Sunday 16 February 2020

Not to be Forgotten

Latin for ‘from among (the) forgotten’ and sharing its name with a poem by H.P. Lovecraft, Ex Oblivione 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 can be played using the roleplaying game’s full rules or those from Delta Green: Need to Know. Be warned though, this is a brutal, bloody affair involving mass violence and absolutely not for the faint of heart. In fact, Ex Oblivione is not a subtle affair in terms of its horror or its violence, but although the scenario will not mark the end of Delta Green as an organisation—after all, that has already happened with the original iteration of Delta Green, and it came back—but it very much mirrors the very first encounter with the Unnatural by the agency which would one day become Delta Green. A horror out of the agency’s deep past is about to take its very bloody revenge.

Agents of Delta Green—whether of the Program or the Outlaws—get involved when ‘HOME DAGON HOME HOME YHANTHLEI SEA TO THE SEA.’ is found graffitied on the wall at a gruesome crime scene. A family of five in Mustang, Arizona, a remote town originally founded to support the long since shutdown nearby U.S. Navy base have been ritually butchered and whilst the local police force suggest that ‘Dagon’ might have occult links, given that it is mentioned in the Bible as the name of a god worshipped by the Philistines, its investigators have no clues as to the motives or perpetrators of this heinous act. Delta Green knows otherwise and strongly suspects the involvement of the Unnatural in the crime. Consequently, a team is dispatched to Arizona to investigate, identify, and nullify the threat.

Unless complicated by setting up (or even breaking) cover identities, the initial investigation in Mustang is quite straightforward—the crime scene, local witnesses, and so on. Clues though, point towards the ruins of the old Naval base, little more than a hangout for the local teenagers, drifters, and the homeless, and from there to New England. This will likely confirm the suspicions of veteran players of Lovecraftian investigative roleplaying, but Ex Oblivione does not go in that direction. Certainly, it draws heavily from that direction—or source material—for inspiration… What Ex Oblivione does instead though…

What Ex Oblivione does instead though, is something unlike almost any other ending to a Call of Cthulhu or Delta Green scenario. First, there is the creeping realisation as to who the murderers are, and that is shocking enough, but then there is climax itself, which will require careful staging upon the part of the Handler. It is brutal, it is violent, and the horror of it is exactly that—horrifying. To say anything more would be to reveal too much about what is a monumental confrontation with the Unnatural.

Physically, Ex Oblivione is well presented, the illustrations and cartography as you would expect. Although decently written, the scenario does feel rushed in places and could have done with another edit.

It is almost traditional for scenarios of Lovecraftian investigative roleplaying to involve a threat to humanity or the world, a threat of immense scale. Here the threat is far, far smaller, but still of a staggering scale that Ex Oblivione is likely to remain a memorable scenario for the players and their Delta Green agent characters. Unlike the meaning of title, the final confrontation in Ex Oblivione is not going to be forgotten for anyone who plays it.

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