If you have not read the Uplift novels by David Brin you are missing out.
It is easily one of the best science fiction works to date. But does that translate into a setting that
is good for a role playing game? GURPS
Uplift Second Edition delivers the goods every bit as well as the first edition
did some ten years ago. Heck the first
edition of GURPS uplift is what got me interested in David Brin’s
novels to begin with.
Chapter One: The Uplift Universe
This chapter covers all the basics of the culture,
philosophy, institutions and sapients of the five
setting is frankly so huge that one could either get lost in it or find exactly
what they were looking for. This section
does a very
solid job of setting the foundation for the setting and how things work. It might have been nice to see more page
count dedicated to the various galactic institutions, but that is a minor quibble
as they tend to be big, dogmatic and never changing.
Chapter Two: Characters
You usual fare of GURPS mechanics tweaked for a specific
setting. While it could be a good
guideline for adapting classes from other RPG engines, it really is a section dedicated
to using GURPS, which is okay as it is a GURPS supplemtn
Three: Family, Friends and Foes
Now we start getting to the meaty portion of the book for
the setting. Unlike many RPG settings
race and culture are absolutely everything in the Uplift universe. Humanity is the new kid on the block and in a
very precarious condition, courtesy of them being wolflings. A wolfling is a
race that has no patron. They achieved
space flight all by them selves. That
makes them wildly unpopular. Humanity
also likes doing things their own way, even if it has been done by hundreds of
races over millions of years. Lastly
Earth clan discovered something….something that shakes the foundations of
Galactic culture. Being in Earth Clan in
particular means your character as an individual represents your race, not just
yourself. Along for this ride are
Chimpanzees and Dolphins which are Earth Clans clients, both of whom had been
in the Uplift before contact with the Galactic culture as a whole. Both of whom also make very compelling
characters to play in humanity’s adventure in the stars.
This chapter details many of the prominent clans in the setting, at least the clans
that are mentioned in Brin’s novels. The neat thing about the setting is that its
scale is so huge that there is more than enough room to introduce new clans
and/or use established clans in different sorts of ways. Here you will find the Tmbrini,
Soro, Gubru and a host of
others fleshed out with GURPS templates, but easily adaptable to any system you
Chapter Four: Uplift
Uplift is the practice of taking a pre-sentient species and
uplifting them to sentience and star travel.
These clients are indebted to their patrons for about a hundred thousand
years and then they in turn uplift a species.
This section is a good mechanical template for making Uplifted species
be it via random generation or as a guideline…it covers all the bases.
Five: Technology and Equipment
The universe is very old and there are lots and lots of
gadgets out there…and the Library has templates for all of them…assuming you
can access the computers, convince them you need the information then have the industrial
capability to make the devises. There is
a lot of equipment centric to the game in this chapter (like exo-skeletons fro dolphins) that are mandatory for the
setting. Some bend the normal GURPS rules, others add interesting ideas (especially the psionic
devices) usable in other settings. As a
note sometimes Earth Clan’s way of doing things their own way has paid off,
especially the wicked Flikker-Swivver missiles.
This section primarily focuses on getting from point a to point b…and there are a lot of ways to do that. There are the
varying level s of hyperspace, transit points (think naturally occurring hyperspace
freeways) and probability drives. All
have their advantages and disadvantages.
Usually that translates to speed and danger…the faster you want to get
someplace the more hazardous it will be and the harder the technology will be
For game mechanics, the exceptions to the normal GURPS
vehicles rules are described in detail.
reader of the series and a fan of the now two supplements I
really liked this section because it is very concise about how to get from
place to place and how it works. It gives
much better insight into the novels.
This section is a sort of catch all for having a campaign in
the Uplift setting. Guidelines for role playing
Earth Clan (humans and clients) are detailed.
Traveling is also covered. One of
the better sections is the consequences for character’s actions in the
setting. As said above, humanity is
under a microscope and what one member does reflects
largely on the race. The tables and mechanical
information for this aspect of the game is helpful and could lead to other
adventures. Speaking fo there are some adventure seeds in the campaign
section, but mostly of this information is listed in the worlds and adventures
chapter and the Jijo appendix.
8: Worlds & Adventures
In this section are a number of planets that either the
novels take place in or are referenced to, over the course of the six
books. Each world has a standard GURPS
type map and the usual telemetry. Each
planet has a good amount of information written up about it and the ones
selected are well chosen for their differences.
As well each world has an adventure seed or two, most of which are very
good. Not good because the world is
interesting, but good because they are very focused on what the characters need
to do and the context in which they are doing it.
Jijo is a world that sooners of a number of different races illegally
colonized. One of the many rule sin the
Galaxy is that worlds are colonized in a logical and thoughtful manner. This is to let worlds recover, but more
importantly it is to give room for the galactic order and hydrogen order to
share the same galaxies. The twist is
that Jijo is de-evolved for a variety of
reasons. Some just wanted to find a
world where they cold de-evolve and go back to their prespient
roots. Others, like the whelled g:kek
are running for their lives. Still, the
humans are simply hedging their bets incase galactic culture decided to stamp
out Earth like a discarded cigarette.
From an RPG perspective Jijo is an
interesting setting to play in because it has a number of dominant races and
very valid reasons for being there, not to mention very distinctive world
views. Unlike many settings which
explain numerous races as simply as the elves have lived in the forest, dwarves
in the mountains and Halflings in shires…they all have compelling reasons and
stories to tell. It is also very neat to
see the Traeki represented on this planet and not
their malicious cousins the Jophur.
Jijo is the primary setting for
the last three Uplift novels. So there
is ample material in the novels that might have been overlooked in this
The best part of this section is the information on the
mysterious hydrogen breathers. These are
creatures that evolved from gaseous planets and while some galactic cultures
might seem weird and alien, hydrogen breathers are utterly alien and typically
hostile. The specific clan mentioned in
the books is given a bit more detail here: the Zang. They are the only hydrogen clan that will
deal with humanity…and even then it can be dicey.
GURPS Uplift is your standard GURPS book, the layout is not
sexy, but it is entirely readable. There
are no sidebars, but there are windows for snippets of info that would have
gone into sidebars.
The art is light in this book. Not a surprise given how much information
packed between the covers. What art is
there is decent and represents the setting well, but I would not cal it really
great either. The cover art is bad for a
variety of reasons. I think it does not
represent the setting very well.
Secondly it is just not very good, it is more than a little flat and not
very well composed. They should have
used the cover of the first edition, that was a much
better piece in regards to the setting and art.
GURPS Uplift is a very dense and information laden
supplement, but it is logically organized and it never feels like you are being
overloaded with information…despite there being so much there.
The ideas and concepts from Brin’s
novels are translated very well into RPG terms.
There is enough new and clarified information here that it
easily justifies buying this book if you have the first edition.
The five galaxies and Earth Clan’s place in them is a pretty
broad subject to do just about any sort of campaign with
Snippets of author’s notes are in the book, which gives me
hope for another Uplift novel
Unless the players are familiar with Brin’s
series or are very open to some ground rules for playing in the Uplift series
it might be a tough setting to play in
This is a great supplement that is chock full of all the
information (and then some) a player and a GM would need to play in the Uplift
Universe. It is also a setting based on
a novel that has the unique quality in that it is one that has much playability
built into it without being contrived.
If you are looking for a good science fiction setting to game in or are
a fan of Brin’s novels this is a must have!