Author Topic: Spelljammer  (Read 4429 times)


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« on: April 14, 2012, 07:32:59 PM »


Imagine a universe where square worlds spin around gemstone suns. Where planets lie cradled in the roots of an oak tree so vast its leaves twirl around brightly burning suns. Where ships of wood sail the void between worlds, and battle each other with catapult and ballista, spell and sword. Where an asteroid may be a safe harbor, a slaver's den, or a hungry creature eager to devour any that pass by. Where daring swashbucklers and scoundrels race for fantastic treasures and literally touch the stars. Where terrifying beasts with the power to destroy whole worlds roam.

Welcome . . . to the universe of Spelljammer!

In the Spelljammer campaign, the fantastic is possible and one is limited only by the depths of their imagination. Sailing ships, enwrapped in bubbles of air, travel empty Wildspace, moved by the power of their mystic helms. Gravity is a matter of convenience, where a captain can tour the bottom of his ship, and worlds come in all shapes and sizes. Whole solar systems are surrounded by colossal spheres made of an unbreakable, crystal-like substance to protect them from an ocean of swirling light and color, the flammable Phlogiston, which divides the void between stars.

Arcane Space

Many of the details of fantasy space can be different from campaign world to campaign world. All fantasy space, however, shares certain, universal basic properties and capabilities. This allows ships to fly between the planets and to voyage between the crystal spheres.

Space can be divided into two types: wildspace and the phlogiston.

Wildspace is what comes to mind when we talk of "space." It is the vast emptiness that lies between the planets and the stars. All space inside a crystal sphere is wildspace. It is mostly vacuum. (More correctly, most regions of wildspace are vacuum. But the cosmos is a big place and there are exceptions to almost every rule, as shall be shown later). Wildspace is not truly a void, however, even though it is often referred to that way. The simple fact that there is "space" rules out its being a true void.

The pholgiston is a turbulent, unstable, multicolored, fluorescent gas (or gaslike medium) which fills the regions between crystal spheres. Very little is known for certain about the phlogiston or this region. (Think of the phlogiston as a fantasy version of "hyperspace.")

Every planetary system known is encased in a crystal sphere. Essentially, the crystal sphere keeps the wildspace in and the phlogiston out (this, of course, is a tremendous simplification, but it is easy to grasp). Like the phlogiston, crystal spheres are a great mystery; there origins and substance are unknown.

Within wildspace are the celestial bodies: planets, suns, moons, asteroids, and a host of other items collectively lumped together under the heading "planetoids." Most celestial bodies have an atmosphere of some sort although it is dangerous to assume that this is an inviolable rule.


Many elves, dwarves, gnomes, halflings, and humans ply the spacelanes. Most PCs will come from these familiar races or specialized races (like kender or hengeyokai) from one of the D&D worlds.

Most spacefaring character races are similar to their more familiar, terrestrial counterparts as far as ability scores and capabilities are concerned. A void elf may have a different societal background than a valley elf from Oerth, a moon elf from Toril, or a Qualinesti from Krynn, but all elves obey the basic rules of their character classes. Similarly, dwarves retain their character class distinctions, as do humans, half-elves, halflings, gnomes, and half-orcs.

However, many other beings do not live on these worlds. Some races unique to the Spelljammer setting are the dragon-centaur dracons, the hippopotamus-headed giff, the gorilla-like grommams, the "deck apes" known as the hadozee, the aquatic and reptilian hurwaeti (also known as "wiggles"), the insectoid rastipedes, the advanced orcs known as the scro, the mantis-like surgeons known as the xixchil, the evil spider/eel slavers known as the neogi, the werewolf-like vodoni, the enigmatic arachnoid k'r'r'r, the greedy penguin-like dohwar, the elf/insect hybrids known as the insectares, and the blue-skinned mercantile giants known as the mercane.

Arcane space is also home to variant versions of races from terrestrial worlds: space-born lizardfolk who are more intelligent and civilized than their groundling relatives, colonial grell, xenophobic beholders, and mercantile mind flayers.

People & Culture:

Civilizations in space consider themselves superior to the swarming "groundlings" (a pejoritive term they use for people from terrestrial-type worlds such as Oerth or Toril), and most of their citizens  do not worry about the state of the Realms or the Dragonlance Wars -- in a huge galaxy of myriad spheres, it simply doesn't matter to them. They have their own provincialism, dealing with shipping and pirates. Their subjects of discussion are neogi incursions and beholder civil wars, two subjects that would leave a groundling listener believing he was in the company of professional liars. The demands of space are different than the demands of "the ones below" and as such the two do not mix.

This is not to say that they do not know of each other's existence; simply, that it matters not. Groundling nations hear tales of space armadas and translate them into the equivalent fleets, not understanding fully the difference in cost and potency. The powerful and adventurous in both worlds know of each other, and often try to link the two worlds. Wizards in particular are very interested in the differences between spacers and groundlings.

The gap between groundling and space is both a state of reality and a state of mind. The groundling campaigns can run smoothly and effectively without interference from space, and the spaceborn legions can fight among themselves without worrying the nations of the various planets.

The reason? Simply put, because they lack common ground.

Magic: Travel in space is accomplished through magical devices known as spelljamming helms. These devices usually resemble a throne-like chair. Once installed into a ship, a spellcaster (either arcane or divine) sits in it and channels magical energy into the device, giving it the power to move, fly, and enhance its natural gravity. Thus, magic completely essential to life in space; it would be impossible to survive without it.

Religion: Most faiths are limited to a few crystal spheres where their sense of worship is strong. A lawful good war god may be known under several different names on one planet, or different aspects of a nature deity may be venerated on a single continent, but in general all come together under one general group heading. A cleric of Tyr or St. Cuthbert or Kiri-Jolith may expect to receive his normal spells as long as he is in the wildspace of, respectively, Toril, Oerth, or Krynn.

Once out of one's native sphere, however, the chances of encountering fellow followers of one's deity are greatly reduced. In different spheres different powers rule, and while some have agreements with other beings of similar portfolios, some are strangers and/or actively hostile to the cleric's faith.

Given the effects of clerics having variable abilities from sphere to sphere, or even from world to world, the civilizations of space have evolved their own faiths that take into account the wide variety of beliefs. These faiths are recognized wherever there is space civilization in the Known Universe. Where there are no such civilizations, these sects are not recognized, and their priests are limited as are the groundling clerics -- they cannot gain spells above second level.

The Polygots: The Polygots are a pantheistic faith that worships entire organizations of deities as opposed to a particular deity. A priest of the Greek mythoi, or the Norse gods, would qualify as a polygot priest. If any members of a particular polygot priest's pantheon are present in the sphere, then that cleric regains his spells normally.

For example, Tyr of Toril is originally a native of the Norse mythos (though Thor, Odin, and Loki have never made beacheads on the planet or attracted a large following). A cleric worshiping the Norse polygot (all the Norse gods) would regain spells on Toril since Tyr is a native.

With the expansion of the Polygots in space civilization, representatives of the various polygot sects can be found in most organized crystal spheres. Polygot priests are not popular on the ground, however, because it is there that the various gods struggle one against the other for worshipers. A polygot priest of the Lendore Isles of Oerth would find himself under increasing pressure from the various faiths of Oerth to "choose sides" if he spent any amount of time in those isles.

Most nonhuman (elvish, gnomish, dwarvish, etc.) priests in space are polygot clerics of their racial mythoi.

The Path & the Way: Referred to either as a single grouping, or as either of its parts, the Path and the Way are a terrestrial gathering of faiths which made the leap full-blown into the stars. A teaching used primarily by the Oriental groundling nations, it sets forth not one particular deity as worthy of worship, but rather a celestial bureaucracy, well-managed and organized, with various deities taking on particular duties, with each of the deities recognizing the place of the others in the cosmic whole.

The differences in the various branches of the Path and the Way come from the organized teachings of those faiths as opposed to the deities they venerate. The different schools may disagree (violently) about the true nature of the Path or the inner nuances of the Way, but the organization of regain spells for clerics is unaffected.

This grouping of faiths transferred very easily early in the exploration of the various spheres, and there are worshipers throughout the known universe. For most groundling clerics, however, only those from a background which respects the Path and/or the Way may benefit from the pan-spherical power of the faith.

Ptah: This Egyptian god is one of the few deities to dwell in the Ethereal Plane, and as a result of this, plus his background (he is venerated as a "creator" of the universe, an opener of doors, a god of travelers and of inventors) he is known in practically every major sphere in the universe.

His faith exists only in space, and on those worlds where the Egyptian (or Pharaonic) mythos is fully recognized. On planets where this is not the case, his clerics are as limited as those of other faiths are in wildspace or in strange new spheres.

Celestian: Celestian, the Star Wanderer, is a lesser deity originally worshiped on Oerth (of the Greyhawk setting). Celestian is the brother of Fharlanghn, Dweller on the Far Horizon, God of Travel, a deity much more popular on Oerth than Celestian himself. While Fharlanghn chose to wander the roads and lands of Greyhawk, Celestian took to the stars and the Astral Plane. Celestian's followers seek to emulate their deity through spelljamming.

Celestian's priests seek to visit as much of the Known Spheres as they can in their lifetimes. They are aided in this by the fact that they can recover their spells in the wildspace of any crystal sphere. Like Ptah, Celestian appears to have the ability to communicate with his priests in all spheres. Some theologists speculate that this is because Celestian makes his home in the Astral Plane; others contend that space is his natural sphere of influence.

In any case, Celestian's priests cannot recover their spells on the surface of a world in a sphere where Celestian is not worshiped. Even some large asteroids are too large to allow the priest to recover his spells.

Planar Churches: A fractious merging of both the Path and the Polygots, the planar priests respect and venerate all the deities of a particular inner or outer plane. A planar priest venerates the Seven Heavens of Mount Celestia and all the deities who dwell within, regardless of portfolio, position, or attributes. A planar priest of the Olympian Glades of Arborea would venerate both the Greek and elvish deities which live in that plane.

Characters which are generated particularly for a space fantasy campaign may choose to be any of these multi-branched faiths, or to be of a "groundling" sect recognized in the sphere where the campaign begins. Characters from various campaign worlds may join the various multi-sphere sects only with the permission of their first deity. A commune spell is in order at the very least, likely coupled with a major quest, and an atonement when that cleric returns to his homeworld. Oriental Adventures characters that already follow the Path and the Way (such as sohei and kensai) suffer no effects on their abilities in space, since their religion has preceded them into a number of different spheres and thrived.

All "space clerics" have spells as for standard priests -- they cannot become specialized priests while following these various pan-deity groups. A specialty cleric who goes into space retains the benefits of his faith, but cannot join a pan-deity organization.

Online Resources: the official Spelljammer fansite.
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