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Delta Green: Understanding and Madness

The horror of Lovecraft presents a fascinating concept: the unknowable. None of the horrors in Lovecraft can sit comfortably in man’s tiny consciousness, and those that enter smash about, drawing blood, destroying sanity, leaving behind either a shattered wreck, a gibbering madman, or a corpse.

Players — especially players used to other game styles — enter Delta Green eager to solve a mystery, to kill a villain, to destroy a monster; but it’s not that simple. Sometimes, even seeing the main threat of the game is enough to destroy the group of players utterly.  

As a GM, how do you handle the unknowable? This is a deep issue, and is not as cut and dried as it might first appear. For me, this is the thesis of Lovecraft:

Things populated the Earth long before man. Their magic is a type of science. Their forms and methods are, and always will be beyond human conception. 

Many find this concept difficult to understand, and they should; that’s the whole point! Human existence is a struggle for understanding, and Lovecraft’s monsters represent the edge of the world of knowledge, an abyss that eats people whole cloth, drawing them over the edge. It’s a trap, and the human mind as a tool is at best, poorly designed to deal with it.

The fact remains for me, understanding in the world of the Cthulhu Mythos=Madness. The more you know and understand about the secrets that haunt the world, the less sane you are. Please note this doe not mean that you are necessarily a gibbering madman (yet).

Mechanically, the best way to deal with this, I have found is to:

  1. Keep SANITY scores of Cell Members secret from one another: This is vital. No one REALLY knows how sane someone else is. PSYCHOLOGY rolls might reveal rough values (or false ones).
  2. At 0 SANITY, that Player Characters’ End is Assured: When a character hits 0 SANITY, that character is done — though it may take a session or two to wrap up their ruin.
  3. Work with Players who hit 0 SANITY: Work with players to roleplay their characters’ destruction. Work out the best and most impactful way the player can “go out”. Suicide, murder, summoning something from outside? Work with them to find a fitting end for their character.
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