WARNING: This blog contains spoilers for ‘Music From A Darkened Room’. If you plan to play this Delta Green scenario in the near future, please, come back later.
I know I haven’t posted on my blog in a while, and I usually write about travelling, but I felt I wanted to share an incredible roleplaying game experience I recently enjoyed with my friends. DELTA GREEN. For those that haven’t heard of it, Delta Green is a roleplaying game based on the ‘Call of Cthulhu’ system and set in the H.P Lovecraft universe in the modern day (think Cthulhu and other such monsters). Players will play as ‘Agents’ who are members of a top secret, undercover organisation tasked with dealing with other-worldly threats and generally keeping the Mythos out of the public eye. It’s an alternative roleplaying experience to Dungeons & Dragons. It is horror meets sci-fi, with a generous sprinkling of suspense and intrigue. And I am a huge fan.
This was the fourth game of Delta Green that I have run, having previously ran the ‘Operations’ entitled Last Things Last, Lover in the Ice and The Observer Effect. I’ve even agreed to run introductory sessions of the game at my friend’s shop, Sword & Board in Exeter, which was the setting for tonight’s game. It was time to delve into the madness that awaited us in Music From A Darkened Room, written by one of the co-creators of Delta Green, Mr. Dennis Detwiller. Before the game began, I was fortunate enough to have reached out to Mr. Detwiller on Twitter and received a reply. A personalised message from the game’s creator to the players themselves… “This scenario has consumed dozens of agents, and that’s just when **I** ran it. So far, only one group I’ve run it for has “solved” it and it was one of the best Delta Green scenarios I was ever involved in. Good luck and watch your back.”
With a full compliment of 4 players, we met in the back room of Sword & Board, Exeter (with 1 player being the store’s owner) and we gathered around a £3000 GeeknSon gaming table. I had strategically positioned lamps for mood lighting, I had suitable suspenseful music gently playing through a speaker in the middle of the table and we even had use of a chalk board on one wall. With snacks, drinks and character sheets at the ready, it was time to enter Agent Shiva, Agent Ox, Agent Dohan and Agent Yogi. These would be played by my players Steve, Alex, Matt and Rhiannon respectively. I would be playing the Handler, or Dungeon Master/Game Master if you will.
I had the session begin with a short reading from Chapter One of Lovecraft’s Call of Cthulu, before describing how the Agents had arrived at the venue for their mission briefing. I also read out the initial blurb from Music which I will share with you here, “Places, like people, sometimes go wrong. They turn off the path and head into the shadows; becoming something other than normal. Black places filled with blank rooms, closed doors and empty hallways lined with dust. In these places your voice catches in your throat, the air seems to hum and things happen. Bad feelings flow like the loose tap in the bathroom and hate hangs in the air like old paint. It smells of time and circumstance and something just a little beyond the world. You may shut your eyes in such places and pretend the world is ordered, like a puzzle whose pieces are square and plain. You may pretend a lot of things. You might even pretend that YOU are pretending… Until, in the dark, the hand falls on YOUR shoulder…”
A-Cell, in effect the HQ of Delta Green, had issued a directive to the nearest available Cell to head to the Spooner house in the small town of Meadowbrook. It just so happens to be E-Cell who are the closest. For Agent Dohan, this missive arrives in a beaten Fedex package with a return address in Maryland (it’s a Mailbox near the Pentagon, the name on the return address, Iago Greene, is false). Inside is a sheet of paper and an old-looking cell phone. The call comes in the usual way, a with-held number and a mysterious green triangle displayed on screen. “You are invited to A Night At The Opera, meet in two days time in the town of Hayward, Wisconsin”. An address is provided that, when googled, simply leads to a warehouse in the industrial district. If you were a betting person, you’d probably guess that it was abandoned. And so you set out, taking everything you need with you… And hoping you get to return.
One of our players, Agent Shiva, was arrested and committed to an insane asylum after being one of the only two survivors of The Observer Effect. Agent Ox and Agent Yogi were new to the program. As such I had Yogi receive the keys to a blacked out SUV, with instructions to collect Agent Ox – a federal agent. Agent Ox then had his own instructions, visit the cell of Professor Robert ‘Shiva’ Shah at a mental institution near Chicago. Collect him, and take him to the meeting point. Shah was relieved to escape the probing questions that awaited him in ‘therapy’.
It was then that they met their handler. He didn’t give them his name, but I wore a low baseball cap and a fur lined coat and proceeded to give the agents a speech about things that can kill you whilst pacing around the table. The punchline of that speech was Special Agent Donnelly’s death. What had killed him? Donnelly’s body had been found dead on the bed of the master bedroom of 1206 Spooner Avenue, Meadowbrook. The death had been ruled a suicide but, it just didn’t add up. It was Delta Green’s operative to investigate this death and ensure it wouldn’t happen again. The operation commenced in truth and our agents first took a drive past the house. An old, creepy looking house with slightly bizarre modifications. The agents noticed how difficult it was to park along the street, except in front of 1206 where a 5 car gap invited them in. Not wanting to visit just yet, and mindful of the police tape on the door, they set about questioning the Chief of Police and the Coroner over the death of Agent Donelley. Once badges had been flashed, it was easier to get information. Three of the Agents took the Coroner out for a drink and managed to keep the drinks flowing long enough to get him to tell them stories about a series of odd deaths at the house. During their investigation, the most worrying fact of all became clear. The blood splatter across the wall length mirrors in the master bedroom from Agent Donnelly’s death had a gap in it. A person sized gap.
Meanwhile, Agent Dohan had generously bribed the clerk at the county seat in order to have access to the town’s property archives, death certificates and the like. He eventually managed to compile a list of names of those linked to the house, and a list of deaths within the property along with a blueprint of the property itself. He only had time to research the suicides of Peter Diaz and Isabelle Wheeler before the night drew in. Diaz had hanged himself in the spare room, whilst Wheeler had seemingly died of a mystery illness.
Setting up camp at a Days Inn Hotel nearby, the team reunited and discussed their findings and theories on the house. By now they knew that Agent Donnelly’s death was no mere suicide. From the conversation with the coroner they had identified that no suicide implement was found, which is rather worrying. But more worrying to the agents was that the previous occupant, Yamilla Isari, had seemingly killed herself in exactly the same way as Donnelly had done just a few years later. Not ones to believe in coincidence, the following morning the agents resolved to contact their ‘friendlies’ on the ground, two names given by the handler during their initial briefing as local contacts known to ‘The Program’. Two agents opted to take a visit to Parapsychologist and Paranormal Expert Doctor Emil Yarrow, and two opted to take the Antique Dealer, Miss Elizabeth Tucker. Before they set off, a Police Deputy arrived at the hotel with a set of keys to 1206 Spooner Avenue and informed the group he had received a phone call from the Chief ordering him to book the keys out of property and hand them to the agents, no questions asked. The keys were to be returned at the end of that day. The agents gratefully accepted.
Yarrow was quite interested in their case and pledged to assist the team in any way he could. He advised them to enter the property at night, or perhaps alone, in an effort to communicate with the spirits. Yarrow suggested that whatever residual energy was connected to the building was perhaps trying to ask for help. Tucker was able to provide the agents with a couple of names and addresses of former customers of hers, that is after an awkward stand off regarding mention of their ‘mutual friends’. The agents left, disappointed they had found no artefacts in her store, but with possible leads to follow up. With the keys in hand, the agents had a copy cut and decided to succumb to the temptation of in an incursion into the house.
Things started off strange on the very doorstep of 1206 Spooner Avenue, as Agent Ox swore he saw somebody move inside. Was the property actually occupied all along? Was this new occupier Agent Donnelly’s murderer? Perhaps they needed to affect an arrest on behalf of their former colleague. Three of the four agents approached the front door while the fourth, Agent Yogi, skirted around the outside. Those on the doorstep heard piano music playing from within, Beethoven in fact. It was this very fact that triggered a breaking point insanity roll by Agent Dohan. Sanity is a core concept in Delta Green, witnessing acts of violence or scenes of an unnatural nature can cause one’s sanity to be tested. The player compares a D100 roll to his sanity stat and, if the roll is higher, he fails. Agent Dohan’s roll was much higher indeed. He knew from speaking to Elizabeth Tucker that there shouldn’t be a piano inside the property as it was sold some time ago, he couldn’t quite cope with what was happening and struggled to utter his words. One way to reduce sanity loss and preserve character life within the game is to ‘project’ onto a bond, which uses 1d4 of your willpower reserves to reduce your bond score by the same amount and preserve that same number of sanity points. Dohan chose to think of his daughter, screwing his eyes shut and imagining that the piano music was his daughter’s sixth grade piano recital. Another feature of breaking points is that the character develops a disorder usually, in this case it was revealed later on that Agent Dohan had developed mild paranoia.
As soon as Agent Ox tried the front door, the noise suddenly stopped. It was around this time when Agent Yogi, creeping around the exterior of the building, saw a FACE. The face of a small child in the master bedroom window. A small, dead child. She ran, as fast as she could, back to the group’s SUV.
Our remaining three agents had already entered the house by now. Agent Ox was first, and he saw briefly what he thought was a little boy standing right behind him in the mirror on the closet door in the foyer. When he turned around, the boy was gone. Nobody believed him. Agent Shiva smashed the mirror with the butt of his revolver after a brief argument, “WHAT!? NO MIRROR? NO PROBLEM!”. Tensions and emotions were running high by now. Agent Yogi then noticed something behind a bush near the front door, “HE’LL IS ME” written in blood. She pointed it out to the other Agents and had a frantic discussion with Agent Shiva on the doorstep as to what to do. Agent Yogi tasted it, yep, dried blood for sure. Gross.
Agent Ox stepped inside the main area of the house and noticed old furniture and boxes stacked up. Moments later, he found himself consuming an ancient, mouldy, rancid cup of coffee for seemingly no reason. This prompted him to vomit. A lot. Agent Ox took a breather out on the front porch but simply couldn’t explain to the other agents why he had done that. Sanity roll, failed, another point of sanity lost. Agent Dohan meanwhile was fascinated by bedroom 2, the place where Peter Diaz had hanged himself all those years ago. As the story goes, Diaz had become more and more isolated from his family, eventually leaving them to solely focus on working on the house. During this time he replaced the wall length floor to ceiling mirrors in the master bedroom, something Dohan found very curious. Once the work was complete, Diaz was found hanging in bedroom 2 with a note on his chest that simply said “Finished Now”. It was different enough to the other 3 deaths Dohan knew about, which had occurred in the master bedroom, that he HAD to take a look. Shortly after opening the door, Dohan found himself curling up underneath a piece of old tarp for comfort. Meanwhile, Agent Ox made a near fatal mistake.
Ox opened the Master Bedroom door and confidently strode in. He saw Isabelle Wheeler. There she was, in the mirror looking back at him. He informed her he was there to help her, to save her. All of a sudden a razor appeared and Isabelle went to slash his throat. Ox shot the floating razor out of the air with an incredibly lucky critical success roll and made a run for it, out of the property and into the SUV. Locking himself inside. If that had been a failed roll, would Agent Ox be no more? Agents Shiva and Yogi eventually located Dohan and roused him from his child like state. But not before the wardrobe in the room began to rattle and bang furiously. Enough was enough. They ran.
All four agents retreated in sheer terror at the horrors they had faced. They phoned A-Cell from the safety of the vehicle. A-Cell’s new orders were as follows. Identify the threat. Eliminate the threat. At all costs. They sent an Elder Sign via fedex to Agent Shiva at the hotel address. An agent relic from a bygone era of gods and monsters. Hopefully it would help them fight whatever incursion they were dealing with here. Oh, and don’t forget about Green Box 711. A mysterious, forgotten Delta Green storage box located in the town of Meadowbrook itself that the agents were yet to explore.
Our Agents got some rest for the night back at the hotel and planned for day 3 of the investigation. They discussed visiting the Green Box, revisiting the county records, discussing further with Doctor Emil Yarrow and perhaps better arming themselves with more information about this strange house before they intended to confront the threat. To be continued in part two…
Thanks for reading. If you’re interested in playing Delta Green there are a number of PDF scenarios available online. Music From A Darkened Room and Khali Ghati will soon be in stock in hardback in Sword & Board as well, I highly recommend giving this game a try. If you enjoyed this blog, be sure to check out some of my other articles and leave me a comment below with your thoughts. You can follow me on Twitter @cptnmingo for all the latest updates and you can also find all our weekly vlogs of our adventures on YouTube right here.