|This article relies too much on references to primary sources. (July 2010)|
Dark Conspiracy is a near-future horror role-playing game (RPG) originally developed by Game Designers' Workshop (GDW) in 1991. In 1997, the Second Edition was published by DPI (Dynasty Presentations, Inc). In April 2010 the option for a third edition was granted to US-based company Kinstaff Media, who began to release brand-new material in February 2011 under the name 3 Hombres Games. The third edition rules were released in December 2012.
Lester Smith's Dark Conspiracy (1991), used GDW's new house system derived from Twilight: 2000, and was a near-future game of dark horror.:60 Shortly after the release of the core game a trilogy of Dark Conspiracy novels (1992) by Michael Stackpole was published.:60 The Dark Conspiracy product line was shut down in 1993 due to the declining customer interest.:62-63 Dark Conspiracy Enterprises picked up the rights to Dark Conspiracy and have since licensed a second edition to Dynasty Publications and a third edition to The Gamers' Conglomerate.:63
Dark Conspiracy was well known for its extremely detailed setting and background material. The game was set in the early 21st century after the "Greater Depression" has destroyed the global economy. Focusing on the United States, the game describes a country undergoing slow collapse. Most of the largest cities have continued to expand and formed massive metroplexes, in some cases covering entire states' worth of land. Outside of the metroplexes the majority of the country has become known as "Outlaw" where there is virtually no federal or state protection and the road network is barely maintained between the glittering lights of the Metroplexes. Scattered throughout the Outlaw and even in the darker and more forbidding areas of the Metroplexes, zones known as "Demonground" have begun to appear. Out of these areas spread monsters, everything from legendary creatures such as Vampires and Werewolves, to the science fiction nightmares of aliens and cyborgs. The PCs typically assume the roles of people who have stumbled across this "Dark Invasion", known as Minion Hunters, and taken up arms against it.
Dark Conspiracy was originally developed and printed by GDW in 1991. It was designed by Lester Smith, and illustrated by several artists including Larry Elmore who did the cover, and Tim Bradstreet. When GDW closed down in 1995, the rights passed to Dark Conspiracy Enterprises, who remain the current owners. In 1998 the game was licensed and re-released by Dynasty Presentations (DPI) as a 2nd Edition. The Gamers' Conglomerate 3rd Edition, announced in 2006, has not been released. The first proper release for third edition is Conspiracy Rules, issued as a PDF in mid-December 2012. Issued through Kinstaff Media's imprint 3 Hombres Games, the third edition material is commonly referred to collectively as Dark Conspiracy III or just DCIII.
The first edition was published in a single 366 page rule book, in a soft cover, standard size volume. The second edition was published in two folio sized volumes, one targeted at Players (184 pages, Basic Edition and 400 pages, Master Edition) and the other at Game Masters (180 pages, Basic Edition and 462 pages, Master Edition), both in soft cover. DPI released two versions of each book, a Basic Edition and a Masters Edition. An upgraded version, known as 'DC 2.5' was developed by DPI but never released.
The first edition had numerous expansion volumes, e.g. Empathic Sourcebook, Dark Races I, Protodimensions, PC Booster Kit, and Darktek, as well as several modules, three novels, 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 (magazine).
The second edition combined all of the information in the expansion volumes with the information in the main book and sorted it into the two books.
The third edition rulebook Conspiracy Rules was released in December 2012 as a PDF-only download. This 298 page publication is in effect the core ruleset. A second book detailing the game world will be entitled Conspiracy Lives. Other all-new adventure and sourcebook material will be forthcoming throughout 2013.
The entire back catalogue of both first and second edition materials are being sold in PDF format through DriveThruRPG, as with GDW's other work. Far Future Enterprises, who are selling the products through DriveThruRPG have also compiled two CD-ROM collections, which include the previously unseen DC 2.5 as well as a short promotional video for first edition which was thought to have been completely lost until a VHS copy surfaced in 2008. The video takes the form of a low-budget horror movie trailer of the type often seen in the 1980s.
3Hombres Games material is also available via DriveThru RPG. The first three products from 3Hombres are short adventures designed for use with the older editions.
The fan community (more specifically Marcus Bone, Mike Marchi and Geoff Skellams) were also responsible for the freely downloadable magazine Demonground, which was solely a Dark Conspiracy related publication for its first few issues. It later expanded to cover other role-playing games of a similar nature to Dark Conspiracy. The last issue was released in 2002. The free PDF fanzine Protodimension, first published in 2010, is based on similar principles. Protodimension is edited and published by the members of 3Hombres Games.
Using the same system as Traveller:The New Era and Twilight 2000, in the first edition, Dark Conspiracy is a skill-based ruleset. 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 (4) 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 first edition used a d10 based system for determining success at skill use, while the second edition used a d20 based system. Combat is broken into 30 second rounds, which are in turn broken down into five second phases. Each character has an initiative phase that they may act in. Actions are limited by what can logically be performed within the five second window of each phase, i.e. speaking a few words or firing a gun a limited number of times. For common tasks and situations the rules are very direct, but the rules that govern more unusual situations, such as explosives, become extremely complex, requiring the use of square roots and decimal fractions.
The 3Hombres Games edition has altered character generation and combat rules. Several other rules tweaks and rewrites are also included. The system is still largely compatible with the old GDW games. As mentioned above future expansions are already under development.
All editions include an expansive list of equipment for use in the characters' fight, and pictures of many of the items, weapons and vehicles mentioned. Lester Smith is quoted as saying in regards to the amount of equipment detailed: "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."
Multiple products set in the Dark Conspiracy universe have been released, including two editions of the game, novels, and a board game series.
Dark Conspiracy 1st Edition Products
- Dark Conspiracy Core Rulebook
- PC Booster Kit
Sourcebooks and Scenarios
- Among the Dead (Scenario)
- Dark Races #1 Compendium (Sourcebook)
- DarkTek (Sourebook)
- Empathic Sourcebook (Sourcebook)
- Heart of Darkness (Scenario)
- Hellsgate (Scenario)
- Ice Daemon (Scenario)
- New Orleans (Scenario)
- Nightsider (Scenario)
- Proto-Dimensions Sourcebook #1 (Sourcebook)
Dark Conspiracy 2nd Edition Products
- Player's Handbook (Basic Edition)
- Player's Handbook (Master Edition)
- Referee's Guide (Basic Edition)
- Referee's Guide (Master Edition)
- Referee's Screen
Scenarios and Sourcebooks
- The Shadow Falls (Sin City, Vol 1)
- Of Gates and Gods (Sin City, Vol 2)
- Masks of Darkness (Sin City, Vol 3)
- Minion Hunter (Core Game)
- Minion Nation (Expansion Set)
Michael A. Stackpole wrote three novels set in the Dark Conspiracy universe.
- A Gathering Evil
- Evil Ascending
- Evil Triumphant
3 Hombres Material
- DETOUR - A short adventure, the very first all-new official Dark Conspiracy material in a decade. Written by Captain Obvious, art by David Lee Ingersoll.
- Acute Care - A short adventure written by Dave Schuey, art by David Lee Ingersoll.
- This Just In - A short adventure written and illustrated by Norm Fenlason. Originally conceived as the intro adventure for The Gamers Conglomerate's cancelled edition.)
- CONSPIRACY RULES - The main rulebook for Dark Conspiracy III. Currently under review for errata before an updated version is released (as of 17 December 2012)
- Empathic Guide - A rules expansion detailing psionics rules and sanity. Largely derived from the original Empathic Sourcebook with new material by Lee Williams as well as Norm Fenlason, who also provided the interior illustrations.
- Conspiracy Rules Character Sheet - The official and expanded PDF form version of the Conspiracy Rules character sheets. Designed by Lee Williams and Norm Fenlason. Norm Fenlason also provided the cover design.