GURPS Alternate Earths
After reading the manuscript for GURPS Alternate Earths, I was rather disappointed. A couple of the alternates are interesting, but many of them have been done to death: Nazis win, Confederates win, Rome doesn't fall; I wanna blow chunks. Nowhere do we see unusual ones, like were in GURPS Time Travel: The United States of Lizardia, Bizarro, magic exists, - in other words, Boring!
Now after saying all that, here are some ideas I've had for more interesting alternate Earths:
RoswellA U.F.O. lands in New Mexico in the 1940's, flying to Washington D.C. after getting directions, and establishes an open, public diplomatic mission with the U.S., as well as other world powers. Cultural, scientific and economic exchanges occur. They give us a cheap, environmentally sound energy source in exchange for a complete collection of Laurel and Hardy movies. The first manned interstellar space ship lifts off from Cape Canaveral in 1969, during Henry Cabot Lodge's first term, in fulfillment of Nixon's promise to use the technological boom started by the aliens to benefit all mankind.
DilbertThomas Edison is elected president, which leads to engineers being the most powerful and highly paid group in the country. More Senators and millionaires are engineers than lawyers or entertainers.
Towanda!The early agrarian societies quickly adapted to the incursions of hostile nomadic peoples, thus repelling the invaders and preserving their female-centered civilization. You could go a lot of places from here: amazons in space!; polytheism in a modern setting; a society identical to our own, but with women in the most important roles; several advanced civilizations occupy the middle and near east, and parts of Europe and Africa, while nomads wander most of the rest of the planet.
Republican Wet DreamHannibal does not turn around at the gates of Rome, taking it and holding it. Carthage leads the world to new heights of mercantile capitalism that last for two millennia.
Imperial EarthThis idea came from my friend, John Finsrud, a long-time gamer and history buff. This alternate starts rather mundanely with the Confederate States of America fighting the Union to a stalemate. They achieve sovereignty, and the Union abandons the War. One interesting thing that happened during the war was that during the Union siege and blockade of New Orleans, the Mayor of New Orleans asked the French for help in lifting the siege, and a small French fleet breaks the blockade and French troops reclaim New Orleans as French territory.
After the war the Union's nose is bloodied and the National Ego is bruised. The U.S. loses its expansionist fervor, and turns inward. It never becomes the world power it did in our parallel. The U.S. stretches from the Atlantic coast to the Mississippi River. The vast expanse of the Louisiana Purchase is never heavily settled, and the Indians and what settlers there are strike a peaceful deal, since the settlers know there won't be any cavalry coming over the hill. Alaska remains in Russian hands.
Texas resumes its secessionist tendencies after the Civil War and leaves the Confederacy to become its own nation. Several border clashes occur between Texas and Mexico. A truce is settled and Texas and Mexico eventually form an alliance. Mexico keeps its original holdings in the Southwest and becomes a much more powerful regional state than on our timeline.
The forces that led Europe to World War I still exist. WWI arrives on schedule, but after the intense clashes of October, a hurried peace is made. The consequence of this is that the Great Empires of Europe never fall: Czarist Russia, Germany, Austro-Hungary, the Ottomans are all still around, conniving and scheming against each other.
This is a politically very interesting place to be. Lots of intrigue, diplomacy, espionage, etc. You've got multiple North American nations to deal with and Europe is very interested in the New World.
Walker WorldA virus in the Pliocene Era wipes out Eohippus and all its relatives. The horse never survived to be the powerhouse to replace human power. Face it: a team of oxen just doesn't cut it when you want to go fast. Things in the Old World happened about the same as in our world, until the Roman Era. The barbarians never developed cavalry, and the Roman legion remained king. This just delayed the inevitable about 200 years. Rome fell due to internal decay. The desert tribes of the Arabian peninsula remained flea-scratching nomads, and Mohammed never started Islam, or, at least, it never caught on. The Crusades never happened. The Indian subcontinent retained much of its early culture well into the second millennia. No knights of chivalry. Countries are much more stable, since armies must travel at a foot soldier's pace. TL 4 prevails.
Assassin's WorldRonald Reagan dies from John Hinckley's bullet. George Bush is ushered in, appointing Alexander Haig as his V.P. Two years later, Bush is assassinated during the Presidential campaign, and Haig invokes martial law. A massive FBI investigation reveals Bush's killing to be the work of a conspiracy of crazed lone assassins. The public buys the obvious oxymoron. Haig lasts thirteen months before, you guessed it, another lone kook blows his head off. Control of the country falls to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, two of which are killed within weeks. The Surgeon-General, C. Evert Coup, issues a report explaining that this rash of insanity is caused by a new virus that has infected the population: Acquired Insane Dementia Syndrome or AIDS. Anyone can carry it and pass it along in large groups, like football stadiums, religious rallies, corporate stockholder meetings, etc. No symptoms appear, until one day the victim wakes up in a homicidal frenzy. Coup's news conference is disrupted when he and many reporters are killed by a suicide bomber. Multinational corporations, Billy Graham Crusades and tour guides carry this plague to the rest of the world. Chaos ensues.
Oz IIBuddy Ebsen was the original actor playing the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz. He became severely ill from the silver makeup used in the production and was replaced by Jack Haley. In the world of Oz II, Buddy Ebsen never got sick, and played in the released version. Because of this, Buddy's movie career took off, instead of him going into TV (Beverly Hillbillies, and Barnaby Jones). He played roles in several westerns, including Doc Holiday in Gunfight at the OK Corral. Few other changes of any impact occurred on this alternate. This world might be most useful for that first dimensional jump to a close parallel, where the players think that nothing is different.
Allah Be PraisedJudas Escariot has second thoughts about betraying Jesus Christ, keeps the thirty silver coins, and kisses one of the Roman officials instead. Judas is executed in Jesus' place. Christianity never really catches on without a good martyr. Rome never converts to Christianity, and therefore loses a powerful political tool. The Western Empire lasts about as long as it did in this timeline, but failed to have the same far-reaching effects on Western Civilization beyond its demise. The Byzantine Empire was a non-starter. Without the unifying aspects of Christianity on Europe, the Muslims and the Mongols divide Europe between them. Scientific discovery pushes forward at a fast pace, but artistic fervor remains in the realm of non-representational Islamic art. Because of their essential conservatism, Allah is currently in TL 5, but with TL 7 in the area of medicine. The world has three main capitals: Beijing, Damascus, and Tenochtitlan, as the Aztecs were never invaded. Use GURPS China, Arabian Nights, and Aztecs for sourcebooks to this alternate.
Divine WindIn 1587, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the son of a woodcutter, unified Japan for the first time in over a hundred years. His next project was the invasion of Ming China. But first he had to get through Korea. The Korean king refused to let them cross through his country peaceably. In 1592, Hideyoshi's troops invaded Korea and in six months had captured Seoul and P'yong-yang, and had briefly stepped foot in Manchuria six months after that. But pressure from Chinese troops and a weak naval campaign forced them to retreat to the southern region of the country by the end of 1593. After four years of peace negotiations and another doomed invasion in 1597, the Japanese retreated to home soil.
In this Quantum 5 timeline, enough Japanese gold and displays of superior military technology convinced the Korean king to grant the Samurai free passage (and much needed supplies) through his kingdom to the Manchurian border. Also, Tokugawa Ieyasu, one of Hideyoshi's main generals and later Shogun on our Earth, realized the need for better naval strategy and was aided by a shipwrecked English navigator, Will Adams, who arrived nine years earlier than in Homeline. (This historical event was novelized in Shogun by James Clavell.)
With long swords, muskets and cannon against Chinese short swords and cannon, as well as a better navy and Korean complicity, Hideyoshi conquered Manchuria in two years and died a year later outside the gates of Beijing. His five generals took Beijing and invested Hideyoshi's five-year old son as the new Emperor of China under their regency. In a reflection of our Earth, one general, Tokugawa Ieyasu, played the other generals off each other until he grabbed power two years later and had the Emperor pronounce him Shogun. With the military genius of Tokugawa as the real power of the throne, the Japanese subjugated all of China by 1603.
The current year of this timeline is 1865 and the Tech Level is 5. The problems of administering a country as huge as China have kept the Tokugawa Shogunate busy, though they did have time to conquer Southeast Asia to the tip of the Malay Peninsula, and break European trading monopolies. Japanese trading vessels range as far as Africa. European/American history has remained mostly the same as our timeline, though British hegemony of the Far East was spoiled by the presence of a militarily-adept Japanese-Chinese naval power. They hold India, but no further east.
OlympusAround 1000 BCE, a Wild Card-type mutagenic virus was released in Earth's atmosphere in the area of Athens for reasons similar to those explained in GURPS Wild Cards. It quickly spread throughout Greece and Asia Minor. The mutations caused by it gave rise to a class of what the locals called Gods, Demigods and Demons. The virus had one difference from the Wild Card virus: it affected animals as well as humans, giving rise to fantastic and horrible creatures. Wind currents and sea trade brought the virus to the rest of the world over the next decades. Everywhere it touched, a class of Gods and Demons arose, as well as creatures of legend.
The current time period is 243 A.C.E. and it is in TL 2. This Quantum 3 timeline is strictly quarantined for fear of bringing the virus to Homeline. The handful of observers spend their entire stay in a sterile force field, and they must remain in isolation for months when they return. The original four agents who discovered this timeline have remained to avoid contamination. One of these agents contracted the virus and mutated into what can only be described as a dryad: a being with an immense affinity and control of plant life. She recently broke contact with Homeline. It is feared that she has retreated to the fastness of the Northern European forests. . The other three maintain contact with the Homeline observers, giving reports of events.