Spiel Essen Report

I planned to go to Spiel on a whim. It was a large con in a country that I spoke the language for, and reputedly a cool place to hang out for a few days. It gets more visitors that the main US con, GenCon, and it's practically on our doorstep globally. I dragged my girlfriend along on the promise of a brief holiday in Cologne afterwards. Included here are my thoughts on the experience:

Travel wise we flew from Birmingham to Cologne/Bonn. It took an hour and cost 50 quid, I expect it'll cost me a similar amount to go by train to Dragonmeet. We then got the (nice and swish) InterCity Express train to Essen Hauptbahnhof. Only minor issue being buying the local train ticket and having to pay a supplement. The Holiday Inn took a bit of finding (our map wasn't great), but was fairly central to Essen and pretty good for 50 quid a night. We mooched around Essen for food, and discovered it does bars and grills and that's about it. Had a reasonable pasta dish and a nice drink of Diebels Alt, which is on the aley side of German beers

Breakfast next day came courtesy of one of the many German self-service bakeries. Pastries and chocolate milk, mmm. We then caught the U-Bahn to Messe Essen (4 journey ticket for a couple of Euros). Messe is like the NEC, huge conference halls with lots of parking. The queues were extensive, but well managed (I thought only the Brits knew how to queue properly?), entry for up to four days is 25 euro (17 quid).

The main hall

Inside the hall was packed. It feels big, then you realise there's another 9 halls. The big family boardgames are the first three halls, along with the latest collectable card crazes. Each stand has a demo table or three, and if you stay for a moment you'll be sucked in. It's a frenzied mix of demos and purchasing (people bring trolleys to fill with the latest releases). The smaller halls are home to smaller games companies and a host of comic and tat retailers, complete with an artists alley, where you can have pictures drawn for you.

RPGs are mostly confined to dark and dingy hall 6, the only place with a distinct lack of demo games... Which is kind of jarring when the rest of the con is so focused on play. Lots of LARP kit though, including full-on chaos armour a couple of thousand euros and some neat bows. If you want oddments, it's a good place to browse. There were some really nice miniatures, my favorites of the lot being the pirate miniatures from Freebooter, who gave me Haribo so must be good. I managed to impress my girlfriend by failing to notice the scantily clad woman dressed up as a Confrontation miniature until she was waving a flyer in my face.

We spent most of the first day wandering round getting an idea of what was there. I popped in to see the guys at sighpress, who I'd chatted to at the Forge, they were showing a cool post-apocalyptic game - Degenesis - and German translation of Unknown Armies. Reading their products taxed my A-Level German, but the artwork and layout is of amazing quality. I expect an English translation to sell well on production alone, if they can get it sorted.

Our games first game of the day was Oltre Mare, a game of merchants around the Mediterranean from Rio Grande. I think we annoyed the staff by being two people playing on a our person table... German snacks were eaten to keep on the move. We found a small contingent of UK people at the back of Hall 7, including IRM Magazine (who I thought should be encouraged, so gave a review copy of Nopress), Crimson Empire and LARP Stalwarts Eldritch.

Spiel is a place to bring a game even if it's not yet for sale, the distributors and shop owners do the rounds.One cool unreleased game we saw was called King of Chicago, unsurprisingly about mobsters. Bargain of day one was Cartoon Action Hour RPG for 5 Euros (3 quid). A day mostly browsing and walking took its toll, so back to the hotel for a kip and dinner.

More bakery Breakfast for the next day. We took a more studied approach involving more sitting and demoing. First played was Cashtrap, a fun abstract family boardgame from a family company from the UK, get your money to the bank on the otehr side of the board while blocking your opponents. Next up was Daimyo, a hex-based strategy game. The game has a cool card-passing mechanic that means whatever you do this turn will be available to your opponents next turn. Xig, a fun game of jigsaw building with some lovely characterful artwork was next. Simple to play, and ideal for kids and adults to play together. Warumono 2, a game of heist esape and briefcase shenanigens, from a Japanese company. Also saw but didn't play, Anachronism, the History Channel CCG, for those who want to battle Genghis Khan against Joan of Arc.

The card-game highlight was Badaboom from Gigantoskop a game of goblin bomb diffusers. Great artwork, cool premise, fun gameplay. We bought that and its twin, "Spank the Monkey" a game of junk pile building. The guys at Gigantoskop were very chatty and entertaining salemen, those in the RPG hall could learn a thing about demos from them. By pure chance ended up playing in the demo with, Jurgen, the man responsible for the German version of Inspectres. I ended the day by browsing the hall for bargains, and got three of Hogshead's New Style games (Pantheon,Puppetland, Violence) for 6 Euros and had the pleasure of seeing a copy of Nopress on sale.

Saturday we took a break from games and went to Essen Zollverien, Essen's only tourist attraction, a disused coalmine, now a world heritage site and re-purposed to house a design museum and modern art installations (including the bonkers Palace of Projects). We were going to head back to Spiel afterward, but a slow waiter at the cafe stalled us somewhat. Nice beer though.

Sunday was the last day and we set about turning up early and playing a few games before the crowds arrived. Essen station's left luggage was handy store for our backpacks while we went back to Messe. Niagara was first test of the day, Spiel des Jahre (game of the year) 2005. A fun game of boats, diamonds and a neat river moving system. Treasure Island followed, a game of territory control and pirates, as demoed by a kid who was minding the store. A fun diversion, but the artwork could do with being sharper. Palatinus, a not very fun game of roman hills and control (unclear rules and uninspiring play) rounded the actual play off.

I popped back to talk to Tim at Sighpress, who'd had a good con, bar getting a cold. I'd sadly missed their demos on Saturday (curses!). Had a mooch around the Holistic booth, talked to the booth staff, and took a gander at their proposed cardgame, which has some stonking artwork.

Finally I did some purchasing in the dealer room, including some nice LARP kit. Also picked up a copy of Aye, Dark Overlord a RPG-Cardgame hybrid (kinda like Bedlam or Munchhausen) of Goblins making excuses to the eponymous Overlord. Great potential for crossover into broader market there.

Overall: Spiel is definitely more geared towards boardgames, it's a family occasion and a great opportunity to try before you buy. There's a substantial RPG crowd too, but what's missing is more solid demoing from the various RPG vendors. It is certainly a place to pick up bargain RPG purchases though! If you can combine it with a trip to Germany, it's well worth a look.

Review : Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, 2nd Edition

By Chris Pramas et al, Black Industries/GW/Green Ronin, £25 / $39.99

Warhammer has a special place in most UK roleplayers hearts. Back in the late eighties, when Games Workshop were still generic hobby store, it gave many of us our first taste of an RPG. For us it set the goalposts for what we expected, in the same way that D&D had for people ten years before. The game achieved a cult status with its dark fantasy setting, street level adventurers and black humour.

Then GW stopped stocking RPGs and ceased producing their own. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay became the preserve of the die-hard fan. Hogshead kept it in print throughout the mid-nineties and even produced several supplements. It became one of those games with a huge following who played the game, rather than simply awaited supplements. When James Wallace finished with Hogshead, the license reverted to GW, and the fans worried that it would never see the light of day, due to GWs seeming indifference to the roleplaying hobby. Then last year news spread that GW's black industries imprint were producing a new version with Green Ronin, producers of D20 material, writing it.

A lot has changed since the original WHFRP was published. Gamers expect more in terms of coherence of rules and quality of production. While the old game was fun, it had its quirks and a certain set of 1980s assumptions on how all RPGs should work. The new version has to tread that fine line between improvement and moving away from the original source. Do they manage it?

Lets start with the look. 254 pages of full colour, shorter than the old edition, but with cleaner design. The Geoff Taylor cover showing a grizzled group of adventurers knee-deep in Beastmen is spot on. It manages to be vivid, without sacrificing that “grubby” look that WFRP always had. The main book is scattered with characterful illustrations and easy to read text. Coherent ordering. Decent index. As an artefact it's quite good.

The opening fiction is short, and ties in with the example of play, so it seems to actually serve a purpose. There's the obligatory “What is roleplaying” section, which is less awful than some, but still gets itself a bit confused about what the point of the game is. Like many it tries to describe what RPGs are, rather than what this RPG is.

After a brief intro we're dumped into character creation. It's random. Now I pondered for a while on this decision. It flies against current trends, but there's something endearing about randomly being a tattooed Hochland Rat-catcher born under the sign of the bonesaw, and it neatly dovetails into the street-level feel of the game. It gives the game a particular flavour, forcing creativity though not getting what you want. I'm sure some Fan will create a points build version soon enough though.

The creation process leaves you with a Dwarf, Elf, Human or Halfling with a random profile consisting of Weapon Skill, Ballistic Skill, Strength, Toughness, Agility, Intelligence, Willpower and Fellowship, ecah rated in a percentage. You also calculate a second set of characteristics: Attacks, Wounds, Strength Bonus, Toughness Bonus, Magic, Insanity and Fate points. You also get some racial and random talents, things your character is good at.

Careers follow, and are at the heart of the system. Each is a flavourful insight into what people do in the Warhammer World. You don't need prose on how the Empire is filled with dissent, when you have a career like the Agitator. Each career gives you certain things you can buy your character as you earn experience. As noted above your first career is random, after that you can follow through it's various exits to new ones: Ratcatcher to Thief to Rogue.

Each career gives your character access to a variety of skills and talents. For players of the old game, this is new tweak. It separates learned stuff from natural talents and aptitudes, almost. Effectively it's a game difference between skills to achieve tasks, and talents that grant other bonuses or access to things like magic. For example you have the perception skill, but the Acute Hearing talent gives you a bonus on a particular type of roll. Skills allow you to make a percentile roll against one of your primary characteristics to achieve a task, if you don't have a skill you can try but your characteristic is halved. Skills can also now be taken multiple times for additional bonuses.

So, you create a character. Then you equip them. The equipment chapter contains details of all your favourite weapons and armour. Details of weapon qualities (Pummelling weapons help you strike to stun, for example). It also contains details on travel, living expenses, coin types and the effects of getting drunk (for those unfamiliar with this). Again, it's a bit retro in it's approach to such things, but made entertaining by the little details about the Empire setting included. If you like tracking everything to the last coin, then this is great, if you prefer a more abstract “story necessity” method then it'll be less enthralling.

The combat section gives a look at the core of Warhammer, gritty combat. It retains the wargamesque nature of the original, with a healthy dash of D20isms thrown in. It talks about miniatures, splits up rounds, defines available actions and gives entertaining critical hit tables. The basic combat mechanic is still: Roll under your skill on D100, reverse the roll for location, roll D10 and add your damage subtract toughness and armour, take the result from your wounds. If you get reduced to 0 wounds, take a critical result from the tables of mutilation.

Magic is the most changes section of the book from the older version. The new system is more in line with current Warhammer Fantasy Battle, bringing in colour magic and making every spell failure a possible daemonic manifestation. The new spells are clear and flavourful, so I don't think any older players will object and petty magic like “Protection from Rain” remains.

Belief and Religion gets it's own chapter, and adds a nice splodge of setting flavour. It gets the superstitious nature of the setting across well, and nothing defines people better than what they believe in. Sure it's mostly background colour, but worthwhile.

The GMs section is your standard “Act as Referee, define the story, play non-player characters, here's some sample adventures” kind of affair. Given the rest of the book's focus, the section on Themes and character driven adventure seems out of place, but it is welcome. The chapter also deals with insanity, in fact a good deal more space is spent on this that how to GM. Good for setting the nature of the game, bad for advising how to run the game.

The Empire setting gets a chapter of its own. As mentioned above, much of the falvour for the setting is spread throughout the book, so don't be surprised that this is a relatively short summary of history, geography, politics, external and internal threats. It does the job, and you don't need to know most of it to play anyway.

Finally the game includes a quick set of sample antagonists from Orcs to Bandits to Dogs and a Sample adventure involving guarding some refugees. The bestiary is not exhaustive, but since Warhammer mainly concerns itself with the internal goings on of the Empire, an array of beasts isn't necessary. The scenarios is quick and a useful intro for newcomers.

Overall: If I'm honest, what I wanted was the Warhammer Storygame, what this is is a very loyal modernisation of the original WHFRP. The new book is loyal in tone and mechanics to the old one, and as such will please existing fans. For my part though, I can't help but wish that it had tried to innovate just a little more...

Review : Bits of Dungeons

By Daniel Brakhage, Mark Potter, Vicky Potter, Randy Eliason, Tabletop Adventures, $4.75 PDF

It's quite hard to review a product that doesn't quite fit with your style of gaming. The temptation is to rail against it, or deride. But that would be a disservice, just because you won't find a product useful, doesn't mean somebody else won't find it a godsend.

Which brings me in a round-about way to Bits of Darkness: Dungeons from Tabletop Adventures. This 40-page PDf is a selection of "Fluff and Atmosphere". Little passages or text to spice up your dungeon delving, and avoid saying "it's another empty room".

They're designed to add color and fancy to otherwise bland dungeoneering.So here's my difficulty. I haven't run a game this way in years. I've always been a "Cut to the stuff that matters" GM. I like my player-driven story. I've played a fair few dungeon games in my time, sure, but I've rarely known a GM who couldn't improvise an evocative decription at the drop of a hat.

So I'm struggling a bit to see how this product will help me, or people I know. Maybe it's handy if you don't have 5 minutes before a game to rough out descriptive ideas and a theme for your dungeon? The product is for promoted as "for a harried GM who hasn't time to write what's in every corner of a Dungeon", so I suppose this is the market. However, even when I prepare games I hardly ever run anything with more than a few minutes worth of notes about key ideas, so I'm used to filling in those gaps myself. Grabbing something random that doesn't fit the feel of the game I'm going for, well just seems wrong. I suppose if you were running a sort of random encounter-based game, then you could slot these into your major encounters as filler.

Anyhow, the product has two types of section: Shards and Bits. Shards are mini-encounters, complete with D20 stats and possible offshoots. There are six of these, and they remind me of the color from the Warhammer Quest board game. Not that that's a bad thing at all.Bits are smaller, paragraph length items, such as:

"42: some sort of oily liquid is dripping from the ceiling in this area of the hallway. There is a shallow trough worn down the middle of the hallway, and the fluid trickles down it for abotu fifteen feet before disappearing into a crack in the floor."

I was slightly annoyed that I had to type that out again, since the PDF wouldn't copy and paste properly. Anyway, it gives you an idea of the kind of thing that is contained in the PDF. They're divided broadly into sights, sounds, scents and stuff, with about 100 in total. So you get your share of "the stone in this corridor is an interesting shade" and "dank rotting smells", to add to Dungeons in need of wallpapering. Lots of slime, muck, corpses, rats, spiders, you get the picture.

There's also 20 bits for catacombs and 20 bits of trouble, extras that may require a roll of some sort. If you lack inspiration, then I suppose many of these could be expanded into encounters, or used as a springboard for game ideas.

The last 20 pages are divided into cards that repeat the various bits, which you can print out and use for quick reference.

Overall: If you've been playing for a while, I doubt you'd get much use from these, unless you just want to grab a bunch of players and roll up a random Dungeon. If you've got a newbie who wants to DM a game of D&D, then this might help him on the way to learning a few pat responses for the question "So what does this room look like?"

Review : World of Darkness Rulebook

By White Wolf, $19.99 / £11.99  Print

So here we are. Ten years after the begining of The World of Darkness it ends with Gehenna (or your personal choice of ending). With the old one dead, we get an entirely new one. Or do we? I'll assume that in reading this you're fairly conversant with the old World of Darkness (from here on in WOD) games, and try and focus on differences between the two.

Lets start with the bad. There's lots of intro fiction. It's hard to do right (I've tried myself) and the new WOD intro stuff just doesn't grab me. Now this might be a taste thing - I'm willing to admit that - or it might be a sign that short stories aren't a good way to introduce RPGs as a concept. It just makes the differences between fiction and group participation storytelling more obvious.

Moving on swiftly to the layout and illustrations. They're good. Evocative black and white artwork throughout, with easy to read pages and nicely placed quotes. WOD 2.0 is designed. Everything I would expect from White Wolf. As an artifact the book is nice.

So, it's page 22 and we finally get some description of what the book/game is about. It's about horror, apparently, and mood and setting. And by the way, rules don't matter...

Dive back into some florid prose.

Resurface again at page 32 for a solid 2 page rundown of the rules (which don't matter, remember) followed by a brief 2-page explanation of character creation. Despite the inconsistencies of attitude to rules there's good solid stuff here, lots of quick ins for existing players, who are bound to be the primary audience.

Next we have a spread of glossary and a spread of common rolls. Those 8 pages contain the core of the book distilled down: Make your character with points, Attributes, skills, Merits and Flaws. Roll a pool of 10-sided dice based on attribute+skill 8s or higher are successes.

The rest of the book is details; Minuitae that expand on those pages. I'm quite sold on these games which treat you like you've played an RPG before like this, but give new players options too.

The sections that follow expand our understanding from these basics. Attributes are described in detail, they're now broken down by usage (power, finesse, resistance) and type (mental, social, physical) for a total of nine. It's a scheme that makes sense, and adds clarity. Want physical finesse? That's dexterity. Want mental resisitance? That's resolve.

In the game Skills are used to achieve tasks (isn't that a bit early 90s, isn't conflict resolution where it's at in storytelling games? I thought White Wolf were cutting edge?) Each skill is listed with examples, who might possess it and possible specialties. Skills are split into mental, physical and social categories and they're all quite broad. Specialties can be used to make your character better at a particular niche within a skill, and you get three of these to start with.

Each character has Advantages. These are ways your character gets an edge in the world. Or derived attributes that are used for finiky things like initiative, willpower and health levels. Morality is here, interesting as it may put the focus on moral choice in all WOD games, not just Vampire as previously. A good thing in my opinion. Commit a sin on the morality table and lose morality rating. Losing morality costs too, you're character is likely to gain derangements at each drop. They might get morality back at the end of a story if they redeem themselve too.

Each character must pick a virtue (based of seven virtues) and vice (based on seven deadly sins). Driving character traits that nicely map out a characters core thematic conflicts. They rock on toast, and are a great tool for player and Storyteller alike. A character with the virtue of Fortitude and the Vice of Wrath is about being tested by the world and sometimes giving in to anger. Cool, as an ST I got my handle on that character really quickly. The virtue and vice also feed into the willpower mechanic of points to increase chances of success, and indulging vices gets you back spent willpower.

You also have more chance of surviving with humanity intact if you commit a sin whilst following a virtue. These things are tiny tweaks but with a big impact on play. Sadly I suspect many groups will ignore the sheer story potential of using and abusing the virtue/vice pairing, since there's relatively little about it in the actual storyteller advice.

Merits are things that make your character stand out, system bits that don't fit into already defined areas. Every character gets some to define their niche. Are you knowledgable or a Kung-fu fighter, have allies or a mentor? The list goes on, and all are nicely defined.

The Dramatic systems chapter covers the rules in detail. Time and how it is measured (Scene, chapter, round and so on) is here, as are different forms of action. what do you roll and when. One key difference from old WOD is that while willpower cans till be spent to boost success, it now gives you 3 extra dice, rather than 1 automatic success. Fans of the old system will also notice smaller pools, due to less points to spend at character creation. Dramatic failures seem to be fixed nicely though, you now only have a chance of dramtic failure is your pool of dice is reduced to 1 and you roll badly.

Combat is detailed. More so than a storytelling game need be in my opinion. Many of these rules could be condensed into "has advantage gain dice" and "is disadvantaged lose dice". There are three types of damange (bashing, lethal, aggravated) and details on a variety of different ways to take these, from fire to toxin. Finally there's an example of play (mainly combat). On the plus side Combat is much faster than the old WOD, reducing to hit, to damage and soak to one roll is a good thing.

Oddly though for the "Storytelling System", there's a whole lot of the book dedicated to tasks and combat and not much to story. Storytelling is chapter 8. The poorly thought out argument of "roll versus role" is wheeled out again, and sounds just as unconvincing as it did 10 years ago. In a game with so many rules that actively encourage drama (like virtue, vice and morality) it's sad to see this kind of "rules prevent good story" rubbish. Although there's some useful material, the chapter can't seem to nail down practicalities. There's lots of advice on what you should be doing, but not quite enough on how to achieve those results. Maybe it's just so they can sell a storytellers book later.

So how does this all work in play? Well, for old players the higher difficulty on dice (8s not 6s as default) and lower pool is a big change. Until your ST gets the hang of giving you bonuses for situations, I forsee a lot of failure, it certainly seemed that way in my group. You could argue that this meshes with the "grim world" of the WOD, but it does mean your guy who's supposed to be talented at something ends up looking like a dufus quite often. With this in mind it would be worth a section in the book on how often to roll for tasks and abstracting to conflict resolution. However, I suspect that once players get the hang of following virtues and vices to replenish WP, and Storytellers grasp creating stories with these in mind, the game engine will hum along nicely.

Overall: Generally the game system works and the setting is really easy to grasp since it's a darker version of our own world. Old players will find it familiar enough, new players will find this a better intro than the old games (if they are willing to wade through tawdry prose). The same old inconsistencies are here, but putting everything in one book means less duplication across game lines. The new additions like virtue and vice pep up the system nicely. It's not revolutionary, but it's a step up in the elegence stakes and it does the job that most existing WOD players will expect.

Review : Conspiracy of Shadows

By Keith Senkowski, Bob Goat, $21.99 Print

If the X-files had been set in the 12th century, then it might have been something like Conspiracy of Shadows. It's a game of dark secrets that might kill your character, and secret dealings that go straight to the heart of the setting.

With one fairly major twist. What the conspiracy actually is remains the decision of each GM (and to some extent the players, since the GM can work in bits of their character backgrounds to it). So no campaign is ever the same as another. Sure, you get advice on what the conspiracy might be, but every game of Conspiracy of Shadows is going to be a unique run through a paranoid medieval world. I like this as a concept.

Setting wise, Conspiracy of Shadows gives a human-centric fantasy world called Polian, with a variety of cultures drawing on real-world history (Norderin as a Norse amalgum, for example). Chapters one and two give us details of the people and places of the setting, and give enough to hit the setting running. Each with a history, social structure and sub-cultural breakdown. We even get pronunciation guides, maps and sample names.

Character creation is a nice quick affair, and really brings home what a character's motivations are. You start with a drive, passion and ethnicity. Passion summarizes your characters core beliefs, if you play your character true to it, you get to refresh your destiny pool between sessions (more on destiny later). Drive is the event that thrust your character into fighting the conspiracy, a sitatuon you are trying to resolve, whilst persuing your drive you get bonuses to rolls. Ethnicity gives you certain advantages based on heritage, and also helps decide how much resources and relationships(the games abstract systems for equipment and useful contacts). This is really a game where a character's personality and heritage can make a huge diference.

There are four basic attributes, Fortitude (physical strength and Toughness), Reflex (co-ordination, swiftness and grace), Knowledge, Temperament (strength of personality), between which you divide 11 points. Each character has a profession, which is defined by dividing 17 points amongst 6 skills (there are 17 skills described, so broad abilities are the norm here). You get to write a descriptor for each of the attributes and skills, that make them unique to your character. Descriptors help the GM decide if your character should get a bonus or penalty when attempting things, and so help to nicely define a character's niche.

Next write down endurance points (how long your character can keep going) and vitality (hit points), along with some gear. Finally you can choose to have a witchblood power, or not, depending on if you want to risk being burned as a witch...

After all the players have created characters, it's time to join them together in a cell. Characters pool their resources and relationships to buy Allies, Realestate, Contacts, A Library, Mentors and Retainers. This mutual creation allows the PCs to come up wiht some solid shared background. Finally, the players join together to write a Kicker (as seen in Sorcerer), an event that kickstarts play. Yup, the players get to choose where the story begins, and it's got to be in the middle of things.

Magic in Conspiracy of Shadows is divided into two types: Witchblood powers and Ritual Magic. Witchblood powers are minor abilities to spice up play, and are available to PCs. Rituals are powerful, rarer and may well be the focus of a scenario.

The system is a nice and simple 2D6 skill+Attribute mechanic. You get an extra dice if a positive descriptor comes into play, and one less if a negative one comes into play. Destiny plays an important part in COS. You get a pool of destiny points at the start of play, equal to however many negative descriptors you took for low skills/attributes. You get more during play for evoking the setting, or inventing cool details during gameplay. Destiny can be spent after rolls to boost them to successes from failures.

Conspiracy of Shadows has a nicely elegant combat system. Roll initiative for the first round based off of reflexes. For each subsequent round you move up and down initiative based on success of your actions. Endurance can also be spent to move up the initiative tree. Characters act in order of initiative, and can have as many actions as they are willing to spend endurance, until they fail in one. Combos of actions and maneavers add to your chance of success. A system that keeps combats moving, and gives them a feel of blow after blow raining down. Damage comes off your vitality, but there's a set of wound penalties associated with how much you have left. It's quick and flexible. Conspiracy of Shadows has a reasonably large GM section that covers everything from fleshing out your conspiracy, through poison and disease to goons and supernatural antagonists. I'd have liked to see more versions of fleshed out conspiracies, but this is a minor quibble.

Overall: Conspiracy of Shadows has some great features, evocative art and a solid game system. It has occasional glitches (mainly typos and editing problems), but in general it provides an interesting twist on RPG fantasy.