In case you don’t get Twitter in your area, a new season of The X-Files aired recently and quite a few of us are going back to the old seasons for a refresher. Inevitably we feel the urge to play these types of characters in an RPG because the concept just works: small team, massive plot arcs, things to investigate, monsters, men in black, psychic powers. Who wouldn’t want to play this?
Let’s go over a few of the better tabletop RPG options for the paranormal investigator team on the go.
Let’s start this off with a bang. Conspiracy-X is arguably the most direct interpretation of The X-Files as an RPG. I mean, it’s got the letter ‘X’ right there in the title. What more do you want? Federal agents dealing with aliens, old government conspiracies, and paranormal abilities? Yep, it’s got them too.
The game lines up perfectly with what you’d desire in a game for this subgenre, with no need to interpret or convert. It’s already X-Files. The original edition was released during the height of the show’s popularity in the 90’s and comes with a set of zener cards for use in the game’s psychic powers mechanic. Newer editions are still in print and we’ve seen a few additional supplements in recent years.
Night’s Black Agents
Again, even the title makes you think of The X-Files. Night’s Black Agents is an investigative spy-thriller set within a vampire-centered conspiracy story. It can easily be run as an X-Files reboot if the big story was vampire monsters instead of aliens, as the game’s focus on webs of power and conspiracy fits perfectly with the genre.
Importantly, the game is built on the GUMSHOE System, a rather narrative inclined rules set that’s premised on the idea that investigation should be more about interpreting clues than finding them. Some might say this is the perfect basis for our goal, since FBI agents are investigators first and foremost.
A related game using GUMSHOE, The Esoterrorists, pits player agents against conspiracies of occult terrorists bent on ripping tears in the fabric of reality. Potentially an excellent campaign arc for your group’s investigative unit.
Originally a setting for the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game, Delta Green is a setting of government operatives fighting to save the world from eldritch horrors from beyond. Amazingly, Delta Green was first published before The X-Files went on the air. Geek & Sundry writer Ben Riggs features the game in his coverage of easy to prep games for International Tabletop Day.
Suffice it to say Delta Green is hailed as a titan of the governmental world domination fears games. Worth checking out for ideas no matter which system you choose to go with.
White Wolf / Onyx Path
Unsurprisingly, a number of White Wolf games from the 90’s really capture the paranoid conspiracy theory feel of the show. They actually published what could be called a direct answer to The X-Files in a supplement for Werewolf: The Apocalypse called Project Twilight. The game pretty much stands on its own, requiring only a corebook from one of the other classic World of Darkness games for dice mechanics guidance and a few creatures of the night. The game puts player characters within the FBI itself, within a little-known group called the Special Affairs Department (SAD), taking on all the great supernatural groups the World of Darkness already provides.
White Wolf’s other games also evoke that big brother feel, most notably Mage: The Ascension with it’s Technocracy faction. You could potentially play the game as literal men in black working for the New World Order (that’s what they call themselves). The Guide to the Technocracy is probably the best supplement for becoming these shadowy figures as they fight the “reality deviants” we call monsters.
Onyx Path publishes Hunter: The Vigil using the newer World of Darkness core rules. In this case, player characters belong to conspiracies themselves, again bent on exposing or destroying the various monster groups of the world. The strength of all these World of Darkness games is that there are already hundreds of books on the crazy creatures you might run into and the impossible hold they have over our world.
Utilizing the lightweight Cypher System, The Strange puts characters in the position of working for an organization investigating odd events and thwarting threats to the world. The unusual thing here is that the strange things come from alternate realities bordering our, created through the “fictional bleed” of our culture, media, and dreams. It’s The X-Files meets every fictional world you’ve ever wanted to explore.
Want to track down Moriarty as he escapes to a comicbook world to gain access to superhuman powers? These are the kinds crazy investigations your operative will stumble into with The Strange. Love crossover fanfic, conspiracies, and monsters? This is your game.
What do you think makes for a great conspiracy RPG game? Let us know in the comment section below. Check out all these great systems and settings, trust no one, and remember to play more games!
Featured Image Credit: 20th Century Fox Television
Image Credits: Eden Studios Inc., Pelgrane Press Ltd, Pagan Publishing, White Wolf Publishing, Monte Cook Games LLC