The Conspiracy

"When you work in intelligence, the worst feeling in the world is knowing nothing; being caught in something you don't begin to understand. Because it's not the enemy you see that gets you. It's the one you don't."
Burn Notice, "Long Way Back"

The most basic definition of The Conspiracy is "a secretive group with an Evil Plan". Let's break it down:

There are three basic kinds of conspiracies, though the borders between them are fluid, with a fourth variation that lies slightly off the charts. They are:

The Conspiracy is generally a great antagonist in any story, but two genres make a particularly extensive use of it:

For further tips on writing both of the above, see Write a Conspiracy Theory. For tropes commonly associated with conspiracies, see The Index Is Watching You.

Multiple concurrent conspiracies form a Conspiracy Kitchen Sink. A character believing in conspiracies is a Conspiracy Theorist. See also Milkman Conspiracy and Path of Inspiration (aka Conspiracy Religion).

Examples of works/series featuring conspiracies of more than one type:

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    Anime and Manga 

    Fan Fic 
  • In HHB-era Narnia fanfiction In The Fledgling Year, the princeís entourage gets caught up in a conspiracy by a group called the Finii, whose goal seems to be to systematically kill off the royal line of Archenland in order to put a distant cousin on the throne. (The fic is still a WIP, so itís not yet fully developed.)
  • One of the driving plots in Families is a conspiracy by corrupt noble Olive Branch to use his media resources to discredit Princess Celestia, playing off of the public's fear after the Changeling invasion to eventually gain enough support to overthrow her. As it turns out, he didn't really care about her position, he was just trying to get into a position to force her to give him immortality.
  • Jewel Of Darkness: One of the major components of the Myth Arc is the existence of the White Glove, a group with definite negative vibes that is so far reaching that its leader, the "Good Man", can walk in and out of the Justice League Watchtower whenever he wants. Jinx is their mole on the Titans, albeit one who is Becoming the Mask.
  • In A Cold Calculus Euphie, Cornelia and Schneizel are aware of the Geass Directorate's existence, but not their true nature, and have been secretly cooperating to smooth things out in the Empire, oust their father and put a stop to the Directorate. We're clued into this when Euphie brings Milly into it. Heinrich Stadtfeld, in turn, knows about their conspiracy when a money trail he followed led him to the Damocles.
  • In 'Marionettes there's S.M.I.L.E., also known as the Stallions in Black who seek to enforce the fate that they believe should happen, building the Marionettes and performing brainwashing innocent civilians to accomplish that goal. It turns out they were originally a Benevolent Conspiracy founded by Celestia to safeguard Equestria, especially from her in the event she fell to darkness like her sister had, and be a Hero Secret Service for Equestria's heroes. Unfortunately, since then they've become more and more corrupt until they became what they are now.

  • Zootopia: The reason why predators are going savage is because a group of racist sheep led by Assistant Mayor Dawn Bellwether created a Psycho Serum and sniped innocent predators with it. The ultimate goal is for the prey vs. predator tensions in Zootopia to be stoked up to such a high level that the prey species (who collectively make up 90% of the population) will unite against the predator species and ensure that Bellwether will remain in power.


    Live Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Robb is murdered by a conspiracy between Tywin Lannister and Houses Frey and Bolton.
    • Joffrey is poisoned by a conspiracy between Olenna Tyrell and Petyr Baelish.
  • Scandal: It's not yet clear what the nature of this is, but a large part of Season Two's backstory seems to involve one including Olivia, First Lady Mellie Grant, Cyrus Beene, Hollis Doyle, and Justice Verna Thornton. The conspiracy resulted in throwing the election to get Grant elected, but he appears to be unaware of it, and the depths appear to go much further than that. Quinn's framing appears to have been related to this conspiracy, and it probably is what resulted in her former office being firebombed. Hollis seems to be the Token Evil Teammate; it is not clear how malicious or how implicated the other members are, but it has been stated that their actions would get them locked up for the rest of their lives. We know Olivia generally has good intentions, but it is possible that she is The Atoner for actions in her past.
  • The Masons in Dancing on the Edge are presumably involved with all sorts of conspiracies but they're efforts to frame Louie for Jessie's murder deserve particular notice as they are able to do things like fake passport stamps thanks to their government ties.
  • Orphan Black features the clones taking on two conspiracies:
    • A group called the Neolutionists created the clones, monitor them and run tests on them. Known members are Olivier, Dr. Leekie, and Delphine.
    • A group of religious fanatics called the Proletheans are hunting and killing the clones. This group includes Maggie Chen and Tomas and they used Helena as their assassin.
  • Extant: Of the group variety, involving both the ISEA and its parent company, Yasumoto Corporation.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Eclipse Phase has Firewall, a "heroic" (well, anti-heroic) conspiracy that does not work for any government or criminal organization, and is devoted to the survival of transhumanity at all costs. Though there's also Project Ozma, SETI turned MIB.
  • GURPS Illuminati is an invaluable resource for conspiracy-related games in general.

    Video Games 
  • The Longest Journey series loves to have conspiracies for villains:
  • Deus Ex and its follow up games (Deus Ex: Invisible War, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided) have these in spades.
  • Suburban Redevelopment Fund in L.A. Noire.
  • Resident Evil is starting to show shades of this regarding to the U.S. Government.
  • Assassin's Creed: The Knights Templar have been trying for centuries to control the world. At some point they decided the best way to do this was from behind the scenes.
    • And on a truly epic scale, Assassin's Creed III reveals that Juno has been manipulating humanity from before recorded history so that she could blackmail Desmond into bringing her back to rule over humanity. Just to be clear, she did this entirely through prerecorded messages left where certain people would find them. And she did it without the entirely benevolent first civilization conspirators noticing.
  • The Secret World, being a Conspiracy Kitchen Sink, has plenty of these. The player character joins one of three possibly-benevolent ones early in the game, who are currently in an Enemy Mine situation due to the impending End of the World as We Know It.
  • The Institute of Fallout 4 indirectly controls most of the Commonwealth through proxies and Synth agents who operate behind the scenes. They don't take a direct hand in running the place, but any time someone starts getting too technologically advanced and/or organised, the Institute will smother them in the crib before they can grow to become a threat to their power. As was the case with the original Minutemen. The Institute also have a nasty habit of destroying any pre-war technology by sending an army of Synths to destroy it and massacre anybody around to prevent them ever finding out what it is.
  • Persona 5: The protagonists eventually stumble upon a hidden organization made up of businessmen, politicians and law enforcement officials who are using the Mental World of the Palace to secretly influence powerful members of society and cause accidents that will encourage social unrest, all in order to increase their own wealth and standing.

    Visual Novels 
  • Higurashi: When They Cry: Those who believe the chain of murders in Hinamizawa are not supernatural in nature generally believe there's a conspiracy of some kind in Hinamizawa pulling them off. Detective Ooishi, one of the most prominent police characters, suspects the Sonozaki family of being the masterminds but has no real evidence, just speculation and a hunch. The truth is there is a conspiracy... but the Sonozakis are innocent and are just as confused by the situation as anyone else. It's actually an outside Government Conspiracy that's studying the mysterious Hinamizawa Syndrome, though they are only directly behind some of the serial murders... a few of them are genuine coincidences that just happened to fall on the day of Watanagashi.

    Web Comics 

     Web Original 
  • The Wanderer's Library has a hilariously petty one. For a long time in the world of Elrich, elevators were the only method of going up. When stairs were invented, they posed a threat to the livelihood of the Elra Architectural Sub-Union, which made elevators. In order to discredit stairs, they loosen one step that the king will be going up. He falls to his death, thus making sure no one will use stairs again.
  • In Alice Isn't Dead, the Narrator learns that her missing wife Alice was actively investigating a multi-group conspiracy with vague aims before her disappearance, gathering information on three mysterious parties: The Cumberland Project, Vector H, and Bay & Creek Shipping. The discovery of her scattered notes prompts the Narrator to involve herself more directly, going so far as to get hired as a long haul trucker by Bay & Creek Shipping, in hopes of locating her missing wife. However, agents of the Conspiracy, including a cannibalistic Humanoid Abomination, don't much care for her meddling, and its heavily implied that the Conspiracy causes or contributes to seemingly random deaths, disasters and paranormal activity, with tacit approval from at least some officials.

    Western Animation 

  • The Church Of The Sub Genius blames pretty much everything wrong with the world on "The CONSPIRACY" (which is apparently an acronym for "Cliques Of Normals Secretly Planning Insidious Rituals Aimed At Controlling You").