Big Mac wrote: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 fundamental 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.
Since Oerth and Toril both have orcs and elves sharing the same lands on the same world for centuries or millennia (the exact dates are fuzzier in the case of Oerth), I don't think this is a problem in Greyspace or Realmspace, or the Greyspace-Krynnspace-Realmspace triad that comprises the original Spelljammer campaign setting (such as it was). It's not a problem in Shadow of the Spider Moon either, since in that setting the conflict is between dwarves and orcs (who shared a homeworld), not elves and orcs. It would be a problem in a hypothetical Spelljammer setting that excised Oerth and Toril from itself but retained the Unhuman War background history.
I assume that the animosity between elves and orcs that eventually led to the Unhuman War originated on a groundling world somewhere. In my Greyspace history, it actually originated in the Adri Forest on Oerth, with the elves banishing their foes (not all the orcs in the world, obviously, but all the ones in the area) to another world, resulting in the origin of the orcs and goblinoids of Gorka (the world had been inhabited before, but not by orcs and such), so that when the orcs and goblins acquired spelljamming technology they had a millennia-old grudge against their ancient enemies stemming from memories of long-ago banishment.. That's not intended to be the only time such an interplanetary feud began, just how it began in Greyspace.
Of course, more broadly the animosity originated as a personal feud between the deities Gruumsh and Corellon Larethian, dating back before their respective races even existed.
In other words, I think that Greyspace does need to be an entire setting by itself.
I'm afraid I'm not sure how that sentence related to the ones that preceded it. You were explaining that you think elves and orcs have to exist on the same worlds in some areas. I think you made a good case, and I agree with you. Are you suggesting that Greyspace has to be a setting that's playable independently from its neighboring spheres, or simply stating that you believe it needs to be as detailed as a campaign setting typically is? I don't necessarily agree with either conclusion. I certainly want Greyspace to be detailed much further (and this is a goal I've set for myself), but I don't think it's essential. I think a campaign where Greyspace is detailed only a third as much, with the other two thirds of the energy spent on Krynnspace and Realmspace, would be just as reasonable. I think setting up the setting so that Greyspace requires the other two spheres to complete it is a valid way of doing things, and perhaps even desirable because it encourages inter-sphere travel. I kind of like the idea that the PCs are forced to travel to neighboring spheres in order to find the headquarters of all the allies and enemies that are major elements of the campaign. By spreading the primary action of the setting throughout several spheres, the PCs interact with more of Spelljammer's features (phlogiston navigation, portals, and things like slightly differing magical mechanics in each sphere).
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 agree that this isn't ideal, but I don't think it's necessarily a dealbreaker. The more worlds there are in a campaign, the more worlds can be declared "off limits" (under most circumstances or at least lower levels) while still leaving plenty of other worlds where the primary action takes place. In a campaign where there are only two worlds (or two spheres, or two nations, or two villages), having one of them utterly unapproachable is a big deal. In a campaign with dozens of worlds, a single world isn't as necessary. The larger a scale your campaign is built on, the broader a brush you can use to paint individual worlds and cultures.
To some extent, the existence of "death worlds" can add verisimilitude to a campaign. I think it's "realistic" that, in a vast universe, there are a few places where characters simply can't go. The alternative - that every known planet just happens to exist in the narrow range where standard characters can readily exist - seems like it would potentially interfere with the suspension of disbelief.
So while I agree that it might be fun to add pockets of resistance to Glyth (for example) where PCs don't have to worry about having their brains eaten, I think it's also a valid approach to say that Glyth is simply unavailable to any but extremely high-level adventurers who can handle it. For others, it simply exists as a way to explain where all (or some of) the mind flayers are coming from.
I'm partly just playing devil's advocate here; I certainly have no problem with adding more variety to Glyth or any other world.
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.
That sounds like fun.
To be fair, you get some of this "disconnect" in conventional RPGs.
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.
Part of me would rather that was left a mystery. Where did the first orcs achieve spelljammer flight? No one remembers, perhaps not even the arcane. But about a thousand years ago, space-traveling fleets of orcs from a variety of worlds first allied into a semi-unified force under the reign of Kargan Jenkror.
I don't think there's necessarily anything wrong with saying definitively, "In the year 1202, the arcane first contacted Kargan Jenkror of Gorka and offered his people a way into space. From there, Jenkror's minions traveled from world to world, recruiting more of their kind to their cause."
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?
Granted. This is especially true of Kara-Tur, since it's that part of the world, not Faerun, that has the largest presence in the Spelljammer setting. I also think that perhaps Kara-Tur and Zakhara should better reflect Faerun's themes, however.
There should certainly be more variety on the other worlds in the system, but I think, as I said above, it's okay to paint them with a broader brush than you would in a groundling campaign that's only set on a single world. The level of detail you'd give a world in a single-world campaign is simply not as necessary in a campaign with many worlds. That doesn't mean that including a variety of factions, philosophies, races, and cultures in a world isn't useful. It is. Falx could have several distinct cultures of illithid, for example (perhaps one considerably more conquest-oriented, and another more trade-oriented), several different religions and philosophies (gods other than Ilsensine, godless illithids, etc.) and more information on other races such as aboleths that might share the world.
I don't mind the idea of most of the Spelljammer factions originating in Greyspace, and I agree that it's very possible that the Seekers of the Arcane became the Seekers of the Spelljammer setting. Associating them with Krynn's own Seekers in Krynnspace is an intriguing idea for local flavor. Exactly how much you want your campaign centering around (or centered in) Greyspace depends on how much motivation you want to give the PCs to travel elsewhere. If you want them to travel between all three local spheres fairly evenly, it makes sense to spread the points of origin around somewhat.