Conspiracy X takes place in a world of dark secrets and hidden agendas where the only certainty is nothing is what it seems. The president might not be human, and the sign carrying paranoid on the street corner ranting about CIA mind control satellites may very well be right.Often called by fans "The X-Files as a tabletop game", first published by Eden Games for the Unisystem and later adapted for GURPs, Conspiracy X is a world based around the concept of some or all of the conspiracy theorists being onto something, though what that something ultimately is, customizable to both the times and the participants.
In other words, a world just like yours, if you could see beyond the lies.
In other words, a world just like yours, if you could see beyond the lies.
— Conspiracy X Blurb
Conspiracy X provides examples of:
- Aliens Among Us: Atlanteans, Saurian Men In Black, and Meta-humans (Grey/human hybrids) all walk among us.
- Conspiracy Kitchen Sink: The Trope Codifier for tabletop gaming.
- Crapsack World: Fox Mulder only had to deal with one race of alien invaders, while Aegis has to contend with three.
- Cryptid Episode: Cryptids are a major part of the setting, they even get their own sourcebook.
- Ghostapo: The Watch, the predecessor of both Aegis and the National Defense Directorate (NDD, or the Black Book, see below), was founded to counter the Nazis' occult power.
- Despair Event Horizon: While the setting isn't an outright Cosmic Horror Story, the struggle against the various aliens has broken more than one Aegis operative.
- Kill Sat: "Project Rasputin" has a psychic Kill Sat. It's a gigantic amplifier for a crew of psychic characters, letting them use their powers on anything from one building to several square kilometers. In that area it can do things like read minds, alter memories, or yes, kill people.
- More directly, NASA also had "Gun Stars" that would fire mass drivers (specifically, hockey-puck sized chunks of metal) really fast at ground targets.
- Mana: Magicians draw their power from the Seepage. You see, 95% of humans actually have psychic potential, but since humans were created by the Atlanteans utilizing genetic material from three different species the vast majority cannot use even a fraction of it. The rest dissipates passively over time (and spills out in great amounts when great emotions such as fear or anger are experienced). This is the "aura" psychics can see. So basically, Seepage is the untapped psychic potential of the entire human race. Unfortunately, since so much of it is the product of negative emotions, over the ages it has not only gained an alien consciousness of its own, it is actually malevolent. It actively seeks to cause fear and suffering to expand itself. It often manifests in explainable, "spontaneous" supernatural phenomena, and it causes people to go mad if they mess too much with it. Those who don't go mad may be transformed into vampires, werewolves, or other such monsters.
- The Man Behind the Man: The True Watch was created by Atlanteans who have predicted the Saurians' return to Earth, and manipulated world events in order to lead to the creation of both Aegis and the NDD, the conflict between which they encourage due to their (highly Atlantean) belief that competition inherently stimulates creativity, and thereby the development of ever more advanced technology and tactics needed for them to have a hope of defeating the Saurians.
- Master Computer: Base facilities still include room-sized mainframes and supercomputers; big data is still processed by big iron.
- The Men in Black: In all initial game modules, The players themselves (by default) pretty much play human MIBs. Especially if they choose a job that comes with nice suit, for example the Secret Service.
- Agents of the Black Book, even more than Aegis, generally have this as their dress code, complete with the Sinister Shades.
- See also the Saurians.
- Mysterious Backer: Every faction of note has enough of them to render them part of the NPC landscape.
- Orichalcum: The discovery of this metal allowed humanities' ancestors to successfully rebel against Atlanteans since it gave them something to fight back against the Atlanteans nanotech. It boosts the Seepage level for rituals just by having on the caster or you can snack on some to give to boost a ritual's power (good thing magic metals don't give heavy metal poisonings).
- Our Cryptids Are More Mysterious: Given the nature of the Seepage (the basis for the supernatural rather than extraterrestrial side of the game), there is potentially no limit to how far a given creature can mutate under its influence, over time.
- Deliberate Paranoia Fuel: Gamemasters (called "Chroniclers") are specifically encouraged to develop session and campaign settings that blend in as much historical and contemporary realism as possible.
- Psychic Powers: Humans have lesser pyschic powers (compared to the Greys) due to Atlanteans puting some Grey DNA into humanity's genome in the distant past.
- Roswell That Ends Well: The Roswell Incident was the reason for the Watch spliting into Aegis and the Black Book. The scientists who later formed Aegis wanted to make peaceful contact with the aliens, but the soldiers who formed the Black Book shot the ship down. After the event Black Book accused Aegis of responsibility in order to sign a treaty with The Greys.
- Secret War: Obviously.
- Shades of Conflict: Anything except White. Anyone with White morality is likely considered to be part of the sheeple, to be either derided or protected by the characters in question.
- Shout-Out: In The Extraterrestrials Sourcebook one of the illustrations is a scared guy looking out of an air plane window at a Grey ripping stuff out of the plane wing.
- Soviet Superscience: Project Rasputin was established under Josef Stalin to research psychic phenomena and the occult, a subject of purportedly extensive Real Life Soviet investigation in the 1950s. They managed to create psychic power enhancers and a psychic Kill Sat. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Aegis co-opted much of Project Rasputin's resources for themselves. Meanwhile, although many who refused join were executed by Aegis, others who were able to escape went underground to eventually form an even more clandestine organization, Directorate X, that intends nothing less than the complete elimination of coercive alien influence on the human race, by any means necessary.
- Stupid Jetpack Hitler: Some of the Nazis' historical aeronautical and ballistics breakthroughs are suggested to be the result of beginning to reverse engineer an alien vessel of unknown origin (possibly even to the game publishers themselves, to leave it up to Gamemasters) that crashed in eastern Europe during the early years of the war.
- The Spear of Destiny was held by many powerful figures from history including Constantine, Otto the Great, Napoleon and of course Hitler (with the implication that it caused some of Hitler's megalomania). The Watch retrieved it shortly before Hitler's death. Of course, the question of whose hands that ultimately put it in is left deliberately vague.
- They Look Just Like Everyone Else!:From the darkness, they watch and scheme. In secrecy, they operate. We are blind to the effects their actions have on us. They are the stranger across town, a co-worker, a friend, even your spouse.— Back cover of the Sub Rosa sourcebook
- Weirdness Magnet: A focus is someone who has unusually strong connection to the Seepage. The Seepage concentrates around them attracting all sorts of supernatural creatures and phenomenona.
- Who Shot JFK?: In nod to the bewildering confusion of the actual case, to call it convoluted is an understatement:
- Kennedy found out that his Secret Service agents were working for Aegis and tried to blackmail them into becoming his own personal covert operations team. So Aegis decided that Kennedy had to go and got Oswald, one of the successful MKULTRA subjects to take him out. On the day of the assassination, Oswald fired two shots, but was interrupted by a Black Book agent sent to stop Oswald as part of agreement they had made with the President once Black Book got wind of the assassination, but Oswald got away by shooting the Black Book agent who survived due to a Bulletproof Vest (accounting for the three shells found in the book depository).
- It then gets weirder: the two shots Oswald fired were intentionally off-target so that they wouldn't kill Kennedy, so two psychics that Aegis had kept as back-up made the bullets zig-zag through the president (a reference to the "magic bullet" trajectory). But this still wasn't the kill shot, which came from a mysterious unknown shooter using an unknown quiet weapon who shot at the same time as Oswald from the grassy knoll that did the "back, and to the left" damage to Kennedy's head. ... Yeah, it's that sort of a game.
- Technology Uplift: For generations, the Atlanteans and Saurians have been feeding technology to humanity (for their own selfish purposes), causing Earth to advance more quickly than we might otherwise.
- Write a Conspiracy Theory: The supplemental Sub Rosa sourcebook outlines game mechanics for creating new conspiracy/secret society factions by participating players or gamemasters, a resource that puts theoretically any time period in play (Ford's Theater and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, for example), rather than just late 20th to early 21st century.
Aegis provides examples of:
- Area 51 is the base of operations for Aegis containing their attempts into reverse engineer alien tech, their Aurora aircraft and HERMES, a massive computer system and database for relaying messages and information amongst Aegis cells.
- Benevolent Conspiracy/Designated Heroes: Aegis' self-appointed mission is to protect humanity from supernatural and alien threats by any means necessary. The National Defense Directorate (NDD, or Black Book) has a similar mandate but its government backers want returns on their investment meaning that it concentrates on acquiring technology as well as knowledge. This means that Black Book has made more deals and worked with aliens like the Greys and the Saurians. The moral dubiousness of these actions has led to Black Book being portrayed as pretty much the Evil Counterpart to Aegis. On the other hand, Aegis itself has no qualms about committing any ethically questionable act if seen as justified by its mandate, including the execution and/or assassination of anyone who knows too much and won't work with them...including Presidents of the United States.
- The Mole: Security leaks are always a concern for Aegis. When they can't keep people from betraying the organization, the HERMES system and cell structure are designed to limit the amount of damage that traitors can do.
- Master Computer: In the 1950s, Aegis built a massive computer system and database based in Area 51 dubbed HERMES that handles communication amongst the Aegis cells and serves as a repository for any information that the cells have gathered.
The National Defense Directorate (Black Book) provides examples of:
- Black Helicopter: The NDD has two types of black helicopter, their standard transport, the Raven Stealth Helicopter and the Ghost Surveillance Helicopter which handle their spying needs. Not only can they both fly silently, they have biomimetic sheaths that allow them to blend into the surroundings.
- Les Collaborateurs: How Aegis sees the NDD and their various deals with the aliens, although the NDD's leaders would insist that they're doing what is best for humanity.
- Necessarily Evil: The NDD's own leaders readily admit to new initiates that much of what they do would very likely be called reprehensible by the very population that they are ostensibly charged with protecting, but likewise maintain that existential necessity does not allow for better alternatives. Given the setting, Aegis can be similar.
- No Such Agency: The NDD is a secret part of the US military, with its existence known only to a few top officials and its funding coming through the portion of the U.S. military budget assigned to covert or "black operations", leading to its other name, the "Black Book".
- Villain Protagonist: If and when players don't want to play as Aegis operatives, the very first alternative offered, in The Hand Unseen sourcebook, is the NDD. To be fair, the first page of the book presents the NDD's view that their purported villainy is "a comforting myth" told to Aegis agents.
Tropes particular to each alien race (warning un-marked spoilers):
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- The Ageless: Thanks to nanotech, to the point if they want to pass as human for any significant length of time they need to use more nanotech to give them the odd wrinkle or grey hair.
- Ancient Astronauts: The Atlanteans who created/enslaved humanity made the humans worship them as gods. Atlanteans still made use of God Guise to manipulate humanity after they rebelled even though the Nameless Priests outlawed it (they want humanity under only a few religions; Confucianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Etc. Easier to manipulate a few big religions than lots of little ones).
- Atlantis: The aliens from "Adlan地s" who came to our planet decided to build a city in the middle of the sea called Atlantis (and another called Lemuria) to rule over humanity. They then scuttled their own cities after the humans rebelled and decimated the Adlan地s population on the earth.
- Big Eater: They need to eat a lot of calories to power the nanomachines in their bodies.
- Brought Down to Badass: Detonated a nuclear device on top of an Atleantean so that the EMP knocked down the nanites keeping them immortal? Good for you! Now you just have to deal with a perfectly normal, mortal being who has bones and muscles made of diamond, bulletproof skin, nerves coated in room-temperature superconductor, and a quarter-million years' worth of combat experience. And better do it quickly, because in five minutes or so their emergency systems would've kicked in and restored them to normal, at which point, given that you've just endangered their immortality, you'd be lucky if they don't just decide to make a point by obliterating you with a particle accelerator shot from their orbiting spaceship.
- Casual Interstellar Travel: Subverted. For all of their godlike technology, the Atlanteans could never create a faster-than-light vessel, their fastest ships peaking around 70-80% of lightspeed. This makes interstellar journeys last decades, sometimes centuries, and while the physiological difficulties are, for them, negligible (they are immortal), a century of isolation in space is still a century of isolation in space. They literally invented AI so they'd have companions for these journeys.
- EMP: One of the surest ways of permanently dealing with an Atlantean, as their nanites aren't 100% radiation shielded. A powerful enough EMP, such as from a nuclear detonation, stands a better than 50% of temporarily shutting down the nanites keeping them immortal, giving you a small time window within which to kill them before their emergency systems kick into actions and bring them back online.
- Endless Daytime: The Adlan地s planet is placed between its system's star and a stellar cluster meaning that it's never darker than earth's twilight.
- Flying Saucer: It is noted that while Atlantean ships are designed to the personal taste of the Atlantean, most are saucer shaped or spheres for ease of movement through the atmosphere and aesthetic reasons.
- From a Single Cell: As long as an Atlantean has Memory Preservation System intact and some Blood Surgeon nanites they can regrow their entire body and conscience. They even have a malleable spherical implant about the size of a golf ball called a Emergency Nanite Reserve that rests somewhere deep within the body shielded from most things containing back-ups. This makes them really really hard to put down permanently.
- Grey Goo: The Nameless Priests, Adlan地s spiritual leaders, decided that the population had grown too soft and deliberately made nanotech that deconstructed any organic matter and that over-ran the planet forcing the Atlanteans off their planet and into the universe.
- Healing Factor: The Atlanteans can heal the most grievous wounds thanks to "blood surgeon" nanites.
- Human Aliens: Justified in that they are the Precursor Ancient Astronauts with a hand in human evolution, even splicing in their own DNA, though with increased levels of psychological malleability to make humans easier to control. Atlantean psychology, by contrast, is practically Nietzsche's ﾜbermensch, or even predatorial.
- Kill It with Fire: Burning an Atleantean is one of the most efficient way of dealing with them, as the nanites' comparatively low heat tolerance destroys the clusters around the injury and halt regeneration until the Atlantean can reach safety.
- Made of Iron: Between skintight armor that laughs in the face of modern human weaponry, nano-augmented skin that can stop bullets dead and survive exposure to outer space, bones and muscles made of diamondoid fibers, and blood surgeons which can repair any wound in a matter of seconds and render them immune to poison, diseases or aging, taking down an Atleantean takes to require some combination of fire, alien technology and possibly nuking them.
- Nanotechnology: Most of the tech Atlanteans have is based on nanotech. Humans can use it but due to physiological differences it's more dangerous for a human to enhance their bodies. It is also vulnerable to powerful EMP.
- Never Gets Drunk: Their nanotech neutralises all toxins including alcohol so it is difficult for Atlanteans to stay drunk for more than an hour unless he/she drinks continuously.
- Punctuation Shaker: The Atlantean languages use a lot of apostrophes and dashes though it supposed to be rendering their language in a way that humans can read.
- Telepathic Spacemen: Averted, they specifically do not have any psychic powers which led to the animosity between them and the Greys.
- The Man Behind the Man: They were behind the foundation of both Aegis and the NDD, orchestrating the conflict between them and carefully managing it under the belief that it would stimulate humanity's technological progress to prepare them for the return of the Saurians.
- Alien Abduction: The Greys have been abducting humans since 1903 to study them, trying to figure out how to stop the psychic static. As part of the alliance with Black Book, the Black Book agents help pick out the abductees, clean up any evidence, help out with researchers/facilities if needed and sometimes do the abducting for the Greys (though Greys prefer to do it themselves rather than be spoon-fed humans by Black Book).
- Aliens Never Invented the Wheel: Since Greys have their psychic powers, shaped coral devices and can change their bodies to do all their tasks, things like the wedge, pulley, and lever are relatively alien to them. They just never developed the need for mundane tech so they rely on their Black Book allies for that sort of technology.
- Brown Note: When the Greys have contact with the psychic "static" that humans create it drives them mad. To be fair to humanity the Atlanteans gave humans psychic powers as a weapon against the Greys.
- Dying Race: The static that humanity generates is slowly killing the Grey as a species, even across interstellar distances. This is the motive for their plot against Earth.
- Flying Saucer: The Grey ships are like this.
- Keeping the Enemy Close: The Greys and Black Book see their alliance as such with both trying to get the most knowledge out of the other fully aware that both are exceedingly dangerous to the other.
- Half-Human Hybrid: They are making Grey/human hybrids termed metahumans since they don't produce static with the added bonus of being easy to mind-control with the Greys' psychic powers. Though since humanity was created as a hybrid of Atlantean DNA, Grey DNA and a native earth monkey the percentages of their ancestry are somewhat complicated.
- Mental Fusion: Greys can combine their powers and thoughts boarding on Hive Minds (Greys do it voluntary).
- Organic Technology: Greys use coral shaped by their Psychic Powers both to enhance said powers but also to build things like their spaceships. Most of their machines and devices are simply the grown coral wrapped in a metal cover to protect it. They even shaped their own bodies to better suit them. It's to the point that they don't even understand non-organic technology.
- Psychic Powers: While Grey psychic effects are not much more powerful than what human psychics can do, their psychic power regenerates with a speed that human psychics can only dream.
- Sapient Alien Cetaceans: The Greys were similar to terrestrial cetaceans before making contact with the Atlanteans which caused the Greys to decide that arms and legs were more useful for manipulating tools and getting around.
- Telepathic Spacemen: Greys are the only aliens (at least involved with Earth) that have supernatural powers.
- The Men in Black are Saurians that have had their bodies transformed in a human's to the point that the only way to tell them apart from humans would be an invasive scan such as a CAT scan.
- The Reptilians: The Saurians are warm blooded reptilian humanoids that originally evolved from the dinosaurs well before humans.
- The Spock: While the Saurians do have emotions they are not very strong making it hard for Saurians to pretend to be human (they prefer their human forms to be bulky Dumb Muscle types so people don't expect much emotion from them). A faction called the Dreamspeakers has gained a higher range of emotion through their dreams but since they clashed with Saurian society they were persecuted.
- Ultraterrestrials: And they are generally unhappy that humans have taken over while they were gone.
- Whatevermancy: The Dreamspeaker have learnt to manipulate Seepage with their limited emotions calling it dream magic or hypnomancy.