[Let's Read] Realmspace (Spelljammer -- AD&D 2e)

Afterburner

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#1
Well, I had a good time doing my Let's Read of Practical Planetology, so I figgered I'd keep the Spelljammer theme going.

Realmspace



I've always wondered if these guys ever look back on their "nickname" credits and think to themselves "Man, 'Slade' Henson? What was I thinking?"

Also: I always loved that particular incarnation of the TSR logo.

Anyhow, the cover of Realmspace features the Batship, which will be detailed later on. For now, there's an Introduction and a Sphere Overview.

Introduction

The intro is short, only a single page. It's basically generalized noodling about the Setting Which You Are About To Read, name-checking some (but not all) of the astronomical bodies which will be detailed therein. Elminster gets a mention, along with a passage about how TSR's spies (yep, we're breaking the fourth wall here) have found Elminster's Super Secret Hideout (under threat of death, or maybe just pain, or maybe just modest inconvenience).

"The intrigue and freshness of this new campaign setting assures its continued survival." Well, that turned out to not be true, alas.


Sphere Overview

The title of this section is literal. It concerns itself with the actual crystal shell that encloses all of Realmspace.

Realmspace's crystal shell is 6,400,000,000 miles (10,300,000,000 km) across. Which, I think we can all agree, is pretty damned big. On the interior surface of the shell, one can find enormous magical glyphs, hundreds of miles high. These glyphs represent various spells, some known to mages and sages (i.e. the spells in the PHB and elsewhere), while others are spells never before seen or used. Reading a glyph unleashes its power. And since they're big-ass glyphs, the power unleashed is proportionately huge. Reading a fireball glyph would probably incinerate even the largest standard spelljamming vessel.

Fortunately, the glyphs are in a completely unknown and incomprehensible language. So not much chance of reading them by accident while in the process of looking for a portal to the phlogiston.

The stars seen in the night sky of the planets within the Sphere are actually portals to the Plane of Radiance. Some are big, some are small, all can be used to travel to the Plane of Radiance, provided one is protected from the deleterious effects of that plane once you arrive. (Well, that's not completely accurate. You can use these portals to travel to the Plane of Radiance even in the complete absence of such protections. It's just not a very good idea.) Portals leading to/from the phlogiston will occasionally "overwrite" one of these planar portals, causing that star to temporarily wink out of existence as seen from the ground. I'm sure this fact has caused significant agita within the Torillian Astronomical Society.

The most intriguing bit, though, is the line of robe-clad figures who march eternally across the inner surface of the sphere, chanting in an unknown tongue. (A neat trick considering that crystal shells canonically have no gravity on either their interior or exterior surfaces.) The chanters are comprised of humans, elves, dwarves, orcs, and basically any other intelligent bipedal creature. These individuals were incredibly evil in life, and their punishment in the afterlife is to wander across the inner surface of the sphere, never stopping, never being silent. Their chanting allows portals to the phlogiston to open on the sphere. Should all of these figures somehow be killed or destroyed or silenced, Realmspace would be completely sealed off from the phlogiston.

I always liked that bit. Thought it was neat.
 
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Afterburner

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Glad to see you're keeping with the theme-- Spelljammer is my favorite TSR campaign setting, bar none.
I, too, have a deep and abiding fondness for Spelljammer. It is surpassed only by Planescape in my personal hierarchy of The Best Settings Evar.
 

Afterburner

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The Sun

Henson does a weird thing with the Sun in this book: He populates the Sun with critters and intelligent races, and then he makes it canonically impossible to visit. Krynnspace does the same thing with Krynn's sun, and Greyspace gets about halfway there with Oerth's sun.

Toril's Sun is definitely intended to be a real star, powered by fusion instead of a giant portal to the Elemental Plane of Fire or whatever. There are, of course, numerous portals to that plane littered all over the Sun's surface, but that's mainly just for tourists. The actual source of the Sun's heat and light is good ol' mundane fusion, and the creatures from the Elemental Plane of Fire who live or visit here can apparently smell the difference between fusion and the more usual sort of fire one gets in the Plane of Fire.

Because it is powered by fusion, and because fusion generates a whole lot more heat than does fire, a paragraph or two of the Sun's two-page entry are devoted to letting us know how the Sun is so hot that nobody has ever found a way to visit it. "There is no known magical item that can enable a living entity from the Prime Material plane to live here comfortably. The temperature is such that it easily overloads any protective magical spell or item within seconds, instantly killing the character. ... The sun has occasional cool zones, which appear as dark splotches. These cool areas are sunspots. These locales are still well above a temperature that could be equalized by any known magical device. This makes the Sun a location that is never to be explored or exploited by any culture of this system."

This product was released before Planescape and its canonical inclusion of spots on the Plane of Fire too hot for even fire elementals. (Though the 1e Manual of the Planes mentions Kossuth's realm as being hot enough to burn a fire elemental.) If any place qualifies as too hot for a fire-loving creature, it'd be a place which runs on fusion explicitly described as being able to overwhelm any magic that would allow someone to survive the Plane of Fire.

The text also mentions that nobody has ever opened up a line of magical communication with any of the Sun's inhabitants. So you can't visit the place and nobody's ever talked to any fire-based critter who lives there. So how do we know anything about it?

AND YET, we know that there are critters and sentient races living on the sun. A new race known as Helians live on the Sun and like to ride solar flares. The text compares them to "a bronco rider of the Old West on Earth", and I always get a chuckle when these fantasy descriptions resort to making real-world comparisons. Some of the inhabitants have even tried spelljamming themselves, though they haven't gotten very far. It is posited that these inhabitants living on the Sun are actually refugees from the Plane of Fire, and some great tyrant (Imix?) who lives thereon.

Finally, we are told of the Sun's sargassos -- 12 spherical magic-dead regions 100,000 miles (160,000 km) across orbiting the Sun, all equidistant from each other, so presumably orbiting all in the same orbital plane (though the text doesn't say that specifically). Flying into one of these sargassos by accident will cause all magical items to stop functioning, and that includes the spelljammer helm. Thereafter the ship will coast along at tactical speed (400 miles per day per point of Spelljammer Rating) until it clears the sargasso, by which time the crew may be dead due to running out of air, water, or food.

Final Analysis: Well, obviously the Sun isn't intended to be totally and completely and forevermore unvisitable, otherwise why bother detailing all the stuff there? But your players will have to use the Spell Research guidelines to create an entirely new spell or magic item, or find some truly epic artifact, if they want to survive on the Sun.
 
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Leonaru

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#7
The text also mentions that nobody has ever opened up a line of magical communication with any of the Sun's inhabitants. So you can't visit the place and nobody's ever talked to any fire-based critter who lives there. So how do we know anything about it?
Elminster. Or maybe someone teleported away from the Sun?

Also, I like the idea of burning down the Fire Plane by planeshifting the Sun into it.
 

neutrondecay

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Finally, we are told of the Sun's sargassos -- 12 spherical magic-dead regions 100,000 miles (160,000 km) across orbiting the Sun, all equidistant from each other, so presumably orbiting all in the same orbital plane (though the text doesn't say that specifically).
If (as is usual for this setting) we completely ignore Kepler's laws, it would make marginally more sense for the sargassos to be distributed like the vertices of a d20 (or equivalently, the face-centres of a d12). There's a configuration with two sargassos stationary at the poles, and two similar coplanar families of orbits, and another with no fixed points and two different groups each of two similar families of coplanar orbits.

nd
 

Afterburner

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If (as is usual for this setting) we completely ignore Kepler's laws, it would make marginally more sense for the sargassos to be distributed like the vertices of a d20 (or equivalently, the face-centres of a d12). There's a configuration with two sargassos stationary at the poles, and two similar coplanar families of orbits, and another with no fixed points and two different groups each of two similar families of coplanar orbits.
You could certainly do it that way. There is no description whatsoever regarding how they are distributed around the sun, other than they're 40,000,000 miles (64,400,000 km) away from the Sun, and they are "equidistant from one another in their circular orbits". That's vague enough to be interpreted in a variety of ways. Heck, you can imagine twelve parallel orbits, each at a different latitude, if you want.
 

Davies

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I've always wondered if these guys ever look back on their "nickname" credits and think to themselves "Man, 'Slade' Henson? What was I thinking?"
Given that this guy thought enough of himself to use an anagram of his name as the Uber-NPC of a pair of Lankhmar adventures, I strongly doubt he ever thought along those lines.
 
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