A few weeks ago I purchased the new Delta Green Agent’s handbook from my FLGS and after having read the book I’d like to share some thoughts on it.
For the record, I’m a long time DG fan, ever since I bought the first DG book back in 1997 and I have all the old Pagan Publishing DG books for Call of Cthulhu. The new series of books however, are a self contained RPG, by Arc Dream. This far the following products have been released:
- Delta Green Agent’s Handbook (hardcover/PDF – basically a player’s handbook for the game)
- Delta Green Need To Know (Softcover bundled w/ GM screen/free PDF – quick start rules)
The next book to make this a complete game is of course the Delta Green Case Officer’s Handbook (or Delta Green the RPG as I heard it was renamed) which will contain all of the Agent’s handbook plus all the rules for the Handler (GM in DG).
Und now – over to the Agent’s handbook:
The physical book is a full color hardback with sewn spine, promising to last many sessions at the gaming table. It has a simple, clear and modern layout and the illustrations are top notch, fitting the DG theme well.
The rule system
The rules are presented in a clear and concise way and I think they are well adapted to the setting and theme of the game. For those anxious about leaving Call of Cthulhu, I can comfort you with the fact that the new DG rules stay in BRP-land as they are built from the Legend SRD (from Mongoose Publishing). This means that DG now has more in common with the games derived from the first Mongoose RuneQuest SRD – Mongoose RuneQuest, Mongoose RuneQuest II/Legend, RuneQuest 6/Mythras, OpenQuest 2, Renaissance etc. In fact, I would say that this game is closer to 6th edition CoC than new 7th edition CoC. Compared to “old” Delta Green, the new game is vastly simplified (shorter skill lists, more generic weapon lists and so on). The old DG books, awesome as they were, added tons of new stuff to the base Call of Cthulhu engine. And I must say that I prefer the streamlining of the new game.
At the same time, some new mechanics gets introduced:
-Critical successes are now 01 and doubles (11, 22, 33 etc) under your skill. So if you have a skill of 40% you will crit as in the example above. Fumbles function similarly – 00 and doubles over your skill are fumbles (in the example 44, 55, 66, 77, 88 and 00 would be fumbles. I like this system as it scales crits and fumbles after actual skill level.
-Another new thing is the Luck roll that now is a flat 50% chance that things will go your way. Or not.
-Opposed tests are resolved by both parties rolling a test where the player with the highest success will win. This procedure has been standard in the RuneQuest SRD line of games for many years, so it’s nothing new and it works really well in play.
-The concept of Willpower points also add to the news. They can be thought of as mental fuel or mental hit points and are based on POW. You don’t want to run out of them.
-Combat differ some from both old DG/CoC 6th ed. as well as new CoC 7th ed. The combat turn is a few seconds long and a PC may take ONE and only one action in that amount of time. So, if you choose to Parry or Dodge, your action is gone for the combat turn. The rules also include a bunch of both offensive and defensive combat actions, allowing for a resonable amount of combat tactics. Another cool new thing is the Lethality Rating for more dangerous weapons. This is basically a % roll to determine if a target will survive a hit by the big bad gun. If successful, the target (if human at least) will immediately drop to 0 hp. This rationale was to avoid the rather clunky old rules where you had to roll separately to determine number of hits from autofire which could mean a lot of die rolls. If you’re not a fan of the Lethality rule, optional rules more in the vein of the old autofire rules are included as well.
-Good old Sanity has gotten an overhaul. Basically, there are three conditions that might cause SAN loss – Violence, Helplessness and the Unnatural. This is cool, as now your sanity isn’t threatened only by monsters and their kynde, but also by malign actions of other people or feelings of not being able to do something. Very much in line of what Delta Green is about. SAN thresholds are pretty the same: losing 5 or more SAN in a roll yields temporary insanity and 0 SAN is permanent insanity. Sanity Points are computed as POW x 5 as before. The concept of Breaking Point is however new. This is described as SAN minus POW and if your PCs loses SAN below the Breaking Point, they must succumb to a new Disorder and must also reset the Breaking Point to current SAN minus POW. I also appreciate the effects a PC suffer when being temporarily insane or having a disorder. They are very good and designed to both realistic and playable. Another cool thing is that a PC can adapt to violence and helplessness (but never to the unnatural), meaning that being in those situations won’t call for a SAN roll any more. The backside of this is that the PC will also lose Charisma and points from his or her Bonds. These bonds can be the relation with a spouse or kids, or with other agents or groups and they are what connects the PC to humanity. So, losing your Bonds will make you more inhumane and also more susceptible to psychological trauma. This feels realistic and might form a very good basis for role-playing. I must confess that I haven’t grasped the concept of Bonds 100% yet, but I guess it will be clearer in actual play.
-When it comes to PC wealth, expenses and bying of gear, DG introduces a fairly abstract system where you don’t have to track every dollar for your PC. Many day-to-day items and services are supposed to be within most PCs finacial grasp and the game just assume that the PC can afford it. Other more expensive or restricted items can be hard to get and it’s up to the GM to decide if the item is obtainable and how. There’s even a mechanic for when the PCs want to aquire items from their respective agencies. I like it a lot, but again – this is one of the things that must be tested in-game before deciding if it’s good.
Contrary to “standard” Call of Cthulhu where most investigators are average Joe’s and Jane’s, Delta Green assumes that the PCs are members (or hangaraunds) of a monster fighting secret organization and also that most PCs (or Agents as they are called in DG) are employed by some Federal Agency. Consequently, most occupations in the book are just that. Examples are FBI, DEA, the military, CIA and so on. A set of more civilian occupations are also included, as well as advice on how to create your own occupations. The old DG books had the US agencies in the core book and added lots of international agencies in the following books, supporting Agents from nearly all countries. The new DG book is focussed solely on US agencies, which I feel is resaonable but I still miss GRU-SV8 (Russian) or PISCES (British). Hopefully, they will be in the forthcoming books from Arc Dream. And I’m so planning to do the Swedish agencies, DG style 🙂
The new version of Delta Green promises to be an awesome game. The books released so far are pretty and sturdy, with well-written and appropriate rules for the setting and game concept. If you like old Delta Green I’m sure you’ll gonna love new Delta Green. However, for players and GMs new to DG, the Agent’s handbook is a bit thin on the DG “mythos”. Hopefully, this will be remedied in future publications. And don’t forget – the old DG books are available in PDF format (at DriveThruRPG) so you can mine them for ideas as well as adventures and background stuff.
Well done, Arc Dream!