Some Thoughts on the Thematic Difference between the First And Second Editions of Delta Green

Last year, roleplaying game (RPG) company Arc Dream Publishing successfully Kickstarted a new standalone edition of the classic Call of Cthulhu game setting Delta Green.  For those who are not familiar with the game: Delta Green is “Cthulhu Mythos as government conspiracy” horror. Players took the role of members of a rogue organization hidden inside the federal government; one dedicated to horribly dying in order to keep the Mythos at bay for just a brief, cosmically insignificant bit longer.  It’s widely considered to be one of the best RPG settings ever made, which is why the Kickstarter rather easily got funded.

Being one of the backers, I just got my PDF copy of the Agent’s Handbook. This is not a review of that book; it’s more of a look at how things and assumptions have changed since the first edition of Delta Green. Which is perhaps unsurprising: after all, our perception of the world has drastically changed since the 1990s. As has our conception of what is considered “horrific.”

The most obvious change in the setting (and this has been discussed by the authors of the game itself) is, of course, coming to terms with the 9/11 attacks. The 1990s Delta Green was unquestionably a horror game; but it was a horror game set in what was, in retrospect, a ten-year American holiday from consequence. The Cold War was over, and we had won; and while you can easily still have a horror campaign in a setting like that, it requires a certain mindset and attitude. In this particular case, the theme of the old-school Delta Green was very much ‘poisoned chalice': Look beneath the surface of everything you love and respect, and you will see nothing but corruption and chaos.