I’m in black and Jon (the DM) is in blue.
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D&D In The Sky With Diamonds
We find ourselves flying through a kaleidoscope of twisting strips of colour, snaking between each other in a backdrop of perfect darkness. The Space Whale is still a bit of a wreck. Yes, we named our Spelljamming ship after The Bravest Warriors’ space ship. We’re cool like that.
Also kinda the Lunar Whale from Final Fantasy IV. Nobody has ever had an original thought.
A T-rex has stomped across it, molten hot lava has ripped through part of the hull and there’s a bit of jungle that has kind of sprouted up through the boards of the deck. If you remember, there was a bit of a hullabaloo a few sessions ago that involved some kind of a teleportation beam that got us into this mess in the first place.
Jon takes some delight in explaining this is part of the magic of Spelljammer. As long as the helm is intact, you can Spelljam. Doesn’t really matter (that much) what kind of shape the ship is in. Or even what shape the ship is. A freaking butterfly ship called a Flitter is actually a standard ship.
This is actually part of the Spelljammer mythos that I really enjoy. Let’s just make sure the rules don’t get in the way of making it fun. You want space hippos. You get space hippos. Giant spaceship looks like a butterfly. Why not? Screw making sense.
We’ve spent about a month on the ship and we are dangerously close to running out of air. Part of the magic of Spelljammer is that each ship kind of holds a bubble of air around it, and it can refill its air bubble by dipping into a breathable atmosphere. These guys thought of everything.
Screw making sense… except air, obviously. This is the countdown timer to make sure parties have to get involved in rando planets. Still approve.
We finally come to the end of the “road” we’re travelling and find ourselves in a new Crystal Sphere. There’s a great big blue planet that at first seems like it might be 100% ocean. But who cares, it’s got air and we need that.
You Gotta Be Githyankin’ My Chain
I am mad at myself for not having made that joke in any of these sessions. I am a failure to myself.
As we descend into the atmosphere of The Blue Planet, a large object suddenly materializes above us, blocking out the sun. It’s another ship, with 500 severed heads lashed up to the sides. Very badass.
A voice screams out “By order of the Lich Queen, you must return what was stolen!”
Someone wants their +3 Vorpal Sword back.
That someone is a few Githyanki and a juvenile Red Dragon.
My rogue, Jim Clocks, gets to show off his new evasive items (a Displacer Cloak and a Ring of Evasion make me awful hard to hit) and the Warlock L’Eau D’ur gets a really lucky Polymorph roll to turn the Red Dragon into a turtle.
We make short work of the rest of the Githyanki and kick the turtle into space because, guess what, even Red Dragons need to breathe. It “dies” as a turtle, turns back into a Red Dragon and a moment later, without a nearby jamship to make an air bubble for it, dies of exposure.
Jon, can you remember the narration of the dying dragon?
It was a tragic and slightly pathetic end to a majestic creature. Of course… neither accepting service in the army of the Lich Queen nor asphyxiating in the cold depths of space would be the least dignified things to happen to this particular dragon.
A Big Ole’ Island in the Sun
We decide to fly the Space Whale down to the surface and find, as we get lower into the atmosphere, that this planet is not just entirely an ocean. There’s a big ole’ island.
Thirsty for adventure we decide to check it out and find: A giant, 100 foot tall statue of one of our party members: Tidus, the Triton Cleric.
As we approach the island we find that the ocean is just teeming with sharks and fish. Even Direfins. Which if I had to guess I would say were great big dolphins or something.
The wildlife is… nervous. Brubax, our Barbarian, speaks with animals and they seem to immediately recognize Tidus. The call him “The Crestrider” but also caution that we should not approach the island. It is forbidden.
This is Dungeons & Dragons though so we ignore the obvious warnings and approach the island. How great would it be if we were just like “I trust you giant dolphin dudes, let’s bounce.”?
Actually not great at all so thanks for that.
Hapu-Upu-Ook-Oook And That Means I Love You
On the island we find a run down little town populated by some very sad Monkeymen, aka: Gromman.
One of them, as you may have already guessed, is named Hapu-Upu-Ook-Oook.
They all kind of universally agree that we should get the hell out of here.
Again though, this is D&D, so we don’t.
Tidus tries to commune with his deity: Deep Sashelas to see what is going on. It goes a little something like this:
Tidus: Where am I?
Deep Sashelas: You are on my planet.
T: Who are you?
DS: I am Deep Sashelas.
T: What should I do?
DS: You should leave this place.
It’s like Deep Sashelas has never played D&D.
We do a little more digging and make friends with the shaman, a Gromman lady named Kata-Oo. She tells us a little about the statue that bears a remarkable likeness to Tidus. She says it is the brother of Deep Sashelas, and then tells us about the Crestrider’s lover: The Tidecaller Trishana.
So this all seems like an alternate history of Tidus and Deep Sashelas. I’m guessing you were playing around with how Crystal Spheres can be very similar to our reality, but with differences? I mean, our characters absolutely didn’t really seem to make sense of it, but that’s my theory.
Well that’s exactly it. At the start of the game I asked you guys to come up with what your characters looked like at level 20. You said pirate king. Eric said God. The others didn’t really engage that question so much. Since the very first game I’ve been dropping possibilities for Tidus, and this was all just a further development of that.
So yeah, the different crystal spheres aren’t so much different locations in space so much as alternate realities. In this one, the Deep Sashelas has a brother called Crestrider Tidus and they fought over the love of Tidecaller Trishana. Why would Deep Sashelas be worried about a walking talking avatar of the brother he’s feuding with I wonder?
I mean, I think. My notes are a mess:
The Jim Clocks Variety Hour
We eventually find out that the inhabitants of the island are slaves to Deep Sashelas. And that does not seem right at all.
Brubax communes with nature and gets the lay of the land. He finds a powerful Aberration, a powerful Flame Elemental, an underwater castle and the lair of a Kraken.
We figure out that there is actually a Beholder posing as Deep Sashelas and enslaving the population to his will. Kata-Oo seems to think that the Kraken and The Elemental might be able to help us out so we hop back in the dilapidated Space Whale to see if we can rustle up support for our showdown with the imposter.
First up is the Elemental. Nobody seems to share a common language with the thing so my Rogue decides to get his point across with charades. Thanks Performance roll!
The Elemental makes Jim hold these stones in his hands that get hotter and hotter and somehow, he passes his Constitution roll and the molten hot stones burning his hand cool off and become Life Protect Amulets with 1 charge.
That don’t work anymore since we left that Crystal Sphere.
Proper life protection amulets require attunement, I wanted to be able to go full bore with this beholder.
Next up is the Kraken and it just so happens that Jim Clocks speaks Abyssal, specifically for this purpose.
Jim Clocks does his thing and parlays with the Kraken. Obviously, the Chaotic Evil wants nothing of it at first but as Jim points out, if the Beholder gets taken out, the Kraken will go back to be being the main Big Bad in these parts.
Still, the Kraken wants something to eat as payment.
So Jim says “How about the corpse of a Red Dragon?” and he accepts the terms. So we fly up into orbit and find the corpse of the Red Dragon we had previously polymorphed into a turtle and kicked into space!
Honestly I should just retire from Dungeons & Dragons. It will never get better than this.
No dignity for your fallen foes. The kraken didn’t actually tell you what he wanted. This was one of those puzzles that I really like making as a DM. The one where I don’t have a solution. The Githyanki raid was all about the sword and nothing else. I flipped to the Githyanki/Githzerai section of Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes and flip through, and am surprised to find that badass Githyanki have red dragon mounts. Cool! So I create the first encounter of the night. Little did I suspect that he would be back at the end. A+.
So with the blessing of the Fire Elemental and the promised assistance of a Kraken, we are ready to get up in the Beholder’s eyebeams.
B is For Beholder
We fly the Space Whale above the underwater castle and dive in. Most of the party has natural swim speeds and even the Barbarian has a Ring of Swimming.
As we approach we see a horde of mutant sharks because Jon wants us to remember that this is Spelljammer so mutant sharks. The Kraken shows up and eats their silly stupid faces.
Honestly, if we had to fight through mutant sharks first or worse, at the same time as the Beholder, we would probably not have done very well.
Correct. They would have shown up in the underwater ziggurat and really made things worse.
We get into the inner sanctum and throw down with The Beholder. As a gaming group we are pretty familiar with these guys. One of Jon’s players got him The Beholder Collector’s Set one year, and Jono has an Ultimate Tyrant and a couple standard Beholders kicking around too. Seriously, Jon loves these guys almost as much as he loves Gibbering Mouthers. I mean, I get it, they’re like the classic D&D miniboss.
One of my formative Dungeons and Dragons experiences was the 1991 masterpiece Eye of the Beholder. It was a classic PC dungeon romp that finished with a showdown with The Xanathar, undoubtedly D&D’s most notorious beholder. I must have beaten that game 10 times.
So yeah, Disintegration Beams, Death Rays, Anti-Magic Beams, Stun Rays, all that jazz.
But Barbarian’s gonna Barbarian and eventually the thing ends up split in half thanks to Brubax.
We get some loot, we save the Gromman (although now they probably live in terror of a Kraken) and we head back into space for our next adventure.
Join us next time for The Time We Ended Up On Doppleganger Planet!
Water Planet image by Cerberean on Deviantart
Other Images belong to Wizards of the Coast, gonna get some more mileage out of the Githyanki pic.
Keith does all sorts of things here on 9to5.cc, he works with the other founders on 9to5 (illustrated), co-hosts our two podcasts: The 9to5 Entertainment System and Go Plug Yourself and blogs here as The Perspicacious Geek.