#RPGaDAY 4: Most Recent RPG Purchase

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My role-playing purchases have dwindled precipitously in the past few years. I recognized that I was buying far more books than I had energy even to read, let alone put to use in role-playing campaigns. Additionally, I noticed I was buying books covering basically the same topics and rules niches: mechanically light, historical or modern fantasy, etc. How many times did I need to buy a book telling me how to run a game about wizards and vampires in a variation of our world? So I shifted from “that sounds interesting, I’ll buy it” to watching a few particular writers’ output for items of note. So up until now, the last role-playing purchase I made was probably nearly two years ago, when Night’s Black Agents came out.

GURPS Horror: The Madness Dossier cover.Bearing that in mind, how surprising is it that my most recent acquisition was the recently released standalone edition of Kenneth Hite’s The Madness Dossier? It’s an analogue of the real world, in which the survivors of a temporal cataclysm try to wrest history as we know back to the way they know it, where humanity is ground under the heel of godlike beings who control the very means of thought and perception with hard-coded neurolinguistic programming, a la Snow Crash. So naturally humanity fights back, using the enemy’s own weapons against them, while searching for more information about the lost history and how to ensure it stays lost.

Madness Dossier started out as a mini-setting in the third edition of GURPS Horror, with a handful of pages of text, some lightly sketched antagonists and plot seeds. I dug it a lot — albeit knowing all the time I’d never run it as dark as it was written. Instead, I seized on the idea of crossing the setting with GURPS Cabal. The reality quake and slumbering deities of History B made their way into the Broken Spokes campaign I wrote up notes for, where the Annunaku of Madness Dossier become the fallen archangels of the First Creation, and the reality quake took the form of the biblical deluge that flushed them out of the cosmos.

The campaign frame never really took off, even as one-shot scenarios, in part because I never felt inventive enough to expand Madness Dossier or Cabal sufficiently to run a game. Now the expanded edition has far more content about what neurolinguistic programming looks like mechanically, the antagonists that members of Project SANDMAN might encounter and what it is they do, to call back the old quandary about Mage: the Ascension. And because I can’t let life be simple, of course, I’m mentally making notes about how to port the setting over to Conspiracy X 2.0, to reach that trifecta of modern fantasy in a low crunch rules structure.

The Madness Dossier Opens

GURPS Horror: The Madness Dossier cover.I think we can all agree that the arrival of The Madness Dossier revised and expanded is simultaneously bone-chilling in its cosmological implications and a joy for anyone who’s been hoping for this since it first appeared as a mini-setting in GURPS Horror for third edition.

Monday Mashup: The Madness Conspiracy

With the confirmation from Sean Punch that the contract for a new version of The Madness Dossier in some form has been signed and the resurgence of Conspiracy X material in recent months, the thought occurs to me that the two worlds would interlock rather snugly.

AEGIS is a ready-made secret agency to drop in the place of Project Sandman. Its agents are already trained to cover up unknowable horrors. The Red King and its implications are right in their wheelhouse. In that way, the impending threat of History B slots right into the world of AEGIS.

For a more integrated presentation, the irruptors match up fairly well with the Atlanteans. They’re still wielders of incomprehensible, godlike technology from another time, only that other time is now sideways rather than forward.[1] Their objective is to reclaim their world, rather than ensure its existence. And like Captain Chronos and other inscrutable time travelers, that objective may be served by acts that work in harmony with AEGIS agents’ own as often as they hinder.


[1] And I write that lacking the full skinny on the Atlanteans, not having yet pored over The Extraterrestrials Sourcebook.

Looking Forward to GURPS Horror

In the designer’s notes of GURPS Horror, Third Edition, author Kenneth Hite concludes with ” . . . I think that I successfully updated what I’ve always thought of as ‘my first GURPS book’ for the new era of GURPS, and added some stuff that whoever writes GURPS Horror, Fourth Edition in ten years will keep around. Enjoy it until then, and pleasant screams.” Conveniently, Hite wrote the fourth edition of the book as well. Seems probable he retained one or two things for this latest printing.

The GURPS line developer Sean Punch keeps a blog over at Livejournal. I keep an eye on it for the “this week in GURPS” updates. Aside from sly hints about unannounced releases, he updates the status of higher profile projects. In the most recent post, for instance, GURPS Horror is now waiting on the art.

It seems like this book has been in the pipeline forever now, although it’s probably only been two years or so. The received wisdom is that rule and mechanics-heavy books sell better than the sort focused on setting and genre content, so while I can understand why certain projects get priority over others, like GURPS Low-Tech.

Of course, it’s always just my luck that the specific supplements I want to buy get lodged in the pipeline. The same thing happened with Eden Studios back when their output still measured in multiple books per year. They’d crank out the All Flesh Must Be Eaten supplements when all I wanted was The Book of Hod and The Book of Geburah — the former made it out; the latter languishes in the Hell of All But Done.

At any rate, GURPS Horror slogs ahead. I’m particularly looking forward to the PDF companion Worlds of Horror, which I guess contains the updated mini-settings from the third edition of the book. Of those, I think The Madness Dossier is the one I really, really want to read; you know, that thing I cribbed content from for Broken Spokes last summer. And I really, really hope there’s more content in this one, because the original version was so amazing — and amazingly brief on examples.

Are there any more fans of The Madness Dossier out there? Speak up! (And I really would like to get back to filling out that TenFootWiki I began as a campaign source document too.)