Delta Green: Countdown
Author: Written by: Dennis Detwiller, Adam Scott Glancy and John Tynes with additional material by Adam Crossingham, John Crowe III, Daniel Harms, Davide Mana, Graeme Price and Divers Hands
Company/Publisher: Pagan Publishing
Line: Call of Cthulhu
Page count: 432 pages, plus one fold out, perfect bound
Playtest Review by Lisa Padol on 02/08/00.
Genre tags: Fantasy Science_fiction Modern_day Horror
Delta Green: Countdown
for Call of Cthulhu
Written by: Dennis Detwiller, Adam Scott Glancy and John Tynes with additional material by Adam Crossingham, John Crowe III, Daniel Harms, Davide Mana, Graeme Price and Divers Hands
Pagan Publishing 5536 25th Avenue NE Seattle, WA 98105 email@example.com http://www.tccorp.com
432 pages, plus one fold out, perfect bound Price = $39.95
Reviewed by Lisa Padol
When I reviewed the original Delta Green, I said that it was "a massive supplement, the largest Pagan Publishing has ever produced." Well, the company has now produced an even larger one, Countdown. It is a sourcebook for Delta Green, and it builds on the earlier book.
I enjoyed Countdown more than Delta Green itself, I suspect partly because I had previously read some of the material that appeared in the earlier book in a different form. But what set me drooling over Countdown is the thoroughness with which the subject matter is covered. The book opens with a report about a Delta Green operation gone horribly wrong. This operation is tied into one of seven organizations described in the first half of the book, Pisces. Now, most game companies would cover this organization in far less detail, either in order to stretch out the information over as many books as possible, or in order to fit all of the organizations into a book half the size of Countdown. I can understand the former, though it has reached new heights of absurdity, while the latter is certainly forgivable. Giving the GMs enough that they can flesh out the rest, making it possible to focus on providing a wide range of things, rather than an in-depth look at any one group is a valid and respectable tactic.
Because of its huge page count, however, Countdown, is able to give a broad -and- in-depth look at the world of Delta Green. Not only is Pisces itself extremely well detailed; one of its major foes is just as carefully described. The examination of what is going on behind the scenes is far more thorough than I've seen in several sourcebooks more than twice the length of the chapter that focus on just one group in an rpg world. There is enough material here for a campaign that could run for years. And this is just the first chapter. The other organizations are similarly well-detailed, including Phenomen-X, television's answer to the tabloids, and Tiger Transit, a company with ties to several different organizations and based on real world events that the authors are kind enough to summarize.
Most of these groups are going through a period of transition. This makes them unstable, so adding PCs to the mix will cause a shift in power probably an explosive one. This means that PCs can have a real effect on the gameworld, although not necessarily a good one, or one they will survive. But they will have an effect, and that's important: There is nothing more frustrating than knowing that the status quo cannot be upset by anything you can think up for your PCs to do.
Two more chapters round out the first half of the book. One describes the unusual items to be found in the Museum of Natural History and the man who is their caretaker. The other focuses on the Hastur Mythos, written only as John Tynes can write. Drawing more on Robert Chambers than on Lovecraft, this view of the Hastur mythos is weirdly beautiful, surreal, and seductive. There is also advice on doing what ought, by all rights, to be impossible: Integrating this mood and this mythos into a Delta Green campaign. This advice could be applied to non-Delta Green campaigns as well.
The second section of the book consists of appendices, as did the original Delta Green. There is a section on psychic powers and one on new skills. There are also excerpts from the files of a Delta Green friendly on a couple of mythos races and odd substances. I expected these to be rather dry reading, but they are fascinating, as well as being a good model for GMs wondering what an official report on that odd corpse/substance/phenomenon would look like.
Also in the appendices are three scenarios. The first, "A Victim of the Art", is a nice piece of minimalism: Exactly what happens and when is left up to the GM's discretion, but the basics and a couple of interesting options are described in enough detail that this is a genuine scenario, not an inflated adventure seed. The mood is modifiable, and GMs willing to do a bit of work could run it without the Delta Green connection, or even transplant it to the 1920s or 1890s.
The second adventure, "Night Floors", is my favorite. The fact that it is a Hastur scenario doesn't hurt. It could have used some more advice on creating the surreal mood, nevertheless, and the PCs will need to figure out that the best they can hope for is containment. It is impossible to achieve their goal: The woman they are searching for is lost to them, and if they are not careful, they will be lost to the game and to their players.
The final adventure, "Dead Letter", has a good, convoluted set up that is carefully enough detailed that I understood it on a first read through. I do not like the author's insistence that a particular NPC must escape the PCs no matter what happens, nor do I like his assumptions on how the PCs will act. I know that Delta Green is composed of many government types, but this does not mean that they will dress like government agents when talking to a woman whom they know to be suspicious of such agents. Neither of these flaws are fatal, however, and there is plenty of advice about the different options PCs might use, including some that came up in playtesting.
After the adventures are a hundred pages or so of templates for many kinds of international federal agents, an index, and a fold-out sheet. This last has a character sheet and a map of Club Apocalypse. Much as I like having this map, I find myself asking, "What is that doing here?" It has nothing to do with material covered in the book and belongs either in the original Delta Green or in the sourcebook on The Fate.
The art is excellent and the layout good. Despite the huge amount of text, I avoided eyestrain and was never in danger of boredom from seeing page after page of unbroken text. This is not material I recommend to the weak of stomach, and the book one definitely deserves a mature content warning.
It is an excellent product, and one I would have spent my own money on. You pay a lot, but you also get a lot, and you get it in a very nice package.
Style: 5 (Excellent!)