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Full fathom five thy father lies; Of his bones are coral made: Those are pearls that were his eyes: Nothing of him that doth fade, But doth suffer a sea-change Into something rich and strange. The point about GURPS Atlantis is that Atlantis is what you make of it -- or what other people have made of it over the last couple of thousand years. The brief for the book was pretty simple, and quite broad; a treatment of Atlantis -- the Atlantis Myth -- in game terms.

That made me decide to try and avoid getting too specific in the opening chapters; with everything from Greek philosophy to superhero comics to worry about, it would have felt unfair to pin readers down to a single viewpoint too early on. However, gamers have a natural and justified aversion to vague and waffly generalizations in game books, so the second half of the book, the last three of its six chapters, consists of game-usable treatments of Atlantis.

By the Book The other thing I wanted was to try to be quite rigorous about some things. This is a bit of a habit among GURPS writers and fans, to the extent that it sometimes becomes a joke, but while I was prepared to be cinematic and dramatic, I found some of the secondary source material on which I had to draw rather annoying.

To explain: "Atlantis" is an idea with a clearly-defined first known manifestation. And yet, many later uses of the name more or less completely ignore Plato, and go their own way with this idea of a lost land under the sea.

This had the added virtue of making chapter 1 easier to write; this is, so far as I know, the first RPG supplement where the Father of Western Philosophy really deserves an "Additional Material" credit.

Then, the idea of rigor gave me another angle. As numerous modern writers have realized, the invention of undersea travel makes visiting a sunken Atlantis a somewhat-viable proposition. So chapter 3 is about the sea itself -- the vast, dangerous, bizarre environment that happens to cover most of the surface of our home planet.

Here, I was traveling out of my own familiar environment, so I recruited some helpful assistance through the Pyramid boards, which in turn ensured that the book would include some detailed and interesting treatments of subjects which GURPS has only discussed in passing before -- subjects like the evolution of submarine technology, and the complex dangers of deep diving.

Talking of rigor -- the more research I did for this chapter, the more exasperated I became with all too many writers and films. It soon became clear to me that deep-sea exploration is a complex and risky enterprise. This book tries to make realistic games involving deep dives a little easier to run -- which should mean that they can be as tough on the PCs as realism demands.

Anyway, that was the set-up; the worked examples then took Atlantis back into high fantasy, out into the twisted world of conspiracy theory, and off into the weirdness of steampunk or supers stories.

Which done, the book went into the invaluable process of playtesting. One More Theme. GURPS book projects work to a page count. That theme was, broadly, "Atlantis of the Future. Traveller For one thing, some people came up with ideas for merging ideas from this book with GURPS Traveller, which I did manage to use in partial, truncated form. One involved space travelers -- Droyne or Vegans, most likely -- lurking on our world in the Bronze Age; I do find the idea of Odysseus and his crew meeting a "one-eyed" Vegan amusing, if slightly implausible.

Other cities at or below sea level were mentioned -- Miami, Bahrain, Dhaka, Bangkok -- as well as the good old possibility of California being hit by a big enough earthquake and falling into the Pacific, but the candidates that looked best was those which scored highest for style. Venice is an obvious name here, of course, being a city of canals, with severe flooding problems, as it is; somebody threw in the idea of a drowned Venice inhabited only by vampires, which has a certain gothic charm.

It was also pointed out that modern Cairo is more or less at sea level; given a rise of just a few feet, the entire Nile delta might flood. Alexandria, on the current coast of the delta, would obviously suffer badly; the great city of the Hellenic era is already largely under the harbor, for one reason or another, and that comes complete with the classical architecture that Atlantis imagery demands.

Near-future scenarios in such a setting could combine cyberpunk glitz, Middle Eastern intrigue, and sunken-city melancholy. Meanwhile, another thread was addressing the subject of New Orleans -- a city located, by some genius of an urban planner, not only in a swamp, but also below sea level.

One projection was that if they were lost, the river would silt up, destroying its usefulness as a port; then, knock-on effects involving deposition and erosion patterns on the coast would cause the Mississippi delta to erode away, so that New Orleans eventually flooded. This would take a while; someone suggested that the place might be under a dome and hence even more humid by then, leading to more proper quasi-Atlantean imagery. All rights reserved. Pyramid subscribers are permitted to read this article online, or download it and print out a single hardcopy for personal use.

Copying this text to any other online system or BBS, or making more than one hardcopy, is strictly prohibited. And if you encounter copies of this article elsewhere on the web, please report it to webmaster sjgames.



I highly recommend it to anyone interested in fantasy roleplaying games. For printed books, we have performed high-resolution scans of an original hardcopy of the book. Austin, Texas, United States. You might end using only a little part of this book.


GURPS Atlantis



GURPS Classic: Atlantis


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