Reboot the campaign setting?

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Reboot the campaign setting?

Postby Ashtagon » Thu Dec 04, 2008 10:41 am

This isn't about converting the mechanics, but rather the setting.

Technically of course, the fluff doesn't, cannot, and shouldn't be converted. However, the problem with the 2etake on the SJ setting was that it was rather... lacklustre.

The realm/gray/krynn-space spheres were basically tacked onto the worlds in question, and felt more as stepping-stones for characters from those campaigns to dip their feet into space, rather than something that is definitively SJ. Most other supplements went into decent detail on individual worlds that could be plugged in to any existing campaign (which makes for a Star trek style "world of the week"). The series of adventure modules went part-way toward detailing a campaign setting, but I never got a sense of there being a unified civilisation outside those people who the party interacted with. It's like, where was this empire that the EIN defends, and where were the empires they supposedly fought against. It was almost like those Star Trek episodes where the crew would beam down to a planet, and due to budget constraints, the story called for the entire urban population to have mysteriously vanished.

Of the major political organisations that approach nation-state status in SJ, there are the scro, EIN, and vodoni. None of which have any real information about their society detailed (that I could find). They are described almost purely in terms of their militaries.

(I haven't checked the novels, I admit. But a campaign setting shouldn't need to live or die on the strength of it's spin-off products).

I think the Astromundi Cluster probably came closest to creating a true campaign setting. the 3e Spider Moon doobrie also came close. But in both cases they removed what for me is a key part of SJ - the ability for spheres to meaningfully interact with each other.

This is all preamble by way of me trying to re-create interest in building a true SJ "galaxy", one that doesn't rely on plugging in existing campaign worlds (which are probably best left as separates).

(links from the wizbro forum for reference)

http://forums.gleemax.com/showthread.php?t=585998 an alternate universe for SJ?
http://forums.gleemax.com/showthread.php?t=818198 Ship Speeds
http://forums.gleemax.com/showthread.php?t=814340 Star Fleet

(more later, stuff to do)
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Re: Reboot the campaign setting?

Postby night_druid » Thu Dec 04, 2008 1:22 pm

Ashtagon wrote:This is all preamble by way of me trying to re-create interest in building a true SJ "galaxy", one that doesn't rely on plugging in existing campaign worlds (which are probably best left as separates).


Heh, what do you think I've been trying to do with the Arcane Inner Flow, for the past few years? ;)

The trouble is, it takes time to fully develop a setting, and most of us are doing it in our spare time, when we have the energy and motivation to work on it. At least, it takes time to develop a setting to anything like a fair level of detail. There's a couple of "SJ Universes" out there, but the ones I've seen are barely more than an outline. Personally, I'd rather have a universe of a handful of really detailed spheres than a book full of spheres that look like they came out of a random sphere generator.
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Re: Reboot the campaign setting?

Postby ravensmuse » Thu Dec 04, 2008 2:09 pm

I agree with this, and it's part of the reason I liked Spider Moon so much. It didn't have any pre-established connection to any one campaign setting - it was a campaign setting all its own, with explanations for every race and why they were what they were.

I think that the setting needs to have its Age of Sail sort of feel to it established and enhanced. Personally (and don't groan at me for this) I would put more of a Pirates of the Caribbean feel to the setting - sure it took place in the water originally, but there's no reason that those tales couldn't have been told in space either!

I would also mix in some steampunk as well - steal some of the gun and tech from Iron Kingdoms and maybe some Eberron as well. This isn't medieval England any more - this is the "1700s" as it were.

The Elven Imperial Navy is, essentially, the British Empire, slowly dwindling in power as the upstart colonies it once ruled over have established their own place in space. We never got an "America" in canon, but I could see a group of spheres and astro-bases pulling together to form one.

The Shu are mysterious traders from the East - or, they could be the upstart human nation that's pulled the different EIN colonies together. This is the idea that I've been going with, personally.

Dwarves and gnomes never struck me as being spelljamming races on their own. Yeah, we have the dwarven forges and the *snerk* gnome wheelships, but I see them more as citizens of the EIN or the colonies. That doesn't mean we get rid of the dwarven forges and wheelships! I just don't think that they have their own established presence in space. On the other hand, they could be our Spain / France analogues, *shrug*.

Unhumans have a Native American / African feel to them. The Scro are "modern savages"; organized to try and free their core worlds from EIN slavery. You could thus see an orc / half-orc acting as bodyguards or personal servants to the elves as well as having roving bands of wildmen traveling in primitive jammers or organizing rebellions on planets.

Through the Unhumans you get the illithids and Neogi. Now, I'm a huge fan of both. The Neogi are your Middle Eastern / Oriental traders - black market goods and services - pretty much you're making a deal with the devil any time you're dealing with them. They could also be useful for organized crime.

The illithid though - this is where I sort of break with established canon. I like the idea of genteel illithids - British gentlemen and ladies with a curious choice of delicacies. But they thirst more for knowledge! And generally act as sages and wisemen and are considered nobility along with the elves. Maybe establish an equally as old empire for the illithid that's entered their elder years.

The Rock of Bral and the Astromundi cluster are self-established, self-sustainable points of neutrality or free trade. To return once again to PotC, they would serve the same service as places like Tortuga or Port Royal.

This isn't even mentioning the cool stuff you could pull both from the PotC movies *and* established sailor mythology, like Davy Jones, the Kraken, Jonah and the White Whale, Nemo and his submarine, Ahab and his whale (Ishmael the orc, anyone?).

I've gone a little overboard with all of these ideas, so let me finish up with what I think a rebooted Sj needs -

We need a set of core spheres *not* connected to the original three (though they are still there to adventure to) that can not only be used for Spelljamming to and from, but can also have whole adventures set on. This is the biggest thing, and will require the most work.

From these spheres we need one as the EIN home sphere, a few or more for our "America" analogue and the Shu, one for the illithid, and a few others to serve as the frontier. Personally, I think that the Neogi should have an asteroid ring around a single planet as their home - I don't know why that idea rings with me, but it does.

Also, more bases for piracy, free trade, neutral points in space, and generally, places for adventurers to get themselves mixed into trouble.

We need an established canon and timeline. We've got hints of the two Unhuman Wars and the Scro incursions, along with the Vodoni. But that's about it.

We need the establishment of some deities for the spacers out there. Why not a space pantheon made up of gods of travel, astrology, space navigation, et al? I'd steal Cyriss from the Iron Kingdoms and place her in space for the gnomes, dwarves, and mechanically inclined humans, myself.

One thing I would definitely keep: losing your clerical abilities if there isn't an established presence on a sphere of your deity / pantheon. I know it kind of cramps clerics (though not as much in 4e now) but I love the idea of traveling pilgrims spreading their faithful throughout space.

Finally, and I hate to say it, but erase some of the more random races from space. Aarockra? Seriously? I can see one or two individuals interested in space, but to give them their own ships?

...I'm sorry I stole your thread Ashtagon :oops:
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Re: Reboot the campaign setting?

Postby Big Mac » Fri Dec 05, 2008 3:38 am

Wow, this is a busy thread! I'm going to answer a lot of points, but first I'll spend a single post dealing with the initial issues that Ashtagon brought to the "debating table".

Ashtagon wrote:Technically of course, the fluff doesn't, cannot, and shouldn't be converted. However, the problem with the 2etake on the SJ setting was that it was rather... lacklustre.


Well, my view on Spelljammer, has always been that it just isn't finished. Night Druid responded to my last mention of this with his "Completing Spelljammer" thread. I would be far more likely to think that the existing stuff should be completed than to argue that it should be rebooted.

Ashtagon wrote:The realm/gray/krynn-space spheres were basically tacked onto the worlds in question, and felt more as stepping-stones for characters from those campaigns to dip their feet into space, rather than something that is definitively SJ.


Hmm. The original AD&D Adventures in Space boxed set was apparantly intended to be a one-off product, so I think that the Grubbmeister wanted to make product that would tie into Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk and Dragonlance. A lot of people dislike this aspect of Spelljammer and feel that it should be rebooted as a "standalone thing", but I personally love the way that SJ can be used to build a crystal sphere around the central theme of any conventional campaign setting. So if this was "pulled" from Spelljammer, the game just wouldn't feel the same to me.

However, I do think that Realmspace, Greyspace and Krynnspace have big flaws in them. I definately agree that they were written backwards. Each of these three crystal spheres puts too much focus on the groundling world. And a lot of people seem to look at these crystal spheres as containing empty planets that were settled by the races from the local groundling world instead of a fully established set of groundling worlds that (apart from one world*) joined the spacefaring community.

* = And the three spheres take this flaw further, by creating additional planets where "if you land you instantly die", "if you land you are instantly enslaved" or "if you land you are instantly eaten". And this sort of logic, just gives the local spacefarers a much smaller local trading area and makes them less "realistic" as self sustaining areas.

Realmspace, especially, is more Faerunspace than Torilspace. Considering that Toril has several campaign settings (that each have their own sets of gods), I think that a Realmspace that was extrapolated from FRCS should have been given at least one set of gods** and at least one culture for every planet in the system.

** = I realise that adding extra pantheons would make a lot of extra work for the sphere, but doing anything less, just doesn't fit in with the concept that a single world can house such different campaign settings.

Greyspace should (IMO) have been the definative crystal sphere. Even before WotC decided that "Greyhawk = core and core = Greyhawk", we already knew that Gary G. was treating Greyhawk as the default campaign setting. Spelljammer has a lot of "generic" stuff added to it, that isn't actually given a home. Now if Greyspace had been defined as the centre of the known*** universe, we could have used it as a sphere that contained the homeworlds of many (but not all) of the multi-sphere organisations in the original AD&D Adventures in Space boxed set.

*** = Note that I say "known universe" rather than just "universe". I would not actually make any sphere the centre of the universe, but defining Greyspace as the centre of the area documented with the original boxed set allows us to use Greyhawk as a "baseline" for the core SJ product line. That baseline could (and should) be departed from, but if it was there people would have something to work from.

Or to put it another way, if there is anything that everyone agrees is missing from Spelljammer - it should have been put onto one of the worlds of Greyspace. Spelljammer is a setting that mixes groundling world culture with non-sphere culture to create a bunch of cities and nations that are used to seeing people from other spheres. And Greyspace should be the sphere that shows us how a community of Reorx worshipping gnomes works, when they arrive in a sphere where their god isn't available. Greyspace should show us what happens when the Shou Lung arrive in a sphere and start trying to spread their own culture. Greyspace should show us (in its missing historical timeline) how formerly peaceful planets, moons and asteroids have been taken over by alien creatures (like the neogi, illithids and beholders). Even themes like the Unhuman War, should (initially) have been defined in how they affected Greyspace. And I think that the best "space" element of Greyhawk - the Celestians - should have been given a staring role in the the original boxed set. The Celestians should be a major reason to explain why Greyspace is located at the centre of the Known Spheres. (I can't recall another god in the Radiant Triangle that actually has "space travel" in his/her pantheon. Leaving Celestian out of the initial ingredients was a big flaw.)

Now, I don't say this because I have any desire to make Greyspace any more important than the other two "Radiant Triangle" spheres. I actually think all three of these spheres should have become "less important" to the spacefaring community, than the spheres around them. But SJ has far too much material that isn't anchored anywhere. It really needed to have a sphere built up from the word go. The AD&D Adventures in Space boxed set could have benifitted from including a third book that took the place of SJR Greyspace and gave every SJ GM a fully working sphere to start off their game.

Krynnspace is something a lot of fans of Spelljammer and a lot of fans of Dragonlance have issues with. And as a fan of both settings I, too, have my issues with it. Given that Dragonlance spawned Taladas and Taladas is a reboot of Ansalon that keeps its gods and uses them in a totally different way, I would have hoped to have seen the same thing done for every planet in Krynnspace.

One thing you didn't mention with these three things is The Rock of Bral. As a supporter of Spiralspace for the location of Bral, I'm very disapointed that a forth sphere (a non-groundling sphere) wasn't included with the other three "core spheres". Spiralspace would have been my preferred choice for this forth sphere (and rather than defining a "Radiant Triangle", I would have made "Spiralspace" a sphere that was in the middle of Realmspace, Greyspace and Krynnspace.

Ashtagon wrote:Most other supplements went into decent detail on individual worlds that could be plugged in to any existing campaign (which makes for a Star trek style "world of the week").


Hmm. I'm not sure that I agree that these suppliments gave us "enough detail". Falx, for example, gets three pages to explain the homeworld of the "Brain Eaters of Falx". Compare that with 3rd edition's FRCS, which dedicates 320 pages to a tiny continent on one planet and you can see that a GM just isn't given the same level of detail on a planet like Falx.

Falx just doesn't work as anything other than one of those (to me) annoying planets where the GM is supposed to say: "if you land you are automatically enslaved by the army of mind controlled illithid slaves". But Falx, could (and probably should) have invented the "Points of Light" concept that was later brought into 4th edition (especially as it is a planet that is so hostile, it makes Athas look like the Garden of Eden by comparison). Falx should be the (stolen) homeworld of many of the people in the anti-slavery organisations. There should be communities of spacefaring settlers living in Greyspace who recruit people to organisations like the Pragmatic Order of Thought and plan for the day they will "go back to Falx and kick the evil invaders off of their former planet".

All of these planets have similar issues. There is just not enough hooks to tie them into the rest of the campaign setting. Without these hooks, a planet like Falx just becomes a two dimensional illithid power base, instead of a place where an epic battle against spacefaring invaders was fought for generations and generations...and eventually lost. And without this implied war, we don't get to see the sort of Hollow World/Underdark environment that could be full of small resistance cells that would be eager to welcome gun-running spacefarers or aid PCs who are trying to rescue slaves sold to the illithids.

Ashtagon wrote:The series of adventure modules went part-way toward detailing a campaign setting, but I never got a sense of there being a unified civilisation outside those people who the party interacted with. It's like, where was this empire that the EIN defends, and where were the empires they supposedly fought against. It was almost like those Star Trek episodes where the crew would beam down to a planet, and due to budget constraints, the story called for the entire urban population to have mysteriously vanished.


Well, I don't personally want to see a unified civilisation - I want to see a collection of overlapping civilisations (with every civilisation, religion or other organisation implied to have a specific geographical area of influence). I want to see organisations like the EIN pitched as multi-sphere organisations. But I also want to see single-sphere organisations, single-planet organisations and single-country organisations in the SJCS. To me, it is important for the setting to clearly define that some organisations are bigger than others, but also define that some organisations are small, but have a lot more concentrated power.

BTW: The EIN is something I've got major issues with (as they never ever bothered to tell us who the emporer is, let alone where he lives). But I've already brought this up in Night Druid's Completing Spelljammer thread and don't want to duplicate my thoughts here, when the other thread is still very active.

Ashtagon wrote:Of the major political organisations that approach nation-state status in SJ, there are the scro, EIN, and vodoni. None of which have any real information about their society detailed (that I could find). They are described almost purely in terms of their militaries.


This would be OK if SJ was a Battlesystem suppliment. But it is supposed to be a RPG product, so should really show us more non-agressive power blocs (like the single-sphere government in Greatspace).

The Scro are actually pretty useless, unless you set a game after the Second Unhuman War. With these "evolved" orcs having a backstory that gives them a single "enlightened" orc leader, and the First Unhuman War "taking away the orcs toys" and marooning them on planets, the implication is that there can only actually be a single world of Scro (until they regain the ability to get into space). To me the Scro (while admittedly extremely cool) can only really be a tiny subrace of orcs. I would expect to see Scro commanders leading units of less organised "Unhuman" races, otherwise there is no way that they could even think about fighting the Second Unhuman War. I personally think that the Scro need a 10-30 year period of "secret spelljamming", when they can send agents to infiltrate groundling Unhuman communities and organise them into armies powerful enough to launch carefully co-ordinated attacks**** that are so "fast" that the EIN are unable to respond to them and loose a lot of strategically important "groundling" bases in a very short period of time.

**** = I would even make these infiltrators so secretive that many of them conceal their Scro subrace from the locals and manipulate them into building up for an attack on the local elves, while also finding ways to delay the attack until they recieve some sort of "go signal" from their leaders. It would take something similar to this, to get me to buy the fact that the Elven Imperial Navy was unable to prevent Spiral from falling to the Scro during the Second Unhuman War. I could easily buy this for the First Unhuman War, but the Second Unhuman War implies that the Scro are able to outmanouver the most powerful military in the Known Spheres.

Ashtagon wrote:(I haven't checked the novels, I admit. But a campaign setting shouldn't need to live or die on the strength of it's spin-off products).


I once thought as you did (about all D&D campaign settings). I am primarily a roleplayer and prefer non D&D fantasy novels to the way that TSR's shared worlds sometimes are written in a very lazy and sloppy way. But, despite the fact that some D&D novels have less thought put into them than Lord of the Rings, I have found a few of them to be highly enjoyable. The six SJ novels are some of my favorite D&D books (even though the end of the story is one of the most frustrating things I've read in a TSR novel).

The Cloakmaster Cycle novels have a great story arc that do a lot better job of creating a groundling feeling on Krynn and (collectively) are a lot more useful as background material than RPG books like Practical Planetology. Most importantly most of the Cloakmaster locations are places where a group of PCs could visit without being "instantly eaten", "instantly enslaved", "instantly killed by the lack of atmosphere", etc, etc, etc. To me, there is no point in creating a series of deathworlds for the SJCS. The Cloakmaster Cycle has its flaws (especially its naff ending) but it really is required reading, as far as I am concerned. (In fact, my main "problem" with the SJ novels, is that we didn't get a Cloakmaster Trillogy followed by a second trillogy that started out with a spacefarer as the central character.)

Ashtagon wrote:I think the Astromundi Cluster probably came closest to creating a true campaign setting. the 3e Spider Moon doobrie also came close. But in both cases they removed what for me is a key part of SJ - the ability for spheres to meaningfully interact with each other.


Well, I think that SJ needs three levels of interaction to make it seem "real":
  • Planetwide commerce (to take care of 99 percent of mundane goods and services),
  • System wide commerce (to take care of 90 percent of the spelljamming activity within each sphere and to pass on rare goods and services that are only found on one planet within the system) and
  • Inter-sphere commerce (to create cross-polinisation of culture between different crystal spheres and to import very rare goods and services that are not found within specific crystal spheres).

If you set up these three levels of commerce, you can work out the availability of goods and services and the prices everything will cost.

But SJ is about more than trade - so this sort of model also needs to be rolled out into every crystal sphere to decide if a multi-sphere group like the EIN or The Celestians have "arrived". It can be used (along with the "local theme of the sphere") to decide if there is a "school of magic" dedicated to necromancy or a monastry where monks can be trained.

Ashtagon wrote:This is all preamble by way of me trying to re-create interest in building a true SJ "galaxy", one that doesn't rely on plugging in existing campaign worlds (which are probably best left as separates).


I'm afraid, I'm with the opposite camp on the side of using the existing campaign worlds. I am strongly in favor of every crystal sphere having a local theme that defines the feel of play within that crystal sphere. It is quite hard to pluck these sorts of themes out of the either, but if you set up the big three spheres properly, you can use them as examples for creating the same sort of feel with new crystal spheres.

A sphere like Krynnspace should be "The Dragonlance Crystal Sphere" and (without resorting to populating it with colonists from the "groundling world") it should be very clear that every planet in the system is a reimagined version of Dragonlance. A planet like Reorx or Chislev should excite the pants off of a Dragonlance fan, by taking the core values of Ansalon and/or Taladas and remixing them.

Now, that same thing needs to be done for the new crystal spheres (like Greatspace), but with no existing game content to infer a central theme for the sphere, you really need to create the feel that the planets in the sphere were once groundling worlds. And you also need to create a feel of system-wide culture and commerce as well as create communities of immigrants, who have moved into the sphere and brought in those "multi-sphere organisations".

Ashtagon wrote:(links from the wizbro forum for reference)

http://forums.gleemax.com/showthread.php?t=585998 an alternate universe for SJ?
http://forums.gleemax.com/showthread.php?t=818198 Ship Speeds
http://forums.gleemax.com/showthread.php?t=814340 Star Fleet

(more later, stuff to do)


I've alredy posted a few comments in those threads, but in general, I do disagree with the need to "reboot Spelljammer". As Night Druid has said later on in this thread, it is very very difficult to write enough RPG material to finish an epic project like this. I think that "completing Spelljammer" and ironing out the bugs that are in the existing canon is far more easy to do than a total reboot. I'll explain why, when I get around to answering Night Druid's post, but I do find reboot discussions extremely frustrating - I think they are a major reason why Beyond the Moons hasn't been given a lot more support by the fan community. Instead of spending time talking about how we can get extra material up on a particular section of BtM, I think we (and this includes me) spend far too much time poking holes in the SJCS.

It seems to me that the fan community has two modes:
  • Build and
  • Demolish.

I'm not sure why, but we don't seem to be able to build new planets and new crystal spheres at the same time as deconstructing the SJ universe. I think that we really need to "buy into" the wonkyness of Spelljammer and spend our (limited) time building onto it (instead of pulling it apart).

I have no doubt that a 4e SJCG would pull SJ apart and do a Points of Light rebuild. And there may be some top-quality ideas in that sort of thing. But I am a fan of the AD&D version of Spelljammer and I really want to see that universe grow and evolve into something bigger and better than what the AD&D Adventures in Space gave us. (And in my books: "bigger and better" means "SJ = SJ + X , Y and Z" not "SJ = SJ -(A + B + C) + (X + Y +Z)").

IMO, the best thing to do with any "reboot" ideas, is to shunt them off away from the existing canon material and use them to create new spheres that have the themes you want, but don't invalidate any of the original material. I think there could be merit in defining the AD&D Adventures in Space boxed set and the connecting products (i.e. not the weird stuff like Clusterspace) as one "area" of the Spelljammer universe and then going off to define a more distant area of the universe - an area that has different rules that fit in better with what you want from a Spelljamming campaign.

Doing a sidestep manouver and creating a second SJCS around something like Mystara, Dark Sun or Eberron would be a great way to create a new "central theme" that would give SJ a new flavor - without trying to rip up the existing SJ universe.

And if you don't rip up the existing material, it becomes far easier for "grognoid" SJ GMs to visit your particular "sector" of the universe and play one or two games in it. If we had several sectors, we could probably use the "original sector" to keep the grognoids and purists happy and have a tech-heavy sector, a horror-heavy sector, a planewalking-heavy sector, a "Points of Light" sector and a sector that deals with any other major theme that individual sections of the SJ community love. I think that doing something like that is the only way to make this sort of "reboot concept" have value to the majority of the SJ community.
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Re: Reboot the campaign setting?

Postby Ashtagon » Fri Dec 05, 2008 10:08 am

I plan on expanding on my original ideas in an alternate universe for SJ?. I have c+p my original post from that thread in this spoiler block.

The Elven galactic federation collapses under the goblinoid onslaught. Artifacts and grimoires on spelljammer lore are scattered throughout the spheres in the aftermath. The goblinoid host dissolves into internal squabbling; spelljamming lore is lost, and a dark age begins.

The elves slowly regain spelljamming knowledge, and re-establish contact with their colonies within their home sphere, and send scouts to nearby spheres.

Elf civil war. The dark elves are banished, exiled from elven space in a fleet of unarmed spelljammers. Elven society turns inward, and active exploration ceases.

Elf exodus. The high elves, disgusted at the lack of spirit shown by mainstream elf culture, arranges for their own exodus. They launch a fleet of spelljammers for distant spheres, there to re-create the elf empire of old. En route, they encounter teh dark elves and destroy the nascent dark elf space culture before moving on. the dark elves will later regain spelljamming lore.

Spelljamming lore slowly discovered by many races more or less simultaneously across the spheres, mostly from reverse engineering of ancient elven artifacts and lorebooks.

Humans make contact with gnomes, halflings, and elves; an oligarchical federation is established, with representatives all all major worlds in the grand council. Humans are the dominant race.

Orcs establish contact with goblins, hobgoblins, and kobolds. War results in each case, as the orcs establish an empire over them. Elsewhere, ogres and their magi leaders establish their own empire.

Humans and orcs make contact, resulting in a vicious war, that eventually results in low level hostilities, neither able to maintain active warfare forever. Elsewhere, human ships encounter the mysterious dark elves, who destroy all human ships which enter their space. Dark elf controlled spheres are red-zoned.

Dwarves, fleeing an ancient enemy, take over a freshly claimed orc sphere in its entirety, and fortify it to an incredible level. The orc counter-invasion is swiftly crushed, establishing dwarf-orc relations. Later, the dark elves hear of the new visitors and try to conquer what they believe to be an exhausted group of refugees. Relations with the humans are established, but extremely cool, given the dwarves' paranoia.

Humans contact the lizardmen. Brief war starts, but is swiftly concluded.

Orcs try to conquer the lizards. Mostly successful, until humans mercenaries intervene. This causes the orcs to decalre war on the human empire, bringing the full might of that alliance against the orcs, forcing them to retreat once more.

Fans of Star Fleet Battles might recognise bits of this. Worth developing further?


The original elven empire is intended to bean "ancients" race. They are the in-story explanation / blatantly bogus rationale for having several regions more or less simultaneously rediscover spelljamming more or less simultaneously. Their actual existence as a long-forgotten empire is known to most sages, but there is very wide disagreement among sages as to which race actually ruled that empire. naturally, most sages will cheerfully claim it was their own race which had this empire.

Most spacefaring nations consist of multiple spheres. The largest of these is the human-led federation (other major races are elves, gnomes, and halflings), which claims a total of seven spheres.

The home sphere is typically a monoculture, or mostly so, and spacefaring is fully integrated into the main planet's culture. Other planets are integrated to the extent that they are habitable or have valuable resources. There may be any number of planets, asteroids, and other astronomicals that are little more than "dungeons in space", waiting to be explored by adventurers.

Other spheres claimed by these empires are typically far less integrated. Some spheres may have colony worlds, where the world was reasonably hospitable but sparesely populated. Other spheres may have thriving groundling civilisations. In these cases, the groundling world may either be interdicted by the star empire for some reason, or there may be limited trade. This is basically an excuse to place GH/DL/FR in this new setting in any location, but stripped of the xxx-space supplemental material (which can and will be mined for stuff to plant in other spheres in this setting). The intent here is to leave the core cmapaign worlds untouched, but still leave a viable means to have characters go up in space. In this reboot, groundling empire do not generally have speljammers.

A few of these groundling worlds do have small SJ fleets of course, as well as some controlled by private individuals (high level mages and the like). They are generally dismayed to find space already occupied (they wanted to claim to be first), but heartened by the fact that the space empires don't really control the spheres.

Practically speaking, trading posts, mining/farming extraction sites, and military bases are the limits of the star empires' presences, with a few large colonies in about a third of these spheres. The bulk of these spheres are, in practice, controlled by no one.

Inter-sphere travel is intended to be much faster, and also more predictable. In this region of space, the phlogiston is alternatively thick as syrup wand fast moving with tight currents. Between two "adjacent" spheres, travel time is typically 10-30 (2d12+8) days. Trying to skip a sphere on a journey raises this to the standard 10-100 (10d10) days, and no ship is known to have survived a longer journey.
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Re: Reboot the campaign setting?

Postby Ashtagon » Fri Dec 05, 2008 10:25 am

As you might guess, rather than the usual bottom-up approach of building planets first, I am trying to do a top-down approach, and get the big picture drawn first, then fill in details. I am also trying to send this alternate setting up so it happen "a few spheres that way", so that it won't invalidate any existing canon or fanon.
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Re: Reboot the campaign setting?

Postby blackdaggr » Fri Dec 05, 2008 8:21 pm

I think one thing that might help is to identify a group of fan-created spheres which would become fanon. These could then be selected to form the remaining spheres of the Arcane Inner Flow, or some other similar trade-route series.

For instance, in my campaign, I place my own sphere of Gatespace on the Arcane Inner Flow (and borrow from other well-developed fan spheres for the rest of the AIF). Obviously, everyone else has their own version of the AIF. To me, the AIF is a "make it what you want" area of SJ.

Creating a common setting with already-identified spheres near all the canon spheres leads to some minor problems. If a new GM created his own home sphere, and wanted it near Refuge, he'd either have to break with canon/fanon, or create a new 'mystery' river which added the new sphere close enough to Refuge for his campaign, but in a way that it wouldn't affect the 'established' setting. This problem is not as severe in SJ as having high-level, world-affecting characters in a private campaign tromp around Greyhawk, but it does exist.

What I think might be a better idea is for us to design some community spheres which could serve as 'drop-in' spheres for various purposes. For instance, having a few illithid-dominated spheres or elven spheres would be very useful. Perhaps Darnannon is the gateway to a 'country' of a number of elven spheres. The illithid spheres could be linked or not, depending on a GM's whim.
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Re: Reboot the campaign setting?

Postby Big Mac » Sat Dec 06, 2008 2:47 pm

Ashtagon wrote:As you might guess, rather than the usual bottom-up approach of building planets first, I am trying to do a top-down approach, and get the big picture drawn first, then fill in details.


Both approaches have their pros and cons. Good luck going this way.

Ashtagon wrote:I am also trying to send this alternate setting up so it happen "a few spheres that way", so that it won't invalidate any existing canon or fanon.


Hmm. With you saying earlier that you want to dismantle Krynnspace, Realmspace and Greyspace and harvest them for content, I'm not sure you can get this to dovetail to a SJ universe that fits in with the "AD&D" era products. Not unless, you are trying for some sort of Sliders-style thing.

However, this does sound like it will be interesting to a lot of people who want to change SJ, so good luck with it.
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Re: Reboot the campaign setting?

Postby Ashtagon » Sat Dec 06, 2008 2:50 pm

ok, pros and cons of ripping apart the xx-space products.

As a pro, it means parties are immediately close to this alternate SJ universe. It also gives a rich supply of toys to populate this area of space in.

As a con, it invalidates any established canon/fanon that has the mainworlds interacting with outer space. Assuming the party has not yet ventured out into space, this isn't a major issue, as all 3 campaign settings canonically have very little contact with space anyway. If tehy have, then that effectively invalidates using them in this manner.

What did I miss?
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Re: Reboot the campaign setting?

Postby Big Mac » Sat Dec 06, 2008 5:23 pm

blackdaggr wrote:I think one thing that might help is to identify a group of fan-created spheres which would become fanon. These could then be selected to form the remaining spheres of the Arcane Inner Flow, or some other similar trade-route series.

For instance, in my campaign, I place my own sphere of Gatespace on the Arcane Inner Flow (and borrow from other well-developed fan spheres for the rest of the AIF). Obviously, everyone else has their own version of the AIF. To me, the AIF is a "make it what you want" area of SJ.


Most people that want to keep the classic SJ universe, seem to agree that an Arcane Inner Flow is the way to build up a setting that fits in with the original material. I tend to call this area The Known Spheres, but every spacefaring nation (on every planet) would think of their local area as "known", so perhaps I should get onboard with using Arcane Inner Flow as shorthand for the "vanilla SJ area".

We could then have a few alternative areas that take the SJ concept and tie it in to different worlds and different races. That would allow the tech-loving people to get behind a named concept and work together to design a new group of tech-heavy spheres.

The core of Spelljammer uses a lot of spheres that are barely known, so we could probably use a Frontier Subsetting that deals with the stuff on the borders of the Arcane Inner Flow.

One thing that might attract a lot of new blood (and could be used to "contain" any 4e SJCG that does a Shadows of the Spider Moon manouver instead of taking up from 3rd edition) would be to have a "Spelljammer - Points of Light" univese project that reimagines SJ using all of the forth edition stuff. This "alternative univese" could soak up all those ideas without dismanting the AD&D SJ.

Ashtagon seems to be designing some sort of post-collapse elven empire. If this had a better name than "Spelljammer Rebooted", it would probably be a lot easier to attract people in. (I'm not sure if Ashtagon is trying to do the Points of Light thing.)

What we need are names that sell the central concept of that SJ variant in a couple of words. A tagline that explains the concept in a sentence would help. And some sort of mission statement (for designers) would also help encourage people to create content that pushes that variant setting off in the same direction.

We have one SJ project space here (for the 3rd edition conversion), I know that Ashtagon will be willing to consider adding other ones (if people are actually going to use them to build on the SJ campaign setting). So, while I don't want to encourage everyone to splinter off into 100 projects that never get finished, I would love to see small groups of people who all desire the same thing, to get something done about it.

One thing I'd be interested in seeing at some point (and probably helping out with) is a historical SJ campaign setting, that takes concepts like Arcane Age and the pre-cataclym era of Dragonlance (recently documented in Legends of the Twins by MWP) and uses it as the basis of a pre Unhuman War version of Spelljammer. That would need to start off with Paul's timeline and then create new "history" for all of the spheres in the Arcane Inner Flow area, but it might be fun to have a pirate ridden Rock of Bral, a Greatspace where the evil Greek gods have not yet been forgotten, a Selune that isn't xenophobic (yet), a Clusterspace that hasn't been "isolated", a Krynnspace that has a high number of active spacefaring clerics or any other well formed prequel idea that people can come up with.

blackdaggr wrote:Creating a common setting with already-identified spheres near all the canon spheres leads to some minor problems. If a new GM created his own home sphere, and wanted it near Refuge, he'd either have to break with canon/fanon, or create a new 'mystery' river which added the new sphere close enough to Refuge for his campaign, but in a way that it wouldn't affect the 'established' setting. This problem is not as severe in SJ as having high-level, world-affecting characters in a private campaign tromp around Greyhawk, but it does exist.


I've seen a lot of people make two dimensional flow maps, and I agree that they are very useful. But The Flow is not transparant, and I don't agree that crystal spheres only have three or four phlogiston rivers. I think it is very easy to use the game "snakes and ladders" as inspiration for super-fast flowing phlogiston jet-streams that yank ships away from one sphere and drag them past a number of other spheres before dumping them at a sphere several spheres away from their point of origin. Something like that can change a two dimensional map into something that is less easy for PCs to predict.

If you employ that sort of logic you can also fudge the way the map works so that your own handbuilt crystal sphere can be given a position in the Arcane Inner Flow area, but still comply with any "official" maps that BtM bring out later. (You could for example give your own homebrew sphere all the same links as Krynnspace, but still allow players to use any sphere that connects to Krynnspace as a link that joins your own sphere to Krynnspace.) I'm pretty sure that Penumbra fits in well with the phlogiston jet-stream concept. It might even be worth locating the "jet-streams" above or below the normal network of spheres, so that they can become a "secret network of rivers" that can initially be hidden from the PCs, but then revealed to them, as they become mid-high level characters.

On top of this, there is probably no need to actually explain to the players that they are either in a normal flow river or a 2D defying jet-stream. If the player actually discover the fudge and do some in-character research, you can put them in touch with an Estriss-like sage, who has wild theories about 4th or 5th or 6th dimensional flow movement and let your players help explain what you have been doing to them! :twisted:

I've seen a few people bemoan the time burned up on long distance voyages. Well, phlogiston jet-streams could deal with that issue, as well as being the hidden network that allows people to get from the Arcane Inner Flow to Clusterspace, Mystaraspace, the Crimson Sphere and any other place that canon information says (or implies) is not known to spacefarers.

Given that Jonathan isn't going to be able to use TSR created organisations like the EIN or races like the Scro in his Crystal Spheres products, it might be a good idea, to use his new product line to form a "new area" that has its own "central concept" and its own "multi-sphere organisations". Jonathan could then rubber-stamp the "official conversion map" that we use to convert CS material to SJ rules, and we could use the edge of that map or phlogiston jet-streams from a fairly central point (in his area) as a link from that area to the Arcane Inner Flow.

If we can organise our work more like this, we can all have a blank canvas to paint in new spheres, without needing to dismantle TSR material (or each others work) in order to create space for our own stuff. And modular fanon material (that is released in completed chunks*) will be a lot easier to use than stuff that keeps going back to the drawing board and wasting time fiddling with the Grubbmeister's way of doing everything (or stuff that spends time explaining why the Phloiston is explosive, explains why gravity works or does other sort of pseudo-science essay material that - while interesting to SJ geeks, like me - doesn't actually improve a game).

* = Take Night Druid's Moon of the Month articles as a good example of this. Every time I see one of these, I wish that it had a crystal sphere built around it. Maybe one day they will all have crystal spheres built around them. But as stand-alone things they can actually be inserted into a homebrew sphere and used today.

blackdaggr wrote:What I think might be a better idea is for us to design some community spheres which could serve as 'drop-in' spheres for various purposes. For instance, having a few illithid-dominated spheres or elven spheres would be very useful. Perhaps Darnannon is the gateway to a 'country' of a number of elven spheres. The illithid spheres could be linked or not, depending on a GM's whim.


Hmm. Do you know how much work is involved in doing this sort of thing? I would like to see these sort of spheres created, but only as part of a larger co-ordinated work (like "Spelljammer - Arcane Inner Flow", "Spelljammer - Points of Light" or "Spelljammer - Crystal Spheres" or something else that isn't going to be abandoned after six months). If you do this sort of thing in isolation, it is going to be a lot harder to get people to back you up. There are too many half built SJ rebuilds out there. I know that I don't have much time, so don't want to get onboard with any project that doesn't stand a very good chance of being finished (eventually). Unless something has Adam or Paul onboard**, I would want to see a fairly big team that doesn't depend on one person*** to keep their universe moving forwards.

** = Both Adam and Paul have "earned" my automatic support on any projects they work on. (And I say this even though I know that anything that Paul makes is going to be AD&D and I would need to create 3rd edition conversion documents to be able to use it. The certainty of good quality material I know I'll get from anything Paul is working on outweighs the extra work that would be needed to use his stuff in a 3rd edition game.)

*** = In fact, if I wasn't me, I would probably not trust my own name as any sort of guarentee of top quality content. I've joked about catching up Night Druid, but I do think I need to get some stuff more finished, so that I can "put my money where my mouth is". I think a lot of us need to get the central core of our ideas organised, so that we can actually put some new content up onto Beyond the Moons. And this stuff doesn't need to be big stuff. A small thing (like a new race or a new spell) might be something that could be finalised and given to Static.

Don't forget that when these "community spheres" are created, they need to have a mixture of environments to support adventurers. An illithid dominated sphere is great, but if it is 100 percent controlled by the illithids it becomes a sphere where the GM can only say: "you arrive, are captured and enslaved". You probably need to make this a "Points of Light" sphere, that has a few free asteroids, free cities and an underground railroad that is trying to free slaves and move them to freedom.

A homebrew sphere could be created before you work out exactly where to put it (or before you decide if it should be an Arcane Inner Flow sphere, a Points of Light Sphere, a Frontier Sphere or whatever). You could even build up a group of similar spheres before placing them into their final positions on the map. But if you want to get a community effort going, then you probably need to agree on the preferred location/genre/D&D edition that the sphere is going to be optimised for.

BTW: There have been several other community projects that have created half finished things on Beyond the Moons or in the Lost Spheres. Abandoned material makes the SJ community look disorganised. If we could recycle some of that abandoned material, we could get it yanked off of the Lost Spheres and put onto the main Beyond the Moons site. Doing that might be better for SJ (and BtM) than starting a new community project at this time. But I digress. So back to your point...

We have another thread about stealing campaign settings to use in Spelljammer, and I think that small maps that use entire product-lines from a single d20 System publisher would be a good way for fans of those campaign settings to start importing them into Spelljammer. The flow rivers (or jet-streams) that link them over to the rest of our universe can be added in when some sort of peer review says that there is enough there for a GM to be able to run a self contained game in that area. This is another thing that could be done as a community effort.

We could even copy Pathfinder RPG and have several Alpha releases and several Beta releases that enable crystal spheres to be rolled out as "workable" but not "beautiful" things and then adjusted using feedback from the community and given a bit of fan art and some PDF love.
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Re: Reboot the campaign setting?

Postby Big Mac » Sat Dec 06, 2008 5:45 pm

Ashtagon wrote:ok, pros and cons of ripping apart the xx-space products.

As a pro, it means parties are immediately close to this alternate SJ universe. It also gives a rich supply of toys to populate this area of space in.

As a con, it invalidates any established canon/fanon that has the mainworlds interacting with outer space. Assuming the party has not yet ventured out into space, this isn't a major issue, as all 3 campaign settings canonically have very little contact with space anyway. If tehy have, then that effectively invalidates using them in this manner.

What did I miss?


You didn't miss anything. You have the pros and cons in a nutshell.

Doing a reboot job would supply you with a lot of finished content that could be dragged and dropped into new spheres. If someone is playing Spelljammer for the first time, it probably wouldn't matter to them if they used the original universe or a rebooted one.

But if someone actually cares about the SJ universe, then what you are proposing would be as unhelpful to them as the recent Forgotten Realms time jump and Spellplague. If somone actually reads the SJ novels or comics they might want to play in that universe.

The only way to get your rebooted universe is to tear up the AD&D universe. A lot of people like the old wonky AD&D universe. So they won't want to do that. And if your new fanon connects directly to "robbed-out AD&D canon" then it is going to be very hard for a "classic SJ fan" to take your new material and import it to a non-rebooted game.

So your concept is do-able, but it might not get 100 percent support from the community. If you can do all the work on your own, then you can go for it. But if you need other people to help, your effort might go a bit slower. Having said that, Night Druid seems to favor a minor reboot of Greyspace, so you might be able to get some sort of compromise going with him and finish your SJ universe first.

Another thing that could cause you problems (in the other direction) is that once the subject of rebooting SJ comes onto the debating table, you are almost certainly going to get someone wanting to reboot Grubbian gravity, tinker with the air envelopes or change the cleric rules. The people who dislike the original version of SJ find it easy to say they don't like it, but not so easy to agree on how it should be fixed.

But, like I said, if you can manage to do this on your own (or find a small team that will support you) you can make this a reality*.

* = And pitching this as an Alternate Universe would allow you to reboot everything in the SJ universe, but not invalidate the original universe. If you did that (and I can't see any disadvantages to you) it would be a lot easier for more SJ GMs to use your material.

And if your universe had an alternative version of everything we could have an evil farmer, called Teldin Moore, (who murders a Reigar captain who lands her ship at his farm, steals her magical cloak and then trys to find a way to capture "The Spelljammer", so that he can use this uber-weapon to blow up planets. Even canon-grognoids like me, might be motivated to help with something that didn't squash our own gameworld. :D
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Re: Reboot the campaign setting?

Postby dulsi » Sat Dec 06, 2008 6:03 pm

I agree with night_druid that trying to reboot the setting is probably not going to get completed. Instead we should be filling in the existing setting.

That aside, I'm not enticed by Ashtagon's setting description. Sphere spanning empires in my opinion should be unusual. The logistics of maintaining it is just too much. When I was looking at Under the Dark Fist, I found the spheres rather boring as there isn't much in them but it makes sense to me as "controlling" it is much easier. I'm also not keen on giving each race it's own empire. It works well in wargames but it creates problems of why an elf, dwarf, and lizard man are working together. The points of light idea from 4E is nice in that all the races get mixed together making assorted parties easy to explain.
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Re: Reboot the campaign setting?

Postby Ashtagon » Sat Dec 06, 2008 6:09 pm

On balance, I decided I won't be ripping p the xx-space books for material. That should keep the fans of the original setting happy.

I think the outline I have described so far is adequate to have the core groundling part of each of the big 3 campaign settings simply planted into whichever sphere the DM wants to party to start in. This allows several hooks...

1) Party is in an established SJ campaign, and sails in to a newly-discovered collection of spheres.

2) Party is in an established groundling campaign, and discovers SJ lore. They get a ship, fly up, and discover they are in, not the xx-space described in canon, but one of the spheres in this alternate setting.

3) Party is in a homebrew groundling campaign. As for #2 above, they get a ship, go up, and find they are in one of the spheres of this region fo space.

3) Party starts in this campaign setting. The default assumption is that they are part of one of the spacefaring cultures. if not, this more or less resolves as #2 or #3.
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Re: Reboot the campaign setting?

Postby Big Mac » Sun Dec 07, 2008 4:27 pm

dulsi wrote:That aside, I'm not enticed by Ashtagon's setting description. Sphere spanning empires in my opinion should be unusual. The logistics of maintaining it is just too much. When I was looking at Under the Dark Fist, I found the spheres rather boring as there isn't much in them but it makes since to me as "controlling" it is much easier.


It is even more fundimental than this. Not only are sphere-spanning empires "boring". The same thing applies to world-spanning empires.

Take a planet like Spiral. It was an elf dominate planet and is now occupied by the Scro.

So where is the front line? Where are the hold out elven communities that desparately need to import guns, magic items and even recruit bionoid mercenaries? I'll tell you where they are - the past. Most, if not all of the worlds where the bad guys have the upper hand are 100 percent occupied. The "adventure" is over and done with.

Compare that with pretty much any groundling setting and the groundling orcs and groundling elves live on the same planet (obviously). This means that a host of orcs might (potentially) come flooding out of the mountains and attack the elven nation. In SJ, we have far too much mono-cultures on planets. That means that only spacefaring invasion fleets are able to change anything.

In my opinion we need more spacefaring worlds (at least the larger ones) to have multiple nations that have a degree of conflict with each other. If every elven planet has its own nations of orcs it makes things like the Second Unhuman War (or even the First Unhuman War) much more believable. Because the war becomes a spacefaring effort to arm and organise a bunch of groundling orcs and get them to attack groundling bases that supply the EIN.

One of the central themes of SJ is the abilty to fly from one place to another. In an essay about Spelljammer that Dragonhelm wrote* he called this "Spelljammer as a concept". Well, I agree with pushing the concept of fantasy space travel, but I think that SJ also needs to sell the concept that every world, moon or asteroid is a living breathing location, where you could stop off and have a few adventures. SJ needs to be more than a mad Benny Hill chase around the universe.

* = Wow! Who actually writes essays about how to make Spelljammer? No wonder this guy managed to get Dragonlance Nexus an Ennie Award. Can we steal him back, chain him up and get him to write more SJ material? :twisted:

dulsi wrote:I'm also not keen on giving each race it's own empire. It works well in wargames but it creates problems of why an elf, dwarf, and lizard man are working together.


I'm not actually in favor of giving each race its own empire either. I think I've been explaining myself badly. What I am looking for is a "point of origin" for the "original" spelljamming activity of each race. That sounds like the same thing - but it is actually different.

For example the Gnomes come from Krynn, but are not imperialistic. They have no empire building desires and are far more interested in learning how things work. They have bases throughout the Known Spheres (or Arcane Inner Flow area) but there is very little connection between them. In fact the Cloakmaster Cycle reveals that the wildspace Tinker Gnomes had not visited Mount Nevermind for several hundred years. This gives this race a totally different feel to SJ's elves.

But what this sort of thing gives us (and this is the thing that I think is vital for realism) is a ripples on the pond aspect to SJ's gnomes. The arcane (or maybe the gnomes themselves) throw the first pebble onto Krynn and the "ripples" of (spacefaring) gnomes spread out.

You can make it more real and have secondary pebbles land on a planet like Reorx or Ironpiece and create a second wave of gnomes that hail from that world. Obviously adding more detail adds more realism, but creates more work for the GM.

And, just like Mount Nevermind is not the centre of a large empire, I think that most other races (with the exception of the elves, Shou Lung humans and scro) should also not have established empires. There is nothing in the canon to suggest that a ton of space empires exist and I want to comply with the canon. But I do feel that each race should have its record breaking "first member of the race to go to space" and then should have a short period where a specific subrace is the only part of the race that has spelljamming ships.

It is possible that the Arcane might create multiple pebbles, by selling the SJ helms to six human races or six dwarf races at the same time. But there should be just as many (if not more) subraces that pick up their SJ technology second hand.

The elves are the best example of this, because an elf from any subrace, can sign up with the EIN, and then become a spacefarer and eventually buy a decommissioned elven ship. This would cause the EIN to act as a catalyst that would bring smaller numbers of most other "civilised" elven subraces into space. And if you are going to do that (as a fully developed campaign setting) you really want to chart the progress of the Imperial Navy, so that you can make an educated guess as to when the first Comet Elves from the planet Bellus got their own spelljamming ships. That sort of thing is essential, if we are going to create a bunch of planets that feel like they were once all self-sufficient groundling worlds and later joined the spacefaring community.

I'm basically wanting to see a timeline (based on Paul's work) that shows when various races (and possibly more importantly subraces) joined the spacefaring community. If we know that the halflings on the asteroid Hearth have been there for 300 years, we can guess how developed they are, how much SJ technology is available there and if they might be using the "generic halfling ships" that they would learn about from other halflings or if they might have master craftsmen (or craftshalflings) who have built new designs.

Mostly, I'm looking for a universe that has a healthy mix today, but looks radically different if you wind time backwards and watch each ripple shrink down to the original location where that race made the jump into space.

dulsi wrote:The points of light idea from 4E is nice in that all the races get mixed together making assorted parties easy to explain.


I'm not sure that Spelljammer needs to go totally with the Points of Light thing to have a healty mix of races. The actual environment of wildspace (rather than hostile natives) forces people to live together on the relatively few asteroids, moons and planets that float in the empty void.

I actually would like to think that most spacefarers come from asteroids that have mixed communities (like London or New York in the real world) and that your average spacefaring dwarf, has eaten at a few elven, human or gnome eating establishments and knows a bit about their culture, history and language. If the mix was done this way, I could be sold on a spacefaring dwarf who thinks he has a much greater understanding of other races than a groundling dwarf. That would be far more likely to sell me on the concept that spacefaring dwarves think groundling dwarves (who have never eaten halfling plum pudding, despite the fact that it is the best food that halflings make) are a bit uncultured. The anti-groundling attitude seems a bit more believable if Asteroids are run on that sort of basis and SJ has a multi-cultural environment built into it.

However, for the full-on Ponts of Light thing, I think you are looking for spheres that are close to being totally taken over by a race like the illithids. Or a campaign arc set on occupied Spiral.
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Re: Reboot the campaign setting?

Postby Big Mac » Sun Dec 07, 2008 4:46 pm

Ashtagon wrote:On balance, I decided I won't be ripping p the xx-space books for material. That should keep the fans of the original setting happy.


Don't forget that not invalidating the original canon, is no reason for you not to steal ideas from it and repackage them as rebooted concepts that have new names, new ways of doing things and different connections to the rest of the universe.

If you have any great ideas, then just change the names, give them a makeover and make them different enough to the original concept that both of them can be used in the same game. We could (for example) benifit from a custom built "Rock of Bral" for many crystal spheres. Some spheres might even work well if they had three or four rival "Rock of Bral" locations that each are slightly different to each other.

Ashtagon wrote:I think the outline I have described so far is adequate to have the core groundling part of each of the big 3 campaign settings simply planted into whichever sphere the DM wants to party to start in. This allows several hooks...

1) Party is in an established SJ campaign, and sails in to a newly-discovered collection of spheres.

2) Party is in an established groundling campaign, and discovers SJ lore. They get a ship, fly up, and discover they are in, not the xx-space described in canon, but one of the spheres in this alternate setting.

3) Party is in a homebrew groundling campaign. As for #2 above, they get a ship, go up, and find they are in one of the spheres of this region fo space.

3) Party starts in this campaign setting. The default assumption is that they are part of one of the spacefaring cultures. if not, this more or less resolves as #2 or #3.


I'm really coming to the belief that Krynnspace should be pitched at Spelljammer for Dragonlance fans, Greyspace should be pitched at Spelljammer for Greyhawk fans, Realmspace should be pitched at Spelljammer for Forgotton Realms or Kara-Tur fans and Spiralspace should be pitched at Spelljammer for pure Spelljammer fans. This would allow the Radiant Triangle spheres to be crossover settings and Spiralspace to be the natural entry point for people who don't want to start in a crossover sphere.

On top of that I see the Arcane Inner Flow area as the expanded area that people can explore when they leave their own sphere. And if anyone wants anything different, I see SJ having "alternative areas" that contain none of the above spheres and really can reboot SJ concepts. Clusterspace did this sort of thing in a self-contained way, but if it had been placed in the middle of a new map, it could have dropped the Hotel California thing and intereacted with nearby spheres.
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Re: Reboot the campaign setting?

Postby xorial » Sat May 30, 2009 2:45 am

I'm all in favor of rebooting. Some 2e concepts are completely invalid now. The main one that sticks out are dwarves. The citadel and forge concept was to give a race without mages the ability to spelljam. They could use clerics, but that would not be very effective. 3e allows dwarves to have more traditional fleets & make the citadel into either a typical dwarven fortress, just in space; or they could still move, but become the 'Battlestar Galactaca' of a dwarven fleet/convoy.

Other races get more magic from expanded class options in this way. The whole premise of who has what really needs to be rethought when updating the setting.

As for the Rock of Bral, I agree that despite being a finely detailed city, it wouldnt be the only asteroid city, just a fine example of one that happens to be strategically important to the Elven Fleet. I am considering converting the city of Freeport into another such city.
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Re: Reboot the campaign setting?

Postby ripvanwormer » Sat May 30, 2009 4:35 pm

Big Mac wrote:However, I do think that Realmspace, Greyspace and Krynnspace have big flaws in them. I definately agree that they were written backwards. Each of these three crystal spheres puts too much focus on the groundling world. And a lot of people seem to look at these crystal spheres as containing empty planets that were settled by the races from the local groundling world instead of a fully established set of groundling worlds that (apart from one world*) joined the spacefaring community.


While I think this is true, I also think there aren't enough references to the groundling worlds in those products. Except for referencing some of the Greyhawk gods (and it even added at a non-Oerthly god, Rais, to the sphere), Greyspace has essentially nothing to do with the themes of the Greyhawk campaign. Likewise with Realmspace and the Realms. One would expect more interaction between the groundling worlds and the spheres that surround them; these spheres could have been built around essentially any D&D world and ended up the same. I think a balance should be established - yes, the worlds should be campaign settings in their own right, but they should also be tied to the groundling setting. And vice versa. I disagree with those who think that Spelljammer doesn't improve the campaign worlds it ties to; Spelljammer canon (including ancient races like the juna and so on) as an implicit part of the background of the Realms or Oerth makes the history of those settings more interesting. The history of the other worlds in the same sphere should tie into the history of the groundling world and vice versa, each enhancing the other. Krynnspace is something of an exception, since its worlds are each built around a Krynnish deity and thus are more closely tied to the setting than the worlds of the other spheres.

And here I change subjects somewhat:

I think the primary point of the three spheres described in the original boxed set was to do something like what was done with Shadow of the Spider Moon - that is, to create a complete campaign setting. And I think it largely succeeded.

A typical way of beginning a campaign setting is to look at the Player's Handbook and the Monster Manual and decide what the most prevalent monstrous and humanoid races will be, and where they come from. So, for example, the Domain of Greyhawk has nearby settlements of all the basic player races - the halflings come from Elmshire, the gnomes come from Grossettgrottell, the dwarves come from Dumadan, Greysmere, and Karakast, and the elves come from the Gnarley Forest. There are nearby ruins and entrances to the Underdark. Orcs and goblins come primarily from the bordering nation of the Pomarj, but can be found throughout the wilderness area. The same thing is also done on a continent-wide scale in the Greyhawk setting, with nations of elves, dwarves, gnomes, evil humanoids, good guys and bad guys.

In Spelljammer, this same strategy was employed, but not on a single-sphere level (as it was done in Clusterspace and the Shadow Moon campaign), but distributed throughout three closely interconnected spheres. In a way, this was the best of both worlds: there are plenty of opportunities for inter-sphere travel, but it's still a relatively contained, complete-in-itself region that can be further detailed. That's the only problem I have with treating Greyspace as the "default" sphere: as originally designed, it was only one third of the complete setting.

But with all three spheres, a lot of questions are answered. Where do the elves come from? Greela, in Greyspace. Where do mind flayers come from? Glyth, in Realmspace. Beholders come from H'Catha, orcs and goblins come from Borka, gnomes come from Krynn (and Reorx), dwarves come from Reorx, drow come from Kule, dragons come from Edill, undead come from Gnibile, sahaguin come from Conatha, greedy human merchants come from Ginsel, "oriental" humans come from Kara-Tur on Toril, halflings come from Anadia, lizardfolk and aarakocra come from Coliar, and the Grinder provides all the asteroid environments you need for just about every other Spelljamming race. Now, most of these planets aren't very good for running long-term campaigns on. That's not what they're for. They exist to provide homelands for major spacefaring races - if PCs go there, it'll generally be to interact with the leaders of the races in question, or for hit-and-run, "rescue the prisoner" type scenarios. Most of these worlds exist not from the perspective of a single campaign, like the continental and local areas in the Greyhawk setting, but to be individual realms in a single campaign. So wanting to run an entire campaign on Glyth or Greela is kind of like wanting to run an entire campaign in Elmshire or Karakast in Greyhawk. They're an integral part of the campaign setting, but not designed to support campaigns in themselves.

As the Spelljammer line progressed, new groups that needed new spheres to explain them, like the Vodoni and the scro, were invented, and that moved the perspective outwards. In this way, the original triad was similar to the "local" region in Greyhawk, and the expanded setting is similar to the continental view.

For people that prefer the expanded setting, I think a lot more work does need to be done in detailing it. And the "local" setting really isn't complete either, of course. But I think both are viable settings.

To recap, there are different levels you can build a campaign on. A single world makes a fine campaign, of course. You can then have an elf nation or an orc nation, but there's no reason to use spelljammers rather than standard airships if you're not going to venture far beyond it. A single sphere is a good playground as well, though the Spelljammer campaign was not initially designed to support this scale. With a single sphere, each race gets a world within that sphere. A limited cluster, with three or so complementary spheres, is the standard scale that was introduced with the Adventures in Space box. In this scheme, the races are each given worlds distributed around the cluster, so you have to travel between the spheres to reach each homeland. The next step is to treat entire spheres as the original setting treated individual planets. Rather than having an orc world or an illithid world, you have an orc sphere and an illithid sphere. Rather than going to Toril to find the Shou homeland, you can introduce an "orientalspace" with a single culture dominating the entire system. Later Spelljammer books used that tack, so that's why there's something of a disconnect in the setting; different products operated on different campaign scales.

Another way to do it, of course, is to have all worlds and spheres function on all scales, so that you could conceivably find all the allies and adversaries you're looking for on every world as well as having ally spheres and adversary spheres. This is probably impractical, I think. It's better to pick a scale and stick with it. For this reason, I think a campaign that works on the sphere level has to largely ignore the three "core" spheres, which were designed to work on the planetary level instead. Because their planets were supposed to be where their primary "themes" lay, they don't have strong enough themes on their own to stand out (although Krynnspace could possibly be adapted as "tinker gnome and minotaur space" in a sphere-scale campaign). In this sense, I agree with those who'd rather redesign the setting to largely ignore the Big Three campaign worlds; those worlds were designed to work on a much smaller scale, and thus don't have much to offer a large-scale campaign. They mean a lot more, proportionately, in a campaign that largely centers around just three spheres.

So! A sphere-scale campaign might look like this:

Elves come from Darnannon.
Scro come from Dukagsh.
Greatspace is the "good guy" sphere, a place for heroes to defend and villains to undermine.
Xixchil and thri-kreen come from Kreenspace.
The arcane come from Refuge.
Mind flayers are based in Falxspace.
Vodonispace is, of course, the capital of the Vodoni Empire.

...and so on. There need to be developed home spheres for races like the syllix, tsochari, etc.
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Re: Reboot the campaign setting?

Postby ripvanwormer » Sat May 30, 2009 5:40 pm

To be clear, I'm not advocating "monoculture" worlds, much less monocultural spheres, just spheres that have strong uniting themes for campaigns that work on the "spheres" scale rather than the "worlds" scale. I don't think, as written, Greyspace, Krynnspace, or Realmspace have any strong uniting themes, because they were designed to work on the "worlds" scale. That doesn't mean they couldn't be given some. Krynnspace is the easiest target, because the Dragonlance saga has very strong themes.

Krynnspace: Good, Evil, and Balance. Draconians, tinker gnomes, and minotaurs. Evil turns on itself. Relationship between gods and mortals. Dragons. The cycle of souls and faith. Free will. Hubris. Death and sacrifice.

Greyspace: Law and Chaos as forces equal to Good and Evil. A very ruthless sense of Balance. Demons and devils. Technology as an alien, intruding element. Racism and intolerance, often from "neutral" groups rather than evil ones (examples in the Greyhawk campaign include Pholtus and the Pale, Wastri, and St. Cuthbert, with the Scarlet Brotherhood as a more purely evil exemplar of racism, and the Twin Cataclysms as the logical end to the cycle of intolerance). Entropy and madness struggling for release.

Realmspace: Nature, magic, purity and corruption. The politics of the gods and Ao. The Faithless and the False. Portals and planar travel. The idea of a pristine primal condition of nature and magic that is corrupted from without or within.

Even so, it's not clear what role these spheres would play in a massively multisphere campaign that the other spheres would know them by. Krynn might be known mostly as the source of tinker gnomes, Greyspace as the local headquarters for the Elven Imperial Navy (on Greela), and Realmspace as the local homeworlds of the Shou, illithids, and beholders (and the Halruuans?). I think Greyspace needs more: perhaps it could be the origin of certain Spelljammer groups like the Seekers (since there's a centuries-old group called the Seekers on Oerth), Xenos, or the Tenth Pit.
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Re: Reboot the campaign setting?

Postby Tauster » Sat May 30, 2009 6:45 pm

Thats a fine analysis, ...but I disagree nontheless with some parts. :lol:

I don't think that planets (worlds) should, as a rule, serve as "homeland for race X" in the sense that X is the dominant race of this world.

While a large part (I'm inclined to say "most") game worlds seem to be dominated by humans (with usually the same justifications: high breeding rate, "very flexible" - whatever that means, etc.), my guess is that this is being done because the customers of these settings are humans; either they don't prefer to put themselves in the position of someone living in a world dominated by another race or many game designers just think their customers prefer human-dominated game worlds.

Another argument is that setting up a game world that is dominated by a nonhuman race requires much more thought, as this dominant race would have a culture and outlook that differs from those of humans* - which should result in a completely different environment than what you see in the Forgotten Realms, on Oerth and on Krynn.

* this applies only to the degree that racial traits are considered the rule: elves are nature-loving, dwarves dour and hardworking, gnomes love illusions, etc. I know of course that "inside a race" there should be different cultures - we humans on earth are the best (and only *g*) proof. But seriously: how often have you seen several dwarven clans who are clearly different on a cultural basis? And lets not even start with races like gnomes and halflings: Seen one halfling village, seen 'em all! :roll:

Coming up with a believable but unique setting requires many creative (i.e. new) ideas, a lot of thought and probably a lot of work - all with the uncertainty of commercial success. I think this is one of the reasons why so many exotic game settings (Al Qadim, Kara Tur, Maztica - just to name three from the Forgotten Realms who are still human-dominated but have a non-western culture theme) are abandoned rather quickly, while settings whose culture seems to be more reminiscent of the western european medieval times are stable.


...that said, back to the original topic:
I think the above is the major reason for human-dominated worlds, and I don't think this should be the rule. Worlds (planets) should be diverse, being home to a multitude of intelligent races.

If the players find a planet where one race dominates the whole world, there should be a very good reason for that. Climate is such a reason: A planet close to the sun will probably have mostly desert environments, where heat-loving lizardmen have a biological advantage over mammals (like humans). Thus, you can expect to find lizardmen being the dominant race, but I'd like to see them having developed many different cultures. Why should the tribes on one side of this world have the same customs as the ones on the other side? Heck, why should the lizards on the other side even live in tribes and not in a totally different society?

What I would propose is that, during worldbuilding, one asks himself which races are among the major and which are considered minor races - and only then start detailing further. Perhaps by making a list with all intelligent races, giving the major ones 10 realms and the minor ones 3 (I just used what numbers seem plausible; different numbers are possible of corse). Then come up with names for each realm. If you already have a global map, place them. Determine allies and enemies. Determine one cultural "main theme" for each.

...or some other way. I'm not an expert in worldbuilding, but I think that's about how I'd do it - if I'd do it systematically. Most often I just use whatever ideas comes up and try to see where it fits in. I guess I should try what I just wrote above and see if it works this way.
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Re: Reboot the campaign setting?

Postby Tauster » Sat May 30, 2009 7:02 pm

ripvanwormer wrote:To be clear, I'm not advocating "monoculture" worlds, much less monocultural spheres, just spheres that have strong uniting themes for campaigns that work on the "spheres" scale rather than the "worlds" scale. I don't think, as written, Greyspace, Krynnspace, or Realmspace have any strong uniting themes, because they were designed to work on the "worlds" scale. That doesn't mean they couldn't be given some. Krynnspace is the easiest target, because the Dragonlance saga has very strong themes.


I wrote my first posting before your second one was posted, so I originally thought you are advocating monocultures. Looks like I could have saved myself a lot of typing! :lol:

I agree about the "unifying themes", even though I'd rather call it "signature themes" or something along those lines.
Example: Mirrorspace began with NightDruid's idea of a Moon of the Month that filled the role of a "Myth Drannor in space": dangerous ruins of a fallen culture was the overall theme. This inspired the rest of us enough to come up with lots of add-ons, and now there's several planets. Even though not all of them are the same, the original theme still resonates in each of them.

Even so, it's not clear what role these spheres would play in a massively multisphere campaign that the other spheres would know them by. Krynn might be known mostly as the source of tinker gnomes, Greyspace as the local headquarters for the Elven Imperial Navy (on Greela), and Realmspace as the local homeworlds of the Shou, illithids, and beholders (and the Halruuans?). I think Greyspace needs more: perhaps it could be the origin of certain Spelljammer groups like the Seekers (since there's a centuries-old group called the Seekers on Oerth), Xenos, or the Tenth Pit.


I don't think each sphere needs a role assigned to it. Each sphere should have a unique "feel" (a.k.a. "theme"), yes. But perhaps thats about what you meant.

Does Greyhawk need more? Of course - every sphere, as written, need to be fleshed out. Apart from The Rock of Bral, I can't think of even one product from the SJ line that went enough into detail to allow the DM to use it without overly much preparation and expansion in his game. This might be because of the scale: you just cannot cover a dozen worlds (!) in 64 or 128 pages and expect the result to be "ready to play". I think this is one of the major mistakes the designers (or whoever was responsible for the SJ product line) made.

Of course all I said about detailed worlds depends on a campaign's stile. If a group prefers "planethopping", just landing in one or two spelljamming-aware ports of each world, then nobody feels bad when there isn't much around these port towns. A great DM would hint at diverse cultures and a rich history, and that might be enough to make the players believe this world is "alive". But the great danger is that each place feels generic; if you find it difficult to tell your last three landfalls apart from each other, then clearly something is missing: detailed worlds.
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Re: Reboot the campaign setting?

Postby Big Mac » Sat Jun 06, 2009 4:15 pm

xorial wrote:I'm all in favor of rebooting. Some 2e concepts are completely invalid now.


They are not invalid for the people who still play AD&D, but I know what you mean. 3e players need a new spin on things. I tend to think of part of this as the "feel of Spelljammer", so I actually like the idea of keeping most of the 2e stuff, but putting a 3e spin on it. The same goes for the 4e SJ Universe - it should not be unrecognisable.

xorial wrote:The main one that sticks out are dwarves. The citadel and forge concept was to give a race without mages the ability to spelljam.


In mythology, dwarves are often said to make magical weapons, so I have always thought that the entire non-magical thing caused a bit of a dent in my "suspension of disbelief" in D&D.

xorial wrote:They could use clerics, but that would not be very effective.


Using clerics is not so bad. A 10th level cleric generates as much Ship's Raiting as a 10th level wizard. The main drawback for clerics is that they can not regain their higher level spells in the flow, but this does not stop them from using their higher level spell slots for lower level spells.

And the errata for Spelljammer (in Dragon or Dungeon) actually states that clerics do not actually loose the spells they have stored when they sit on the helm - they just can not access those spells until they get off of the helm and break the link. So a dwarven cleric who prepared a 5th level spell, could take the helm every day and then arrive at an asteroid and still be able to use that spell (after a night's rest).

Also, don't forget that Ship's Raiting is actually only important at Tactical Speed. When a ship has nothing near it a 1st level cleric can push it along at Spelljamming Speed. So even if dwarves only had low-level clerics, they could still push Citadels around the sphere. They would not be "good in a fight", but living in a flying castle might allow the dwarves to make up for the lack of manouverability.

xorial wrote:3e allows dwarves to have more traditional fleets & make the citadel into either a typical dwarven fortress, just in space; or they could still move, but become the 'Battlestar Galactaca' of a dwarven fleet/convoy.


Dwarves definately do not work if they have no ships whatsoever. I do love The Hand of Reorx in Krynnspace. I would say that a Hammership would be a good ship for dwarves to buy from humans as it is named after a tool*. I think that dwarves would "max-out" their ships, by barding them and adding as many extra weapons as possible.

* = I know it looks like a hammerhead shark, but I still think dwarves would like the style.

Of the other ships, I think that dwarves would use the more chunky "macho-looking" ships and avoid the pretty "flimsy-looking" ships.

However, I think there is a role for the dwarven citadel that goes far beyond "getting around the 2e rules". To me the citadel is the travelling town of dwarves. With all the other races using ships, you get an implication of a "seafarer-like" culture, but I think that spacefaring dwarves should be much more like groundling dwarves than sailors.

I think this is a fundimental aspect of "Dwarves in Spaaace". TV Tropes says how SJ dwarves are the same as groundling dwarves, and I think that is the way they should be. While other spacefarers fly away from their home comforts, the dwarves are taking them with them. While other spacefarers have to stop off somewhere to get materials to do repairs, the dwarves should be able to fire up their forge and make what they need.

xorial wrote:Other races get more magic from expanded class options in this way. The whole premise of who has what really needs to be rethought when updating the setting.


I've seen a lot of stuff about how certain races (or monster races are too weak), but if they can have 1st level spellcasters they can do everything other races do except be good at running away in a fight. And running away in a fight, does not seem to be the sort of thing I would expect dwarves to do.

xorial wrote:As for the Rock of Bral, I agree that despite being a finely detailed city, it wouldnt be the only asteroid city, just a fine example of one that happens to be strategically important to the Elven Fleet. I am considering converting the city of Freeport into another such city.


I've been hanging around in our new Wilderlands forum recently, and there seems to have been some rules in Wilderlands for the spread of cities, towns, villages, hamlets and that sort of thing. I think that Spelljammer needs to have those sorts of guidelines.

I think that (almost) every sphere should have its own replacement for the Rock of Bral.
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Re: Reboot the campaign setting?

Postby Big Mac » Sun Jun 07, 2009 12:31 am

ripvanwormer wrote:
Big Mac wrote:However, I do think that Realmspace, Greyspace and Krynnspace have big flaws in them. I definately agree that they were written backwards. Each of these three crystal spheres puts too much focus on the groundling world. And a lot of people seem to look at these crystal spheres as containing empty planets that were settled by the races from the local groundling world instead of a fully established set of groundling worlds that (apart from one world*) joined the spacefaring community.


While I think this is true, I also think there aren't enough references to the groundling worlds in those products. Except for referencing some of the Greyhawk gods (and it even added at a non-Oerthly god, Rais, to the sphere), Greyspace has essentially nothing to do with the themes of the Greyhawk campaign. Likewise with Realmspace and the Realms. One would expect more interaction between the groundling worlds and the spheres that surround them; these spheres could have been built around essentially any D&D world and ended up the same. I think a balance should be established - yes, the worlds should be campaign settings in their own right, but they should also be tied to the groundling setting. And vice versa. I disagree with those who think that Spelljammer doesn't improve the campaign worlds it ties to; Spelljammer canon (including ancient races like the juna and so on) as an implicit part of the background of the Realms or Oerth makes the history of those settings more interesting. The history of the other worlds in the same sphere should tie into the history of the groundling world and vice versa, each enhancing the other. Krynnspace is something of an exception, since its worlds are each built around a Krynnish deity and thus are more closely tied to the setting than the worlds of the other spheres.


I don't actually disagree with this, but I'm shooting for something that isn't totally identical to what you are saying. (I kind of both support and oppose what you are saying.)

Krynnspace, for example, should be subtitled "The Dragonlance Crystal Sphere", and the influence of the DL gods should be felt across the sphere. But we have canon in Chapter Ten of (the novel) Beyond the Moons, that states that a spelljamming ship landed at Mount Nevermind one hundred and twenty three years ago. Now this is in the writings of Astinus of Palanthas, so I am assuming that it is the most recent ship to visit Krynn. However, Astinus would probably know that Teldin Moore would find it too difficult to travel to Taladas, so I suppose it is theoretically possible that a ship has landed there more recently.

Tinker gnomes come from Krynn...or more specifically from the Isle of Sancrist, so I would say that (and here I support what you are saying about interaction) they would take their culture out to the places they set up colonies. The sidebar on page 20 of SJR7 conflicts with this interaction thing:

SJR7 Krynnspace page 20 sidebar wrote:Keep in mind that, despite the references to "Krynn gnomes", the population of Reorx is indigenous to the planet, not a colony from Krynn. The "Krynn gnomes" are simply of the same racial type as those found on Krynn.


I personally think that this bit of canon is not right. I think that these guys should be an early colony from Sancrist. They should be a colony that has "gone native", but they should have roots on Krynn. I think they left home, landed on Reorx and many of them became farmers. But I also think that other tinker gnomes hung around the two "gnomish spelljammer ports" and that they are responsible for exporting a large percentage of the tinker gnome gadgets that can be bought in Wildspace.

What I would personally want to do with these gnomes is take the gnome culture of Krynn from "123 years before BtM"*, cut off every DL event that happened after that date and then create a new 123 history. I think that the plan (if tinker gnomes have a plan) would be to move outwards from Krynn and build "resupply colonies" that could provide gnomish ships with food, water and supplies as well as being a place where damaged gnomish ships could get repairs. I would have the colony be so successful that a second port opens up and then have the population expand outwards, with each tinker gnome port being surrounded by tinker gnome farming populations.

* = Apart from what Paul W. has done, we do not have any good canon timelines for Spelljammer (i.e. TSR did not give us anything). The official products put too much into "what is happening today" and don't really set up any established year systems. I personally think that Krynnspace would fall in with Krynn's AC (After Cataclysm) dating system as a big rock hitting Krynn would be the talk of the sphere.

On the other hand, Reorx has non-Krynnish gnomes, and I think these guys should be a race that was always native to the planet.

Now, if we look at your idea of "more interaction" and try to apply it to Krynnspace, I think we need to run through the timeline and ask ourselves, who is likely to have been taken into space on a Tinker Gnome ship? According to page 127 of War of the Lance, the population of Sancrist is 80 percent gnomes, 16 percent (Solamnic) human, 2 percent gully dwarf, 1 percent Kagonesti elf and 1 percent others.

SJR7 describes the (native) humans of Reorx as little better than barbarians**, but I think that some of the surface of Reorx should have small colonies of humans (and other races), from Krynn, that the tinker gnomes have taken into space.

** = I would personally prefer to relable these as "nomadic humans" and make them similar to the description on pages 10 and 11 of DLCS.

So I would argue that we should repeat what I suggested for the tinker gnomes and find a time in the past to take Solamnic humans into space. This means that I think that (some form of) The Knights of Solamnia should be long active in Krynnspace. However, these Knights would be the ones that got into space because they were friends to the gnomes. The "fact" that SJR7 does not give us a colony of humans on Reorx means that I would say this colonisation should be a failed colonisation.

The perfect counter for a Solamnic Knight colonisation of Reorx (and the rest of Krynnspace) would be the Mind Flayers. So I would suggest that the Star Knights (or maybe an eariler, but unrelated, group of Solamnics) fought a war in Krynnspace that was very similar in theme to DL's War of the Lance or SJ's First Unhuman War.

I think that the (good) dragons of Reorx, should have fought alongside the humans, the tinker gnomes, the native gnomes and the native dwarves. I think that one of the evil gods of Krynnspace should have done a deal with the mind flayers. I would personally pick Hiddukel (to make a change from Takhisis). Hiddukel is opposed to Reorx and one of the duties of his clerics is to present Hiddukel with a list of the people that they have corrupted or driven to ruin. I think that a Hiddukel worshipping cleric could sign a pact with a visiting mind flayer before tricking hundreds of nomadic humans into getting turned into new mind flayers and building up an army of flayers that can "help him take over the world".

I think that a "war of Krynnspace" could be something that starts off in a very similar way to the War of the Lance, and that we could put Mind Flayers into a very similar role to Draconians. We could even have dragon riding clerics of Hiddukel leading the mind flayers. I'm not too sure how much war should occur in space (and other planets) and how much should be limited to Reorx itself.

EDIT: I think that the Solamnics need to loose the war, but that the mind flayers and their allies fail to totally take over the surface of Reorx. If we are going to have the Star Knights (or Dragonhelm's Knights of Krynnspace) then perhaps we could make Reorx's Knights of Solamnia get hunted down by the mind flayers and mostly get wiped out. The survivors could become a secret society on Reorx. We could actually make them have a role more like Strider from Lord of the Rings and be people who go around training the native humans in survival skills, so that they stand some chance against the mind flayers.

ripvanwormer wrote:And here I change subjects somewhat:


In that case, I'll finish this post here and post another reply.
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Re: Reboot the campaign setting?

Postby xorial » Sun Jun 07, 2009 3:21 am

The earliest Krynn gnomes in space are not necessarily from Mt Nevermind. In the Taladas boxed set, there was a time just after the Cataclysm, IIRC, that the Gnomes of Taladas experimented with making their Citadels into flying fortresses. One of these early experiments flew straight into the sky & was never heard from again.
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Re: Reboot the campaign setting?

Postby xorial » Sun Jun 07, 2009 3:57 am

Another thought. A reboot doesn't really need to be complete a retcon. Night Druid, I think it was him, said that the setting was incomplete. It was meant to be a 'One-Shot'. Ok, let's take that premise for what it is worth & basically redo the basic set. As a 2e project, the system took certain 2e/1e elements into the design. Quite a few of these elements are rendered silly in 3e/3.5e. Races come to mind & racial ships. The Unhuman War, the first one, needs to be rethought out from a timeline standpoint (needs to actually be further in the past). The Elven Imperial Fleet needs to be fluffed out better. We can keep the spirit of the setting & basically recreate the setting.

Let's keep something in mind. If it needs to be OGL, then we really can't use everything from the old setting anyway. Even if this is a community project,we still need to think about the Product Identity aspect of anything we do with the original setting. We may not even be allowed to use the IEN, because of product identity. Maybe a similar setting, but with the particulars changed, is really what needs to be done in order to save the style of the campaign. We could 'tip our hat' to the original for the inspiration, but face the reality that the setting we all love has been effectively stolen from us.
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Re: Reboot the campaign setting?

Postby Big Mac » Sun Jun 07, 2009 5:46 pm

ripvanwormer wrote:And here I change subjects somewhat:

I think the primary point of the three spheres described in the original boxed set was to do something like what was done with Shadow of the Spider Moon - that is, to create a complete campaign setting. And I think it largely succeeded.

A typical way of beginning a campaign setting is to look at the Player's Handbook and the Monster Manual and decide what the most prevalent monstrous and humanoid races will be, and where they come from. So, for example, the Domain of Greyhawk has nearby settlements of all the basic player races - the halflings come from Elmshire, the gnomes come from Grossettgrottell, the dwarves come from Dumadan, Greysmere, and Karakast, and the elves come from the Gnarley Forest. There are nearby ruins and entrances to the Underdark. Orcs and goblins come primarily from the bordering nation of the Pomarj, but can be found throughout the wilderness area. The same thing is also done on a continent-wide scale in the Greyhawk setting, with nations of elves, dwarves, gnomes, evil humanoids, good guys and bad guys.

In Spelljammer, this same strategy was employed, but not on a single-sphere level (as it was done in Clusterspace and the Shadow Moon campaign), but distributed throughout three closely interconnected spheres.<snip>


Very good. I think you have summed up the design process very well.

More importantly, I think you have identified the flaw in the SJ design process.

I've spoken in the past about making SJ worlds self contained "as if they were campaign settings in their own right", but I don't think I have gotten across the problem as well as your sentence about SJ strategy. The fundimental problem I have with SJ design is that the assumption that "orcs come from Borka" and "elves come from Spiral" implies that Orcs do not interact with Elves unless both parties have access to spelljamming ships.

The arcane provide those ships, but lets not forget that there was a time (in the past) when the arcane were not selling ships and these races were all groundling races. I can not believe in a SJ universe where scattered races go into space and suddenly start to have a fight with their typical fantasy enemies.

ripvanwormer wrote:In a way, this was the best of both worlds: there are plenty of opportunities for inter-sphere travel, but it's still a relatively contained, complete-in-itself region that can be further detailed. That's the only problem I have with treating Greyspace as the "default" sphere: as originally designed, it was only one third of the complete setting.

But with all three spheres, a lot of questions are answered. Where do the elves come from? Greela, in Greyspace. Where do mind flayers come from? Glyth, in Realmspace. Beholders come from H'Catha, orcs and goblins come from Borka, gnomes come from Krynn (and Reorx), dwarves come from Reorx, drow come from Kule, dragons come from Edill, undead come from Gnibile, sahaguin come from Conatha, greedy human merchants come from Ginsel, "oriental" humans come from Kara-Tur on Toril, halflings come from Anadia, lizardfolk and aarakocra come from Coliar, and the Grinder provides all the asteroid environments you need for just about every other Spelljamming race. Now, most of these planets aren't very good for running long-term campaigns on. That's not what they're for. They exist to provide homelands for major spacefaring races - if PCs go there, it'll generally be to interact with the leaders of the races in question, or for hit-and-run, "rescue the prisoner" type scenarios. Most of these worlds exist not from the perspective of a single campaign, like the continental and local areas in the Greyhawk setting, but to be individual realms in a single campaign. So wanting to run an entire campaign on Glyth or Greela is kind of like wanting to run an entire campaign in Elmshire or Karakast in Greyhawk. They're an integral part of the campaign setting, but not designed to support campaigns in themselves.


In order to create conflict between two groups, I think you must put them close enough to each other for them to bump up against each other. I think you must also give them a reason to compete over the same territory. In other words, I think you need to put both orcs and elves onto the same planet.

Maybe you don't need to put both orcs and elves onto every planet, but you need to put them together in enough places for the Imperial Elves (whoever they are) to decide that "orcs are a menace to all of their elven brothers and sisters". The creation of the scro is a little bit easier, because it is a reaction to the behaviour of the IEN, but you still need that initial friction.

If you don't have that then the scro/orcs just turn into another clone of the Vodoni Empire. Fair enough, you can have some people who "discover how to spelljam and then decide to take over the universe", but you can't keep repeating the same theme for every race. I think you need to have some conflicts that start off on groundling worlds or in single spheres and then spread outwards, dragging other people into the conflict.

In other words, I think that Greyspace does need to be an entire setting by itself.

ripvanwormer wrote:As the Spelljammer line progressed, new groups that needed new spheres to explain them, like the Vodoni and the scro, were invented, and that moved the perspective outwards. In this way, the original triad was similar to the "local" region in Greyhawk, and the expanded setting is similar to the continental view.

For people that prefer the expanded setting, I think a lot more work does need to be done in detailing it. And the "local" setting really isn't complete either, of course. But I think both are viable settings.


This level of SJ play is as flawed as the original level of SJ. You have an area where the PCs can't go without being killed. But rather than this area being a country, or even an asteroid, it is elevated to the size of an entire sphere.

I think that both of these things have great potential (and they are probably some of the best hope for SJ). But I don't believe in totally dark areas. I think you need to have a little of what WotC would call Points of Light. You need to have a little hope.

What I would actually like to see is the ability to turn the Vodoni Spheres into an alternate SJ setting where players can play wereboar PCs (or other good lycanthropes) and have full-on lycanthrope vs lycanthrope action. This way, you can still have an uber-villain in control of the area, but there is still potential for good player characters to be natives.

ripvanwormer wrote:To recap, there are different levels you can build a campaign on. A single world makes a fine campaign, of course. You can then have an elf nation or an orc nation, but there's no reason to use spelljammers rather than standard airships if you're not going to venture far beyond it. A single sphere is a good playground as well, though the Spelljammer campaign was not initially designed to support this scale. With a single sphere, each race gets a world within that sphere. A limited cluster, with three or so complementary spheres, is the standard scale that was introduced with the Adventures in Space box. In this scheme, the races are each given worlds distributed around the cluster, so you have to travel between the spheres to reach each homeland. The next step is to treat entire spheres as the original setting treated individual planets. Rather than having an orc world or an illithid world, you have an orc sphere and an illithid sphere. Rather than going to Toril to find the Shou homeland, you can introduce an "orientalspace" with a single culture dominating the entire system. Later Spelljammer books used that tack, so that's why there's something of a disconnect in the setting; different products operated on different campaign scales.


To be fair, you get some of this "disconnect" in conventional RPGs. In Forgotten Realms, The Horde have an area that is far larger than Cormyr, yet each area gets about the same level of detail. And in Greyhawk, the City of Greyhawk gets more attention than most other places.

I do agree that the disconnect causes problems, but I think that it is something we need to challange, not give in to.

ripvanwormer wrote:Another way to do it, of course, is to have all worlds and spheres function on all scales, so that you could conceivably find all the allies and adversaries you're looking for on every world as well as having ally spheres and adversary spheres. This is probably impractical, I think. It's better to pick a scale and stick with it.


I disagree with this. I think that part of the advantage of Spelljammer is that the GM can control the amount of access to helms that the locals have. This means that a GM (or game designer) can easily create spheres where the local power groups have large forces, but no ability to get them off of the ground.

ripvanwormer wrote:For this reason, I think a campaign that works on the sphere level has to largely ignore the three "core" spheres, which were designed to work on the planetary level instead. Because their planets were supposed to be where their primary "themes" lay, they don't have strong enough themes on their own to stand out (although Krynnspace could possibly be adapted as "tinker gnome and minotaur space" in a sphere-scale campaign). In this sense, I agree with those who'd rather redesign the setting to largely ignore the Big Three campaign worlds; those worlds were designed to work on a much smaller scale, and thus don't have much to offer a large-scale campaign. They mean a lot more, proportionately, in a campaign that largely centers around just three spheres.


Hmm. I'd probably word this in a different way. I would say that the big three spheres were mostly a known quantity and that the local economy pretty much had every business opportunity worked out.

I agree that the spheres themselves don't stand on their own feet, but think that they could be fluffed out, instead of ignored. Each of the xxx-space products only gives a few pages to each planet. We could exploit that, by finding out what those products don't tell us about the planet and then expanding into that unwritten area.

However, in a multi-sphere campaign, I think the emphasis should be on "boldly going where no elf has gone before". I think that this level of campaign, should be about flying off of the edge of the map and finding something new.

ripvanwormer wrote:So! A sphere-scale campaign might look like this:

Elves come from Darnannon.
Scro come from Dukagsh.
Greatspace is the "good guy" sphere, a place for heroes to defend and villains to undermine.
Xixchil and thri-kreen come from Kreenspace.
The arcane come from Refuge.
Mind flayers are based in Falxspace.
Vodonispace is, of course, the capital of the Vodoni Empire.

...and so on. There need to be developed home spheres for races like the syllix, tsochari, etc.


I have been calling for homeworlds for ages, but I would like them to be the planet where the first people from that race went into space.

So I would have the EIN come from Darnannon, but have elves come from many other planets.

The scro are new, so I would have them come from Dukagsh, but I would have multiple other orc races on other planets.

Greatspace in my book is "The Hellenic Crystal Sphere" rather than the "good guy" sphere. I see it as a sphere, where people can find an entire asteroid that is inhabited by medusa. I would love for the people of Greyspace to actually find out that the Grey Sword is significantly smaller than they think it is and then to realise that most of the attacks in the asteroid belt (which I call The Great Barrier) are actually down to totally unknown groups.

I've not got too much to say on Kreenspace and Refuge.

I think that Falxspace is an essential part of Spelljammer, but I think that the Brain Eaters of Falx should not be the only mind flayer faction out there. I think we need to have local mind flayer factions that are "on the back foot" and treat Falxspace as one of the few places where the mind flayers have the upper hand.

I've already said some stuff on the Vodoni Empire.

ripvanwormer wrote:To be clear, I'm not advocating "monoculture" worlds, much less monocultural spheres, just spheres that have strong uniting themes for campaigns that work on the "spheres" scale rather than the "worlds" scale. I don't think, as written, Greyspace, Krynnspace, or Realmspace have any strong uniting themes, because they were designed to work on the "worlds" scale. That doesn't mean they couldn't be given some. Krynnspace is the easiest target, because the Dragonlance saga has very strong themes.


OK. Here is how I think we should work the themes:
  • Big (but weak) themes that can be found across all crystal spheres,
  • Medium sized (and medium strength) themes that can be found across a small cluster of spheres,
  • Small sized (but strong) themes that can be found in a single sphere and
  • Tiny (but unstoppable) themes that dominate single planets (or smaller areas).

I think that these should all overlap with the smaller themes always dominating the larger themes. In other words, I think the EIN should be a weak group that needs to win the hearts and minds of local elven kingdoms, so that they can recruit their people and get them to provide logistical support that would be impossible if the EIN needed to import everything from their home sphere.

And for the scro, I see the entire race sending out secret agents that land on worlds like Borka and, where orc nations are divided, help one orc to rise to the top and build an army that can be picked up and used as expendable troops on the local elven planet.

This means I see the EIN homeworld and the scro homeworld as akin to the real-world USA and USSR in a universe wide Cold War. (I won't say which group is like which real-world country, as I don't think the analogy needs to be taken that far.) But in the real world things like the Cuban Missile Crisis, Korean War, Vietnam War and many other "local conflicts" were actually down to super-powers sticking their oars into the small ponds. So why can't we have a SJ adventure on a small planet, where EIN and scro agitators are both trying to get "innocent" groundlings to put down an enemy that they are not really too interested in fighting?

ripvanwormer wrote:Krynnspace: Good, Evil, and Balance. Draconians, tinker gnomes, and minotaurs. Evil turns on itself. Relationship between gods and mortals. Dragons. The cycle of souls and faith. Free will. Hubris. Death and sacrifice.


This is spot on. But we don't need to just have one take on this. If you check out Taladas and the wonderful fan-created Adlatum, you will see that these same themes can be reimagined on the small scale. So why not give every Krynnspace planet a slightly different DL spin?

ripvanwormer wrote:Greyspace: Law and Chaos as forces equal to Good and Evil. A very ruthless sense of Balance. Demons and devils. Technology as an alien, intruding element. Racism and intolerance, often from "neutral" groups rather than evil ones (examples in the Greyhawk campaign include Pholtus and the Pale, Wastri, and St. Cuthbert, with the Scarlet Brotherhood as a more purely evil exemplar of racism, and the Twin Cataclysms as the logical end to the cycle of intolerance). Entropy and madness struggling for release.


One of the things about Greyspace is that the inner part is separated from the outer part by The Grinder. I think that makes Greyspace special. I almost think it could function as two zones.

So, while I agree that there should be sphere-wide themes, I also think that there should be more of a Greyhawk-theme on the inside of the Grinder and a slightly modified Greyhawk-theme in the outer parts of the sphere (or "Endless Reaches"). I think, for example, that Celestian should be a much more powerful god when you get away from Oerth. Most of the other gods should have an influence on certain worlds, but Celestian himself should be a universal god in Greyspace. When people think of Greyspace and talk of clerics, there should be an assumption that they are talking about clerics of Celestian.

ripvanwormer wrote:Realmspace: Nature, magic, purity and corruption. The politics of the gods and Ao. The Faithless and the False. Portals and planar travel. The idea of a pristine primal condition of nature and magic that is corrupted from without or within.


I think that Realmspace is far more complex than this. Kara-Tur, Al-Qadim and Maztica have given us totally different religious systems that were mostly ignored when Realmspace was built. All of these alternative-themes really need to be addressed. And if Toril can have so many cultures, then why would the other worlds of Realmspace not be as weird as Toril?

ripvanwormer wrote:Even so, it's not clear what role these spheres would play in a massively multisphere campaign that the other spheres would know them by. Krynn might be known mostly as the source of tinker gnomes, Greyspace as the local headquarters for the Elven Imperial Navy (on Greela), and Realmspace as the local homeworlds of the Shou, illithids, and beholders (and the Halruuans?). I think Greyspace needs more: perhaps it could be the origin of certain Spelljammer groups like the Seekers (since there's a centuries-old group called the Seekers on Oerth), Xenos, or the Tenth Pit.


I think that all the power groups of SJ need to have a point-of-origin and a year-of-origin.

I would be very happy to see a fair share of these groups hail from Greyspace. I agree that Krynnspace has a much stronger theme and think that the inferred blackout of clerical magic (before the War of the Lance) would have slowed down the progression of helmsmen and gave the Wizards of High Sorcery (or their spacefaring branch) a large amount of control within the sphere.

Bear in mind that Krynnspace also has a group called the Seekers. The DL Seekers are a religion, so they are not the best match, but I think the rise and fall of Krynn's Seekers should have a direct effect on SJ's Seekers. I think it would be natural for the people of Krynnspace to associate the two identically named organisations. And I also think that DL's Seekers might make the leap

Greyhawk's .Seekers of the Arcane are a far better fit for SJ's Seekers, so I think that we could wind back time, have some of the Seekers of the Arcane meet an arcane ;) and become the Seekers of Greyspace. I think that, if the Seekers left Oerth and moved into space, the fact that they would be unknown groundlings would allow them to throw of the veil of secrecy and work openly. I think that this could allow them to spread throughout Greyspace and then expand beyond their home sphere (and become a multi-sphere organisation).
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