Where our heroes find themselves suddenly transported into outer space and find that they are now in the most logical of Dungeons & Dragons settings: Spelljammer.
I’m in black and Jon (the DM) is in blue. Eric has a few comments in red. To find out how we got here, check out our last adventure.
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Right, so I’m not really sure how much time I should spend trying to explain Spelljammer to the reader here. And there’s a number of reasons for that. First of all, it is batshit crazy. Second of all, I knew very little of it myself (despite the setting being my suggestion at the end of last game).
So I guess you can prime yourself for some of the concepts at play here by just skimming through the Wikipedia page for Spelljammer or you can enter into it with the same knowledge that I had of the setting. Here is what I knew about Spelljammer when I sat down at the table for our first adventure in Spelljamming:
It’s sci-fi mashed into Dungeons & Dragons where magic explains away a lot of the “science” problems you can think of. People fly around on actual ships that function like spaceships between realities or whatever.
I would later learn that the realities are called “crystal spheres” and the ships didn’t even have to be ships. Also, the stuff connecting the crystal spheres is called the phlogiston. A word I wlll try to avoid typing from here on out.
Are you kidding me? That word is a stroke of genius. I can just hear gnomish space marines taking phlogiston seriously. It’s some Dr Who / Hitchhiker’s Guide quality.
It’s actually a real word. It is “a substance supposed by 18th-century chemists to exist in all combustible bodies, and to be released in combustion.”
That Sandra Bullock Movie, But D&D
We find ourselves, in space. More specifically, a black void. Each one of us just spinning freely in zero gravity.
At first the only thing we can see is a giant cube off in the distance.
The emerald cube is the sun. It seems to be ejecting waves of green plasma. It is so large it occupies 1/16th of the space of this crystal sphere. I really wanted to impress that anything goes in Spelljammer and that shit is about to get weird.
As we orient ourselves we see what looks like a badly damaged sloop floating in the void. It’s spinning. We hear a blood curdling roar.
Oh that’s right, there was a t-rex with us at the end of the last adventure. I guess he got beamed here too. The beast stumbles out onto the deck with a wide, thin silver sword protruding from its body. It collapses. Dead.
Since the sloop is the only thing to focus on, the party devises a number of ways to make their way to the deck of the ship. Jaxxo teleports, as he does. He then does some Cirque du Soleil type shit to flip through the zero G and propel Brubax towards the deck. Jim Clocks uses his magic rope and eventually we manage to get the whole team on board this boat floating in nothingness.
Tidus scampers below deck to investigate and I cannot stress this enough: ignores the sword sticking out of the dinosaur.
Jono starts narrating that the t-rex starts floating away from the deck into space and I need to hastily jump in. Jim Clock scampers up to the crow’s nest, ties a rope to himself and leaps into space after the t-rex carcass to retrieve the sword and pull it (and the whole t-rex incidentally) down onto the deck.
Is the imagery of the landing not spectacular? The enormous emerald sun gleaming in the distance. The tyrannosaur death-twitching and leaking blood as he drifts away from the ship. Debris and smashed wood and broken bits of tree, and the party drifting away from the wildly spinning ship.
It’s a +3 Vorpal Sword you guys. He ignored a +3 Vorpal Sword so he could go below deck to find out what was down there.
Jim “Hindsight 20/20” Clocks who was closer to the T-rex must have been able to read the label with the sword’s stats on it while Tidus, the fool, in cumbersome full plate mail, left the entire extremely mobile and capable party to run below deck to stop the ship from spinning.
If you like that, wait till you read what Tidus does with the sword a few adventures later.
It’s called foreshadowing.
Githyanki pirates getting their +5 (no, 3) vorpal two-handed swords stolen is kind of a Spelljammer/Planescape meme.
What’s Below Deck, Anyhow?
Below deck we find what seems to be a fairly run of the mill, standard ship’s innards. With a notable exception. At the front of the ship there is a special room. We know that it’s special because at the center of it all is a giant obsidian throne.
There is also a dead Githyanki.
But forget all that, someone has to sit down in that throne.
Our most “pure” spellcaster L’eau D’ur plops his buns down in that chair, has all of his spell slots drained and becomes one with the ship. It’s Spelljammer, baby!
Jon decides we can just barely move the ship around because obviously we don’t know what we’re doing.
Yeah I feel like I kind of messed up the speeds, thankfully it didn’t matter too much. I read and re-read the Spelljammer books but still managed to poorly explain the impulse/warp/close speed differences. Anyway, the point was to get you guys to the bar and not to feel to comfortable about being on board the crippled ship. You forgot about the magma from the planar sphere thing dripping all over the side of the ship and melting it, and also the jungle trees being jammed into the deck.
I’m so proud of what I did with that ship as these sessions went on.
March of the Hippomen
Those of us still on deck see an enormous ship rocketing towards us at impossible velocity. It stops on a dime, right above us. We hear the sounds of deep, barrel chested voices going “hup hup hup hup” and a ladder unfurls down onto our deck.
We are boarded by some Giff.
Noted American video game and role-playing game designer Ken Rolston (who you might know as lead designer of Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion) has this to say about the Giff:
“humanoid hippopotamus mercenaries with an enthusiasm for gunpowder weapons”
I’m not making this up! It’s right there on page 62 of Dragon Magazine #154 back in 1990! Also featuring several full page ads for the still relatively new D&D setting: Spelljammer! Also featuring an ad for “a perfect a piece of science fiction as has ever been written.” I’m talking of course of “Final Blackout” by master storyteller L. Ron Hubbard. 1990 was ridiculous.
The hippomen are looking for a gnomish space marine by the name of Colonel Corky Beanfritter.
Since I saw the Giff in high school I have always thought that they were the dumbest most hilarious looking thing ever. They’re big space hippomen and they take themselves so seriously. I just love the picture of them from the original Spelljammer book, you can tell it isn’t just a hippoman, it’s a hippoman who’s real serious about being a hippoman. Something about it really spoke to me. I was so excited about them I just put them in the first game and then forgot about them.
So this is where the session really starts falling apart. It had been a while since we had all played and I really think none of us were at our best.
Don’t feel too bad.
Anyways, spoiler alert: We do not find Corky. We don’t even finish the session.
What Do We Do?
Get real sidetracked and fail to put together whatever clues Jon was laying down for us.
I seriously still have 8 pages of notes to get through and since I just buried the lead and told you we didn’t even succeed at the mission I will give you the bullet point lightning round of our failure:
- At the suggestion of a Giff we manage to find a bar that is floating on an asteroid called The Floating Vagabond. But to me it’s Milliways, aka: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.
- We find out we’re in something called the Varaka Sargasso. Sargassos are regions of space where magic and Spelljamming don’t work so ships can’t get in or out of the region unless they’re super powerful. Ours is not.
- The big cube we saw is the star of this crystal sphere, it’s 8 to 10 times larger than our sun.
- The Floating Vagabond is stranded in the Sargasso and is owned by Big Red, a big ole’ Balor.
- We find out that the Vorpal Sword belonged to someone known as The Lich Queen. That’s probably fine.
- The reason the Vagabond is stranded is that it is in fact a giant jamship and it’s archmage helmsman Morwin spoke to a hollow mummy being that we find out is “The Cosmic Embodiment of O”. Morwin is now catatonic because he let O show him “everything”.
- There’s also monkeymen, mantismen, an umberhulk, some purple guys, a few dwarves and a halfling all stranded in the bar. We talk to some of them, but apparently not the right ones.
- The bar is 100 meters long and stocked with every cocktail imaginable.
- We drink some Trexian spiced wine and it’s a fiesta in our mouths.
- The Entity known as O is all and none at the same time.
- If we manage to get out The Arcane Brotherhood will reward us.
- We don’t get out.
That all seriously took us the better part of two hours. I know a lot of the blame here falls on us for not being able to piece things together and talking to the wrong people or whatever but hot damn was that one of the more frustrating experiences we’ve gotten bogged down in in a while.
So The Floating Vagabond was lifted from a RPG from the 80s (90s?) called Tales From The Floating Vagabond. It was kind of a comedy centric space RPG I played a handful of times with my high school buddies. It had a system where every character had a Schtick. A Schtick was like a comedy theme, so like you could have the Rambo Schtick where you could never be hit by bullets and never ran out of ammo, or the Maestro Schtick where you always had a theme song playing in the background (and it acted like a danger sense warning you of trouble when the song changed) shit like that. Good times.
Haha, old DM rambles. Ok so what happened:
The point of this session (recall that it was an introduction and not a full on Remember When…) was to introduce the races of Spelljammer, the physics and mechanics of the ships, and just goof around for a bit.
There were two problems. People were a little off their game (myself included), and more importantly Big Red bamboozled you all. Balor are chaotic evil, and he was real friendly, and he just kept lying about everything and you guys never talked to anyone else, really. Maybe a bit to the dwarves? Anyway, everyone was socially hostile except the chaotic evil arch-demon. What a twist.
Anyway, I’ll admit the session was a bit of a mess, but the really important bits were: identify that there are crystal spheres, and that you have a ship to travel from one to the other, that you’re far away from home and that the meta-story is you guys jamming to get home. We introduced a few of the Spelljammer races, you guys picked up a Githyanki Silver Blade and pissed off the Lich Queen. The groundwork for what I think turned out to be a pretty successful jaunt through the spheres was laid and in that regard it was a success.
But it’s ok! Time ran out and mercifully brought an end to our folly! Join us next time for “The Time We Found A Giant Statue of Tidus On A Random Planet”!
T-Rex Astronaut is a shirt you can buy on Etsy from Gnom Enterprises.
Githyanki: (Wiki-Commons, TM Wizards of the Coast)
Giff: (Copyright Wizards of the Coast)
Milliways: (Art by EzuanYork on DeviantArt)
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.