Posted on October 10, 2004 by Flames
Conspiracy of Shadows
Written by Keith Senkowski
How far are you willing to go to learn the truth?
Combining elements of horror and fantasy, Conspiracy of Shadows is a game with a lot of possibility. It delves deep into a medieval world full of intrigue, corruption and mystery. This medieval world is modeled after our own history, yet has a completely fictional setting. This allows those playing CoS much more leeway when forging adventures and entertaining stories. Since they are not restrained by historical fact, they can alter governments, claim lands of their own and write their own history for future generations.
The first chapter of the book dives into the people of “Polian,” the setting of Conspiracy of Shadows. It details the culture, social hierarchy and examples of names for the different people in the region. The chapter wraps up with a discussion about towns, the calendar and religion of these people, fleshing out the culture and beliefs of the setting. I found this chapter very useful in getting into the setting of the game right away. It provides a ton of character possibilities and plenty of background. I do see some challenges with the Narrlachi in mixed Cells, but nearly all of the others could work together with little problem.
Chapter two describes in detail the geography of Polian. Providing great detail for Game Masters and Players to build stories using the material in chapter one to give life to the land. Several maps (which actually start in chapter one) flesh out the information detailed in this chapter, giving readers an image to go with the text. Polian is a huge continent, offering lots of different terrain and climate for all kinds of medieval adventures. The bits of Occult Lore and history mixed throughout the chapter provide GMs with plenty of story ideas.
Chapters three and four cover Character Creation and the Mystic Arts respectively. Chapter four is full of information for those playing “Witchblood” characters, making it essentially a continuation of the various elements that make up a character (Attributes, Skills, Resources, etc.). The Witchblood characters have an extra set of powers and magic available to them. Character Creation is fairly easy and the chapter progresses through the system, offering up an interesting sample character for reference. Character Creation for Conspiracy of Shadows gives both the Players and the Game Master plenty of material to work with. The Descriptors for each Attribute and Skill are a great idea, adding unique touches of personality and depth to each character.
Rules, from Combat to Character Improvement, make up chapter five. A quick and easy system, using the elements from chapters three and four, Conspiracy of Shadows can be picked up and played in a few minutes. This system offers a lot of possibility and plenty of opportunity for intrigue, action and strong role-playing. While the chapter does tend to focus on combat, the rules support any style of game play you can imagine…the combination of Destiny Pools and Descriptors make a variety of actions possible. Combat is well detailed, mixing weapons, armor and action with examples of attacks.
Chapter six is for the Game Master. Ideas on creating your own Conspiracy, “Goon” mechanics, environmental hazards such as disease, weather and poison, Horror checks, and information on the supernatural threats of Polian all make up this section. There is a lot of useful mechanics here to that can be used to flesh out the setting and make the game more adventurous (dangerous?) for the characters.
The Art of Conspiracy of Shadows, a mixture of haunting pieces from Keith Senkowski and Pat Loboyko, is a great addition to the material. Many of the pieces enhance the dark mood of the game with just the right touch of horror. There are some great setting scenes for the chapter breaks which show off the landscape of Polian.
There a few areas of the game that could use a little work, as with any game. It has a mixture of grammar and spelling mistakes, but no more than your average White Wolf product. The pronunciation guide placement in the middle of the various cultures and not with the information on daily life was a bit odd. Some of the mechanics, especially the Mystic Arts, can be a bit confusing at times. One of the great things about Bob Goat Press, however, is that product support is offered on their website. Not only do they have a section of game aides, they also have corrections and clarifications for the book which helps if you get confused by some of the text.
Fans of medieval and dark fantasy RPGs should pick up Conspiracy of Shadows. It provides the tools for hours and hours of game play and tons of possibilities. The ability to create your own conspiracies and not be tied into one specific plot allows Game Masters to customize each game to the players in the group, run multiple Conspiracy of Shadows games without retelling the same story, and introduce a variety of myths and legends with ease. There is a monthly e-zine called “Exposing the Shadows” that expands the material and offers more ideas for running Conspiracy of Shadows as well.
The truth is waiting for you. Will you be able to handle it?
Reviewer: Matt M McElroy