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Saturday, 6 July 2019

Death from Above

A Victim of the Art is a scenario for Delta Green: The Role-Playing Game, the roleplaying game of conspiratorial and Lovecraftian investigative horror published by Arc Dream Publishing. It originally appeared in Delta Green: Countdown, the first supplement released in 1999 for the original iteration of Delta Green, back when it was a Call of Cthulhu supplement, and it was at the time, one of the largest supplements then published for Call of Cthulhu—or any other roleplaying game. It has been updated to use the new mechanics and setting of Delta Green: The Role-Playing Game, but it can also be used with the rules and characters from Delta Green: Need to Know, meaning that it could be run as the investigators’ first ‘real’ case after the weirdness of the fun in the scenario that accompanies the screen.

The player characters—or Agents—are called in to help an ongoing murder case in the sleepy town of Glenridge, Long Island. A serial killer with a bizarre modus operandi has been taking victims in the town, leaving then coated in a pulpy, organic substance which defies analysis and inflicting upon them inexplicably weird mutilations which have led the national news to dub the perpetrator, the ‘Glenridge Chiropractor’. This has been picked up elsewhere, attracting wider coverage, including conspiracy theorists and Phenomen-X, which will make the involvement of the Agents in the case all the more complicated. Assigned as FBI advisors—whether they are or not—to the lead investigator, this though, is the least of the Agents’ problems…

A Victim of the Art or the case of the ‘Glenridge Chiropractor’ involves an investigation into three seemingly unconnected deaths. They all died by the same method, their bodies left in strange places, but the police have been unable to determine what connects them. Now there is connection and this being a Delta Green investigation, it does involve the Mythos—or the  ‘Unnatural’ as the Delta Green: The Role-Playing Game terms it, but getting to that connection is actually simple—it all comes down to the one skill roll. The problem is if that roll is failed, or rather, what happens if that roll is failed. Now there is advice to that end, essentially that there will be more victims, but it is left up to the Handler to determine who the next victim or victims will be as well as why they are murdered. Coming up with either is challenging because there is not really any information on the town itself or on the perpetrator’s potential victims. So the Handler is literally making it up at this point, when really, it would have been a simple matter for the author to provide the Handler with a list of future potential victims and a timeline for them. Especially when there is room for it in the book.

Now when the connection is made between the victims, it is actually not that difficult to solve the case, even if does involve the Unnatural. The complications in the scenario are twofold. First, there is the matter of the footage taken by Phenomen-X should the Agents act suspiciously, but then there is the matter of which faction—‘official’ Program or disavowed Outlaws—the Agents belong to when Delta Green’s technological allies take an interest in the case. Do they let the allies take samples regardless of what they developed into? Extensive notes are provided to that end, and there are even notes on running A Victim of the Art back in the good old days of 1999, but the scenario is primarily written to support the internal conspiracy within Delta Green.

Unfortunately, the production values on A Victim of the Art are not as high as they could be. Done in full colour, including several pieces of wholly new art commissioned for this new edition of the scenario, which are rather nice additions, where the book fails is in its maps, which lack the resolution that they warrant. 

Although Delta Green: The Role-Playing Game is no longer as grounded in the Ufology, little green (grey) men, The X-Files-style mythos of the Delta Green of 1997, there is no denying that its influence can be seen in the feel of the investigation in A Victim of the Art, as it feels very much like an X-Files investigation. A Victim of the Art is not unplayable, but whilst its update from Delta Green to Delta Green: The Role-Playing Game is well-handled, the plot development in the scenario is not, leaving the Handler with some extra preparation that feels as if it should have been included. A Victim of the Art is not a bad scenario, but it does feel as if it could have been made a little easier to run.

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