Burning Like Coal

Burning like coal

Man, thou art but a coal; God is thy fire and light.
Thou art black, dull and cold, unsheltered by his might.

The mission:

The year is 1971. Nixon is president, the Vietnam War rages on, the summer of love is fading, but the drugs stayed, and not everybody can cope. Dreams of a better future seems like a distant memory.
Delta Green is contacted by a friendly forensic scientist in L.A. A body has been found in a truck, seemingly burned up from the inside out. The victim was a Vietnam veteran, now a truck driver, who was wanted for kidnapping his own son. The agents gets the task of uncovering what caused the man to burn up, and stomp out any remaining fire.

The body:

The agents first arrive at the morgue in L.A. where the forensic scientis Doctor James J. Lederer introduces them to the case. The body of truck driver and Vietnam veteran Dough Bull was found late at night in his truck by a state trooper on route 395, near Ridgecrest, California. The truck was in the ditch, and inside, next to the body on the passenger seat, was Bulls five year old son Jim. The boy was in a state of chok, he has not spoken a word since. It looks like the they were driving North, towards Nevada.
The body was burned up seemingly from the inside and was partly melted into the seat. The fire cannot be explained by anything in the truck.

  • The truck can be searched, and a copy of the poem “Man is a Coal” by Angelys Silesius can be found on the floor by the passenger seat.
  • If you wish to expand the scenario, the agents can visit Ridgecrest and speak to the state trooper, and a few witnesses, who saw Dough and Jim when they stopped at the local gas station at three in the morning. This can work as a great contrast to L.A. giving the players some small town feel, where the locals have little love for neither the feds or unshaved hippies. If you want to max out the 70s feel, look up some Nixon quotes about long haired trouble makers.

The boy and his mother:

The boy, Jim, is now with his mother Sandy in Coaldale, Nevada. He does not speak a word and will not look anybody in the eyes. If the agents try to recite “Man is a Coal”, he will go into a screaming fit, and no further conversation is possible for the next three hours. Sandy will be much less welcoming when of if the agents return.
Sandy can tell the agents that Dough was in “bad company” and no longer lived with them. As far as she knows, he was living with a group of hippies in or outside of L.A. She thinks they made him commit crimes to fuel their appetite for drugs. She only knows the name of one of them, Wayne Weltzer. Wayne and Dough was in the same platoon in Vietnam, and Wayne contacted Dough about six months ago. After that everything went down hill for Dough and Sandy had to kick him out. A week ago, Dough visited. Dough wanted to take Jim with him, Sandy did not want that. Dough ended up dragging Jim into the truck and took off. She has no idea why he was heading back or where he lived in California. But she knows he visited a veterans center i L.A. and can provide an address. She also has a photo of Doughs Vietnam platoon, and can point out Wayne for the agents. She has never meet him, but Dough talked alot about him, praising him and his insight.

The veteran center:

The agents can ask about Dough and Wayne Weltzer in the veterans center in L.A. If they show the photo, someone will recognize Wayne. They dont like him and suspects he is involved in something sketchy, but has no evidence.

  • If you want to expand the scenario, you can send the agents around town to track down other victims of Wayne Weltzers manipulation. If you really want to go all in on the 70s feel, one or two can be placed in the ghettos, where FBI and the likes are not very welcome. All of Weltzers victims are veterans and either in a sorry state, sedated by drugs, or dead. The ones still alive mutter half gibberish, but occasionally utter short quotes from Angelus Silesius’ poetry.
  • At some point, Weltzer shows up at the veteran center to look for a new helpless veteran to recrouit to his group. The agents can follow him to his hideout in the desert.

The cult:

Wayne Weltzer has gathered a small group of unfortunate and clueless hippies and plagued war veterans on a deserted farm in the desert. Here they do drugs and try to reach a higher level of consciousness. The goal of Weltzer is to come into contact with some sort of spirit or deity. He has discovered that the writings of Angelus Silesius are actually coded rituals and incantations, and is now experimenting to find a way to contact the deity that Silesius writes about. The ritual he has had most succes with, is one turning humans into burning coal. All of his followers has been initiated in a ritual, that actually primes them for bursting into flames, if someone recites the poem “Man is a coal” out loud. The showdown can be played out in a few different ways:

  • The agents charge in guns blazing. The cult members defend them selves with both guns and magic. Remeber that several of them are Vietnam veterans, and very capable at using firearms! Weltzer readily sacrifizes his minions by making them throw themselves on the agents, and then setting them on fire. Its a potentially deadly situation for the agents.
  • The agents sneak in at night. At some point, an agent makes a noise, and then someone starts to recite poetry in the dark. Next thing they know, they are surrounded by burning people.
  • They walk in to have a chat. Maybe they are welcomed, sort of. Nobody knows where Wayne is, he was supposed to be back from town, but no one has seen him. He never returns, leaving the agents unable to neutralize the actual threat (this solution can be used as the beginning of a longer series of operas with Wayne as the central villain).
  • The agents successfully sneak up on the cult as they dance around strung out on drugs. They grab Weltzer and walks away, with the rest of the cult staring helpless. What do they do with Weltzer then?
  • Maybe the agents find a copy of Angelus Silesius’ secret writings, describing how to turn people into burning coal, and much more. The text is in an alchemical code that needs to be decifered. Is that something that the agency want’s to have lying around?

A note on setting and feel:

The scenario is placed in 1971, but can easily be placed in another period. The backstory that the agents uncover during the investigation is linked to war, but has no real connection to Vietnam specifically. It could be placed in the 90s revolving around veterans from the Gulf War, or the 2000s, using the war in Irak or Afghanistan as the backdrop. The feel however should be the same - the desperation of the relatives, the depression and hopelessness of the veterans, and the cynic exploitation of their weakness by the villain in the story.
Wayne Weltzers hideout in the desert is of course heavily inspired by Charles Manson and his Helter Skelter gang. If that is too much of a rip off, the hideout can be placed in an abandoned industrial complex on the outskirts of L.A. or in an empty apartment building in a sad neighboorhood. The location is not essential, what matters is the sense of isolation and insecurity about the place.


This was an entry to the 2020 shotgun scenario contest. Written by Bjarke Fredskild Pedersen

The intellectual property known as Delta Green is ™ and © the Delta Green Partnership. The contents of this document are © their respective authors, excepting those elements that are components of the Delta Green intellectual property.