» fall of delta green

“They have no time to think of surrender. Are they heroes — these Parisians?”

— Robert W. Chambers, “The Street of the First Shell” (1895)

Right about now, just about fifty years ago as I write this, France had no functioning government. I mean, more than usual. Charles de Gaulle, President of France for the last decade, had vanished from the Elysée Palace in the midst of strikes and protests that paralyzed – or vitalized – Paris and left France on the brink of revolution. Half a million protesters marched through the streets of the capital in the dawn light of May 30, 1968, chanting “Adieu, de Gaulle!”

Awake!

The “May 68,” as it has come to be known, began with a student strike in March at the miserable conditions at the University of Nanterre outside Paris. Some of the Nanterre activists (calling themselves enragés after the grubbiest left-radicals of 1793) fled to the Sorbonne in Paris; when the police closed Nanterre and entered the Sorbonne to recapture the rabble-rousers, 20,000 Sorbonne students rose in protest on May 6, 1968. Police brutality against the students in turn brought the unions and the Communists into the streets, hoping to tap into the energies of the enragés for their own causes.

A million people marched in Paris on May 13, setting off a series of general strikes and workers’ seizures of factories all over France. The students retook the Sorbonne and declared it a “people’s university.” Barricades went up, and paving stones flew at cops’ heads. By May 22, two-thirds of French workers were on strike. On May 27, the UNEF, the national student union of France, held a meeting at the Sebastien Charety stadium in Paris; the 50,000 attendees demanded the end of the French state, and the Socialists hurried to pledge their support the next day. On May 29, de Gaulle got into a helicopter and flew away.

We Have a Situation Here

“Where the real world changes into simple images, the simple images become real beings and effective motivations of hypnotic behavior.”

— Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle (1967)

A plurality, and perhaps a majority, of the Occupation Committee of the Sorbonne were members of, or otherwise identified themselves with, the Situationist International. The SI believed in radical non-hierarchy – possibly because of SI founder Guy Debord’s distrust of the Stalinist tendency throughout the contemporary Left – but Debord provided the main theoretical juice for what the Situationists claimed they never called “Situationism.”

In a nutshell, Situationism expands Marxist theory of alienation from the workers to all of society. Ever since World War One, Debord wrote, “the Spectacle” of consumption and commodified objects by its very nature has dominated and controlled every act, thought, and word not just of the proletariat but of everyone who buys or watches. These illusory bread and circuses recreate the oppressive class order within themselves, and “recuperate” even seemingly rebellious acts as a necessary dramatic element within the Spectacle. Examining politics, culture, and capitalism as art produces awareness of the Spectacle but cannot escape it; psychogeography can map the effects of geography and the city on emotion and mind but cannot obviate them.

Only by random artistic inspiration and acts of parodic reinterpretation called “detournement” can the willful Situationists win “the game of events,” free themselves from the Spectacle, and call their own vision of true democratic equality into being. From 1957, when the SI emerged out of a radical surrealist movement, they (or at least Debord) grew ever more directly political.

Politically, to the extent they mapped onto the normal spectrum, the Situationists could be called left-anarchists. Debord mocked anarchists as “mystics of nonorganization,” a tag which could as easily apply to the SI. Their snark and individualism appealed to student radicals such as those in Nanterre and the Sorbonne. Those students dug up precursors to their new movement, from the dynamiter Ravachol to the Marquis du Sade to a certain anonymous playwright.

A Situationist cell in the Sorbonne reads a banned play, and acts. How better to rip the mask off the Spectacle, to separate the lying signs of capitalism from the true signifieds of feeling, than by weaponizing words that undermined so-called reality? They set the Pallid Mask against the mask of the Spectacle, attacking police from the new boulevards of the “Bablyon-Carcosa” they had seen emerging through the tear gas as the Seine billows outward into a great black Lake.

Operation CHARENTON

“Coming soon to this location: charming ruins.”

— Situationist Graffito, Paris 1968

Amidst the Situationist graffiti that rapidly covered the walls of Paris’ Left Bank, a program stringer notices a Sign painted in yellow, a Sign that Admiral Payton has made sure to brief his Paris operatives on since he saw it in 1955. Every DELTA GREEN asset in France gets the alert signal: A day at Longchamp. But how to find the center of an invasion inside a revolution? Payton suggests a random walk: seeking the Sign calls the Sign to you.

Payton learned from Operation BRISTOL that guns and confrontation only feed Hastur. So what to do about it? Detourn the Sign, spray-paint petals sprouting from it, create a yellow fleur-de-lis that angry leftists will be sure to obliterate beneath scarlet hammers, sickles, and stars. If you find copies of the play, destroy it, yes; if you see a street performance under black stars, disrupt it, absolutely. But until then, lean into the Spectacle; make it work for you. Behave like a character in a spy film, turn cosmic convulsion into cheap stereotype. Reinforce plastic reality, tread Carcosa as a stage set, recuperate the King in Yellow as nothing more than a revolutionary poster, and then rip him up.

Agents fan out into Paris, losing touch with each other in a city writhing between two masks. Your Agents doubtless play the crucial role, although other teams in other Iles du Paris report their own strange victories. A Gaullist rally 800,000 strong marches through Paris on the afternoon of the 30th. De Gaulle returns from Germany with the army’s support, orders the workers back with raises, orders the colleges reopened under proper prefects, orders the Spectacle restored. The Communists and Socialists go along, and he crushes them in the elections the next month. Only the normal despair and alienation breathes Parisian air again.

Or was the explanation different? Was Payton’s aim wrong, even if his ammunition was sound? Had the Situationists, alert to every nuance of falsity and screen memory, uncovered the truth about the world? Were they trying to awaken the world from its unnatural prison? After all, Debord’s description of the Spectacle sounds very familiar, to my ears:

To the extent that necessity is socially dreamed, the dream becomes necessary. The Spectacle is the nightmare of imprisoned modern society which ultimately expresses nothing more than its desire to sleep. The Spectacle is the guardian of sleep.

Iä! Iä! Spectacle fhtagn!

by Kenneth Hite

For the last 20 years, I have considered the Delta Green setting—created by John Scott Tynes, Adam Scott Glancy, and Dennis Detwiller—the pinnacle of the possible for Cthulhu campaigning. Like my own Trail of Cthulhu, published by Pelgrane Press for its GUMSHOE system in 2008, Delta Green was licensed for Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu RPG. It presented a secret war within the federal government, an illegal conspiracy of G-men dedicated to destroying the Cthulhu mythos. It gave its heroes assault rifles and CIA cover—which somehow only made their situation worse, made their investigations bleaker and more horrific.

According to Lovecraft’s story “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” government agents had raided that decrepit town, discovered the hideous Deep Ones lurking therein, and even attacked them with submarines. Tynes and company proposed that the raid and cover-up mentioned by Lovecraft spawned a secret government program—codenamed DELTA GREEN—that fought occult Nazis, hunted Cthulhu cultists, and eventually destroyed itself in Vietnam.

Officially disbanded in 1970 after the failed “Operation OBSIDIAN” in Cambodia, the program continued as an illegal “cowboy” operation until it was re-activated after 9/11. Just as DELTA GREEN revived in the new century, the Delta Green partnership and Arc Dream Publishing produced their own core Delta Green: The Role-Playing Game books this year. Those books bring the DELTA GREEN story up through the War on Terror, the surveillance state, and the rest of the present day’s horrors.

Over breakfast at Gen Con 2015, Dennis and Scott revealed their plans for this new RPG and invited me and Pelgrane aboard. Trail of Cthulhu had made its own waves in the Cthulhu world, and adding a GUMSHOE system Delta Green corebook would bring two fan bases along for the ride. None of us wanted just a simple translation, needlessly duplicating material. Trail of Cthulhu had shifted its default setting from Chaosium’s 1920s to the darker decade of the 1930s, which perhaps inspired Dennis and Scott to offer me a different decade than the original’s 1990s or the new edition’s now. We settled on the 1960s, the decade in which, like many well-meaning government programs, DELTA GREEN overreached and destroyed itself. By contrast with the “summer” of the 1940s and 1950s, and to foreshadow the program’s destruction, I named this new corebook The Fall of DELTA GREEN.

The result was a double translation: not just from the Delta Green: The RPG system to GUMSHOE, but from the modern day to the 1960s. I loaded up my iTunes playlist with everything from Bob Dylan and the Beach Boys to period Japanese and Cambodian pub rock, and tried to sink into the era. I hunted through 1969 geology textbooks for signs of sunken R’lyeh. I read sixties spy novels and nonfiction (especially the pioneering 1967 work The American Intelligence Community by USAF Brigadier General Monro MacCloskey) to build a sense of the “past possible.” In many ways, a world without the Internet or micro-transmitters becomes better for investigative games and spy fiction than ours: knowledge is once more valuable, and uncertainty lets horror grow.

Not that there was any shortage of horror in the modern day Delta Green: The RPG. Lead designer Greg Stolze introduced several systems designed to grind the heroes down: Lethality, Bonds, and Breaking Points. Lethality was just what it sounded like: some weapons killed you outright if you rolled lower than their Lethality percentage. On the one-die GUMSHOE system, Lethality became even more lethal, since the lowest possible Lethality percentage was 1 in 6, or about 17%. I put in a little wiggle room (some Lethality just left you crippled or stunned) but not too much: The Fall of DELTA GREEN also encompasses the Vietnam War, after all.

Breaking Points, fortunately, already replicated the staccato feel of disintegration I’d added to the Sanity and Stability tracks in Trail of Cthulhu. But Bonds were real evil genius. On the surface, they looked like lifelines: human ties the agent could call on to preserve her sanity. But once used, their disintegration added stress to the agent’s off-hours: explain why you missed your son’s birthday to chase UFOs. It took a good bit of tweaking the specific Stability mix to get Greg’s vision working in the GUMSHOE engine, but again, my version might even have wound up a little harsher. The monsters became tougher, too, up-armored from their Trail of Cthulhu incarnations for a new era of M16s and flamethrowers. And of course, I borrowed heavily from the extensive Delta Green discussion of hiding or destroying a corpse.

As with my other GUMSHOE designs, I added modes of play, allowing the Handler (the GM) to ease up or bear down on the agents, in this case by adding or removing Stability from the game economy. Following Greg’s skill consolidation, agents can focus more points on investigating human targets either socially or by stealth; I added the Agency ability to increase that flexibility further. But like Bonds, these seeming bonuses just push players further down the slippery slope to destruction. The Fall of DELTA GREEN, while almost entirely inter-operable with other GUMSHOE games like Trail of Cthulhu and Night’s Black Agents, is its own rough beast: gritty and horrifying, with plenty of sharp edges for agents at the sharp end.

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In the latest episode of their relic-festooned podcast, Ken and Robin talk gaming Annihilation, spy fiction inspirations for Fall of DELTA GREEN, subtle horror moments and a pope-grifting cleric.

I’ll wager we have some readers who can (unlike your humble correspondent) answer the question “Where were you when Kennedy was shot?” But can your Fall of DELTA GREEN Agents answer that question? How about when the other Kennedy was shot? When Dr. King was shot? Malcolm X? Ngo Dinh Diem? Medgar Evers? George Lincoln Rockwell? Rafael Trujillo? Patrice Lumumba?

                         A view to a kill?

Let’s spend some Interrogation and find out where indeed your Agents might have been when the shots rang out, some time in the 1960s.

You Heard It On the Radio

While you’re not likely to catch players unaware of November 22, 1963, and U2 lyrics make it possible that April 4, 1968 won’t come as an in-game shock, without Googling it tell me when Robert F. Kennedy was shot. (June 6, 1968.) If your campaign keeps a calendar, and you’ve tied it to historical events, it can be a real moment (just as in real life) when the Agents hear the news that “Senator Kennedy has been shot and killed in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California.”

Some assassinations just become news-crawl — unless your team is in the Dominican Republic when it happens, the assassination of President Trujillo isn’t likely to make too many waves. But you never know where waves might wash up, in the world of Delta Green.

You Worked It

Something like either Kennedy assassination draws in every Federal agent remotely connected to the area, if only to ask a lot of repetitive, police-work style questions at the airport or wherever. The manhunt for James Earl Ray, the killer of Martin Luther King, lasted two months, involved thousands of Federal agents, and covered five countries before he was finally arrested in London. (See Hampton Sides’ fascinating book Hellhound on His Trail for many many game-worthy details.) If your Agents are assigned to the South, to the civil rights watch (in any sense, from COINTELPRO to CHAOS to the Marshals Service), to any major port of exit, or to Canada, Britain, or Portugal (!) they get pulled off their DELTA GREEN case and put onto this one. Stealing time from some boring embezzlement case is one thing — but everybody’s boss is watching this one, because the whole world is watching this one.

On the other hand, your Agents might be able to falsify a connection between their DELTA GREEN case and the Ray manhunt — as long as they cover their ass in the cover memo, they can go beat up all the inbred Alabama cultists they want for two months. Alternately, your Agents weren’t supposed to work this case at all. They were in no uncertain terms ordered to stay off it, by their day-job supervisors or worse by DELTA GREEN. But something about it looks, pardon the word, fishy … Charles McCarry’s novel Tears of Autumn follows a CIA agent convinced the JFK assassination isn’t all the Warren Commission cracked it up to be, and it’s a great template for Handlers who want to dangle the possibilities of Hastur-cultism (say) around Sirhan Sirhan’s bizarre ramblings.

You Were There

Maybe it’s just coincidence. Your Agents were in Saigon looking for the Kuen-Yuin in October 1963, and followed some leads to some murky South Vietnamese generals, or got some unofficial help from a CIA friendly here “on another job,” or just stumbled into the anti-Diem coup because they heard shooting and like idiots or player characters everywhere ran toward it. Maybe some book-hound in Harlem was trying to peddle a copy of al-Azif to the Nation of Islam in February 1965. Your Agents work the case, you shock them with the Malcolm X killing — and now one of their crucial Network contacts is stuck in the middle of an expanding NYPD presence, which also makes it even harder for four White Feds trying to covertly knock over a Harlem bookstore.

Or maybe it’s something else, that you were following Georg the Karotechia hit man through northern Virginia when you heard the head of the American Nazi Party got shot two miles away — right when Georg slipped your tail. Do you try to re-acquire Georg, do you try to worm your way into the Arlington Police investigation (and risk blowing your cover), do you try to find out why the Karotechia wanted George Lincoln Rockwell dead and why they made this “John Patler” guy their patsy? Or is Georg up to something else entirely, and every minute you spend on a dead American Nazi endangers millions of live American non-Nazis?

You’re the Patsy

It’s too much to ask that one of your players decides to have his Agent be a former Marine radar technician and attempted defector now involved in fringe politics in New Orleans and Dallas — but you can still frame the Agents if you’re willing to do a little work. MAJESTIC certainly is. Maybe you have to invent an assassination of a U.S. Senator (besides Bobby Kennedy) or go overseas. The fatal plane crash of Enrico Mattei, the creator of Italy’s public-private oil combine ENI, in 1962 is generally ascribed to a bomb on his plane, itself variously ascribed to the CIA, the Mafia, the French SDECE, the Italian SIFAR, and OAS terrorists. MAJESTIC might have killed him as a payoff to U.S. oil companies, or to get access to ENI records on deep drilling or a newly discovered cavern in Arabia, or as collateral damage because their real target was the U.S. reporter William McHale who was also on Mattei’s plane.

MAJESTIC knew they needed a patsy so they laid a false trail to ENI and to Mattei’s plane, dropping chicken feed to DELTA GREEN analysts until a team of Agents — your team — gets dispatched to Catania, Sicily on a phony anti-Mafia case. Or perhaps your team was in Italy already and MAJESTIC fakes the documents and footage and suborns testimony to put them on the scene at the airport or underneath the flight path with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. (Really, how hard is it to get an average group of player characters to head into the Lombard hills with a grenade launcher on no provocation whatsoever?) Even if the case remains officially unsolved (as the Mattei murder does) MAJESTIC can still offload any sub rosa backblast from its killing onto those poor neanderthal saps in DELTA GREEN.

You Did It

We can always go back to our fictitious Senator for this one. Senator Theodore Warrick (R-CT) is a Sentinel of the Exalted Circle Cthulhu cult, and is also being tipped as a possible Vice-Presidential candidate for the GOP in 1968. Your Agents have hard proof that Senator Warrick literally sleeps with the fishes, and a ticking clock before Secret Service protection makes killing him a suicide mission. This deserves to be a major set piece operation, with huge ramifications throughout the campaign. You could even move it to 1964 or 1960 and have it be the inciting event for your Agent team. DELTA GREEN can’t keep them even on its covert books, so it burns them Night’s Black Agents style, and sends them out to work under completely deniable cover, occasionally dead-dropping briefing files to them, as the FBI stays one step away from linking them to the Warrick assassination.

Or why fictionalize our senators? Really? Now, I’m not saying you should go full Ellroy and have your Agents on the grassy knoll with rifles. (I’m not saying not to do that, mind.) But let’s say that a DELTA GREEN hit team was on the grassy knoll with rifles, because a Massachusetts sailor President with strange physical debilities who sleeps with literally everything that moves is a bigger security risk than they want to take. And let’s say his Senator brother is running for President, and will definitely reopen the case if he wins. And let’s say that DELTA GREEN doesn’t want any file like that reopened. What do you do, hot shot? (Besides watch the magnificently surreal assassination film Winter Kills, of course.) What do you do?

 

29 May: [Royal Nepalese Army] gives three objects to [REDACTED] and tells [REDACTED] that a complete nose cone (fourth object) exists but cannot be seen

— US Embassy Nepal, Defense Attache Office report, 23 July 1968

On the night of 25 March 1968, something unknown crashed into Nepal from outer space. Project MOON DUST was notified, and removed three of the four pieces of wreckage. The final piece, a cone- or saucer-shaped object, was not recovered. This is the absolute truth.

Pokhara, Nepal (UFO crash site probably behind the hill center-right)

And if the US government simply had the common courtesy to keep things classified instead of dumping out its documents to every Tom, Dick, and Harry with a Freedom of Information Act request, we could have all kinds of fun with that recovered fragment of UFO lore. In fairness, you still can. Most people — even most UFO fans — don’t know a lot more than this, and its details are at least buried in long tiresome badly-Xeroxed PDFs, not colorfully explained in a loopy eliptony column (until now). If you have the kind of player who has already assembled the dozen or so declassified pages on the “Kathmandu UFO Crash” as it is occasionally known, they will almost certainly not be the one to call shenanigans when you go ahead and make up wonderful things about it.

Even the CIA “Information Report” on the incident, marked Confidential on 11 April 1968 and declassified probably in 2009, still holds that wonder in potential. Its context is suspected Chinese activity along the Himalayan border between Tibet and Nepal, and it includes not just a lovely picture of UFOlogist Donald Keyhoe but also details of three other UFO sightings in the area: a long thin very bright UFO over northeastern Nepal and Sikkim on 19 February; a blue light over Bhutan on 21 February; and a white light and a red light over the Kashmir border region of Ladakh on 4 March. (The blue light also returned on 25 March, the night of the crash, and buzzed Ladakh.) All these UFOs flew from the northeast (Tibet) to the southwest until the crash.

Ah yes, the crash. Let’s go to the CIA report verbatim now: “A blazing object, flashing intermittently accompanied by big thunder sound disintegrated over Kaski region. A huge metallic disc-shaped object with a six-foot base and four feet in height was found in a crater at Baltichaur, five miles NE of Pokhara. Portions of a similar object were found at Talakot and Turepasal.” Pretty great, eh? CIA reports a UFO crash in the Himalayas, Men in Black spring into action and recover the wreckage, smash cut to Area 51 or Hangar 18.

Sadly, also-declassified Defense Intelligence Agency reports on the same incident (on 23 and 30 July 1968) go into bruising bureaucratic detail. And since quotidian realism is the key to proper Lovecraftian horror, so too shall I. According to the Defense Attache (DATT) in the US Embassy in Kathmandu, the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) sat on the incident for a month, only showing “two objects” to the DATT on 23 April, and providing the DIA with photos of the wreckage and the site on 20 May.

On 29 May Project MOON DUST enters the picture (the DIA report is helpfully tabbed with the MOON DUST clearance, and the 30 July report even mentions briefing the Ambassador “on MOON DUST situation”) and the RNA gives “three objects” to some party redacted in the declassified report. Two weeks after that, [REDACTED] gets off its butt and visits the crash site, five miles northeast of the city of Pokhara, and spends ten days there (15-25 June). The final report describes the objects in some detail and even includes (badly reproduced) sketches: the “disc shape” is 15 inches across, not six feet. The “nose cone” is probably a motor nozzle; the report recommends that a technical team “not repeat not” be sent “unless visual examination of fourth object is felt essential.” To tie things off with a bow, the British Ministry of Defence (whose military attache horned in, and who may have gotten their own wreckage to examine) decreed the wreck to be the failed Cosmos 208 spy satellite that the Soviets launched on 21 March.

I am, of course, one of the men who have become allied with the outside beings visiting our planet. I met them first in the Himalayas, and have helped them in various ways. In return they have given me experiences such as few men have ever had.

— H.P. Lovecraft, “The Whisperer in Darkness”

So what can we, ourselves, recover from the wreckage of our beautiful story? How can we salvage it for a Moon Dust Men or Fall of DELTA GREEN operation? First of all, there is plenty of space for that operation in the official record: note that the DIA doesn’t even get a whiff of the crash (officially) for a month and the CIA (assuming those are the [REDACTED] boys) doesn’t show up for almost three months! That’s forever in RPG time.

Second of all, here’s something I’ve noticed. The more information you have on a topic, the more weird inconsistencies you can find in that information. There may be no historical moment better documented or more scrutinized than Dealey Plaza between 12:15 and 12:35 on 22 November 1963 and there are literal libraries of books based on the inconsistencies in those documents and that scrutiny. Fifteen or so measly pages shouldn’t veil us out so easy. So note the weird anomalies: are there three pieces of wreckage or four? Why does the CIA list two places that don’t exist (“Baltichaur” and “Turepasal”) in its list of crash sites like some Space Age Mandeville? Where did the British come from? Did somebody slip the Nepalese a ringer when we returned the pieces? How did that disc shrink from six feet to 15 inches? (Insert your own ‘it was cold’ joke here.) What about all those other UFOs? Why did the Nepalese insist the “nose cone” could not be seen and then let the CIA (or whoever) go look at it? Or did they mean it was invisible? Cloaked? Infradimensional?

Third, of course, we can look into Pokhara itself. In 1968 it didn’t even have a paved road leading to it from outside, although it did have a lot of Tibetan refugees from Mao. It’s a pilgrimage site (and before Mao a caravan site from Tibet), full of Hindu and Buddhist and mixed temples going back to medieval times. It’s less than 30 miles from the Annapurna mountain range — and from the CIA base for Tibetan rebels on just the other side of the ridge in Mustang. It’s also full of caves, sitting on porous rock near a big shiny lake, with the Patale Chango (Hell’s Falls) just to the south. In other words, it’s born to hold secrets from Yuggoth or Agharti or both.

Finally, there’s the DIA’s mushmouth bureaucratese, reeking of cover-up. The weird insistence to “not repeat not” send technical experts. The eagerness to wish away the wreckage as insignificant. And the lovely final words of the 30 July DIA memo, explaining that the Ambassador expressed his “desire we give the Government of Nepal positive info if at all possible.” Well that’s our mission here: to give positive info about UFO crashes, and Mi-Go macrodimensional metal, and [REDACTED].

“Crack the Sky, Shake the Earth”

— North Vietnamese coded message launching the Tet Offensive

Fifty years ago today, the Viet Cong broke its own back by launching the “Tet Offensive” against Saigon, Hué, Da Nang, Nha Trang, Pleiku, every provincial capital (36 cities), and all major US bases in South Vietnam. Between 30 January 1968 and 10 February 1968, when one straggling group of VC attacked Bac Lieu in the Mekong Delta, some 50,000 Viet Cong backed by about 35,000 North Vietnamese Army (NVA) regulars launched waves of attacks ranging in scope from simple rocket and mortar attacks on 64 district capitals and their airfields to suicide assaults on the U.S. Embassy in Saigon to full-fledged urban warfare in an attempt to seize and revolutionize the former imperial capital of Hué.

ARVN in Saigon, Tet 1968

South Vietnamese Army of the Republic of Viet Nam (ARVN) forces, in most places and most cases, eventually drove the Communist attackers away or killed them, aided by the VC lack of coordination, which spread their attacks out so that mobile reserves could defeat the assaults in detail. The dithering reluctance of U.S. General Westmoreland (who somehow talked himself into believing that the whole nationwide offensive was a feint intended to divert American forces from the ongoing siege of Khe Sanh) nearly handed the Communists the tactical advantage anyway, even as the complete failure of U.S. and South Vietnamese intelligence to predict the attacks handed the Communist forces strategic surprise.

However, even General Westmoreland couldn’t change the objective correlation of forces. American reinforcements took the cities back, clearing the VC out of Saigon city center by dawn on 1 February. Fighting continued in a few other locations: in Dalat until 15 February, in Kon Tum, Buôn Ma Thuột, Phan Thiết, Cần Thơ, and Bến Tre until the end of the month, in Cholon, the Chinese neighborhood of Saigon, until 7 March, and of course in Hué itself where the Communist cadres had formed a revolutionary committee and begun executing class enemies (2,800 to 5,000 of them) as the American artillery and bombs slowly reduced the “Fragrant City” to corpse-smeared rubble. (65% of the city was destroyed in the fighting.) The ARVN and USMC finally cleared the last Communist forces out of Hué on 2 March 1968.

At the end of the Offensive, the Viet Cong had lost as much as a third of its fighting strength, allowing Hanoi to fill the gap with NVA forces and take control of the insurgency from the locals. The Tet Offensive gut-punched the American effort in Vietnam almost as badly: the Washington establishment began looking for the exits in earnest, and nobody wanted to give Westmoreland the troop numbers he was now screeching for. The American media in the person of Walter Cronkite declared that Tet revealed the war to be stalemated and unwinnable, President Johnson refused to seek re-election rather than wage the war he had blundered into, and the American public eventually saw no reason to disagree with either of them.

Operation ODDBALL

The Tet Offensive takes DELTA GREEN by surprise just like it does the rest of the American national security establishment. DELTA GREEN Agents and teams in country respond to the attacks on 30 or 31 January, drive them off, and then return to barracks where they find a message: “In honor of the New Year, join us in a day at the races.” DELTA GREEN decides to use Tet to launch as many operations as they can in the first week of February while the country is in chaos: any needed damage, looting, arson, and so on can be concealed in the VC onslaught. Every program op on the planning boards in South Vietnam gets a “free fire” approval to welcome in the Year of the Monkey, all rolled up in one.

During this country-wide Operation ODDBALL, individual DELTA GREEN teams of Agents might launch their own harebrained, half-planned op or move on any of these leads:

  • South Vietnamese and American military police stationed in the resort town of Da Lat in the Central Highlands report that the VC seem fanatically insistent on capturing the Pasteur Institute there, founded by the bacteriologist Alexandre Yersin in 1936. DELTA GREEN has determined that Yersin uncovered the extraterrestrial and unnatural Black Fever from research in French Algeria and possibly even cultured it during his work on the plague in the 1890s, the same time as a Black Fever outbreak in San Francisco. Unfortunately, the same CDC asset that provided this intel also provided it to MJ-8. A MAJESTIC operator (from MJ-10) is also on the case, because Black Fever probably sickens and infects the Greys; the Agents’ mission is to find that one vial among the millions stored in the Institute, and destroy it by fire.
  • The Kuen-Yuin cult smuggles weapons, medicine of extremely dubious nature, and propaganda for both Mao and Tsan-Chan in and out of Cholon as part of a Maoist cadre in the city, and devotes the rest of its activities to mapping Saigon’s geomantic nexi using the local xin stone as a focus and lens. The xin stone is actually the foundation stone of a wharf, and its xin field rapidly energizes during the cruelty, barbarism, and suffering of the campaign.
  • The USMC retakes the Khai Dinh Museum in Hué on 5 Feb. Shortly before that date, DELTA GREEN inserts a team into Hué with the mission of clearing out the entire museum’s supply of Cham artifacts, art, and archaeological records for ARCHINT analysis by the program. While they’re there, they should look out for anything else implying Cthulhu cultism or other unnatural activity in the past. Of course, they will have to drive off the Viet Cong cadre currently occupying the museum. The program mounts similar actions at the Museum Henri Parmentier in Da Nang and the Blanchard de Brosse Museum in Saigon, as well as the Saigon offices of the École Francaise d’Extréme Orient on Hai Ba Trung Street … next door to the French Embassy.
  • Taking advantage of the ARVN garrison’s redeployment into Saigon, a Dao Sâm cadre (reinforced by VC fighters) has taken over the archaeological site at Óc Eo in the Mekong Delta. Óc Eo was a major port for the empire of Funan in the 6th century A.D., an empire centered on the Cambodian jungles. The Dao Sâm seeks to awaken whatever loathsome swimmer their lord Angka, the Black Buddha, sent to guard his empire’s gateway to the outside world. The program seeks information on Dao Sâm practices, and operational intel on their connections deeper inside Cambodia.

No need to build a stage, it was all around us. Props would be simple and obvious. We would hurl ourselves across the canvas of society like streaks of splattered paint. Highly visual images would become news, and rumor-mongers would rush to spread the excited word. … Once we acknowledged the universe as theater and accepted the war of symbols, the rest was easy.

— Abbie Hoffman, “Museum of the Streets”

In the most American way possible, the biggest magical ritual ever performed in the United States (and possibly in the world) was essentially a marketing campaign. The activist (and former student of psychologist Abraham Maslow) Abbie Hoffman believed in the power of vaporware politics: create an image of the product you want and people will believe it already exists and buy into it. (The French syndicalist philosopher Georges Sorel had much the same realization in 1908.) In other words, Esoterror, although it may seem a trifle charged to use such a term for an action intended to convince the youth of America that the youth of America already opposed the Vietnam War, which in 1967 was by no means a sure bet. Hoffman would surely have preferred Esorgasm, or perhaps Esotrickery.

And what, specifically, was that action to be? Nothing less than the levitation and exorcism (or “exorgasm”) of the Pentagon during the March on Washington of October 21, 1967, planned and carried out by the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam. While folksingers bleated and lefties old and new orated, Abbie Hoffman orchestrated a Working, complete with a Hittite chant discovered or invented by the poet (and member of the counterculture house band The Fugs) Ed Sanders, in consultation with the occultist and musicologist Harry Smith.

The full ritual, as planned, involved sprinkling cornmeal in a circle around the Pentagon as 25,000 hippies held hands, the Powers were invoked from the four cardinal directions, and “a cow painted with occult symbols” looked on. After consulting with Mexican shamans, the painter and theosophist Michael Bowen added a further air element: 200 pounds of daisies to be dropped onto the roof of the Pentagon from a small plane. Hoffman somehow put the whammy on the Pentagon’s negotiators, who talked him down from levitating the Pentagon 22 feet in the air (other sources claim Hoffman opened at 300 feet) to three feet, and in what I can only consider a classic (but ultimately failed) troll attempt, issued the Marchers a permit to levitate the world’s largest office building three feet off the ground.

I remember after we’d done “Out, Demons, Out,” I went down under the truck and there was this guy from Newsweek trying to hold a microphone close to [Kenneth] Anger. It looked like he was burning a pentagon with a Tarot card or a picture of the devil or something in the middle of it. In other words the thing we were doing above him, he viewed that as the exoteric thing and he was doing the esoteric, serious, zero-bullshit exorcism.

— Ed Sanders, in “Out, Demons, Out! An Oral History

Ordo Veritatis, or DELTA GREEN, or whoever else was keeping an eye on things magical for the military-industrial complex, was on the ball that day. The Pentagon permit explicitly forbade a human chain surrounding the Pentagon; as Norman Mailer put it later, “exorcism without encirclement was like culinary art without a fire—no one could properly expect a meal.” Furthermore, the Park Police confiscated the cornmeal when Paul Krassner and some other hippies tried a “practice exorcism” earlier that day on the Washington Monument, a different police force stopped the cow, and the FBI grounded the daisy plane.

So at the moment of truth, 25,000 stoned hippies and other curious types read an abridged visualization ritual while regaled with the music of the Fugs on Indian triangle, cymbals, drums, trumpets, and finger bells. Standing in a truck flatbed, Ed Sanders did his best to invoke Zeus, Anubis, Aphrodite, Magna Mater, Dionysus, Zagreus, Jesus, Yahweh, the Unnamable, the Zoroastrian fire, Hermes, the “beak of Sok,” Ra, Osiris, Horus, Nepta, Isis, “the flowing living universe,” and the Tyrone Power Pound Cake Society in the Sky, apparently an early avatar of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Underneath the truck, Crowleian film maker Kenneth Anger crouched, burning sigils and “making snake noises at whomever should try to come near.” He had previously scattered 93 parchment-and-India-ink sigils in the men’s restrooms of the Pentagon, part of a personal campaign to tame and banish the god Mars, one more freelance ritual to snarl whatever ectoplasm or Od was left from the abortive Working. (One assumes DELTA GREEN rounded up most of those sigils. Most of them.) Finally, the Fugs announced the “Grope-In,” meant to put the “orgasm” in “exorgasm” and replace the hate-energy of the Pentagon with the love-energy of hippies having sex in the Pentagon parking lot. But by now the 82nd Airborne had deployed around the building, and enthusiastic marshals began hitting hippies with clubs, and the old left ran away and the new left got arrested.

The Pentagon, as far as anyone can tell, remained at its original altitude, and retained its original, or at least its full, demonic complement.

So, an exercise in the ridiculous, right? Well, maybe.

The Levitation and Exorcism made the evening news, and Newsweek, and more places than Abbie Hoffman could have dreamed of. Norman Mailer made much of his own tangential role in the affair in Harper’s, and then in the very very best-selling The Armies of the Night. (Its subtitle was the esoterribly clever “History as a Novel/The Novel as History,” which rather gives the game away.) Those daisies, redirected from the abortive Aztec aircraft abracadabra, wound up in the arms of the protestors — and a photograph of hippie Superjoel (or possibly a different hippie named Hibiscus) putting a daisy in the barrel of a soldier’s gun became the iconic image Hoffman had dreamed up but never imagined. Six months and ten days later, driven in large part by ballooning anti-war sentiment in his own party, President Johnson announced he would not seek re-election in 1968.

 

Many of us ride winter and summer, but the ultimate thing for us would be to have an endless summer. The only way to do this is to travel around the world.

— Narrator, Endless Summer (1966)

When older DELTA GREEN agents reminisce – when the painkillers and the bourbon hit at the same time, or when they pass the row of unmarked black tiles near the Reflecting Pool entrance to Wing Five of the Munitions Building – they might talk about the War, sure. Or they might talk about the Raid, although even these grizzled veterans don’t remember that far back. But what they want to talk about is what they want to remember: the time when God and Eisenhower protected the right, when a man with a brush cut and a U.S. diplomatic passport could overthrow a kingdom, when the program had Nazis to hunt and Deep Ones on ice. They were in their element then, the survivors and the cowboys. DELTA GREEN may be falling now, they will tell you, but in the Fifties, it was summertime all year round.

The Fall of DELTA GREEN corebook mentions eight operations carried out by the program in this decade: SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY, SIC SEMPER TYRANNIS, SEVEN, LANCASTER, BRISTOL, ADVANCE MAN, SKUNKED, and MALLORY. Here are eight more missions for your grizzled veterans to look back on with pride and horror.

1950: Operation AUDITOR

Part of SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY, this operation tasks the Agents with the capture – alive – of Francois Genoud, Swiss financier of the ODESSA rat lines, and perhaps of the remaining Karotechia. When they track him down, he is trading in artifacts in Beirut: including idols and tablets pertaining to Dagon, al-Abhi, Nirgal, and other unnatural entities. His cultist customers are the real threat, even more than his Nazi partners in crime. This might be a straight-up snatch job, or more of a long con, depending on the Agents’ skill set.

1951: Operation FLORIDA

The Olaegodae (“very old”) mountain tribes around Hwasun in southwestern Korea held out after the main North Korean elements were pushed back in October 1950. Desperation led them to return to old habits of worship: the Hwasun miners’ communes called down the “North Emperor,” Gugwang. In February 1951, DELTA GREEN inserts two companies of occult counter-insurgents to capture and destroy the Olaegodae black stone monolith in the mountains.

Keep watching the skies!

1952: Operation ORSON

Following multiple UFO sightings over Washington, D.C. by military pilots, civilians, and radar technicians on 19-20 July 1952, President Truman orders MAJESTIC-12 to come up with two explanations: a real one, and one suitable for a press conference on 29 July. The program gets swept up in this “all hands on deck” moment as an even bigger Grey armada buzzes the capital on 26-27 July. For one week, nobody at MAJESTIC is paying attention, and the Agents can push things as far as they dare.

 

1952: Operation STITCHER

On 12 September 1952, five boys and a West Virginia National Guardsman saw a cone-shaped, round-headed, tentacled monster near Flatwoods, West Virginia while investigating strange lights. The next day, MJ-3 and DELTA GREEN send a BLUE BOOK team to investigate and cover up this possible Yithian sighting; the Agents discover that MJ-3 might be more interested in harnessing this fold in time to the Triassic than in shutting it down. Meanwhile, the eyewitnesses report mysterious ailments: prehistoric contagion, Yithian possession, or unnatural toxicity?

1953: Operation HAWKEYE

DELTA GREEN sends the Agents to examine Lomarian ruins uncovered by the extension of the runway at Barter Island, Alaska during construction of a radar station for the Distant Early Warning line. While they are there, the station emits a pulse that awakens Arnos, a lich of primordial Lomar. He sends his consciousness into the USAF personnel there, and then into the DELTA GREEN team, until they cannot tell who is human and who is some kind of thing from another time.

1954: Operation HIPPOLYTA

During the chaos around the CIA’s Operation SUCCESS in Guatemala, archaeologist Karla Lawrence disappears on 21 June 1954 near the suspected Deep One hybrid colony at Laguna Negra. The program scrambles a rescue mission, not least because Lawrence is a former OSS agent and DELTA GREEN friendly. Things get complicated when examination of Lawrence’s effects indicates she knew about the Deep One presence, and perhaps arranged her own kidnapping as a way to find out what the immortal beings know about the ancient Maya.

1956: Operation EPHESUS

On 5 February 1956, many of the citizens of Blue Hill, New Mexico oversleep and cannot be wakened until nightfall. At night, they paint graffiti on walls, move rocks, and bury water tanks in certain spots. Because Blue Hill is a residential community for the White Sands missile range, the program tasks the Agents to investigate a possible unnatural threat. A cult of Tamash in the Dreamlands city of Ilarnek has begun dreaming itself into the waking world, intending to overthrow the god Bokrug by shifting him into New Mexico to be killed by the Army. There may be some psychic backlash to the residents of Blue Hill, or of New Mexico – but it’s worth it in their eyes to rid Ilarnek of their hideous lizard tyrant. How exactly the Agents respond to this invasion of the Bokrug switchers – and how they’ll find them all amongst the innocent townsfolk — is up to them.

1957: Operation MULE TRAIN

Interest in Antarctica rises during the International Geophysical Year, and the program has picked up on Soviet plans to investigate the ruins of Kadath uncovered by the Lake expedition in 1930. The Soviet occult operatives (possibly GRU-SV8) have been inserted into the Second Soviet Antarctic Expedition; in December DELTA GREEN inserts the Agents into the Navy’s Operation DEEP FREEZE III. Their mission: shadow the Soviets, find out what they find out, and leave Kadath untampered with in its cold waste. Whatever they find out may trigger the Antarctic Ocean “nuclear tests” on 27 August through 6 September 1958, code named Operation ARGUS.

“But let us turn to the Tyrrhenians while they still remain; for under the maddening power of Dionysos the forms of dolphins are creeping over the Tyrrhenians — not at all the dolphins we know, however, nor yet those native to the sea. One of the men has dark sides, one a slippery breast, on the back of one a fin is growing, one is growing a tail, the head of one is gone but that of another is left, the hand of one is melting away, while another laments over his vanishing feet.”

— Philostratus of Lemnos (ca. 220 CE)

Philostratus purports to be describing a painting here, but read it through a Lovecraftian lens and wonder with me about the other big-brained mammal that washes up against Y’ha-nthlei. Note, by the way that the forms the Tyrrhenians metamorphose into are “not at all the dolphins we know” and also not “those native to the sea.” What could he be talking about? Why, the Deeper Ones, of course.

Kkkrrrkkkk-thulhu fhtagn!

The Deeper Ones are to dolphins what the Deep Ones are to humans: the result of a hybrid breeding program that produces a blend of the two phenotypes. Since dolphins are already aquatic, the changes mostly come inside it: gills emerge, pressure-resistant scales form beneath its blubber, the eyes distend, the flippers lengthen. The most visible difference is a thick bristly crest along the Deeper One’s spine, but it can lay that down voluntarily. The Deeper Ones behave more brutally and ruthlessly than regular dolphins, with a much stronger and more violent sexual appetite — one not limited to the delphinoid species. They are as intelligent as human-hybrid Deep Ones. If a Deeper One has not fully shifted into hybrid form, or is deliberately subduing its Deeper One “tells” then it requires a spend of Biology, Outdoorsman, or the equivalent to notice something uncanny about the beast.

Edward P. Berglund’s “The Sand Castle” names the Deeper Ones the Laniqua Lua’huan, who serve Tsur’lhn, a high priest of Cthulhu who resembles an enormous razor clam filled with tentacles and shadowy protrusions. James Wade’s wonderful Lilly-derived tale “The Deep Ones” goes still farther and indicts even regular dolphins as willing servants of Cthulhu and the telepathic amplifiers, coursing hounds, and sacred beasts of the Deep Ones. Dolphins as amplifiers of Deep One telepathy and/or Cthulhu’s dream sendings evoke the hypnotic songs associated with mermaids and Sirens. The concept also provides a wonderful opening for all manner of horrible stories — mass mind control, hypnotic suicide, dream attacks, cult frenzy — made still worse by the sunny refusal of everyone else to believe anything bad of the ocean’s perfect companion. I used this duality in my own game several years back, and I still cherish the players’ flinch when the sunny NPC docent announced “There has never been a recorded incident of a dolphin attacking a human.” As one of my players muttered in response: “Not recorded … because they kill all the witnesses.”

Trail of Cthulhu Keepers should look into Marine Studios (later Marineland) south of St. Augustine, Florida, which became the first public dolphin exhibit park in the world in June of 1938. It opened with one bottlenose dolphin, attracting tourists and literati. The Creature From the Black Lagoon was filmed at Marineland in 1954, and the dolphinarium remained extremely popular well into the Fall of DELTA GREEN era. However Flipper, filmed between 1963 and 1967, drew crowds to Marineland’s rival, the Miami Seaquarium. Perhaps a failing marine park desperately promotes its particularly intelligent dolphin, and covers up the surely unrelated rash of deaths.

• In addition, Fall of DELTA GREEN Handlers might consider involving the Deeper Ones with the Navy Marine Mammal Program. The NMMP starts in 1962 at Point Mugu, California; in 1967 the program becomes classified, transfers to the Naval Undersea Research and Development Center at Point Loma near San Diego and adds a second facility at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay in Hawaii. Dolphin teams deploy to Vietnam in 1965, tasked with minesweeping and anti-frogman security. The Navy prefers the more aggressive dolphins with Deep One genetics; DELTA GREEN differs.

Deeper One

“Though the ordinary Delphinus delphis is a cetacean mammal, unable to subsist without air, I watched one of the swimmers closely for two hours, and did not see him alter his submerged condition. … the peculiar dolphins were still about us, even at a depth where the existence of high organisms is considered impossible by most naturalists.”

— H.P. Lovecraft, “The Temple”

Abilities: Athletics 16, Health 10, Scuffling 12

Magic: 7; spells connected with Cthulhu or the Deep Ones.

Hit Threshold: 4 (big but agile)

Alertness Modifier: +1 (+2 vs. moving objects underwater)

Stealth Modifier: +2

Attack: bite (-1), bash (+0 or more)

Armor: -1 vs. any (subdermal scales)

Stability Loss: +0

Charging Bash: If a Deeper One can charge its target, it can convert more of its 500 kg of momentum into impact damage. A Deeper One that attacks from Near or farther can spend 2 Athletics to add +1 to its damage (max. +3). It must spend at least one round swimming back out to Near distance to launch a charging bash attack the next round.

Fully Aquatic: Deeper Ones, unlike dolphins, don’t need to surface or breathe air.

Orca Hybrid: Orcas, or killer whales, are a very large and aggressive genus of dolphin, and may also interbreed with the Deep Ones. For an orca Deeper One template, increase Athletics, Health, and Scuffling by +6. Its bite does +4 damage; its bash starts at +2; its Armor is -3. The orca hybrid can also grab and hold with its bite: by paying 2 Scuffling points, the Deeper One clamps down on its foe and automatically hits with a free bite attack each round thereafter. It and its victim take -1 to their Hit Threshold against each other.

Regular Dolphin: A regular, non-hybrid dolphin has Athletics 9, Health 7, Scuffling 6, and no Armor. (Increase these abilities as above for a regular orca.) It may or may not have Magic, or a pod of dolphins may have a common Magic pool, depending on the Keeper’s view of dolphin intelligence.

Telepathy: A Deeper One can read the mind of, and send its thoughts to, any Deep One, Deeper One, dolphin, hybrid, or dreaming human within a mile. (Stability test against the Deeper One’s roll+spend (of Magic) total to resist; the Deeper One may add +1 to its result for every five telepaths assisting it.) Alcohol (drinking enough to cost 2 Health) may block the Deeper Ones’ telepathic abilities.

 

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