WIRDG: ToO (Disciples of the Worm)

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The Disciples of the Worm is the second chapter of Targets of Opportunity. It’s by Adam Scott Glancy working solo, and it runs 34 pages. From the intro page, it’s a writeup of a cult and/or secret society that’s gained immortality by partaking in unspeakable acts. This seems like pretty classic Delta Green work. Let’s give it a read.

We open with a really brief note detailing the public domain information regarding the Disciples of the Worm, which can be summed up in one paragraph; the chapter then goes right into what Delta Green knows. I like this a lot. It provides obvious hooks for the GM, and a sense of context for the cult.

The life cycle of the worms — there are literal worms — is presented as Delta Green’s discoveries in the wake of their initial contact with the cult. Once you know there are worms, and once you know it’s all about immortality, you can probably see where the whole thing is going. It’s not an unwelcome conclusion, though! Also, bonus points for the ambiguity of this sentence:

“Although some Delta Green researchers voiced the opinion that the specimen of the parasites should be preserved for study, they were all destroyed.”

I’m sure they were.

The chapter continues with the history of the Disciples of the Worm. As might be expected, it’s the sad story of one man’s quest for knowledge which resulted in corruption. Our protagonist, Ibrahim, didn’t infect himself with the worms on purpose, but once he realized he was immortal he couldn’t give up eternal life. I rather like the eternal regret that this implies. Also clever: the worms must be controlled through use of narcotics, which ought to make for some excellent ties into the modern world.

Lots of history here. The Disciples continue to be occultists, and they continue to want to free themselves of their worms, but only by finding a new source of immortality. The alchemy/drug trade connection gets a lot of play. And — there we go; during World War II, the Disciples elected to flee Asia and relocate in Mexico. Hello, drug trade! Given that the Mexican drug cartels are a superb source of modern horror, both directly and through the lawlessness they engender, this is quite promising. Glancy’s definitely done his research; he ties in some real stories of weird occult beliefs and provides a decent outline of the Mexican Drug War. Good stuff.

At this point, we’re up to the present day. The Disciples are well-situated in the middle of Mexico. We get some really horrific details of the lifecycle of the worms, including a description of the Worm Mothers, who are as disgusting as you’re thinking. The great thing, throughout all this, is that the worms are really trivial to remove… but you aren’t immortal any more.

And now it’s into stats, which I skim over, since what do I know about Call of Cthulhu stats? I’d run it using GUMSHOW these days. I imagine the detail is good, regardless. Here, have some worms.

16 pages in, and hm, this is new. OK, I’m amused that I elected to quote that line above, because it seems that neither all the worms or any of the Delta Green researchers were in fact destroyed. And, yeah, someone got ambitious. Welcome to PharMethuselah, Inc. Because living forever is really valuable.

Heh. And, yeah, one of the PharMethuselah research facilities is located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This whole chapter really gets the idea of failed states — we’ve already seen Mexico, and what happens when the criminal cartels are that well armed; now we’ve got a company deliberately moving production facilities to unstable regimes in order to avoid regulation. This is a dark twist on the virtual company, and it’s nicely written.

There’s then half a page of ideas on using all this in your campaign. Really it’s sort of one idea, but it’s a decent one, so that’s all good. I imagine it’s not too hard to figure out why Delta Green might otherwise notice a group of occult smugglers subcontracting to Mexican drug cartels, if you don’t want to use the idea presented.

We wrap up with NPC writeups. Good presentation of the problems of being immortal scholars; the Disciples headquarters is just full of records and books and notes, and I think that’s quite evocative. There are also a bunch of new spells, which are always cool. It’s a wide mix of NPCs, too, not just Disciples. There’s a writeup for a Congo military officer which includes a brief description of recent Congo history. I think if there’s anything special Delta Green books ought to be doing, it’s presenting some of the real horror of our world. This is that, and I’m glad.

This chapter beat Black Cod Island for me. There’s nothing wildly innovative herein, but it’s more Delta Green and definitely more horrific. Black Cod Island doesn’t distinguish itself from any other modern Cthulhu material. The Disciples of the Worm, via special forces operatives and perilous law enforcement tasks, does.

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5 Responses to “WIRDG: ToO (Disciples of the Worm)”

  1. Jack Kessler Says:

    Thanks for doing this. I downloaded my copy a few days ago, but haven’t had time to do more than skim the chapter headlines. Wish they had bookmarked the thing, though I guess the pdf was more of an afterthought to get it in our “hands” sooner. How long has it been? Two years?

    I am tempted to skip right to the chapter on the Ghoul Cult. I am a sucker for New Orleans (since running a campaign set there for three years and visiting a couple of times around the same time) as I was very disappointed in the Chaosium New Orleans sourcebook. Tunnels? Seriously?

    • Bryant Says:

      I really want to skip right to the Stolze/Hite section. This careful read is definitely stretching the book out for me. Ghouls next, however!

      (Tunnels? Really?)

  2. Rob Says:

    Yeah, this sounds like the stuff! Failed states, drug cartels, big pharm and Western complicity in the connections between all of the above–all that mixed with squicky beasties is what a 21st C Delta Green game should be about. And the Congo, which of course was a great central setpiece of Pantellos, in my heart the first and still best great “post-9-11” horror conspiracy game. (We actually completed the Congo arc the evening of Sept. 10, 2001.)

    I have a vague but compelling memory of a story I read, jeez, back in college that I think involved duelling sorcerors in a modern urban setting, and all their magic basically revolved around parasites and tapeworms. The tapeworms inside them gave them their power, but they also sent them out to siphon pour out of others, etc. Call it “tapewormpunk!” Does that ring any bells with anyone? I’ve often thought about either tracking it down or trying to run a game just based on my hazy memories of it, which may by now be nothing like the original story.

    • Bryant Says:

      I cannot place that story at all, but sounds like a fun game. Are you sure you’re not remembering Sorcerer?

  3. Rob Says:

    Siphon POWER out of others, durr.

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