Friday, May 16, 2014

Conspiracies Dark and Deep

I first encountered Dark Conspiracy during a fallow time in my gaming career.  When I first saw the game in a Lake Charles game store in 1991, I did not have a game group.  Since my total gaming activity at the time revolved around looking at games wistfully, I am not sure how a copy made it home with me.  And yet, it did.  I fell in love with the concept immediately.  During World War II, contact was secretly made with not one, but four distinct alien races.  Initial contact was fruitful for both the American war effort and the aliens.  Human (mis)use of technology learned from the aliens led to a dimensional rift.  This tear allowed horrors from another space and time to enter our world, first corrupting the unsuspecting aliens, then making its way to human hosts.  The space-time entities work consistently to warp our world in an effort to widen the rift and allow more of their kind to enter our reality.*

Don't mind us.  We're just browsing.
   "Our" world in the original game is not quite how you remember it.  The gradual warping has made not so subtle changes to our reality.  Technological advancement was significantly hindered and in some places retro tech becomes the norm.  Imagine if the entire world regressed to the tech level of the currently embargoed Cuba.  Vacuum tube radios replace transistors.  Black and white television is the norm for all but the elite.  Weapon tech is strangely advanced, but that may just be a development in service of the alien entities. Society has regressed as well, with totalitarianism abundant.  Most American citizens sell their votes to a few major corporations in exchange for subsistence level food, shelter, and entertainment.  Unemployment and homelessness likely await those who do not comply with this system.  Care to hazard a guess who controls the corporations?

Societal changes aside, there are environmental changes as well.  The powers that be work to keep it under wraps, but many rural areas have become Demongrounds:  areas where the rips in the fabric of reality have taken hold and the inter-dimesional creatures hold sway.  Likewise, *things* from our collective nightmares move through the shadows of our cities.  Even those in the know cannot agree on whether the creatures were created to resemble our folk boogeymen, or they have actually been among us the whole time.

I originally put a really cool picture by Larry Elmore here, but the image failed.
  Perhaps I revealed more information than our proto-dimensional masters
 could stomach.

 I collected most of the products in this game line before moving back to Bowling Green.  The BG Mafia never seemed interested in the premise, but I did get to run a campaign of it for a group in the mid-2000s.  It went moderately well.  Even at that point, however, it seemed like technology in our world advanced to the point that the retrotech felt a little too campy for the serious tone of the rest of the game.  I allowed the players cell phones, for example, because it seemed so odd for "modern" characters not to have access to them.

I would posit that the game could be run successfully with the back story intact, but the radical change in our earth history not used.  If, perhaps, the actions of the  dimensional aliens were a little more subtle, then the current political and economic situation in our country could substitute nicely.  An sinister world spanning conspiracy is much better explanation for why no banker has ever gone to trial after the financial crisis of 2008, for example, than any explanation we have actually been given.

My campaign pitch is this:  The players are members of a private investigation firm in New Orleans.  An unfortunately large number of people have gone missing in the city.  As this is New Orleans, this would ordinarily pass without notice.  One of the missing, however, was the wife of a wealthy businessman who wants her back.  Big Easy police are notoriously corrupt and of no help. In fact, your employer is afraid they may be part of the problem.  As the investigation deepens, the players will discover some secrets about New Orleans that they may wish had remained secrets.  Once revealed, the players will be left with only two choices:  fight the rising evil, or be absorbed by it.
*Some or all of the details in this paragraph may partial or complete fabrications.  Gotta preserve the mystery for the players after all.


  1. I always like Dark Conspiracy also..It gives you Cthulhu like goodness with not the usual brand of monsters..The fact that it hasnt been all written about in popculture is a bonus...

    1. I think there is room in the horror section of the roleplaying pie for concepts other than those created by H. P. Lovecraft. This world certainly offers a very different cause for the players to lose sleep at night.