Campaign style
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Jonathan P Keim wrote:

I'm brand new to the world of Delta Green (just having bought and read it last weekend), and am looking at throwing my group into a campaign. The question I have been dealing with is: what can they know?

Date: Wed, 08 Apr 1998 09:42:58
From: Davide Mana

I asked myself the same question (I'm planning my first DG campaign) and my answer was: _nothing_

So much so that my players believe we will not even be playing CoC. I told them that I'm currently tweaking the game engine of 'Conspiracy X' - a game that was widely publicised here in Italy as 'The X-Files game' - because the game mechanics are not to my tastes (not so far from reality) and so we'll be using Chaosium's skill system instead.

The purpose is simply to enhance the shock value of the Mythos when it first will appear.

Date: Wed, 8 Apr 1998 04:26:28 -0500 (CDT)
From: Don Juneau

I told them that I'm currently tweaking the game engine of 'Conspiracy X' - a game that was widely publicised here in Italy as 'The X-Files game' -

Yup; I grabbed it, just for the hell of it, and found that while I didn't really "feel" for it, it's got looting potential. ("Bomb shelters? Cool. Nasty idea! <scribble scribble><evil laugh>") HIDDEN INVASION is good for UFO-cultist activity, and KULT has already been touted for "melts your mind all over your hands" use in CoC. DARK CONSPIRACY is a bit futuristic, but the era isn't the target now, is it?

In the category of "made to be looted", GURPS. <G> BLACK OPS is rather like MEN IN BLACK starring Arnie-the-One-Man-Army, directed by John Woo - but if your players get frustrated and just want to go obliterate something… ILLUMINATI is the "classic" conspiracy sourcebook, whilst VOODOO has a good feel to it, and other than the "good/bad" reality (vs. the "us/Them" of CoC) it could be dropped in with only slight repainting and serial-number modification. CREATURES OF THE NIGHT, while slightly (IMO) "gimmicky", and certainly non-Mythos, does feed some fresh ideas up.

Personally, I'm lifting bits and pieces from anything that stands still - there's a MEGATRAVELLER adventure I'd like to adapt, and "in-jokes" might migrate in from NEXUS, OVER THE EDGE and FENG SHUI.

Oh, and those unnamed movies, TV shows, books, comics, and Usenet newsgroups of weirdness and conspiracy. Or history and reality, for that matter… Fire Vampires on the USS Forrestral off the coast of Vietnam? Yet Another Hindenberg Scenario? (P Division, perhaps, unless it's a "game within a game" as per the Anderson's TALES FROM THE WHITE HEART *.) Who knows?

(* This was a convention run, which began with modern-era PCs, who then were handed the characters of a lost expedition - who had left a diary - and they played out the events of years past, as "set down" in the diary.

*I* thought it was a neat idea. <G>)

Date: Wed, 8 Apr 1998 11:18:58 -0400
From: "Dan Chapman"

Since my group plans to run a few other things before, during, and after the DG campaign (which nobody in the group knows about, not even me), I'm using the D6 System. I've heard others mention GURPS, and this is along the same lines. CoC is not too stat-heavy, so you can use DG, At Your Door, The Stars Are Right, whatever, and just transplant them into a universal system.

The purpose is simply to enhance the shock value of the Mythos when it first will appear.

I think it's also important to change up the Mythos elements (like the previous discussion about the evolution of certain Mythos creatures). The Greys are not what they appear to be, so there's no reason for any other Mythos entities to appear the same way they would in another CoC campaign. This keeps experienced CoC players from knowing too much (or thinking they know too much, which can be good).

I don't have much to worry about in this regard — my players don't watch The X-Files (for the most part) and none of them have ever read HPL. *sigh*

Date: Wed, 08 Apr 1998 15:41:45 -0500
From: Mark Richardson

I'm still relatively early on in the DG campaign I'm running. I'm currently running my players through the third scenario. While I've been gaming, off and on, for almost 13 years, this is the first time I've ever had a chance to run a campaign for any RPG. Therefore, I was wondering if anyone had any pointers or suggestions concerning how to make a DG campaign more seamless. I'm finding it difficult to make the campaign seem like one big piece instead of a bunch of scenarios strung together. Another problem I've been having is trying to set the mood for the game. Any suggestions on that front? Thanks for the help.

Date: Wed, 08 Apr 1998 13:58:09 -0700
From: Russell Mirabelli

I'm finding it difficult to make the campaign seem like one big piece instead of a bunch of scenarios strung together.

I don't know that there's a real benefit to unifying a DG campaign. Don't forget that agents are supposed to have "real jobs" and only occasionally get called out for service at the Opera. Having the agents involved in a day-to-day monster/alien bash turns a campaign into little more than scooby doo with badges. True, you want to have similar bad guys from episode to episode (with breaks for Nazi butt-kicking, of course), but that's about it.

Plus, unifying the campaign makes it difficult to increase the body count. :-)

Date: Wed, 08 Apr 1998 17:10:22 -0400
From: Tal Meta

First off, keep notes on the scenarios you run. Keep a list of villains who escape, and what they might be able to do concerning revenge.

Second, create a "stable" of non-critical NPC's that your characters can run into in every/every other scenario. Make them visible, but don't orient the plot on them. But keep one as your "major villain", preferably in a position where the PCs trust him with minor things…

And finally, keep an ear on what your players say to each other. Some of the absolute best campaign goals have been gleaned from a mistaken impression my players have gotten concerning leads to a case, what a certain NPC said, etc., that while totally wrong from what I had originally planned, worked so very well I began to weave entire campaigns around them.

I recently ran a campaign (in another game system) where the major villian of the campaign started out as a minstrel who bought passage on the ship they'd just purchased to sail down-river. I purposely gave him a name of a mutual friend so they'd trust him, and by the time they found out he was a bad guy, he'd had weeks to study how they operated as a group, what skills they had, etc..

He made their lives very, very miserable. :)

Date: Wed, 8 Apr 98 23:24:33 UT
From: "John Gallant"

One thing I've learned, that is key to keeping the game's tension high, BE CONFIDENT. As a GM you know everything and have every possibility covered. At least, that should be the impression. As long as you stay confident, smug even, the players will feel that you are the one in control, and that they are pawns, which is the proper order of things.

In between planned scenarios, have lots of weird, tense events, so that it feels like a huge, complex plot is being unravelled. In time, you'll start to string those bits together, making the players even more paranoid. Have photographers snapping their pictures. Newspapers declaring odd events in places the PCs have become aware of works well. Have contacts die. A break in at the apartment of one of the agents is good too. Random crime? Cult suicides occurring after the PCs have had a minor run in with one of the member's makes them feel like they're on to something huge. Maybe you'll make it into something later, but that's not necessary. Life's funny like that.

The human mind naturally attempts to string together unrelated events so as to put things in order; like when you think of a person and then he or she dies in a car accident that same day. Psychic power? no, just coincidence, but it's enough to get some people believing in the supernatural elements in mundane situations. Never underestimate the ability of PCs to string odd things together. The more odd, random things you toss in the pot, the harder they work to put the events in order.

By the time the real planned adventure occurs, they'll be thinking it was being lead up to for quite a while. Just smile when that happens. Don't let on that the Arab who murdered the grocery store clerk and died shouting of the demons had nothing to do with what you're taking them into. Good foreplay makes the whole thing better.

One more thing: Lots of props, especially fake articles, for things that don't yet, or never will matter

Date: Wed, 08 Apr 1998 20:18:41 -0400
From: Daniel Harms

Hello, all. I just started a small Delta Green campaign to be run on an on-again, off-again basis. We've run one scenario, and I'm going to run another this weekend (I'll put up the outlines if anyone's interested).

I'm actually finding that this loose structure has its advantages. If you hold yourself to one scenario a session, it allows you a great deal of leeway. If other characters don't show up, or if new ones come in, DG provides you with a plausible reason for doing so. I'm still going to give it some campaign elements, however. To do this, I'll introduce people, places, and things which will turn up in subsequent stories, keeping them to one or two per session. After a certain point, things should take over from there.

Here's a problem I've run into: How do you decide when the characters have exceeded their authority? Also, how do you run with characters who know more about the government than you do? I was play-testing the scenario for this weekend with an ex-Army type who knew all sorts of stuff about what a black-op might be like. I did put a kibosh on his plan to grab several Yale students off the streets and inject them full of truth-drugs, but there was a lot that I hadn't considered beforehand.

Date: Wed, 8 Apr 1998 21:05:26 EDT
From: Croaker Jr

Lots of good ideas on how to begin a campaign! I agree with what seems to be the consensus, that you'll get the most fun out of starting things off with the characters ignorant of everything supernatural, and the players ignorant of as much as you can manage.

I've run Delta Green scenarios occasionally since Convergence first appeared in 1992, and they've always been purely episodic: the players started off with a briefing on what DG was and their role in it, and then we dove into things. It was fun, but now that the DG book is available there's plenty of context to add to make for a real campaign. It's taken a year for my life to settle down enough to where I can maybe actually RUN the campaign, but it ought to be fun anyway. I'm planning things out pretty carefully with an eye toward what the characters will learn.

The first part of the campaign will start them off as federal agents with no knowledge of the Mythos or DG, and will include scenarios to expose them to it all. First off will be "Love's Lonely Children," from THE STARS ARE RIGHT (if you don't have it, submit a request to your appropriations department, or arrange for covert acquisition ASAP), as the agents' first exposure to the Mythos (and it will be a doozy).

Next on deck will be "Puppet Shows and Shadow Plays," in which Delta Green (behind the scenes throughout) sends the agent on a mission with potential paranormal factors and observes their performance.

Then we'll run "PX Poker Night," with a twist inspired by "Tales of the White Heart," the convention scenario another writer mentioned: the agents will be invited by their soon-to-be Cell Leader to observe the debriefing of a survivor of PX Poker Night; then the players will switch to the Air Force characters to play out the debriefing. The Cell Leader will use that to tie together what DG faces and invite the agents to join. Meanwhile, of course, DG special ops specialists will be keeping tabs on the characters in order to silence them if they refuse to join.

After the players are fully into Delta Green, we'll run a few home-grown scenarios in the more traditional setting, with the investigators going in knowing each is a DG op and having DG resources to call on.

My players will already know a bit about Delta Green, so I'll emphasise the mystery and paranoia of shadowy figures watching them and the dread of the characters' first exposure to the horrors involved.

Anyway, that's one idea of how to set up a campaign. I'll tell you in a couple of weeks how well it works. ;-)

Date: Thu, 9 Apr 98 02:05:37 UT
From: "John Gallant"

how do you run with characters who know more about the government than you do?»

He only THINKS he knows. Mulder also thought he knew how the government operated. I'd like to see the situation played out as he discovered that the things he'd sworn to defend are nothing like what he'd believed them to be.

I did put a kibosh on his plan to grab students inject them full of truth-drugs»

I say let him play G. Gordon Liddy/Smoking Man. Go with his choices with confidence. Then get him in the next session when a reporter from the Washington Post has photos and eyewitness accounts of him doing illegal things. The pressure will come down. Reward rashness appropriately.

Make sure you keep the pace and actions under your control. When the balance of power shifts to a single member of the party, then things start to go downhill fast. Ultimately he should realise that the old methods and caution work far better than "truth-drugs" (whatever those are) and black helicopters.

Date: Thu, 9 Apr 1998 07:26:25 EDT
From: Croaker Jr

A writer asked about dealing with players who buck the system, particularly the player who wanted to grab a bunch of students and inject them with truth drugs. I say, run with it! I played a CIA covert operative in a DG scenario this past fall, and our team's actions and tactics were quite different from the "standard" FBI story-line. And it felt quite appropriate, in fact. DG is completely covert, cares little for their enemies' civil rights or getting evidence to be used in court, and tends to involve operations with a high body count. A classic black op gone bad, in other words. So in one case we did the truth-drug abduction ourselves: we grabbed a guy whom we suspected of being in collusion with The Bad Guys, scared the crap out of him, interrogated him, then doped him up to interrogate him again (just to be sure). Then we informed him that he had a choice: help us set a trap for his friends, or disappear. The trap didn't work, but it was worth a shot.

The point is, DG can be run in many ways; it could be that your players appear more like the villains of the piece, except for the fact that they're trying to kill things that are even worse than they; or they could be trying to stay honest, and you can focus on the sense of corruption that comes with sacrificing their ideals for the common good. Fun stuff either way.

Date: Fri, 10 Apr 1998 14:58:06 -0700 (PDT)
From: Chris Womack

A number of posts have already touched upon this topic, but I thought I'd toss out a few more ideas, just to keep the ball rolling. It seems to me that DG is remarkably well-suited to two types of campaign styles, more-so than a lot of other RPG's out there. DG easily handles episodic campaigns and even one-shot games; a Keeper can lead his players through char-gen, give them a brief description of the DG organisation and its objectives, and turn them loose on a scenario. As others have pointed out, this sort of set-up is great for convention gaming sessions. Likewise, DG can serve as the framework for a longer campaign, wherein a story of horrific proportions can be unfolded bit by bit through multiple linked scenarios.

But I have suspicions, which I intend to pursue with my own gaming group, that DG actually comes into its own when it's run as a hybrid of these two campaign styles. In other words, rather than an endless string of one-shot adventures (each using different characters) wherein players never really get a feeling for the magnitude of the threats DG faces, or one single driving plotline that (when revealed) accounts for every single thing that happens within the game, which runs the risk of burying the characters (and player interest) under its relentless weight, I'm planning on having a story arc that guides the overall campaign, but not having every scenario tied into it. This way, my players will be able to develop a sense of accomplishment as they make progress towards an ultimate campaign goal, while allowing plenty of room for sidetracks, red herrings, unrelated phenomena, and peaceful interludes.

Borrowing a page from Ars Magica (wherein each player creates at least two charactersa mage character, a non-mage companion, and possibly a number of servant-types or "grogs"and then plays whichever character is best-suited to the current adventure), I'm also going to allow each of my players develop multiple characters. Their primary characters, all members of P-Cell (with a little nudging, maybe we can convince those of my players who are on this list to post descriptions of their chars, either here or on the DG website), are all currently laid up with a number of serious injuries sustained in their last op (I ran "Convergence" from the sourcebook; needless to say, they did not achieve the optimal solution ;) ). Even if this were not the case, I would still have them generate at least one additional character each, whom I will assign either as agents of other cells or else as DG friendlies, so that we can swap out characters from time to time, bringing in specialists as needed, changing the group dynamic, accounting for agent attrition, and so forth.

In this way, I hope to create a campaign that has both flexibility and longevity, allowing my players to appreciate the game from a broader perspective. They'll get to see not only the big picture (if they're lucky and their characters' sanity holds ;) ), but also a number of other smaller-but-no-less-intriguing pictures. (After all, in DG, there's not just one Bad Guythere's lots!) Also, by having them play more than one character, I can let my players experience a wider variety of encounters right now, the group is composed mainly of FBI agents, and so would likely only get to deal with things that would fall under general FBI jurisdiction; by adding in some other types of agents, I can broaden the horizons (so to speak) and bring in military issues, or CDC, or any number of other kinds of scenarios.

Date: Fri, 10 Apr 1998 18:02:19 -0400
From: Tal Meta

This is, of course, the main thrust behind the "X-Files" series; not every episode centres on the main "Mythos" of the series, but those that do bring you closer to a final answer. Of course, sometimes what you THOUGHT was just a side-episode turns out later to have been a core episode in disguise.

Date: Fri, 10 Apr 1998 19:08:54 -0400
From: "Dan Chapman"

I'm planning on having a story arc that guides the overall campaign, but not having every scenario tied into it.

I feel the same way, Chris. In fact, I think everything from AD&D to Champions can benefit from this type of campaign, in which a single villain or group is often responsible for the overriding storyline. It grants cohesion to an otherwise difficult-to-connect series of scenarios.

Borrowing a page from Ars Magica

In my experience, this seems to work well. In a Werewolf: The Apocalypse campaign, each player also created a "kinfolk" character (WW terminology for ally) and we ran a few scenarios (not necessarily a full night's gaming) with these characters as they gathered information, interacted with humans, and generally did things the main characters were unable to do or were too busy to realistically accomplish. As I said, these adventures were not necessarily a full gaming session, nor were they always the focus of that night's gaming. They functioned more like TV subplots involving important supporting characters. This approach worked especially well since the main characters were somewhat superhuman (and non-human) and the NPC's were more appropriate liaisons to the human populace. I suspect (although I haven't tried it) that this would work splendidly in a superhero campaign.

Date: Fri, 10 Apr 1998 19:57:24 -0400
From: "John P. Yuda"

allowing plenty of room for side-tracks, red herrings, unrelated phenomena, and peaceful interludes.

Absolutely. At the moment my group is completely turned around, and chasing after ghosts from one of the sidetracks. It can be a blast to do that kind of thing. Of course, I might just take the campaign in that direction since they seem to want to.

Borrowing a page from Ars Magica

Here I disagree. I don't like having people play more than one character (I don't even like having players do char & shadow in wraith. we usually have somebody act as assistant storyteller and group shadowguide). Instead of this, I suggest having extra people make characters. I'm running DG with a 3-person group (excluding me) right now, and ATM we have a guest character. I find it works better, if you have the flexibility and the people to do it with, to have 2-3 extra people make characters and then not always come. I feel like it allows the players to stay in character and develop their character better. This allows for the flexibility in terms of scenarios too, as long as you don't end up with 6 FBI agents.

Date: Fri, 10 Apr 1998 20:26:02 -0400
From: Daniel Harms

My original viewpoint was for this as well. It's just that DG, if you can manage to run one mission per game, provides an ideal way of coping with irregular schedules. This is possible in other settings, true, but DG's structure adds plausibility to the situation.

I'm also going to allow each of my players develop multiple characters.

This sounds good. In the original AD&D Dark Suns setting, there was a mechanism called a "character tree". You'd have four characters, and you could switch off between them if you so desired. As the character currently in use advanced in skills, you could also advance another character on the tree — but no one character could be advanced much more than the others. This both gives the player different characters to play in different missions, and allows them, in case of character death, to have some reserves who are starting out below the rest of the team (though in CoC, that isn't such a problem). Still, I thought I'd toss it out, in case anyone might find it useful.

Date: Sat, 11 Apr 1998 00:49:29 -0500 (CDT)
From: "Matt C."

True, true. Episodic is cool.. but this also makes me think of .interlinking….


Which is .also. why I think the background use of this mailing list is cool, that is a trading ground for NPC information. One PC cell here ('K' cell) could be the NPC cell elsewhere. I am more then willing to trade NPC's from my game to those of others and honour what happens to them elsewhere. I think a 'shared universe' of Delta Green could be very cool. Sharing cells, NPC's, etc. I am going to have some web stuff for our campaign here.. I'd love it to become shared for a mutual game with whoever…


Date: Sun, 26 Jul 1998 07:57:08 -1000
From: "M-Zodiac" <ten.aval|caidozm#ten.aval|caidozm>

Here's a general CoC query (I always play '90s, so DG basically IS CoC to me):

How early/late do keepers out there play the "Mythos Card", that is, begin introducing supernatural/mythos aspects to an adventure. It would seem to me, given the "plots-within-plots" nature of CoC, to hold magic and alien creatures "in reserve for the scenario endgame, so as not to dilute their impact.

However, the majority of published modules, as well as a recent RPGA-sanctioned CoC adventure, seem to disagree, and throw magic and the like around like water. While this indeed adds to the excitement, and marks the adventure as "definite Cthulhu", wouldn't a few completely non-paranormal scenarios leading in to SAN-Blasting Horror be more in keeping with the source?

Date: Sun, 26 Jul 1998 14:09:10 EDT
From: moc.loa|rJrekaorC#moc.loa|rJrekaorC

Generally I agree that it ought to be reserved. The mythos ought to be a big deal—any time the character loses SAN, the player should be feeling dread and creepiness to match it. The most effective pattern seems to be to start with the Mythos element that elicits the investigation, then allow the players to investigate it and skirt around the horrifying truth, then hit them with the Big Whammies when they find out what's really going on. Allow the suspense to build before you throw the Mythos at them.

Date: Sun, 26 Jul 1998 18:35:24 -0500
From: William Timmins

I must confess that what I believe is aesthetically proper and what I run diverge markedly…

That is, although I think it best to carefully introduce horror elements, slowly building the creep factor with hints amidst mundane events, I usually run magic-soaked very supernatural games with guns blazing and spells flying.

Date: Mon, 27 Jul 1998 14:44:43 +0900
From: "David Farnell"

Sounds about right. I tend to give them just a little taste so that they know something bizarre is up, something they can't fit into any logical categories. Then, keep it as normal, but creepy, as possible. Then blow their minds.

The problem of course is that players very quickly become accustomed to the Mythos, so you get ridiculous situations like the time the whole gang slaughtered a bunch of cultists just because they looked funny, with no evidence of Mythos activity or even a crime yet (see earlier stuff). So you have to start tricking them by not letting them know which game they're playing in. (OK, make your Danger International characters!) Of course, with really good playersor complete neophytesthat's not a problem. But I usually end up having a mixed bag of good players, newbies, and a couple of folks who can't seem to separate what they know from what their characters know.

Running a non-Mythos game for a few sessions, no Mythos flavour at all, then zinging them with it is SOOOO satisfying, for everyone involved. Just wish I had time for it—if I were to do that now, it'd take a year at least before the Mythos could start showing up. I'm thinking of going over to just one-shot adventures. My games are so rare that the players are tending to "lose touch" with their characters. Pity.

Date: Mon, 27 Jul 1998 07:22:58 -0500
From: Nightstar <moc.mocofni|drehpehs#moc.mocofni|drehpehs>

I feel the Mythos card should be delayed to help build the suspense level. Most players know they are playing CoC ( unless you are blindsiding them ;-> )and do not need constant Mythos reminders. In keeping with the logic behind the Mythos (if there is any), the cults and whatever try to keep a low profile until they are prepared to strike. The investigators only begin to experience the Mythos as they penetrate deeper into the veil of secrecy. The cults will retaliate with magic, etc. when all other mundane avenues have failed. This is what makes SAN blasting experiences so devastating. If Mythos monsters were as common as taxi cabs, the investigators would become immune to their horror. How many of you have had your sanity tested by a taxi cab (New Yorkers need not reply <WG>)

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