First Impressions of Delta Green - Agent's Handbook


The first thing that struck me about the Delta Green Agent's Handbook is just how dark a game this is. Reading through it I see a game that like it's parent, Call of Cthulhu, puts our protagonists on the front lines against ancient horrors with life and sanity on the line. But Delta Green has more ways to make the agents fall to pieces. There's rules for abusing stimulants on a mission, game-related reasons for seeking solace in the bottle. rules for sacrificing - or just losing - pieces of your personal life. If you are lucky you'll end up in Cthulhu's tummy. If you're unlucky you'll wind up losing your mind, your marriage, your job, and/or your freedom. What I really like is there's rules - simple rules - for all of this.

A bit of a rewind is in order. Delta Green is a take on the Call of Cthulhu Mythos. First published in the 1990's as a Call of Cthulhu supplement, it dealt with dueling government agencies and conspiracies trying to destroy or harness the Mythos. Delta Green was born in the aftermath of the US Federal Government's 1928 raid on Innsmouth. Over the next several decades it became an inter-agency conspiracy dedicated to the destruction of the Cthulhu Mythos. They ran afoul of Majestic-12 and in the aftermath of a botched 1969 mission in Cambodia, the organization was disbanded. Officially. After which it existed as a government conspiracy. It was very 1990's X-Files. 

That said, none of that background is in this book. And Delta Green's present day status is not discussed. The book is written entirely from the perspective of Delta Green's agents. They are usually members of some government agency that have been recruited into the organization. The characters are often expected to requisition equipment from their own agencies, hopefully not getting into too much trouble for doing so.

The rules themselves are quite similar to Call of Cthulhu 6th edition, with the mechanics considerably tightened up. There's a few changes - Appearance is now Charisma, there is no Education stat, etc. There's still sanity rules, though they've been changed a bit. There are also rules for various bonds your character has - bonds to family, friends, etc. Just as with sanity, it is likely these stats will suffer over the course of a campaign.

In addition to the rules portion of the book there is a large section on various US government agencies your character might be a part of. There's a few adventures for this game already out. The only negative is the main rulebook is not out yet. It's not that these rules are not complete - it is a very playable game. However, the main rulebook contains all the Agent's Handbook rules while also having all the supernatural background and information on Delta Green and other secret organizations. Given its close similarity to Call of Cthulhu it would be very easy to adapt older Call of Cthulhu and Delta Green sourcebooks and adventures and adapting Call of Cthulhu 7th edition products would be extremely easy as well. 

This book is part of the Delta Green Kickstarter, which I backed. I've had access to the Agent's Handbook for quite a while in digital form, but it was only recently that I began flipping through it. The production values are good, it is nicely illustrated, easy to read, and nicely bookmarked. 

I said this is a dark game, which I suppose begs the question, "is it fun to play?". I'm still in the process of digesting it, but I think so. I've always found something noble and heroic about those mortals who stand up against the horrors of the Cthulhu Mythos. Maybe we are just insignificant beings in an uncaring universe, but despite that, they have the courage to face the horrors of that universe, at extreme cost.

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