Pyramid: Designer's Notes: GURPS Infinite Worlds

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Designer's Notes: GURPS Infinite Worlds
by Kenneth Hite
Fathers! Your virtues, such the power of grace, Their spirit, in your children, thus approve. Transcendent over Time, unbound by place, Concord and charity in Circles move. -- William Wordsworth, Ecclesiastical Sonnets, XIV It seemed like a three-inch putt, a slam dunk, a veritable gimme. All I had to do was take the best of GURPS' pre-existing alternate-worlds material, an embarrassment of riches if ever there was one, and turn it into GURPS Infinite Worlds. No sweat, he thought. The only thing really missing was a really useful, solid set of guidelines for alternate history construction. So of course, assembling and expanding Infinite Worlds from GURPS Time Travel, both GURPS Alternate Earths books, and Chapter 20 of the new Fourth Edition GURPS Basic Set took me twice as long as I thought it would, and likely three times as long as the long-suffering Andrew Hackard thought it would. Part of the challenge was simply updating everything, and not merely to Fourth Edition rules. (Although that was no picnic in its own right, since I started work on Infinite Worlds before the Fourth Edition was finalized.) I also had to look at the last 10 years of world-historical theory, and the last 15 years of time travel and alternate history SF. For example: GURPS Time Travel predates Harry Turtledove's Worldwar series, and GURPS Alternate Earths predates Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel. What I wrote needed to reflect those changes to the genre and the subject matter, to the extent it could. I took this most seriously in Chapter Three, the "Building An Alternate Earth" chapter, which I divided into two main sections. The first, and one of the trickiest to make work, was a random history generation system, modeled after the wonderful random planet generator in GURPS Space. In a game about infinite worlds, it seemed odd that we didn't have a way for the GM to create them in bulk. What I came up with may not be the first such system (I'm fairly sure that Fringeworthy must have one, for example), but it's the first one that actually pays attention to any sort of historical rigor whatsoever. The second half of that chapter is an extended summary of the current state of historical modeling, with as much rigor as possible while exhibiting a massive bias toward usefulness in designing alternate histories. That, for instance, is why there's a summary of the completely daft "biological history model" of Oswald Spengler in there -- it's nonsense, but Poul Anderson, James Blish, and other top-notch SF writers have used it to design future histories that feel real. Other stuff I tossed into the mix included Strauss and Howe's generational history, the "Kondratiev wave" in economics, and as much as we know (not much) about climate change cycles. The result may not be history as we know it, but it is definitely history as I design it, which seems preferable for roleplaying games. But mostly I adapted, adopted, and improved, as the Round Table motto has it. David Pulver had (very flatteringly) added the Cabal, reality quakes, and a crosstime-capable Reich-5 to the basic

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are apparently slated for e23 releases. and my fantasy crossworld setting "Collegio Januari" -. if you're going to model a genre. Each claims to come from a future that might be labeled "posthuman. (You may imagine my delighted reaction. of "time travel reports" and "visitor sightings" choking the Patrol archives. John M. But some of the deleted gems were too diffuse to make anything but the cutting-room floor. to produce the 256 pages in question. (Steve didn't like them. There are." although the details are sketchy at best. if not thousands.as a mere backdrop for their own ineffable activities -. and of course. This certainly does little to explain anything. when the book shrank from 256 pages to 240. hundreds. I also added a lot of other stuff that came right back out again. many Infinity researchers believe both visitor groups come from wildly divergent worldlines.is deeply unsettling to some.) The second bit just compiles a few of the Things That Can Go Wrong with dimension or time travel in general. again? I expanded some things. and knit the result into a (hopefully) consistent whole. and some more bad guys for the Order of the Hourglass to fight. brushed past some others. astrally projecting scarabs and blue quantum fogs are no more or less unreasonable than any other possible future. since nothing exists yet on which to base rationality. Two Dooms: The Future Although the vast majority of Infinity's experience is (somewhat ironically) confined to the present in its myriad alternate forms. and unaware that they have crossed quantum barriers in their journey.I enjoyed going into lurid detail on just how Nazi Science Crossed The Feeble Dimensional Barrier. By this logic. and how to explain them to people who hadn't read what I had written about them already. a dozen new alternate Earths to play with. Indeed. The first section is my attempt to add a future to the Infinite Worlds -. well. in their representatives in the Infinite Worlds' present. specifically. or the Promelleans. but they differ in the few details generally agreed upon. Neanderthals. have assumed that they have traveled into their own past.Pyramid: Designer's Notes: GURPS Infinite Worlds http://www. I added relatively few original ideas to the mix: a crosstime mining corporation run by a parallel Cecil Rhodes. the future is not just infinite. Most of my work was just such building on foundations laid by Steve Jackson.sjgames. I had to figure out how they worked in the here-and-now. some alternate human races (Morlocks. What did the "10 divisions" in the I-Cops and "eight divisions" in the Scouts do. my standard "campaign parameters" discussion. super-soldiers). so I shan't include them here. exactly? What's happened to Reich-5's Japan in the last 20 years? How does John W. . and Andrew. The eagle-eyed may note a bit of Lovecraftian dues-paying in each section -. Ford. but argue that the future per se is a constant state of quantum indeterminacy. at least two "futures" interact occasionally with Homeline's own era. These two futures are not necessarily incompatible. and Dave Pulver. Campbell's death abort scientific progress. Of the reliable "UFB" (Unidentified Future Being) sightings. it's infinitely fuzzy. Much of it was actually fun -. Ah.the Promelleans. The notion that some unimaginable posthuman entities are treating the present the way that Infinity treats the parallel Earths -. but it does let Infinity higher-ups feel better. the vast majority falls into one of two categories: the coleopteran travelers. 2 of 6 03/12/2007 11:07 a. of course. you'd better steal from its best.yet more alternate Earths (possibly including my "Turtledove tribute" featuring a Gormelite invasion in the 1960s). Other investigators of the UFB phenomenon tentatively accept the visitors' claims at face value.html?id=5255 Infinite Worlds setting. so I present them now to you fine people. In short.m.com/pyramid/login/article.) Some of those pages -. some of them even filed by Patrolmen.I say. are a "GM's friend" to help move PC parties from the Infinite Worlds setting into any future-SF type setting. mutants. having nearly killed myself.

They often show language skills they never previously possessed. as though they were unused to handling pens. Promelleans usually take some care not to abduct people in public or flashy ways. the Carpathian Mountains. and have a high magic resistance. Promelleans may also be behind some of the vanished conveyors from both Centrum and Infinity. in which he has been transformed into an enormous beetle. or vanishes into acausality. they seem to "select" for targets with broad experience across the quantum stream. or dung beetle. snatched to the future by these enigmatic beings. taking individuals or small groups of people from certain timelines. restricting their discussions to oracular pronouncements about the "tree of futures. is unclear. Humans possessed by the coleopteran travelers evince total amnesia. According to this fragmented tale." The most consistent element of Promellean ideology seems to be distrust of someone or something called "the Vortun. Psis attempting to contact the Promelleans wind up unconscious or frozen -.m. It sends the minds of its scouts throughout time watching for signs of its enemies. the dominant life form will be a coleopteran species descended from the Egyptian scarab. high-energy astrophysics. The Promelleans are timenappers. although occasional reports exist of encounters with Promelleans speaking in voices similar to those of vanished Patrol personnel. Nobody knows exactly what happens to the kidnap victims. they return home. accompanied by confusion about the most elementary details of their own culture.whether it travels with them materially. Promelleans The Promelleans are a bright blue quantum fog of distributed nanobots from the 61st century. transhumans who take this form. Whether they are humans using these fogs as their time machines. and the Dakota Badlands) and research the most abstruse possible combination of paleontology. a race of psionic time travelers from another star occupies the bodies of the beetle-things." Such witnesses are almost always all from the same Earth.html?id=5255 Coleopteran Travelers Millions of years in the future. . or rather pieced together from a century and a half of psychiatric records across seven or eight parallel Earths. The Promelleans themselves are no help on the matter." delphic warnings against "the dead time. and occultism. Very occasionally. They travel by means of a one-way projector that disappears after use -." Promelleans often 3 of 6 03/12/2007 11:07 a. These spells last from three to seven years. or alien entities with human-seeming habits and personalities is unknown to Infinity and seems irrelevant to the Promelleans. during which they drain their savings traveling to remote corners of the Earth (especially Australia. often saying to those left behind "This one is needed. Their nanobots cannot be harmed by any technology that Infinity is aware of. one of these returned personalities will start having nightmares about life in a hollow complex of tubes and passages. lock themselves indoors. and return to their old personalities overnight with no sensation of elapsed time. Shortly after completing this program.com/pyramid/login/article. although some high-profile historical "vanishings" such as that of the prophet Elijah may be records of Promellean operations. Promelleans seldom appear to mixed groups of locals and travelers. of which little but superstition is known.or vanished.Pyramid: Designer's Notes: GURPS Infinite Worlds http://www. and their handwriting becomes odd and spiky.sjgames. after the extinction of mankind." or vague promises of "a future of all times and worlds. This is the unflattering tale told by travelers from that future.

If they catch the scent of a time traveler. It does 2d large piercing damage from the attack. About one percent of the time. Jumper (Time). The space between the worlds apparently can have a physical component. They resemble long. the journey seems to take time. Traits: Discriminatory Smell. they will track him across the millennia (at a top speed of 100 million years per day). Terror 5. B532). And sometimes." Whether the Vortun are a faction within the Promelleans. conveyors don't always work correctly. Talons.5. it seems to take a long time indeed. and the edges of some ghost roads or dimensional highways. and eyes appearing with any clarity. Their heads are indistinct. No reports exist of any Patrolman meeting a self-identified Vortun." and note that the speed of light (or possibly the duration of a second) becomes 4 of 6 03/12/2007 11:07 a. Hounds of Time ST 16. thin quadrupeds built of badly overlapping plates of bluish clay with occasional chinks between where nothing at all shows up.com/pyramid/login/article. They roam around waste spots in time. Spirit. they materialize from out of the nearest acute angle and attack with their claws and then try to core their target's heart out with their rough. IQ 4.Pyramid: Designer's Notes: GURPS Infinite Worlds http://www. or Promelleans from an alternate future. they have to go all the way back to 3. Move 7. the tangled detritus of paradox or shifted echoes. The Green Zone However. If they spot their prey on another world. Regeneration (Extreme). the aftershocks of reality quakes.html?id=5255 admonish Patrolmen against "the Vortun agenda" and sometimes kill people who they identify as "Vortun agents. DR 2.m. When they catch him. remains a mystery.sjgames. The traveler will feel them approach him from out of time. the hounds do not like to cross curved lines. Striker (Tongue). and coats the wound with a bluish saliva which does 2d more points of corrosion damage every round until washed off. as if he had the Death Vision spell (p. DX 10. B251) cast on him every day until their arrival. Dread (Curved lines). only much larger). Per 17. a rival race or transhuman entity. but give off a strange temporal signature. . hollow tongue (which resembles the proboscis of a mosquito. and then track him back down the correct worldline. Dodge 10. For some reason. p. Quadruped. Three Hazards The Hounds of Time These semi-material beings travel in packs of two to seven and leave no tracks aside from the occasional claw mark. Skills: Brawling-14. SM 0. hiding in a domed structure (or better yet a spherical chamber) offers some protection. HT 20. 100 lbs. detectable by tachyon tanks and other systems.5 billion years ago before the alternate worlds broke apart. Will 17. They may nest back in that primordial era. Tracking-17. Speed 7. or pass through some other kind of reality entirely (see Fascinating Parachronic Disasters. Paralabs physicists call it "hyperspace. only their snouts. tongues.

creating a danger of rematerializing inside a solid object. Just like George Bailey in It's A Wonderful Life. Some methods of parachronic travel. the world might be altered. (If one of the travelers invented the time machine. its crew unaware that they are even missing. their friends never met them. The longer they stay in the past. . the Library of Alexandria has a "Lost Books" section and a card catalog.com/pyramid/login/article. freeze them in time forever. or whether to save the 18-day fire for NPCs in the conveyor.sjgames. or as a deadly threat to the fundamental reality of the cosmos. even if it doesn't beam the poor wretch into a bulkhead.m. at your own jump point. pass through the Green Zone and offer little or no protection to crewmen on the "deck" of the craft. and then you know something bad is going to happen that trip. so even if the conveyor passes through the Green Zone. Really Weird Accidents The Bailey Effect: The travelers reappear instantaneously at the moment they left -. Potter in their absence." and there are rumors that at least one conveyor -. the travelers arrive to find themselves a known and registered part of their target era with friends. They might also turn invisible (permanently or temporarily but never controllably). Cavemen fight dinosaurs. the human mind can't process the roiling otherness of it.) At the GM's discretion.except they've erased their own personal lifeline somehow. notably sailing on the USS Eldridge. an intact conveyor keeps a closed circuit of its own reality (probably thanks to the parachronic drive in operation). or reduce them to point-size singularities that shoot off at high speed. faintly. Of course.except that it's not historically accurate. B93) remain unaffected. The opposite of the Bailey Effect. or others might have saved the transport or thwarted Mr. not all conveyors are fully intact before a jump. 5 of 6 03/12/2007 11:07 a. Invisibility. Fortunately. exposure to the Green Zone can be an opportunity for characters to add psionic or other supernatural advantages (Jumper. The GM decides whether to make PCs risk such horrific fates. More positively. B100). their mothers never raised them. Over a pint at Harry's. and a pyrokinetic Innate Attack seem to match the lore) "awakened" or "implanted" by the stress. for instance. This can be played for farce. and so forth. In addition to any other consequences of the Fright Check.a scientist traveling to ancient Rome might "become" a priest of Apollo. (Characters with Temporal Inertia (p. but a kind of semi-literate Hollywood pastiche of the era. the Patrolmen inside are safe. the travelers must make a Will roll at an additional -1 every time they wake up to remember their true identities. although a heavy compensatory set of disadvantages would not be out of line either."the Lost Capsule" -. the more their "present" memories erode. exposure to the Zone can turn its victims immaterial. it might never have existed either!) The Lie Agreed Upon: The travelers arrive in their target era -.html?id=5255 highly variable in that dimension. p. It can also set witnesses on fire (one unfortunate victim burned for 18 days). and enemies in it. Critical failure on the Fright Check should impose at least 25 or 30 points of disadvantages.is still there. there is no record of their existence (the equivalent of Zeroed. Insubstantiality. The Green Zone can then affect the travelers. Welcome Back: History has "moved aside" to let the characters in. Their new lives parallel their lives in the present as closely as possible -. The few Patrolmen who have been there call it the "Green Zone. Exposure to the Green Zone forces a Fright Check at -5 on all who gaze into it. parents.Pyramid: Designer's Notes: GURPS Infinite Worlds http://www. what with suspicious gun-toting locals being not uncommon on the various parallel Earths. and Napoleon is always grabbing his stomach and ranting about being short. they say that sometimes the Lost Capsule shows up.

and they have to accomplish their mission during an eternal nanosecond. More subtly. Visit the ratings page for more info. Copying this text to any other online system or BBS.Pyramid: Designer's Notes: GURPS Infinite Worlds http://www. So please don't. unable to touch anyone or anything in the past. And if you encounter copies of this article elsewhere on the web. but suffer no memory erosion.Playtesting .13 on a scale of 1 to 5. please report it to webmaster@sjgames. and anything they move returns to its original location when the travelers aren't looking.com.Subscribe! .Feedback 6 of 6 03/12/2007 11:07 a. Pyramid subscribers are permitted to read this article online.) At the GM's discretion.sjgames. Article publication date: February 25. Copyright © 2005 by Steve Jackson Games. (This might actually make some missions -.html?id=5255 (Characters with Temporal Inertia still have "new" lives. or making more than one hardcopy. or download it and print out a single hardcopy for personal use. they can never make any permanent impression on the past. people forget them right after talking to them. Perhaps time just doesn't advance while they're in the past. is strictly prohibited.com/pyramid/login/article.a lot easier!) Perhaps the travelers are only phantoms. this may produce Fright Checks or even mental disadvantages.like robbing the Louvre -.m.Advertising .Chat . 2005 248 Pyramid subscribers rated this article 4. .Index of Advertisers . Home . The Dead Past: The travelers arrive to find the past unchangeable.Current Issue . All rights reserved.

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