Most role-players are aware of GURPS, the Generic Universal Role-Playing System created by Steve Jackson Games. It unifies all gaming genres and time periods into one system, and even allows characters from different games to interact, since they're all based on the same combat/movement/damage framework.
To live up to the concept's potential, Steve Jackson Games published dozens of "Worldbooks," supplements that gave information and background on genres like horror or steampunk or post-apocalyptic sci-fi. I owned many of these books and found them incredibly useful resources not just for gaming but also for writing novels or screenplays.
Some of the sourcebooks were a bit... strange. Either oddly specific, or particularly niche, or based on a gaming idea that I never would have thought of. Here are some of the oddest—in good ways and bad—of the GURPS Worldbooks.
GURPS Scarlet Pimpernel
Here's an example of strange specificity. SJ Games already offered the magnificent GURPS Swashbucklers, subtitled "Roleplaying in the World of Pirates and Musketeers." It's a great resource for fans of both realistic and cinematic swordfighting (like me), touching on great adventures from Robin Hood to Pirates of the Caribbean. So... why did the company feel they needed a supplement that covers one specific novel? The Swashbucklers era includes the late 18th and early 19th centuries. This book just focuses on France, from the fashion to Revolutionary politics. Buy Swashbucklers instead.
GURPS Bunnies & Burrows
Want to enter the savage world of Watership Down? Then this strange GURPS supplement is for you. It's "Role-Playing in the World of Intelligent Animals." The back cover promises adventures such as raiding gardens, fighting dogs, evading foxes, and "battl[ing] sinister packs of mongooses." This may be perfect for some gamers, but I think the Toon RPG would be better—in that game, you can play intelligent (and talking) animals, but also get to drive cars and blow up buildings.
Robots are a huge part of science-fiction, but only Steve Jackson Games has seen fit to give them an entire sourcebook. The book not only gives information on different types of robot assistants and enemies, but also how to play a robot character, a challenge only bold gamers would accept. There's also some rules about mecha and battlesuits for anime fans... though, of course, the company has that covered in GURPS Mecha. Finishing off the GURPS "Robot Trilogy" is Reign of Steel, which offers a simple premise: "The war is over. The robots won."
Steve Jackson Games is famous for its Illuminati games, both in the GURPS system and elsewhere. They presaged the paranoia and conspiracies of the 1990s that culminated in The X-Files and Men In Black. Then the company turned the whole idea on its ear, creating a college where players could study magic, weird science, military tech, martial arts, and everything in between. It's a fascinating, clever setting that's part X-Files, part Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and part Teenagers From Outer Space. The illustrations by Phil and Kaja Foglio provide the perfect look of this wacky, chaotic world.
SJ Games published GURPS Steampunk. And added horror to make GURPS Screampunk. What came next is simply kooky. GURPS Goblins is set in London in 1830... but there are no people, only monsters of various sorts, all referred to as goblins. The game has none of the heroism of high fantasy or the thrill of adventure. Instead, as one Amazon reviewer puts it, "You design your character, work out his deformities (due to mistreatment in childhood, school, and apprenticeship), then bravely set out to climb up the social ladder, armed with only a half-eaten pork-pie and a sixpence between you and the workhouse." The laws are harsh, poverty is rampant, violence is everywhere, and disease mingles with magic to cause further misfortune. It's a strange but unique game setting for gamers looking for dark comedy.
GURPS Ice Age
Want to go even lower-tech than Medieval times? Than the Bronze Age? Than Ancient Egypt? GURPS Ice Age lets you role-play in the prehistoric world. Your only equipment and weapons are what you can make by hand, and your only food is what you can forage, grow, or kill. The game system does allow for a type of shamanic magic, which makes it a little more exciting. The book also includes "detailed information on seven hominid races," so it's really got the Ice Age covered. If you don't want to spend months playing in a world with no technology and no money and no real power, GURPS Ice Age can come in handy for Victorian encounters with a "lost tribe," a post-apocalyptic setting, or a primitive planet for space explorers.
What are your favorite GURPS books? Roll the dice in the comments.