Dark Conspiracy

Dark Conspiracy is a near-future horror role-playing game (RPG) originally written by Lester W. Smith and published by Game Designers’ Workshop (GDW) in 1991. Several newer editions have been published.

This article relies too much on references to primary sources. (July 2010)

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Dark Conspiracy is set in the United States of the early 21st century after a “Greater Depression” has destroyed the global economy and left many countries isolated and bankrupt.[1] Many American cities have expanded to form massive metroplexes, in some cases covering entire states. Outside of the metroplexes the majority of the country has become known as “Out-Law” where there is virtually no federal or state protection and the road network joining metroplexes is poorly maintained. Scattered throughout the Out-Law and even in the darker and more forbidding areas of the Metroplexes, zones known as “Demonground” are spawning mysterious “dark minions”: monsters armed with deadly weapons.[1] Players typically assume the roles of “Minion Hunters”, people who have stumbled across this “Dark Incursion” and have taken up arms against it.

Game designer Lester Smith created Dark Conspiracy, a near-future game of dark horror, which was subsequently published as a 366-page softcover book by GDW using a rules system derived from Twilight: 2000.[2]:60 Seventeen artists contributed artwork, including Larry Elmore (cover art), Earl Geier, Tim Bradstreet, Janet Aulisio and Elizabeth Danforth.[1]

The following year, a trilogy of Dark Conspiracy novels by Michael Stackpole was published.[2]:60 The first edition also had numerous expansion volumes such as Empathic Sourcebook, Dark Races I, Protodimensions, PC Booster Kit, and Darktek; as well as several adventure modules, and a boardgame.

The first edition was also well-supported in GDW’s own gaming magazine Challenge, and occasionally in several other gaming publications such as Dragon and White Wolf. The UK magazine Role Player Independent also carried several articles about the first edition game.

The first edition uses the same skill-based rule system as Twilight 2000, using a d10 based system for determining success at skill use. Character creation is achieved through a multi-step process in which the player selects various career terms for their character. Each career term specifies either a pre-determined set of skills that the character gained, or allows a certain number of points to be distributed among a set skill list. Each skill is governed by an attribute, either randomly rolled or set using a point distribution method. Each career term also grants the character a fixed number of contacts. As a limit to the number of terms a character can take, each term ages the character four years. Once a certain age limit is reached, the player has to make rolls to prevent the loss of physically oriented attributes due to aging.

The rules also include an expansive illustrated list of equipment for use in the characters’ fight, and pictures of many of the items, weapons and vehicles mentioned. Game designer Lester Smith explained, “Some people want lots; others want little… [P]eople that don’t want them can ignore them, but people who do want them will be glad they’re there. It doesn’t work the other way ‘round… As a role-player myself, I want to be able to see what something looks like, if my character is going to be carrying it. I hate picking something for its stats and having no idea of what it looks like.”[3]

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