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Tabletop Game / GURPS Alternate Earths

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GURPS Alternate Earths is, as you may have guessed, a GURPS sourcebook — or rather two books, but they work as a pair — about Alternate History — or rather, alternate timelines which the characters may visit in one campaign, or live in from the start. The books describe twelve timelines (six in each book) in loving detail. They were later made a part of the Infinite Worlds unified GURPS setting.

The scenario "Centrum" inspired Max Sinister's Chaos Timeline in


All worlds:

  • Allohistorical Allusion: A lot of it about...
  • Alternate History Wank: The only thing changing is who (or what) is wanked high.
  • In Spite of a Nail: The natural source of logical alternate histories...
  • Richard Nixon, the Used Car Salesman:
    • In volume 1, we have... Malcolm Little (Malcolm X) as VP of the rest-US in a world where the CSA successfully seceded. David Duke as POTUS in a world where The Nazis win World War II and the US become their fascist satellite. Jabir ibn Hayyan as a Roman chemist inventing mustard gas in 767. Swedish king Charles XII invading Britain. Roman emperor Heraclius founding a new empire in Africa after Constantinople falls. And Adolf Hitler ending up in an insane asylum painting more watercolors.
    • The sequel has more. Alissa Rosenbaum writing novels about heroic rail builders in Nationalist Republican Russia. Japanese admiral Hiyoshimaru fighting European pirates for the Ming emperors. St. Bernhard of Clairvaux and St. Dominic de Guzman converting still-pagan Scandinavia to a somewhat different Christianity. Ibn Sina inventing calculus in 1006. Jan Masaryk elected Archon of an Austrian empire turned republic. And finally, Otakar Przemysl kicking out the Mongolian oppressors from the Holy Roman Empire in Centrum.


Starts to diverge when filibuster William Walker succeeds in taking over Nicaragua in 1856; during the American Civil War, it broke the Union blockade and helped the CSA win recognition from the European powers and ultimately independence. Later, the "Southrons" take over most of Mexico and Central America. The US (which took much of Canada in revenge for British aid to the rebels) is allied with Germany and helps them win World War I. In the present day, the two Americas face off across a border of mines and barbed wire that stretches from the Gulf of California to the Potomac.

  • Action Girl: In the US, women serve in all branches of the military. They also commit as many violent crimes as men do.
  • Allohistorical Allusion: Guerre-eclair was developed by Charles de Gaulle, instead of the Wehrmacht developing the blitzkrieg.
  • Alternate History Wank: For the CSA, the German Empire, the US progressives and the United Indian Republic.
  • Balkanize Me: The US (which takes over western Canada instead) and China.
  • Cool Train: The US have a lot of them, and they're faster than anywhere else.
  • Giving Radio to the Romans: Someone from Homeline illegally introduced electronic spreadsheet software (which had somehow been skipped over by Dixie's computer scientists) and caused a minor revolution in the business world (while presumably making a pile of dough).
  • Government Drug Enforcement: The CSA has developed a wide range of psychotropics to help keep control of their slave populations.
  • Nuke 'em: The Franco-German War ended in a German victory because the Germans got the bomb first.
  • Right Hand Versus Left Hand: Both the USA and CSA are intervening in German Indochina, but neither country can decide on what they want to do about the running insurgency there, due to a tension between ideology and Realpolitik.note  Accordingly, intelligence operatives and Eagle Squadron volunteers from both powers are supporting both sides.
  • Shout-Out: The picture shows a CSA officer named "Butler" looking much like Clark Gable.
  • Southern Belle: The CSA have plenty of these, of course.
  • Space-Filling Empire: Germany owns about two thirds of Africa.
  • The Starscream: Averted by Walker in this timeline, which led to his success. Instead of provoking the wrath of Cornelius Vanderbilt (his main financial sponsor) by trying to seize his Nicaraguan holdings, he protected them.
  • Straw Feminist: To Southrons, every Yankee woman is a man-hating harridan.
  • Vestigial Empire:
    • The Austrian Triple Monarchy survived the Great War, but none of its internal problems were fixed, and now it's a heavily-subsidized drag on the German economy that's slowly edging towards final collapse.
    • The German Empire itself is getting a little long in the tooth, with a rigid absolute monarchy under an elderly Kaiser in a modern world.
  • Zeppelins from Another World: Used by the Southrons as a "civilized" means of travel (as opposed to the Yankees and their loud, uncomfortable stratojets).


Diverges with the assassination of Franklin D. Roosevelt by Guiseppe Zangara in 1933. During the terms of Charles Lindbergh and the not-that-competent John Nance Garner and Henry Wallace, the US become politically split and polarized. Meanwhile, the Nazis and Japanese conquer half the world in the 1940s, and then finish the job with the aid of subversion from William Dudley Pelley's fascist Union Party.
  • Alternate History Wank: Guess for whom.
  • Balkanize Me: The Soviet Union, which is no more.
  • Cool Train: Kugelbahnen
  • Crapsack World: Well, what did you expect from Nazis winning the war?
  • Famous-Named Foreigner: The current führer and successor to Viktor Alchsneiss is named Günter Wallraff. In our world, that's the name of a decidedly leftist German author. Makes you wonder how much research they did on that.
  • Fictional United Nations: Welt-Achse (World Axis)
  • Nazis with Gnarly Weapons: Gnarlier than ever. In the present, their army has Kevlar armor, tanks with railguns and Neutron Bomb howitzers.
  • Nuke 'em:
    • The Nazis didn't hesitate to level Denver, Dallas, St. Louis and Omaha in 1950 and Pittsburgh, Atlanta, San Antonio, Salt Lake City and Calgary in 1976 when the Americans started an uprising.
    • They also wiped out those pesky guerrillas in Afghanistan and the Andes by saturation bombardment with Neutron Bomb howitzers.
  • Shout-Out: The picture of the Nazis deporting the Jews of Houston (happening in the 1980s) is based on the famous picture of the Warsaw Ghetto 1943. Except that they are wearing time-appropriate clothes - the little boy on the right has a Chicago Cubs cap.
  • Space-Filling Empire: Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: They rule a huge part of the world.

Roma Aeterna:

Instead of the sinister Tiberius, a surviving Drusus (who died from a fall off a horse in 9 BC in our world) takes over Rome after Augustus' death. During the following two millennia, Rome will expand, fall apart twice and reunite again and expand further. Their technology also develops, albeit not as fast as in our world.
  • Alternate History Wank: Rome, Rome and Rome again.
  • Balkanize Me: China (not by the Romans, though).
  • Cool Sword: Over the centuries, the Roman gladius has evolved into something like a giant Bowie knife.
  • The Cycle of Empires: The Third Roman Empire is currently in late expansion.
  • Eagleland: Hesperia (Roman America) has a similar image.
  • Interfaith Smoothie: The Greco-Roman religion added American, Egyptian and Indian gods to their pantheon.
  • Jesus: May have been pardoned by the emperor, if he lived at all.
  • Space-Filling Empire: Rome covers Europe, Africa north of the rainforest belt, the Middle East, Central Asia and India, most of South America and half of North America.
  • Steampunk: They have boxy, heavyweight steamcars.
  • Those Magnificent Flying Machines: The only native heavier-than-air flyer is the jactavolans, an incredibly dangerous melding of Roman glider and Chinese rocket technology used by the Third Empire's legions for scouting and courier purposes. In game terms, you have to roll Piloting checks on takeoff (to see if the rockets explode) and landing (to see if you crash). All jactavolans pilots are state-owned slaves who receive both their freedom and Roman citizenship if they survive a five-year term of service.


John Trastamara (the son of Ferdinand I of Castille and Isabella II of Aragon – yes, that Ferdinand and Isabella) survives to inherit the throne in place of his sister Joanna the Mad. Hence, no united Habsburg empire. The way history develops is... odd: Charles II and Louis XVI prevent revolutions which otherwise would have lead to more democracy and the creation of republics, increased missionary activity from Portugal (who finds its continental designs frustrated) causes Japan to remain open to Western influences and technology from the 16th century on, and at the end, the whole democratic phase is somehow skipped, since the world transforms into a typical cyberpunkish society where nothing else counts but how rich you are.
  • Alternate History Wank: Japan, oh so much. Also, Sweden, France and Brazil which are the other three superpowers.
  • Anarchy Is Chaos: Brazil's government has lost control over its own territory, and random gunfights on the street are just part of the local color.
  • Balkanize Me: North America, (still) Germany.
  • Commie Nazis: The Synarchists, a totalitarian philosophy without a direct parallel in our world.
  • Cyberpunk: Its flavour.
  • The Empire: Japan is a racist nightmare state that governs nearly two-thirds of the world's population, and non-Japanese under their rule have almost no rights.
  • Japanese Christian: In this reality Japan is almost entirely Christian, having converted in the 16th century. And in great part thanks to that and Japan also being by far the world's most powerful nation, almost 50% of total world population are Catholic, rising to 90% with the elites.
  • Japan Takes Over the World: More successful than ever. They manage to reign over two thirds of the world population!
  • Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering: The book goes into an examination of who rules Japan, and the answer is "nobody." The Council of Ministers is a rubber stamp for whoever controls each lever of government, and the powers held by an individual often have no relationship to their actual positions; an officer on the Admiralty staff might be the one who sets grain prices, while the Agriculture Minister runs the East Indies as a feudal warlord. However, the Empire does stay together, and when it's faced with an actual threat or an objective that everyone in the Empire wants to see happen, everyone stops fighting and works together, and stuff gets done.
  • Nuke 'em: Synarchist Sweden nukes four British cities when their pawns don't win the Civil War. As a result, 60% of Britain's population dies or emigrates.
  • Sealed Badass in a Can: There is good reason to suspect that crosstime travel would be as easy for this timeline as for Homeline and Centrum — and although local technology isn’t too advanced, intrusive surveillance is basically a popular hobby here. Homeline finds all this extremely worrying.
  • Space-Filling Empire: Japan, of course. How much? The eastern half of Asia (including India), the Pacific islands and Madagascar, and the western bit of North America.


The Carthaginians discover America in 600 BC, so the Old World diseases hit America two millennia earlier (and the New World crops do the same to Europe); in addition, the lower technological development of the newcomers prevents outright conquest. The Roman Empire falls apart after Nero, and the various barbarians make sure Europe never recovers. Then the Aztecs (who have rebuilt their population) start the Industrial Revolution. Humanity’s last best hope for a non-Crapsack World? The Songhay of West Africa.
  • Alternate History Wank: Mongols, Aztecs, Songhay, and Iroquois. Homeline's scientists are going absolutely nuts trying to figure out exactly how this particular mix happened.
  • Balkanize Me: Western and Southern Europe, which were smashed too many times by barbarian hordes and part of the Mongol Empire for a long time.
  • Butterfly of Doom: The reason Rome falls apart: Since the west European provinces have had access to New World staple crops like maize and potatoes for a long time, they're no longer dependent on Egyptian grain, so the economy and politics disintegrate fast.
  • In Spite of a Nail: Most egregious example. The Aztec people (aka the Tenochca) still exists although history diverged more than two thousand years before them. Lampshaded in that Homeline cliologists have no idea why they exist in that timeline either.
  • Istanbul (Not Constantinople):
    • Manhattan Island is known as Manannan here (named after the Celtic sea god by the Irish refugees who founded it).
    • The country making up the southern part of the larger island off the northwest coast of Europe is known as Englavo – they were invaded by the Podols instead of the Normans and formed a hybrid Anglo-Slavic culture.
  • Made a Slave: Many Europeans who're sold to the Mongols and Aztecs then.
  • Mighty Glacier: The Mongol Khaganate – huge and immensely rich, but slow to act (and the smaller empires are beginning to outstrip them technologically).
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: "Ezcalli" means "house of blood" in Nahuatl.
  • Rising Empire: The Tenochca. They've just developed the steam engine, and they're on the move to seize islands (to serve as coaling stations) and slaves (to serve up to the gods).
  • Space-Filling Empire: The Mongol Empire, which still holds most of Eurasia.
  • Steampunk: Aztecs have the steam engine.
  • Vestigial Empire: The Songhay Empire, directly descended from the African provinces of Rome (the ruler is known as the "Ogusto"). Slightly subverted in that it's still a power player in geopolitics.


Nikola Tesla marries the daughter of J.P. Morgan, gains financial support to take out Edison, and can realize all his cool inventions. Which work.
  • Alternate History Wank: Science!
  • Cool Train: Blitzbahnen
  • The '50s: Even about twenty years later, the world is still much like this. (World War II was avoided; the war which brought down the Soviet Union was shorter and more one-sided, thus less upsetting for the world.)
  • Fictional United Nations: Played with. The League of Nations was real, but even more toothless than the UN is today, and didn't last very long. Here... see United Nations Is a Superpower.
  • For Science!: A common ethos in this world.
  • Giving Radio to the Romans: The I-Cops have their hands full keeping some wise guy from selling transistors to Gernsback and sparking an information revolution.
  • Low Culture, High Tech: Less accentuated than the norm, but in this world of scientific wonders, colonialism is still a reality and both women and non-white races tend to be treated like second-class citizens.
  • I Want My Jetpack: And here, you get it!
  • Mad Scientist: They're very fitting for this world.
  • Minovsky Physics: It is hinted that the laws of physics might differ a bit in this timeline.
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: A characteristic of scientists in this world is that they can have the Science! skill, an ability that allows them to know about scientific discoveries in any field. The concept was later generalized into "wildcard skills" in Fourth Edition, and the exclamation point became a generic marker for wildcard skills instead of particularly distinguishing Science! from vanilla science.
  • Punk Punk: Diesel Punk overlapping with Atom Punk.
  • Technology Porn: Part of the whole point.
  • Technology Levels: Thrown completely to the wind. Most GURPS settings have a fairly clear tech level, but due to the advent of Science!, you have aircars and death rays developed by slide rule.
  • United Nations Is a Superpower: Due to the power of the World Science Council (established with the aid of JP Morgan's money and Nikola Tesla's inventions), and the war against Stalin's Soviet Union, the League of Nations is rapidly developing into a world government.
  • Vestigial Empire: Socialist France is one of the six Great Powers of the League of Nations and a ruling colonial power, in theory. In practice, it's barely even a major power in Europe, and its colonial empire is nothing but an albatross around its neck.
  • Zeppelins from Another World: Of course.


Baron Turgot manages to reform France without unduly upsetting the royal family, which prevents The French Revolution — and The American Revolution as well, since Turgot won't support republican rebels against a proper crowned king. In 1984, the Thirteen Colonies are still economically repressed and confined east of the Appalachians. Meanwhile, the Quadruple Alliance of Britain, Spain, France, and Austria remains watchful against the Russian Dominate, the revolutionary force that expelled the Tsar six years earlier and threatens to do the same to the other crowned heads of Europe.
  • Alternate History Wank: For the great European monarchies.
  • Balkanize Me: The German states never properly got together. Prussia and Austria are both (separately) Great Powers.
  • Cool Train: The trains of Russia which impress less with speed and more with size.
  • Evil Versus Evil: The reactionary tyranny of the Five Thrones versus the totalitarian Russian Dominate.
  • The Good King:
    • Thanks to an alliance with the Catholic Church, careful devolution of power to local viceroys, and the use of mass media, subjects of the Spanish Empire see their monarch this way.
    • The book's narration, meanwhile, considers Austria's liberal monarch to be the good one. He's making some enemies at home, though.
  • Gray-and-Gray Morality: The Quintuple Alliance versus the Russian Dominate. The book comments that for modern players, it may easily be considered Evil Versus Evil as well; it recommends letting players support Austrian liberals or American patriots if they don't want to try to pick the lesser evil.
  • Just the First Citizen: First Citizen Boris Gromov, head of the Russian Dominate.
  • Kaiserreich: Prussia never transformed into Imperial Germany (Austria's Emperor is technically the Holy Roman Emperor, but only in name), but it still acts a lot like this. It's the most formidable land power in the Five Thrones, able to go toe-to-toe with the Russian Dominate.
  • The Lancer: With its experiments in free-market economics and the elimination of royal privileges, Austria is seen this way by the other European powers.
  • Penal Colony: Oregon Country (which has hosted such luminaries as Jeremy Bentham and Eric Blair) is where the British Empire sends its troublemakers.
  • People's Republic of Tyranny: The Russian Dominate seems to be heading this way.
  • Space-Filling Empire: Britain and Spain (which kept their empires) and Russia (which includes Finland, Manchuria, Korea, Japan and Alaska - and was even bigger in the past).
  • Vast Bureaucracy: The principles of mercantilism and a bewildering network of laws have retarded technological and industrial progress – tariffs are required at the border of almost every province or city, and motorcars are still toys for the rich.


Ming China doesn't scrap its treasure fleet after the 15th century voyages of Zheng He, and starts to, almost accidentally, expand - first into Vietnam, India, and Arabia, then Africa, and later into Europe when the lackeys of their bandit queens and kings start to become a nuisance... and there's no end, it seems...
  • Alternate History Wank: This time, it's China.
  • Beleaguered Bureaucrat: Any honest minister in the Ming government is going to be this. They're the least-appreciated men in the Empire, and they're also the only reason the Ming haven't fallen yet.
  • Corrupt Bureaucrat: Most of the bureaucracy are this. It simply doesn't pay to be honest while the Middle Kingdom burns, and preparing for the imperial examinations requires money — which often comes with strings attached.
  • The Irish Mob: Irish 'Triads' have become very powerful across the globe and have developed their own martial art form.
  • Just Before the End: The Emperor appears to have lost the Mandate of Heaven.
  • Shout-Out: To "The Second Coming." The line for one section header is "The Center Holds."
  • Space-Filling Empire: China covers most of Eurasia (except for Russia, Persia and the Ottoman Empire), Australasia and half of the Americas and Africa.
  • Vast Bureaucracy: It's China, this is mandatory; of course, as China is on the verge of collapse, several mandarins are turning into warlords in their own right.
  • Wooden Ships and Iron Men: Even under Ming domination, Britain has a long tradition of this.
  • Zeppelins from Another World: They have them.


In 860, the Vikings take Constantinople (instead of being bribed to go away) and capture the secret of Greek Fire. They manage to extend their rule over half of Europe, North America, Russia and Siberia.


An eccentric 9th century Muslim scholar refutes the pagan Greek philosophers using rationalism. In combination with an Arab printing press and an oil-powered Industrial Revolution, this means that Islam become the prime power in the world and develops science and technology at a breakneck pace. The first man lands on the moon in 1434, and in the present time (1683 AD), the world has reached an age of progress far beyond that of Homeline. However, a secular, rationalist movement known as the Jamahiriya ("Republic") has recently taken over much of Talentis (the New World) in a lightning bid for power, and an apocalyptic war may be at hand.
  • Alternate History Wank: Islam.
  • Anarchy Is Chaos: Averted. The Umma (territory not governed by a caliphate) has no sovereign government (although local government still exists in many places), but is a very peaceful place — and is in many ways more restrictive and orderly than the Caliphates.
  • Awakening the Sleeping Giant/Sealed Badass in a Can: The whole timeline is presented as this with regards to the Infinite Worlds setting. Both Homeline and Centrum are, quite rightly, scared shitless of the prospect that Caliph might learn the Secret.
  • Benevolent A.I.: Sentient computers (called djinns) have to be educated just like humans; consequently, all are friendly to organic life (and devout Muslims to boot). Of course, that may change in areas under control of the Jamahiriya.
  • Crystal Spires and Togas: Diamond skyscrapers, traditional Islamic dress, and a highly religious and spiritual society governed by mostly-benevolent Caliphates.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: Given the technology available to this timeline, not out of the realm of possibility.
  • Evil Overlord: The Caliph of Hind; he only betrayed the other caliphates and allied with the Jamahariya to gain power.
  • For Science!: The ideology of the Jamahiriya is to abandon Islamic law and custom in favor of a cult of reason and pushing science to its limits.
  • The Fundamentalist: Played with. The Rightly-Guided Stellar Caliphate is, as its name implies, heavily influenced by the traditionalist rashidun movement and is very big on doctrinal orthodoxy, but it's also the one caliphate that's refused to join the jihad against the unbelievers, and their Caliph is a Reasonable Authority Figure whose primary goal is to prevent the war from wiping out the Earth.
  • No Woman's Land: Defied; the book briefly mentions that the women's movement succeeded and women are generally equal to men.
  • One Nation Under Copyright: The Rightly Guided Stellar Caliphate is an unusual example; once war between the Jamahiriya and the rest of Earth's nations seemed likely, the Mega-Corp that controls most space travel seceded as the RGSC in order to ensure the continuity of human civilization in case of an Earth That Was situation.
  • Our Genies Are Different: References to djinn in the Qu'ran are believed to be prophecies of A.I., and actual A.I. are called "djinn".
  • Space-Filling Empire: The Bulgarian Caliphate covers our Russia, southeastern Europe, and the north and west of North America/Talentis.
  • Technology Porn: Despite being in the 17th (Christian) century, they already have colonies in space, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, and skyscrapers made of artificial diamonds.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Jamahiriya intend to expand the possibilities of science beyond the limitations imposed by Islamic law and custom (as if nanotechnology, space elevators, and FTL travel weren't enough); they do tend to push For Science! to its limits, and in the Caliph of Hind they may have made a poor choice of friends.


"The Divine Wind" of 1688 never happens, so Britain stays under the Stuarts and gradually becomes Catholic again.
  • Alternate History Wank: Averted; the setting gets too weird to say that any power is wanked up. The Bourbons were briefly wanked up before regressing to second-rate power.
  • Cool Plane: The Republican Alliance's most important weapon, jet planes - mostly because they are the first planes in the setting.
  • The Fundamentalist: The American Covenant is a Puritan theocracy, bearing a strong resemblance to the Commonwealth of England.
  • Good Republic, Evil Empire: Played broadly straight with the Republican Alliance being firmly represented as the good guys. That said, some of the monarchies - Britain and Louisiana - are presented as not that bad and conversely the American Commownwealth is a Holier Than Thou quasi-theocracy.
  • In Spite of a Nail: Despite the short-term ascendancy of France due to England's weakness, France does not remain a dominant power in the world in the current era.
  • Richard Nixon, the Used Car Salesman: Is the source of one in the Infinite Worlds: Otto Skorzeny, liberal democrat and fighter for the Republican Alliance. When he learned that most of his infinite selves were Nazis (like the one in our world), he became head of ISWAT so that he could make a hobby of killing them.
  • Technology Levels: A slight aversion. The Republican Alliance essentially leapfrogged the Tech Tree when they developed jet engines without propeller engines; the current limiting factor in aircraft speed is that the available airframe technology isn't up to handling the speed that their engines can pull. In addition, without radios the planes need to use signal lights to communicate.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: Austria is a bit of a mess... But the rebels know that they can't afford to hang separately, and currently the liberals are keeping everyone together and mostly civilized.


A more successful Angevin (Anglo-French) empire gradually takes over all the world. When the empire falls apart, a meritocracy centered on Terraustralis (Australia) rebuilds the empire. And then, they start discovering and conquering other timelines...
  • After the End: The empire falling apart destroyed society outside Terraustralis. Luckily, Centrum provided a new one for the few survivors.
  • Alternate History Wank: The Angevins, and the British Empire in general... until 1902, then it becomes a completely new society.
  • The Rival: For Homeline.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: They genuinely want to civilize other timelines and prevent them from having an apocalyptic war like their own timeline had. It's just that they believe pretty strongly that end justifies the means... and they don't care much if others disagree with their views on civilization.

United States of Lizardia:

The K-T extinction event never happens - leading, 65 million years later, to an almost exact equivalent of the modern world, except populated by lizard-men.
  • Alternate-History Dinosaur Survival: The books had to feature one, however briefly, and this is it.
  • Joke Level: This world is mainly there to make it clear that alternate universes don't have to make sense, and nobody on Homeline is even going to try explaining just how the hell this world came about. The consensus is that the gods think it's funny. However, it is also possible that there are truly infinite numbers of alternate Earths, and the ones which are accessible to us is determined by some kind of resonance effect — so we get to reach a dinosaur world which is peculiarly similar to ours socially.