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Dark Conspiracy is a role-playing game (RPG) originally developed by Game Designers' Workshop (GDW) in 1991. It has passed through many hands over the years, and early in 2006, it has been licensed to The Gamers' Conglomerate, a small start-up RPG company.
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" 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 Larry Elmore. 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. Often it has been rumored that the publishing rights to the game were purchased by Far Future Enterprises, although incorrect, this belief was the result of the close relationship between Marc Miller (a principal of FFE) and the current owner.
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.
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 Mike Stackpole novels, and a boardgame. 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.
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.
Both editions included an expansive list of equipment for use in this fight, and pictures of almost every single item (and all the weapons) 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."