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Tabletop Game / Conspiracy X

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2nd Edition Corebook cover

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.

In other words, a world just like yours, if you could see beyond the lies.
— Conspiracy X Blurb

Often called "The X-Files: The RPG" by fans, Conspiracy X presents a world superficially identical to our own, yet in the shadows lurks a vast multitude of paranormal conspiracies.

The players are agents of Aegis, a powerful secret society which has subverted numerous government agencies and major corporations, and whose mandate is to protect humanity from malevolent aliens by any means necessary. The threats to Aegis (and humanity) include no fewer than three distinct alien species, the Black Book (a rival conspiracy of humans who collaborate with the aliens), and innumerable supernatural threats. While the game's secret societies, monsters, and alien factions are well-defined, the setting is flexible enough for gamemasters to add whatever other conspiracies and mysteries might strike their fancy.

As a game, one of Conspiracy X's notable innovations was the "cell creation system". At the start of a campaign, the players create not only their characters (like every other RPG), but also their cell's secret base of operations. The base's facilities, equipment, vehicles, and staff are all bought with the Influence that each player character brings to the table, and the type of Influence (Military, Civilian, Criminal, Intelligence, etc) determine exactly what the players can spend it on. A cell of military specialists might have an armored outpost stocked with high-powered weapons and a fully-armed attack helicopter, while a cell with more scientific professions might have a private supercomputer, a legitimate hazmat lab, and a team of trained engineers in their base.

The first version of Conspiracy X was published by Eden Studios and used its own system, but the second edition was adapted for Eden's Unisystem, and at one point the setting was also tapped for a GURPS sourcebook.

Conspiracy X provides examples of:

  • Aliens Among Us: Atlanteans, Saurian Men In Black, and metahumans (Grey/human hybrids) all walk among us. The latter are not necessarily aware of their extraterrestrial lineage.
  • Aliens Are Bastards: Across the board. The Atlanteans are egomaniacal manipulators who see humans as barely more than cattle, the Saurians are ruthless warmongers, and the Greys (while admittedly non-violent) not only care nothing about the well-being of the humans they abduct and experiment on, but the purpose of their experiments is to transform humanity into a species that they can psychically dominate.
  • Ancient Astronauts: The Atlanteans have been manipulating humanity from the very dawn of our species.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: Aegis knows that none of the aliens have humanity's best interest at heart, and the Black Book will do anything to anyone for the merest crumb of alien technology. At the same time, Aegis' own mission is to protect humanity at any cost, and when push comes to shove, they do not flinch at acts that are unconstitutional or straight up immoral.
  • Black Magic: On Earth, the Seepage that makes magic possible is an inherently corrupting force. Granted, you generally have nothing to fear if you do your magic ritual correctly... but screw up the ritual, and you give the Seepage an opening to corrupt you.
  • Brainwashing: One major difference between Aegis and the Black Book is that the latter... indoctrinate their agents more thoroughly. The Greys take it a step farther, as they can use their psychic powers to completely rewrite each other's personalities — as well as those of metahumans, which they're attempting to turn all of humanity into.
  • Cleanup Crew: Investigating (and combating) the aliens is only one half of an Aegis cell's job — like their Black Book rivals, they are also charged with keeping the public ignorant of the alien presence. (Of course, the Black Book hides alien evidence to make it easier for their extraterrestrial allies to operate on Earth, while Aegis simply fears the apocalyptic crapstorm that would happen if the public were to suddenly become aware of all the government corruption, lethal shapeshifters, mind-bending powers, and world-wrecking alien technology.)
  • Cloaking Device: Atlantean and Saurian spacecraft have stealth technology that makes it very difficult for Earthly radar to catch them. The Greys (who barely understand human technology) are not so blessed.
  • Conspiracy Kitchen Sink: The Trope Codifier for tabletop gaming. Almost every famous alien or paranormal conspiracy theory has some analog in this setting.
  • The Corruption: The Seepage is this, as it can slowly corrupt humans into monsters through various means. The rules suggest that player characters who succumb to this be retired from play.
  • Crapsack World: Fox Mulder only had to deal with one species of alien invaders, while Aegis must contend with three. As though that weren't enough, Aegis also has to deal with the terrifying products of Earth's own supernatural Seepage and a rival conspiracy who actively collaborate with all the aliens. With all the mind games, the paranormal horrors, and the apocalyptic level of the threats facing Earth, Aegis agents all too often end up at the Despair Event Horizon.
  • Cryptid Episode: Cryptids are a major part of the setting, and they even had their own sourcebook.
  • Deal with the Devil: How Aegis views the Black Book's collaboration with the various alien species. The Greys explicitly see their agreement with the Black Book as this — as far as the Greys are concerned, the Black Book has sold them the entire human race.
  • 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 — a fact that Aegis Prime is well aware of and implementing measures to combat.
  • Dying Race: The Greys, who are slowly being destroyed by the Static caused by humanity's nascent psychic abilities.
  • Evil Counterpart: The Black Book serves as this to Aegis, selling humanity out to the aliens instead of protecting Earth. However, the sourcebooks later offered a Perspective Flip, allowing campaigns where the players are Black Book agents, it is their faction that is actually saving humanity, and Aegis are subversives who only make everything worse.
  • Flamethrower Backfire: If a flamethrower's tank is hit by an attack that does lethal damage, it may be punctured and explode, covering everything within five meters (including the wearer) in flames.
  • Government Conspiracy: Aegis and the Black Book both are such massive government conspiracies that their continued secrecy is almost as fantastical an element of the setting as the aliens themselves. Both factions aggressively recruit operatives from a wide array of US government agencies, and both regularly subvert the government's military, intelligence, and scientific assets to their own ends.
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: Inverted by the rules for using psychic powers — the outcome depends on how many Zener cards the player guesses right, meaning that if one believes psychic powers exist in Real Life, then players who are psychic will have an advantage when playing psychic characters.
  • 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.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Again, Aegis. At best, their agents know that while they're fighting to protect humanity, they are not "white knights" who have to intervene in every injustice and (mundane) conspiracy they might learn about. At worst, they not only commit extortion, assassinations, and bombings when necessity demands, but know how to frame bad guys (or even random civilians) to ward off the law.
  • Killed to Uphold the Masquerade: If some random person uncovers evidence about the aliens or Aegis on their own, Aegis will generally try to recruit them, especially if they have the talents to make a good operative. If the individual refuses to join the conspiracy, though, Aegis will do anything to keep the truth hidden, up to and including killing the individual outright. This is, in fact, why John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and the Black Book is no different.
  • 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:
    • Most of this game's player characters — and their Black Book rivals — are pretty much MIBs as most people picture them: mysterious badasses with government connections who investigate alien phenomena and keep it hidden from the public. And yes, they often wear nice suits, especially if Aegis actually did recruit them from a government agency.
    • On top of the above, the Saurians have at their disposal bodymorphed Saurian-to-human operatives who are actually called "Men In Black" in-setting. They have all of a Saurian's combat training, technology, and ruthlessness, and they're a vital tool for increasing the Saurians' foothold on Earth.
  • The Mole: Both Aegis and the Black Book make heavy use of moles in their operations, ranging from infiltrators who merely gather information to full-on sleeper agents who are unaware that they can be converted into a conspiratorial operative with the right "trigger". Unsurprisingly, both organizations are paranoid about moles among their own ranks, and this is one reason why Aegis uses a cell structure and the elaborately-safeguarded HERMES system.
  • 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 humanity's ancestors to successfully rebel against the Atlanteans, as it amplified their native psychic abilities, giving them a way to fight back against Atlantean nanotech. Orichalcum also boosts the Seepage level for rituals just by having some on the caster. You can even snack on some to boost a ritual's power (good thing that magic metals don't cause heavy metal poisoning).
  • 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.
  • Ritual Magic: Magic in this game is a laborious process, requiring both time-consuming rituals and a location where enough Seepage currently exists to power the spell that you need.
  • Psychic Powers: Humans have latent psychic powers due to Atlanteans putting some Grey DNA into humanity's genome in the distant past. Interestingly, neither the Atlanteans nor Saurians have any psychic powers of their own, making psionics one of the (few) advantages humanity has over either species.
  • Puny Earthlings: Played with. Stat-wise, few humans could survive going toe to toe with a Saurian warrior, much less an Atlantean, and the rare human psychics have nothing on the average Grey. Yet none of these aliens dare to operate openly on Earth. Moreover, humanity is killing the Grey species just by existing, the Atlanteans (having destroyed their own civilization) have been on their own downward spiral for untold millennia, and the Saurians (having also destroyed their own civilization) are divided by genocidal factionalism which is even worse than humanity's own conflicts.
  • Roswell That Ends Well: The Roswell Incident was the reason for the Watch splitting into Aegis and the Black Book. Ironically, the scientists who wanted to make peaceful contact with The Greys would go on to form Aegis (which opposes all aliens), while the soldiers who shot down the Reticulan ship went on to create the Black Book (who collaborate with aliens).
  • Secret War: How all the factions operate. None of the aliens have the numbers (yet) to openly invade Earth, and both Aegis and the Black Book dread what would happen if the public were to become aware of not only the aliens, but of how deeply humanity's governments have been subverted by conspiracies. Ergo, everyone keeps their operations out of the public eye at all costs.
  • Shades of Conflict: Anything except White. Anyone who acts like a white hat is almost certainly either a naive dupe or someone who's trying to dupe you.
  • Shout-Out: In the second edition's 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 reverse engineering an alien vessel that crashed in eastern Europe during the early years of the war. The writers never specified the vessel's origin (letting gamemasters decide for themselves which, if any, of the "known" alien races were involved).
  • The Spear of Destiny: It exists, and 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 where the spear is now was left deliberately unanswered.
  • Technology Uplift: During the 20th century, the Atlanteans and Saurians both began feeding technology to Earth, causing human civilization to advance more rapidly than we otherwise would have.
  • 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
  • Villainous Friendship: While the Black Book's collaboration with the Gna-Tall Saurians has faced its hiccups, the trust (and respect) between the two factions has actually grown stronger over time.
  • Weirdness Magnet: A Supernatural 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.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: The result of Seepage transforming a human victim into an Incarnate. The resulting being gains various supernatural powers, but loses their humanity.
  • "X" Makes Anything Cool: There is no organization or conspiracy in this setting that is actually named "Conspiracy X". Yet conspiracies are what this game is all about and an X makes everything cool, so here we are.