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Conspiracy Rules (Dark Conspiracy III)

From: 3Hombres Games/Kinstaff Media LLC
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

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Conspiracy Rules (Dark Conspiracy III) is a new Role Playing Game Core Rules from 3Hombres Games/Kinstaff Media LLC.

Old school rises up again in a new release by 3Hombres Games.  Dark Conspiracy is an old game once published in 1991 by the now defunct Game Designers’ Workshop, and has floated around in different hands since GDW’s demise in 1996.  A second edition was published which updated the rules and a few adventures were published by it slowly died after that.  A couple of fans worked hard to revive it and after some difficulties, the 3rd edition was put out in PDF form.  The results of their labor is now available on DriveThruRPG.

From page # 29:
“Mo Dugan winced as he stepped on something wet and spongy.”

The setting of Dark Conspiracy has a special place in my heart although I struggled with the system.  When it was updated to a 20-sided die system, it ran a little smoother.  However, GDW collapsed before I could get started with a regular group and everyone was ready to move on to something else.  I have followed it ever since but with the advent of d20 and other house systems, I felt that they gaming community (at least the one around me) has evolved past that type of game.

For those new to it, Dark Conspiracy is a near-future horror game born out of the age of X-files, Roswell and the like.  Imagine all the folklore, myths and tabloid headlines were true to some degree or another, but each are twisted in some strange way.  Now couple that with the fact that a global economic collapse has enveloped the planet, leading to wars, population decline and general chaos.  Populations have flocked to the cities creating huge megaplexes.  For example, the east coast US from Boston to Washington DC is a solid city called New Boshwash.  Meanwhile, the countryside has become either abandoned or overrun with outlaws a la Mad Max.  All this despair and desperation overshadows the dark creatures crawling in the shadows and the strange aliens watch you at night.

Player characters are presumed to know something of the “Darkness” – the coming of evil creatures from beyond the veil of reality.  They are called Minion Hunters and they have dedicated their lives to stopping the minions of the darkness in whatever form they come, while dealing with the dark future of mega-corporate dominance, environmental collapse, and economic depravity.

At the time, GDW was fluctuating between several systems.  Twilight: 2000, Traveller, and Space:1889 were just a few of the games they were supporting.  Very forward thinking, they were one of the first to attempt a house system, bringing all their titles under one system. But unfortunately, that house sytem continued to fluctuate even as they released new versions.

I fell in love with the setting right away and continue to run it when I get a chance.  This near version has revitalized my passion for the setting but unfortunately, the system is a little too old school for today’s gamers, I feel.

First off, it’s important to know that Conspiracy Rules is just that – the rules for Dark Conspiracy III (DCIII).  Well, that’s not entirely true, because there is equipment as well as a long list of baddies for your to peruse.  The only thing really missing is the setting information.  They state in the book that the setting information will be released in a separate PDF called Conspiracy Lives! I hope in that, they will update it to more modern feel because 2013 is about what I imagined the near-future was in the 1990s.  A little updating would probably help the setting.

From the page # 75:
“When I was a kid, growing up, I heard the stories about albino alligators living in the sewers, clear-skinned cannibals who would pull you out of phone booths, and gargoyles that turn into living creatures after midnight.”

I hate to overuse a term, but it really applies to this game system – it is old school.  DCIII updates the rules to the most recent version of the GDW, used in the award winning Traveller: The New Era and Twilight: 2000 v2.2.  It is not a rules light system where the GM has a lot room to make fiats.  It has a pretty stringent combat system, a very detailed character generation system and extensive skill system.  Core to the system is the d20 die and rolling under a total of attribute and skill value.  The basic system fairly easy but the devil is in the details.  The combat system is pretty detailed and realistic.  It is one of those systems that sacrifices simplicity for realism.  However, I don’t feel that it goes overboard with the realism.  It makes a pretty good attempt at a balanced approach.  I think they describe it best:

The original rules were firmly based in the science of physics (as much as possible) and the desire to realistically account for the range of outcomes of modern weapons made the rules more complex than the average player feels necessary. The rules for fire combat, as complex as they are, are extremely consistent across the range of results they intend to model.

For example, it is one of the last systems to use hit locations in combat.  I know other games have it as an option but in this game requires it because each hit location has its own hit points.  Also, Weapons have their own recoil value and this is calculated into combat.  There is a certain level of detail that other games do not have or bother with.

Character creation for this game is legendary.  I am not entirely sure which games started it, but DCIII uses the career path system.  This system was used in some of the variants of Traveller and well as later versions of Twilight: 2000.  In one of those version (not in DCIII), there was a chance that a character could die in character generation. Not really sure what the logic was in that one but in general, it is a fairly in-depth system to create your character.  After you allocate your initial points for your attributes, you go through 4-year terms in specific careers and these careers give you skill, attribute and other bonuses.  In DCIII, there is a vast list of civilian and military careers.  From Clergy to Welfare Case, Army basic training to Navy Seal, you can fully flesh out a character in this system.

Since there is supernatural creatures involved, it would make sense that character had something supernatural on their side.  For this game, it is Empathy, often interchanged with the term Psionics. In the old books, Empathy was treated just as another skill.  In this version, combining some elements from the old Protodimensional Sourcebook as well as , Empathy/Psionics is given a little more attention.  The chapter also has an in-depth information on a concept central to the dark invasion – protodimensions.  These are different dimensional planes of varying effects and also where some of the dark creatures come from. With these powers and access to the protodimensions, characters can dimensional walk, astral travel and other multiple supernatural feats to help them fight the dark invasion.

Despite my love for the setting and respect for the rules, this new version does have it flaws.  There are a few editing issues through out the book.  For example, Character advancement is no where to be found. Also the game references the supernatural attribute as PSI but the character sheet still has the old version’s EMP attribute.  However, when it was released, the authors even admitted to the editing issues and are releasing errata as they find them on their web site.

This book is also more than just a regurgitation of previous information, reorganized and shuffled. In the writer’s attempts to consolidate all the years of material plus work in the updates from the final version of the GDW d20 house system, he reworked some things, reworded a few others and expanded on others.  For example, protodimensions were only hinted at in the first core rule book and expanded upon in the Protodimensional Sourcebook to some degree.  These were all fragmental dimensions where weird things happened.  But they never expanded upon what Earth’s dimension was or were there others.  In Conspiracy Rules, they at least categorize our dimension as a prime dimension and expand on more about other types of dimensions.  This opens the door to much more than I think even the original writers thought possible for the game.

In conclusion, despite the some amateur editing, the book itself is definitely a worthy new edition to a classic. I am not entirely sure it is something today’s gamer is going to thoroughly appreciate because of the level of detail and complexity, but it does keep the theme of original with great updates to the system. But like I have said before, I feel that perhaps the time of this type of game has moved on in favor of more player friendly, less detailed games.  The age of Pathfinder and Savage Worlds is upon us and anything else pales in comparison, at least in some circles.  GDW was breaking new ground when they decided to go with one house system and tried to merge all the best elements of the current RPG products.  Unfortunately, the system is far more involved than I think the players today are willing to take on.  I could be wrong and I hope I am, because it is a very intelligent and real-feeling system that deserves more than what it got just before GDW went under.

For more details on 3Hombres Games/Kinstaff Media LLC and their new Role Playing Game Core Rules “Conspiracy Rules (Dark Conspiracy III)” check them out at their website http://www.kinstaffmedia.com/3hombres/, and at all of your local game stores.

Product Summary

Conspiracy Rules (Dark Conspiracy III)
From: 3Hombres Games/Kinstaff Media LLC
Type of Game: Role Playing Game Core Rules
Game Design by: Lester W. Smith, Marc Miller, Frank Chadwick and Loren K. Wiseman
Developed by: Norm Fenlason, Lee Williams
Cover Art by: David Lee Ingersoll
Additional Art by: Earl Geier, Bradley K.McDevitt, David Lee Ingersoll, Norm Fenlason, Janet Aulisio, Timothy Bradstreet, Steve Bryant, Paul Daly, Elizabeth T. Danforth, Amy Doubet, Larry Elmore, LaMont Fullerton, Earl Geier, Dell Harris, Rick Harris, April Lee, David Martin, Ellisa Martin, Timothy Truman, and Kirk Wescom
Number of Pages: 298
Game Components Included: 1 PDF rulebook
Retail Price: $ 10.00 (US)
Website: www.kinstaffmedia.com/3hombres/

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

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