Disadvantage: Enemy (Secret Service)

Cover image of GURPS Cyberpunk

Here’s a nice writeup of a famous tale from the game industry: the 1990 Secret Service raid on Steve Jackson Games in which they confiscated the manuscript for GURPS Cyberpunk.

It was perhaps not our country’s finest hour:

In spite of the fact the rulebook contained rules for having your consciousness transferred to a gender-swapped clone, when [Steve Jackson] spoke to them the day after the raid he was told that his company was publishing “a handbook for computer crime”. When he protested that it was clearly made up, he was repeatedly informed: “This is real.”

I’ve heard versions of this story retold over the years. According to this article, GURPS Cyberpunk was a target of opportunity, not the official reason for the raid: the Secret Service was poking around, equally ridiculously, for evidence that Steve Jackson Games was connected to some suspected BBS shenanigans. They grabbed the GURPS book when no other nefarious evidence presented itself. From a SJ Games post about the raid:

Their agents were very critical of [GURPS Cyberpunk], and on March 2 in their office, one of them called it a “handbook for computer crime.” Since their warrant was sealed, and they wouldn’t comment, our best guess was that they were trying to suppress the book. They did suppress it, but apparently it was through bureaucratic inertia and stonewalling rather than because it was a target of the raid.

Imagine if terrorists had gotten hold of the information in that or any GURPS tome—they’d know exactly how many one-inch hexes away from a target they can be before they get a -4 penalty to pickpocket attempts unless they paid 50 character points to replace their arms with telescoping cybernetic limbs. I feel safer already.

You know, it’s crossed my mind over the years that the game-prep Google trail of a typical gamemaster probably sets off all kinds of red flags in the various Orwellian surveillance systems keeping tabs on us. “Siri, how much C4 would you have to use to topple the Statue of Liberty onto a shoggoth that’s rising from New York Harbor?”

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

1 thought on “Disadvantage: Enemy (Secret Service)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.