This is Classic material. Some conversion will be needed to use with 4e,
some of which may have been done for you.

The cover to GURPS Illuminati University.

GURPS Illuminati University (1995), also called GURPS Classic: IOU is a kitchen-sink worldbook for GURPS Classic written by Elizabeth McCoy and Walter Milliken; the illustrations are by Phil Foglio and Kaja Foglio. Tertiary Education for the multiverse misfits and future leaders. 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.

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 and there have been no announced plans to officially update the setting for 2004's Fourth Edition ruleset. 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 (role-playing game)|Teenagers from Outer Space.

This setting supports three different campaign styles: Silly, Weird, and Darkly Illuminated. GURPS IOU takes you from Creating A Character to enrolling in classes, to study, finals, and the occasional academic blood feud, all the way to graduation.

What does the 'O' stand for?

You're not cleared to know that
  ,— Backcover

Illuminati University has its roots in a roleplay group on the old SJ Games BBS Illuminati Online.

School Structure

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
  • 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
  • College of Metaphysics (CoM)
    Sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology. So there!
    • Department of Applied Theology
  • 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!
    • Department of Misanthropology
  • College of Zen Surrealism (CZS)
    Ommmms! Ommmms for the poor!
    • Department of Inapplicable Mathematics

The Faculty

Central to the setting are a number of bizarre NPCs that serve as the university faculty. Similar to many real educational facilities, they are rarely seen-unless one gets into trouble.

The ArchDean: The mysterious, powerful and immortal head of the IOU administration. She assumed the post after orchestrating what is described as a very friendly takeover in collaboration with her Bimbira secretarial corps. Although her publicity calls her an alumnus of both Heaven and Hell who is now solely motivated by profit, her true origins are unknown and probably unknowable. She gets a 10% cut from all profit-making activity on campus, and all cats on campus are under her express protection.

Doctor What7: The Dean of C.T.H.U.L.H.U. and a blatant parody of the cult TV character Doctor Who, drawn as an African-American version of Tom Baker in the part-complete with a time-traveling port-a-potty known as the Public TOILET (Temporally Oscillating Interdimensional Lift with Endochronosynclastic Tendencies), which is, of course, far, far bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. He is frequently portrayed as having ferocious arguments with himself and appears to be somewhat less ethical (though no less whimsical) than his television counterpart.

Clark M. Walters: The (current)Dean of WUSE, and a prototypical absent-minded mad scientist with a love for gadgets and explosions. Intriguingly, this position is always filled by a former student of IOU. If, at any time, any person is able to... convince THE computer to give them the dean's salary, the dean's office, and the title of dean, that person must, of course, be the dean. Unsurprisingly, he is widely respected (some would say feared) for his exceptional skills with THE computer.

(Name Withheld By Request): The Dean of Metaphysics is a real, live demon with a Groucho Marx fixation and a fondness for women real or artificial. The ArchDean and very senior staff are known to call him 'Fred'; everyone else refers to him as That Dean or the Dean-Mon.

The Unseen Dean: The Dean of COUP, and a parody of conspiracy theories pertaining to an unnamed, impossible-to-identify 'Old (Wo)Man on the Mountain', 'Secret Master of Everything', 'Cigarette Smoking Man', etc. Nothing is known about him/her, except, of course, that nothing is known about him/her.

William Waldon: The Dean of SCA, otherwise known as the Chairthing of the Marketing Department, and a parodized combination of Wal-Mart's Sam Walton and Wall Street's Gordon Gekko. A former used planet salesthing who acquired planets to sell by repossessing them from bankrupt alien civilizations once supported by junk bonds acquired from him.

Lilly Ann Bie: The Dean of CoC, otherwise known as the Professor of Information Management. Has NO sense of diplomacy and will absentmindedly utter the darkest secrets of everyone in her immediate vicinity at the most inappropriate time possible. Has an extreme fetish for desserts and habitually wears a cockroach puppet on her hand.

Patricia Miller: The Dean of SPCA-when she's not on tour as an up and coming rock star.

THE computer The uber-powerful IOU computer system, which is rumored to actually run as a blip of code on every electronic device in the world/universe/multiverse, and may or may not be truly sentient(one is left to make one's own decision;wishful thinking or paranoia on behalf of its technicians, or pranksterism or paranoia on behalf of THE computer itself.)

George: The Chief Janitor. Actually, the ONLY janitor! Anytime something must be cleaned up, he is there with precisely the right tools with which to do it. Furthermore, if a student happens to be someplace he shouldn't, he'll be there, ready, willing and able to provide assistance-provided one makes a relevant donation to the Janitorial Retirement Fund™. Theories abound as to the source of his omnipotence and omniscience-teleportation, precognition, myriad telepathic clones, etc. Curious students have reported finding 55-gallon drums labeled "Industrial Strength Janitor in a Drum", but none have been able to determine their contents-any attempt to do so results in temporary death, amnesia, overloaded recording equipment, etc. A parody of the cliché that in every college drama ever made, there is never more than one janitor!

The Librarian: The Librarian. A parody of all librarians who are overprotective of their books.

Robocrat: The most horrible creature imaginable - a cybernetic war machine with the mind (no one would say soul) of a lazy administrator. After an unsurprisingly unwise WUSE experiment with a thermonuclear lawnmower, an unsurprisingly unwise WUSE student decided he had found the perfect test subject for yet another unsurprisingly unwise WUSE experiment-a state-of-the-art cyborg soldier. Harvey Tillotson woke up in his nigh-indestructible cyborg body, decided war was too dangerous, and demanded a cushy desk job. As the only thing that could possibly destroy him was the Bio-OGRE (Don't ask! Please! Eek!) and the collateral damage was deemed unacceptable, Robocrat got his soft job.

Madame Lucrezia Curry: The lunchlady. Her motto is written above her door-"The hand that wields the ladle rules the world." Most agree with her-only Faculty members are willing to address her by her first name. (Remember The Treatment!) A parody of the cliché that while all lunchladies make slop, they are never fired.

Features of the Setting

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.


  • Agatha Heterodyne, from the Foglio's Girl Genius, is also featured in the book.


  • GURPS Illuminati University won the 1992 Origins Award for Best Roleplaying Supplement.[1]

Additional Materials

The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Panic: IOU adventure (12/10/2004)