Hacking Delta Green into Cthulhu Dark


I have looked at Blades for inspiration ever since @jesseross used Devil’s Bargains for Trophy. The resisting consequences / stress / indulging in vice / accumulating trauma economy and its downward spiral seems like a perfect fit and I would definitely play a Forged in the Dark game of Delta Green, however I don’t think I could write one. What I like about CD is its simplicity and as much as I like Blades: Simple it is not.


Oh, I really like the idea of a mythos Blades in the Dark hack. I have a couple of friends who I think would really dig it


Agreed - I don’t think I understand the various Blades economies enough to hack in it at this point. CD seems simple and achievable … though that may turn out to be ‘deceptively simple’ once I run the Achtung! Cthulhu Dark hack!
I’ve offered up a Gauntlet Games Now session of Achtung! CD next week, so I may have some initial feedback (and an AP) before the end of May @HorstWurst.


As someone whose working on a Blades in the Dark hack, the systems do lend themselves to reproducing Delta Green but the central mechanisms for fictional resolution place so much power into the hands of players I feel they aren’t ideal for Cthulhu mythos style horror without serious revision.

I could be persuaded otherwise, but I feel Blades characters simply have TOO MUCH agency, if that makes any sense at all.


Good point, although I would argue that there are similarities: In Blades you resist any consequence (don’t fail) but have to deal with it by accumulating stress and eventually trauma and in CD you don’t fail to begin with but you accumulate Insight. Either way at some point your character will exit the story by “going insane” it just takes longer for a Blades character - which would definitely work for a longer Delta-Green-style campaign: As @Will_H mentioned in DG it does take some time before an agent is taken out by the loss of sanity.


The big issue for me is in Blades the conversation is a back and forth, with all the potential consequences a known quantity before dice are rolled. That’s not necessarily a problem, but knowing explicitly that ignoring the posted warning signs will result in your death, or that your assault on the Hound of Tindalos will have zero effect before you do it, is not completely in line with the kind of horror Call of Cthulhu specializes in.

In Cthulhu Dark if you do something dangerous the GM calls for a roll. If it winds up being really ill advised or runs you afoul of some unseen horror, too bad. Players follow their drives into danger but they don’t get to go, “you know what? maybe this was a bad idea.

In Blades players are part of the writing room and always have a chance to retroactively do something different. That could still result in an interesting story, but by default players are highly empowered to make choices that make their character come off as hyper competent.

I have seen other takes on this in Blades and there are already some really different hacks out there that change the formula but it would be a lot of work, IMO.


After a productive chat with @HorstWurst, I whipped up with the following:


No editing has been done yet. Curious if anyone sees any glaring errors or omissions (my experience with Cthulhu Dark is minimal) but most of the changes should be intentional.

Some mechanics are still being considered (such as the separate but linked Stress and Insight tracks).

Also: Naming suggestions appreciated :nerd_face:


This looks fabulous, thanks for putting so much work into making the hack @Dissonance! I love the Harm and Suppressing Knowledge rules (btw I think there is a typo in the following sentence: “Choose an Anchor and mark it [to?] deny or disbelieve an uncomfortable truth”)
The combat section has a nice nod to BitD, essentially you can describe how the PC is killed multiple times without the character actually dying: “If you reject this version of events, you may choose to take a more measured course of action, though your safety is never guaranteed.”
I think a clarifying sentence to specify when Stress and when Insight increases would be helpful.
I will give this a spin on Tuesday and report back after the playtest!


I’ll give it another pass this morning, do a little editing, and maybe add some extra material (like an example character sheet).

Thanks for your encouragement and conversation. I realized as we were talking this was something I really needed to run my own original scenarios in.

PS: I think I might make all Harm work like how death does, ie. the handler will describe the Harm viscerally and players will accept or reject it.


Based on how harm works before your revision: Would the harm tier be specified by the handler beforehand regardless of the roll (and the result merely colors the encounter) or would you factor the result in (i.e. a bad roll increases the level of harm)?


Good question. My initial feeling was it would be set before the roll (with a brief description of the unfortunate events that might take place). How do you feel about that?

Reasoning: Cthulhu Dark doesn’t, and probably shouldn’t, have mechanical degrees of success in the way PbtA games do. I might revisit this but there you are.


Hm, CD does have relative success - rolling lower than your insight or higher than a competing player - so failing to beat the failure die could result in a higher level of harm. As a player and a GM I love the tension that arises from randomness, using harm just as a resource seems less “sexy” at the table but I understand that as a game designer you should probably aim for concise, streamlined rules that rely on the same principles for all subsystems of the game.


I think that’s a legitimate option that play-testing could help illuminate. Since you can always re-roll (at the risk of Insight/Stress) players would be able to mitigate injury. I think what you might see there is players choosing to Stress out rather than bleed out.


Spire also has a similar stress mechanic that allows for reduction, but with an inevitable downward spiral baked in.


When you gain a disorder, does your stress counter reset? Or are you then in a position to pick up more disorders on any 6s rolled by insight die/immune to gaining further disorders in a single session?

I think this is good, obviously a lot layered on top of Cthulhu Dark now - rather than just the insight die, you have Injury/Stress/Insight/Anchors to track - but it seems very workable and in tone. The proof will be in the playtesting I suppose. I don’t think degrees of success is problematic, as mentioned in CD already you always succeed without a failure die but higher rolls give you more information than lower ones.

Any objections to me sharing this on the Night at the Opera discord? (An open table focused solely on DG, if you haven’t come across it) The guys there are probably the biggest DG die-hards outside of Tynes, Dettweiler, Glancy et al.


Tangentially related: looks like the Fate version of CoC is ditching Danity (Yay!)


I’ll be continuing to develop this hack over the next couple weeks. It’s definitely a goal of mine to keep it as simple as possible but the addition of campaign play, to my mind, necessitates a little extra.

As to Disorders, yes, it resets, and I should probably indicate that better in the text! Thank you.

You totally have my permission to share though note that this is an alpha. When it’s finished I’ll probably remove sharing for this doc and toss the pdf up somewhere.

As to degrees of success, I’ve amended the text a little to allow for The Handler to only lesson the Harm if players take another tactic and roll low (representing the twist to your success) and I feel they always have the power to choose to reduce or remove the Harm if players accept it but score an advantage (on a 5 or 6) as indicated in the rules text.


Rules as written (as I understand them) Stress is reduced back to 1 after you pick up a disorder (I think @Dissonance considers marking a bond as an option, though.
@shanel I’m aware that the way Call of Cthulhu handles mental health is considered problematic. Can you expand on this a bit or point me to a good article that explains the position?


This is an extremely juvenile articulation of the issue a “You see a shoggoth, gain Obsessive Compulsive Disorder"


I’m trying to keep some distance from Sanity myself with this hack, hence why the disorders are flavored more as associations or reactions and not things out of the DSM. It’s also my intent that they be flavored as the result of intense pressure and stress rather than “insanity.” Insight isn’t a degeneration, so much as a nihilistic awakening to a cruel universe.

Though there’s certainly more to consider and I’d love to revisit it with others input.

(PS: edited the above response to address success and failure)