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Minireview: Targets of Opportunity (Delta Green)

Targets of Opportunity is the latest supplement for the Delta Green game (variant of modern-day Call of Cthulhu), and it has a long and eventful history. Parts of it were originally written about 15 years ago and parts were written to order just for this book. In 2008 Pagan Publishing together with Arc Dream decided to publish a new Delta Green book, one that collected both old but not-published-yet original material and brand new stuff. They had just released the Eyes Only supplement at the time, and decided to try a ransom model to finance the new book: people would chip in with certain amounts, and then get the book (hardcopy plus PDF) when it was ready. It was a sort of advance order scheme for the customers, and made it possible for Pagan to do a new project without setting down a huge front of money for it. All good on paper and in theory.

Well, it turned into a two-year development mess, as detailed by Shane Ivey (of Arc Dream) here. Some people got a bit impatient during that time but I personally didn’t, I was and still am firmly in the “better late than shoddy” camp. The wait was well worth it, since the final product is quite awesome.

The book consists of five chapters, detailing four separate antagonist groups to throw at your players plus one potential ally (or even employer). They are all very different, and all very interesting. The antagonists are all extremely creepy and disturbing, in different ways and on different power scales. A few are quite small and localized, while the biggest one is a true globe-spanning conspiracy.

“Black Cod Island” opens up the book, detailing a Native American tribe living on a tiny remote island off the coast of southern Alaska. While inoffensive and friendly to the occasional tourist, they are quite insular and keep tight control on who enters their lands. There is a reason for this, and it’s not pretty. While qutie small-scale and not a world-shattering Mythos threat, this one would still be a very difficult case for DG agents since… well, those people have been there forever. And they know people, and know things.

Next up is “Disciples of the Worm”, which illuminates a a cult searching for the secret of immortality, having perhaps already found it. But if so, what was the price? There’s a lot of body horror here, and I’m sure David Cronenberg could make an icky (and brilliant) film from this stuff. Very nice medium-scale antagonist group, with lots of surprises in store for players who think they know it all.

Thirdly we get “The De Monte Clan”, which is an insidious ghoul clan which has kept New Orleans in its grip for centuries… until Katrina, that is. Now, the ghouls and their henchmen are trying to return to the old ways, but the disaster plus the cleanup has made things very difficult for them. In addition, the theft of a critical mystical book from them (as detailed in a separate Delta Green short story not included here) has seriously thrown a spanner in their long-term plans. Related to that, Delta Green is now on their tail, with the first contact resulting in one permanently insane agent and lots of dead ghouls. Both groups are now in “cold war” status, with neither knowing as much as they’d like about their enemy. In short, and excellent “sink or swim” cauldron to throw the players into.

“M-EPIC” serves up the “allied group” of the book, which turns out to be a Canadian “counterpart” to Delta Green. Operating under the cover of the Environmental Policy Impact Comission (Division M), the agents of M-EPIC have an easier time of things in general than Delta Green, mostly because M-EPIC is an official (if covert) government agency instead of a rogue operation. Of course, this does also mean that they need to deal with budgets, bureaucracy and all that crap. Much of their agenda has to do with investigating supernatural threats on Canadian soil (many of them related to Ithaqua), and of course the guise of an environmental agency gives them perfect cover to stick their heads into lots of places which would otherwise be off limits. The agency is depicted as heading toward disaster but unaware of it yet: there is a dark secret at the core of the agency, and the psychological wellfare of the agents is being neglected in practice. All this makes for a great “home base” to run a Canadian “Delta Green” game from, and naturally enough M-EPIC agents make excellent allies, “friendlies” and even antagonists to Delta Green agents.

The last section is also the biggest, clocking in at around 100 pages. It’s Greg Stolze’s “The Cult of Transcendence”, and it’s fantastic (and very nasty). It details a complicated, global conspiracy – or maybe “meta-conspiracy”, since there are so many layers here that figuring out what’s at the core is an insanely difficult exercise. Any agents who do figure out what’s at the core will wish they hadn’t, since that core is exceptionally rotten even by Delta Green standards. There’s lots of splatter horror here, but it never gets out of hand, and the contrast between that and the more “normal” sections of the conspiracy is interesting. At the core, it takes a look at what would be needed for a group of people to actually leave their humanity behind and “transcend” to Mythos entities. It’s not pretty.

This is an excellent, excellent book, and it’s also a great read. Anyone looking for modern horror/occult content for a roleplaying game can get lots of mileage out of this, even though the book contains no “scenarios” as such: it’s all background material, NPCs, etc.

I do have to note a hilarious tiny gaffe in the otherwise impeccable book: one subsection posits a “Center for Sleep Treatment” located in Tampere, Finland. Fine, except that the name of the place is translated as “Keskus Nukkua Kohtelu”. As any Finn can tell you, that’s total gibberish and a warning example of what happens when you try to use a computerized translating tool without running the result past an actual human who knows the language (yes, all those words do exist in Finnish, but you would not combine them like that). “Unitutkimuskeskus” would be one possible translation.

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