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Tabletop Game / GURPS Infinite Worlds: Britannica-6

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...But I’m sure you’ve all guessed that the added towers are unusual. Officially, they’re used for astronomical observations, but given the atmospheric conditions and light pollution over there, we have our doubts. Actually, we think that they house anti-airship weapons of some kind, but we don’t have very good intel assets in place yet on the timeline, so we can’t be sure. The odds are that whatever is in them makes a dramatic sound and light show when it’s activated; it might or might not really be any good for shooting down airships...
— From an Infinity mission briefing quoted in the book.

GURPS Infinite Worlds: Britannica-6 is a 70-page setting/worldbook supplement for GURPS 4th edition by Phil Masters; as the full title indicates, the world it describes fits into the Infinite Worlds crosstime-adventuring framework, and "Britannica-6" was originally mentioned in passing in the main Infinite Worlds book. The "Britannica" label indicates a timeline in which Britain is the dominant world power.

On Britannica-6, Princess Charlotte, daughter of King George IV, survived the difficult childbirth which killed her (and her child) in 1817 on our world, leading to historical ripple effects which meant that Queen Victoria was never born, and a more brash, Georgian culture survived instead of being replaced by Victorian staidness. The year is 1887, and the British Empire is dominated by a sprawling royal and aristocratic class, the "Bloods", who love using advanced technology to show off, settle their quarrels, and provide them with things to wager on.

The book is sold in PDF form; the publishers have a Web page for it here.

Tropes Observed in Britannica-6:

  • Alternate History: The point of the exercise.
  • BFG: Firearms design doctrine on this timeline seems to favor hitting power over number of shots, rate of fire, or even accuracy. Hence, local guns tend to be large and noisy, at the BFG end of the realistic range; examples in the book include a grenade launcher, a .40 caliber revolver, and a .50 caliber infantry rifle.
  • Blue Blood: The aristocracy, and especially the "Bloods", still have a lot of power on Britannica-6. They're often a bit nuts, but not automatically evil. They're also slightly more egalitarian than in some times and places, and prepared to accept "new money" into their ranks, at least if there's a lot of money involved, which makes them flexible and helps them survive; Old Money doesn't count for very much here.
  • Buddy Cop Show: A bit of flavor text in the book simultaneously evokes the stereotypes of this trope and the opening of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice:
    It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be, in truth, a dealer in illicit opiates of the most contemptible kind. Also, two Parish Constables, cast together by the vicissitudes of their employment, shall at first despise one the other, but shall eventually learn a warm mutual regard. And further, the Captain of Constables is invariably a Hindoo, who is most distressed by many of the necessary actions of the most capable of his Constables.
  • The Clan: The Bloods — the British royal family and its aristocratic hangers-on — have increasingly fallen into Clan-like ways on Britannica-6. There's a certain amount of Princeling Rivalry, and they can come across as a classic Big, Screwed-Up Family.
  • Complexity Addiction: Infinity has a nasty suspicion that if and when Britain gets into a war with Prussia, the British fondness for weird and complicated war machines will lead to disaster in the face of straightforward Prussian efficiency.
  • Cool Airship: Likely to show up, as Airships are the standard form of aviation in the setting, and the Bloods love their cool vehicles. Heavier-than-air flight development has been held back because the local tendency to over-enthusiastic experimentation makes the development process impossibly dangerous.
  • Cool Car: Aristocrats and heroic types on this world do love their fancy vehicles. The military employ Armored Fighting Vehicles which mostly seem to be fast armored cars.
  • Cool Old Lady: Lady Geraldine Dutroix, in one of the snippets of flavor text, is evidently an upper-class instance of the trope.
    It is commonly observed, among the Quality, that ladies of a certain age have a great soft spot for the army. Soldierly gallantry always passes well with those no longer able to provoke male attentions at a whim, and in any case, aging eyes settle happily on well-cut uniforms. But Lady Geraldine Dutroix was generally considered immune to this particular weakness of her sex, and Captain Alfred Jessop was not given to excesses of panache.
    Nonetheless, on a certain evening in the July of 18__, in a reception at the French embassy in London, Lady Geraldine went to some trouble to attract the Captain’s attention and to speak with him quietly. That the Captain paid her some close attention might be ascribed to his eccentricity, which had been the talk of several messes in the past.
  • Diesel Punk: The dominant technologies of this setting correspond to the diesel-punk period, but the visual aesthetic doesn't match.
  • Divided States of America: The USA on this timeline has split into the New England Confederacy and the rest — the remnant thus being dominated by southern states. This benefits the British Empire by weakening a potential rival, although it probably wasn't a result of conscious British policy.
  • Grenade Launcher: A rather steampunk-styled grenade launcher, the "Crowhurst Desolation Number 2", appears in the book, having been developed in the setting as an anti-vehicular weapon.
  • Kaiserreich: Prussia is perhaps the British Empire's most dangerous rival in this setting, especially as it's just as technophile as Britain and more efficient about it, and many of the classic 19th century stereotypes likely hold sway there.
  • Military Mashup Machine: Over-the-top engineering being something of a competitive sport for the lords of Britannica-6's British Empire, some of them commission outsize and peculiar armored fighting vehicles. One particular piece of craziness detailed in the book is the Ice Dreadnought, alias His Majesty’s Ice Ship Earthshaker, constructed to the order of the Duke-Governor of Greater Manitoba in response to the threat he perceives from the Russian colony in Alaska and propelled by the largest ski-track system yet built on any timeline, as far as Infinity knows. This does impress the Russians somewhat, but it mostly spends its time intimidating unruly Inuit.
  • Nobility Marries Money: Implicitly something that's likely to show up in this setting, as the Bloods are socially flexible enough to secure their wealth by any method that works.
  • Regency England: The setting allows many of the stock tropes of the Regency to persist for decades, into and past an age of Steampunk.
  • Richard Nixon, the Used Car Salesman: Mostly explicitly averted; whereas the trope is very common on many timelines in the Infinite Worlds framework, this is an unusual "low inertia" case, where nobody from our history appears to have been born after the historical divergence point, and as that was 70 years ago, there are very few survivors from before that date. However, one example who does appear is Charles Dickens, who here has become a journalist specializing in science and technology. "He wrote a few short stories, most concerning heroic engineers, but never found much money in it."
  • Steampunk: The technology here tends this way, but in a slightly unusual form; technological development has largely moved beyond steam and rivets, to diesel engines, electricity, aluminum, and synthetic chemistry. On the other hand, much of the world is still stuck with pre-steampunk tech.