9 Tips On How To Add Conspiracies To Your Game - Roleplaying Tips

9 Tips On How To Add Conspiracies To Your Game

From Jesse C. Cohoon

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #578

Conspiracy (Noun):

  1. A plot to carry out some harmful, wrongful, or subversive illegal act, especially a political plot
  2. A secret agreement between two or more people to perform an unlawful act
  3. A group of conspirators banded together to achieve some harmful or illegal purpose
  4. A joining or acting together, as if by sinister design

Conspiracy theorists are people who believe the government is secretly controlled by power brokers in flagrant violation of the constitution. They believe these power brokers control everything we see on the TV, are able to read on the internet, what laws get passed and more.

Conspiracies Must Be At Least, In Part, Secret

Even if “publicly known,” there should be some part of the conspiracy that isn’t known.

Even though the Free Masons are a publicly known organization, it doesn’t mean the public at large knows the full extent of its activities or ambitions.

What if the upper echelons of their organization sought to covertly control the government?

What if the Skull and Crossbones really do control the US President to shape national and international policy?

A plot of which everyone knows all the particulars will likely fail because, by definition, it is harmful to others. People wouldn’t sit around and let something terrible take place, they’d do something to stop it. If the right people knew of the plots to assassinate President Kennedy, someone would have stopped it.

When determining what is secret and what is well-known by the public at large about a conspiracy, think about what means they will and will not go to keep what is secret a secret.

For instance, a conspiracy dedicated to nonviolence may simply imprison those that find out about it. Or they might swear them to secrecy about what they’ve seen or heard.

Determine The Conspiracy’s Reach

A conspiracy can contain as many or as few people as you desire.

Keep in mind, the more wide-reaching the conspiracy is, the more likely it is to be found out.

A conspiracy of two people can hide better than a conspiracy consisting of dozens or more people.

A conspiracy might be as simple as replacing the sheriff in a backwater town, blackmailing a local religious official for financial gain, or overthrowing the gods themselves.

Multiple Conspiracies May Have The Same Goal

Create multiple conspiracies that have the same goal but differ in significant ways.

For example, beholders and mind flayers might be conspiring to control the government but each faction has different reasons.

When setting up multiple conspiracies, determine the goals and leadership of each and whether or not they work together on some level or not.

Also determine if they would be hostile to the other conspiracies if they found out about them. If they would become allies, how would they work together?

Conspiracies May Have Something They Wish To Protect

If the conspiracy is protecting something, determine what it is and to what means they will go to protect it.

Also, determine the consequences of the fallout if and when the conspiracy is discovered. They could be different than what the conspirators imagine.

If the government conspires against the people from the presence of aliens, it could be to protect them from widespread panic and the fallout from such.

  • What happens to people who try to expose the government’s secrets to the public?
  • Do whistle blowers mysteriously disappear or are they discredited by officials?

Conspiracies Must Be Dangerous

The danger might not always be physical, in the sense of hurting others. Though it can be, if necessary.

Determine who is going to be hurt and exactly how if the conspiracy succeeds. Also, determine the unforeseen fallout if the conspiracy succeeds.

Conspiracies must also be dangerous to people finding out about it. The conspirators could fight and kill those who know about it or simply disappear, never to be heard from again. They could be executed as a traitor to the state.

A more insidious method might be to “prove” to the people who found out about the conspiracy that they were wrong and get them to recant.

Another method is recruitment. If they people who discovered the conspiracy are corruptible or swayable, they could be granted entrance into the conspiracy, which is a danger to their morality.

Conspirators Might “Switch Sides” If Shown Their Error

Just because conspirators are dedicated to their cause, doesn’t mean they can’t change their minds or tactics. Perhaps the PCs can persuade them to look at other options, or even the other side.

When writing an NPC, determine what new facts or circumstances might cause them to change their mind or allow the status quo to continue.

Conspiracies, If Successful, Must Be A “Game Changer”

Determine what the conspiracy will do if it’s successful. Bigger stakes mean better stories.

Will it rewrite the rules of magic? Will it unleash an ancient demon from another dimension onto the unsuspecting public?

Whatever the “end game” is, it must change things forever.

Conspiracies Might Be Only In The Mind

Just because your players see conspiracies doesn’t mean they exist.

Alternatively, a conspiracy might be different than what the PCs see or think. This is your chance to add twists to the story.

The conspiracy might actually be much simpler or much more complex.

Also, what seems to be a conspiracy might be just circumstantial evidence pointing to collusion when none such exists.

Conspiracies Should Be Fun

Don’t stress if your players don’t pick up on all the conspiracies that are in the game or see them where they aren’t.

Some things they may simply write off as mysterious. It’s all a part of the fun of the game.

Comment From Johnn

Thanks for the excellent tips, Jesse! RPT readers, you can find a few additional tips here:

How to Add Conspiracy Theories to Your Game

When thinking about your campaign this week, see if you can fit a conspiracy in it. I especially like Jesse’s tip about creating multiple factions conspiring to do the same thing but for different reasons. That will really challenge your players as they try to figure out who’s who, what’s going on and why.

The beauty of conspiracies is you can layer them on top of just about any existing campaign. You can make a conspiracy a side plot, a PC special plot, or a new thread in your central plot.

Graphic of logo used as divider

Brief Word From Johnn

Want To Become Better Organized?

It was killing me having my notes and ideas spread out all over the place.

I could never find what I wanted when I wanted it.

It felt like an evil cleric had cast Whirlwind on my notes.

That all changed when I put together a slick way to organize my stuff. Notes, ideas, world details, adventure plans, NPCs, items – the works!

Would you be in interested in learning my system?

I have created a video course showing you exactly how I got organized and how I stay organized using MyInfo software.

It’s a 16 part series where you “look over my shoulder” as I use MyInfo’s multitude of features to do some cool stuff so all your game info is at your fingertips.

If you already have software to organize your info, you can still apply my system and just translate MyInfo’s features to your software’s way of doing things.

The best part is this course is free. No strings.

Just enter your email to get the password:

Get organized now >> GM Organization

Did You Get My Note About Fate For A Buck?

A couple days ago I sent you news about the Fate RPG being a great game and available right now on a pay-what-you-want basis.

RPT Reader Matthew Roark sent me this clarification. Thanks Matthew!

Johnn,

This is not a promotion. The ‘pay what you like’ price is how this product will be priced forever. This was promised by the line developer during the Kickstarter.

Just thought you would like to let your fans know.

From the Kickstarter:

After the Kickstarter campaign concludes and the game’s text, art, and layout are finalized, the PDF of Fate Core will be made available to everyone on a “pay what you like” scheme. We’ll also be selling a printed version of the game, and will use the system to power upcoming games like the Atomic Robo RPG.

Upon publication we’ll place near to 100% of the Fate Core text into the Open Gaming License as open content, once again continuing our commitment to supporting third party efforts to build the Fate games everyone wants to see.

And Lallander emailed me this info:

Johnn,

It is just called Fate now. They’ve diverged enough from their Fudge roots with the third edition that they’ve decided to drop the acronym. You can also download the PDFs for free from their site as well.

Fate Publishers: Sound Off!

They would of course like it if you then donated something, but it isn’t mandatory.

Thanks guys!