RPG LAB: Conspiracy X
One of Eden Studio’s very first RPGs, Conspiracy X is that game that takes all of the historical and fabricated theories about the government’s dealings with aliens and the supernatural, rolls them into one giant ball of fun, and then puts the characters right in the middle of it as operatives of the “good guy conspiracy” – an agency called “Aegis”. The system uses Eden’s classic Unisystem (the same system used in games like Armageddon, Witchcraft, Terra Primate and All Flesh Must Be Eaten) and is fully compatible with other games using those rules.
NOTE: The bits in italic quotations at the end of each section are player comments and not the expressed views of the RPG Lab coordinator.
The setting of Conspiracy X is an elaboration on events tied directly to the 1940s White Sands/Roswell conspiracy. From those events, the good guys called “Aegis” (who want to communicate with and reach a peaceable agreement with the E.T.s) and the bad guys called “The Black Book” (who want to control the aliens and use their tech to create insane weapons, etc.) arise and have been in a secret war ever since. The aliens, who have their own interests, feed into the whole thing as three separate factions all of whom have their own unpleasant agendas.
For the purposes of RPG.LAB, we focused on a tight little convoy story that focused around getting a crashed UFO to White Sands before the Black Book intervenes and grabs the craft for their own dubious purposes. The PCs were a U.S. Marshall and an estranged but valued doctor of the CDC.
“I really dig when any story being told in a fantastic setting is more grounded for the characters (I think the comic ‘Powers’). I think there’s a lot of potential there to be the “trenches” of some big intrigue, which would be a good time.”
“I absolutely love the setting of this game. I am a bit of a conspiracy nut, but not the tin hat variety. I just find conspiracies interesting, whether they are true or not. This game allows you to immerse yourself in the race to discover secrets and hidden agendas while at the same time trying to figure out how to cover up your own secrets and actions. It definitely has an X-Files and Men in Black feel to it.”
SUPPLEMENTS AND MATERIALS USED
Although there are three incredibly concise and interesting supplements for Conspiracy X (covering aliens, supernatural stuff, and the various conspiracies respectively) we only used the core book. I ran a modified version of the scenario found in the 2012 Con X Free RPG Day offering called “Convoy”. It was perfect for our purposes.
The ludicrious number of character options in Conspiracy X is almost….almost…. a bad thing. Almost every government agency – real and imagined – that would have anything to do with this conspiracy stuff is included in the core book with some additional ones in the supplements. The alphabet soup is insane – ATF, BDS, BIR, CAPS, CDC, CIA, DEA, FBI, ICE, MKULTRA. Each one has an associated cluster of skills, gear and these game defining powers called “Pulling Strings” which allow PCs to do everything from having a phone bugged and having contraband ignored by border authorities to falsifying a passport and calling in a SWAT team.
We found it best to decide on a concept and then go find the relevant rules as the massive lists of abilities and agencies was a bit daunting to folks for whom this isn’t their exact thing.
“I liked the wide variety of government agencies to choose from. Plus a lot of skills to really fill out the character was cool. I hope to work with Dr. Sam Warner again.”
“The character generation in Conspiracy X was fairly straight forward as far as attributes and skills. There were definitely a few areas that needed some explaining like the contacts and obligations. However, those areas I think also are what make the game so interesting. I really think this game is supposed to be designed more around those areas than your actual stats. I think finding the kind of character you want to be and the kind of organization you want to work for to be far more interesting for this game than the skills you might possess.”
The classic UNISYSTEM rules are incredibly straight forward. Character either doubles an attribute or adds an attribute to a skill and then rolls a d10 for target number. Each cluster of ten by which the character exceeds or fails the target number stages the failure or success. In combat, these additional successes contribute to damage. Outside of combat, the stages become a tool for the GM to determine possible bonuses or hindrances for the character making the check.
That’s really most of it. There are a few independent systems for “weird stuff” in the Supernatural and Extraterrestrial Sourcebooks but we didn’t use that stuff for RPG.LAB.
“I really liked playing Conspiracy X, it felt like I was part of a mystery, wrapped in an enigma, falling into a paradox. There are so many things you need to think about and keep track of. Who really are the bad guys? Are the good guys even good? And can you really trust anyone? I can see where campaigns in this game could start making people paranoid all the time. I could really relate to that having played Delta Green in the Cthulhu universe. Although this game seems like you have a much greater chance of surviving than you do in Cthulhu. If I had any criticism for this game, it might be that I believe it really takes time to develop the intricacies that are crucial to developing the full potential of the game. You really need a good campaign with several missions to start getting the subterfuge and paranoia rolling. While one offs can still have their fun, I think it really shines in campaigns.”
We had a good time playing Conspiracy X. To be honest, after I run certain RPG.LAB games I feel a bit burned out or underwhelmed by the game in action. Not so with Conspiracy X. Oodles of ideas rose up out of actual play and the characters were very easy to care about and I wanted to write more stuff to expand their story. X-Files, Delta Green, and crazy stuff like the Mothman Prophecies filled my head and the possibilities became endless. With four concise sourcebooks, Conspiracy X is a very well-designed, organized, and communicated game that any lover of the genre could grow to adore.
“I had a blast as always. I love coming in and testing new games. For me, variety is the key when it comes to playing games, I want to be challenged to think differently and use my creativity in new ways. Testing out different styles of games can keep you on your toes and help you shape new pathways in thinking. The way you may solve a problem or situation in one game, will not be the same way you do it in another.”
SEASON 4 RPG LAB
JANUARY (FIASCO/BULLY PULPIT GAMES)
FEBRUARY (STAR WARS: EDGE OF THE EMPIRE/FANTASY FLIGHT GAMES) Jeff Hall Guest GM
MARCH (DUNGEON WORLD/RNDM GAMES)
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