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Tabletop Game / GURPS Thaumatology: Age of Gold

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Not everything is known as yet, and some of the unknown regions of the planet are stuffed full of strangeness and deathtraps. Supernatural power exists and can very definitely be used for evil as much as for good. Meanwhile, even in the most “civilized” corners of the known world, utterly mundane evils are emerging that threaten to drag the planet down into darkness.
— From the book.

GURPS Thaumatology: Age of Gold is a setting/worldbook supplement for GURPS 4th edition by Phil Masters; the full title indicates that it is associated with the larger supplement GURPS Thaumatology, using the extended rules for magic in GURPS from that book. The setting is an Alternate History version of the Pulp-era 1930s, in which magic, which existed mostly in the shadows throughout history, is newly resurgent — and is empowering pulp-style heroes, adventurers, and master villains. The title refers to both the historical period — at the start of the Golden Age of comic books — and the fact that Alchemy, a key feature of the setting, was partly about trying to manufacture gold.

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


Tropes Appearing:

  • Alchemy Is Magic: Very definitely; the resurgence of magic is largely a consequence of the rediscovery of the alchemical "Philosopher's Stone".
  • The Corruption: One form of magic available in the setting provides a quick route to power at the cost of inevitable corruption. One of the sample villains detailed, The Jungle Madness, is an example of where this leads; once a Central American sorceress, she is now a totally inhuman and dangerous supernatural creature.
  • Dirty Commies: As in our world's history, Russia is ruled by the terrifying communist dictator Joseph Stalin, who has dark plans and the resources to carry them out. Good communists don't believe in magic, but in this setting, that just means that Communist Russian magic tends to take the form of exotic Magitek, accompanied by some appropriate Soviet Superscience doubletalk.
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  • Functional Magic: It's essential to the dramatic, pulpy flavor of the setting that magic works; it's not ambiguous or generally subtle, it lets you blow stuff up.
  • Evil Sorcerer: One type of especially dangerous arch-villain to be encountered in this setting.
  • Ghostapo: This being the 1930s, the Nazis are a threat and a source of antagonists and evil plots — and they very much want to use and abuse magic. However, they aren't quite as formidable as they could be, because they tend to reject any and all ideas about magic which happen to have Jewish or "non-Aryan" origins. Still, Nazi archaeologists with supporting squads of stormtroopers are bad enough.
  • Here There Were Dragons: Well, Here There Was Magic, anyway — and it's coming back.
  • Heroic Russian Émigré: Appropriately for a '30s-period setting, the flavor text fiction includes "enigmatic White Russian exile" Irina Fedorevna among its magical heroes.
  • Magitek: An occasional feature of the setting, perhaps especially when the villain is an agent of the Stalinist Dirty Commies.
  • The Man Behind the Man: A minor case; the Secret Pharaoh, a sample arch-villain in the book, is basically a megalomaniac flake with too much physical power. The real organizing brains behind his operations are his "Handmaidens", a pair of mortal women who know when to flatter him and when to duck and run.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Soviet mad scientists have very little in the way of ethical constraints, since their patrons are Party officials who answer to Joseph Stalin. Their survival depends on getting results.
  • Our Demons Are Different: Alchemical Baroque demons tend to follow local legends and popular beliefs very closely, in behavior and appearance — which makes them extremely dangerous but sometimes also faintly ridiculous. One theory is that they are projections of the human id, which would explain why they are so heavily shaped by the popular imagination.
  • Proto-Superhero: Some heroes in the setting have Superhero-level powers and effectiveness — but the period is technically a bit early to match the true superhero genre; the feel may often be closer to the proto-superheroes of the pulp period.
  • Ritual Magic: One of several functioning forms of magical practice in this setting.
  • Soviet Superscience: In the Soviet Union, magic is a bourgeois lie. However, the Union's cult of science is alive and well, so those who would elsewhere be alchemists and mages instead focus on Magitek, which is politically acceptable in the socialist utopia.
  • Superhero: The tone may be more Pulp/Two-Fisted Tales, but some magically-empowered heroes and villains in the Age of Gold are truly superhuman in their abilities.
  • Two-Fisted Tales: The flavor for which the book is quite explicitly aiming, with its Pulp-era setting and powerful heroes.


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