In a previous post, I floated the idea of using events from a prior Dreamhounds of Paris series as backstory in The Fall of Delta Green. This column, first in a two part series, dives deeper on that with a series of FoDG plot hooks centered around the historical figures from the earlier book who survived into the 1960s. You can still use these, supplemented by your copy of Dreamhounds, even if you never played that campaign. But if you did, contriving events so that players interact with characters they played in a previous series provides an extra hit of callback fun.
By 1959, death has already taken many Dreamhounds characters off the board. Antonin Artaud, Georges Bataille, Claude Cahun, Robert Desnos, Paul Éluard, and Kiki de Montparnasse have all passed. Granted, this is the Mythos, so your DELTA GREEN agents might still interact with them during seances, in ghoul tunnels, or after raiding a Mi-Go brain case archive.
Another half dozen die during the sixties: having Breton, Cocteau, Duchamp, Hugo, Magritte or Tzara show up alive requires some attention to dates.
The theorist, arbiter and petty tyrant of surrealism, poet André Breton, does not appear as a GMC in Dreamhounds of Paris. Instead he serves as a nemesis figure your players may have some unsettled scores with with. The agents find him at a cafe called Promenade Of Venus near Les Halles in Paris, where he now restricts himself to a single glass of Beaujolais per visit. Though never able to reach the Dreamlands, to his enduring frustration, he may provide secondhand intel on it. Alternately, he dishes dirt on other movement members, most of whom have left him behind, leaving him to boss around a lesser generation of hangers-on. Like many revolutionaries in their dotage, he has grown culturally conservative, decrying current art movements and new technologies. He exempts from his contempt the young leftist tel quel movement, whose leader, Philippe Sollers, treats his disciples, including Roland Barthes and Jacques Derrida, as Breton did the surrealists.
The agents might involve themselves in a 1963 incident where young poets, in alleged tribute to Breton, set fire to his apartment building door, nearly igniting a gas main and blowing the place to kingdom come. The PCs could gain his trust by intervening. Or maybe they’re the ones who commit the arson, as an act of Intimidation. They could also secure Breton’s cooperation through Negotiation, adding to his collection of antique waffle irons. First Aid (used as an investigative ability) identifies his ill health as chronic asthma. He dies, aged 70, in 1966.
The 1960s see filmmaker Luis Buñuel (1900-1983) embark on the greatest late-career comeback in cinema history. After years spent in the relative obscurity of the Mexican film industry, he shoots the caustic story of a young nun, Viridiana, in 1961. Agents may visit him during its clandestine production in Franco’s Spain. Or they could find him a year later in Mexico, directing The Exterminating Angel, about dinner party attendees who discover they’re unable to leave the room. That set visit must surely lead the agents to a Yog-Sothothian pocket dimension without a clear exit. Other opportunities to talk with Buñuel include the shooting of 1964’s Diary of a Chambermaid with Jeanne Moreau or 1967’s Belle de Jour with Catherine Deneuve.
In his later biography My Last Sigh, Buñuel describes his extremely hazy memory, into which great stretches of his past have vanished. Presumably a side effect of his Dreamlands visitations, the agents may have to overcome this condition with black lotus powder or pineal stimulation from a Tillinghast Resonator.
If looking in the early sixties, agents track down the painter and novelist Leonora Carrington (1917 – 2011) in New York City. In 1963 she returns to her adopted home, Mexico. The agents visit her as she paints her epic mural “El Mundo Magico de los Mayas” (The World of Mayan Magic), which draws on the Popul Vuh and, as you can see by clicking the link, the Dreamlands. Agents may note its dhole-like dragon, tentacular tree, one-eyed cat of Ulthar, as well as its rendition of Yog-Sothoth and a wicker man-esque figure that could represent nearly any other Great Old One. Older and wiser than during her family-defying adventures with Max Ernst on the edge of the surrealist circle, Carrington may require Inspiration before recalling them. She’s no one’s muse, she informs the the agents, but a revolutionary artist with much of her own work left to do.
Filmmaker, artist and writer Jean Cocteau dies in 1963, on the cusp of the sexual revolution that will eventually allow the world to catch up with his unabashed self-realization as a gay man and passionate aesthete. Cocteau recalls the heady events of the 20s and 30s through an opium haze, and can prescribe the combination of dope and sugar he used to make his Orphic descent into the Dreamlands. If his happens in 1960, he must be on the set of his final film, Testament of Orpheus. Though most of Breton’s cabal despised him, he won’t correct agents who call him a surrealist. Should they bring up Picasso, who has recently resumed their old friendship, they see Cocteau’s decades-long unrequited crush flush through his face.
In the sixties Salvador Dalí (1904 – 1989) has achieved the international fame and glory he always dreamed and schemed for, abetted by his formidable wife, the muse and cartomancer Gala (1894 – 1982.) Agents may find these jet-setters in Hollywood, Paris, or the St. Regis Hotel in New York City. While enjoying the freedom of life in Europe and the US, he cozies up to Francisco Franco when at home in Spain. Dalí does this both out of conviction, and his desire to wangle a museum from the fascist leader. The agents may get him to open up by wiring funds to money-thirsty Gala (Negotiation.) Dalí’s rediscovery among the burgeoning counterculture kicks off in 1964. By 68 supple young adherents of the free love generation flock to the beaches of his home in Cadaques. His invitations to model have more to do with his voyeurism than artistic intention. In 69 he signs a deal to create a tarot deck but is unable to complete it, an incident the agents might well take a hand in. To square the debt he incurs by failing to deliver, he resorts to a self-forging scam that will later blot his reputation, signing blank sheets of paper to be turned into bogus prints.
Next month: we conclude with Giorgio de Chirico, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Valentine Hugo, René Magritte, André Masson, Pablo Picasso, Man Ray, and Tristan Tzara.
The Fall of DELTA GREEN adapts DELTA GREEN: THE ROLE-PLAYING GAME to the GUMSHOE investigative roleplaying system, opening the files on a lost decade of anti-Mythos operations: the 1960s. Players take on the role of DELTA GREEN operatives, assets, and friendlies. Hunt Deep Ones beneath the Atlantic, shut down dangerous artists in San Francisco, and delve into the heart of Vietnam’s darkness. Purchase The Fall of DELTA GREEN in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.