TL:DR: PTBP inspired me to run a Delta Green game and put together a campaign setting. To help with note taking and motivation, I decided to put together some After-Action reports and post them here.
I run a weekly 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons game. Every Tuesday night for two years at this point for 6 PCs. Level 14, going on 15 in an adapted version of Paizo Publishing's Ironfang Invasion adventure path. We’ve probably got another six months of solid play, aiming for a finish at around level 18. Running this game for this long taught me a lot, even though it wasn’t my first long runner. But one thing it taught me above all else is:
I don’t want to run Dungeons and Dragons or anything like it anytime soon.
There's a whole tirade about why that is, but suffice to say a few months ago I started looking for a new system to replace 5e once my Tuesday night group was done with it. Plenty of good games stuck their heads up (Band of Blades/Blades in the Dark being my favourite) but none seemed to be a good fit for six people. Then I stumbled across PTBP and Delta Green.
I had played some CoC years ago and Sci-Fi Horror has to be my favourite genre of all time, tack on the modern setting and I was hooked. I had spent many hours reading SCPs and even a few writing some, plus running a Hunter:The Vigil game years back and even playing a Hunter LARP in the same time period. Plus the PTBP boys have such an infectious enthusiasm.
And then I actually ran a short 2-session story and realised that 6 PC Delta Green would be a nightmare. With the modern setting and the investigative style, players are constantly going off on tangents or separating the party. With 4 people and a tense feel, people stay interested, but with six (and more importantly, MY SIX), there is no way that it would be a cohesive session.
So I said what every ForeverDM says;
“This can become my campaign setting that I always say I’m working on!”
So I started writing a campaign setting for a Delta Green game that may never come. Enabling me to fully flesh out an entire region complete with NPCs, plots, eldritch horrors and the works! I’d slowly find players, run each of them through individual ‘Spookening’ sessions to show their origins into the Opera. It’d be dope! Having just finished my Honours Thesis, I wanted to establish writing as something I liked, not something I did for the expensive paper.
My Girlfriend was interested from the start and wanted desperately to play the game when it ran. I was talking about it a bit to different folks and when they asked ‘When is it running?’ or ‘Can I play?’ I would always say it wasn’t near ready, I mean, I hadn’t even mapped out all the airports in the region, how could I run a game there without knowing where the airports are? Eventually, I got cornered by four players (including my girlfriend) who wanted to be in the game, had a time, place and wanted to know if I would do it. This was the first lesson Delta Green taught me.
“Your campaign setting is never finished and nothing will make you write your important stuff like a game in three hours.”
So, I ran session 1 on a Sunday evening and haven’t looked back. This AAR will be an account of the setting, the story, and our agents as they travel a hopefully extreme and entertaining story. Hopefully, none of them end up on here since I’ll also try to include my Keeper perspective and process of putting together this setting.
Finally, a massive thank you to the PTBP boys, I’m not entirely up to date as of writing this (EP58) but I’m stoked to be an Honorary Police Officer and owe a lot of these ideas and growth to Zach’s style and the boy's hijinks.
As a preface, I’m not an American. I’m an Australian who’s never been to the Western Hemisphere. So my apologies for butchering your country, your towns, and your overall culture. I've moved some history around and changed some events to make my timeline work. Hopefully it's not offensive.
The basis and name of the setting is something I learned about from another podcast (shout out the BehindTheBastards and ItCouldHappenHere). The State of Jefferson is a secessionist movement in rural Northern California and Southern Oregon. Essentially a right-wing/rural response to the liberal cities of LA and Portland, these regions want to secede from California and Oregon, becoming the 51st American state. A Pacific NorthWest setting gives tonnes of great locales, from Redwood forests, mountain peaks, wild rivers and even some desert thrown in there. Couple this with problems with limited law enforcement, a multicultural history, and the stories write themselves.
I started by putting a map together since that always helps me visualise what I’m working with, plus at this point, this was just a campaign setting, not an active game. I made this map by taking one of the proposed State of Jefferson maps that I liked, editing out the state names, then searching for the incorporated cities of each county, along with their county seats. I didn’t use many scales, as you can see, and it makes Weaverville look really important even though it has a population of around 3,600. I also placed the state capital in Redding, after looking at the discourse around SOJ, turns out some want it to be Yreka, CA, since that was first suggested back in the sixties. But I couldn’t see that happening now. So I ended up with this map: https://imgur.com/a/Bx5Mnv6
So now I needed to make the State of Jefferson a thing, how would that happen in 2020?
I could see Trump doing it, in a crazy situation.
Jefferson counties are pretty solidly Republican, for the same reasons they want to be their own state to begin with. So I imagined a 2020 electoral race where Trump engaged with these far-right groups like the militias and such, promising a look into a 51st state. But saying it and doing it are two separate things. So let's ratchet up the tension some more.
Trump wins 2020, promising to look into the State of Jefferson. 2021 Trump has a massive stroke. Initially, it looks like he’s not going to pull through, the GOP starts planning for his replacement to step up. Current VP is an old-school Neocon named Andrew Cohen. But Trump does pull through and despite some major health concerns, seems convinced to stay in the White House. The old-school Neocons behind Andrew Cohen that used to be the soul of the GOP smelled power again and don’t want to give in, meanwhile the New-Right cultural conservatives backing Trump smell a coup. The GOP starts to implode. Trump, desperate to solidify his base, is firing out executive orders left, right and center. One of them is the creation of the State of Jefferson. A year later, it's 2022, Andrew Cohen is acting President and national politics is a shitshow. So many executive orders went out that it's impossible to pull them all back and it looks like Jefferson is going to stick.
But our players are going to be Federal agents, what are they doing in this backwoods state? Well, I imagine a new state appearing largely out of nowhere would throw all the federal departments a curveball. Suddenly they need to work out if the FBI needs a headquarters in Redding, what about DoD? DoJ? So they send a big audit team to work out what federal government efforts would be needed in the new state. This would be called ‘The Office of Temporary Handover’ and would be the taskforce my players would be assigned to. What I wrote up is as follows:
Office of Temporary Handover
A fifty person strong taskforce, the OTH is made of representatives of a large variety of shifting government departments. Their job was originally twofold:
-Maintain the essential functions of their organisations during the handover and establishment of the state.
-Assess the State of Jefferson for their various organisations, in regards to offices, resources, and personnel.
Officially the Federal Office of Temporary Handover was established on the 1st of April, 2022 at 2042 South Market St in Redding, which was to be the state capitol (not without a considerable fight from Chico, Eureka, and Yreka). Originally the OTH was headed up by Brennan Bartlet from the Department of Labour. Originally the DOL had intended the main aspects of the OTH to be assessing manpower requirements to then be passed onto the government departments to fulfill.
However, quickly after arriving on the ground in Redding, OTH leaders found that the twin regions of Southern Oregon and Northern California were a mess. Thirty years of, in some cases, criminal negligence from state governments had resulted in thousands of missed assessments, unsolved cases, and questionable decisions. The first big scoop was found by an analyst for the Treasury Department (Kyle Chapman) who found that all judicial efforts undertaken in the town of Paisley in Lake County had been taken over by the Millennium Forestry Company. Pulling on this string revealed the start of the problems for the OTH.
Quickly, Bartlet was replaced by Agent Luciano Pareja from the Department of Homeland security. The call went wide to nearly every single federal department to get their asses to Jefferson and work out what was going wrong in their respective fields. 2042 South Market street became a circus with the Department of Agriculture surveyors sharing offices with Aviation officials while the Department of Defence investigators camp out in the staircase.
It was during these initial investigations that things got interesting for those who were paying attention. The initial deluge of cases caught up all the obvious things, there had been no services conducted on the East Coast Cable Terminus in Point Arena was overdue for servicing by fifteen years, there were exactly fifteen missing persons reported in Modoc county national parks four years in a row and Douglas County sheriff Lyle Parsins has held the position for ten years despite the county records holding death certificates Parsins from 2007,2017 and 2019.
These odd reports languished in the stacks upon stacks of issues reported and aside from being mildly interesting when they were discovered, there were bigger fish to fry. Kyle Chapman later revealed a conspiracy of kickbacks and corruption between the Millennium Forestry and the Lake County supervisory council worth more than 13 million dollars, earning himself a tasty promotion. At the same time, the DA of Siskyou county was gunned down by a motorcyclist in Dorris. Two things became clear to everyone working in the OTH;
- There is so much to uncover in Jefferson that the real task is finding the biggest malfeasance you can and riding that investigation all the way to the top.
- The bigger the malfeasance, the bigger the risk that someone might try to take it from you or that it might blow up in your face.
This allowed those strange cases that were more interesting than juicy to slip through the cracks but also caused the OTH offices to become a den of paranoia staffed by some of the most ambitious young workers for these federal departments.
Its been two months since Kyle Chapman’s case hit the state court in Redding and 2042 South Market has spilled out into the parking lot with a massive gazebo. It's a hot summer and there is the promise of promotion around every corner as our PC’s arrive. The right and wrong kind of people have started to see the dots that need connecting, here's hoping someone stops finding dots.
Note: Sam, Bree, James, and Roni, if you have somehow ended up here, turn back now.
Finally, we needed a bad guy. This was the thing I had been avoiding, in favor of working out how many and where all the military bases are in Northern Cali and Southern Oregon (creating a real suspicious google history along the way). Being an investigative and paranoia based game about cults and conspiracy, I didn’t want to just to a ‘Monster of the Week’ style game. Plus one of my players is pretty well versed in his Cthulhu mythos, so I didn’t want to do something standard. Which made me want to stay away from Deep ones and fishbits (although maybe I can work the absence of Deep ones a plot point later on?)
So what do I have? I’ve got a need for a massive conspiracy, lots of pristine wilderness, a history of big American Indian tribes, Spanish Colonisation and American power. Plus a new state.
I know, let’s make the new state the conspiracy.
For some reason making this new state is part of some eldritch ritual about power and such. Sounds dope. Which Old God cares about human power structures and the corruption of man? Old buddy Nylarthotep.
Bam, we’ve got a non-standard bad guy and a huge conspiracy that can be staring them in the face the whole time. It turns the passive hints about the chaos of creating a new state into subtle easter eggs dotting the campaign.
But I also don’t want the eldritch ritual to be already done. Gotta give the players a chance to die trying to save the world. So perhaps it's just a step in the overall ritual. How many steps are there in the ritual? Well, a d20 roll tells me that there’s 16. It sounds like a good number to me. A story was coming together:
It was thousands of years past the original humans encountered the being known as Emperor of Sky and Earth, Ne-ab Gendumahaah, or simply the Spirit of Man, an implicit force in the Northern United States that influenced the minds of the powerful through dreams and visions. It would be the dreams of Ne-Ab Gendumahaah that would lead Rabbit Foot to solidify the Shasta people into a great confederacy. Where his favour goes, great power forms and those powerful will become great.
In reality, The Spirit of Man is an aspect of Nylarthotep, the chaos messenger of the Sultan, Azzathoth. What is happening in the North West is one spark of weakness that plays out as a flame of weakness against Azzathoth by his agent. A fleck of paint and pain on a tapestry millions of years and miles old.
The original intention of the Spirit of Man was the completion of sixteen rituals across the region. As more and more of these rituals would be completed they would weaken the differences between realities, these would corrupt the minds and world to the whims of those who would be powerful, granting them longevity and even passively twisting the world to support them. But it would weaken the nature of reality for all others, bringing in great monsters and factors. If all sixteen rituals were completed the Spirit of Man would be brought forward to bequeath true power onto the successful, in reality, the knowledge of Nylarthotep would be its own downfall as the invoker would be rent asunder and the damage wrought by the pursuit would wink throughout the cosmos.
The first ritual would be completed by a shaman of the Goshute People 30,000 Years ago. By the year 1700, the Shasta people had completed four rituals in total, this created the most powerful tribal confederacy of the West Coast. But the native Americans feared Ne-Ab Gendumahaah, intensely fearful of the give and take of existence, were difficult to enrapture to the power of the Spirit, but the White man was not. The Spanish would complete six rituals in the period between 1660 and 1840. The American people have completed five since the Union arrived, the last being the consecration of the Redding State Legislature. Now forces move to complete the final ritual as the Office of Temporary Handover comes into the picture. The players have to discover the connections between the rituals and attempt to stop the cabal of the rich and powerful before millions of people are killed.
This will leave the players investigating the fallout of rituals conducted long in the past, trying to put the dots together in time to stop the last few being completed.
This was about all I had going into session one. Since then we’ve had four total sessions and it's been a ride. Next time I’ll talk about session one and individual session planning/running. Thankyou for reading this and thank you again to the PTBP boys and community for being so amazing.
P.S - I tried to settle on a campaign theme like PTBP's No Backbone, at this point I'm split between Two Gallants - Fly Low Carrion Crow and Boogeyman - Black Casino and the Ghost.
-PresidentRhino (Hyenidae on the Discord/Twitch)
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