On Reflections in Wildspace

Take my love
Take my land
Take me where I cannot stand
I don't care
I'm still free
You can't take the sky from me

Take me out
To the black
Tell 'em I ain't coming back
Burn the land
And boil the sea
You can't take the sky from me

Have no place
I can be
Since I found Serenity
But you can't take the sky from me

Planetary Trade

Any Spelljammer ship can trivially cross an entire continent, so how does this not eliminate trade routes?

There are some solutions I find quite silly, like "Mages will hunt you down and blow you up!" That sounds ridiculous. Real "Hand of God" stuff that puts the Dungeon Master in a bad position.

The "Ocean theory"

Wildspace is essentially a large ocean. Much like land masses in water, you can't sail into a gravity shell unless you have access to the flow. Any object larger than Class A that has a gravity well keeps the ocean of wildspace out, mostly. The only points of access on a planetary body are those places a river from wildspace reaches to the surface.

But you assume there are several rivers, so what's preventing trade then? Why can't someone hop into space using one river and hop back down on the other side of the planet?

Any planet of size Class C or larger with an atmosphere tends to have an upper atmosphere layer that is quite violent (a jetstream) causing the spelljammer to save every time it is crossed as if it is entering heavy winds. This is a pretty risky roll, considering on a failure, the ship is shaken and a random critical is taken. Spelljammer shock while in a gravity well means a crashed ship!

This neatly handles several of the 'how do planetary societies interact with spelljammer' issues along with only needing to design a few ports for landing at each planetary body, instead of an entire spelljamming culture.

Doing too much

Sometimes it can be overwhelming. It's good to keep it in perspective.

Most spelljamming traffic stays within a single sphere. Much like people on a planet are worried about their own issues, those within a crystal sphere are focused on what matters to them. Very few cannon forces are concerned with intrasphere commerce or communication (the Imperial Elven Navy, etc.)

Starting with a few planets on the inner sphere is much like starting a game from a city with a few nearby dungeons. Expand to other spheres later, when there's reason to go there. It will lead to the game actually starting and things will always develop in play.

The realism logic conundrum

People get hung up on things like 'inertia' and 'gravity' and 'science'. Well, here's a thing. There's no molecules in air. Gravity isn't a force related to mass. I'm also pretty sure my Mage can cast fireball.

I have ZERO regrets
entering the phrase "Magical Realism" into Google
It's fantastic. It's an opportunity. It's not limiting. Someone says "How will you detect planets?" Ignoring the actual logical explanation that anyone who lives in the sphere will trivially be able to note the wandering stars, why not have a sphere where every planet appears between the size of a dime to a half-dollar depending on distance? You see there are no photons.

This doesn't mean that the rules aren't internally consistent. I wish I could say that again, so that everyone reading can connect that thought with the idea that internally consistent is not equal to scientific thinking. Oh. Wait. I can. This doesn't mean the rules aren't internally consistent! Thinking those things out makes it interesting! But surely if you're playing Dungeons and Dragons your imagination isn't so limited that you can't let go of 'what you know' and focus on 'what you wonder'.

Literally, it's magic.

Maneuvers in space and 2-d battles

"We get below them. We point our top deck at the bottom of their hull and fire at them, immune to return fire!"

The ship doesn't use rockets to move. The sphere may be three dimensional, and you may be in wildspace but this doesn't mean you can move off the 2-D plane.

It is rarely noted that the ships in Spelljammer do not build off the shorter, tall, ships from the Age of Sail, but instead, earlier, longer, flatter, ships. I believe this has much to do with the helm of a spelljammer.

Spelljammers are powered by helms, not the wind. But how does that power work? Well, as near I can tell, the helmsman has one ability. To push the gas pedal a little, or to push the gas pedal a lot. The ship has one thrust direction. Forward, really, really, really, fast. Or forward really, really, no kidding gosh that's fast. Also, there's no power steering. The only way he can slow down is to not thrust as fast. Since inertia doesn't affect objects with gravity planes (clearly) the ship doesn't move as fast. Canon says you can reverse, which makes it even more strange.

That's why you need the crew, right? To man the rigging, because it's the rigging that maneuvers the ship. So what happens when you do a barrel roll? Well, it depends on the crystal sphere I suppose, but generally all the rigging, sails, masts, equipment, and people on deck are smashed as they slam into the wildspace that the boat is floating on.

This isn't science fiction folks.

Cost of Helms, Salvage, Experience, and Leaving the Ship Behind

Wonky, right? Immediately consider reducing the price of helms combined with providing several other more affordable, non-mage focused ways of travelling. Many options and ideas are available in both in official products (like Hackjammer) and on-line in various places. Examples include helms that are 'charged' by spellcasters, magical sails, and whatever the hell is going on here.

This also allows players to salvage ships when acquiring large value prizes. Even so, getting a few hundred thousand gold pieces worth of loot isn't really a problem. They have a crew, right? Technically the crew count as henchmen, but only receive a fraction of the experience considering how little control they have over their own choices. So if the haul is 250,000 gold, and your crew and players total 64 people, that's 3096 xp for each PC, and just about 390 for those 0-level schlubs. For a sixth to eighth level character that's about perfect. As for all that gold? Running a ship is expensive and it's difficult to get full price for your haul when you're selling it in town. My players always have things to spend money on.

Sometimes you wonder how the players could leave behind such a high-value object, but really this is an artifact of the system it was written for. Any fifth to seventh level character is going to have a retinue of 2-10 followers, henchmen, hirelings or various hangers-on. It is these people that get left behind to guard the ship. Also, illusion, camouflage, and a bit of smart thinking by the players can help in this area also

Weapon Ranges

This is a problem solved by Hackjammer, which uses standard siege weapon ranges, but changes the tactical map to 30 yards a hex and adjusting all speed calculations to suit. Deals with that little "minimum range on a catapult is 1.7 miles in space" business from the boxed set.


But, but!

Here's a good place where "You don't know" is a good answer, because really, even wildspace natives don't know a hell of a lot about what's out there. Let them try, but warn them that experimenting with their ship can be dangerous.

I heartily recommend talking straight out of your ass about why things don't work. Make a bad decision that unbalances the game, well guess what. It only works that way in that sphere!

I don't claim that any of these ideas are original, I ran across many of them while doing research for my campaign, I'm just collecting my thoughts here.

1 comment:

  1. To limit planetary adventures, and thus maintain the usual trade and travel on a planet, here's a riff taken from Space 1889.

    Spelljammers are ether ships, not atmosphere ships. Planets (and every large body) act like boulders in a steam, they are surrounded by turbulence, followed by eddies, at to a spelljammer pilot they are akin to a water sailor's "lee shore" -- a tricky and potentially deadly hazard, where the ether currents are as likely to abandon you to merciless gravity as they are to dash you into a mountain-side.

    Smaller vessels, and more "sailing ship"-like 'jammers handle the transition better, but each landing is a tense hour of just trying to put it down *anywhere* safely, and each take-off is a struggle to gain altitude and just get clear of the planet on a good ether-tide (at dawn or sunset, when the ether is flowing along the surface and then out into space).


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