While running Delta Green as a new ref with new players, it was initially unclear whether the PCs were meant to be secretive or open about their FBI status. In some published scenarios, such as Music from a Darkened Room, it appeared that they should somehow be keeping their status secret, whereas in others, they can apply for search warrants, etc. After a little reading I realised that it depends on the scenario, so now I use a ‘mission designation’ system.
For each scenario, a designation is chosen by A-Cell and communicated to the cell in their briefing. This way the players know, right up front, how secretive they need to be, and what resources they can call upon.
#/ Above Line
This is an ‘official’ investigation. The PCs’ superiors know where they are and what they’re doing. They are meant to be there. This is the easiest way to run. The PCs can detain people for questioning, apply for search warrants and flash their badges.
Of course, they still can’t reveal that they’re members of Delta Green, or who is really pulling the strings, however, they can at least maintain a semblance of openness when talking to local law enforcement officials.
They will still need to bury certain evidence and miss items from their official report, and instead send them on to A-Cell for assimilation, however, to all intent and purposes, this is a normal FBI (or other) investigation.
#/ Below Line
This is an ‘unofficial’ investigation. The PCs aren’t really meant to be here. Their superiors don’t know they’re here or investigating this particular phenomenon. Although they may still wish to flash their badges to make it easier to ask questions, perhaps even apply for search warrants, a liberal use of Tradecraft will ensure they don’t have to answer any embarrassing questions when they get back to their office.
This is along a similar line to a police officer investigating in their own time; they’re still a police officer, but they ‘officially’ only have their own resources. A police officer investigating a neighbour on his own time, for example, would not be allowed to run a criminal records check on them, and could end up being disciplined if they did.
This seems to be the unspoken default for many Delta Green scenarios, and is why Tradecraft as a skill is so useful. However, making the situation explicit has helped new players understand exactly what game they are playing…
Assassinations, unauthorised breaking and entering, theft, destruction of property, grave robbing and intimidation all fall into this category. Sometimes an entire scenario falls under this category, but more often it is used as a resolution to a ‘Below Line’ scenario.
When operating in this category it is usually because the PCs are facing brutal opponents or are completely outside their jurisdiction. Often, they may need to resort to these sorts of tactics to protect the public, or simply to keep them ignorant of terrifying threats. Tomes which allow hordes of undead to be summoned, should not be allowed as public consumption, for example.
Although this is the last resort, as Elijah Whateley succinctly puts it on yog-sothoth.com, “One player recently said that the group plays a lot like the characters of “Fargo”, trying to come out ahead but screwing up so dramatically that they have to resort to ever-darkening violence, until all that’s left is a moist red pile of snow.”