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Tales of the Five Galaxies (T5G)

A GURPS Uplift Campaign

Formerly GM'ed by Amadán na Briona

T5G is set in the universe created by the "Uplift" novels by David Brin. If you have not read them, they are highly recommended, and a short bibliography follows:

"Sundiver": Set early in Earthclan's entrance into Galactic society, a scientific research mission, investigating Earth's own sun becomes subject to sabotage and political meddling by scheming Galactics.

"Startide Rising": Taking place almost 240 years after "Sundiver", describes the voyage of the dolphin-crewed survey vessel "Streaker", which discovers a fleet of ancient starships that might be the fabled Progenitors, thus sparking an inter-galactic war.

"The Uplift War": In the wake of the Streaker's discover, the Gubru clan lays siege to Earth's colonies; this novel describes the resistance mounted on one of those colony worlds

Many loose ends were left dangling at the end of "The Uplift War", and after a wait of several years, Brin finally came out with a new trilogy . . . which I have not yet had time to read, alas.

"Brightness Reef": Set on a planet illegally colonized by refugees from six different races, including humans, depicts the events following their dreaded discovery by Galactic society.

"Infinity's Shore": The second in the new trilogy.

"Heaven's Reach": The conclusion of the second trilogy.

I am not going to detail the universe of T5G here- in order to familiarize yourself with it, you should read the novels. <g> In a nutshell, T5G is a science fiction campaign with an epic scale; Galactic society is billions of years old, encompasses five galaxies and thousands upon thousands of sentient races, and Earthclan is a very minor, bit player on the Galactic scene. Humans are obscure, primitive, and struggling just to maintain their tenuous position in a hostile universe. I see the T5G universe as having certain things in common with the ever-popular Star Trek games, namely high technology, lots of starships and alien races, and problems that can't be solved with overwhelming firepower. The difference is that the universe in T5G, while not exactly a "dark" place, is also not a very friendly one to mankind. Humans are not important or powerful; they ventured out into the stars, only to discover that the entire universe has been explored, catalogued and colonized since before life had even evolved on Earth. The only thing that keeps the tiny, impoverished, technologically primitive Earthclan from being enslaved or annihilated by the Galactic superpowers is adherence to the ancient laws set down by the Progenitors and enforced by the Institutes. That, and an awful lot of guts and ingenuity.

Players wishing to join T5G must meet the following requirements:

1) You should be familiar with the Uplift universe (you don't have to have read ALL the novels, though that is recommended, but you should have read at LEAST one, or GURPS Uplift at a minimum) 2) You need to be able to write a GURPS character sheet.

If you do not have GURPS Uplift (not many people do, it's been out of print for a while), that's all right; I detail a lot of the specifics of character creation below, and can work with you to fill in the details, especially if you are creating an Eatee. However, you MUST be able to submit at least a basic GURPS character sheet. If you are unfamiliar with GURPS, you will just have to buy the rulebook if you want to play. Sorry, but I am not willing to write up character sheets myself for this game.

I plan to put up several posts a week in T5G. Players should be willing to log on and post at least every other day.

Over the long term, I intend for T5G to be episodic. The first scenario will be a limited-run adventure, which I plan to last for several months (but by the nature of online gaming, will probably last much longer.)

There will actually be two PC groups in the first adventure. The first group will be the crew of a ship sent by the Terragens Council, and the PCs should be human (although I would also welcome someone who wants to try playing a chimp or dolphin).

The second group will require roleplayers who can meet the demanding challenge of playing aliens. It will be a ship sent by the Institute for Migration. PCs for this group will be non-humans, and investigators for the Institute. (It IS possible for a human to be among this group, which would certainly be an added challenge.)

The two groups will not necessarily be adversarial, but that is a definite possibility. Alien PCs may well be hostile towards Earthclan; most of the NPCs will be.

Character Creation

As some of you know from my other games, I am one of those GMs who DOES care about game mechanics, particularly during the character creation stage. T5G, like most online games, will often be largely systemless, but I will be making skill rolls where appropriate, and I insist on a fully-written character sheet.

The PCs for this (and future) scenarios are highly skilled, elite agents, both for the Terragens Council and for the Institutes. Player Characters will be built on 150 points. You are limited to the usual 40 points in Disadvantages, plus up to 5 Quirks. (It is highly recommended you choose 5 Quirks- they are practically free points, and they make your character more interesting.)

For human PCs, this means very skilled characters, probably with lots of high attributes and advantages. That's fine, you'll need them. For aliens, it depends on your racial characteristics. Some racial packages are very expensive, which means you won't have a lot of points left over to buy skills, but that's also fine. Most elder Galactic races get by more on clan prestige and status (and overwhelmingly superior firepower) than any personal qualities.

Remember that in the Uplift universe, it is especially true that combat is a very, very bad thing, to be avoided at all costs. Most Galactic weapons are of the "Bang! You're dead!" variety. Getting hit means dying. Getting seen means getting hit. Which means the best survival tactic for a fight is not to be there. Being a 150-point combat machine is not really much of an advantage.

Human PCs

Humans in the Uplift universe start out with the following Advantages and Disadvantages by default. These Disadvantages do NOT count against your 40 point limit.

Racial Status 1: Minor Patron (5 points)
Primitive: TL9 (the "average" Galactic tech level is TL10-11) (-5 points)
Poor clan (-2 points)
Reputation: "Wolflings", -2 from almost everyone on a 10 or less (-10 points)
Reputation: Upstart non-comformists, an additional -2 from all conservative clans, who ALL know about Earthclan, thanks to the Streaker and Garth incidents (-10 points)

Net cost: -22 points

No human can buy off (or buy up) the clan status, wealth and reputation modifiers. You CAN buy off the Primitive Disadvantage, but this also requires an additional Unusual Background cost of 5 points to explain your unusually advanced education (possibly being educated on a Tymbrimi world or a member of an Institute....) All technical skills are assumed to be bought at TL9, unless you have bought off the Primitive disad, in which case they are TL10.


In the 25th century, humanity cannot afford to be uneducated. ALL humans completing standard education must have the following skills at a MINIMUM (which will cost 20 points total). Anyone not possessing these skills would have to buy the Uneducated disadvantage, and it would be very difficult to justify such a character being allowed to serve on a starship as an agent for the Terragens Council.

  • Computer Operations/TL9: IQ+1 (2 points)
  • Naturalist: IQ-1 (2 points)
  • First Aid/TL9: IQ+1 (2 points)
  • Research: IQ (2 points)
  • Psychology: IQ-2 (1 point)
  • Languages: at least 3 points assigned to one or more Galactic languages (see below)
  • Additionally, 8 points must be distributed among at least two of any of the following skills: Anthropology, Astronomy, Botany, Chemistry, Ecology, Economics, Geology, History, Mathematics, Meteorology, Physics, Xenology, Zoology.

    If your character is from a colony world, add the following skills as options to the above list: Agronomy, Animal Handling, Fishing, Survival, Tracking.

    Neo-Chimp and Neo-Dolphin PCs

    These are the sentient, uplifted descendants of Terran chimpanzees and dolphins. I will not retype the Neo-Chimp and Neo-Dolphin packages here (not to mention all the other Galactic races): if someone has a serious interest in playing one of these races, I will send you the package. But briefly, a Neo-Chimp has a racial package cost of -5 points, while a Neo-Dolphin is 24 points for a Tursiops, 35 points for a Stenos (the latter are much rarer, and less likely to be assigned to a Terragens starship.) Neo-Dolphins obviously require the use of walkers and waldos to get around, and frankly, will have a tough time in the initial scenario since no water environments are likely. Chimps and Dolphins who would serve on starships must buy the same education package as humans.

    Alien PCs

    GURPS Uplift has a very detailed system for generating non-human races, complete with racial personality traits (which is not to say that all members of a race have the same personality, but it produces realistic predispositions based on the race's background and uplift history.) All the significant races appearing in the books are also given racial packages.

    If you wish to play an alien, you must be strongly interested in doing so, since it takes extra work to create an alien PC, and will also be more difficult than playing a human, obviously. You can either play a race from the books (such as a Tymbrimi, Synthian, Thennanin, Gubru....even a Jophur, Soro or Tandu if you are feeling really ambitious!) or create one yourself. The latter, of course, will be a cooperative undertaking with the GM and you'll have to send me an excellent description of the race and its background, before we begin working on numbers.

    Remember that there are no "good guys" or "bad guys" as far as Galactic politics are concerned, merely conflicting ideologies. Most humans regard Soro and Tandu as "evil", or at the very least, implacably hostile. Soro and Tandu act from motives that are eminently reasonable from their own viewpoint. Tandu don't think that desiring to exterminate all other sentient life is evil or insane.... If you wish to play a Soro or Pila or Gubru or other race that is hostile to Earthclan, you will be in opposition to the Terragens PC group....which does not necessarily mean you won't cooperate if you find it mutually advantageous to do so. But you should be the sort of player who really has a blast being arrogant and scheming as you conspire to one-up the other PCs....

    Most of the discussion below concentrates on Advantages, Disadvantages and Skills for Terragens PCs. Some of the recommendations and prohibitions will also apply to Eatees, but these must really be handled on a case-by-case basis.


    Most standard GURPS advantages are allowed, with exceptions and clarifications noted below.








    ADVANCED EDUCATION (5 points per TL)

    Terragens begin at a base Tech Level of 9; other races begin at their racial TL (which is 10 for most of the Five Galaxies, though more powerful clans are often TL 12, sometimes even higher). To have been educated at a higher TL than usual for your race, you must buy off any Primitive disadvantage, and pay 5 points for each TL above your racial default. Thus, Terragens who can use TL10 equipment without penalty must buy off their Primitive disad, and pay 5 points as an Unusual Background. If you somehow were educated on TL12 equipment (perhaps you indentured yourself to a Soro?), that would cost another 10 points.

    DOLPHIN FRIEND (10 points)

    Allows human and chimps to understand Dolphin speech at no penalty, and study Primal and Trinary. You can also apply Social skills to fen with penalties reduced or eliminated. You must also spend at least 1 point each on Swimming and Scuba.

    GENEERED (10 points)

    You are a member of humanity's secret (and not entirely legal) psionics breeding program. You may buy up to 10 levels of Telepathy or ESP.

    PSIONIC TRAINING (10 points)



    Galactic technology makes it possible to create superhuman cybernetic or bio-engineered juggernauts. In reality, cybernetics and bio-engineering on individuals is rare, both because of the expense, and because most Galactic races consider it offensive to ones' patrons to modify the bodies they gave you!

    The Terragens Council and Terragens Marines often provides some enhancements to their agents. Almost never will such enhancements be anything visible, or easily detectable. Other Galactic races may do the same for their elite agents. Characters who have either of those organizations as Patrons can purchase a variety of augmentations, including enhanced senses and cybernetic limbs. Really exotic enhancements, like built-in weapons and subdermal armor plating, are theoretically possible, but not very likely. (Remember, starting Marine characters have to be able to buy the basic skills required of a Terragens Marine first!) If you are Wealthy, you could theoretically purchase some enhancements on your own. Consult with the GM. Possible enhancements include:

    There are a few common augmentions, which anyone can buy even without a Patron or Wealth:

    Implant Radio (15 points)

    A built-in radio receiver and transmitter, connected directly to your auditory nerves. You can speak over the radio by subvocalizing.

    Neural Jack (10 points)

    Allows you to jack in to any electronic equipment designed to be controlled thus. Dolphins automatically have a Neural Jack as part of their racial package cost; having no jack is a Disadvantage for fen.


    In the 25th century, psycho-social science has not been able to completely weed out mental aberrations and anti-social behavior, but psychologists are very good at detecting individuals with "undesirable" traits. The most serious mental problems will result in a person being labeled a Probationary Personality, which is a -5 point Disadvantage, and also pretty much disqualifies you from being able to leave your homeworld. The Terragens Council screens agents, and indeed, anyone who might be allowed off-planet to interact with Galactics, quite carefully. Earth can't afford to have mentally unstable, violent, or just plain stupid individuals out in the space lanes, committing acts that could have serious repercussions for all of Earthclan. Thus, many of the more severe Mental disadvantages are effectively off-limits to PCs. Addiction, Alcoholism, Berserk, Bloodlust, Dyslexia, Greed, Gullibility, Illiteracy, Kleptomania, Manic-Depressive, Megalomania, On the Edge, Paranoia, Pyromania, Sadism, and Split Personality, as well as most major Compulsive Behaviors, Delusions, and Phobias, would all be noted and cause for rejection during screening for service to the Terragens Council. Some other Disadvantages will also be disqualifiers for the Terragens Marines, such as Combat Paralysis and Pacifism.

    Fanaticism for the Terragens cause, or in defense of one's clan or homeworld, would be an acceptable disadvantage for Terragens agents, so long as the character is otherwise cool-headed and can be relied upon not to do anything foolish.

    The Council frowns on Intolerance, as they don't want their agents insulting, or worse, attacking powerful Galactic representatives, However, someone who is Intolerant but diplomatic enough to keep his or her opinions to himself could manage. Intolerance is somewhat more common among the Marines.

    Most of the more severe Physical disadvantages are correctable by 25th century medical science, even the relatively primitive science commonly available to Terragens. Uncorrected disadvantages such as blindness, missing limbs, epilepsy, hemophilia, etc. would probably disqualify one from normal service, and definitely make one ineligible for the Terragens Marines.


    For chimps and dolphins (and other Client races), having too many physical or mental flaws can limit one's freedom to reproduce. This has obvious negative social consequences, and also becomes a sort of social stigma. A Grey Card (-7 points) is almost never permitted to reproduce, and must get special permission to raise children. A Yellow Card (-10 points) must have one genetic defect. They are almost never allowed to reproduce, and if the defect is mental, rarely allowed to raise children either. A Red Card (-15 points) makes one part of a despised minority, and Red Cards are usually not even allowed near children! You must have an anti-social Disadvantage to qualify for Red Card status.


    A special note about Thief/Spy skills: these can be learned in only two places. One is the military or law enforcement. The other is living on the fringes of society. Unless someone comes from one of those backgrounds (and the latter would probably make you ineligible for Terragens service), you cannot buy any Thief/Spy skills.

    Area Knowledge/Milky Way Galaxy (or "Central Galaxy" as it is known to Galactics) is a M/H skill. It includes knowledge of the major races, their territories, long-range transfer points, and so on. Area Knowledge/The Five Galaxies is too broad (it's like trying to buy "Area Knowledge/The Universe"); you must buy an AK for each galaxy. If you have no fluency in any Galactic language, your AK/Galaxy skill is reduced by 2. Beneath the Galaxy level, one can have Area Knowledge of a particular Sector (such as the Ehbu'chi'u Sector, where Earth is located) as a M/A skill. Below that, buy Area Knowledge skills as normal.

    Autohypnosis (M/H)

    This is a skill learned by some Terragens agent; it allows one to enter a self-induced trance, much like the cinematic Meditation skill, allowing improved concentration or willpower.

    Prerequisite: Psionics 12+ (q.v.)

    This allows one to design, tune & repair psionic equipment. It does not exist below TL10, so a character with the disad Primitive/TL9 cannot buy this skill.

    Prerequisite: Probability Science 12+ (q.v.)

    This skill is required to work with any probability device, which includes most Galactic stardrives. It is only available at TL11+, so Terragens characters must have Advanced Education to be able to study it.

    Electronics Operation/Psi

    This allows use of psi equipment, including psi message bombs. You can learn this skill even if you are a TL9 (or below) primitive, since it is the skill of using psi equipment, not knowing how it works.


    Must be specialized; Galactic history, or history of a specific race or clan. (Very narrow specialization in one planet's history is also possible, but only a few Terran scholars would bother...)

    Hyperspace Physics/TL (M/VH)
    Prerequisites: Mathematics, Physics and Nuclear Physics at 15+

    Most starships will want a hyperspace physicist on board, for detecting transfer points and calculating entrance trajectories.

    Physiology/Race (M/VH)

    This is bought for specific alien races, to give one knowledge of other race's physiologies

    Probability Physics (M/VH)
    Prerequisites: Mathematics, Physics and Nuclear Physics at 15+

    Required for designing and working with probability devices. Only available at TL11+.

    Psionics (M/VH)

    This is the science of psionics. One does not need to have psi powers to study the principles behind them.

    Savoir-Faire/Galactic (M/A)

    This is a very important skill! Anyone dealing with Eatees should have this skill if they want to do business, or just keep their head. One can also buy Savoir-Faire as a normal M/E skill for specific clans.


    Must specialize in Galactic, clan/racial, or alliance theology.

    Xenology (M/H)

    This is an overall knowledge of the races of the Five Galaxies. General Xenology allows you to identify races you encounter (at penalties depending on their obscurity). You may also specialize in particular races, giving +5 to know details about a specific race, and +3 for other races in their clan, but no roll outside the clan. (You may buy multiple Xenology specializations.) This is a very important, almost mandatory skill for interstellar travelers. You must usually make a successful Xenology roll before you can even attempt to use other Social skills with an alien race. Without possessing Area Knowledge in a particular galaxy, any Xenology roll when dealing with races native to that galaxy are at -2.


    The native language for all humans and chimps is Anglic. Anglic is descended from English, and some other languages common at the end of the pre-contact era on Earth, with many other Galactic loan-words that have drifted in over the centuries. It is a M/A language for humans and chimps, M/H for everyone else (including dolphins.) Almost no one else except dolphins learns it.

    "Ethnic" languages, the languages of pre-contact Earth, (including Late English) still exist. In some places (like Earth's ethnic preserve areas, and a few colonies), ethnic languages are still spoken every day, while some people study them as hobbies.

    Dolphins know Primal and Trinary as their native languages. Primal is the ancient tongue used by pre-sentient dolphins, still used occasionally by fen suffering stress atavism. Trinary is the fully-developed language used for everyday communication. Primal is M/E for dolphins, M/VH for everyone else. Trinary is M/A for dolphins, M/H for everyone else.

    Earthclan is virtually unique in having its own "racial" languages. Every other race in the Five Galaxies uses one or more of the twelve Galactic languages, which have been passed down for millions of years with only slight change. Each clan has its own preferred "native" language, and may commonly learn a few others, according to those most suitable for the vocal equipment of its members, and the other races with whom they most frequently deal. All smart Galactic computers can communicate in and translate between all twelve Galactic languages.

    The language difficulties listed below are for human characters; for aliens, their clan language and a couple others will be M/A, the rest will be M/H.

    GALACTIC ONE (M/H) This is a mathematical language that operates much like Morse code; there is no sentient race that cannot learn to communicate somehow in GalOne, even if it is by waving their cilia in sequence. Dumb Galactic computers use GalOne (smart ones, as mentioned above, are programmed to understand all twelve.) GalOne is a very slow way to communicate, though any idea can eventually be transmitted.

    GALACTIC TWO (M/E) This is one of the most popular languages for humans to learn. It is not particularly expressive, but it's easy to learn and fairly quick, with simple sentence structures.

    GALACTIC THREE (M/H) Hard for humans to pronounce, with high-pitched whistles and trills and other sounds that humans are not well-suited for producing. It is very elegant and expressive. Avian races like the Gubru prefer it.

    GALACTIC FOUR (M/H) Also hard for humans to pronounce, but it's faster than GalThree. For dolphins, GalFour is M/A.

    GALACTIC FIVE (M/A) A language of grunts and growls, sometimes learned by human traders who must travel through J'8lek space; they speak GalFive.

    GALACTIC SIX (M/A) Sibilant and gutteral, but fairly expressive, spoken by the Synthians and Thennanin, two allies of Earthclan (the latter only recently).

    GALACTIC SEVEN (M/E) A popular language for humanoids, and the clan language of the Tymbrimi, humanity's closest allies.

    GALACTIC EIGHT (M/H) A language of hoots and honks, which gives humans a sore throat. Used by one of Earthclan's greatest enemies, the Jophur.

    GALACTIC NINE (M/VH) A musical language of chimes which humans can barely understand and cannot produce with their own vocal equipment. The Kanten, another friendly race, speaks GalNine among themselves. For dolphins, GalNine is M/H.

    GALACTIC TEN (M/H) A fluting language, also difficult for humans to pronounce. Clan language of the Brothers of the Night, genocidal foes of Earthclan.

    GALACTIC ELEVEN (M/H) A high-pitched language, somewhat similar to GalNine, but humans can speak it, with difficulty. The Kanten most often use GalEleven to speak to humans. It is also the clan language of the dreaded Tandu.

    GALACTIC TWELVE (M/A) Clan language of the Soro, humanity's most peristent enemies.

    AGENCIES for Terragens characters.

    Besides being independent "consultants" that the Terragens Council might call on for services, there are several agencies that engage in activities throughout Earthclan's domain (and beyond). The Terragens PC party could draw on members of any of the agencies below.


    The closest thing the Terragens have to a "navy". The Terragens and Allied Space Force is an elite agency that employs all personnel on Terragens ships. Their routine duties may include survey, trade and diplomatic missions, but in wartime, their ships will be refitted for battle, and they become military personnel. Stat Minimums: DX 10+, IQ 12+, HT 12+ Advantages: Military Rank 1 or higher, Patron (TAASF), 6 or less (7 points) Skills: Area Knowledge/Milky Way Galaxy at IQ, Free Fall and Vacc Suit at DX, Diplomacy and Fast Talk at IQ-1, Merchant at IQ-1, Savoir-Faire/Galactic at IQ, Xenology at IQ-1, others as needed according to one's role aboard a starship. Basic Education is mandatory Disadvantages: Duty to TAASF, 9 or less (-5 points) (Doesn't count against your 40 points)


    This large agency is responsible for repairing the environmental damage humanity did to Earth during its long centuries of ignorance (this is considered to be approaching completion), as well as maintaining the ecospheres of all Earthclan's colony worlds. ERS workers are often military reservists, in fact if not officially. The minimums below are for a professional ERS officer, not a run of the mill worker, of whom there are millions. Stat Minimums: None below 10 Advantages: "Military" Rank is optional; professional ERS officers are highly respected and may buy increased Status and Reputation according to their rank Skills: Spend 2 points among Agronomy, Botany, Ecology, Geology or Zoology. Spend at least 1 point on each of the following: Animal Handling, Camouflage, Guns/Needler, Leadership, Navigation, Scrounging, Stealth, Survival, Tracking, Veterinary, Disadvantages: Duty to ERS, 6 or less (-2 points) (Doesn't count against your 40 points)


    The Terragens Marines are the equivalent of Special Forces in the 25th century. They are commandos, scouts, spies, espionage agents, resistance leaders, guerilla fighters, drill instructors for colonial militias, and front-line shock troops. They are Earthclan's elite soldiers, and the last vestiges of the "macho" military mindset common in pre-contact Earth society. Many Terragens Marines are Intolerant of Eatees, and there are not very many female Marines either.

    If you want to be a Terragens Marine, here is the basic template- this is just the minimum that a Terragens Marine completing basic training would have! This is in addition to the basic Terragens education package. There are chimps and dolphins in the Terragens Marines, though they are rare. Their training will be similar, though some things must be extrapolated. (Obviously, dolphins cannot learn karate and judo.....)

    The total cost of the package below is 141 points. Obviously, this does not leave much room for personalizing a Terragens Marine on 150 points; adding 45 points in Disads and Quirks, almost all your remaining points should be spent on raising basic skills within your specialty area.