Thursday, January 2, 2020

LET'S LOOK AT: Some 2019 Shotgun Scenarios

This is a review exchange with mellonbread of the Green Box podcast of our respective Shotgun Scenario entries (Mine was TAKE-HOME CONTAINER, I'll get to that one later).

Secondary caveat is that I am critiquing as an outsider with little experience and a taste that often runs counter to the normal expectations of Delta Green so this is going to be even more shotgun-tone-poem opinion than normal.

Wives of March (cowritten)

A character piece - three women connected to MAJESTIC 12 with both reason and ability to go after Delta Green. They've got a lot of personality built-in, and would be a blast to run with folks who can really get into their characters.

The actual scenario is light enough that it feels superfluous. It functions, I guess. It's really just a timeline for what DG is doing during the proceedings. Again, totally dependent on the players and how deep they are willing to get into the characters because I could see it shining or flopping entirely on that point.

The Dream Merchants

Mostly setting in this one: a tiny village in Maine that is a stopover point for inhabitants of the Dreamlands. Got a really nice atmosphere - lots of good NPC descriptions and their interactions and desires. In that sense it is very much counter to the normal Delta Green setup and view of the world and as previous posts of mine have indicated it is indeed my jam.

DG's actual involvement is mostly a footnote at the end, so it feels like to really get the most out of this splicing in another scenario would be the best move. But as raw idea material, it's killer. I would absolutely dump this into Esoteric Enterprises.

Operation BIG STICK

This is pulled right from Disco Elysium. I am on to you, mellon. I know your game. I read your book!

A single simple setpiece, a setup for a conflict that can be spun out by a good referee. A very contained scenario. Lots of potential fun to be had with lost time and memory loss. Being familiar with the origin and the written-for-refs nature of the scenario I feel like some of the impact might be lost on me as the reader (this is an issue with the genre/medium, so it doesn't really count as a knock against it), but players going in blind could easily be taken for a wild ride.    

Who Killed the Case Officer?

A murder by a DG working group pinned on the local cult. Apparently also based on Disco Elysium, but I didn't catch that until I heard it on the podcast.

Provides a nice, easy to read list of relevant crime scene evidence. Rest of the scenario would be grilling NPCs for info, but with the hapless cult and the two guilty agents as those NPCs there's some fun ways things could potentially spiral out of control - best enemy for the paranoid maniacs of DG are other paranoid maniacs in DG.

Operation BUSCEMI SKATEBOARD (cowritten)

"It was actually nothing all along" is not always a great twist, but it works here. Setup is high school cultist getting into some real dark shit because her parents swear that's the only way to keep them safe.

This is wrong: the dark god has been dead for ages and the contact ritual is a whiff. You can talk your way to a sensible conclusion. That's good stuff. If players are sensitive to scenarios featuring sexual abuse, might be smart to warn them ahead of time.

Yomping (cowritten)

Band of civilian archaeologists on a Scottish highlands dig encounter bad weather and worse guests. There's a good bit of fluff setup, but the end result comes down to "players are stuck in bad weather, and they have to deal with some escaped inmates with brain parasites and/or deep ones, eventually a cleanup team shows up." This one didn't do a whole lot to pique my interest.

Une nuit à l'opéra (cowritten)

A wizard tries to flee to Canada using the Haskell Library and Opera House. The other players are split between Delta Green and M-Epic. Everyone's working against each other. Most of the scenario space is given over to premade characters, three for each faction. Very much in the vein of Wives of March, though with a more novel action seed. Unfortunately, it doesn't do much for me beyond "neat NPC list", though.

Bonus points for an opera adaptation of Shadow of the Torturer. That got a smile.

In general

All of these scenarios were very heavy on NPCs. The plus side is that all the NPCs were well-realized and have personalities which can easily stick in the ref's (or player's) head, which makes them easy to play. Downside is gigantic stablocks and no handy sidebars or insets or any formatting other than raw Wikidot, which makes them all terribly unpleasant to read at times. I do wonder what all these would look like in a different format.

BIG STICK, Dream Merchants, and Wives of March could be combined into a single scenario rather easily. That could be real cool.

Participating in the contest  was, if nothing else, a really eye-opening design challenge. Wrestling with a different set of expectations (which were often frustrating) was a nice break from the norm.

Still going to run right back into the embrace of Esoteric Enterprises, though.


  1. I will definitely be expanding and revising TAKE HOME CONTAINER, don't you worry.

  2. Good post. What did your ballot look like this year? I assume you stuck up for your own scenario, what about the other four slots?

    1. I was not actually able to do a proper sit down and read through everything and so didn't end up voting.