Sunday, 25 March 2018

Delta Green - thoughts about Convergence and the new edition


Last week I was asked at fairly short notice to run a game of Delta Green for some friends at the Dice Saloon in Brighton. I chose the vintage Delta Green adventure from the original softback from Pagan Publishing, called Convergence, written by John Tynes. 

This is the second adventure in that supplement and was originally written for Call of Cthulhu. I chose to run it with the new DG rules from ArcDream. Convergence is considered one of the better DG scenarios.

I’m not going to go into the detail of the adventure – this post really dissects it from the point of view of a GM who is planning to run it themselves in the future. I think it is worth the effort and is a commendable scenario. It follows on from Puppet Shows and Shadow Plays which I would also recommend, and which appears in the same book.

I used four pre-gen agents for the game, and the three players were allowed to pick the agents they wanted to create F cell. This was a slightly different Delta Green team from the usual fare:

  • Christie Ferranti (Agent Florence) – a nurse with the USAF specialising in the health of air crew at high altitudes, USAF Biomedical Sciences Corps
  • Guillermo Schrader (Agent Ferdinand) – an engineer and DG plant working inside Northrop Grumman
  • Wendell Delvecchio (Agent Frazier) – a USAF special operator from Air Force Special Operations Command, stationed at MacDill air force base


This was a great session. I took a short time to explain the setting to the players, allow them to fill in their bonds, and then it was straight into the game!

The players were particularly up for some in-depth role playing, and one of the strengths of the session was potentially also its downfall. They took a long time interviewing Billy Ray Spivey - in character - before taking the assignment to go to Groversville.

Operating under the cover story of FBI agents looking into the possible presence of angel dust in the county, they then conducted a lengthy interview with the local sheriff, with everybody around the table getting into their roles, right down to the accents. This was helped by the fact that two of the players had lived in the United States.

This consumed about 30-40 minutes of the game and was so well-conducted and so enjoyable that similar discussions were held with other NPCs. However, this also burned precious time.

I was aiming to complete the session inside three hours, which I think was a tall order for Convergence. A typical convention slot is four hours, and Convergence could conceivably fit into this.

The agents made a fast break through early on, having discovered the body of UFO journalist Scott Adams (I made him a blogger as the scenario needs a little updating from a technology perspective); they then checked the guest register at Merle’s Shut Eye and realised Adams was renting a second room, which then led them to the discovery of Jane Allen, Billy Ray’s girlfriend. The team had been in Groversville for less than 24 hours by this stage and had not been apart at any stage, so there was no opportunity for any missing time antics.

With Agent Ferdinand hacking Adams’ laptop using his high Computer Science skill, the agents quickly figured out it might be worth snooping around the Ameley’s Hills area, where Adams had sighted helicopter activity.

At this point we were beginning to run out of time and I wanted to see if we could push for a resolution. The group had brought in a two man FBI team with hazmat suits to remove Adams’ body and take Allen away too. They used an unmarked van, but they made the error of keeping the sheriff in the loop, allowing the real enemy to also keep tabs on the progress of their investigation. By this stage they were planning to leave for Ameley’s Hills with the sheriff in tow to have a poke around. I decided that the opposition would see this as a direct threat to their operation and pull the plug on the experiment.

The DG team from Knoxville had also delivered the compound which would allow the agents to check for protomatter (earlier than suggested in the adventure, but this team was making break through after break through). I went with the weaponized virus option suggested in the adventure, but made it more fast acting. With the sheriff sickening, the team sprayed him with the compound and quickly realised how prevalent the protomatter was.

The agents stopped the car in time to see a barn being destroyed in the distance by a Majestic team of special operators (covering the tracks of the real actors in this scenario). With Agent Florence now incapacitated by the virus and obviously dying, Frazier and Ferdinand drove through a corn field at high speed towards the burning barn (it was now midnight). Ferdinand fluffed his Drive roll and crashed into a scare crow. Agent Frazier jumped out of the car and saw the Majestic agents taking off in a helicopter gunship. He opened fire at long range with his Glock and scored a critical, hitting one of the Majestic agents and killing him outright. His body fell 50 feet into the corn.

The rest of the Majestic team escaped, but the DG agents found the body of the soldier they shot. By this stage both Ferdinand and Frazier were deteriorating quickly and Florence was dead.

I allowed the agents one drive roll as they floored the accelerator and made a break for the county line. Sadly Ferdinand missed this one, crashing his car into a drainage ditch, and both agents succumbed by the side of the road having made their final report to their handler in Knoxville.

I felt this was a good resolution for the game as the group is unlikely to reconvene any time soon. Feedback from the players was very positive. Two had never played Call of Cthulhu before. Convergence is obviously a very good adventure, but I was being too ambitious trying to shoe horn it into three hours.

I still have some reservations about the new DG rules system: I’m torn between this and the Gumshoe system for this type of adventure. I didn’t really make use of some of the new mechanics which I should have – for example Will Power. Nor did we explore the use of bonds to mitigate Sanity loss, although the agents did not lose that much Sanity, and bonds really only come into their own as part of a longer campaign – they seem to have less value in a one shot, other than to make it much less likely an agent will suffer a break down, which can be part of the fun.

There is also no skill which covers passive perception – in Call of Cthulhu you have Spot Hidden. In DG there is a Search skill, but I take this to mean an active search. At one stage there was an opportunity to spot a towel wedged under a door but at that point the agents were not conducting a search. I suppose you could potentially use the Alertness skill, but it is not very clear.

In summary I think Convergence is an excellent scenario, which I’d willingly run again with a different group. The new DG rules are, I think, better than vanilla Call of Cthulhu, but will take some getting used to. I’m not convinced that they are superior to Gumshoe however. But then again, I’m not completely convinced with Gumshoe either.


3 comments:

  1. Alertness is to sense danger and Search is to find things that have been deliberately hidden. There's no passive perception as such, but an INTx5 roll could cover it.

    Ben has the GM book and that may have some advice on how noticing things is supposed to work, but I've always tended to go with the Gumshoe approach of if it's a vital clue then the players find it without having to roll.

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    1. Having looked at the adventure for the first time in twentyish years (!) it doesn't look like the towel under the door has been deliberately hidden, so I would reveal that to the players without a roll.

      If you were set on asking for a roll, I would use Alertness given the context of the scene.

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  2. I would simply use their % search as their passive skill. If they are alert. If they are distracted then half it. :)

    Handler's Guide only in pdf form. It has nothing on skills. It does not replicate anything in the Agent's Guide. Instead it goes into the politics, rivalries, history, critters, magic and gawds. :)

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