GURPS 4 Babylon 5
Books: The Minbari Federation Fact Book
Adjustments to Mongoose Publishing The Minbari Federation Fact Book
The +2 Strength (p4) in the d20 system does not describe the occasional incredible feats of strength shown in the series. Also, -2 Charisma does not describe little regard or compassion for other races as Charisma does not describe this at all in d20. The +2 Initiative has no basis either. Instead, Minbari racial templates are:-
You come from a technologically advanced society that is ordered, disciplined and ritualistic at every level. Minbari have a high regard of honour and trustworthiness and consider themselves technologically, socially and spiritually superior to all other races except, perhaps, the Vorlons. NPCs typically don't have Human cultural familiarity or English language and have Struggling wealth level.
Attribute Modifiers: HT+1 ; Will+1 
Cultural Familiarities: Minbari ; Human 
Languages: Adrenato (Native) ; Lennan (Native) ; Vik (Native) ; English (Accented) 
Advantages: Lifting ST 5 (1/day, -40%; Costs Fatigue 6, -30%) 
Disadvantages: Code of Honour (Minbari) (see below) [-10]; Disciplines of Faith (Ritualism) [-5]
Racially Learned Skills: Meditation (H) Will-2 
Casteless (-10): You have deliberately cast yourself out of the ordered Minbari society and are free to work as you choose. However, you are stateless. Add Status -2 [-10] as a disadvantage.
Religious Caste (+3): As a member of the Religious Caste, you were trained to be a counsellor, scholar or artist during childhood, even if you ended up in a different vocation. Add the skills Psychology (H) IQ-2 , Religious Ritual (Minbari) (H) IQ-2  and Theology (Minbari) (H) IQ-2 .
Warrior Caste (-1): As a member of the Warrior Caste, you were trained to be a professional soldier or pilot, even if you ended up in a different vocation. You do not hide your conceit of Minbari racial superiority to remind aliens of your caste's willingness to fight them. Add the disadvantage Odious Racial Habit (Minbari Conceit) [-5]. Add the skills Beam Weapon (Pistol) (E) DX+0 , Brawing (E) DX+0  or Karate (H) DX-2 , Judo (H) DX-2 or Wrestling (A) DX-1, and Staff (A) DX-1.
Worker Caste (+3): You are a member of the Worker Caste, which incorporates all the scientific and technical displines. Add the skill Computer Operations (E) IQ+0 .
Code of Honour (Minbari)
Never directly lie or break a promise (including by those who speak for you). Never withhold the truth from those who legitimately need to know (unless you believe they'll abuse it). Uphold the honour of clan (or team). Avenge those who lie, steal or otherwise dishonour you or your clan. Never kill a Minbari.
Culture and Religion
The book succinctly describes the stratified Minbari culture (pp27-69) and should be read by any player wishing to play a Minbari. The use of three languages (pp34-35), though in keeping with Minbari culture, leads to point cost inflation. Therefore, Adrenato, the religious language, will be the principal language with Lennan and Vik relegated to Peripheral cost. Although Minbari learn all three languages, they'll expect foreigners to speak Adrenato first and regard the other languages as inappropriate except in battle and technical situations. They will be more impressed by those who can speak the other languages as well as Adrenato.
Politics and Organisation
As the book writes, the caste concept is simple to understand but the equal division of military equipment (p78) blurs this. If the warrior caste get only a third of even the best vehicles and weapons, then that caste must be numerically much less than the other castes. The soldiers of the other castes must be reservists or militia and relegated to garrison duty in war-time.
What is not explained properly is the judicial system. Though the Minbari are particularly honest and conformist, there will still be plenty of crime, abuses of power, bureaucratic failings, resource demands and religious disputes. Though the last two can be assumed to be handled by the Worker and Religious caste leaders, the remaining three are political, which is responsibility of the Grey Council. Even with the shorlans (p73) making minor judgements, the Grey Council would be hopelessly overwhelmed. Thus, another tier of administrators must exist: shorlan'sa (regional governers). These are officially appointed and have authority granted by the Grey Coucil but, in practice, the shorlan's recommendations are followed and he largely leads them. Shorlan'sas, after investigations and consultations by their staff, make criminal and political judgements in their region. As they judge on behalf of the Grey Council, obedience is expected and appeals against their judgements are rare. This system can only work in Minbari culture.
One paragraph states that a Minbari may not know the concept of shopping or that lodging in other cultures must be paid for. What little money is used is for luxuries and status symbols (p136). As Minbari can take whatever necessities they need, it seems like some Marxist utopia but it is not explained how non-infinite goods and services are rationed. Babylon 5 is about plausible people and the consequences of their decisions, so greed can't be ignored. A commuter can decide to hire a taxi home rather than use public transport; a merchant freighter engineer can decide to carry more, expensive spare parts rather than spend time servicing an aging engine; a mother can decide to acquire more equipment and supplies to encourage her children's hobbies; a doctor can decide to use excessive diagnostic scans and lab tests to reduce his diagnostic failure rates. For this to work, Minbari must be particularly honest, ascetic and conservative, and it would still suffer endemic inefficiencies because people don't stick to their own ideals. This also means there can be no poverty unless the economy is a failure. Now, command-driven economies are notorious for anticipating consumer demand incorrectly but Minbari aren't heard complaining about shortages, unlike in the old communist blocs. Presumably, an army of analysts employed by the Taskmasters largely gets it right.
The lack of shops and use of consultation (p136) suggests a cottage industry for consumer goods, which is absurd in an industrialized economy. No artisan is going to have the space in his domicile for the various parts of, say, custom built washing machines. No Taskmaster would tolerate a cottage industry when better productivity and distribution can be obtained with factories and shops. However, mass consultation and customisation need not be discarded. The technology advanced Minbari make heavy use of industrial and service robots, which handle most unskilled work. Most factory workers are now semi-skilled or skilled and use robots to handle the repetitive tasks, leaving the workers to solve problems of logistics, programming and quality control to meet their ever changing order book. This creates a greater pool of experienced artisans for goods and services where consultation and customisation would be useful, such as house computers, cars, furniture and domestic cleaning robots, in addition to industries where artisans are normal.
Fiscal enterprise (p136) is not properly explained. If currency is not used to buy raw materials, entrepeneurship, even of luxuries, is unauthorized and, thus, illegal in a command economy. Clearly, this is not correct. Also, the entrepeneur and any employees would be working outside the command economy and would not be entitled to necessities because of it. Enterprise would be unworkable unless it's only a hobby. This would be an acceptable explanation except the Casteless (p67) are in the same position but don't have day jobs in the command economy. Therefore, currency can be used outside luxuries and fashion but it's only a minor part of the economy.
Overall, the Minbari economy will be financially weak but Minbari will think you're socially backward for thinking this is important. Productivity will be good, however, and can switch to a war-time footing with ease. Minbari have poor personal wealth but have good education, housing, work tools, healthcare and pensions given to them.
Science and Technology
What is the obsession with crystal (p137)? Hard crystal would indeed make beautiful masonry but its brittleness makes it industrially and militarily unusable past the Stone Age. Worse, crystal has tones of magical fantasy, not science fiction. To maintain scientific accuracy and science fiction flavour, crystal shaping is relegated to highly regarded masonry.
The description of the neutron laser (p137), however, makes better sci-fi pseudo-science. Atoms impregnated with neutrons, especially lighter ones, are more likely to transmute into other elements than undergo fission and 'internal magnetic balance' is just rubbish but this can't be good for the surrounding, molecular structure, making them disruptive but not explosive. This explains their cutting and armour piercing ability.
The book states Minbari technological mastery (p136) to include coherent energy, alternate energy sources and the electromagnetic spectrum. These are too vague to be meaningful or, in the latter case, already mastered by humanity at the end of the Industrial age. This is poor writing. Only the remaining, gravitation, superdense metallurgy and hyperspace travel, actually say anything. Instead, a lot of Minbari technology will come from GURPS Ultra-tech at TL10.
Physiology and Biology
The book's description of Minbari biology is good but leads to gameplay problems. The +2 Strength (p4) is an insufficient attempt to permit the obscene use of strength by Delenn and Lennier in the show. This can be emulated in GURPS with very high Lifting ST but this will encourage players to use it by ripping doors off hinges, grabbing things from people's hands and grappling. Whereas the writers of Babylon 5 could control Minbari characters to not show brute force and ugly grappling, players will exploit their PC's superhuman strength as much as possible, rather than for rare dramatic effect. Improved strength, therefore, has to go.
The +2 initiative (p4) seems an odd characteristic as Minbari aren't shown with notable reflexes. It seems like a feature to differentiate between races in D&D style. It is eliminated as unwarranted. Minbari are interesting due to their culture, not their physiology.
The subraces (pp21-26) as relics of previous eras make nice curiosities but the Shadowsouled (pp24-26) grates the nerves. Babylon 5 has plenty of international and factional conflict and does not need Drow in space.
Minbari history, as described in pp89-111, is good but the Vorlon reaction to the Minbari rebellion (pp105-106) is problematic. Though an angry orbital bombardment by the Vorlons makes sense, an almost total genocide is not something that can be easily brushed aside. Least of all, the Minbari's adaptation of ruins and crystal as a weapon to destroy the Vorlon orbital station has a magical fantasy tone, not a hard sci-fi tone. The Vorlon's use of mass telepathy to replace the memory of genocide with inter-tribal conflict would fail when the Minbari resurface to see their cities and surface settlements destroyed by superior technology. One of the premises of the Babylon 5 series is that decisions have lasting consequences that must be lived with and there is no episode reset. A mass telepathic blunder erase cannot be alowed. If the Vorlons committed genocide, they'd have to deal with their protegé race hating them for evermore. Worse, mass telepathy gives the Vorlons the power of gods. The series shows plenty of evidence of Vorlon meddling but they're either subtle or massively destructive, not using direct control.
However, it still makes sense that the Minbari would rebel to control their own destiny. Indeed, the series shows the younger races fighting the two ancient races. Therefore, the aftermath of the rebellion must be re-written. After the remaining Vorlons fled to their orbital station and alerted their fleet, the Minbari had one last dirty trick up their sleeve. The Minbari had not been taught how to make shuttles but they'd long since learnt orbital rocketry, satellites and the atomic bomb. They loaded atomic bombs onto every rocket they had and launched them at the Vorlon's orbital station. The remaining Vorlons anticipated this and shot down the rockets that approached them.
The Minbari knew such a primitive attack would never work but when Vorlons were teaching directly, the Minbari compiled the personality profiles of most of them and discovered their weaknesses. What they learnt was the Vorlon tendency towards conceit, hubris and overly careful planning. They knew they'd never kill all the Vorlons on Minbar so they concentrated on the military tacticians. They knew the remaining Vorlons would either laugh at the Minbari's obvious attack or sit in meeting rooms and probably forget to check other sensors. With point defense weapons aimed at rockets from Minbar, the Vorlon station's close proximity alarm warned them, too late, of a string of Minbari high speed, close orbit satellites moving out of orbit and about to ram them. By as much luck as judgement, station sensors and weapons were damaged long enough for several Minbari rockets to strike home and detonate. The Minbari gamble paid off, leaving the Vorlon fleet to arrive at Minbar and find wreckage.
The Vorlon fleet, angry at the massacre by the ungrateful, lesser race, were about to turn the surface of Minbar into blackened glass when cooler heads prevailed. The Shadows would hear of their failure to guide their protegé race and ridicule them for evermore. There's one thing control freaks hate more than disrespect from a subordinate and that's disrespect from rivals. The Vorlon fleet retreated to think of someway to complete their work, get the Minbari back on their side and get the last laugh. Indeed, the courage, co-ordination and technological skill shown in the rebellion were the qualities the Vorlons were trying to nurture all along. Destroying the Minbari would be a waste of a potentially good weapon. The Minbari, of course, did not know of the relationship between the two ancient races and how this saved them from mass extinction. They were driven by a desire to be free more than calculations they could escape bloody retribution.
These paragraphs should be inserted before the first paragraph on p109. In typical Vorlon fashion, the apparant last minute forgiveness and alliance with their former protegé race was a ruse the Vorlons planned all along. Centuries before their retreat from Minbari race, the Vorlons discovered a relic on a dead planet made by a former, burnt out, protegé race: the Great Machine. It was theoretically capable of making objects travel back in time but navigating it to the desired time and space required correct co-ordination of scientific equipment throughout the time and space the object was travelling through. Obtaining an object from the future required commitment to an ongoing, major project till the date of the time travel or the time travel became a paradox and the object would fail to travel. The arrival of an important object from the future could trigger enemy action to disrupt the future navigation project, making the object's travel a paradox and making it blink out of existence. More subtely, the arrival of an important object would alter the navigating organisation's culture, altering its commitment, timing or resource allocation to the navigation project and, again, making the travel a paradox. For these reasons, non-trivial time travel was considered impossible. Nonetheless, the Vorlons believed they could make time travel work and use it to re-control the Minbari.
The Vorlons couldn't think of a way to change the Minbari rebellion but they could think of a way to reshape Minbari culture without their resentment: reappear as allies, not masters, use another Minbari and bring a military gift at a critical and desperate time during the comming Great War. Better yet, use a transformed member of a upcoming major race in the future so they'd form an alliance in the Great War after that. By using this future guide, he can prophecise the Great War he came from, which has to come true, ensuring the guide maintained credibility after a thousand years and perpetuating his cultural changes. This committed the Vorlons to a major navigation project but they were confident their future culture and organisation was static enough to avoid paradox and a military victory over the Shadows would prevent them disrupting it. The arrival of Babylon 4 from the future showed them they were right. The Vorlons showed the Shadows they could make the impossible possible and by bringing their former protegé race back to their way of thinking, had not lost their ability to guide the younger races. It was a feat the changeable Shadow culture could never pull off themselves and their defeat meant they were in no position to disrupt it. After centuries of being laughed at by the Shadows, the Vorlons were now doing the laughing. The Minbari, of course, never knew this was the real reason for their victory.
Little about psionics is mentioned except those discovered with psionic abilities early in childhood are transferred to the religious caste. The cultural attitude and use of psionics is not explained in the book. Therefore, it will be explained here.
Minbari are not concerned about mind reading as they consider themselves too honest to withold necessary information, abuse power or not make their intents known. As unnecessary meetings with leaders are rarely granted, those with a secret agenda can easily avoid contact with teeps or have a subordinate deal with them without raising suspicion. Even if a teep did discover something, it's considered rude to bother others about it unless it's clear that they do need to know about it. A mind probe is tantamount to an accusation of lying and this is not done without permission or court order. This relaxed attitude to telepathy does not apply to foreign teeps and mind reading is likely to be regarded as an accusation or attempt to obtain information to attack him or the Minbari nation.
Minbari regard telepathy as an aid during medicine and teaching and teeps are normally assigned as teachers, nurses and counsellors. Minbari regard it as better to use rare gifts to help their race rather than commit hostile actions, so only dedicated Warrior caste teeps enter criminal investigations or spying.
Pp32-33 are good summary but the cold reaction to Humans won't apply to most Minbari on Babylon 5 as the prejudiced would tend to avoid a Human controlled station, leaving the more tolerant.