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[Targets of Opportunity] Black Cod Island

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#1 Gil_Trevizo

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Posted 27 April 2010 - 02:18 AM

SPOILERS FOR TARGETS OF OPPORTUNITY
Buy the book, get the PDF

As a whole, I'm very happy with the book. Targets of Opportunity certainly does not "mess up" Delta Green, as the book is very much in keeping with the levels of quality set by the original sourcebook and Countdown. I might have some issues with some of the chapters, but it's still head-and-shoulders above the usual Call of Cthulhu publication. Even the parts that I was least impressed with in Targets were well-detailed and inspiring enough to build an entire campaign around. Rather than go over the whole book in one post, I'm going to take it chapter by chapter, starting with Black Cod Island.

WHAT I LIKED

Innsmouth Gone Wrong
Once you can get Delta Green interested in Black Cod Island, the whole place is pretty much a disaster in the making. Delta Green knows about the Innsmouth raid, and the players might get the very bad idea to repeat history. Except that Innsmouth was carried out on a remote town with whole units of Marines and had competent coordination between three different government agencies. Delta Green is an illegal conspiracy that can't even hope to get that kind of pull, and Black Cod Island is politically-protected and would become easily aware of government interest long before DG could even begin filling out the forms necessary for a raid. And if DG somehow goes "legit" post-Through A Glass, Darkly, even if they can get a raid coordinated, it'll be against a publicly-known Native American community in the age of Youtube and newsblogs. And that's all before He-Who-Swims-With-Corpses starts casting spells. So even a legit-powered DG could still end up facing a Senate committee for civil rights violations, international charges of genocide, and forced to explain the deaths of thousands of Marines and Navy personnel.

Equal-Opportunity Rapists
As Greater Deep Ones can turn male humans into Deep Ones by using a stinger to infect them (as can Lesser Deep Ones with a very slight chance through good old-fashioned penetration through their orifice-of-choice), Deep Ones can now swing both ways. Keepers no longer have to invent some wrongness in a male character's genealogy to have them go Robert Martin Olmstead. And when the players face a fully-engorged Deep One, it's no longer just the female characters that need fear a fate worse than death.

The High Level of Detail
Black Cod Island itself is pretty well-fleshed out, and the details on Deep One culture, society, and biology are virtually a toolkit for establishing a Deep One colony anywhere.

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE

No Immediate Threat
This is unfortunately a common trait for much within Targets. While Black Cod Island can become a pretty nasty place once your Agents run afoul of it, there's not really an immediate reason why they should become so. The Children of the Fish-Wife don't have short-term plans (nor even really long-term plans) that spell out some impending doom. Their corruption is not spreading beyond the island. They just seem to want to be left alone, and do a very good job of making sure that stays the status quo. This may make logical sense, but I'm not sure it makes for very interesting gameplay. What's more, the chapter's description of the Deep Ones actually robs a lot of the immediate dread inherent in The Shadow Over Innsmouth. When they are described as having "no conception of conquering human civilization" and that mankind will only become enough a nuisance "in a century or two," this is a far cry from Deep Ones waiting for Cthulhu to rise in the very immediate future when the stars become right and they will overwhelm humanity on land as they have dominated the seas. It's not too big a thing to ignore, but I'm still left wishing there had been more hooks for Keepers to use to bring Agents to the island.

Equal-Opportunity Rapists
Yeah, I've got mixed feelings here. The Deep Ones have always had a "Mars Needs Women" gender-based dread that may be old-school but still just works. Again, it's not a big thing and can easily be ignored, depending on where you fall on this.

HOW I WOULD USE IT
The biggest hurdle I have with Black Cod Island is finding a way to involve Delta Green. Joe Katl's hooker habit could get messy, or Allen Argasta could make a bloody scene in the midst of his transformation. A law enforcement Friendly may stumble upon the Island while investigating government corruption in Alaska. An environmentalist Friendly may clue into the Edna Bay Seismic Survey and come to believe the Black Cod are illegally whaling in the area. Either way, when the Friendly ends up missing, DG comes into the picture.

Once Delta Green gets involved, research on the Deep One Reproductive Element could lead in an interesting direction: biowarfare. While the chapter states that creating a vaccine or cure from the Element would take billions of dollars, years of work, and many personnel, if Delta Green has merged with Majestic-12 (or if Majestic-12 on their one gets into the Deep One fighting business), the resources could be there. And, while a vaccine, cure, or Deep One-targeted designer virus might sound like a solution to the problem, the Deep Ones are more likely to begin seeing humanity as more than a "minor nuisance," forget about the stars being right, and start taking active, even public, aggression against mankind.

What did you think of Black Cod Island? How will you use it?


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#2 DAR

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Posted 27 April 2010 - 03:12 AM

I really liked the greater detail on Deep Ones and Deep One Hybrids - it almost inspires me to think about alternate Asian colonies of hybrids.

The equal opportunity rapists thing I find similarly problematic - it works on a host of levels, but rape and miscegenation as a horror trope I just get a tad bit tired of. Plus, given the way I like to ST, I'm halfway likely to trigger at PTSD flashback if one of my players is a rape victim. So...

I almost like the idea of Black Cod Island as being a test of both the agent's and A-Cell's "realpolitik" - does Black Cod island turn into another Fate? And what would it be like to be the agents who trip over and then negotiate the truce and detente?

And what would happen as news of this trickled through DG?

I can imagine the severe problems this would cause among some agents and friendlies - and if A-Cell would end up trying to take Black Cod Island out just to forstall a total breakdown of DG into a handful of different groups each now determined to keep fighting the good fight by whatever means that they deemed best.

Could be a bit of an Owls and Roosters split and infighting ala the totally forgetable second season of Millenium.

#3 Iohannes

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Posted 27 April 2010 - 07:59 AM

I can't help but think of one high-school teacher's demonstration of the concept of chain reaction, using one (1) ping-pong ball and a cardboard carton that was empty except for... at the very bottom... a layer fully covered with readied (but unbaited) wood-and-spring-metal mousetraps. The carton sides were high enough that you couldn't see anything... unless you lofted the ping-pong ball into it... then snapSNAPSNAPAPPAPPPAPNAPPPapAPPPapapittyAPPPowSNAPingyowzoombippityzapSNAP and some mousetraps would arc into view with the violence of all the concurrent snapping.

Yep, those Children of the Fishwife are going to be no trouble at all, how boring, what a yawner of a setup, I agree. Go be a ping-pong ball and throw yourself at them.

#4 rylehNC

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Posted 27 April 2010 - 11:07 AM

What did you think of Black Cod Island? How will you use it?


My thoughts are in line with yours. Written well, but it misses hooks to get DG interested beyond someone stumbling across evidence (especially since the author has devised some memorable ones in the past).

I like the idea about whaling - I think anything beyond what's in the book already would help, so the investigators can find out the expository stuff with thorough work.
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#5 Black-Seal-Editor

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Posted 27 April 2010 - 10:44 PM

Personally I can't see the criticism of not enough leads into Black Cod Island. That could be because I'm too close to the piece though.

In my opinion there are plenty of leads into BCI: the US Navy seismic survey, potential missing tourists, Idiopathic Ventricular Fibrosis Syndrome, Jennifer Guúsuu, Greater Edna Bay Insurance Company, Allen Argasta, Arthur Illescu and Mark Lee.

It's just that they haven't been enumerated by Dennis. BCI is a big old sandpit, ready for investigation. How the players get there is up to the individual keeper.
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#6 shaneivey

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Posted 27 April 2010 - 10:47 PM

In playing Black Cod Island, I've had Allen Argasta's family pull political strings to get the FBI to investigate his situation after he cuts off contact. Ordinarily it wouldn't be a thing for the FBI, but for my purposes Argasta Pere wanted the FBI because they have higher status than the Fairbanks PD, and Argasta Pere was owed favors by politicians who can push for him. So an FBI agent accompanied local police (who actually are authorized to look into it) to talk to Argasta, took photos of his weird drawings because they were so very weird, sent them to a friend in Behavioral Sciences in Quantico on a lark ("So what kind of schizophrenia does THIS look like?"), and the friend at Quantico freaked out because she was tied to Delta Green. A few phone calls later and the players are flying north to find out just what Allen Argasta has gotten himself into.

I played another Black Cod scenario where a visitor to Black Cod Island returns to [wherever is relatively local to the player characters] and weird **** starts happening. The players followed the weirdness north.

#7 rylehNC

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Posted 28 April 2010 - 01:11 AM

Personally I can't see the criticism of not enough leads into Black Cod Island. That could be because I'm too close to the piece though.

In my opinion there are plenty of leads into BCI: the US Navy seismic survey, potential missing tourists, Idiopathic Ventricular Fibrosis Syndrome, Jennifer Guúsuu, Greater Edna Bay Insurance Company, Allen Argasta, Arthur Illescu and Mark Lee.

It's just that they haven't been enumerated by Dennis. BCI is a big old sandpit, ready for investigation. How the players get there is up to the individual keeper.


I am not sure whether to classify these as leads or supporting evidence. The "problem" is that each item is neat, and as a Keeper I would want the investigators to find them all as opposed to just one.

I would have welcomed a page of what Shane just posted, just things that would set the ball rolling.
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#8 Iohannes

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Posted 28 April 2010 - 02:10 AM

The "problem" is that each item is neat, and as a Keeper I would want the investigators to find them all as opposed to just one.

What a tiny storyworld that would be, if your investigators could uncover everything in it.

One of the dominant impressions of Middle-Earth is its sheer scale in size and age and depth -- it extends farther away than the characters will ever explore, further back in time than most of them (except the very very old) have any chance of knowing the history of, and in so much detail that it seems impossible for anyone to ever learn it all.

Likewise, if Black Cod Island is big enough that your investigators won't "know it all" quickly, that's a GOOD thing, not a bad thing -- it means the setting will bear up under repeated visits without exhausting the surprises.

And, excuse me, hasn't one of the problems for GMs been that they had to "force" investigators' choices, because if, say, the team chose to go west instead of east, then they wouldn't run into the Great Old One the GM had set up, and the whole scenario would be worthless?

So here you can let the team make real choices, with real and very different consequences in how the story turns out.

#9 DAR

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Posted 28 April 2010 - 02:19 AM

I think that it is worth noting is that one of the things that I really liked about BCI was the fact that there were no real plans of global conquest, just a pretty simple and relatively isolated cult that wants to be left alone.

And one that isn't really going to be a threat for a very long time given their population growth and the general predilections of the Deep Ones.

To a degree BCI is almost more of 'Red Herring' given all of the other threats out there that deserve even half the resources that DG would end up spending trying to take it out.

There's an interesting thought - what if the reason DG finds it it is because they get wind of it as part of trade or some sort of decoy by some other cultist group trying to distract DG?

#10 Iohannes

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Posted 28 April 2010 - 03:13 AM

I think that it is worth noting is that one of the things that I really liked about BCI was the fact that there were no real plans of global conquest, just a pretty simple and relatively isolated cult that wants to be left alone.

And one that isn't really going to be a threat for a very long time given their population growth and the general predilections of the Deep Ones.

To a degree BCI is almost more of 'Red Herring' given all of the other threats out there that deserve even half the resources that DG would end up spending trying to take it out.

That's one way of looking at it. Another way is that the (more recent) Innsmouth setup was uncovered and raided due to the chance of Olmstead's visit and escape, otherwise that too might still be a going concern, spreading yet unsuspected.

Meanwhile, with each new generation of hybridization comes improved strength of the hybrids, and speed of hybrid changeover to the sea form -- not to mention building their numbers -- so the quiet waiting-and-breeding game is all to the Deep Ones' advantage. Why should they rush things?

#11 DAR

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Posted 28 April 2010 - 06:55 AM

That's one way of looking at it. Another way is that the (more recent) Innsmouth setup was uncovered and raided due to the chance of Olmstead's visit and escape, otherwise that too might still be a going concern, spreading yet unsuspected.


I'll be honest, my impression of Deep One culture was always much more isolated and self-absorbed, not so much with communication between cities/settlements. I find it likely that BCI has never even heard of Innsmouth...

Now that's an interesting idea - setting city against city somehow - or just simply what is the reaction of the Greater Deep One when somebody else's spawn moves in on their turf?

Wouldn't that be an interesting way for DG to get involved? Noticing some intercine warfare or the hints of something like that between Deep Ones?

#12 rylehNC

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Posted 28 April 2010 - 11:17 AM

Likewise, if Black Cod Island is big enough that your investigators won't "know it all" quickly, that's a GOOD thing, not a bad thing -- it means the setting will bear up under repeated visits without exhausting the surprises.


I don't think the party would uncover the secrets of the island in one trip; what I want is to expose them to all the external evidence Dennis created - if only because players deserve to be exposed to the content as much as Keepers do. Not to mention that his scenarios are pretty deadly, and they need all the help they can get!

And, excuse me, hasn't one of the problems for GMs been that they had to "force" investigators' choices, because if, say, the team chose to go west instead of east, then they wouldn't run into the Great Old One the GM had set up, and the whole scenario would be worthless?


I think this is more of a philosophical discussion between sandbox-style play and investigative-style play. But if the whole campaign is based on the premise that investigators are members of a group dedicated to fighting the Mythos, the players should have at least a minor interest in fighting the damn Mythos.

Or, they can explore the sandbox for as long as it takes the cults to summon the entities with the power to destroy the sandbox....
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#13 Badger

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Posted 28 April 2010 - 09:57 PM

I would have welcomed a page of what Shane just posted, just things that would set the ball rolling.


I'm of the opinion that Shane needs to post here more in general. I know, me being greedy. :D

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#14 synthboy

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Posted 29 April 2010 - 03:02 AM

I loved the level of detail put into BCI but I agree that the lack of threat means that it doesn't really seem to have enough of a hook for players. If I used it I think I'd have the investigators sent there to deal with something unrelated only to stumble across Deep One hybrids etc and then get trapped. There would be potential for some 'Prisoner'-esque investigations before a final showdown later on.

#15 Ghroth

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Posted 14 August 2010 - 09:29 AM

Black Cod Island has been my sorest disappointment in anything I've seen for ToO, and it doesn't have to do with the lack of hooks so much as it has to do with supporting bizarre misconceptions about the Deep Ones and robbing them of what I felt was an important element.

The Deep Ones have always been equal-opportunity molesters of mankind.

I'm not sure how people got the idea that it was all male Deep Ones coming and rustling up the women, because it never was. In The Shadow Over Innsmouth, it's established that the Marsh line's degeneracy is the result of Obed--a male human--making a female Deep One pregnant. The protagonist's grandmother, too, is a female Deep One. It's never been just women who had to worry about being bred with by the children of Y'ha-nthlei and elsewhere--while it may not have the visceral horror of actually having a baby Deep One inside you, it's not as though men were exempt, or as though female Deep Ones would be any more gentle about getting what they wanted. Which segues into my next point...

Greater Deep Ones feel silly and unnecessary.

A sub-(super-?)race of Deep Ones that are larger than normal (but not Dagon-huge), have much weirder variances (like in the absolutely awful Dagon movie?), and can...turn you into Deep Ones with a stinger? Um...no. No thank you. The stinger thing especially. I like the Deep One Reproductive Element, but I plan to keep that where I feel it belongs: in the sex cells of the Deep Ones. I just do not like these guys, except maybe as a pre-Dagon stage for "pure" Deep One children.

The lack of a culture and/or purpose for their art is disappointing, as is their glossed-over tech

I'm going to have to write up and post my own history/culture/science document on the Firstborn of Cthulhu, because this just--it's open-ended, yes, but it's too open-ended. We still have no indication if the Deep Ones have a technological level matching our own, or what they can do, how they can do it: the most we learn is that they know sorcery via genetic memory. A lot is rather inappropriately sourced to genetic memory, most erroneously the idea that it would make a written language unnecessary--there are languages that survive without a written form, but genetic memory is not a factor!

The idea that Deep One culture basically boils down to savagery and rutting is one that makes me sad, because it turns them into something similar to Tolkien's Orcs, and they weren't that before: they were "coldly beautiful", creatures so similar to us that you could maybe glimpse enough familiarity to think you understood. They had the capacity to be people, which I've always found very important and compelling about them: here is a species of people, not things, not viral infections, but a people that worship the Great Old Ones and yet can still be recognized.

I really like the NPCs of Black Cod Island, the blending of Haida myth with the Deep Ones, and the sheer creepy factor of He-Who-Swims-With-Corpses; Dagon seems civilized and comfortable by comparison. I think hooking people into BCI could be a lot of fun, especially the trapped Argasta. But the larger Deep One interpretation I intend to discard. Sorry, Arc Dream, it's not my cuppa.

#16 Ghroth

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Posted 25 August 2010 - 01:13 PM

And as one last final point, there was never a plague in Innsmouth. Zadok made that clear as day: the deaths in 1846 were due to the Deep One invasion of the town for imprisoning Obed Marsh. There was no disease--the plague was a coverup, which makes the statement about the DORE acting like a plague nonsensical.

Maybe I should just chalk this section up to Agent DARREN writing it during one of his less lucid periods...

#17 darryll

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Posted 24 September 2010 - 11:18 PM

A question for Mr. Detwiller or, as he's known here, drgonzo - According to Google Earth Black Cod Island correlates roughly, in our reality, with Warren Island just off the west coast of kosciusko Island. I'm wondering if, during your research for the BCI chapter of ToO, you visited Warren Island? If so, could you relate any details or anecdotes from your trip that would be of interest to your readers? Any insight into the writing process would be fascinating.

Also, can we assume that Warren Island correlates with Black Cod Island in certain details such as size, shape or terrain etc.?

Edited by darryll, 25 September 2010 - 06:45 PM.

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#18 drgonzo

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Posted 26 September 2010 - 03:04 PM

Hey Darryll,

"According to Google Earth Black Cod Island correlates roughly, in our reality, with Warren Island just off the west coast of kosciusko Island. I'm wondering if, during your research for the BCI chapter of ToO, you visited Warren Island? "

I've been out of Ketchikan a few times by plane, and have been on the Admiralty Island, but I've never been out as far as Warren Island. Warren island was indeed the inspiration for Black Cod. The entire area is protected as a national forest reserve. Check out:

http://en.wikipedia....National_Forest

This can give you a good idea of what it looks like on the ground.

Cheers,
-D

#19 darryll

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Posted 26 September 2010 - 04:57 PM

Thanks Dennis.
I'm from Vancouver Island so I'm pretty familiar with that sort of terrain. I've never travelled that far north, though. Here's a pretty good photo of Ketchican, Alaska: http://en.wikipedia....etchikan_AK.jpg
Aside from that hideous highway embankment it could be a proto west coast Innsmouth. Just add fog and rain and sinister inhabitants. I think it's relevant to mention that most tourists visit these areas in the summer when the west coast is warm, sunny, green and beautiful. Keepers would be wise to set a Black Cod campaign during the fall or winter when the predominant colors are dark green, brown, and gray. I've known a number of people who have moved to the West Coast in the summer months thinking they've found paradise only to fall into a depression during the winter. The relentless rain, dark skies and fog for months on end can really create an oppressive atmosphere. Add to that the cold temperatures and biting wind of the northern regions and you've got a pretty hostile setting for a Night At The Opera.
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#20 Agent_Bluescale

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Posted 24 June 2017 - 06:03 PM

Trying to fill a hole in my Delta Green campaign and decided to use Black Cod Island as I have not had a chance to use the Deep Ones.  In my own game, I am thinking of using the Wickerman (the good one) as a basis.  I like the idea of the Friendly vanishing and the agents being sent in to find out where they went.  Their trail clue can take them to Black Cod Island and trying to rescue the Friendly before they are sacrificed to He-Who-Swims-With-Corpses.


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