Wherein I Read DG: Targets of Opportunity (Intro and Black Cod Island)

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If you’re me, you’ll be excited about new Delta Green material. Arc Dream has 377 copies of the limited hardback edition of Delta Green: Targets of Opportunity, and if you buy one now, you’ll get the PDF more or less immediately. As soon as Shane Ivey sends you an email, to be precise, and he’s a prompt guy.

This is the series of posts where I read my shiny new PDF.

The authors are Warren Banks, Dennis Detwiller, Adam Scott Glancy, Ken Hite, Shane Ivey, and Greg Stolze. Daniel Solis did the graphic design, and Todd Shearer did the art. That’s a bunch of good names. The design is the old familiar comfortable Delta Green style, although I think maybe the text typeface has changed? Looks good, though. I is a font geek.

I’m going to be curious, as I read this, to see if any of the material is designed to address the changes in our sense of the horrific that Jere illuminated so well. I don’t think it needs to — I’m comfortable with Delta Green as an artifact of the 90s. But it’ll be interesting to see if it does.

Introduction

The introduction is about the end of the world. Also, more important, helplessness and hopelessness. “Seen from the limited perspective of our four-dimensional lives, the Apocalypse isn’t an event to anticipate or avoid; it’s simply how we best come to terms with the fragility of our existence.” It’s also about conspiracy and secrets, but this is Call of Cthulhu futility cranked up. I see some contrast here to the macho, perhaps even cocky tone of the introductory fiction of the original.

We also find that the book’s going to be about predators. One is a sanctioned government agency that could be an ally or an enemy. The others: threats. “All are equal victims when fate is bent on devouring humanity itself.”

Delta Green, the conspiracy, is reframed as a target of opportunity (a-ha!) to provide the rest of us for another moment of existence. A speed bump, not a roadblock.

Chapter One: Black Cod Island

The chapters aren’t actually numbered, I’m just pretending they are. Black Cod Island is mostly by Dennis Detwiller, with some material from Shane Ivey and Graeme Price. It’s something like 46 pages long. From the first page, it’s going to be about Innsmouth, which is certainly a classic topic. I’m curious to see if there’s a spin…

Oh, and there is. The trick here is that Innsmouth isn’t the worst case of human/Deep One intercourse. There’s another, out on the West Coast. And that’s Black Cod Island.

There’s a bunch of history, which seems more or less in line with real events, excepting of course the supernatural bits. Which come pretty quickly. The corrupted humans in this fiction were Native Americans, specifically Haida. This is potentially problematic, but I’m thinking Detwiller was aware of the reasons you don’t frame minorities as diseased. The first human offensive against the hybrids was a purely Haida affair, and there’s a sidebar that emphasizes that the corruption is not a general issue.

Come to think of it, I wonder if any of these legends are rooted in real legends? Answer: yes, there’re Haida stories about the Devil-Fish, which is here recast as a Deep One. OK, so that’s the inspiration for this chapter. More retelling of the legend, and we finally get to the present day. So far, there’s not so much really horrific stuff, although it’s a decent enough frame for Deep One stories.

The description of the island begins with some reasonably informative descriptions of its isolation, plus a lot of rules information for fighting in the water and dealing with hypothermia. Then there’s lots of local info. The Black Cod tribe is apparently both very reclusive and very political. It’s all good background. I could wish for more story hooks — twenty pages in and it’s still 95% reasons why the Black Cod tribe isn’t suspicious-looking.

Reading onward… the special thing about the island is that it’s just way worse than Innsmouth. The hybrids have been breeding for longer, and the resulting offspring are more powerful. There’s a bit of tell, not show here. The NPCs are pretty good, on the other hand. There are some decent potential hooks there.

Yeah, this is a bit of a pile of notes — the chapter doesn’t have a ton of structure to it. I’m still not sure what purpose Black Cod Island serves, other than a reminder that things can always be worse. The next chunk of the chapter is about the Lodge House, where the Black Cod worship. Here’s the human sacrifice! Then we’re abruptly back into crime and magic.

There’s a section on Deep Ones which I’m liking. It introduces Greater Deep Ones, which infect and rewrite your genetic material. The idea that there are whale/Deep One hybrids out there? Awesome. There’s quite a bit of this, including some rules, all of which I consider quite handy. Deep One taint as an STD is also pretty clever. I like the healthy dose of technobabble; keeps the GM from having to make it up.

That section also discusses the Innsmouth Raid in brief. We’re coming back to the book’s theme here, IMHO. “You didn’t do as good as you thought.” Grim, but effective. At this point, the chapter’s almost a toolkit for rolling your own Deep One fun, with the Black Cod as a template.

Speaking of which, the chapter takes a sharp left back to the island with a bunch of current investigatory hooks — it’s basically an outline of the various clues that there’s something wrong out there. That’s followed by a list of people who know something about what’s going on.

And that’s about it. So not terrible stuff; also not earth-shakingly cool. It’s oddly short on plot hooks; I was expecting some suggestions for ways Delta Green agents in particular might become involved, but no such luck. There’s a reasonable number of ideas on what might happen when they become involved, but no trailheads, as it were.

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2 Responses to “Wherein I Read DG: Targets of Opportunity (Intro and Black Cod Island)”

  1. Rob Says:

    I don’t know what makes me happiest about this post: 1. The fact that there’s new Delta Green stuff. 2. The fact that Bryant’s going to read through & review it (I’m sorely tempted to buy, read along, and kibitz, but I should probably wait for the paperback). 3. The fact that the “possibly related posts” include a recipe for “Steamed Black Cod with Grapefruit Ponzo Sauce.”

    Interesting that they start with Deep Ones. Innsmouth is central to the history of Delta Green, but unless I’m forgetting something the Deep Ones have been notably absent from modern-day DG? I always figured that was because “Shadow Over Innsmouth” and the Deep Ones generally are so plainly about miscegenation, not exactly a fear that resonates for us the same way it did for HPL.

    (Which is not to say HPL’s take on miscegenation is simply “eek! immigrants!” Ken Hite & others have noted (http://princeofcairo.livejournal.com/91816.html) that “Shadow Over Innsmouth” is partly about the *appeal* of miscegenation, especially if the corrupting Other is more vital, more vigorous, more connected to a rich past and a triumphant future, than the deracinated, over-civilized “white” world. One could imagine Teddy Roosevelt fretting about hyphenated Deep One-Americans.)

    So how do you update Deep Ones for the 21st century, or at least the last decade of the 20th? Deep One taint as STD is clever – that’s a fear that’s a lot more current than race suicide. But it’s hard to see how you get that frisson of attraction/repulsion going – Deep Ones just aren’t that sexy, are they?

    Clearly I need to read this book. I’m very curious to see how they do the Canadian Mounties vs. Eldritch Invaders: both happy to see some CanCon in the DG books but sort of peeking through my fingers in anticipation of all the ways it could turn out lame.

    • Bryant Says:

      Yeah, I didn’t find it all that horrifying a chapter. I should note that one of the NPCs is a poor grad student who slept with a Black Cod — there’s your appeal of miscegenation right there. But… there’s also something going on with regard to cultural appropriation. The Black Cod have modernized, and in a very real sense, their corruption is reflected by the degree to which they’ve adopted the tricks of the European. I.e., I think that the expected vector has been reversed.

      So let’s take that a step further, and I have no idea if this was intended, but I like the reading. We’ve got these Greater Deep Ones, who will interbreed with anything. Are they in fact a stand-in for American culture, which will hybridize with anything and produce such horrors as the Turkish Spiderman movie?

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