TheAuldGrump

Spelljammer/Starjammer - Background - Megans Allowed!

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Ordered the Pathfinder expy for Megan (Starjammer), and only then realized that she will almost certainly expect me to actually run it!

 

In my head, I was going to give it to Megan for St. Valentine's Day, and then she was going to run it!

 

Now, cold reality has crept into my mind, and I discovered that I have no idea, whatsoever, of what makes for a good Spelljammer game. (If Megan runs it, odds are, I will be co-GM.)

 

I never ran Spelljammer, played it, or even really looked at it!

 

So, what does make a good Spelljammer game?

 

The Auld Grump

Edited by TheAuldGrump
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Look at it first!

 

Then, maybe think of stories from movies with the heroes centered around a space vessel--Guardians of the Galaxy, Cowboy Bebop, Star Trek Voyager, and Serenity come to mind.  But don't stop there--treasure awaits on each new world (read:  planet-sized, neatly encapsulated dungeon/world!), pirates swarm some areas while bizarre, unknowable beings vie for control of others, and some royalty's offspring is in need of ferrying to another world to marry a person (or whatever) that they hate, and he/she is willing to pay the party to take them elsewhere...

 

Mostly, have fun with it!

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When I think of spelljammer I think of space-fantasy, which is to say if someone asks to play spelljammer they are asking for sci-fi elements with a fantasy twist.  Different worlds (ice planet, jungle planet, matriarchal planet, etc), exploration, and adventure with some ship combat thrown in.  Each can be a separate episode of the week, but you can weave an overarching plot if you like. You can do space opera with space empires (IIRC 2E had intergalactic mind flayer trading consortiums) or not. Tone obviously depends on the group, but you can play it grim and gritty or campy or somewhere in between. 

 

In the end just remember, Sci-fi/fantasy.

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I don't know.  But the best Spelljammer campaign I ran was gonzo space fantasy. 

Halflings in Space.- all halfling party, but more chaotic than evil. 

I remember them taking over a ship shaped like a swan, fighting humanoid hippos with guns, penguins riding flying pigs and tinker gnome contraptions. 

They also mined meteors for meteorite metals to make +2 and +3 armor/weapons.  (i think this was actually from 1ed. 

 

It ended one night when we played for 12-16 hours straight until about 4am, and I told them "Shut up, a giant blue smurf eats your characters!" then immediately fell asleep on top of my books. Everyone thought that was about right for the end of the campaign.

Edited by Evilhalfling
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Gith. 

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I ran a campaign years ago that lasted almost two years. One of the great things about SJ, asides from the fun elements like gith, giff, beholders, neogi, and such, is the ability to travel from world to world and play in a bunch of different settings. 

 

You can be on a desert world one day visiting a mummy's tomb and be on an ice world the next battling frost giants. In the meantime, there is plenty of down time for the characters to interact as you fly from one world to the next.

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I played in a Star wars campaign years ago where, whenever they were flying in hyperspace, several of the characters would go to the cargo hold and fight. It was nonlethal, but we would run a combat against one another. Others would gamble with each other. Good times.

Edited by Sharkbelly

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I dunno, but I knew a guy who got shot by a pistol-packing space hippo once. 

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Cross Pirates of the Caribbean with Firefly, add wizards.

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I ran a Spelljammer game recently.

 

It can be tricky because it can suffer from Travelleritis (treating entire planets the way small towns or individual dungeons are treated in your average fantasy game).

 

Spelljammer games occur at three levels, each of which have their own opportunities. 

 

Largest scale first:  Spelljammer takes place in an overarching cosmos with many separate star systems.

 

To me the largest opportunities lie in the fact that each system can be a completely different physical and metaphysical structure.  The dominant gods in one system can be unknowns in another.  The political and social forces ruling one set of planets may be unimportant in another.  One system's strengths can be another's weaknesses etc.  Entering a new system, the PCs do not know what of their abilities are going to matter.  They have a lot of searching and learning to do.  Far more than exploring an unknown place they have to explore an unknown cosmology.  They may also find that something innocuous picked up in system A is powerful in system B, so they will need to keep their eyes open for wider opportunities.

 

Also on this scale are the species that travel between systems (like the Neogi, the illithids, the gith etc).  What part if any do they play in the lives and activities of each system, and what dangers / opportunities do they present to the PCs.

 

Middle Scale:  An individual star system.  Within a given system, it's necessary to decide what planets exist and what lives on them.  D&D / Pathfinder species are so diverse that it's possible to populate even the most inhospitable world with something.  You don't have to fully flesh out every world, but have an idea what's on each.  Remember PCs never do what you expect them to, you will need to be able to improvise stuff on any planet.  The next question at this scale is how much Spelljamming goes on in the system.  What, if any, interplanetary organizations are present and who oversees them.  These act as antagonists, patrons, and contacts for PCs.  This widens the scope of adventure hooks and gives everyone lots of opportunity to play in different ways.

 

 

Small Scale: Individual planet or asteroid or interplanetary base.  Yes, one planet is the small scale here.  Entire worlds full of complex social interactions, adventure hooks, needs, magic items, etc.  All of these can be fleshed out to the level you see fit.  You can and should have some adventures where the ship is essentially docked and the PCs are going out exploring / questing.

 

It's tempting to put in space battles and you should have a few, but not too many.  Spelljammer battles tend to be like naval battles. The weapon ranges are such that PCs often can't do anything unless ships close to board and then you get some fighting.  Another reason to not have too many space battles is that whichever spellcaster or psi is in the helm is essentially incapable of doing anything except pilot the ship.  The battle can be quite dull for that player.

 

This brings up a critical point.  Spelljamming is mostly the province of medium to high level characters.  In my game the Spelljamming itself didn't start until late in the game.  The game started out quite earthbound, but two of the PCs had backgrounds that pushed toward Spelljamming.  As the game went on I dropped hints, let them develop skills, find magic items that would eventually be usable on a Spelljammer.  Later, I ran an adventure in which they captured a ship that could be converted into a Spelljammer,  which they then had to do.

 

By the time they headed out for space they were steeped in the lore of the situation and properly armed and capable to face the extremely weird space I had made for them.

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Never played Spelljammer myself, but I always got the impression that the most iconic thing about it was the giant space hamsters.

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I don't know much about Spellstarjammer but if I was going to run or play something of the sort, I would probably kick it off with an Expedition To The Barrier Peaks-style adventure that results in these fantasy adventurers taking off in this found spaceship and setting off into very unchartered territory with gear they can barely even comprehend.

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Never played Spelljammer myself, but I always got the impression that the most iconic thing about it was the giant space hamsters.

 

 

Ah yes, the GSH!!

 

Giant Space Hamster stats

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I was always fascinated by Spelljammer.  I looked at the book a lot in the bookstore when it came out.  I don't believe I ever bought it.  I wish I had.

For inspiration, the closest thing I can think of that actually captures the feeling of sailing ships in space is Treasure Planet.  Yes, it's a kids movie, but it has all the stuff that makes sailing between stars in the open air magical, dangerous and rewarding.  It also has some interesting characters, because let's face it... you can throw a lot of aliens into things and make it odd quickly, but it is the characters that are important to develop to make the story memorable and work.  This does both really well.

The terrifying reality of a black hole is interesting too.  Is it too bright?  Is it too easily solved?  Maybe.  But if your player's characters are the ones figuring it out and finding where to go and how to get there is it rewarding?  As any good space opera does, so much of it is told in the details and not in the "how?s".  The character gets rope burn from the sails while flying in the vacuum of space? Jedi would love to have your floating map of the solar system? Pirates steal other people's ships flying above a moon and it is captured in a book that shows the battle where you can turn the page to get to the next story event?  

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Never played Spelljammer myself, but I always got the impression that the most iconic thing about it was the giant space hamsters.

 

Ah yes, the GSH!!

 

Giant Space Hamster stats

You rang?

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