GURPS Thaumatology: Alchemical Baroque is a short (24-page) 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 it describes was originally depicted in a chapter of GURPS All-Star Jam 2004, a 3rd edition supplement; the material from there is expanded and updated for the newer rules here.
The setting is the "Known Lands", a fantasy land loosely but openly based on Europe and its environs in the late 17th and early 18th centuries — the early part of The Enlightenment period. Hence, the setting attempts to avoid most of the tropes of the Standard Fantasy Setting, instead drawing on traditional Fairy Tales combined with alchemy, early science, musket-and-bayonet warfare, and pre-industrial technology. Games run in the setting can range from clever peasant heroes tricking dangerous ogres to subtle tales of international intrigue.
The book is sold in PDF form; the publishers have a Web page for it here.
Tropes Known in These Lands:
- Alchemy Is Magic: Known Lands alchemy and herb lore are closely linked to ritual magic — characters cannot learn one without learning the other — and can be used to create powerfully magical potions and elixirs.
- The Alliance: The Great Pact is a treaty between all the nations bordering the Solar Empire that keeps it in check.
- All Trolls Are Different/Our Giants Are Bigger/Our Ogres Are Hungrier: Ogres, giants, and trolls in this setting are technically fairies (see below), but they have burned out their powers taking gross, powerful physical forms, reducing their minds to "a parody of intelligence".
- All Witches Have Cats: The trope is played with. Cats in the setting are strictly speaking entirely natural creatures, albeit odd ones who often have a sense for the supernatural, and some of them are notably intelligent and can talk. Some of these hang around witches, leading to talk of "familiars", but in fact, they do this purely for the sake of intelligent conversation with people who aren't fazed by them, though they may do their witch friends odd favors.
- Amazing Technicolor Population: The nomads of the Transgogian Plains have green skins (and sharply pointed ears), but the book emphasises that they are nonetheless fully human; this is an ethnicity marker in the setting, not a species difference.
- Cats Are Magic: Played with but, strictly speaking, averted. Cats in this setting are mostly much like the natural creatures of our world, apart from being perhaps a little more intelligent and longer lived, and often having a limited sense for the supernatural. However, some are significantly smarter, may well even be able to talk, and may have luck-based advantages; on the other hand, these are still entirely natural creatures — just odd ones.
- Clockpunk: Not surprisingly, the setting features a scattering of clockpunk technology (some of it actually magical).
- Crystal Dragon Jesus: The Architecturalists and the Horologicalists, the two dominant religions of the Known Lands, share a common (vague) root and both believe in "a single, transcendent, vaguely imagined God"; they stand in for Protestant and Catholic Christianity respectively.
- Decadent Court: Given that it’s an expy of the historical Versailles, the Palace of the Sun must fall into this category to some extent.
- The Empire: The Great Majestic Solar Empire is actually “a nation with pretensions”, and isn't overtly evil — but it has very strong imperialist ambitions, and uses both military strength and diplomatic subtlety in pursuit of power.
- The Fair Folk: Known Lands fairies can easily fall into this pattern, if the whim takes them. The typical Fairy Queen detailed in the book certainly does, being Callous, Jealous, and Selfish.
- Fairy Tale: The intended defining style of the setting. Or at least half of it.
- Familiar: Known Lands witches don't actually have familiars, strictly speaking, but a lot of sapient cats like to hang out with them for the interesting conversations.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The setting has a whole set of clear counterparts to 18th century nations and cultures:
- The Green Archipelago: The British Isles.
- The Solar Empire: France (in the time of Louis XIV, “The Sun King”).
- The Golden Archipelago: The European Mediterranean, especially Greece but also with aspects of Spain and Italy.
- The Woodland Dukedoms: Germany and Eastern Europe, fading into Russia, with an especially strong fairytale element.
- The White Archipelago: Scandinavia.
- The Sutherlands: North Africa and the Middle East, owing more to the Arabian Nights than to the Ottoman Empire.
- The Transgogian Plains: Central Asia, with an emphasis on horse nomads.
- Hordes from the East: The nomads of the Transgogian Plains drop right into this category.
- Our Demons Are Different: Known Lands devils are mean and malicious spirits from Hell who sometimes travel to the material world, where they manifest as "bright red humanoid figures, somewhere between six inches and two feet tall, with wings, short horns, and chittering voices". They can be clever tempters, despite the fact that everyone knows how nasty they are, and demonstrate various supernatural powers.
- Our Dragons Are Different: Dragons in this setting are technically fairies (see below) stuck in a material form; that of a giant winged reptile. They can't breathe fire but do often have very poisonous or acidic venom.
- Our Fairies Are Different: Fairies in the Known Lands are a category of supernatural beings who can take a whole range of weird and wonderful shapes.Enigmatic, whimsical, often powerful, fairies exist on the border between flesh and spirit. Some grant wishes; others steal babies. Their physical forms are to some extent malleable projections, but many lesser fairies are fixed to one shape; sometimes, the effort of manifesting physically drains their powers so much that they can’t change back.
- Our Genies Are Different: Genies are the Sutherlands counterparts of the Known Lands' fairies, and are closely based on the classic "Arabian Nights" Days image.
- Our Ghosts Are Different: Known Lands ghosts are the classic western type — spirits of the dead who mostly stick around to complete some unfulfilled task or for vengeance.
- Ritual Magic: The local magic system, along with and closely linked to local forms of Alchemy.
- Talking Animal: Some cats in the Known Lands are actually sapient, to some extent, and a few of them can talk. This isn't actually magical; it's just a feature of the species in this world.