Weird Books for Gamers VI: The New Soviet Psychic Discoveries by Henry Gris and William Dick

This is the sixth in my series of capsule reviews of non-fiction books from my library that would be useful or inspiring in RPGs – Weird Books for Gamers

This is a 1978 book that purports to be an expose of psychic and parapsychological research in the Soviet Union.

The New Soviet Psychic Discoveries by Henry Gris and William Dick(Goodreads)

The two authors, reporters for the National Enquirer, relate their journeys across the Brezhnev-era Soviet Union, where they meet various parapsychologists, scientists, and psychics. They report every crazy tale and lunatic theory told to them without a hint of skepticism.

It’s all hokum, but has a lot of fun ideas for use in RPGs, and also serves as a nice travelogue of 1970s Soviet life as seen by western reporters.

Here’s some of weirder, more gameable bits:

  • Psychics who can stop a frog’s heart, or potentially a human’s
  • Healing, or possibly harming, subjects over a telephone line using the power of a psychic’s mind.
  • Secret programs to contact alien intelligences.
  • The USSR’s largest UFO investigation group was disguised as a sci-fi fan group – The Club of Fantasts
  • The theory that the solar system used to have a planet called Phaeton, which exploded. Supposedly human-like Phaetonic refugees came to Earth to settle, and were worshiped as Cosmonaut-Gods in ancient Japan.
  • A wartime interrogation of a captured Alamasty – The Abominable Snowman of the Caucasus.

All of this nonsense makes me imagine a game that’s a mashup of The Americans and Scanners. Cold war espionage with crazy psionic powers. You could run it with any espionage game – Top Secret, Delta Green, Cold Shadows, Classified, etc. I might use it as a background for an older game like Psi World (get your character sheet here)

If you’re using GURPS, you could decide Warehouse 23 is in the USSR, and run by the KGB. One could also run Night’s Black Agents by switching out vampires with secret psychics.

The Club of Fantasts group could be the core of a campaign where the players are Soviet equivalent of the Lone Gunmen, investigating X-Files style mysteries across the Eastern Bloc.

Brian DiPalma’s 1978 movie The Fury is also a good source for a espionage/psionics mashup.

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