Follow TV Tropes

Following

Tabletop Game / Delta Green

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/dgsplash.gif
Welcome to your new job, rookie.

We travel light, we probe deep, and we strike hard. We're Delta Green, and we may be outlaws and cowboys and fools, but we've kept this green ball of shit safe and sound for longer than most people have been alive.
Reginald Fairfield

Choose federal law enforcement. Choose the military. Choose NASA or the CDC. Choose lying to your superiors. Choose to ruin your career. Choose no friends. Choose divorce. Choose life through the bottom of a bottle. Choose destroying evidence and executing innocent people because they know too fucking much. Choose black fatigues and matching gas masks. Choose an MP5 stolen from the CIA loaded with Glasers, with a wide range of fucking attachments. Choose blazing away at mind numbing, sanity crushing things from beyond the stars, wondering whether you'd be better off stuffing the barrel in your own mouth. Choose The King In Yellow and waking up wondering who you are. Choose a 9mm retirement plan. Choose going out with a bang at the end of it all, PGP encrypting your last message down a securely laid cable as an NRO Delta wetworks squad busts through your door. Choose one last Night at the Opera. Choose Delta Green.
Anonymous

An acclaimed sourcebook for the famous Call of Cthulhu tabletop roleplaying game, Delta Green tells the story of the eponymous organization, a secret United States agency born of the Federal raid on Innsmouth, Massachusetts in 1929 and tasked to protect the country from paranormal threats. After an operation gone horribly wrong in Cambodia in the '60s, Delta Green was officially shut down — but its leaders, aware of the things lurking in the cracks of reality, continued the fight illegally, stealing resources from the government, carefully picking new members from the federal agents community, and generally acting like rightfully pissed off Cowboy Cops in their battle against the supernatural. It would not be until the 1994 assassination of Major General Reginald Fairfield, Delta Green's de facto leader, than DG would take up their current incarnation: a deeply hidden conspiracy in the labyrinthine world of the United States federal agencies, structured in semi-independent cells.

The new Delta Green was released in 2016 and advanced the plot. After a series of operations against the Mi-Go and the Greys, Delta Green delivers a huge blow on MAJESTIC-12, in 2001 the 9/11 attacks results in a total reorganization of the US intelligence community. Delta Green is reactivated, brought back into government fold, given a proper budget and using The War on Terror as their new cover, this new organization is nicknamed "The Program". Some old members refused to go official and decided to keep the old group running, nicknamed "The Outlaws"; this group acts more like the old Delta Green, as a illegal and unauthorized conspiracy.

Delta Green is heavily based on classical conspiracy/UFO theories, meshing them with the Cthulhu Mythos milieu: DG themselves are a spin on The Men in Black, but there are also other shadow agencies involved, including the now famous Majestic 12 group that deals with the Greys (actually Mi-Go in disguise). Other players are the Karotechia, occultist Nazis serving an "ascended" Hitler; the Fate, a criminal organization that makes heavy use of Mythos creatures and spells for fun and profit; SaucerWatch, a naïve yet well-funded UFO research group that may be closer to the truth than they know; and the Cult of Transcendence, among others.

The tone of the book is even bleaker than standard CoC: where the basic game has investigators struggling against Mythos creatures and the cultists that serve them (and DG does include its fair share of battle against these forces) the primary adversaries are evil and/or utterly amoral humans that (attempt to) use the forces of the Mythos for their own benefit, and are becoming as amoral as them. The Stars are Coming Right, and there may not be anything that Delta Green, or anyone else can do about it...

But it doesn't mean they have to make things easy for them.

For the other, slightly less depressing, slightly funnier Lovecraft-meets-spy-fiction setting, see The Laundry Files and it's own RPG which also uses the Basic Role-Playing system, The Laundry.

In late 2015, a kickstarter was held for a new series of Delta Green sourcebooks. It reached 10 times its expected goal for a total of $300,000 received, and new material was released throughout 2016. The creators have released a PDF copy of a quick start guide, Need to Know for free on their official website. In 2018 Pelgrane Press from Trail Of Cthulhu, 13th Age and Mutant City Blues fame released a prequel named The Fall of DELTA GREEN, using Pelgrane's own GUMSHOE system and focused in the 60s and The Vietnam War unto the fateful operation in Cambodia that lead to the fall of Delta Green.


This game provides examples of:

  • The '90s: The setting of the original sourcebook.
  • Aliens and Monsters: And not all of them are betentacled.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: Both averted and played straight with the Cult of Transcendence. As the Alta Vendita, they've been around since the Crusades, but they underwent a significant change in leadership and purpose after the First World War showed them how much their attempts at running the world had failed. The book giving their background also leaves open the possibility that the entire history of the Cult as laid out is a lie meant to impress new initiates with conspiratorial leanings.
    • The Kuen-Yuin are a straight example, being an ancient Chinese conspiracy controlled by the Lloigor which aims to create the Cruel Empire of Tsan-Chan.
  • Argentina is Nazi-Land: The Karotechia, Hitler's occult division whose remnants are hiding in the Amazon.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Through A Glass Darkly features a machine that can allow a person to do this.
  • Aliens in Cardiff: The nations that have active anti-occult organizations are the United States, Russia, United Kingdom and... Canada.
  • All Therapists Are Muggles: Agents can go to the therapist after an operation to attempt to recover Sanity points. There are two choices: Get treatment but lie about the unnatural, which is a more safe option although it gives less SAN points back, or tell the horrible truth to the therapist. However, if you succeed this will be a Subverted Trope as the therapist will not only believe you, himself will lose sanity points.
  • Brain Food: Agent NANCY is DG's foremost forensic analyst and autopsy expert. She is, in fact, a ghoul, and can obtain knowledge from dead bodies by devouring their brains. All ghouls apparently have this ability.
    • The Karotechia's Reinhard Galt also has this ability, learned from the Anziques.
  • Badass Normal: Many NPCs, such as the late Major Fairfield, Captain Forrest James or MJ-12's Adolph Lepus. The PCs can also become this.
  • Broad Strokes: According to the official site, nothing in Delta Green is canon. Instead, they encourage players to use whatever works for their game.
    • With regards to the original Call of Cthulhu RPG which DG was an expansion for, they change some facets of the gods and monsters. Most notably, Hastur is dramatically different from the more Derleth-inspired Call version. Overall, Delta Green considers Lovecraft's works "canon", and the stories of other Mythos writers depending on the needs of the plot.
  • CIA Evil, FBI Good: An interesting example of FBI and CIA good... and NRO evil. Majestic-12 is partially inside the NRO and uses their assets for their own goals, including the NRO section DELTA, their black ops wetwork section. The reason is because most of material about the NRO is classified Top Secret and one of the agencies with most black budget.
    • Otherwise subverted, as the Player Characters can be both FBI and CIA, and both FBI and CIA are portrayed as shady organizations. Player Character can even be NRO employees, although not the ones in Majestic-12 operations.
  • Church of Happyology: The Enolsis Foundation. In this setting, of course it has a horrible secret.
  • Code Name: Every DG agent has one. Also, there are the MJ-12 projects, and the various classified documents used throughout the game.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: Even without all the human cultists, sorcerers and others dealing with Mythos forces, humanity would be in pretty deep trouble. With them around, though, they're utterly screwed.
  • Covert Group with Mundane Front: The EPIC in M-EPIC stands for Environment Policy Impact Commission and it's part of the Ministry of Environment of Canada. The group uses this cover so they can easily secure any rubber stamps from the Parliament without any questions.
  • Clarke's Third Law: Delta Green calls magic Hypergeometry, due it's frequent association with lines, shapes, numbers, position and mathematics. The game gives example on how a tribal shaman drawing a mandala in sand or a scientist pointing lasers in the sky to invoke something begin similar things with a similar "math", and the rituals are described to be "tapping" in an infinite energy grid beyond the four dimensions. Hypergeometry is stated to be the "technology" used by advanced alien and unearthly species such as the Elder Things, Mi-Go and the Great Race of Yith, and implied they were passed down to humanity by the Great Old Ones.
  • Crapsack World: The world is full of Lovecraftian darkness. And doomed.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Ghouls have a bit of that vibe going on, depending on the particular group or individual. Of course, players shouldn't rely on it too much unless they want to become lunch.
  • Darker and Edgier: DG is like a grimdark X-Files, although the initial Convergence scenario was first printed before that show premiered.
  • Deadline News: Phenomen-X, the basic cable conspiracy investigation show, can suffer this. DG is perfectly willing to treat them as canaries in the coal mines to see if the alleged supernatural is actually a threat.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: It can be argued that this is the best DG can hope to do.
  • Downer Ending: Delta Green fights the fires it sees, but it's all going downhill. Some modern CoC material hints at possible evacuation to space habitats or the Dreamlands, but nothing positive or canonical.
    • The Delta Green short story "After Math" details the end of the world through the eyes of an elderly Delta Green agent.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Naturally. The "definition" of Great Old Ones is as follows:
    "The Great Old Ones came from elsewhere and fought over the Earth billions of years before man, and now sleep in some infernal cycle of time. Life on Earth is the result of biological runoff; a fungus borne of alien shit, that has clung and crawled and evolved as these giants sleep. Their science is our magic, and remnants of their civilizations spring up to infect our world. Soon, they will wake and destroy humanity. NOTHING can stop this."
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: The Special Operator profession. While you can be a normal Soldier/Marine, the Special Operator includes members of the USSOCOM, FBI Hostage Rescue Team and CIA Paramilitary. Fridge Brilliance kicks in when you realize how useful a special forces operator is for a Delta Green team, not only they can shoot and fight better then any Soldier or Marine, most of their operations includes Unconventional Warfare and Counterterrorism more then Direct Action, and how some units have training to covertly act in foreign soil for months without support, such as the Green Berets or the CIA SAD/SOG.
  • Face Stealer: Multiple examples. Ghouls are particularly inclined to do this.
  • Ghostapo: The Karotechia — at least, what remains of it. An elderly worshipper of Yog-Sothoth, an undead Mad Scientist Necromancer mixing the legacies of both Herbert West and Dr Munoz from Cool Air, a humanitarian übermensch who gets immortality and invincibility in the bargain, and the "ascended" spirit of Adolf Hitler (at least, they think it's Hitler...)
    • The real Hitler ordered the former Karotechia to summon Azathoth, in an attempted Taking You with Me against the entire world.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Let's just say that the suicide rate in Delta Green is above average.
  • The Government: Many real-life US Federal agencies are provided for PCs to be part of, from familiar ones like the FBI and the DEA to the more obscure like FinCEN or the National Security Council. Countdown extends the roster to a number of foreign agencies.
  • Government Agency of Fiction: From DG and MJ-12 to equivalents in other countries, like the British PISCES or the Russian GRU SV-8.
  • Government Conspiracy: Majestic 12. Delta Green itself used to be this.
    • Alternatively, if you believe one Delta Green Agent: "We're the government conspiracy. Those guys are just the government".
    • PISCES can be considered a variation as well considering that it's been taken over wholesale by the Shan.
  • The Greys: The high-tech aliens cutting secret deals with MJ-12 for fun and profit. Of course, they are not what they seem.
  • Groin Attack: The Skoptsi sect in Russia does this to themselves — all members of the cult must undergo castration.
  • Gut Feeling: The reason the Mi-Go are so interested in humans is our (to them) unnerving capability to extrapolate accurate answers with little information and no clear logic chains of thought.
  • Humans Are Special: An interesting example considering the genre, but the humans are the only species that the Mi-Go discovered that has a "Epistemically Diploid" mind, that is, it's both rational and irrational, allowing to humans make guesses that do not fit a logical extrapolation from theoretical models, and often is that those irrational leaps of logics are correct, and this is utterly unnerving to the Mi-Go.
  • Infectious Insanity: One of the plots of MJ-12's Project OUTLOOK is to create a "psychological virus", a way of causing a cascading spiral of riots and unrest through manipulation of the media.
    • Hastur. Unlike vanilla Call of Cthulhu, Hastur is not a God or Old One, but an infectious and pervasive force of decay. Knowing about Hastur or its related mythos trappings allows such decay to happen on a person's psyche.
  • Interservice Rivalry: All the time between the various real-world agencies. Delta Green and MJ-12 used to have this in the short period where both officially worked for the US government.
    • The new sourcebooks feature two Delta Greens; the Special Access Program, a reactivated, officially sanctioned version, and "the Cowboys", DG Agents who refused to come in from the cold and thus operate as vigilantes.
  • Just Before the End: In some level, everyone knows that there is not much time left for humanity. This is why the Mi-Go created the Grey deception: to extract as much information as possible from humans before our time runs out.
  • Knight Templar: Delta Green agents used to go too far in their quest to both protect the American populace from the supernatural and keep the existence of the latter (and itself) a secret, particularly in the Fairfield era. Some still do.
    • In the words of one DG agent, "we do the horrific to prevent the apocalyptic". Later in that story, the same agent deliberately, and (we are led to believe) needfully, shoots a baby.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: The Deep Ones. In the original sourcebook, it's noted that DG invested much of its efforts from its founding in the wake of Innsmouth until after World War II to hunting down Deep One colonies. As such, the vast majority of them have determined the surface world is now more trouble than it's worth, and only very isolated enclaves remain on the surface.
    • The creators have alluded to this being the fate of the Mi-Go; they, through the Greys, stopped working with Majestic-12 around the turn of the millennium.
  • The Mafia: The Fate is New York City's magic-using organized crime cartel.
  • Research, Inc.: March Industries. Originally started as a front company for MAJESTIC for advanced research, but after their collapse many ex-MAJESTIC personnel went to work at March (Including four former members of the Steering Committee). The Program can't shut down March since it's a major part of the Military-Industrial complex and relies on March for research
  • Make Way for the New Villains: A new sourcebook will feature new threats arising from / with the Global War on Terror, with many old threats no longer relevant. Several other books funded via Kickstarter will deal with what happened to the old threats; including MAJESTIC-12, PISCES, and The Fate.
  • The Masquerade: Delta Green fights to keep the existence of the paranormal a secret from the public at large. Sometimes, that involves ''neutralizing'' innocents.
  • Mind Screw: The Hastur Mythos. Also Surreal Horror.
  • No Such Agency: Delta Green started off as an official one. Now it exists in two forms; as a highly classified and secret interservice program, and as an unauthorized, unofficial conspiracy. The 2016 brought Delta Green back as an "official" organization nicknamed "The Program".
    • MAJESTIC-12 is a bit more "official" then DG, with proper government recognition.
    • The original sourcebook classifies the real-life intelligence agency National Reconnaissance Office as one, at the time of the writing (1996) the US government neither denied or confirmed the existence of the NRO and most of the operations that the NRO were off the books, because of that the NRO runs the "NRO section DELTA", a black ops assassination group used by MAJESTIC-12 as their own hit squad. As History Marches On, most details about NRO were declassified and revealed, this became a Discredited Trope and in the 2017 edition the NRO was Demoted to Extra.
    • Some other foreign organizations similar to Delta Green include: M-EPIC of Canada, PISCES of the United Kingdom and GRU SV-8.
  • Personal Horror: The Bond and Sanity mechanics bring this, as Agents will start slowly burning their sanity and becoming stressed as they lose relations with the external world and isolate themselves from friends and family as their lives fall apart.
  • Psychic Powers: There are a few optional rules for those; PISCES is the most knowledgeable about the subject.
  • Psycho for Hire: Adolph Lepus.
  • Puppeteer Parasite: The Shan, of course.
    • The Mi-Go can assert mental control over anyone infected with protomatter; however, Convergence notes they tend not to use this ability.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: This is the absolute, insanely-optimistic, ridiculously-unlikely best outcome of humanity's struggle. The more likely outcomes are much worse.
  • Renegade Splinter Faction: Following their disbandment, Delta Green for the U.S. government. However, their ruthless actions are partly justified.
    • In the new setting, after 2001, Delta Green successfully dismantled MAJESTIC-12 and it's remnants were fusioned into a new, unified and official Delta Green. Some old members of DG weren't very happy with this and decided to form it's own faction, that also calls itself Delta Green. The "official" Delta Green is called "The Program" and the "renegade" is called "The Outlaws".
  • La Résistance: The Army of The Third Eye, against the Shan.
  • Rock Me, Asmodeus!: Charnel Dreams is one of the most popular bands in New York City. Their lead singer is the head assassin for the Fate, worships Nyarlathotep, and works Cthulhu Mythos spells into the lyrics of his songs.
  • Roswell That Ends Well: Appears in the background as how MAJESTIC was founded.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: "Friendlies" are those people that support DG's cause but are not fully inducted into the conspiracy. Delta Green maintains a database with full information on each and every one, so that they can be properly "taken care of" if the need arises.
  • Secret Government Warehouse: The Green Boxes used by Delta Green are this, they can range from self-storage, warehouses, rental lockers to safe houses.
    • Majestic-12 has a lot of those, dedicated to researching Grey technology, but they are usually within larger U.S Military, CIA, NSA, NRO and March Industries facilities. One of their facilities is located in Area 51 (Although not Area 51 itself).
  • Shown Their Work: The bibliography shows a respectable collection of material regarding world history, UFO folklore, and the praxis of the US intelligence community.
  • The Sociopath: Adolph Lepus, literally, as he has an antisocial personality disorder.
  • Sanity Meter: Naturally as a Call of Cthulhu game. Delta Green offers an interesting variation: The 2016 standalone adds bonds for every agents. Every agents starts with points in each bond, Agents can "project" on their bonds to lower the SAN loss although in the coast of the relationship with the bonds, there are other ways you can also loss relation with bonds such as committing illegal actions.
  • Soviet Superscience: GRU SV-8 used to have a number of advanced super-projects, including a machine to make Josef Stalin immortal.
  • Spy Fiction: Stale beer flavored.
  • Taking You with Me: Reginald Fairfield's last stand.
  • The Vietnam War: An unsanctioned operation in that time and its disastrous aftermath is what made the US government dissolve Delta Green. Given full focus in the prequel game The Fall of DELTA GREEN.
  • The War on Terror: A new standalone RPG has been funded on kickstarter, with the goal of updating the Delta Green setting to the modern day, with the War on Terror serving as a backdrop for altered powers of federal law enforcement (including the reactivated Delta Green "Program").
  • These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know: One of the past experience options is explicitly called "Things Man Was Not Meant to Know". It gives 10 points in Unnatural and 20 in occult but deals a huge blow in Sanity and Willpower points.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: The Karotechia.
  • Under New Management: In the updated setting, "The Program" was born out of a takeover of MAJESTIC by Delta Green agents.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Army of the Third Eye are mostly crazed fanatics, but what they fight against is much worse. Delta Green itself can come off as this at times.
  • World of Chaos: The Hastur Mythos suggests this as an effect of its influence; reality becomes relative to the observer, buildings gain new floors at night, time flows differently. This goes double for Carcosa, the land "governed" by the King in Yellow.
  • The World Is Always Doomed: Delta Green's unofficial mission is to "delay the inevitable for a few more years" (emphasis ours). They've been at it for the better part of a century.

Top