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08 February, 1998

Dark Conspiracy Lives Again!

by Michael J. Marchi

When Game Designers Workshop closed its doors for the last time in 1995, there was a great deal of speculation and concern over the ultimate fate of their main role-playing products.   Among the casualties were Traveller TNE, Twilight 2000, Traveller 2300 AD and Dark Conspiracy.  The rights for Traveller reverted back to its creator and a new company, Imperium Games emerged from the darkness to take up the flame.  Under the guidance of such familiar names as Marc Miller, Ken Whitman and Lester Smith, Traveller rose from the proverbial ashes and has since enjoyed a rather prolific comeback.  The rights for TW2K, 2300AD and Dark Conspiracy on the other hand, were purchased by Tantalus, Inc., a software development company, which specializes in writing game software for its sister company, MPGN.  Tantalus' interest in Dark Conspiracy was natural as they had previously produced an on-line version of GDW's Dark Conspiracy Minion Hunter board game.

Fans of Dark Conspiracy waited with anticipation to see what Tantalus would do with Dark Conspiracy.  Would there be a new printing of the rulebooks?  Would there be new products?  The word which finally made it to the public was less than encouraging.  According to Rob Miracle, a Tantalus representative, the company believed "there is no money to be made from a printed role-playing game unless it is very innovative and can  ride the crest of some social trend (1)".  With the possibility of reprinting the book(s) effectively squashed, talk began about providing the game to the public in an electronic form.  This too fell by the wayside.  Eventually, the fans resigned themselves to the fact that Tantalus had no interest in supporting the game.

On January 26th, 1998, Ken Whitman acting as spokesman for his new gaming company Archangel Entertainment,  posted a questionaire to the rec.games.frp.misc newsgroup.  Among the questions, he asked "Have you ever heard of Dark Conspiracy by GDW?"  "Have you ever played it?"  "Did you like it?" and most interesting of all "Would you buy the game if it were revised and re-released?".  It appeared as if Ken Whitman was once again getting involved in the resurrection business.  And this time, his sights were set on Dark Conspiracy.

The responses from the online community were guarded at first (they'd heard these questions before).  Despite their caution, they overwhelmingly supported a return of Dark Conspiracy to the printed form.  As Ken began making contact with the various DC supporters online, he also began discussions in the MPGN Dark Conspiracy mailing list.  He clairified his position, touted his credentials and began the ardurous task of winning over the jaded populous.  The questions came fast and furious.  The following is a compilation of several mailing list messages:

Question:  How long have you been publishing?
Whitman:  "I have been publishing for ten years, now."

Question:  What have you done so far?
Whitman:  "Mutazoids, Ralph Bakshi's Wizards, The WWF adventure game,  Traveller 4th edition, and currently I produced GROO: The Game, Extreme Vengeance, Steve Stone's Zero, and I am working on Larry Elmore's Sovereign Stone, The Three Stooges Card game and a bunch of other junk.-)"

Question:  Exactly how far have you gotten in your quest?
Whitman:  "I have sent in the DC contract and am expecting it in my hands anyday.  Since it was written by [Tantalus] I consider it pretty unlikely they wont sign it.  It is written in our contract that our books will be the "official" world and game design while we have the contract, which will be for 5 years."

Question:  What are your plans for Dark Conspiracy?
Whitman:  "Right now Tony Lee and Lester Smith will be revising some of the basic book and suppliments.  My gut feeling is if it's not broke don't fix it.  So only the things that have to be done will be changed.  We will probably take the 12 books published and make them into 6 to 8 larger books.  We will also keep them down below $20.  We plan to give them a graphic face lift and release them in May, 1998."

The fact that Lester Smith is involved in the project has for many people, added credence to the plan.  When Lester originally left GDW, some feared that the focus of Dark Conspiracy would be lost without the original author's  guidance.  Those fears were intensified as GDW began shutting down projects in a vain attempt to stay afloat, among them the 2nd edition printing of the Dark Conspiracy rulebook.  There is considerable history to overcome with the resurrection of any product.  Even more-so with a product that enjoys as devoted a following as Dark Conspiracy.  Bringing Lester on board was probably the best move Archangel Entertainment could have made under the circumstances.

With each passing day, more Dark Conspiracy enthusiasts seem to be coming around - embracing the hope that this time, their dreams will come true.  They have been eagerly participating in discussions over modifications they would like to see in the new books.  Everyone waits with anticipation to see what plots and twists Lester and the Archangel crew have in mind for furthering the story of the Dark incursion.

One thing is certain.  While we can now be assured that the dark future of Dark Conspiracy will continue to unfold, our own present seems a little less bleak.  Perhaps it's not such a Dark World, after all!

 
Michael J. Marchi   
February 8, 1998   
 
(1) Rob Miracle's quote from
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