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[Let's Read] Spelljammer Campaign Setting

camk4evr

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Tori's covered extremely shallowly. I don't know how far Realms lore had spread past the Sword Coast and neighboring regions at this point... I think this box set predated the later grafting of Maztica, Kara-Tur, Al-Qadim, etc. but some efforts had already been made to broaden the setting like the Moonshae books establishing those as the quasi-Celtic islands of the setting.
If I remember correctly Kara-Tur and Maztica both predate Spelljammer with Al-Qadim coming out at roughly the same time (maybe a couple of years before or after) and Maztica was always part of the Forgotten Realms setting (the Forgotten Realms logo is on the boxed set that I have).
 

Davies

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If I remember correctly Kara-Tur and Maztica both predate Spelljammer with Al-Qadim coming out at roughly the same time (maybe a couple of years before or after) and Maztica was always part of the Forgotten Realms setting (the Forgotten Realms logo is on the boxed set that I have).
Kara-Tur was introduced in Oriental Adventures (1985) and expanded on in a boxed set in 1988. Spelljammer was 1989, Maztica was 1991, and Al-Qadim was 1992.
 

MacBalance

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Kara-Tur was introduced in Oriental Adventures (1985) and expanded on in a boxed set in 1988. Spelljammer was 1989, Maztica was 1991, and Al-Qadim was 1992.

I don't think the 1e Oriental Adventures Kara Tur was explicitly part of the Forgotten Realms, though, was it? The boxed set presumably changed this, or at least made it specific. There's an OA-series adventure that allows non-OA characters to be PCs but they just come from a somewhat generic 'far away' to the not-Japan of Kara-Tur.

Has Kara-Tur gotten any real treatment past 2e? I understand the default setting for 3e's Oriental Adventures was L5R's Rokugan, but I'm curious if it's gotten more than a footnote in the 3e-4e FR books.
 

Davies

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Has Kara-Tur gotten any real treatment past 2e? I understand the default setting for 3e's Oriental Adventures was L5R's Rokugan, but I'm curious if it's gotten more than a footnote in the 3e-4e FR books.
Well, it was exeptionally easy to re-create Kara-Tur with 3E Oriental Adventures -- which was filled with classes and races which were piously stated to be unavailable in Rokugan -- and there were some Dragon articles which reproduced those races/classes for 4E. Don't off-hand remember any setting development in the latter.

And yes, OA's Kara-Tur predates the Realms as an official TSR property by about two years. I believe that it was actually teased in some advertisements or articles that it was part of Oerth, but nothing in the text itself references THE WORLD OF GREYHAWK, as it was generally termed.
 
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DarkMoc

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I don't think the 1e Oriental Adventures Kara Tur was explicitly part of the Forgotten Realms, though, was it?
No, it was originally intended to be the extreme west of Oerik (the continent of Greyhawk), but that was never mentioned in the book.
The boxed set presumably changed this, or at least made it specific. There's an OA-series adventure that allows non-OA characters to be PCs but they just come from a somewhat generic 'far away' to the not-Japan of Kara-Tur.
The OA series is still setting-neutral. The first location of Kara-Tur in the Realms was the 1987 Forgotten Realms box set, followed up by 1988's Kara-Tur box set.

Has Kara-Tur gotten any real treatment past 2e? I understand the default setting for 3e's Oriental Adventures was L5R's Rokugan, but I'm curious if it's gotten more than a footnote in the 3e-4e FR books.
Not much. There were Dragon articles in issues #315 (for 3e) and #404 (for 4e), but that's about it.
 

MacBalance

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That's interesting trivia. I didn't know that Kara-Tur was originally part of Greyhawk. It doesn't change a lot for me (it would have it it had been intended as a new continent of Krynn, I guess...) but it's an interesting piece of info. I guess the welding was a first sign of how in 2e the Realms kind of took over.

The last planet in Realmspace is H'Catha:

Hcatha

This is an interesting world. Essentially a disck of water with a single giant mountain in the center called the Spindle. It tapers at the edge, so it's kind of like a full bowl of water, minus the bowl.

This is a Beholder-dominated world! It's got five different factions who are, of course, constantly warring. The only other residents are survivors from the various mercenaries stupid enough to get involved in a Beholder war. (More likely they were charmed and had a horrible morning once the effect wore off and they realized where they were.)

The Spindle breaks Spelljammer physics a bit. It's described as sticking out of the planet's air envelope (when air envelopes usually surround objects) and noted as a "stepping off" point for ships.

By this description, it's a neat idea but there's the whole idea of why would anyone sane go there? I think Realmspace gave some ideas for this... From memory, something about the Spindle being part of a beholder transcendence-myth... Any beholder who ascends it becomes enlightened and can see even more (eye-fixation, remember). As of this book, though... It's not a tourism spot.

That raises the question: How 'planned' were the *space books? Did they have notes and just use summaries here? Or was this the majority of material created, and the later writers used it as a framework for their own ideas?

And that's it. The next page is the Ship Information Form I believe we discussed earlier, then the back cover. I do have an image from this page I'd like to share, and some final thoughts tomorrow.
 

MacBalance

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That was the original plan, but nothing that was published for gaming use (AFAIK) linked Kara-Tur to Greyhawk.
Was this perhaps one of those things that got tangled up with Gygax's departure from TSR? OA is a weird enough book on its own, but looks like it was almost the start of an early series of 'settings' that would have been a mix of historical and cinematic ideas if plans hadn't changed.

So... Spelljammer. Some final thoughts.



This is the last picture of the Lorebook..., other than the line-art of a Beholder ship re-used for the back cover. It's a great picture... The Beholder is a bit different from the norm. (It has... hair? Is that a wig? Is this, perhaps, the Donald Trump of Beholders?) Stylistically, it does resemble the front cover's Beholder a bit, which is Jim Holloway's take that depicts them as more 'cyclops skulls with eye-tentacles' than the 'orb of death' that is standard. I like this piece, though.

The art 'style' is a repeated piece throughout the box set. A creature in the foreground, with some sort of 'space action' in the background. I really wonder if these were initially requested as either section-headers (I.E. this would have been the introduction to Chapter XX: Beholder Civil War) or material to sell the idea internally and were repurposed as space fillers.

The background draws on a couple ideas we've seen mentioned elsewhere. There's a Beholder ship (with a cool pod on a fin) crashing through what appears to be an asteroid field of crude statues... Or, as most D&D veterans will recognize, an asteroid field of golems! This idea was mentioned much earlier in the set as a way to defend a location.

So, overall I still like the Spelljammer setting, but the box set is a bit underwhelming in review. The duplicated material is probably the biggest problem, although I did not realize how loose the rules were at the time. Spelljammer could be much more interesting if it was brought back with the weird physics and other unique elements attached, but I do feel that focusing on a sphere outside the established settings would be for the best.
 

MacBalance

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That beholder looks like as if someone ripped its skin off.
I don't know if there's earlier artwork showing them in the style, but that's definitely a Jim Holloway thing. Look t the cover for the book:



If anything, this one almost looks like its somehow 'grown around' a skull. Look just above and to the left and right of the central eye (which is on it's own muscular pivot...) and there's some colored circles that almost look like eye sockets.

I tend to think more of something like this:



Thanks to Futurama we have this sample of a Beholder that is actually pretty accurate to the early AD&D 1e Monster Manual art.

The "Holloway Beholder" is an interesting take. Makes it a bit more like something out of a horror movie or Castlevania. I don't know if they're portrayed much in this still past this book. I, Tyrant seems to be all 'orb' style. Even Wildspace, which was a Spelljammer adventure released shortly after this book, uses the 'orb' variety. I do note that some later editions got more of a 'skull' shape, although not as pronounced or with the exposed musculature look of these.
 
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