Delta Green takes survivor's guilt to a whole new level. I've played it before - before Agents were explained to me, in fact, and when I was able to get my friend's character of three years killed in a single gunfight. If you've ever played Delta Green, you know that 3 years in gaming terms requires some kind of commemorative medal that says: "I have been to the brink of sanity and beyond and still retain more than half my human mind." I was going to make a war analogy but, really, even I'm not that insensitive, so let's just say that among the initiated, surviving more than a year's worth of sessions, or even 3 months, is something tantamount to heroism.
We decided to play Delta Green today, since my friend is in town from Japan, and my boyfriend had never tabletop RPd before. Possibly this should have been the first warning sign. We picked up another mutual friend who had played a semi-game once before, and had a vague idea of the Cthulian horrors to come.
I imagine that me watching them playing the FBI-agents-meet-small-town-America ideal must have been similarly amusing to the people watching me first discover Delta Green. You try to try the usual channels, but in the end, everything ends up as an occult knowledge roll. There is no normal, there is no rational, there is no explanation. In the words of Alan Wake, "There can be no explanation, and there shouldn't be one. It's the unsolved mystery that stays with you."
The idea behind Delta Green is that, at any point, at anywhere in the world, unspeakable evils are happening just beyond our sight. Like the Elder Gods, there is no reason for this madness, nor can there be. Our minds are too impossibly small to understand even a fragment of a fraction of one of their thoughts. The best we can do is survive. Delta Green, more than any other system I've encountered, fills me with that overwhelming dread, and leaves me almost as paralysed as my character.
When you start suggesting Sanity and Will checks to the Game Master, that's a pretty good sign that the storyline is disturbing more than just your player character. For example, we were chasing down a man with inclinations toward vampirism and cannibalism who had been travelling across the country from one coast to the other, somehow leaving behind a string of supposed perpetrators that all ended with suicides. We finally cornered him, and what seemed like the safest option was for the secret agent PC to sneak in and stun him with a tazer so our team of policemen and the other two PCS could join him in subduing this known a hardened ex-green-beret criminal. That was when things went horribly wrong.
I won't spoil it, because Delta Green does come with a set of pre-written scenarios, and this is one of them, but suffice to say I was the one suggesting Sanity rolls, and dictating that my character should be making Will checks to do things that I wanted her to do. I was disturbed enough only hearing about the things that were happening that it was very easy for me to roleplay a character who was actually there. As it was, she ended the game on less than half sanity, but, for a wonder, no one died. That in itself was cause for celebration but, in the world of Delta Green, there are no victories, only stopgap measures.
It was also made more enjoyable by the GM's love of Twin Peaks which, as you'll recall, I started watching yesterday. Taking the 'normal' (mid-west America) and turning it into the abominable is so easy to be part of, yet so difficult to describe. The sudden moment when everything turns on its head and logic goes out the window is a kind of magic, in that it leaves you spellbound and paralysed. As terrible as these events are, I can't look away, and I don't want to. The horror in real-life is as captivating as in-game.
But what do I get out of it, really? Being horrified - surely that's not enjoyable? Oh, but my mind can conjure many different things, and many far more disturbing than modern exploitation films. I find it far less disturbing to momentarily believe in the idea of an incomprehensible, unpersonifiable evil than I do in serial killers and rapists. This, if it were happening to me, would simply be chance, and the chances of me being an FBI agent in the mid-west are as remote as me being the King of Saturn. By comparison the horrors of Hey Baby have a much more lasting effect.