1. Description: Nanotechnology has transformed almost every aspect of society, and its application to psychology, psychiatry, and neuroscience has resulted in new techniques for mental “therapy” that have created new forms of social stratification. Increasingly, individuals are “therapied”—that is, well-integrated personalities capable of productive work and constructive social interaction which does not threaten the social order. Therapied individuals have access to the best jobs. There are two other classes: the “high naturals”, who possess such a positive mental makeup without the need for therapy, and the “untherapied”, who find themselves increasingly marginalized. Meanwhile, advances in computer science may have pushed the technology close to the edge of true self awareness, and slower-than-light spaceflight is just beginning to show promise, as the first tenuous colonies are appearing on Mars and humans are visiting other bodies within the solar system. Top government sources now have technology that allows a select few psychiatrists to actually venture into a virtual reality of the psychological landscape of patients, the so-called “country of the mind.” Adventures will take place roughly equally in and out of the country of the mind in this campaign.
  2. Characters: You are a team of highly skilled government-sponsored “psychonauts” with access to the best psychiatric technologies and theories ever developed. You have histories as top-tier psychiatrists, but you’ve all chosen (for one reason or another) to abandon private-practice therapy for the opportunity to work at the bleeding-edge of the field. Now, using a special sort of virtual reality system in combination with the nano-enhanced pyschiatric tools others use, you can actually adventure in the “country of the mind” of your patients, exploring their psychological landscapes almost physically. Player characters are all research-scientist psychiatrists, and I’ll provide a template for the basic skills and levels you need to fulfill that requirement. But don’t that’s limiting! You need to flesh out your social history, your personal interests, and other real-life skills, talents, and so on. You’ll have a unique specialty in your field contributing a required skill to the operation of the psychonautical equipment. You’ll also develop a detailed “avatar,” a personality you use when exploring the country of the mind. This virtual character will obviously share some of your real-world traits (like your IQ), but it’ll also have a different set of advantages, disadvantages, and skills that apply only in the country of the mind. And—and this is important—you will be able to use your real-world skills to modify your avatar over time when you have access to your equipment. (There are specific GURPS rules for this already, actually, involving the Alternate Form and Modular Ability advantages.) Thus, given sufficient time and resources, you will be able to almost completely alter the nature of your avatar—for instance, changing it from a physically tough scrapper to a sneaky rogue. Your real-world character won’t be quite as easily altered, but even there great changes are possible thanks to incredible advances in nanotechnology and psychiatry. This, your characters can’t just “be anything,” but within certain restrictions can be changed radically even within the campaign.
  3. Source: Queen of Angels by Greg Bear, A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett
  4. Themes: Technology, identity, the nature of the soul and consciousness, justice, social issues, mystery, intrigue
  5. Setting: Earth: 2048 (the binary millenium), transformed from the world as we know it by advances in nanotechnology, neuroscience, computer processing, and (oddly) psychiatry
  6. System: GURPS, using primarily GURPS Biotech and some GURPS Ultratech

Psychonauts