GURPS Illuminati University

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GURPS Illuminati University
GURPS Illuminati University cover
Designer(s)Elizabeth McCoy, Walter Milliken
Publisher(s)Steve Jackson Games
Publication date1995

GURPS Illuminati University (1995) (ISBN 1-55634-206-3), also called GURPS IOU, is a 128-page softbound campaign setting sourcebook for the GURPS role-playing game.


The book details a fictional college where absurdity and awful puns are the order of the day; its students range from witches and werewolves to secret agents and space aliens. Adventures can involve joining fraternities, surviving dorm life, dealing with rampaging lab accidents, conquering other worlds on field trips, getting caught up in faculty bloodfeuds and even attempting to pass a class.

Characters from every GURPS setting can be fitted into the campaign with little or no difficulty; the setting shares much in common with the equally bizarre game Teenagers from Outer Space. Agatha Heterodyne, from the Foglios' Girl Genius, is also featured in the book.

School structure[edit]

IOU is divided into nine major schools of teaching, listed here, along with a sampling of the departments each contains.

  • School of Weird and Unnatural Sciences & Engineering (WUSE)
    Mad scientists have to study, too.
    • Department of Recreational Biochemistry
    • Department of Rude Engineering
    • Department of Weird Science and Culinary Studies ("Can we eat it, or will it eat us?")
  • College of Obscure and Unhealthy Professions (COUP)
    Where straight professionals are set crooked.
    • Department of Dirty Tricks
    • School of Law
    • Department of Technical Difficulties
  • College of Temporal Happenstance, Ultimate Lies & Historical Undertakings (C.T.H.U.L.H.U.; the periods are meant to be pronounced)
    Whenever you go, then you are.
    • Department of Ancient History
    • Department of Future History
  • School of Conservative Arts (SCA)
    Today the lemonade stand, tomorrow, the world!
    • Department of Empire-Building
  • School of Performing & Creative Arts (SPCA)
    "There's no business like show business" doesn't even begin to describe it.
    • Department of Melodrama
    • Department of Cinematography
  • College of Metaphysics (CoM)
    Sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology. So there!
    • Department of Applied Theology
    • Department of Political Thaumaturgy
  • College of Communications (CoC)
    Fnord. Ketchup is a Vegetable. Big Brother Loves Lucy.
    • Department of Disinformation
  • School of Social Anti-Sciences (SSAS)
    We have never made a profit! We don't do useful things here! We devote ourselves to pure Art and Research!
    • English Department
    • Department of Misanthropology
  • College of Zen Surrealism (CZS)
    Ommmms! Ommmms for the poor!
    • Department of Inapplicable Mathematics

Due to the extremely dangerous nature of the academic work done at IOU, many of the staff undergo The Treatment, a mysterious and dreaded procedure that makes them virtually unkillable and thus immune to their own recklessness. In addition, there are resurrection facilities on campus for student use.

Academic rivalries at IOU tend to result in extreme violence, property damage, and mayhem. There are rules to such conflicts (Faculty Bloodfeuds), one of which is that "freshthings" in their first semester are off-limits and harm done to them will attract the unfavorable attention of the Archdean.

Any student asking what the "O" in "IOU" stands for will be told he or she isn't cleared for that information.

Publication history[edit]

GURPS Illuminati University was published as a 128-page softbound sourcebook by Steve Jackson Games; the authors are Elizabeth McCoy and Walter Milliken; the illustrations are by Phil Foglio and Kaja Foglio.

The setting began life as an online campaign run on the Steve Jackson Games BBS Illuminati Online, it was codified into a book for the Third Edition of GURPS. There have been no announced plans to officially update the setting for 2004's Fourth Edition ruleset.


Rick Swan reviewed GURPS IOU: Illuminati University for Dragon magazine #228 (April 1996).[1] Noting SJG's success with the Illuminati: New World Order card game, he commented that "despite its title, GURPS IOU has nothing to do with cards. Nor, for that matter, does it have much to do with the GURPS Illuminati supplement of a few years back. IOU looks like a setting for the GURPS role-playing game – and indeed, it has its share of game stats and adventure hooks – but the anything-goes, logic-down-the-dumper approach makes it virtually unplayable, at least by anyone who takes their games even semi-seriously. So what is it? Basically, IOU is a glorified joke book, a drop of Monty Python mixed with a bucket of Three Stooges."[1] Swan concluded his review by saying: "Maybe you consider yourself too sophisticated for silly stuff like this, but you've gotta admit – Democrats for Cthulhu, that’s pretty good."[1]


  1. ^ a b c Swan, Rick (April 1996). "Role-playing Reviews". Dragon. Lake Geneva, Wisconsin: TSR (#228): 65.

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