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2 July, 1999

[review] DEMONGROUND: The Electronic Fanzine of Dark Conspiracy

Author: Geoff Skellams, Marcus Bone, Mike Marchi, ed.
Company/Publisher: Fan, for DPI's Dark Conspiracy
Line: Dark Conspiracy
SKU: n/a
Cost: Free
Page count: n/a
ISBN: n/a
Capsule Review by Rob Beck II on 07/02/99.
Genre tags: Science fiction Horror Conspiracy

Dark Conspiracy is alive and well in the hearts of its fans.  This life takes form bimonthly as the online fanzine Demonground.  Demonground, in my opinion, has set the standard for what online publishing in the gaming community should be like.  It comes professionally laid out, each issue complete with a stunning cover.  In fact, the covers get better with each issue.  The new issue, #5, has an original oil painting as its cover inspired by DPI's newest Dark Conspiracy supplement, Sin City.  It has been produced since issue #1 in Adobe Acrobat, and is available at to any and all interested in new material for Dark Conspiracy. 

To truly appreciate the quality of Demonground, one must consider a little of the game Dark Conspiracy's history.  Dark Conspiracy was originally produced by Game Designer's Workshop in the late 80's and early '90's, and, like most of the games of that company, its fate became uncertain when GDW closed its doors.  Over the past few years, the game survived only in a few individual campaigns dotting the gamer landscape, a handful of websites, and on three closely related mailing lists. 

The revitalization of the game spurred an idea among a lot of the Old Guard, if you will, who had kept the game alive, that perhaps merely reprinting the game and slowly introducing new supplements wouldn't be enough to generate the interest needed to keep the game alive, or provide the fresh material that game masters and players alike so desperately craved.  The mailing lists and websites had, over the years, generated mountains of source material, inspired by the few surviving campaigns.  The original idea was to take some of the best of this material, and combine it with new works developed by the new fan base to make a truly mountainous archive of material; all of it easily adaptable to any campaign. 

There are many aspects of this magazine that makes it so appealing.  And yes, I have written for it, so of course, I'm biased, but my pride is well placed.  It easily rivals its paper predecessor, the GDW magazine Challenge, and, in my opinion, surpasses all current RPG magazines both paper and online.  The first thing you notice, after the absolutely stellar covers, is the extremely professional layout.  Keeping in mind, this magazine is a labor of love and not done for any monetary gain, this adds still to its superiority over its competitors.  Later issues have a point-and-click table of contents, and even possesses art.  This art is not always of the highest quality, but it's there, and most of it was generated for Demonground specifically, or Dark Conspiracy in general. 

Most of the issues have had themes, like the latest "Career Day" issue, and an issue for GM's just getting started in Dark Conspiracy.  Which reminds me, I have continually found the magazine very friendly to all levels of experience with the game.  It consistently encourages and assists new campaigns, but at the same time, offers a ready supply of material for the veterans.  Gotta love that. 

It might help to see a brief overview of what is usually in Demonground.  The layout is fairly standard, and as I've said before, very user friendly.  The issue always begins with an editorial talking about why the issue was put together the way it was, as well as covering any current events regarding the future of the game.  Issue 5, again, deals with why they picked a Career Day theme, and some news about the presence of Dark Conspiracy events at GENCON.  Other sections include house rules, home-grown campaign settings (an exhaustive and thoughtful series is underway regarding the Dark Conspiracy in Great Britain), NPC's, new darklings, new protodimensions and organizations, full adventures, and a holdover from the original game itself, tabloid articles complete with adventure seeds, when the GM is rushed or just doesn't feel like putting a lot of work into the next game session.  The tabloid seeds, I find, have also been a great way to lead into bigger adventures, provide red herrings, or start whole new campaigns.  A good imagination can go a long way with a little article. 

All in all, you can't go wrong to look at this magazine.  It's free, and who doesn't like to get free stuff? And it's an incredibly high quality publication.  In this case, you get a helluva lot more than what you paid for it.  Demonground has strived to be everything a GM running any kind of Dark Conspiracy campaign, new or old, could want.  And in each issue, time and again, it has succeeded. 

Rob Beck II


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