Delta Green in the Vineyard: tips ?

edited March 2014 in Story Games
So, has someone played Dogs in the Vineyard in the Delta Green setting ? It looks a perfect match for me, and one that would be more exciting to my current gaming group(s) than the default DitV setting. What do you guys think ? Any tips or ideas ?

Thanks in advance.

(cross-posted from RPGnet)
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Comments

  • Mm, there's a tricky bit at the core here. See, if I understand correctly, the Dogs in DitV are the ultimate authority in the game. (Sure, there are elders back in Dogs Central, but they're not going to appear in the position of authority over the Dogs.) This is true of Samurai, Gunslingers, Jedi, and so forth -- the roving person or band that is the law.

    Delta Green is a little different, because the agents aren't using legitimate authority, but rather abusing what authority they have. This makes for a different feel.
  • There is an undercurrent in DitV, though, that rings truer still in Delta Green: whatever your badge says, there's no backup in the field.
  • I also wonder whether the point in DitV is the tension between the PC's sure knowledge that they are "bringers of good" in a black and white universe and the gradual erosion/deconstruction of that knowledge in the face of human drama. Delta Green is about the tension between an endless conflict against unredeemable horror that must not be allowed to win, and the inevitable cost of collatoral damage as the DG team's first credo is Containment At All Costs (that is, humanity must be saved AND humanity must not know.)

    To me these are different thematic tensions: they may seem the same because of the internal conflict that must play out in the protagonists, but I'm not sure they're tremendously compatible.

    But I could easily be wrong: what about the DitV game system seems purpose-built to you to play out the DG kind of tension?
  • Viktor, I think you could rephrase DG themes to be inline with DitV.

    DG's PCs are sure in the knowledge of their "bringing the good" in a black and white world of humanity vs. irredeemable horrors with the erosion of that line between good and bad gradually occurring due to human fallibility.

    The easiest thing to do really is to alter the Delta Green fluff to fit the DitV mechanics, rather than the inverse. That said, the default DitV setting is a red hot RPG awesome, if a little difficult: I'd recommend trying to work with it, it really sings when you get in the groove.
  • While I agree there are nuanced differences between those premises (Dogs and DG agents) I still think that, at its core, the game is about authority and judgement (and the moral dilemmas that stem from that), so DG doesnt look a bad fit at all. In fact, I suspect Dogs could do more justice to DG premise than the very CoC system would (ad thats the reason I had this idea in the first place ;) ).
  • I think the main problem would be establishing the hierarchy of sins for DG. As awful as the monsters in DG are, they're monsters. They aren't sinning, exactly. There's no map for what comes from particular sins like there is in DitV, so Town (case?) Creation would not have the oomf or weight that it does in DitV.
  • Couldn't you equate sinning with the amount of potential harm to human life? So, like, a gribbly face-hugger thing is pretty sinful but a brain-bug that can control all of Manhattan is sinning pretty freakin' hard.
  • Potemkin, it's not about threat level so much: It's about the process.

    In Dogs, A leads to B leads to C. In Delta Green, by default, there's no progression like that. But you could certainly make one.
  • edited March 2014
    I think the main problem would be establishing the hierarchy of sins for DG. As awful as the monsters in DG are, they're monsters. They aren't sinning, exactly. There's no map for what comes from particular sins like there is in DitV, so Town (case?) Creation would not have the oomf or weight that it does in DitV.
    Are they judging the monsters...or are they judging the people whom the monsters are infiltrating? (Granted, I know little about Delta Green, but surely there's a part of the game where you deal with cults of the eldritch type.) I'm envisioning a "progression of sin" like so...

    Research -> Obsession -> Rituals -> Cult -> Infiltration -> Manifestation

    As people dabble in Things Man Was Not Meant To Know, it's the Delta Green squad that's charged with stopping them before they can open ways for the Old Ones to get into our world. Knowledge replaces sin.
  • So Delta Green's core purpose is to prevent knowledge. Which is great, because that's where it goes from black and white to shades of gray: in Dogs, it's Brother Andrew and Sister Enid in love even though Sister Enid is promised to the Steward's brother. In DG, it's someone trying to cure cancer, or to expose then horrible experiments that the CDC is conducting, or something else that involves the spread of knowledge that our own sense of fairness says we should be encouraging, or at least acknowledges the motive as good.
  • Yeah hunting cults and single mythos sorcerors sounds like a good way to go for many scenarios. The lower members of the cults might not even know what is going on but know enough to grow into something dangerous.

    People just stumbling into the Mythos could be interesting too:
    But how to deal with someone dreaming of Mythos things and not conciously realising what he is doing yet? But he is spreading the Mythos still, by writing mathematical formula as in Dreams in the Witchhouse or sculpting and drawing terrifying imagery like in Call of Cthulhu.
    There also is posession by creatures from the outside like the Yithians and the Shan or on a smaller scale Asenath being posessed by her father's ghost. How do the agents handle someone like that?
    The King and Yellow and the Necronomicon can taint someones mind just by reading them, maybe the person will never be the same and the knowledge may never leave her. Still how do they contain that knowledge and what happens to the reader?
    A Deep One Hybrid is just born into their existence and might even be a good person, but their blood will call them to the sea sooner or later. Can the Agents kill someneone for what they might become? How sure are they? The hybrid seems like a nice enough person...

    You could also play up the Men in Black aspect of Delta Green in their supression of knowledge and have them go against fellow investigators. Showing up to intimidate them into not having seen anything. Some Investigators might not take that though and still continue or they might allready know too much. Still they are on the same side maybe, fighting the Mythos. So how do the agents crack down on investigators like that? Journalists and Policeman maybe or just the usual COC player group of University Professors, Tribal Fisherman and Ex-Navy Seals.
    Do they recruit some of them? What if it goes wrong and they exposed those people to more knowledge? How long do they let the others go on to find out more about the true Mythos threat?
    Men in Black rarely are protagonists in most fiction. But here their intentions are good. Delta Green is protecting humanity after all. But what about the single person?
    The conflict between stopping knowledge and stopping the Mythos could be played up. With other investigators as possible helpful sources against the Mythos threat but also sinning in regards to secrecy. Choices might have to be made. Delay the Mythos or stop the knowledge...

    The Delta Green backstory itself can be used too. There still is the Majestic 12 faction in the government that made a deal with the Mi-Go. So the agents might be cleaning up within the US government or the international secret service community. The sin in that case would be cooperation with the aliens. But some people might do it just because they got orders from above or because they genuinely want to help. Maybe they are not aware of the danger. Perhaps the Mi-Go aren't even all that malevolent. Still how far will the agents go against their own colleagues.

  • Are they judging the monsters...or are they judging the people whom the monsters are infiltrating?
    When I first saw this thread, my reaction was: "What? This doesn't seem to fit together at all. I don't get it."

    But now I think I see a possibility. It's not about fighting eldritch horrors, it's about dealing with the people who are slipping from a "correct" lifestyle into one which allows the horrors into our world.

    When I play Dogs, I usually downplay the demonology stuff and just create problems like your brother who's going to see the prostitute, and isn't willing to stop. What will you do? How far will you go?

    I don't connect very strongly with all that sorcerer and demon stuff in Dogs: I always found the human drama much more compelling. The demon stuff was metaphor, at best.

    So maybe that's why this didn't make any sense to me: where's the human drama in Delta Green?

    However, if you make the analogy that all the Cthulhu-esque stuff in Delta Green is just a reskin of the demons in Dogs... then maybe I see a game here.

    In the Dogs-verse, sin is the pathway which invites demons into human society.

    What's the equivalent in this game? Is it madness, or pride (searching for secrets Man Was Not Meant to Know)?

  • I'd gently suggest you play Dogs straight a bunch of times before hacking it. Maybe you've done that, but if you want to hack it my guess is you haven't, because if you had you wouldn't want to hack it.
  • (Jason's right on the money!)
  • I don't think it's 100% fair to say that it's not hackable or that there's no place for mixing up the setting. But I do think that Delta Green is a strange fit. The resolution system is just so laser-focused on setting conceits that just aren't in the mythos games at my table. But maybe they're at yours!
  • Sure, people hack it all the time. I'd just ask why you are hacking it, and what value that adds.

    My guesses are "because I don't really want to engage with the premise" and "none", but not my circus, not my monkey.
  • Yeah, I think we are probably in agreement then. Like, whenever someone says "I want to play This Game, but using the rules from Other Game," I think that one of two things is happening.

    1: They really like the premise ofThis Game, but the rules aren't facilitating the themes or situations that come up at their table. So they think about the other games they own and pick one whose rules are a better match for their table's style. Then they get to use the setting but with a different playstyle.

    2: They really like the rules of Other Game, and they want to use them more often. They wish Other Game's rules applied to a different genre or playstyle that they really want to run, because the rules are just so awesome but the premise isn't grabbing them, or they're burned out on it.

    The second scenario is the one I see more often and it usually leads to less compelling games, it's true. There's a million and one ApocWorld hacks because people want to make 7-9 lists for everything ever. But usually they don't really want to hack AW, they just want to keep using that ruleset for other genres.

    So... if you've been playing Delta Green a lot and the rules are fighting your playstyle, and you've thought about what's missing and it's definitely DitV, then like HELL YEAH go for it. But if you've been playing or reading DitV and love the rules but want a fresh setting, then it'll probably be much more difficult and maybe not really what you're after?
  • edited March 2014
    In Vini's case, I'd definitely say it's the first clause. They like the premise of DG but want to test out DitV's rule set to drive compelling and nuanced play.
    I'd gently suggest you play Dogs straight a bunch of times before hacking it. Maybe you've done that, but if you want to hack it my guess is you haven't, because if you had you wouldn't want to hack it.
    (Jason's right on the money!)
    Wait wait wait, DitV is objectively good so trying to utilise its rules elsewhere is badwrong? Well ain't that a stopper to creativity, huh boys? Let's be constructive here. ;)
  • I can see how my comments can be construed as negative so I'll bow out. Best of luck to you, vini_lessa!
  • So, I have some thoughts on game-hacking and its legacy (and the ethos of game design), but it doesn't seem heavily relevant to the main subject of this thread.

    I think for the "Delta Green opposes new knowledge" schtick to work, you have to find the gray areas where standard human knowledge starts crossing the line into something touched by the Old Ones, something that can be a gateway into eldritch invasion. Some areas where this might happen: paintings, mathematics, poetry, music. Like, there's a composer making stuff like this, and that way lies the path to the Old Ones entering their mind and entering this world.

    So, knowledge and expression that strays from the established norm, that's the sort of thing that lets the monstrosities gain a foothold in this world. And Delta Green operatives need to quash it. Maybe you start with missions where it's really overt (a professor has uncovered a mind-destroying theorem and is awakening an Old One), and then you move on to other missions where what they're doing is crushing human individuality and creativity in the name of saving us all.

    And that's the spark that drives games like Dogs.

  • Wait wait wait, DitV is objectively good so trying to utilise its rules elsewhere is badwrong? Well ain't that a stopper to creativity, huh boys? Let's be constructive here. ;)
    It's much simpler than that: it's a case of, "Wait, you haven't even tried it yet? You might want to do that first. Otherwise, you might put your hands in entirely the wrong pot of soup."

    First of all, there are a lot of potential problems with hacking Dogs, which will be very hard to understand and avoid if you're not familiar with the game.

    Second, if the desire to play Delta Green with DitV rules comes from a lack of understanding ("I don't get this Mormon gunslinger stuff, what's it all about?"), then I highly recommend trying it, as Jason was saying. It's a surprising experience, and a worthwhile one.

    (You'll note, for instance, that there's no "other genre" Dogs hack which has taken over the market. Compare to how Apocalypse World's system has generated really popular games like Monsterhearts and Dungeon World. There is a reason for this: Dogs has a certain magic which is very difficult - or may even be impossible - to separate from its fictional conceits. That's what people have been caught up by with this game, and it's worth checking out.)

  • I can see how my comments can be construed as negative so I'll bow out. Best of luck to you, vini_lessa!
    Any victory here is pyrrhic. :( Come back, Jason. Debate fosters community.

    It's much simpler than that: it's a case of, "Wait, you haven't even tried it yet? You might want to do that first. Otherwise, you might put your hands in entirely the wrong pot of soup."
    I was taking it as read that Vini had experience of DitV and wanted to experiment with exporting its systems. It's such an elementary step when thinking about hacks (that is, playing the game itself) that I can't believe it's being mentioned. Teaching grandmothers to suck eggs, I reckon! :D Personally I don't have enough play hours with DitV to offer any real insight into how it can be played with but it breaks my little boy heart to see people saying that it can't be done. :/

  • (You'll note, for instance, that there's no "other genre" Dogs hack which has taken over the market. Compare to how Apocalypse World's system has generated really popular games like Monsterhearts and Dungeon World. There is a reason for this: Dogs has a certain magic which is very difficult - or may even be impossible - to separate from its fictional conceits. That's what people have been caught up by with this game, and it's worth checking out.)

    It's not magic, just a strong design. :) It can be analyzed and understood, and hacking it is one way to understand it. Nothing mystical about good games.
  • To put it another way, there is no real reason not to immediately escalate to guns when facing a monstar. That choice is only weighty if it's about people.
  • To put it another way, there is no real reason not to immediately escalate to guns when facing a monstar. That choice is only weighty if it's about people.
    This is exactly what would make me nervous. The system in DitV is predicated on some serious setting conceits. If the Delta Green campaign dealt almost entirely with people, then DitV might work. I'm still trying to figure out if that's what's going on, or if it's more like "woah I like these rules, can I jam my existing campaign into them?!"
  • To put it another way, there is no real reason not to immediately escalate to guns when facing a monstar. That choice is only weighty if it's about people.
    But thats exactly what Delta Green is about! I think people are confusing Delta Green for vanilla CoC in here. If you read the DG books and, specially, the fiction anthologies (like say, Dark Theaters or Alien Intelligence ) you will see most stories are about DG agents dealing with communities, cults or individual madmen trying to make contact with unspeakable horrors for knowledge/power/curiosity, or simply out of fear. The agents moral dilemmas are in dealing with people (not monsters) and the personal sacrifices they make because of that. In fact, if there is a central theme to DG, its personal sacrifice in name of duty. Further, the higher level DG agents are, in fact, psychological indoctrinated. They are not just "making their everyday job", they actually believe themselves as humanity true defenders, giving life on earth another couple years of survival for each unspeakable threat they push back to wherever it came from. Even if it means sacrificing other humans, their friends, relatives or even themselves.

    Thats what Delta Green is about. Thats why I thought DitV would be better vehicle for exploring its central themes than its default, theme-agnostic, system.
  • Holy cow, that does sound like Dogs. (I have little experience with Delta Green.)
  • That's what I was getting at in my post from March 7th (or at least trying to).

    But I'm not familiar enough with the whole Delta Green thing to be sure.

    Do you know how Dogs has that whole example (at the top of the title page), which is "Dogs in a nutshell"? It describes how someone's life has been ruined by a "loose woman" (a prostitute), and your brother has picked up a rifle and is going to shoot her. What do you do?

    What would be the equivalent exemplar in the Delta Green setting?

    What's the really quintessential situation or moral dilemma we would face in this game/setting?
  • edited March 2014

    Do you know how Dogs has that whole example (at the top of the title page), which is "Dogs in a nutshell"? It describes how someone's life has been ruined by a "loose woman" (a prostitute), and your brother has picked up a rifle and is going to shoot her. What do you do?

    What would be the equivalent exemplar in the Delta Green setting?

    What's the really quintessential situation or moral dilemma we would face in this game/setting?

    When she was abducted, Jane was 3 weeks pregnant. But the replacement organs serve as accelerators and her child is already at the six-month stage of stage of development. Jane will give birth in a week and a half. The baby appears normal to doctors, but is essentially a protomatter spawn with human intelligence. What do you do?

  • We kill Jane, don't we?
  • edited March 2014
    Certainly someone normally winds up dead, yeah. But not, in my experience, always Jane.

    The Branch Davidian compound also loomed large in the American imagination around the time DG came out, so that's another common dilemma: how culpable are the cult members? One of the scenarios in the DG main book revolves around a flaky meditation-healing group.

  • Thats what Delta Green is about. Thats why I thought DitV would be better vehicle for exploring its central themes than its default, theme-agnostic, system.
    [Wild applause from the viewing gallery.]

    Yes, yes! Push DG away from the hack-and-slash and into more nuanced SG-type play.
  • Yeah, that sounds great, then. I thought DG was more military for some reason.
  • Yeah, then, advice: you def should write up a "heirarchy of sin" and then customize the community-building rules to reflect the relationships that arise in your DG games. It semester like character creation is pretty much the same: the players are new recruits facing their first challenge, and how they deal with it gets them their trait.

    "I balked at the true horrors of the universe 1d6" is a good trait, right?
  • So, in DitV one really key element is that the Dogs are an outside authority, with the ability to *set things right*. This means that pretty much anyone you meet in a Town is going to want something from you. You can set right perceived injustices, bring the guilty to justice, reinforce those who are in power, and so on.

    What's the equivalent in this hypothetical Delta Green?

    Will Jane want something from the Agents, or will she wish to be left alone?
  • I guess if the characters are Federal Agents coming into a town where something is wrong people might want things from them. Maybe they are the only ones who seem to believe in those supernatural rumors and so people want validation. So the outside authority comes from (seemingly) working for the government and / or being experts on the things happening.

    For a federal Agent getting drawn into a community, look at Twin Peaks.
  • edited March 2014
    Yes, pretty much that. If Jane is in the bottom of the cult/community pyramid, chances are she is more a victim like most others in that level and will have wants related to that (like saving herself and her family, or just wanting things to go back to normal like it was before that weird church opened up in the center of town). But if Jane is the mind behind the occult forces at work, then she will probably just want to be left alone.
  • Wait, Delta Green in the Vineyard is Twin Peaks? Oh nerdgasm! :D
  • Lots of cool ideas immediately spring to mind. "I may be just a janitor, but I work hard to pay for my daughter's degree. In fact, she's an intern here and I would do anything to protect that opportunity for her." "Look, I'm just an intern, but I have serious doubts about the research that Doctor Heath is getting involved in. I'm so lucky to have this position, though, and I don't want to lose it..." "Yes, I'm Doctor Heath. I know it's controversial, but my research is paid by a generous military grant and I employ dozens of people here. Really, I'm just following orders..."
  • I was serious about killing Jane; it seems to me that in this setup there's not many good reasons to do anything other than jump to killing. It's not like you can talk to the demon baby and ask it to go home.
  • edited March 2014
    Caoimhe, I think a reasonable thing to do would be asking Jane to abort. I think Scrape´s ideas above look like better examples of problems for the Dogs.. oops DG agents to deal with, because they are more open to interpretation than Jane case.
    Yeah, then, advice: you def should write up a "heirarchy of sin" and then customize the community-building rules to reflect the relationships that arise in your DG games
    What about making sin escalation related to how much of society you give up/f*ck up/hurt for knowledge/power/satisfaction/survival ? This way you could go from individual madmen search for forbidden knowledge where the only social aspect he fucks up is his own little life - not forgetting, of course, the risk of it spilling over to the outside - to whole communities corrupted in ways unspeakable in its habits (including hurting/sacrificing people), and everything between.

    Could this work ?
  • edited March 2014
    oops, ignore this.

  • Interesting. So humanity's defense against the Outside is conformity?
  • Interesting. So humanity's defense against the Outside is conformity?
    That could at least be how a conspiracy of US government agents sees it.
  • I think a really important tension is that characters are authorized, explicitly, to give the Correct Solution to the problem, and that this is often at odds with their real mixed feelings about things. So yeah, conformity seems like a reasonable goal.
  • I can't say I'm totally sold on any of the example situations so far, but I'll keep reading and see what comes of this! I'm not familiar enough with Delta Green myself to contribute.
  • edited March 2014
    I was serious about killing Jane; it seems to me that in this setup there's not many good reasons to do anything other than jump to killing. It's not like you can talk to the demon baby and ask it to go home.
    What makes you think the baby is a demon?
  • edited March 2014
    It's worth bearing in mind that DG policy towards the Mythos isn't scorched earth (any more, since the 80s).
    Agent Nancy, for example, is a ghoul.
  • edited March 2014
    Yup, and some agents actually make use of alien artifacts.
    It semester like character creation is pretty much the same: the players are new recruits facing their first challenge, and how they deal with it gets them their trait.

    "I balked at the true horrors of the universe 1d6" is a good trait, right?
    ..or it could be about the character first contact with the outside. The "trigger" as Unknown Armies calls it.

    "I will never give my back to a 90º wall angle again: 1d6" (after seeing a hound of tindalos taking his partner in a dark alley)
  • I was just looking at the Amazon page for John Tynes' collection Strange Authorities.
    The tagline is "Cthulhu mythos stories of personal apocalypse" - there's something in that, perhaps, as the core concept.
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