The Introduction begins with a philosophical discourse on the role of language within horror stories, and how the like of movies has codified and labelled different monsters so that 'everyone knows' what creatures like werewolves or vampires are, what they look like, what they do... and what they are vulnerable to. But if you asked someone from middle Europe in the 12th century about a werewolf, they might have a quite different impression to convey, often less codified and certain than the average viewer of horror movies might be. In Dark Conspiracy, the intention is to bring back that uncertainty and mystery, to provide monsters that are scary because you don't know what they are or what they can do.
What follows is a collection of monsters from many different authors. Some are based on familiar legends, others on more obscure ones from cultures around the world or the author's own imagination. Moreover, they are not set in stone. You are free to tweak them as you please to suit your game. Whatever you think will scare the party... and maybe even their players!
For each we get a sketch, a stat block and various sections of notes. First up, The Mythology explains what stories are told, what legends there are, about this particular creature (that is, if it's one that 'exists' in Earth mythology). The rest (strictly for the Referee's eyes alone) is The Reality. This includes notes on the appearance, origins and biological habits (reproduction, feeding and so on) of the creature under discussion as well as their empathic abilities and, well, anything else the author wishes to share.
Most of these monsters are nasty, some disgusting and nearly all of them would like to eat you. Others mess with your dreams, attempt to possess you or in other ways bring harm to anyone it encounters. Interestingly the reason why they do these things is not touched upon... it's just what they do. A bird does not need a reason to fly, nor a fish one to swim. It's not really clear how sentient this beasties are, although many possess high levels of cunning. Most, even if they could, are not willing to negotiate or have a conversation, they just want to get on with whatever it is that they do.
They are all creatures and minions, rather than major league extraterrestials (ETs) themselves but many of them work for ETs or are used by them in the furtherance of their plans, when they are not just being themselves. They make for scary and horrific opposition, and it's easy just reading through the entries to come up with ideas for whole adventures or even campaigns built around discovering a given monster - probably though obvserving the results of its malign behaviour - and dealing with it. Somewhat more than a mere bestiary for the game, it's a useful addition to the Referee's bookshelf.
Return to Dark Races page.
Reviewed: 17 October 2017