I recently posted about my impressions after running a multi-session one-shot with The Fall of Delta Green, and said I’d follow up with a post about the adventure itself. I used Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s Fall of Delta Green adventure On a Bank, by Moonlight. By the way, the original PDF of the adventure is available from the Pelgrane Press website, for free. Downloading it is probably helpful if you didn’t manage to snag a print copy back in 2018, like I happened to do. (Ah, man, remember Free RPG Day events?)
Anyway, as I was saying, I ran this adventure, but I also adapted it pretty heavily, in a few ways…
But I guess this is as good a place as any to pause and mention that the following post contains spoilers.
If you’re a GM about to run the game, and any of this seems useful to you, have at. Let me know if it is useful, I’d love to hear from you.
If you’re a player and you think you a GM might end up running this for your group, don’t read it. You’ll only spoil your fun, and possibly the group’s too. (My players should avoid the Google Document link, in case we revisit these characters, because SPOILERS. And people I play games with in other groups likewise: you never know when we might do a one-shot of this.)
With that out of the way, let’s go.
I mentioned changes. Some of these were necessitated by the game concept I’d pitched to my players, which pushed Delta Green a little away from PCs as hardened intelligence/military specialists towards people for whom art training and knowledge was important, but who received formal training at some point, even if it was after their being recruited to Delta Green. That is to say, my original concept was still The Fall of Delta Green but with less focus on the military/spy stuff and more on art knowledge.
As it turns out, that didn’t shift things as far as I’d thought. We ended up with three PCs:
- Peter: squint at Charles Bronson’s character in Death Wish, add service as a medical officer and a cover based on postwar training in architecture; a dead wife to avenge, and a daughter in a coma.
- Paul: squint at Paul Cushing Child (Julia Child’s husband) and you have it: an OSS officer working for the State Department in Paris, handling some covert stuff but also the arts diplomacy program in Paris.
- Trudi: a military chaplain involved in semi-illegal (but government-sponsored) trafficking of antiquities and art from places like Egypt.
(If you’re thinking, “Peter, Paul, and… Trudi?” then, yes, we did notice that too. I must assure you, no folk music was harmed in the playing of this adventure. Though it would be marvelous to have the characters encounter the folk group in some future mission, of course…)
They were way more competent with melee and firearms than I’d originally imagined when thinking about the game concept. The idea for the bigger campaign was an ongoing conspiramid centered on triggering an apocalyptic event through art—not the first in history, but the most extreme so far. I had in mind… well, since we may revisit the milieu, I’ll just say that avant-garde theater, ballet with occult overtones, and State Department “jazz diplomacy” in the developing world, and a few pieces of missing Nazi art were all likely to play a role. (And will, if we do revisit the characters.)
So the changes I made can be summed up as follows:
- I made the role of unnatural-infused art bigger. Several of the clues they uncovered pointed at a bigger “unnatural art conspiramid” going way beyond MAJESTIC.
- I re-set the adventure to the French countryside, specifically in a small, untouristed village about an hour from Marseille. I had suggested a globe-hopping game, and France seemed like a fun starting point.
- I created a few handouts, one of which contains some hints at possible floating clues. I think good handouts can be a fun way to seed in hints at clues, whether for confirming hunches or for providing the clue if characters miss it elsewhere. It can also be a fun way to drive home the setting.
- I added some material for handling interrogation of the MAJESTIC team. I had to do this, because I foolishly let my players managed to strategize them into a corner and abduct them even though I made them tougher than they were in the original adventure. That said, it made for some of the most horrifying scenes in the game.
One thing I will say, before getting into the adaptations I made, is that this adventure was both easy and hard to adapt to France. There were some things about the US setting that were a little hard to parallel in France, especially the stuff about the local cops. Likewise, some fiddling was necessary in terms of language barriers: two of the three characters didn’t speak French, and relied on the other to translate in several interactions. Dr. Bissette’s year overseas at Brown University was easier to sell, though, and making the group of weirdoes at Erato House a little more diverse—from all over the US, Canada, and Europe—made for an interesting potential mix, though since the player characters didn’t try disguising themselves and infiltrating the compound, that never really came up.
I don’t want to recount the entire mission, but I think it’s worth sharing a schematic map of the structure that developed during our play-through of the investigation:
As with the original adventure writeup, the black nodes are core scenes; the white ones are alternates in the original adventure text. However, you can see from the formatting I used that there were more kinds of scenes that came into play:
- The blue nodes were procedural nodes added by the players. This was characters using their skills to do stuff related to the investigation—like forging press credentials, or shopping for random chemicals and medicines in a shop near town. To some degree they were just procedural, involving skill checks or even just rulings, but I tried to include some Floating clues in them when possible. For example, in the second blue node scene, Forgery (& The Statue), Trudi was holed up in the hotel room forging Life Magazine press credentials. At the end of the evening, when she was putting the finishing touches on the documents, she noticed the statue on a table nearby had (seemingly spontaneously) started seeping fluid into its evidence baggie, prompting a Stability check, which at least I thought was a wonderfully creepy cliffhanger for that evening’s session.
- The green nodes were Investigative Nodes that were either created by me to deliver floating clues, or to confirm earlier floating clues that the players needed verified. On the same night Trudi was forging passports, she happened to go for a walk past a house she’d noticed as odd before, and saw several MAJESTIC agents coming out and getting into a black car before driving off toward the compound. Because of the earlier node, “The MAJESTIC Safehouse (Black Van)” (when she noticed a suspicious dent on a black van parked outside the house) she already suspected the occupants of the house was linked to the Crash.
Worth noting is the fact that my group managed to shut down the ritual, though not before a couple of Black-Winged Ones had made it through. Therefore, in Through the Doors, they fought off those monsters (with no casualties, to my surprise) and then, quite angry about the whole thing, they decided to go check the MAJESTIC Safehouse. They arrived just before the MAJESTIC team (who parked down the street to await them, not realizing they’d already arrived). Unexpectedly, the player characters managed to knock out two of the agents and get a gun on the third, seriously injured, one.
This is why there is a whole trip back to the safehouse for the The Majestic Safehouse (abduction) node, followed by an Interrogation in the woods node.
How did that go? Well… it was an interrogation with some very slippery hostiles. It got nasty. If you want more details, it’s spoilered. If you’re just here for the props and goodies, keep scrolling.
First, I didn’t expect they’d get so far as to abduct the agents. In fact, the MAJESTIC agents were actually significantly tougher than in the original adventure, especially Grace Murwell—to whom I’d given a few points of Unnatural (and the insanity to go with it). She used these to horrifying effect, but my players rolled well against her magical attempts to hijack their bodies and minds, and taking no chances, they blew her head off in the end… after she tried to use one too many spells on the Delta Green agents.
That part happened after they’d absconded with the agents to an abandoned cottage in the woods outside of town, and the entire interrogation sequence was pretty creepy: Paul had to endure the trauma of having the witch meddle in his brain in ways that seemed to echo on after the witch’s death (he saw not the witch, but his own dead wife miraculously resurrected. Trudi responded by blowing the witch’s head off.
However, in the instant before her brain was spattered all over the cottage, Grace Murwell released a psychic blast that forced a vision onto everyone in the room. Each character beheld the vision alone, but saw the same ruined, post-apocalyptic cityscape; each player got to ask one different question based on their Investigative skills and preferences:
- Paul learned that the ruins he was seeing were of New York City: his Architecture knowledge helped him recognize some of the buildings, which he’d studied specifically while learning about resonant harmonics during his architecture studies. From the sides of some buildings sprouted weird structures that seemed to suggest higher-dimensional mathematics and resonances.
- Trudi recognized the constellations, realizing that this was no far-future apocalypse. She also recognized the comet she could see in the sky—which was later revealed to be Halley’s comet.
- Peter entered a building in which voices were audible, and when he entered he saw a mixture of ravaged humans, human-hominid hybrids with various animalistic features, and weirdly amphibian and lizardlike hominids chanting, singing, and howling while art (hand painted onto the walls). Amid them, he saw a familiar bat-winged statue dripping fluid onto the worshippers.
As they emerged from the vision, Paul heard what he could swear was his wife calling to him from the empty, burnt-up corner of the cottage—some enduring side-effect of the magic worked on his brain, perhaps?
Meanwhile, the calm and placid OSS agent Peter orchestrated the interrogation of the MAJESTIC team leader from behind the man, unseen and unheard. (I found that creepy.) Creepier still, though, was what both Paul and Peter glimpsed during brief trips out of the cottage to the car, first to get water, and then to get some items mentioned by the MAJESTIC team leader (essentially introducing a magical tome, in case someone wants their character to learn some mind-ruining magic, and some more Core Clues leading to other nodes in the broader conspiramid). But… wait, were those the glint of eyes out in the darkness, approaching through the woods? Surely it was just animals, it had to be wild animals…
In the end, after the MAJESTIC team leader (the possibly sociopathic David Prester) tried to recruit them—going so far as to give them a radio frequency and a contact name for MAJESTIC, if they decide they want to avert the apocalypse the witch showed them—he told them they should leave, as “his friends would be coming soon.” They responded by shooting him in the head, and then dragging his and the witch’s bodies out to their car and setting it on fire. (They merely abandoned the MAJESTIC team’s badly injured tough guy, Sergeant du Champ, to bleed out in the cottage). Then they drove away in a big hurry, off along the road through the dark woods back toward the highway. By this point, they could see that eyes were watching them, from the darkness, and approaching fast.
As they attempted to flee, they saw three figures emerge from the woods onto the roadside, wearing strangely familiar faces: the visages of Rose and Sebastien (the two dead people from Erato House—Sebastien was the name I gave Tony Curallo from the original version of the adventure), and the old Coroner from the scene The Shooting. The figures were not human, though: they lunged with massive claws at the car as it tore away, then leaped through the air to the burning car and dragged the bodies out.
The players never learned what those creatures were that worse the familiar faces of two corpses they’d seen earlier, and the face of the old coroner whom they didn’t yet know was dead; the expanded/revised mission notes below contain that information, though, so I won’t include it here.
There were some loose ends that we resolved after the conclusion, because the characters didn’t follow up on them directly: stuff like toxscreen results that never got called in as they were supposed to, and death records and corpses missing from the coroner’s office (the coroner had been goaded into suicide); the license plate trace revealed that the car and van were part of some classified unit within the French security forces; an article ran spilling the beans on the (fabricated) link between one of the victims and a US Senator, and Trudi managed to get pictures of the witch’s magical book before dutifully following protocol and passing it on to their Delta Green contact during the debrief.[/spoiler]
Re-Setting and Expansion Notes
For those who actually want to run a French-setting remixed version of the adventure, I’ll share an edited version of my notes for you.
This isn’t the document I used to run the adventure, mind you! I grabbed the entire adventure document text, reformatted it and added hyperlinks between sections (like you see in this document), updated the GMC names where I’d changed them, and added my extra clues, leads, stats changes, and extra material. Additionally, as you can see from my account above, things went a bit off the rails at the end when the PCs captured the MAJESTIC team, so I just added some closing notes for the final session.
(Anyone who wants a copy of the complete thing is welcome to ask. It’s a bit disorganized in spots, since it was just for personal use.)
You can view the document here (Google Docs link). If you end up using it (or the handouts and other goodies below) I’d love to hear from you about how it went, either in the form of a comment on this post, or else via email.
One thing I’ll say is that I’m honestly surprised the mission was published for use as a one-session one-shot. Pacing is something I struggle with, so maybe I wasn’t abstracting some of the action enough, or maybe my players were unusually cagey. That said, there was a session 0 in there, and the last session was material beyond the scope of what’s written in the mission (which I think assumes the MAJESTIC team will successfully GTFO if things fall apart).
I think there are ways to tighten up the pacing, and really, game-pacing is something I struggle with more generally: I don’t want to push players too much, but I tend to err on the side of letting them ruminate more than I think I should.
Some additions or alterations that could help with that, and which I’d play with if I run the adventure again:
- Have them receive an image of Bisset/Weber and the other known GMCs (Desdemona, Rose, Sebastian/Tony) during the briefing, and then let them run into Bisset or Desdemona in town. Bisset is staying in town, so that wouldn’t be hard.
- Set the coroner’s office and the newspaper in the same place (Marseille) or just make the town a little bigger and let it have its own coroner’s office and local newspaper. It’s the 60s, local journalism still existed back then, after all!
- In the briefing, emphasize the idea of their infiltrating the compound to find out what’s going on (along with checking on the bodies and interviewing relevant locals): my players never got mixed up in the compound cult, but if they had, things might have accelerated a little faster.
- Have the MAJESTIC team skip town when things go wrong, and call then a team of cleaners (that is, Men in Black) in to deal with the stuff they abandoned in the house.
If I run this again, I kinda think I’ll do several of those things, just to move the investigation forward at a faster clip.
Handouts & Other Materials
I made a few handouts that were useful and fun. One was the basis of an added Alternate Scene Doing Some Reading and consisted of the leaflet mentioned in The Shooting. It’s a mimeograph of the Erato House directed dreaming leaflet. Below is an image, but also a PDF and a word doc for those who want to edit it and use it. It’s designed so you could print it off (say, with a color printer, on newsprint) or just save as a PDF and share with players to have a virtual mimeographed document. (At least, this is how I remember them: I was in elementary school at the tail end of the era when mimeographs were used in elementary schools.)
It’s full of typos and the kinds of mistakes a nonnative speaker of English would make while writing such a document, so I’m including a copy of the original for anyone who wants to change this. You’ll want to “Save as PDF” but with the page settings adjusted to full bleed PDF, to get something that looks like the images below.
Downloadable (right-click and Save As):
Next, I actually grabbed a bunch of public domain audio clips to design a version of The Sound to play for the players when they discovered it. (I’ll try I’d hoped to actually be able to play it to them directly, live, but for whatever reason I couldn’t get Audacity’s audio output to patch directly into Discord.
That’s unfortunate, because the audio file has a hidden feature: if you play the audio file in an app that lets you slow down or speed up the playback (such as Audacity), it’s designed so that different samples become more recognizable: you can have players adjust the playback speed and discover all kinds of weird sounds: crickets at night, what sounds like moans of pleasure or pain, throat-singing incantations, a demonic-sounding voice chanting (backwards), a sine tone, and so on.
Downloadable (right-click and Save As):
The sounds I used to create this audio clip are the following:
- tibetan chant 4 colargol 2.aif by djgriffin. Used under a Creative Commmons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0) license.
- Demon Chant (Latin) by crycro. Used under CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0, Public Domain Dedication) license.
- Cicadas by dethrok. Used under CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0, Public Domain Dedication) license.
- girl scream frank 4.wav by visions68. Used under a Creative Commmons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0) license.
- french sex by excuse. Used under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC 3.0) license.
- Phat sawtooth wavetable by screamstudio. Used under CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0, Public Domain Dedication) license.
- sea monster noises by rs272001. Used under a Creative Commmons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0) license.
- William’s dreams by krawford. Used under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC 3.0) license.
- swamp at night with crickets and cicadas2 by mariethompson. Used under CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0, Public Domain Dedication) license.
- Sine Tone 440Hz -3dBFS 10 seconds by MarcosPurziani. Used under CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0, Public Domain Dedication) license.
If you’d like to edit the sound, you can grab the Audacity project (along with the above attributions) here:
Downloadable Audacity Project (click to open and then download from Google Drive):
Black Winged Ones image:
I generated some images for GMCs (many of which did not end up being used: I was a bit scatterbrained), over on ThisPersonDoesNotExist. A few, I had to use copyrighted photos for—so I’m not including those—such as Desdemona Temple. (The website seems not to have been trained on older photos, and Desdemona is a Black woman with an Afro, so…) Likewise, I wanted an image of du Champ in uniform, and that meant using a copyrighted photo of a real French soldier.
Still, I have images for most of the GMCs available if you want them:
Downloadable archive (click top open and then download from Google Drive):
Included in that archive is a picture I myself drew of the Black Winged Ones since I couldn’t find really effective art online anywhere that captured what I thought they looked like:
I’m not an accomplished artist (by any stretch of the imagination), but my players seemed to find it creepy enough, and at least it gave them an idea of what their characters were seeing.
The Newspaper Article
Finally, I did up a copy of the article that was to run the day after on the of the PCs had a meeting with the Journalist. I’m not including the resources to edit this, because any Handler who wants to include a newspaper article will probably have to create it from scratch based on whatever gets said during the meeting. (This one, for example, includes some (made-up) information that one of the PCs leaked to the journalist, about Rose being the niece of an important McCarthyite Senator.)
This only came up in the epilogue, for us: the PCs decided to intervene directly relatively quickly (in game time) after the meeting with D’Alvard, so it only ended up being a footnote. Print news is a laggy thing, and all that. Still, maybe it’ll be inspirational for someone who wants to prepare an article for the Printing Gasoline node.
I think that’s everything. If you end up using any of this, I’d love to hear how it went for you. While we’re not completely sold on the Gumshoe approach and some elements of the Fall of Delta Green ruleset, we had a good time with this adventure.