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[Let's Read] CGR1: The Complete Spacefarer's Handbook


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Yes, I'm doing another Let's Read! However, I'm not going to try another book that highlights my personal gaps in history, but a favorite book from when I was a teenager.


This was a favorite book of mine. After reviewing it, I think it holds up surprising well. It's still interesting, well-written, and has amazingly high production values.

(As a note: I am going to try to be a bit briefer than my previous Let's Read attempts as I feel I may have been a bit too verbose and maybe went a bit too far into 'summarizing' instead of the 'reviewing' I feel is more appropriate for these.)

Speaking of production values, this is a 128 page book in the 'leatherette' style TSR was producing in the 1990s. Compared to the Historical books they went all-out in this work with color pictures (only a few, but good ones) and silver ink used in several places to make this really stand out. The PDF from dndclassics doesn't have the silver ink, of course, which is a shame as it really adds to the book.

CGR1: The Complete Spacefarer's Handbook was written by Curtis M. Scott. Sadly, the TOC page has a memorial to Mr. Scott, as he apparently died in a car crash while this book was being produced. Judged by this book, this was a definite loss to the gaming world. (I just realized that the author, Curtis M. Scott and the memorial subject, Curtis Scott, may be different people, but I think I've heard they're the same.)

This book also used the 'pull quote' design patter common to many Spelljammer works, with semi-relevant quotes on almost every page spread. I'm going to reproduce most of these here. Page 2, the introduction, is adorned with the following:

Why do I like wildspace? It's so BIIIIIIGl Plus, I like the shopping.
Gaeadrelle Goldrlng, kender adventurer
It's a silly comment, but appropriate for Spelljammer, I think. The page it's on is the introduction, and a review of the chapters to come. This is definitely targeted as a book for players in a Spelljammer campaign, with tips for 'groundlings' (characters that were born and raised on a planet, but have found their way into space) and born spacers alike. We've got new races, kits, role-playing tips, proficiencies, logistics, organizations, some campaign ideas, and even notes on working with The Castle Guide for strongholds in space to look forward to!


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To clear this up:

Curtis Scott was killed in a car accident on August 19, 1992, while en route to GenCon. Scott was known for such works as GURPS Conan, GURPS Humanx, The Horde Campaign for AD&D and a host of others, and he co-authored Cyber Hero, along with Michael Fine and Michael McAfee. His death at age 32 is a tragedy for his wife and child and the gaming world as a whole. To say the least, he will be missed.
(From RPGGeek)


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Chapter 1: Groundlings in Space

The image that is used before this chapter is one I believe was used all over the Spelljammer line. It's a good image, though: in the foreground we have a very 'untraditional' group of heroes (perhaps?):
  • Feather-adorned woman with a hand crossbow.
  • Warrior in armor. Looks like a groundling to me, at least the most of the three.
  • A Mind Flayer! I don't think Spelljammer had rules for Mind flayers as PCs, at least in the books I've read. I could be wrong.

Background is a shadowy ship. It's a good piece! Looks like Jeff Easley who did some great art for Spelljammer and other TSR projects in this era. (There's a hard-to-read signature under the warrior's sheath.)

(The image above is from the scanned PDF... I think the printed version is quite a bit better looking.)

The actual chapter starts with a greats action aimed at characters who are new to Spelljamming. A brief idea on what they probably know. A few secondary skills get noted:

  • Armorer, Bowyer/Fletcher, Weaponsmith: THey're basic 'crafting' skills, so useful in space or on land.
  • Navigator: Noted as adaptable for space travel.
  • Sailor: A planet-born sailor can adapt to Spelljamming.
  • Shipwright: If you can build a Galleon, you cna adapt to a ship that looks like it's part mollusc.
  • Trader/Barterer: Always useful for merchant-types.

And of course proficiencies:

  • Animal Lore (Penalties when new to Wildspace that drop off after a few months.
  • Appraising: Noted as being relative to the character's home... So a Krynn native would know the extra value of a cache of steel weapons.
  • Blacksmithing: The difficulty with smithing in the highly explosive Phlogiston is noted.
  • Blind-Fighting: Fighting in the dark is noted as of limited value as almost all Wildspace areas have at least some light.
  • Bowyer/Fletcher: Arrows sell at high prices due to limits on available wood. Seems like an opportunity for a merchant...
  • Carpentry: See Bowyer/Fletcher and useful for ship repair.
  • Cooking: Useful on board ships, of course.
  • Direction Sense: Of limited use, but provides a +1 to Navigation (Wildspace) checks. Sounds good to me!
  • Engineering: Applies to shipbuilding.
  • Etiquette: Don't annoy the Arcane. Suffers a penalty when in a new area, but travelers can pick up local customs.
  • Healing: Noted as limited due to Priest spell restrictions... On the other hand, I feel like Spelljammer would be a bit higher on casters in general due to the need for every vessel to have a few on board.
  • Jumping: Some spot rules for doing swashbuckler-stuff to jump outside a ship's air envelope!
  • Riding, Airborne: There's some notes in this description about how to handle flying a mount into Wildspace. In general, it's difficult due to lack of full Spelljamming 'warp speed' and limited air. But in an emergency...
  • Rope Use: Lots of rope on ships. Amazingly, adds a +10 to climb checks when climbing in rigging! That's a huge bonus!
  • Stonemasonry: See 'Carpentry' but for Dwarven ships and such.
  • Weaponsmithing: Forging.

These lists seem to augment material in the Spelljammer boxed set and are useful notes for experienced Spelljammer characters as well. As usual, the TSR rules paradigm of burying spot rules in skill descriptions.

Some pull quotes from the last few pages:

'Whoa! StopI I can't stand heightsi Let me off this shipl Please, you gotta—oh, great Thorl NOOOOIIII"

Gungir Trollblood on his first journey into wildspace
I don't think Gungir is an established character. I like his response... Not too heroic, perhaps, but he's facing his fears.

"Sometimes it amazes me how different things are here in space than at home. Then again, there are other times when I am just as astonished at how much things are the same."

Fevlin Nestral, once of Waterdeep, now of the Rock of Bral
"There's no danger in spelljammer folk. For all their preening, I've not seen one who for sheer nastiness could hold a candle to a Zhentarlm."

Elminster of Shadowdale
Elminster, buddy: Angry nations of Beholders that are only distracted by their desire to commit genocide on branches of their own race. And that's before we get to the Clockwork Horrors (identified by Jeff Grubb as the local equivalent to Daleks) and other weirdness. I feel like Elminster might rooting for the home team, even in the 'sheer nastiness' category.

Next up is a quick review of the standard D&D worlds and how they fit in with Spelljammer. These overlap a bit with the place-books released for the line (Krynnspace, etc...) but their a nice, quick take useful for players, as most of this book is.


Red-eyed dust bunny
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I think my favorite graphic element from 2nd edition is the full color plates. The range of styles displayed was simply amazing -- very few were the "a bunch of adventurers strike a dramatic pose!" like the Easley plate.

I don't know a lot about Spelljammer, but what kind of book is this? A space atlas? Bestiary? Player's guide? Something else?


The Solitary Knight
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2e had some great settings but I never did check out Spelljammer. I did not see the appeal of D&D in spaaaace!
Now that I am older and wiser, I am certainly interested in seeing what this thread will contain.


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I don't know a lot about Spelljammer, but what kind of book is this? A space atlas? Bestiary? Player's guide? Something else?
It's a hodgepodge of stuff. A lot of the content is character kits for spacefaring types, plus a variety of different "how is $thing_i_know_from_not_in_space different in space?" type things.


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I'd classify it as a Player's Guide, but as rooneg says, there's some stuff that didn't fit in other books in it. If I was able to run a long-term Spelljammer campaign, I'd definitely want the players to have access to this. I don't think TSR really did clear "Player's Guides" for most of their settings other than the two, weird ones done for the Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance, which were weird rules-free books that mostly had little extra details about the setting.

One weird thing is that compared to the historical books, this was definitely a 'bigger' project. Similar page counts, I believe, but instead of a map we got the pretty full-color plates (4-6 or so, I think) and the fancy silver ink on both the cover (which I think is some sort of foil process) and inside the book. It's a very pretty book, with a functional if not particularly dense layout.
Chapter two has nine new (-ish) races for Spelljamming adventurers to use!

Ny the way, to back up my Beholder comment from earlier concerning Elminster, the Beholder ships are noted as combining the 'crew' beholders eye-beams into massive Death Star lasers with short ranges (compared to ballistas and such) but devastating effects... Like disintegrating a huge chunk of deck to expose the juicy bits inside. They'd probably make Spelljammer a nightmare if not for the hatred of their own family tree.


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2e had some great settings but I never did check out Spelljammer. I did not see the appeal of D&D in spaaaace!
Now that I am older and wiser, I am certainly interested in seeing what this thread will contain.
It's an old friend of mine. I really like the setting, even though I think it has some fatal flaws. I disliked Planescape at first because I felt it was "replacing" Spelljammer (which it did, to a point) but I've come back around and appreciate them both on their own merit.
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