25 February 2005

Read-through Review of Conspiracy of Shadows

Conspiracy of Shadows by Keith Senkowski is a fantasy game about fighting evil conspiracies in a setting based on the dark ages in central/eastern Europe. The evil conspiracies are left for individual gaming groups to determine the nature of, but are clearly expected to be Lovecraftian or devil cults in most cases. The main vibe that I get off the game after reading it through is that it will play like Buffy or Angel in a different setting. I get the impression that this is entirely on purpose (especially with one of the sample demons apparently inspired by a monster from a Buffy episode).

The character generation specifically sets up the PC group as united in fighting the conspiracy, and you can buy group resources like contacts and a library and a base and so forth that all can draw on.

The art is all very evocative. Better than most big game companies, too.

The setting is good. As mentioned, it has a Dark Ages Central/Eastern European flavour which is unusual. I felt that the cultures and states provided all had enough familiarity to play them without just being 'country x with a different name'. And it's hard to forgive him one thing... the Narrlachi invaders (similar to the Huns) who still rule a big chunk of the place. Well, their great khan was from the Chaka clan. Ahem.

Character creation is fairly simple and directed. First choose why you are fighting the conspiracy and your character's main passion. Then add various stats and skills. That's pretty much it. All of the cultures give you a special ability related to their character, too. So, simple but directed to what the game is about.

There's a short chapter on magic, divided into two types. There's witchblood, which means you can do some crazy magic innately, until somebody burns you as a witch. Then there's ritual magic, that looks to be your basic summon or banish demons magic, and associated bits.

Combat has a few neat elements. You have a pool of points representing your energy. You spend these to do combat actions. If you succeed on an action, you can immediately take another before the next character, until you run out. I can see some cool combats in which desperate characters hit their enemies with a brutal flurry of attacks happening quite often.

One nice rule is destiny points, which are kind of a karma thing. You gather them and spend them to increase rolls when required. However, you earn them from doing things like adding your own details to the setting. So everyone is encouraged to chip in with ideas for what's going on in the game.

The advice on creating your conspiracy for the players to fight is good but unfortunately short. I was hoping for a bit more. Oh well. Luckily Senkowski is planning a supplement that has more stuff in this area which looks like it will make up for that lack.

There's a rule for seeing horrific stuff and freaking out. Not anything like Call of Cthulhu's sanity rules, it's more a 'panic' rule. There is a rule for slowly turning to the dark side as well, but it's separate and really quite creepy.

There's also a section on making up evil supernatural creatures for the PCs to take out. This is great and they're easy to design. I can see myself getting some horrible, horrible ideas from the powers.

Also, Senkowski has lots of support on his website, including regular bits of setting - new monsters and things and discussion about playing the game.

Overall, a really solid game to do what it sets out to. I look forward to running it, and hope my regular players are getting ready to fear the things that they'll be fighting.


Keith said...


You know you are the only person that has ever seemed to caught the little Chaka Khan bit I slipped in there...

Thanks for the kind words.

The Gamester At Large said...

That's okay, I'm happy to say good things about a good game.