• The Infractions Forum is available for public view. Please note that if you have been suspended you will need to open a private/incognito browser window to view it.

[Let's Read] Spelljammer Campaign Setting

CSK

New member
Validated User
It feels slightly punitive (despite 2e clerics never feeling overpowered) and discourages playing the class.
I never played or read any SJ stuff, but could the downplaying of clerics have been intentional? Clerics in space isn't a common trope, in my experience.
 

MacBalance

Registered User
Validated User
I never played or read any SJ stuff, but could the downplaying of clerics have been intentional? Clerics in space isn't a common trope, in my experience.
That's an interesting point. I'm really not sure they're more or less common than wizards in space, really.

A cleric certainly fits several kinds of campaigns. Explorers certainly want one, and there were even later kits for missionaries, evangelists, and battlefield medics. Militaries certainly need them.

I think once we get to the actual rules for helming a ship they'll be about equal as the rules use class level to calculate performance.

it's honestly like they just came up with the idea and really wanted to roll with it. They did heavily elaborate on the concept: There's the core rules here, then there's some additional material on the various groups that cheat around this method in other publications. They added semi-magic items that make restoring the connection easier or allow the rules to be relaxed a bit.

Also, is this the earliest instance of the idea that low-level (2nd and lower, in this case) spells come from the priest as much as from the deity? I feel like that's gotten some traction with other editions and has become a D&D trope of sorts... Not sure if this is the origin.
 

MacBalance

Registered User
Validated User
Magic Use in Space

So we've determined your Half-Elf Samurai-Evoker is legal because the DM said it is: How does his magic work?

This section covers this topic in general terms, then provides some new spells!

Clerics in Space

As discussed yesterday, clerics get treated poorly in Spelljammer, at least as of this material. Basically, in a cleric's home sphere they're normally powered as there's no issue contacting their deity. However, entering the Flow (as the Phlogiston is often called) cuts off this connection.

Spelljammer takes the stand that divine magic is, apparently, pre-loaded into clerics. If, as a result of travel, a cleric ends up in the Flow or a sphere with no deity-access, they can cast spells normally, but can only recover 1st and 2nd level spells.

That's the core of the Cleric rules. The remainder is elaboration and ways to work round this.

First, there's a tiny elaboration of what is required to get a faith to spread into a sphere, saying it needs to be "an established group of worshipers somewhere in the system." Essentially, this is a rule designed to prevent shenanigans like a PC cleric saying, "I've converted the crew, by means of an extra GP a month, to attend services every week. So my god Mzlepcijk has power here, right?"

A gate spell can be used to get access. Gate is a high-level spell, so not an option for most clerics. The groups we discussed earlier (Polygots, The Path & The Way, Ptah, Planar churches) are mentioned again. They're described as being represented wherever there's space-faring civilizations. So an unexplored sphere might still be difficult for a priest of Ptah.

That's it for Clerics, at least for now. The next few sections cover general classes of spells and I believe these apply to all spell casters and spell-like abilities. These are general guidelines, not specific rulings (mostly).

Conhjuration/Summoning spells don't work in the Phlogiston if they need to reach another plane. Examples stated include contacting powers, elementals, etc. Also, summoning animals works poorly in both Wildspace and the Phlogiston as there's rarely suitable animals nearby!

Planar Travel, as above, doesn't work in the Flow. Devices like the portable hole are effectively 'cut off' while in the Phlogiston.

Fire and Wildspace isn't changed that much, although fire can't spread in the void. Fireball still works, as it's magical fire and can shoot through the void, but won't set things on fire in the void as the fire quickly dies off due to lack of air.

Fire and the Phlogiston[/B[ is a different story. Elementalists of fire might want to consider staying home: Fire stuff blows up, ending badly. No real rules here. The idea of a crazy caster with massive fire resistance dropping point-blank fireballs is mentioned, but it's noted that doing so tends to be a bit suicidal as you will probably blow up the ship you're on.

And that's it for 'general' guidelines to tweaking magic here. I love the setting, but the organization of rules is a bit frustrating.

Spelljamming
Another topic that I think will get covered better elsewhere. This is still kind of 'groundwork setting' material. A spelljamming helm is a big throne of varying designs. Bolt it to a ship-like object, and it provides lift and propulsion. While the appearance differs, there's two kinds of normal spelljamming helms (and several non-standard helms, but we won't get to those for a chapter or two). Major Helms convert spell casting (levels) to Ship's Rating (SR) at a 2:1 rate, rounding up. 4th level wizard provides SR2. 20th level, SR10. We'll actually learn to use this number in a couple chapters. A Minor Helm is 3:1 , so our 4th level would still be SR2, while our 20th level would only be SR7.

One 'alternative' helm is discussed here as well: The Crown of the Stars is a crown-like magic item that is a portable minor helm that allows the wearer to walk around with it.

The SR rules (this is part of the reason I'd change them...) assume the caster is "fresh" as in well rested. Their actual SR is dropped by 1 for each spell cast which is extremely punitive. Your archmage that casts a dozen magic missiles is just getting warmed up, but is useless as a helmsman for a day. Using a helm immediately saps the spell casting mojo until what we'd now call a Long Rest.

Who can power a helm? Wizards and clerics, including specialists for both.

Character classes such as paladins and rangers gain spelljamming abili- ties at the point that they may cast spells, but cannot spelljam until that time.
This does mean that it could be ruled that SR is based off the character's inherent strength, not actually casting, per se, as a Paladin who just unlocked 1st level spells would be higher level (and thus higher SR) than a wizard who might have a lot more spell slots.

There's a brief paragraph mentioning that 'humanoid' races generally use helms, but other races have other solutions. I beleive we'll revisit this topic, but to summarize:

  • MInd Flayers use Serial Helms that are powered by their mind-powers.
  • Beholders use a special mutant branch of their species to power their death-star-like ships.
  • Dwarves (despite having cleric) use Forges as a form of propulsion.

There's an interesting art piece adorning this page:



I like this guy. I feel like he might have been originally intended for a White Wolf game or perhaps Shadowrun, but it's a good art piece. It just doesn't really say "Spelljammer" to me.

Wizard Spells
There's only seven new spells here.

The second level spell Locate Portal refers to portals in crystal spheres. It'll tell the caster the direction and distance to the nearest portal in the crystal sphere. It mentions the distance will be in miles and/or travel time: I'd expect miles to be a huge number, as even Spelljammer space is huge. This spell requires a conch shell and can only be cast within 100 yards of a crystal sphere. The DM gets a 'cheat' in that we're reminded that there's usually a portal within 2-20 days of travel.

At third level the spell Chill Fire is added to the grimoire. This makes the Phlogiston a bit less dangerous as it reduces the flammable nature in a 40 yard radius for 1 turn per caster level. This isn't a total solution: the spell notes that a fireball will still detonate on creation, but it won't do the extra damage. This is helpful. but I don't know if it's a game-changer.

Enhance Rating is also 3rd level, and is reversible. Cast it on a character in a helm, and it increases or reduces the rating by SR 1-2 for the spell's duration (1d4+caster's level in rounds). The decrease rating variant does allow the target a save. You'll need a supply of tiny ivory arrows for this spell, by the way: The increase version requires it being turned up, while the decrease version requires it be broken.

This is a nice idea. The reverse variant seems a bit limited, as it needs to be done in person. Sabotage of this nature might be better done by using a 3rd level slot on something lethal.

Jumping to 5th level, the next spell is Create Portal which does just what it says. Get close to a crystal sphere (100 yards), cast this, and zip through. You do want to hurry through, as there's a nasty d10 table to roll on if the portal is dispelled or otherwise disrupted while in use:

  • 1-5: Portal closes early. Ship must turn away or ram the sphere. (The ship will lose that conflict.)
  • 6: Portal cuts ship in half!
  • 7-10: Ship makes it through closing portal. This might be a 'good' roll, as it makes it difficult for pursuit to follow.

Enhance Maneuverability is similar to Enhance Rating but makes the ship more capable at turning. This is cast on a ship, not a helm, though. There's a limit of 2 tons of ship per caster level, which means that a level 9 wizard (the lowest that can cast level 5 spells, right?) can cover 90 tons... Which covers all but the largest ships.

A single sixth level spell and single seventh level spell are provided. They're Create Minor Helm and Create Major Helm respectively. Both are basically there for a backup power source. I think a 'campaign starter' idea we'll see later is finding a scroll of this spell, which means the PCs would have a very short-lived spaceship.

A Minor Helm created with this spell lasts a week per level of the caster, while a major helm lasts a day per level. Both take a while to cast (1 turn/level) and the caster's level is important as it sets a ceiling on the ship's tonnage that can be powered by the helm. Minor Helms cover 2x the caster's level, Major helms three times. Both require a suitable chair.

Priest Spells

Priests get six spells, a couple that are similar to the Wizard spells.

At first level, Create Air can help keep the crew alive. It's done on a 'per person' scale, with the spell creating an air bubble around 1 person for every two levels. Good spell for keeping a crew alive if adrift in the void. It can also be used to counter spells like cloudkill but only for a single round.

It can be reversed to Destroy Air which makes the air around a target Fouled.

At the second level of spells we have Contact Home Power which helps get around those clerical limitations. Takes a turn to cast, but lasts a week. That weeks gets cut short if the cleric makes an extraplanar trip, including leaving the crystal sphere. This removes the 2nd level-or-lower limitation, and works pretty reliably, which makes the whole limitation seem kind of pointless.

It does not work in a few locations:
  • areas where an avatar died
  • places where the power was banished
  • voluntary regions the god has no power in.
  • The Phlogiston.

So... Lose a 2nd level spot and a "small horn" one day a week and ignore most of the spellcasting issues. Makes the whole thing seem trivial.

Oh, there's a note that gods don't like to admit their limits, and will be "reticent" to explain why they're not touching a specific location.

Next is Detect Powers which is used before entering a sphere to see if you need Contact Home Power or not. Essentially, if the DM knows what's up, they should plan for this kind of spell and work something out. If the DM is winging it, we get a table of options:

  • 10% The power is known. Cleric gets full mojo.
  • 40% A related power exists. The cleric needs to say howdy to local clerics of the related power to get full mojo.
  • 40% Power unknown. No way to get full mojo (except, you know Contact Home Power.)
  • 10% Power unknown, but there's a related power. Except the related power doesn't like the initial power. Limited mojo until the cleric does a 'great task' for the local power, presumably as a peace offering between the local power and home power.

This spell provides several pieces of information about the powers detected, but you probably won't care. There is an interesting note about how powers of a specific portfolio might have different alignments in different spheres: For example, a war god might be a paragon of good in one sphere, a chaotic evil monster in another. These might be 'related' but it's going to be awkward.

This is part of the material to get around the cleric restrictions. Neat idea, but I feel like most clerics would just take the hint and use Contact Home Power and be done with it.

Moving to fourth level we get Softwood which is not to make it easier to rip through a wooden ship's hull. It's actually a protective spell that places a target in a state of suspended animation and wraps them in a wood-like plant material shell. The softwood dissolves eventually once exposed to open air, but it is protective enough and will shield a character while they make reentry and crash into a planet. A cleric-mathmetician could use this to airdrop a few companions from orbit with a little work. The Softwood is meant to be similar to the effects of the Phlogiston and lasts indefinitely until exposed to air. If used in air, it still cocoons a target for 3 turns (30 minutes). Unwilling targets do get a save: this spell is noted as being used to throw enemies of a ship non-lethally and give them at least a chance at survival.

Fun comment is that the spell requires a piece of bark, and the material created resembles that plant. Use a plant monster and and the softwood cocoon will be similar to that monster in appearance, but no abilities.

At fifth level the cleric gets Create Minor Helm which is similar but a bit more powerful than the wizard version. The main difference is that it can be used without a suitable chair, but that reduces the duration 1 day per level. No Create Major Helm for clerics, though.

The Create Minor Helm and Create Major Helm spells are not described as allowing permanency. If you want a permanent helm, you'll need to find or buy one. That might get covered in the next chapter...Ships of Wildspace!
 

Dagor

Registered User
Validated User
Enhance Maneuverability is similar to Enhance Rating but makes the ship more capable at turning. This is cast on a ship, not a helm, though. There's a limit of 2 tons of ship per caster level, which means that a level 9 wizard (the lowest that can cast level 5 spells, right?) can cover 90 tons... Which covers all but the largest ships.
Actually, if it is 2 tons of ship per caster level and not a typo, then a 9th-level wizard can cover 18 tons, not 90. Which might turn out to be a touch more limiting. :)
 

Leonaru

Taxidermic Owlbear
Validated User
Conhjuration/Summoning spells don't work in the Phlogiston if they need to reach another plane. Examples stated include contacting powers, elementals, etc. Also, summoning animals works poorly in both Wildspace and the Phlogiston as there's rarely suitable animals nearby!
Also, if you would summon animals in space in Spelljammer, they are likely to have 15 HD and INT 17.

Fire and the Phlogiston is a different story. Elementalists of fire might want to consider staying home: Fire stuff blows up, ending badly. No real rules here. The idea of a crazy caster with massive fire resistance dropping point-blank fireballs is mentioned, but it's noted that doing so tends to be a bit suicidal as you will probably blow up the ship you're on.
What about a fire elemental in the Phlogiston? Would that cause a continuous explosion?

There's a brief paragraph mentioning that 'humanoid' races generally use helms, but other races have other solutions. I beleive we'll revisit this topic, but to summarize:

  • MInd Flayers use Serial Helms that are powered by their mind-powers.
  • Beholders use a special mutant branch of their species to power their death-star-like ships.
  • Dwarves (despite having cleric) use Forges as a form of propulsion.
Also, colonial grell use hyperspace submarines because this is Dune.


Create Air can help keep the crew alive. It's done on a 'per person' scale, with the spell creating an air bubble around 1 person for every two levels. Good spell for keeping a crew alive if adrift in the void. It can also be used to counter spells like cloudkill but only for a single round.

It can be reversed to Destroy Air which makes the air around a target Fouled.
Does it affect air elementals?

And how about psionics? I know TCPH came out two years after this, but would you allow psionicists to use a mind flayer helm?
 

MacBalance

Registered User
Validated User
Actually, if it is 2 tons of ship per caster level and not a typo, then a 9th-level wizard can cover 18 tons, not 90. Which might turn out to be a touch more limiting. :)
Sorry: I had to re-edit that section a couple times and a couple pieces got combined.

Enhance Maneuverability is one ship of no more than 10 tons per caster level. The Create Minor Helm spell is 2 tons per caster level. That seems tiny (it is) but it kinda-sorta works with the expected 'starter ships' being whatever oversized rowboat the PCs scrounge up, which inevitably will only have enough air to make it to the moon or perhaps the Rock of Bral.

Also, if you would summon animals in space in Spelljammer, they are likely to have 15 HD and INT 17.
Actually, a thought was that it might be very scary if it did work and you suddenly realize how many rats and other vermin you're sharing a ship with!

What about a fire elemental in the Phlogiston? Would that cause a continuous explosion?
Nothing stated here, at least: Personally, I'd say it'd blow up, going out in a blaze of glory.

Also, colonial grell use hyperspace submarines because this is Dune.
The biggest item not listed is whatever Tinker Gnomes use. I think they canonically used mixes of everything from

Does it affect air elementals?
Again, nothing stated (despite getting over a column of rules). I don't remember if air elementals canonically had any protection from Cloudkill, either.

If I was DMing, I might state that a Create Air spell targeting an Air Elemental makes it happy, but that's totally my idea, not anything from the rules. :) Maybe it'll refuse to attack the cleric casting, which is better than nothing.

And how about psionics? I know TCPH came out two years after this, but would you allow psionicists to use a mind flayer helm?
I think there was a slight change in stance at one point from Serial Helms being 'psychic helms' to being some sort of 'race-specific non-spelljammer helms' but I think I'd allow it. However I feel it'd be a desperation maneuver, and would ideally leave the psychic at least a little messed up. That's if they're just using one serial helm to limp along: the key feature of serial helms being that they're able to be used together. Using one in a circuit with a Mind Flayer or similar should be really damaging.

Of course, I don't think it's a stretch that the Arcane (who we haven't introduced yet...) have a serial helm built for human/demi-human psychics all ready for sale.
 

DarkMoc

Registered User
Validated User
IIRC, tinker gnomes use minor or major helms with gribblies added on. Sometimes the gribblies don't make the helm less efficient.

There's also a later addition of the ki helm, for OA characters to use.
 

MacBalance

Registered User
Validated User
IIRC, tinker gnomes use minor or major helms with gribblies added on. Sometimes the gribblies don't make the helm less efficient.
I feel like they were a bit indecisive on this. Some sources seemed to indicate they had some weird tech bits that worked, somehow.

Tinker Gnomes in Spelljammer were a weird idea. I think they fit and could have been interesting, but they're an aspect that really needed to get their own book (or at least chapter). I think the '2e' Tinker Gnome rules were from he 1e Dragonlance Adventures and were... player-intensive, to say the least. Highly up to the DM to interpret.

There's also a later addition of the ki helm, for OA characters to use.
I'm not aware of that. It makes sense, although I feel like a Ki-helm would have been best as a 'fighter' helm instead of a regular helm. Keep the Shou Lung ships as powered by regular (-ish) wizards and clerics, but give them an option for something Elven Flitter sized.

Here's a rough list of the top of my head of groups I wish had been explored more in Spelljammer:

  1. Tinker Gnomes
  2. Elven Armada
  3. Shou Explorers
  4. Pirates

That's a definite problem with the setting: There's several major 'paths' adventures coult take: exploration, merchant and/or piracy, military action... The actual material I've seen seemed to focus one exploration ('Star Trek' style adventures) much of the time.
 

Ithaeur

Relic Unicorn
RPGnet Member
Validated User
On the whole, Spelljammer is a setting I'd describe as being "almost". As in almost good, almost fun, almost everything, but it never lives up to its promise in any aspect. There are two main drags on it: the 2e AD&D system, applied unimaginatively; and the idea of using Spelljammer as a way to connect existing settings, instead of letting it be a thing fully its own. I think TSR should have embraced the idea of Age of Sail in Spaaaace!, and ditched the game's usual gunpowder allergy. Guns and cannons are a big part of the swashbuckling, pirate movie atmosphere, but they're badly lacking.

I'm sorry, I probably sound awfully negative. :eek: It's because I want to love Spelljammer, but I can't, so I think about what it could have been and get down on what it was. In any case, this is another Let's Read that I'm going to follow with great interest!
 

Davies

Registered User
Validated User
I never played or read any SJ stuff, but could the downplaying of clerics have been intentional? Clerics in space isn't a common trope, in my experience.
You've not read The High Crusade, I take it.
 
Top Bottom