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The Conspiracy

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"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 a few basic kinds of conspiracies, though the borders between them are fluid, with one variation that lies slightly off the charts. They are:

The Conspiracy is generally a great antagonist in any story, but the Conspiracy Thriller genre makes a particularly extensive use of it, being a traditional Thriller narrative centering on the conflict between The Hero and The Conspiracy. For further tips on writing both conspiracy theories and conspiracy thrillers, 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 doing research on conspiracies is a Conspiracy Theorist. See also Milkman Conspiracy and Path of Inspiration (aka Conspiracy Religion).

Rule of Cautious Editing Judgment applies when dealing with Real Life conspiracies, since almost all known conspiracies are not fully declassified, and may be documented in subjective/political bias. All we can say for sure is that there have been conspiracies and some have been uncovered over the ages.

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

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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • The Marvel Universe two-issue limited series, Conspiracy, revolves around an Intrepid Reporter investigating a mysterious group called "Control". The investigation eventually leads him to General Edward Harrison from The Mighty Thor, who explains that in the wake of the attack by the alien monster Gormuu (as originally told via flashback in Fantastic Four #271), Reed Richards proposed a scientific think tank addressing fantastical crises, and the military implemented it as a means to control and manipulate everything, from the use and influence of revolutionary discoveries to Super Hero Origins. Soon after the revelation, the reporter meets S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Dum-Dum Dugan, who explains that Harrison is actually a nutcase who's been using his Black Ops resources to make his claims convincing. The comic leaves it ambiguous over who's telling the truth, as it ends just as the reporter meets an acquaintance before he heads to the abandoned mansion of one of the think tank's members.

    Fan Works 
  • In HHB-era Narnia fanfiction In The Fledgling Year, the prince’s 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 it’s 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.
  • The Secret Return of Alex Mack draws in a wide variety of B-Movie monsters, which are explained as experiments by the mysterious Collective. It's unclear to the protagonists why anyone would invest billions of dollars in creating building-sized spiders, an all-consuming blob monster, or a prion disease that makes people kill each other, but eventually they learn that the Collective is made up of genetically enhanced individuals who consider themselves a Master Race and intend to cull the numbers of lesser humans to free up more resources for themselves.
  • Yet again, with a little extra help: Much like everything else in this fic, Played for Laughs. It's implied that the Running Gag of Konoha's religious reverence of the Ninja Log is actually a plot started by the Senju Brothers, aided by their student Sarutobi, to claim the entire world in the name of the Log, who is an actually deity or some other worldly being.
  • The A Song of Metal and Marvels series has one revealed in Chapter 38 of A Crack of Thunder: Fury reveals that the Council switched Rhaegar's son Aegon with another baby and smuggled him to safety in Essos, and planned to send Jon there too upon his birth, so that they could be raised together and eventually retake the Iron Throne. Unfortunately for them, the Rebellion triumphed and Ned arrived at the Tower of Joy sooner than they expected, leading to Jon being taken to Winterfell; worse, Aegon died before his second nameday, leaving the whole plan to fall apart.
  • The Masks We Wear has The Court of Owls, the criminal cabal from Gotham City that many think are just a nursery rhyme to scare children. They want to expand into Jump City, bringing them into conflict with both the Teen Titans and Slade.
  • For the Glory of Irk: The protagonists eventually realize that something mysterious is going on within the Irken Empire, as Irkens are disappearing and/or carrying out acts unsanctioned by the Tallest. As it turns out, the Control Brains are brainwashing Irkens in order to manipulate events towards a war with the Syndicate, which will force the Tallest to activate a protocol that will allow the Brains to fuse all Irkens into a Hive Mind that they can control.

    Films — Animation 
  • 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.

    Films — Live Action 
  • Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country: Following the destruction of the Klingon moon of Praxis, the Klingon Empire sues the Federation for peace. However, not everyone agrees with such an idea, specifically Federation Admiral Cartwright, and Klingon General Chang, who believe that such a peace between them could only be resolved with a war of superiority. Thus, they, and several other conspirators (such as Valeris, Spock's new protege), work to undermine the peace talks by making it seem that the bigoted Captain Kirk attacked and killed Chancellor Gorkon, then plan to assassinate the Federation President. Said conspiracy might have worked had it not been for the natural curiosity of Spock, who was able to help unravel it and ensure peace would occur.

  • In Cat Girls Have Four Ears there are many conspiracies. Some of the conspiring factions appear to know of each other, but they don't seem aware of all the players involved. Dr. Jarvie seems involved in at least two different conspiracies, one having to do with controlling the city, the other some scheme to pacify unruly elements to disrupt another unrelated conspiracy. His cat-girl manufacturing scheme involves an entirely different black market conspiracy against a rival cat-girl manufacturer. All that may or may not be interconnected. Meanwhile, the Big Bad of the story is conspiring to undermine society with the help of some terrorist group. The entire existence of UP Ps is directed against his conspiracy. Beyond that, things get murky.
  • The Handmaid's Tale: A very far-right fundamentalist Christian faction called the Sons of Jacob with members within the government plotted to seize control over the US, which they then did by massacring Congress and murdering the President (acts blamed on Islamic terrorists). After this the US was reformed into the Republic of Gilead.
  • Mrs. Smith's Spy School For Girls: Double Cross: Abby Hunter finds a conspiracy is going on at Briar Academy. The conspiracy is that a Briar student named Jane Ann, and the Briar Academy headmaster, are gathering information from the Smith Academy students. Their intent is to deliver it to The Ghost in exchange for Briar Academy winning the Challenge for a decade.
  • In The Sister Verse and the Talons of Ruin, John thinks everything is this — and he's right — mostly thanks to the machinations of the setting's resident Eldritch Abominations.
  • The Stormlight Archive: There are several, all working to fight the Desolation in their own way, even if that means fighting each other, too.
    • The Diagram is a group following a plan King Taravangian wrote in his most brilliant moment, detailing exactly how to put him in charge of the entire world and properly prepare for the Desolation. They have agents all over the world and work to assassinate any leader who might bring stability, since that would make them a rival. They are also aware of the return of the Knights Radiant, but count them as enemies because they know that a bunch of Honor Before Reason types would never approve of the Diagram.
    • The Ghostbloods are a group working to find the fabled city of Urithiru, home of the Knights Radiant, for unknown reasons. Shallan initially assumed they were trying to profit off the end of the world, but the fact that most of their more evil actions were retribution for attacks against them puts them in a different light. Not to mention that they have a large number of worldhoppers among their number, which further obfuscates their motives.
    • The Envisagers were a cult that believed in the Knights Radiant and awaited their return. They should have been just another random group of crazies, but they knew far more about the powers of the Knights than they should. They were also in the habit of trying to gain the powers themselves by putting themselves in Fly Or Die situations; none of these ever worked, and they were eventually executed for attempting suicide.
    • On the other side, the Sons of Honor are a group who believe that if they bring about the Desolation, the Heralds will return, catapult the church back to prominence, and fix everything wrong with the world. They are unaware that the Heralds actually never left, and have little interest in fixing anything. They also have a habit of killing people who are not part of the conspiracy and assuring themselves that their goal is worth the price of a few unimportant lives. When the Desolation does come, it has very little to do with the actions of the Sons of Honor, but they are still convinced that they have finally succeeded.
    • The Skybreakers, one of the old orders of the Knights Radiant, were refounded at some point by the Herald of Justice, Nalan'Elin. Nale has been convinced (by Ishar, another of the Heralds) that Surgebinding automatically brings the Desolation closer, so he's running around the world killing as many Surgebinders as he can. He fails to see the hypocrisy of having his own Surgebinders.
    • And then there's the group that Shallan's mother belonged to. We don't see much of them, but we know that they believe the Radiants were evil and will kill any Surgebinder they see. They might be connected to Nale's Skybreakers, but it is unclear.
  • In Victoria, everything from the Declaration of the Rights of Man, to Madonna and rap music, to feminism, gay marriage and neopaganism is "Cultural Marxism", all part of a deliberate and long-running plot to weaken Western culture and morality and set the people up for a dictatorial communist-in-all-but-name state.note  The UN (specifically UNESCO, which funds education and the arts) is a large part of this. It's unclear how Islam fits in, as Muslims are built up as the mortal enemies of all Christendom, but are pretty hostile to all these ideas themselves. The author himself is a major pusher of the real life Cultural Marxism conspiracy theory.
  • The Witches by Roald Dahl has a secret society of wicked witches whose ultimate goal is to kill all children on Earth.

    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, Petyr Baelish, Ser Dontos Hollard and (unintentionally) Sansa Stark at his own wedding.
  • 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.
  • The Handmaid's Tale: Fred was part of one that led to Gilead's creation. It's a group, while their exact size is unknown. He proposed they commit false flag attacks on the Congress, President and Supreme Court. This was agreed to, and they succeeded.
  • The Plot Against America: It's strongly indicated dissident American officials plotted Lindbergh's assassination. Evelyn also claims the Nazis coerced Lindbergh into enacting antisemitic policies and keeping America neutral, though it's unknown if she's right.
  • Rubicon: It turns out that a secret group of arms manufacturers have been manipulating intelligence API analyzes, profiting from catastrophic world events which kill thousands of people, including fellow US citizens. They use crossword puzzles which have been placed in international newspapers as codes to signal secret operations.


    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 
  • 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 Commonwealth Minutemen. The Institute also have a nasty habit of monopolizing usage of pre-war technology by sending an army of Synths to where it can be found 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 Metaverse 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. During the Japanese epilogue of sequel spinoff game Persona 5 Strikers, this organization is referred to as an Antisocial Force, which is actually the real life Japanese government designation for these sorts of conspiracies.
  • Water Womb World features a Catholic researcher investigating the ocean floor in search of evidence for their fringe theory that the Garden of Eden was created at the bottom of the sea, rather than being the earthly paradise presented by the church. After finding an abandoned dive mask marked with Christian imagery, the protagonist states that there are forces within the Catholic church who are aware of the truth surrounding humanity's aquatic origins, conspiring to prevent the public from learning about the "aqua-Edenic theory," and possibly eliminating other researchers seeking evidence of it.

    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 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.
  • The first enemies Mathias fights in Magik Online is a conspiracy led by a human-sacrificing cult consisting of Evermarsh's impotent human authority figures and police run by Mayor John Brown who have turned to satanic means in order to regain their former status after they were conquered by the Concordian Empire.
  • 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").
  • In Philler Space, the Nega-Space club is a secret group dedicated to tormenting Philler.

    Western Animation 
  • In the South Park episode "Sexual Healing", there is a vast conspiracy between all men in the world to keep a secret from all women in the world. That secret is... that All Men Are Perverts. All those rich and famous men who sleep with lots of women, possibly cheating on their girlfriend/wife in the process? They're suffering from the horrible disease of sex addiction, which was caused by an alien who is also a wizard casting a spell on them. It's totally not because guys are horndogs and would screw any and all willing women if they had the sheer number of opportunities that rich and famous men have. Honest. Whenever any man claims that they would never do such a thing even if they were rich and famous, all the men's eyes briefly glance at the closest woman in the room, checking to see if she believed the lie.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy", the kids are at first happy that there are no adults around, but then they begin to wonder what is exactly going on with them. They eventually come up with a theory that the Rand Corporation, the saucer people, and reverse vampires are trying get rid of dinnertime by forcing the adults to go to bed early. In a Deleted Scene, Ralph shows up and reveals that he hid in a closet and found out that the adults are actually having sex. After a Beat, Bart claims that the adults having sex is part of a mole people plot.
  • The season 5 finale of Rick and Morty reveals the Central Finite Curve first mentioned in "Close Rick-counters of the Rick Kind" to be this. In essence, the Ricks of the Citadel have spent god knows how long manipulating events so that Beth and Jerry meet and produce Morty, then cloning Mortys over and over again to create a never-ending supply of human shields and yes-men. And the reason they're able to get away with this is because they walled off an infinite corner of the Multiverse where they're the smartest person in the universe from the rest of the Multiverse where they're not.


Video Example(s):


The Reverse Vampires

The children of Springfield (except Lisa) suspect something huge is going on involving "reverse vampires" because their parents rush home before nightfall. They are actually just having sex.

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