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[Let's Read] SJR1 - Lost Ships

UrbanXXLegend

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Seems like they are trying to walk a fine line, where they want to include magic that can disable helms, but don't want it to be easy or overly effective. Not sure it is totally necessary, but destroying them should be difficult, as that would totally leave a ship stranded.
 

MacBalance

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Seems like they are trying to walk a fine line, where they want to include magic that can disable helms, but don't want it to be easy or overly effective. Not sure it is totally necessary, but destroying them should be difficult, as that would totally leave a ship stranded.
Definitely. Something I've noticed with this book that I think was a definite 2e 'thing' was creating a Challenge then providing a way to circumvent it. For example Spelljammer's Air rules are somewhat complex (but I remember them working moderately well in actual play, as you could ignore them for 'milk run' trips and such until something weird happened like a ship had to haul a hundred refugees or was forced to stay away from port much longer than expected. Then we get the Crown of the Void here. Planescape had complex rules for magic and magic items changing with the planes, so adventures seemed pretty willing to hand out the Spell Keys and Power Keys to circumvent these issues.

Helms are in a weird place as they're extremely expensive (makes sense for items that make flying ships fly) but they need to be common in-setting. So we got tons of rules to limit them, then added in rules to destroy and disable helms. As well, good PCs are at an economic disadvantage as most of their viable targets probably use non-Helm power sources, and the market for Death Helms can't be that high.

On to Gnomoi Gear: The title (Gnomoi) is from the Dragonlance setting. I believe the Gnomoi were the more practical gnomes, the ones that built stuff that mostly worked. Still crazy rube-goldberg machines, but effective ones. I don't remember how often the term Gnomoi was used in Spellijammer, and I do feel like the books (especially Spelljammer) assumed players had at least passing familiarity with most of TSR's settings of the era, which would have been the big 3 of the Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, and Greyhawk. I don't think any others existed yet (beyond sub-settings perhaps), although it wouldn't be long.

So, gnomoi give us Globe Guns which are basically modified ballistas. Why the ballista needs to be modified is unclear, as the trick here is modified bolts fire glass globes filled with various nasty substances like greek fire or various slime-creatures. They could be Special Ammunition and have the same effects: Half impact damage, -1 range... Plus whatever the ammunition does (which is not specified).

I like the idea, but would treat this as special ammunition worth a base of perhaps 50 times a ballista bolt plus the contents. The price includes a storage case of some sort, presumably, and engineering so the slime can be carefully fed to keep it alive but contained.

Next up, Spark Darts which are ballista special ammo that can be fired from a ballista or heavy crossbow. They're basically giant matches that strike a target and ignite a flame. Two in ten are duds, but the flame does 1d4 damage with a dm-whim save vs. magical fire to avoid it to targets in Wildspace. It's worse in atmosphere (1d6) for an unknown reason, with an unknown usage todamage sails and ammunition. In the phlogistion they cause a 10' diameter fireball doing 3d6 damage. The dart/bolt is consumed on a hit. If it actually hits a target, they get no save and take 1d3 damage because these are dart-sized.

It's not a bad idea: An 'upgrade' in the Spelljammer Tactical X-wing-esque minis game I keep designing in my head would have this as a one-off way to do fire damage to a target ship.

Spell Reflectors are not gnomoi-built, but the Arcane apparently only sell them to Gnomes for reasons unknown. I'm guessing Ed Greenwood would not remember if asked, assuming he ever knew in the first place. It's a big ovoid of metal that weights 1 ton and is 4 feet long and 2 feet wide. It reflects spells or magical item abilities used within the ship it's mounted on (the 'host ship': Mounting may not be the right term?) and within 20'. One paragraph says they reflect 100% of spells. The next says they function only 2 in 6 times and half of the 'working' times have a Wand of Wonder twisting of the effect. It can handle all the spells you throw at it (but only a third of them, of course).

It lowers the host ship's SR by 1 (to a minimum of 1) because it drains some of the Helm's magic. It's not mentioned if this effect works on on-magical transportation. It's also not mentioned that this would presumably block beneficial spells as well as hostile ones.

The reflector explodes if it's tampered with causing 8d12 hit points or 2d12 hull points to all within range when it goes up.

The Spell Reflector is a neat idea, but it seems to be a hindrance as much as it is a help. I think I'd put something similar into 5e, buy perhaps as more of a magic-reflecting armored prow for Gnomish vessels that has a chance to reflect with less odd features.
 

Leonaru

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Discus of Disenchantment
Why is there a specific spell disrutpion mechanics? Doesn't taking damage (or was it being hit?) always interrupt a spell?

Neat idea. A couple of games like Divine Divinity use the concept of improving items with gem slots, and I think Diablo does it too.

Helm-Bomb
I'm not sure I understand how this works. Is this an item that looks like a regular helm but short-circuits the actual helm on the ship?

Orb of Remote Action
This sound really cool, but also like one of those items that you really want to use but then replace with some 2nd-level spell because that;s just easier.

Rod of Death
Neat but unexciting.

Rod of Orbs
Whoever made this had to have some obsession with gaze attacks.
 

MacBalance

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Whoever made this had to have some obsession with gaze attacks.
I did just play the BG2 mission where you fight a bunch of Beholders over the weekend. This rod would have made it much easier... if I didn't have a special shield that made the quest nearly trivial!

The gem-slotted weapons have become a pretty common trope since this book was published. Final Fantasy 7 is the central core of the idea to me, but I can't say if it's the first place or not.

The Rod of Death feels like it was placed here because it was referenced earlier: It sticks out as it has no real ties to the Spelljammer setting. It's a generic "Wooh! Necromancy!" item.

The Helm-Bomb is kind of confusing. I think it is basically a modified helm (maybe a defective one the Arcane try to turn a profit one) that bypasses the normal "1 power source at a time" rule. When it's placed and activated, both the Helm-bomb and regular helm shoot through the hull and into space: There's even a tip to sue this to create the Space Missiles referenced as a threat earlier. Both occupants have to make saves to avoid riding the helm as it rockets off. One weird thing is that helms can't "fly" on their own normally, at least as presented.

The concentration rules expand on the standard rules, I think.

More Gnome Stuff:

Supersweepers are upgraded gnome sweepers, a weapon consisting of two linked ballista that fire chain-linked bolts. This version is electrified via magic, doing 2d6 electrical and 2d4 physical damage to target creatures. it's also quite different, as the description suggests it's a single metal hoop with chains trailing off it that can be attached to a normal ballista bolt and thus fired without a special launcher. There's also options to upgrade the 2d4 to 2d6 or 2d8 with various upgrades. They misfire 1/3 of the time, damaging and jamming the ballista.

This is a nice enough item, but it commits the mistake of combining a perfectly valid conventional item (sweeper ballista bolts) with magic without presenting the simpler version.

The background has some of the best parts, though. The manufacturer of these is unknown: Tinker gnomes aren't magical, but there's a recurring plot in Spelljammer of regualr gnomes offering limited support to their crazier cousins. Someone is providing them with tons of magic items. There's also an interesting reference that Gnomes sometimes electrify the rails of their ships. Also Giff apparently love these weapons enough to raid gnomes for them. There's several neat ideas here, just unexplored. No XP value because PCs can't make them. Looking through, all the 'magical' Gnomoi stuff has an XP value listed, but it's "unknown" as PCs can't make the items. The non-magical does not.

Tangle Line Guns are line guns that fire glue-coated ropes. They misfire "about a third of a time" which is elaborated as rolling 5 or less on a d12. Most are crewed weapons, but there's also portable variants.

There's one big problem with this description: it's totally a comedy weapon. It's given almost no practical usage rules. The jammed guns get more rules than properly firing them, which sends us to the Fired Lines rules from earlier, which I believe did not have any 'sticky lines' modifiers. The portable ones often lead to gnomes being dragged along behind enemy ships.

There is a reference to non-gnome ships trailing lines to pick up possibly interesting stuff from debris fields. This is probably the most interesting part.

Finally, Water Cannons can be used to knock crew off their feet or to fight fires. It's a dexterity check to avoid a 1d2 damage fall to the deck. The water is usually from bilges and waste-water. The fire-fighting rules are basically DM Fiat.

The section did not end strong, with a poorly implemented item followed by two barely-implemented items. Good ideas, though: I'd probably just have a "Gnomish Boarding Weapons" item that does some random damage to both crews in a full tactical gaming experience, perhaps. Whole ships could be based around the water cannon concept. And the Super Sweepers would have been fine as part of a 'special ammunition' section.
 

MacBalance

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The next section is Living Things and continues the book's theme of "Stuff left out of the box set."

First off, Airslugs which are a fun idea. They're a 'sensor' for air quality, as they change color based on the local air quality. I like them as a concept: They're basically just a utility item in the form of a small inoffensive creature. There's next to no mechanics in the two paragraphs they get.

Glowmoss is more valuable, as it produces light and fresh air. It's a favorite of "dwarves, who use it to light their subterranean tunnels." It does slowly weaken the stone it grows on, causing it to crumble away. The moss can slowly "crawl" to reattach itself if necessary.

It is also useful with the Healing proficiency to aid healing and slow diseases. It even has minor benefits against poisons.

It's tracked somewhat like a creature (it has HP) but doesn't have any other real stats and is damaged similar to damage to people, with a hand-sized clump containing 4 hp. There's some vague rules for spreading it.

Glowmoss solves a problem (I think there's a great Pratchett quote about how common it is to find glowing moss in whatever cave the hero of an adventure story needs to explore) and I feel the other features may have been overkill. Perhaps a way to cut this back would be to say there's a random roll to find a specific strain of moss that can be used for a specific medical benefit (HP recovery, Disease, or Poison) and allow a bonus or re-rolls based on the amount of moss available.

Starshine is a simpler version of Glowmoss but feeds on organic substances instead of stone. It uses faerie fire as a reference for the light cast and lasts for 2d12 days. A fun note is some people let it grown on them, allowing a patch to grow on a head or hand where it can be covered if need be.

These three items are given minimal rules, but that's fine. They're fun items to help round out a setting and actually useful to spacefarers.

Next up is the new Monster section, which we've covered partially. I'll skip through it quick.
 

MacBalance

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The monsters:
(Presented in Monstrous Compendium format, but TSR had realized that people weren't slicing their books up to include these. They're single-page side. They did include an 'SJR1' tag so if you put these in an existing MC binder you'd know the root source.)

We've talked about the Beholder, Undead "Death Tyrant" already: It's an undead beholder, and I think the Beholder got an impressive number of variants in 2e. One thing I don't know if I mentioned earlier is that these are usually made from dying beholders, including those executed for being different.

Next is another Beholder-related monster, but not a variant. It's the Beholder Eater, Thaga ("Grimgobbler") which has such a long name they had to cheat and reduce the nickname to a different point size. It kind of resembles a beholder-variant wityh a sphere-tentacle-eyes-mouth body plan, but it's not noted as being related. It also doesn't have the Beholder's complex AC rules.
 

MacBalance

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More critters:

The Flow Barnacle is a weak mosnter, but they appear in great numbers and do get either a single attack that does 6 damage or three atatcks that do 2 each plus a 'nutrient drain' of 1-3 hp per round. I think the intent is three attacks each doing 2 hp with 1 hp 'bleed' while attacked, but the stats and text differ.

They're SpaceShellfish, so edible (but some people have allergies... Religious taboos are not mentioned) and may produce pearls, specifically blue-white "moonpearls" that are worth a hefty amount. The shells can be used for shields, and they can be used as a component of sovereign glue.

The Flow Barnacle is a nice enough idea. The art makes me thing 'Aliens Facehugger' but the description makes me think "Someone would try farming these things" with the multitude of uses.

We covered the Lich, Arch in detail when it came up in an adventure. It's a rare 'good' undead with several caveats. The Men: Wonderseeker was covered in detail as was the Neogi: Undead Old Master and Sarphardin ("Watcher").

There's a few more to come...
 

MacBalance

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Shadowsponge ("Air Stealer")

It's a mobile sponge that steals your air. It's a 7+7 hit die mobile sponge that can smell in the void, fly, and envelope people causing constriction and smothering damage.

The good news is it doesn't suffocate whomever it envelopes, but they might get exposed to whatever gases the sponge has sucked up.

Elminster has a theory on them, in which he discounts this being a stage of a larger life cycle. The larger life cycle stuff is making em thing of the sandworms of Dune...

The Shadowsponge actually got a two page writeup: The combat rules have a lot of eccentricities, and there's notes on how to use them to 'store' usable air. This use is risky, as a dying Shadowsponge fouls 40 tons of air and they must save vs. petrification or die every day they're in captivity. There's also a 'Herd Cloud' variant that is a "Champion" variant with added intelligence, hit dice, morale, and the ability to toss lightning bolts around. The intelligence jumps from Semi (2-4) to Very Intelligent (11-12).

Verdict: It's a sponge that is both mobile and potentially lethal, especially the variant form. I think it belongs in Spelljammer.
 
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