11 April 2013

Book Review - GURPS Alternate Earths

(image from Amazon.com)

This book covers a lot of territory. In addition to the detailed worlds there are notes on developing a campaign based on travel between alternate worlds.


An alternate world that diverges in 1856 with William Walker successfully conquering Nicaragua. This eventually leads to events that give the Confederacy victory in the American Civil War.

Axis powers win World War II. Diverged from real history in 1933 with the assassination of FDR. By the 1970s Nazi space exploitation is more advanced than anything we have in 2013. It is a dark nasty world, with the addition of more cybernetics it would make an interesting setting for a cyberpunk campaign.

Roma Aeterna
No exact divergence point is given for this world dominated by the Third Roman Empire. It is now 2631 AUC (AD 1878) and Rome dominates the Known World. I say the Known World because many portions of the globe are still covered by 'barbarian darkness'. Unlike many other alternate histories involving the Roman Empire I've seen this one has the technology of the Empire rather backwards and different. All things considered behind what we had in the real world in 1878. A sidebar on scientific advancement in this world telling of the problems they've had is given.

One of my favorite alternate histories. The son of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, survives to ascend to the throne. the Habsburgs never gain dominance over Spain. Changes begin to snowball. The Reformation takes a different course and Jesuits are successful in converting much of Japan.

By 2015 the world has four superpowers. The three nuclear powers are The Swedish Empire (controlling all of Scandinavia, the Baltic states, northern Germany, Poland, Greenland, and parts of what would be northern Canada, New England, and other parts of the north-east US). Next is Christian Japan (which controls India, Australia, southeast Asia, much of China, parts of northeast Asia and an enlarged Alaska). The Empire of Brazil is a slightly larger version of the Brazil of our world (and their government recently collapsed making it a large state where anarchy is practiced). The one non-nuclear world power is France. France is a world power not because of territory but because of their exploitation of space. They don't need nukes when their lunar mass drivers can destroy cities just as well.

Carthage discovered the 'New World' in 508 BC. Over 2,300 years later the Mongol Khaganate dominates most of Eurasia, the Tenochca Empire dominates Central America as well as parts of North and South America. The Songhay Empire controls a chunk of north-west Africa.

This one technically would have diverged with the Big Bang. Science is capable of marvels seen in the old pulp magazines. The more obvious divergence is when Nikola Tesla marries the daughter of J.P. Morgan. By the 1960s the world is rapidly advancing in technology. New inventions are encouraged, the atom isn't feared, and the world appears to be heading towards Utopia. The World Science Council helps guide things along. Mad science and art deco architecture. Loads of fun.

Since I've run alternate Earth campaigns (including one with GURPS using the Shikaku-Mon world as the starting point for a three year campaign) I am a little biased about this book. It has a half-dozen well developed worlds with timelines and notes on cultural differences plus notes on bringing in elements form other GUPRS books into the setting. There are also many other short descriptions of other alternate worlds that follow a similar theme to the ones described here. It is an indispensable resource for an alternate world RPG in any system.

Given the vast utility I received from this book, even glancing at it on a regular basis in the present, I have to give it 5 out of 5 stars.

Perhaps some day I'll have to make a series of posts giving the highlights of that old GURPS Infinite Worlds campaign I ran. Could be interesting, what do you think?

GURPS and this Alternate Earths sourcebook are published by Steve Jackson Games.

Page Count: 128
Authors: Kenneth Hite, Craig Neumeier, and Michael S. Schiffer
Year Published: 1999
ISBN: 1-55634-318-3

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