Comic Book Curious

So You Wanna Play: Delta Green

October 10, 2022

So you want to try out Delta Green… but where do you start? If you are like me and grew up on a steady diet of shows like Twin Peaks, X-Files, and Twilight Zone this may be the TTRPG for you. It could also fall in line with fans of Fringe, Millenium, Warehouse 13, and Archive 81. Lots of supernatural encounters, some explainable and some not, with a lot of investigation, and wanting to know just enough without knowing too much.

Delta Green originally came onto the scene in 1992 from the Delta Green Partnership as a contemporary era setting for Call of Cthulhu; revolving around a secretive organization tasked with protecting the United States from paranormal and alien threats. What it boiled down to was combining H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos with more modern-day conspiracy-type fiction.

The cover art for the two Delta Green handbooks

Credit: Arc Dream Publishing

In 2015, Arc Dream Publishing announced their collaboration with the Delta Green Partnership to develop and publish a standalone Delta Green TTRPG. A year later, the “Agent’s Handbook” was released, and then in 2018 “The Handler’s Guide” was published. The great thing about all of the newer Delta Green releases is that you can still use all of the older content with them, leaving you with a wealth of information and guides to build your character or game.

What you need to play the game:

  • A group of willing participants
  • A d100 or a set of percentile die for each player
  • Character Sheets
  • An Agent’s Handbook
  • A Handler’s Guide for your GM (Called the “Handler” for this system)

Optional items:

  • Additional dice for weapons (d4, d6, d8, or d12)

Most that are new to the TTRPG scene will have heard of the more popular ones first: Dungeons & Dragons, or Pathfinder usually. So what makes Delta Green different?

The cover art for Delta Green

Credit: Arc Dream Publishing

While the two mentioned above are usually done as your traditional adventuring type quests in a fantasy based world where there is magic, dragons, and medieval heroics to be had, Delta Green is a contemporary setting where you are an every day average-folks who has encountered something unnatural/supernatural, and thanks to your surviving that, you’ve been recruited by a top secret government agency to investigate these situations when they arise. The important thing is that Delta Green agents can come from anywhere; they are current or former military, government agents, a public school teacher, construction workers, librarians, or even your average burger flipper… the unnatural can touch anyone, and anyone can be involved with Delta Green.

The other thing unique to this game is that you are leading a double life. You have your life with Delta Green, and then there is your life at home: the 9-5 job, your family, your friends, etc. While you mainly focus on your work with Delta Green, your “home scenes” are important as they are what grounds you and help raise your sanity. Oh, did I not mention that? Another player stat you must track is sanity, and it dwindles quicker than you think. Once it drops to a certain point, or if you lose too much at once, you have the chance of encountering mental illness, or going temporarily insane as your brain figures out how to cope with what information it was just given.

As with most TTRPGs, you do roll your stats and follow a specific formula. How you roll though tends to be up to your Handler. Everyone has a preference, or unique method, so always check before making your character. Then you choose what your character’s normal 9-5 job is. Are you an FBI agent who keeps coming across unusual, unexplained deaths? Maybe you are a Computer Scientist, or hacker that has been connecting the dots of something strange. You could even just be a professor, librarian, or researcher that as stumbled across books on the occult that align almost perfectly with disappearances in your town. Each job option in the books gives you pluses to various skills that will let you contribute to your team.

One thing I have found helpful with this game is making character creation a collaborative effort so that you don’t have too many things that overlap, giving you a well-rounded group. This also gives you the chance to decide if your characters know each other, if they’ve worked with Delta Green before, and to bounce ideas off one another about unique qualities your character may have. My favorite character I have played thus far is an ex-hacker who works for the CIA, and has a pet duck named Duck who she takes everywhere with her, and he honestly keeps her out of trouble sometimes. So, don’t be afraid to make your characters a bit unique!

On top of that, you need to find a good backstory. You want something that roots you into the game, but that isn’t going to over complicate things right away. You could have something as simple as being retired military who has seen something that make everyone believe they are dealing with PTSD, but they know what they saw was real. If you want something more complicated, you could be someone that was temporarily possessed by an entity that you know is out there, and you need to find a way to stop it before its too late. Some ones that I have seen played are an ex-IRA member who came to the US to escape what she saw, a librarian obsessed with the occult because she was got lost in another realm as a child, a journalist who’s ancestral god came to her in a vision blessing her with the power to protect her homeland (allegedly), and a genius who can’t cope with the unexplained so he’s turned to drugs to cope.

Every tale is unique in this universe, and can take drastic turns depending on who is your Handler. You could be just following up on the death of another agent only to find that they’ve kept dangerous souvenirs from all their cases, or investigating unexplained deaths, only to find out that an amulet gifted to a teen has led to an elder god killing those who have wronged them. The fun thing is to realize that you have to expect the unexpected, and realize that even the mundane could bring your mind to the breaking point.

About the author: Markie Rustad is a life long bookworm and nerd living in the Pacific Northwest. She lives in an undisclosed location with her cat, boyfriend, and more books than she will ever manage to read.

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