,” nudges the players back on track.

In actual play you’ll find yourself worrying less about preserving red herrings than in separating players from incorrect notions they’ve firmly stuck themselves to. Bullshit Detector helps you do that.

In the latest episode of their globe-trotting podcast, Ken and Robin talk Carcosa Con, Daria Pilarczyk, stuff they saw in Poland, and Tadeusz Kosciuszko.

In an episode recorded live at Carcosa Con in Poland’s Czocha Castle, Ken and Robin talk Marco Polo and the Celts, the mythic power of mead, holy blood for vampires and more.

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