Actual Play - [Hot War] Delta Green Hack - Results

Posted by: Gary Bowerbank On: Nov 27th 2009 edited

At IndieCon this year I ran back-to-back Hot War sessions set in the Delta Green setting. This brand of Cthulhu has a lot going for it actually, despite what you see at the majority of cons, all it needed was the right engine…

The first game involved Mr Dorward, the world’s premier HW ref, and Mr MacAllister, stalwart warrior of the CE, plus a couple of others rather new to the game, and setting. With the first two players on board however, this gave me a good deal of confidence with my first run of the game (at a convention – breaking all my own rules of being comfortable with a game and playtesting the scenario). I had a back-up scenario just in case the first one exploded, but it was all good. I picked up a couple of pointer from Scott along the way, but otherwise was very happy with the session – all the players embraced the spirit of the game, it paced well and came to a satisfying conclusion. The only hiccup was early on when I was drip-feeding in typical Cthulhu GM style for the first half hour, then remembered what I was supposed to be doing and hit the gas and the game flew. Tick VG.

Straight into my second game I was probably too flush with success and had three players who’d never played HW before, and the fourth had a dim view of it. The session overall was good by all accounts, but definitely could have been better. I put myself to blame, naturally, but you have to try new things and push yourself. Most of what happened that I personally didn’t feel went well could probably have been handled with a five minute pep talk at the start. The rest of it would just need me to stop trying to push the pace so much and concentrate more on making sure that the game rules are being used and applied properly, with some suggestions and advice along the way. Below is a list of Lessons Learned about running HW (from my perspective anyway).

Its worth directly telling players that there will be some direct conflict between PCs. This doesn’t have to be entirely opposite goals, but the players should realise that there will be conflicts and quite often there will be more than one side involved. We’re not looking necessarily looking for a “win” as players, but interesting conflict. Some players simply don’t realise that PCs may be working against each other from the off, and that the details on one character sheet about the game world, might not entirely match those on another character sheet. Some players will just go with it and work with plot elements thrown in from nowhere. New players (especially people new to the whole “indie” scene) might need the concept spelling out however. This is all doubly true in the game I’d set up, with a very strong amount of potential conflict built in. “Normal” HW games might not have as much potential for trouble.

Its perhaps worth mentioning that Negative Traits are Good Things. I was fairly liberal with these and encouraged players to hand them out, rather than reducing a fellow player’s Action for instance. They’re the source of good fodder when used and are interesting – player’s shouldn’t feel worried about having them on the sheet, or indeed, using them. One thing to bare in mind is that players should realise they can add suggestions as to what those negative traits might be – again something more traditional players might find weird – but re-enforcing the idea that they themselves can suggest an appropriate trait for their character is worthwhile. (I’d do this as and when it arises, rather than trying to explain it before the game kicked off.)

One thing that was hard for some people to accept was the consequences of actions or more accurately, losing conflicts. I tried to explain how losing a debate might not result in a shift in a character’s opinion, but still result in the appearance of such, e.g. "You might not agree with what she thinks, but from a relationship point of view, you might pretend to agree with her, because its what she wants to hear and this will get you closer to her" type thing. I don’t think I was particularly successful on this occasion at getting that across, so in future I’ll have to labour the point initially that sometimes your character will have to suck it up and act contrite if they’ve lost a conflict, or otherwise demonstrate the consequences (be sullen, break down and cry, refuse to speak to anyone, whatever) even if their core beliefs have not changed and ultimately they’re going to initiate another conflict further down the line.

I’m going to try it all again at some point and see how it flies. I know even from the shakier second game that the player who wasn’t convinced of the system has now revised his opinion and that another player has acquired the rules, so from a CE promo point of view… job done.



Posted by: Iain McAllister On: Nov 30th 2009

Have to say I really enjoyed the game Gaz, probably my highlight of the con. I haven't played Hot War that often and I thought it was a really good fit for the kind of game you are looking to run.

Looking forward to seeing you sample more of the indie side of the hobby.



Posted by: Gary Bowerbank On: Dec 1st 2009

[Thanks Iain - looking forward to your AP report... ;)]

Something I forgot to mention above:

One thing that worked really well was using The Black Goat of the Woods as a Relationship for a cultist with his God. It was positive in this case, but if someone is far down the track to damnation you can quite easily see how this would be a negative relationship. Bringing in the Relationship when supporting the Cult was useful, but if you fail and the Relationship is put in jeopardy it neatly models the Great Old One’s lack of faith in its minion. I like the idea of getting bonus dice for blind religious fervor too.

Posted by: Andrew Kenrick On: Dec 1st 2009

I like the idea of representing organisations, cults and even gods using Relationships. Did that see much use in the game?

Posted by: Malcolm Craig On: Dec 1st 2009

Thanks for running the games, Gaz. Sounds like the crossover between HW and DG worked very well.

You're right that the traditional CoC style of drip feeding info doesn't create the kind of pressurised situation that really drives play in HW. But, it certainly seems that that was only an issue for a short while.

And yes, losing conflicts and gaining negative traits are not Bad Things, although to people new to games like HW, it might be a funny way to look at RPGs. Gaining an negative trait can be to your advantage, as you can bring it in to subsequent conflicts, giving you more dice to play with.

And having a relationship with gods, monsters and suchlike sounds like a big winner.


Posted by: Iain McAllister On: Dec 1st 2009

It worked really well for me I have to say, I had a relationship 3 with the cult I was a member of, allowing me to help cover up their nefarious deeds and eventually turn on them when they tried to kill me at the end. I remember giving Scott a negative trait at some point that he turned to his advantage in a really cool well, before I killed him at least! I will try and remember what happened and write up a short AP, need the practice.



Posted by: Scott Dorward On: Dec 1st 2009

Actually, I thought the comparatively slow build-up worked well, in that we had a bit of a chance for our characters to connect before we started discovering all the reasons why we would have to destroy each other. And while that first half hour wasn't as intense as the rest of the game, it wasn't dull in any way.

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