No books this week, because some fool decided to learn two new RPG systems and prepare two one-shots, all in the same week.
This week I ran part of the Chariot of the Gods scenario for the ALIEN RPG, and the Last Things Last scenario for Delta Green.
This was a lot of fun. Chariot of the Gods is a three-act “cinematic” scenario, which means it’s meant to play out like one of the Alien films, with the horror and action ratcheting up towards a dramatic climax, as opposed to campaign play where things will simmer along more steadily, with occasional bouts of xenomorphic horror.
The scenario says it can be played in 4 to 5 hours, but people online disagree (see also this 9-hour actual play). It’s a bit weird that the scenario designer was so incredibly wrong with the duration, but I suppose these things happen. Maybe they only playtested it with speedrunners.
We played for about three and a half hours, and got the first act done. So the whole scenario will probably take 9 or 10 hours. We ended just after an alien bloodburster erupted out of someone’s head and escaped, with the crew fleeing back onto their ship to regroup and recover. No PC deaths yet, but there were a couple of close calls.
The players managed to retrieve some valuable samples and research data, but not an actual live xenomorph, so in act 2 (next session) the corporate agent NPC in the crew is going to enable the self-destruct sequence on their ship, so that they can’t just escape and will have no option but to repair and fly back the alien-infested ship. Just what Weyland-Yutani wants.
Everyone liked the system. It’s fairly straightforward, we all picked it up pretty quickly, and the personal agendas, stress / panic mechanics, and special attack tables for the xenomorphs really make it feel like an Alien game, not just a generic space-horror game.
Now I just need to think of an appropriate cliffhanger to end the next session on…
In Call of Cthulhu, you play normal people who stumble upon some sanity-blasting situation and probably die in the process of dealing with it. In Pulp Cthulhu, you’re action protagonists who confront the mythos with a gun in each hand and maybe some mad science gadget. In Delta Green… you’re federal agents who strive to keep the mythos at bay for one more day, then go home and take out the stress of your soul-crushing job on your wife and kids.
Last Things Last is an introductory scenario from the quickstart rules, designed to get new players into the world of Delta Green. It is very short and linear, we completed it in about two and a half hours with me adding some embellishments, but it did its job of showing off some of the tropes that the game is going for.
Rules-wise it’s fairly similar to Call of Cthulhu, and the differences that are there were just different enough to not get us mixed up. The quickstart covered everything we needed to get going, though the sample character sheets are full of errors, which is kind of annoying (eg, skill values typoed as “2.#%” instead of “20%”, or even missing entirely), so I ended up having to recreate those characters from the character creation rules… though, at least the quickstart comes with character creation rules.
The players unintentionally sped through the scenario by revealing the monster quite early on, and then had to quickly figure out how to deal with it before it escaped. It did escape, they didn’t deal with it very well, one PC almost died, and I revealed in a little vignette at the end that the monster did survive them setting it on fire after all. A seed for a potential future adventure.
We all liked it, though one player said that they didn’t think it worked so well for a one-shot, because a lot of Delta Green’s flavour comes from its incorporation of the everyday non-Delta Green lives of the characters, as they have to balance their secret work with whatever it is they’re doing normally, and seeing how the characters ruin their close relationships as they drive everyone around them away as an unhealthy coping mechanism. I asked if they’d be up for a campaign in the future, and everyone was on board!
So after the current Traveller campaign, we’ll likely be playing Impossible Landscapes.