Opening with an Overview, this is the players' book for the Delta Green RPG. The Overview is interesting, stating that it is a warning... that Delta Green is not about adventure and bug hunts and guns, but about fear. A fear that the things the characters deal with can end not just their lives but the very Earth itself. Once it's calmed down a bit, there's a more reasoned explanation of what Delta Green is and does: a covert operation hidden within the depths of the establishment, with a mission to investigate, contain, and conceal unnatural events. It's a strange organisation with no headquarters or bases, with most agents knowing only a few others and generally working a 'day job' when they are not off on a mission for Delta Green. Agents are recruited carefully and slowly, they need to be certain that they have the right people. There's a run-through of the common features of all the missions undertaken: suspense, horror, violence, moral dilemmas, secrets, mind-bending knowledge, and the personal and professional consequences of being a Delta Green agent. This opening chapter ends with an outline of how the game is played, primarily aimed at those not familiar with role-playing games.
Next, Agents contains all the information you need to create your character. The system is based on Chaosium's Basic Role Playing one with characters described by their Statistics (Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Power and Charisma) which can be rolled or determined through a point-buy system. There are some Derived Attributes to work out, then you select a Profession and Skills before adding personal details including the character's bonds to important people (vital for hanging on to your sanity) as well as things like name, appearance, current job and so on. There's masses of detail to help you through the process. If you don't care for the Professions offered here (which provide your main Skills), there are notes on how to invent your own.
Then The Game is a chapter which explains, in great detail, how to play the game, and use the abilities and skills that your character has to effect. The core system is percentage based, with the aim being to roll under the percentage you have in an applicable Statistic or Skill. It's advised that you only get the dice out if the task you wish to undertake is a difficult one, if the situation is unpredictable or when there are consequences to failure... dire ones, that is. There are lots of examples to show you how the system works, but it's pretty intuitive. One nice angle is the Luck Roll - a straight unmodified roll giving you a 50% chance of things going your way: use this when wondering if the car you just stole has a first-aid kit aboard as you need one, or if the neighbours are in when you are busy kicking a door down to break in... There's things like opposed tests and pursuits here as well.
Combat, however, gets a chapter to itself. This takes you through brawling in great detail, with all the options available - some of them optional - and how to make the most of the skills, equipment and situation that you have. There's a lot to absorb here, but it's worth reading so that when you do have to fight, you do so to best effect. It can get pretty lethal though - just like the real world - so pick your fights carefully. There's also things like protection, healing and other useful combat-related material here too, as well as other ways to harm or be harmed - poisons, environmental dangers, fire, falls and so on.
Next comes Sanity. In a game about horror and fear, it's quite easy to lose your marbles... so here are the rules for hanging on to your sanity, or losing it big style. All sorts of things can put a Delta Green Agent's sanity at risk, both the things that they see and experience, and the things they find that they have to do. There's a splendid selection of disorders that deranged minds might turn to, and a scant few notes on therapy that may, just may, aid in recovery.
The next chapter is Home. The brief respite of normal everyday life that anchors agents, reminds them of why they do what they do, reminds them of normal life. In this game, short scenes are used - normally between missions - to enable agents to touch base, but also to see how what they have done and seen affects that which they hold most dear. This is also when they can attend theraphy sessions, gain additional skills through training and study... or even face prosecution if the authorities have noticed what they've been up to! It's a neat way of incorporating an air of real life into the game, making things like boosting your skills a part of the game rather than book-keeping.
This is followed by Equipment and Vehicles. This deals with the gear that the agent needs (or would like to have). The expense is handled in an arbitrary manner without tracking every dollar spent. You only have to argue the case for access to high value or hard to obtain items, most of the time it's deemed that agents have access to the things that they need. It depends on the mission, the cover story and the item you want... and a lot is left to the Handler's discretion! There can be consequences for asking for something that the powers-that-be deem inappropriate to what they think you are doing, and there can be an after-action review in which awkward questions can be asked. Or you can try the black market... It's only then that we get down to the actual lists and applicable game mechanics for actual items. Again, it's a neat system which adds realism to the process without bogging it down in masses of accounting and record-keeping.
Next is an extensive chapter of Federal Agencies. All the alphabet soup agencies you've heard of and quite a few that, unless you are obsessive about US government agencies, you probably didn't know existed. It also includes the military, as well as law enforcement, intelligence, diplomats and public safety. The main idea here is that they are potential employers of record for our agents. Each agency is described with notes on whether or not their staff have powers of arrest, do they carry weapons as a matter of course, what funds are available to them and do they have access to more exotic items of equipment. Appropriate professions are listed for each one, and there are notes on how best to play a member of that agency. It's all quite fascinating, and gives a wide range of interesting backgrounds - I once played a Centers for Disease Control doctor, another time I was a CIA consultant and historian scampering around Afghanistan...
Finally, there's a series of appendices covering tradecraft (all those useful tricks of espionage or undercover work), a comprehensive glossary and some recommended reading. And a character sheet.
It's an excellent introduction to the game with loads of useful background to help you create and play an effective Delta Green agent. Good luck... you'll need it.
Return to Agent's Handbook page.
Reviewed: 30 April 2016