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.
This blog picks up part 2 of our play-through of the spine-chilling scenario ‘Music From A Darkened Room’ for the role-playing game Delta Green. Written by Dennis Detwiller and hosted by myself at Sword & Board gaming store in Devon, UK. If you missed session one, you’ll probably want to head over here to pick it up and enjoy the story so far. All caught up? Sitting comfortably? Then let us begin…
We join our players for session two on a Friday evening in the back room of the store. The snacks are ready, the lighting and atmospheric music are just about perfect and we are ready to game. We left session one having had the group make an initial incursion into the house and subsequently contact the mysterious ‘A-Cell’ to report back. A-Cell tasked them to identify and eliminate the threat, as simple as that right? As this threat sounded a little more than unusual, A-Cell dispatched an Elder Sign on a stone table to Agent Shiva in the hopes the group may find it useful. And so, we begin session two…
Unfortunately, one of our players, Matt who plays Agent Dohan, couldn’t make it to session two on account of a brief bout of illness. This is a common problem in role-playing gaming (not the illness part!) as getting the same players together for subsequent games has it’s own unique set of issues – as the popular internet meme below illustrates. However, it is up to the DM/GM to decide on how they overcome this. As you may remember in session one, Dohan found himself under a sheet of tarpaulin listening to Endless Sleep by Jody Reynolds (1958) and refusing to come out. Not only that but he was the first agent to hear the piano music at the front door AND the first agent to realise that there shouldn’t be a piano within the property. Mechanically, he also took the most sanity loss last session. Story wise, I decided to have Dohan suffering a bout of temporary insanity. Whilst the other agents met up in the hotel bar for breakfast, Dohan would refuse to leave his room and repeatedly tell the others to go away. When checked on, the other agents found him hiding beneath his blanket and gently rocking back and forth. This meant we were about to forge ahead with three brave Agents to see if they could conquer the mission that lay before them.
Agent Shiva decided to make a phone call home to the British Museum and ask his secretary to undertake some private research on the Elder Sign he had received that same morning in a secretive UPS package. Meanwhile, Agents Yogi and Ox discussed their outstanding leads in an effort to solve this case and decided upon visiting the nearby ‘Green Box’ at the storage facility. A short drive across town later and the group found themselves face to face with one heck of an awkward storage unit owner. It turned out that a Mr. John Green had an outstanding balance on the storage unit in question, $1200 to be exact. The storage unit owner refused to let it go without the balance being paid, having caught on already that there was apparently something interesting inside. A flash of the badge later by Agent Ox only further aroused his curiosity, what was so important that the FBI took an interest? Agent Ox backtracked by coming up with a cover story relating to the death of the FBI Agent Donnelley in town recently, not all that far from the truth as it transpires. Agent Shiva then used his British Museum Mastercard to pay the entire outstanding balance on the Green Box, something we’ll be sure to explore the consequences of during the next ‘Home’ segment between scenarios – if Agent Shiva survives.
The Agents opened the Green Box, and inside they found a number of curious items, including a small 4 foot coffin which would contain the skeleton of a young boy named Anton Ture. To the Agents, the most interesting aspect of the contents pf the Green Box would be Agent Donnelly’s notes. A selection of creepy hand-written notes pertaining to his investigation of the Spooner Avenue property, something the Agents obsessed over for a short while and tried to make some sense of. There was also a strange 9-sided box that Agent Ox began playing with, not something that is a part of this scenario but a relic from a previous game (Delta Green: Lover In The Ice) that the players had yet to explore fully, so I threw it in here for a little extra flavour. Whilst the other two explored the rest of the storage unit, Agent Ox rolled appropriately and managed to actually open the box… 5 times! Each time it would reveal a smaller 9-sided box inside…
Deciding it was time to move on, Agents Yogi and Shiva set about following up the lead obtained through the previous visit to the antiques store – the current location of the original contents of 1206 Spooner Avenue belonging to Isabelle Wheeler. They turned up at the address of the elderly Mrs. Harrison under the guise of antiques dealers and inspected the ancient end table Mrs. Harrison had brought in an auction many years ago. After carefully inspecting said table (with some fantastic real-life role-playing around our gaming table) the Agents discovered a hidden panel in the middle, a short click later and they would find an ancient knife, a carved wooden bowl and a dusty old diary. Isabelle Wheeler’s diary to be precise. The Agents also found it curious that the table displayed some carefully carved images of dancing men and a dark shadow man with a giant horn for a face. Agent Ox, who had still been finishing off at the Green Box (and playing with his new obsession) called in to Shiva and Yogi to check on them. Agent Yogi read through the contents of the diary over the phone and the three decided it best to meet up.
Agent Ox, bit by bit, translated a ritual script written in broken Italian in the diary to horrifying effect. There was talk of killing a human to summon something!? Agent Shiva then commented, “This debt has to be paid over and over again? Maybe this is a debt that can never be paid!” Just what exactly were they dealing with at 1206 Spooner Avenue? To pick up the pace of the action I had ‘Doctor Yarrow’ from session one telephone Agent Shiva and entice the Agents back to the house under the premise of an urgent investigation. In reality this was me, playing as the house, having the house phone Shiva. At this point the Agents were none the wiser and fell for it hook, line and sinker. I had Yarrow tell the Agents that he was in the house, in the garage and he was currently looking at something absolutely fascinating that the Agents just had to come see. And so begins our group’s second incursion inside The House.
This is where the third and final act of the game begins in truth. Act One is the set-up and plot seeds being dropped here and there culminating in the first incursion, Act Two was the further investigation and the puzzle pieces being laid out before them. Act Three is usually where somebody dies… This was my chance as a DM to refer to the extensive room-by-room guide in the operation’s document itself and play out some of the creepy effects on the players.
The first thing that became clear to the Agents was that Doctor Yarrow was nowhere to be found. For some reason this fact didn’t deter the Agents as they began exploring the house in a little more detail. I’ll spare the elaborate details of each horrific encounter for your own enjoyment in how you interpret the game should you run it, however we found the following… The couch creaked and seemed to groan with the movement of an unseen force, the front door locked and shut itself, locking all three Agents inside, Agent Shiva volunteered to explore this unseen force and was greeted with it throwing him violently across the room! Just as the group recovered from their various SAN rolls as a result of this, a loud gunshot echoed throughout the house. At this point I am proud to say I had created a tense gameplay atmosphere using music, lighting and a low voice. So, I took a little sadistic pleasure in slamming my hand on the table and yelling “BANG!” mid-conversation. It had the desired effect on my players… The resulting SAN lost caused Agents Yogi to project onto, and break, one of her bonds!
The three Agents, for reasons unknown to me, decided to head upstairs into the attic… After the obvious visual descriptions, it was time to introduce another element of horror. Disembodied footsteps would run from the room and head back downstairs at terrifying speed. Agent Ox chased the footsteps in the hope of finding some gold at the end of this nightmarish rainbow. He would find nothing. The resulting SAN loss was pretty horrific, it triggered temporary insanity in the agent and he would develop the disorder Intermittent Explosive Disorder. In a blind fit of rage Agent Ox started kicking cardboard boxes and punching the walls. WHAT WAS HAPPENING IN THIS DAMN HOUSE!?
Meanwhile, Agents Shiva and Yogi were upstairs together and heard… Humming? I used the creepy humming audio from ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ for this one with the desired effect achieved and some suitably creeped-out players. The two Agents would then hear an old Italian woman chanting before, finally, seeing a pair of legs lying face down behind a stack of boxes. The two slowly but surely investigated and found, what was it they found? I wrote a post-it note to each of them with what they saw when investigating the body. Agent Yogi saw herself, her dead self, lying there in the house. Agent Shiva saw a much-loved character from a previous scenario we had played (The Observer Effect) lying there on the ground. He saw Doctor Takagawa whom he believed to be dead already! I hadn’t realised at this point, as silence fell upon the room for an agonising minute, that Agent Yogi sent a text to Agent Shiva under the table with the words, “HOW CAN I BE DEAD!?”. Neither of the players actually told the other until well after the game what it is that they had seen.
At this point it is worth mentioning that Agent Shiva had taken the Elder Sign into the house with him, tucked safely down the back of his waistband. I have seen other games where the house reacts extremely to the sign being present. For me, horror is about pacing (especially Lovecraft’s work) so rather than have it react it extremely, I decided to have the house throw a steady stream of apparitions at the Agents whilst the sign was present. Shiva, clutching at straws, would start carving an Elder Sign into the floorboards. Everything stopped. There was still a SAN loss here on account of the bodies and it would be enough to cause Shiva to project onto a bond, his pet snake bond reached zero and things aren’t looking good during the next ‘Home’ segment for that snake’s lifespan…
Time to keep the action rolling before the players have a chance to discuss what just happened. The front door slammed. Footsteps ran up the stairs in a hurry, much to the alarm of our two Agents up there, before a voice shouted “JAN!” as loud as it could. This created some intrigue in Yogi and Shiva as the name Jan was familiar from Dohan’s research into the occupants of the house. Anton Ture, Jan, Wheeler, it was all starting to link together. But what was up with the mentions of the old crone in some of the texts they’d read?
I think its about time we check in on Agent Ox who, erm, who has gone into the Master Bedroom to confront the mirror where he previously saw Isabelle Wheeler (who previously tried to kill him)! Very brave or perhaps, reckless? Agent Ox critical failed his roll and something grabbed hold of him and PULLED HIM INTO THE MIRROR! Just like that, he was gone. I did this in secret, outside of the room, so that Shiva and Yogi actually had no idea what had happened to Ox. This would be the point where it all started to fall apart for the Agents. Shiva and Yogi would follow the cut-off scream of Agent Ox into the Master Bedroom only to find nobody there, until Agent Ox passed his swim roll and a hand would reach out of the mirror grasping for help. A tense moment followed as Shiva debated slicing the hand off with a knife! Yogi acted on her initiative and took a risk as she yanked the hand forward, producing Agent Ox from the mirror covered in some sort of weird ecto-plasm gloop. I decided to spice things up a little here on account of the presence of that Elder Sign on Agent Shiva and The House attacked Shiva! I rolled accordingly and, whilst The House did not take control of Shiva completely, he would develop an infatuation with it. I secretly briefed Shiva that his intention now was to keep the other Agents inside the property as long as possible (to allow The House to drain their Power of course before killing them). Agent Ox, taking all of us by surprise, whipped out the diary and suddenly began reading the incantation.
An argument ensued as Shiva and Yogi tried to stop Ox from reading it. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?”. Agent Shiva chose his moment to leave and guided Agent Ox over into Bedroom 3. It was here that the two would have an encounter with a ghostly girl in pigtails sat in the closet. The girl would then vanish before their very eyes. Think that’s creepy? Agent Yogi got up to something even worse in Bedroom 2. At first all she saw was a Balsa wood glider gently floating down from the ceiling. She announced to the room in general that she meant no harm. Then a young boy’s voice was heard, spinning on her heel she saw the ghostly blue boy from before standing in the doorway. A boy she now guessed was Anton Ture. He said to her, “What are you doing in my room?” before promptly vanishing. Agent Yogi then heard the sound of a jack in the box, which I played through the speaker, stopping just short of the finish. Agent Yogi took one hell of a hit of SAN loss and damn near went insane.
Agent Shiva still wasn’t happy with the earlier telephone call from Doctor Yarrow and, perhaps deciding his paranormal knowledge could be useful here, called him to attend to the house. A short while later and Yarrow entered the property greeted by Shiva (acting under his own pretences or that of The House?). It was at this point, with Yarrow and all three Agents gathered in the Den discussing what to do about the house that an apparition of a shadowy female in a nightgown would appear and preach to an unseen entity, “In darkness I strike my name from the book of life, and place it in the black book of the Dark Man!”.
The resulting stunned silence was broken as Yarrow made a break for the closet, rooting around until he found a small fire-axe and held it aloft against the Agents, demanding to know what evil they had dragged him into. Agent Ox, wasting no time, fired his Taser at Yarrow and set about dragging him out the front door. Agent Shiva, perhaps choosing to further act on his infatuation with the house, decided to walk into the garage and investigate. With Yarrow outside running for his life, Shiva led the other Agents into the garage. There they would hear the sound of somebody being electrocuted in the dark. Agent Yogi flicked on her torchlight to reveal the ghostly visage of an old woman, gently rocking in a chair and smiling at her. Another SAN loss for Yogi.
Agent Ox hadn’t forgotten about that 9-sided box, and made a little more progress opening it. Shiva made comment on this, “You think NOW is a good time to do that?”. All three Agents, working together for a change, went to check the bathroom in the Master Bedroom – one of the only few remaining places they hadn’t explored. It was there that Agent Shiva encountered the ghost of the little boy Anton Ture approaching him and throwing up grubs from the dark abyss that formed it’s mouth. At the very same time, Agent Yogi saw Wheeler looking back at her in the mirror and reached SAN breaking point again. Before anything further happened, Ox remembered the danger from earlier and tackled Yogi to the floor narrowly avoiding the swiping of an ethereal razor blade.
I’m not sure what it is that clicked in Agent Shiva’s mind, but click it did. He drew out the tablet carrying the Elder Sign from the back of his waistband and violently launched himself at the mirrors, smashing them as hard as he could with the tablet one-by-one. At this point I threw in my Ace card. I had shadows form in the corners of the room and I had the windows rattle, I had the door slam shut and I began to bring forth The Dark Man.
In response to this Agent Ox picked up Wheeler’s Diary and began reading out loud the dismissal chant. We had Shiva acting out the smashing of mirrors using the Elder Sign, we had Ox reading out the Latin scripture louder and louder, we had Yogi in blind panic yelling “WHAT IS GOING ON!” and we had me describing at a fast pace the arrival of the evil that lurks inside this house and in as deep a voice as I could muster I stood and yelled, “WHO DARES CALL ME!?”. Just as things reached a crescendo, Agent Ox enacted slicing his own throat and fell limp on the gaming table before us. Bravo, that man. Things fell silent, the music stopped. R.I.P Agent Ox.
As it turns out, the Agents had met both criteria for stopping the incursion at once! Shiva had smashed the mirrors with the Elder Sign at the same time as Ox had sacrificed a human life (himself!) whilst reading the chant of dismissal. They had succeeded, twice! Mr. Detwiller, if you’re reading this, this is a tough team of Agents to crack… In game our characters quickly left after the standard crime scene clean up and updating A-Cell that “It is done”. On returning to the hotel there was a little epilogue I enjoyed throwing in there. Agent Shiva had picked up the 9-sided box from Agent Ox’s body and had begun working on the 8th and final layer. It was just as he opened the door to Agent Dohan’s room to check on the poor man that the device clicked open. In a blinding flash of white light, Agent Dohan was gone. Agent Shiva’s hands were suddenly empty and, where Agent Dohan had been sitting, was a smouldering pile of ash which nestled on top of it a 9-sided box. They may have “solved” this scenario, but it had still managed to claim two Agents.
And so, concludes my 2-part write up of Delta Green’s Music From A Darkened Room. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed playing/running it. I am planning to run this again for a new group of 4 Agents on International Tabletop Gaming Day on April 28th, which I also plan to stream to my Youtube channel. Needless to say, I can’t wait to see which decisions the Agents make compared to the first group. If you plan to run this scenario then I hope you find this write-up useful. If there are any questions or thoughts then leave me a comment below and I’ll answer it as soon as I can! I’ll also be at the UK Games Expo this year if you wanted to discuss this wonderful game in person. Be sure to subscribe to the blog for more nerdy tabletop gaming content and check out my Youtube for some Let’s Play videos and nerdy tabletop gaming goodness.
Until the next time, Agents, farewell.