The world if rife with conspiracy theories, but for some reason RPGs don’t often touch upon them. I’ve run a game where one of the PCs stole a cat on Venus, but I’ve never run something that touched upon the JFK assassination. Conspiracist: The Game THEY Don’t Want You To Play seeks to change that.
Conspiracist is a light and loose set of rules intended for use in running one-shots focused around any number of different conspiracy theories. But if you wanted to play Fox Mulder, you’ll have to look for another game. This casts you as minions of the Illuminati, playing a key role in maintaining the conspiracy.
You wouldn’t expect a game designed for one-shots to have robust character creation, and Conspiracist keeps things fast and loose. To create your character, you choose a race – either human or one of the shape-shifting reptilians that works within the Illuminati. Then you choose your specialty, occupation, and motivation. After that, the game begins.
The framework for your character is very broad, with few specific examples of how you can use specialties and occupations. This is partly due to the nature of the game, as the entire thing is presented in a 20-page PDF. For my money, a more detailed explanation of the system a la the backgrounds in 13th Age would work better. However, groups that like to improvise should have no problem picking things up.
Action resolution is very simple, using a d4 – or, as the game refers to it, an Illuminati Pyramid of Fate. Most actions have a 50% of success. Failure results in a complication, which could be as simple as running into a guard or as complex as discovering you’ve been in an alien simulation all along.
The complication mechanic means the Controller (Conspiracist’s equivalent of a Game Master) needs to think on her feet quite a lot. If the controller finds herself stuck for an idea, the game encourages her to brainstorm with the players. This adds a nice bit of cooperative storytelling to the game that I enjoy a lot.
The rules only take up about 10 pages, with the remainder of the space being used for advice on running the game. This includes determining how crazy the conspiracies are using a Maximum Paranoia Index, a section discussing complications, and an appendix of conspiracy resources. Those who delve into the 4chan or Reddit conspiracy boards do so at their own peril.
Presentation-wise, the game comes as a simple PDF that gets the job done. There is no art beyond the cover page, and the rulebook doesn’t go into in-depth explanations. Still, the writing is concise and well-edited, so it’s easy to pick up the rules quickly.
You can pick up Conspiracist as a pay-what-you-want purchase at DriveThruRPG. The game probably works best for experienced players who like to improvise. As a free or nearly-free game, it will definitely give you several hours of enjoyment. If you want a game that plays fast and gives you a framework for one-shots in the fertile world of conspiracy theories, this is a game you should look into.
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