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GURPS Horror: The Madness Dossier

Oh, look. There's a new GURPS book for sale on Warehouse 23. And it's by the delightful +Kenneth Hite. What say we crack open the file and see what madness awaits.

The Madness Dossier started as a campaign frame in the back of GURPS Horror Third Edition (also by Hite). This release is expanded to 65 pages. Right from the start, we are treated to Hite's style in some of the most entertaining "Recommended Books" and "Publication History" sections I've seen in a GURPS book introduction.

What is this setting? In a nutshell, Madness Dossier is a horror setting in which ancient Sumerian gods (or their alien antecedents, posthuman pretenders, or memetic mimetics) once ruled over mankind through the power of language. Obedience to and fear of these Anunnakku (also called the "Red King") are programmed into our source code, wired into the linguistic and perceptual centers of the human brain.

Somehow, though, humans resisted, and in 535 AD, they triggered a reality quake that buried the Anunnakku under a new history. History A is the reality we know, but elements of History B can still be found in the form of inexplicable artifacts (reality shards) or even beings (irruptors) who seek to awaken the old masters. If the Anunnakku wake up, it's game over.

Thank goodness for Project SANDMAN.

Psychologists, archaeologists, scientists, and commandos work ceaselessly to keep History B secret. They wage a war for the hearts and minds of mankind against the servants of the Red King. The Project also seeks to improve humanity in ways the Anunnakku never dreamed, researching psychic powers and the psycho-physical powers of martial arts masters.

Chapter One digs into the history of Project SANDMAN and the hidden war against the irruptors. The Project began as parallel efforts in the British and American establishments to map the fissures of reality and unlock the secrets of memetic programming. During WWII, the two programs combined into SANDMAN, and today the group survives hidden in the budgets of the military-intelligence complex. It's agents use hidden laws and standing orders forgotten by any general to divert resources and claim jurisdiction around the world.

Chapter Two gives you all the crunchy GURPS rules you need to make characters for a Madness Dossier campaign. This includes eight templates to generate 350-point Sandmen for a high-powered technothriller cosmic horror game.

  • The Applied Anthropologist controls groups through memetic science and knowledge of the ancient Anunnakku programming.
  • The Cheval programs their brain with archetypal "loa" personalities to become the ultimate infiltrator and sleeper agent.
  • The Commando is an experienced combat operative, of course. 
  • The Golden Child was raised by the Project in isolation to break the natural human programming through the use of artificial language and computerized education. They are highly resistant to influence and trained in all of the Project's most advanced techniques. Of course, they're only 15 years old.
  • The Neurolinguist uses memetics and neurolinguistic programming to hack people on the fly. This makes them the ultimate "face."
  • The Reality Archaeologist studies fissures, subduction zones, and reality shards to learn about History B. With this information, Project SANDMAN hopes to find a way to stop the Red King once and for all.
  • The Taisher possesses psionic powers that can detect irruptors or otherwise sense elements of History B in our world. 
  • The Wetware Hacker specializes in psychotronics, and serves as tech expert, backup face, and often medic.
Chapter Three is all about the bad guys. From cultists native to History A to the monstrous irruptor servants of the Red King, there's a lot to be afraid of in here. Of course, you've got NLP, psionics, and a whole lot of guns on your side.

Speaking of, Chapter Four is called "Powers and Gear." This is where you'll find reality shards (read: "magic items"), the powerful glyphs of the Anunnakku language, rules for memetics and NLP, martial arts, drugs, psychotech, and rules for madness and corruption (drawn form GURPS Horror).

Chapter Five outlines the Madness Dossier campaign. It presents sample mission types for Project SANDMAN, describes what the weirdness of an unstable reality look like, and even alternate campaign frames that place the heroes as pop-culture tulpas fighting off the Anunnakku or unknowing law enforcement caught between SANDMAN and the irruptors.

And like all fine GURPS books, Madness Dossier ends with a selection of Inspirational Sources.

I can see elements of this book fitting into other campaigns. The irruptor monsters could fit into a Monster Hunters game (probably with a little beefing up in the Injury Tolerance department). The memetics rules are perfect for any cinematic near-future game in the cyberpunk vein. And overall, Madness Dossier is a guidebook to doing high-powered cosmic horror.

For $11, you get 65 pages of action, horror, weirdness, and enough great ideas to run multiple campaigns. Hack your brain, grab your weapon, and lets go hunt some scorpion-men.

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