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[Let's Read] SJR1 - Lost Ships

DMH

Master of Mutant Design
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The flow barnacle sounds like it may be kin to the mortiss, a similar critter in one of the SJ MCs. But that is slightly toxic and creates fresh air. The reason why they are hated as they add a lot of mass (and weaken the hull) as they convert wood and stone to clay and somehow add to it when exposed to sunlight.

Used in combination, flow barnacles and mortiss are a good basis for a rather alien ecology on small earth bodies. Mortiss do not need water, just sunlight, and can feed some species like scavers and small krajen, while the barnacles supply protein for other predators and potential harvest for humanoids.
 

MacBalance

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It's exactly the right kind of weird.
I feel like it's Spelljammer firing on all cylinders. It's best when it's weirdness, but in kind of a "Classic Star Trek TOS" way. In my opinion, of course. Lovecraftian and 'horror' weirdness fit better in Ravenloft, while Conan-esque stuff fit better in Dark Sun. Spelljammer's niche is, to me, ultimately a bit optimistic starfarers, good-hearted traders, and similar when focusing on the exploratory side. Perhaps add a bit of 'Age of Sail' piracy lore for the more settled areas of the names spheres and Elven Navy stuff.

I mean, they tried farming facehuggers, so...
And it's AD&D, where monsters love having full descriptions of how they can be butchered and sold after being killed by home invaders.


Used in combination, flow barnacles and mortiss are a good basis for a rather alien ecology on small earth bodies. Mortiss do not need water, just sunlight, and can feed some species like scavers and small krajen, while the barnacles supply protein for other predators and potential harvest for humanoids.
I don't remember the Mortiss... But the name does ring a bell. There seem to be so many ways to get around the air rules in general, and that's not counting extreme solutions like, "Embrace undeath."

Moving on, the Spaceworm is a small flying critter that does get some interesting (if perhaps overly complex) rules. They were mentioned earlier under the Flotsam in Space section. They're compared to D&D favorite Rot Grubs. They appear in packs of 4-48, and each worm (or group of four for undefined large groups) rolls a d8 to see what it does in combat:

  • 1: The worm splits apart in a shower of gore into 1-3 tiny worms. They wander for a round, then roll reactions on a d8. I think the intent is to roll on the table we're currently on, which means potentially infinite tiny worms spawning infinite tiny worms.
  • 2: The worms leave.
  • 3-4: Worms land on the ship and die. There's an 80% chance of loot.
  • 5-8: Worns attack not as their normal 1hd-1 but as a 5hd monster. They have a goal of doing 12 hp damage each before they leave.
For that last one they have a THAC0 listing of 15 (20) and I assume the 15 is in their hunger-fueled form. Worm attacks essentially auto-hit once they hit once explained as a sort of 'grazing' attack liek the Rot Grub. It's broken byu hitting them, which may be a kill for many characters as the worms only have 1-7 hp. They're a mess in combat with so much to track. 1/2 encountered basically avoid combat, but in three ways one of which spawns more worms which must be tracked.

The background has some interesting nuggets: Some elven sages believe they're getting smarter and more socially developed. Rapid evolution, even by Elven lifespans! Their slime and essence are useless to alchemists, but can be applied to neutralize diseases and poisons. Not mentioned there is their predilection for eating eyes, with a mention of entire crews blinded by them... Yet they have no stated special blinding attacks.

Their loot (especially as seen in Combat Reaction 3-4) is small trinkets they've swallowed.

next is the Tinkerer ("Giant Bubble") which is a Chaotic Neutral critter that is probably annoyed it merely makes it to the finals for the book's "Most likely to be mistaken for a Beholder" award. Amazingly, no Beholder mentions in their write-up, but they're spheroids with six eyes, and 4 arms. They're crazed mad surgeon types: They are known to experiment on living creatures and there's known reavers and wonderseekers with limbs replaced by mechanical tools and weapons.

They're smaller then Beholders (3'-4' diameter) and can bite for 2-5 damage despite being able to fit an entire human head in their mouths. They can also make weak, ineffectual punch attacks. Their more defensive oriented, though: If they take 10 hp in a single round they explode for 3-12 damage to everyone within 10' that doesn't even allow a save. There's special rules for held or swallowed objects being destroyed or launched as missiles by the blast.

Background is a "lost wandering race" archetype, with Khelve Arunsun (Blackstaff, I think?) and Elminster thinking their an old race who abandoned or lost their spacefaring civilization. They're only chaotic neutral despite the whole "kidnapping people to install crude cybernetics nonconsensually" and like to travel.

"They have large mouths on their undersides" and like candy. I assume the mouth described is their main mouth, not a secondary one. They also regenerate, but only if touching water: A canteen is enough to wet themselves to trigger this.

I'm stuck here reading this and thinking about the old bestiaries I've seen excerpts of in which animals were listed with art and highly suspect 'facts' by an author based off 2nd hand stories from someone who might have seen the original creature. AD&D monsters in general have this tone, but it seems stronger here than expected. The Tinker is a perfectly valid concept, but I feel like it's design makes comparisons to Beholders almost too obvious.

And we're done. The Tinker is the end of the book.

Overall, I think this book has some good ideas, but presented poorly. Jeff Grubb described the 1e Manual of the Planes as D&D's attic where stuff got put that didn't fit elsewhere. I kind of think this book fits that description even better, albeit for the Spelljammer setting. A lot of good ideas, and some fun (if poorly statted-out) ship designs. the ships were my primary memory of the book, and I still feel many would be fine as 'the one oddball ship' in a more normal fleet, dockyard, etc. Brief thoughts on the other sections:
  • The New Rules have some good ideas for cinematic stuff that fits the setting, but I think they fail by being overly finicky. I feel like it would make sense to do things the easier way.
  • Adventures are a mixed bag. Several could be reworked to fit modern ideas, and some might be good elements of a larger campaign.
  • Flotsam of Space is a good idea: Environmental hazards to add to the various Pirates, Adrift Ships, and similar on space random encounter tables!
  • New Spells fill in some niches, but many aren't that interesting. Spelljammer was not a setting where Wizards sat around looking for roles to play, since they had some weak niche protection in that they were stuck flying the ship.
  • Personal & Ship Equipment had some fun additions, but more than a few duds. A lot of stuff is salvagable, I think.
  • Finally, New Monsters were a mixed bag.
Despite it's flaws, I do like this book... I'd have trouble recommending someone pay full price for it, though.
 

MacBalance

Registered User
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Are the prosthetic limbs described in any detail?
Not in the slightest! You could probably use the rules from the insectoid race from the player's guide, but there's nothing here. I assume it's jsut a way to excuse any custom rules the DM wants to give to a Wonderseeker or Reaver (their favorite targets) to make them more interesting.

An interesting use of this monster would have been involving them with a plot-thread in The Great Modron March of a team of mad scientist types who graft Modron parts on to humanoids.
 

UrbanXXLegend

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I assume the Tinkerer is intelligent? I could see one joining ship crews as surgeons. Sort of a Zoidberg type, who is more interested in doing freeky things with their bodies rather than simply sewing them back together. Would make an intersting and fun addition to a PC ship.
 

MacBalance

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The Tinkerer is rated as Highly (13-14) Intelligent, which honestly doesn't say much as it's been demonstrated that intelligence is often surprisingly high in Wildspace. From this book alone it's beaten by the Sephardin (20), Arch Lich (19-20) and the Beholder Eater (15-16). So it's beaten in intelligence by a top-tier Intelligent Undead, a space-snake with no real 'civilization' beyond family-based bonds, and a solitary predator that favors really difficult prey (beholders and umber hulks).

(The Death Tyrant is rated as special, which is justified somewhat by the text: If controlled, it uses the controller's intelligence, but if it's unshackled it's "among the more intelligent undead" but this is not defined. I'd refer to the normal Beholder and assume undeath neither raises nor lowers it's intelligence or malevolence.)
 

DMH

Master of Mutant Design
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Not in the slightest! You could probably use the rules from the insectoid race from the player's guide, but there's nothing here. I assume it's jsut a way to excuse any custom rules the DM wants to give to a Wonderseeker or Reaver (their favorite targets) to make them more interesting.
Xixchil. And as much as leaving out any information on the tinkerer's technology is a pain in the rear, it does leave a lot to creativity. There could even be different schools or subspecies, each with their own tech or twist. Steampunk clockwork, glowing wires, solid fire or water, whispering (i.e. muse) wooden jigsaw, and metal origami all off the top of my head. Add in some descriptive adjectives and it can get really weird.
 
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