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Reviews - GURPS Traveller: Tobibak
by Matthew Pook

Tobibak  cover To date, the Planetary Survey series for GURPS Traveller has covered a pleasure planet, a frontier world, a pirate haven and an asteroid belt. That still leaves plenty of other planetary archetypes to cover, with the most obvious choices being a desert world and a water world. So the 32-page Planetary Survey 5 - Tobibak: The Savage Sea comes as no surprise.

Written by the GURPS Traveller line editor Loren K. Wiseman along with Scott Haring, Tobibak is up to the usual standard of presentation for a Steve Jackson Games product. Aside from one glaring typographical error (the use of the term "Ministry of Conservation" in the later part of the book when it should have been "Ministry of Colonisation"), there is nothing to mar the presentation.

Tobibak is a minor world in the Strand Subsector of the Corridor Sector that connects the Spinward Marches to the core worlds of the Third Imperium. For decades the Tobicorp Inc. Corporation harvested its abundant aquatic foodstuffs, and mined the minerals on the ocean floor. The Corporation also exploited the indigenous octopoid race, the Tobai, using them as slave labour and suppressing the fact that they were intelligent. When the whistle was blown to the Ministry of Colonisation, it stepped in and prosecuted Tobicorp, and made the planet a Ministerial Protectorate. This is unusual since it would normally be the Imperial Scout Service or the Navy that would be assigned to protect the home of an emergent intelligent species.

The Tobai are a primitive race in terms of technological advances -- Tech Level three compared to the Imperium's usual Level nine or ten. Surprisingly, they are genetically similar to another species, the Githiaskio, a minor race found on the world of Githiaski in the Antares Sector on the fringe of the Lesser Rift (detailed in GURPS Traveller: Alien Races 4, pages 61-67). The distance between these worlds and the fact that the Tobai have developed sonar, suggests that the Tobai have been on Tobibak for millions of years. How the Tobai came to be on Tobibak remains the central mystery to scientists interested in the world. One suggested solution is the Ancients might have seeded the Tobai on Tobibak, just as they had done with Humaniti across space.

Travel to Tobibak is restricted, so the use of the setting is slightly limited. This is not to say that Tobibak is lacking in adventure possibilities. The criminally-minded would be interested in harvesting and smuggling the glands of the giant undersea Latimus, which might prolong human lifespan. For scientists there are endless possibilities: exploration, research, cultural interaction with the Tobai and so on. Other options include playing the Tobai themselves or even the other aquatic races that have come to the planet. These are a few Githiasko with the Ministry of Colonisation and some uplifted dolphins with the scout service. The Zhodani are also interested in the Tobai because their elders express what might be psionic powers.

To get the most out of Tobibak, referees will need more than just the core GURPS and GURPS Traveller books. Besides the aforementioned GURPS Traveller: Alien Races 4 for details of the Githiasko and GURPS Traveller: Rim Of Fire for the Dolphin racial template, GURPS Traveller: Modular Cutter provides information on the many types of habitation, mining and scientific modules used on Tobibak. Other equipment and vehicles found on Tobibak are from either the GURPS Ultratech books or GURPS Traveller: First In. Finally, GURPS Atlantis is useful for the rules on running a game below the waves, in this case, those of the world spanning oceans of Tobibak.

This Planetary Survey lacks the dark or grey alternate versions of the world seen in other books in the series. Without these suggestions, Tobibak: the Savage Sea might seem to be less flexible than its forebears. Yet this is not really the case, as several variations upon the background are given for the GM to play with. If there is anything I would have liked to see added to the book, it's a map of Seahaven Downport, Tobibak's only planetary star port, just to provide some layout detail.

Overall, Tobibak: the Savage Sea provides an interesting setting, and is an excellent addition to the Planetary Survey series. For a mere $8.95, the book has no major low points, managing to present pure gaming information with no space wasted. Tobibak is useful, well-written setting material that can easily be placed outside the Traveller universe.


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