Roleplayer #28, April 1992

Playing With Your Mind

Secret Knowledge from GURPS Illuminati

by Nigel Findley

Yes, the worldbook of the Great Conspiracy has been a long time coming. Don't ask why – there are some things you don't want to know. But it's out at last. And among the secrets that it reveals are the following high-tech ways to play with peoples' minds.

All of these devices can be useful in a campaign that's not Illuminated . . . at least not overtly so. The amnesia drugs and Mind Control Laser, in particular, make good McGuffins . . . gimmicks to get an adventure started. Suppose the PCs find evidence that somebody has developed a new high-tech way to play with people's minds. It doesn't even have to be the Secret Masters. Either Madison Avenue or Hollywood would have a lot of use for the Mind Control laser, for instance. But the plot complications will come thick and fast as various forces try to get their own hands on the secret – and the original owners use it to defend themselves!

Chemically-Induced Amnesia

Currently, there are no drugs that will specifically erase memories without causing other, more widespread effects (such as cell death, palsy, etc.). This need not be true in worlds with higher Tech Levels, of course. The Illuminati might have access to advanced technology, and could possess such drugs. Two powerful memory-altering drugs, both TL8, are described below. Both must be injected (either intravenously or subcutaneously) to take effect, and neither is addictive. Neither is currently illegal, simply because the authorities don't know these drugs exist (though using them on someone would probably constitute assault). One dose is 50 milligrams. These drugs can only be acquired from certain conspiratorial groups, and they'll be very unlikely to sell them.

The GM is free to bring these drugs into lower-tech campaigns as well. In a fantasy campaign, they could be alchemical potions. In any game, they could be secret herbal preparations brought at great expense from the edge of the Galaxy / heart of the Amazon basin / secret Shawnee medicine garden / Crazy Willy's ganja patch.


Lethe ("forgetfulness") induces total amnesia. The subject loses all memories of everything that happened before the dose was administered. The base duration for this memory loss is 4 weeks. At the end of this period, the subject makes a roll against HT-5 each week to shake off the effects. On a successful roll, the subject's "lost" memories come flooding back. On a critical failure, the memory loss has become permanent; the character is considered to have acquired the Total Amnesia disadvantage, and can only buy it off with character points.


Oblivio (Latin for "forgetfulness") is chemically very different from Lethe, and induces temporary retrograde amnesia. For each dose – to a maximum of four doses – the drug temporarily wipes out 3d weeks of the subject's memory record, starting at the moment the drug was administered and counting backwards. Thus, if the subject is given three doses, he forgets everything that happened in the 9d weeks before the drug was administered. The drug also renders the subject instantly unconscious for 10d minutes.

The drug has a base duration of 1d+6 days. After that period, the subject rolls every day against HT-1. If he succeeds, his memory comes back immediately, although in most cases he will never recall the period one hour before the drug was administered. If he rolls a critical success, however, he does remember that one-hour "window." If the subject ever rolls a critical failure, the temporary amnesia becomes permanent.

The maximum number of doses that can be administered at one time – safely – is four. A fifth dose requires the subject to make a HT-4 roll or become comatose for 20-HT hours, and suffer 3d damage plus 1d of additional damage for each dose after the fifth.

Agents will sometimes want to maintain this kind of temporary amnesia beyond the base duration. This requires multiple administrations of Oblivio. Each time the subject receives the drug, the GM must secretly roll the base duration for that particular administration (i.e., 1d+6). The number of doses he received in that batch is considered to be still in effect for that time. If he receives more doses before that time is up, to bring the total number of "active doses" up to 5, the subject will suffer the effects of an "overdose" as described above.

For example: An agent gives Smith three doses of Oblivio. The GM rolls the duration (1d+6), for a result of 12 days. The agent wants to maintain Smith's amnesia; obviously, he doesn't know how long the first three doses will last. After 8 days, the agent is getting very nervous: he figures Smith could snap out of it at any time. He sneaks into Smith's place and gives him another three doses. Unfortunately for Smith, the first three doses were still in effect, and the new administration raises the number of "active doses" to six. Smith must roll HT-4 or pass out for 20-HT hours and suffer 4d of damage (3d base plus 1 d for the 6th dose).

"Unlocking" Implanted Information

So the Illuminati have locked important information in the subconscious of an unwitting dupe. How does one unlock that information?

Mental unlocking is tricky, requiring much skill. Only those with either Interrogation or Psychology can even try it (no default skill use allowed).

The procedure is a Contest of Skills between the interrogator's Skill (either Psychology or Interrogation) and the subject's IQ (modified by Strong or Weak Will). This is even if the subject wants the interrogator to succeed. "Truth serum" type drugs, like pentothal of sodium, Will decrease the subject's effective IQ by -2. Each attempt takes one hour.

If the interrogator makes his roll and the subject fails, the implanted information is released normally (whatever "normally" is for the specific case). If the interrogator rolls a critical success and the subject fails, the implanted information is released normally and the subject gains full conscious access to it, even if this wasn't part of the original programming. If both rolls fail or both succeed, the attempt is a failure.

If, however, the interrogator fails the Skill roll and the Subject succeeds, any secondary programming that might be in place is triggered. The result could range from the subject permanently forgetting the implanted information, to his going insane, or even to a bomb implanted in his head detonating.

Finally, if the interrogator rolls a critical failure and the subject rolls a success, the information in the subject's head is totally lost and unrecoverable. Plus, the subject suffers some kind of mental imbalance, equivalent to any mental disadvantage that the GM sees fit to apply. This condition lasts for 2d weeks.

The Mind Control Laser

Strictly speaking, this device is a maser, not a laser, since it employs microwaves instead of visible light. The projector is about the size of a beer can, but it must be attached by a slender cable to a battery pack about the size and shape of a briefcase. When in use, the projector heats to a temperature of about 100° C (212° F), requiring that it be mounted on a tripod or something similar.

The projector produces a conical beam of microwaves with an effective range of 300 feet. The beam is not tightly collimated. At 150 feet the beam has a diameter of 20 feet; at maximum range it has a diameter of 40 feet. It is totally invisible, and can penetrate up to six inches of stone or brick; less dense materials, such as wood, drywall, plaster, etc. offer no resistance to the microwave beam. Any ferrous metal of more than a quarter-inch thickness totally blocks the beam, however.

Any human caught within the beam must make a Will roll each minute or be highly suggestible to any authoritative statement for however long the individual is within the beam plus an additional 1d minutes. During this time, any authoritative statement is treated as a posthypnotic suggestion (see Hypnosis on p. B56). The beam's intensity – and hence its effectiveness – diminishes with range. A subject's Will roll has the following penalties, depending on range:

0-50 feet0
51-100 feet+1
101-200 feet+2
201-300 feet+3

In addition, if the subject is wearing a special protective helmet composed of a titanium-beryllium alloy, he receives an additional +10 bonus. (Jury-rigged protection like a skullcap made of aluminum foil can give a +1 bonus if the GM is feeling generous. A skullcap of beaten gold is even better – +4 – because it's more conductive.)

The briefcase-sized battery pack contains enough power for 5 minutes of continuous use.

The mind control laser is TL8 (sort of). It is not considered illegal, since nobody who writes the laws believes such a thing exists.

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