[spell] Retain Air (missing SJ spell)

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[spell] Retain Air (missing SJ spell)

Post by Big Mac »

There are two missing Spelljammer spells, which are mentioned in the canon, but never actually written out in full. Chrysalid brought these spells to my attention in a post in the Help for translation thread.

This thread is to discuss the Retain Air spell. (There is a separate thread to discuss the other spell called: [spell] Voidscan (missing SJ spell).)

Retain Air is mentiond in the Types of Worlds, Part 3: Water Worlds sidebar, on pages 36, 38 and 40 of Lorebook of the Void. Elsewhere, I have just posted an extract, but I'm posting the entire paragraph here, because it says what Retain Air does not do, as well as what it does do:
LotV pages 38 + 40 wrote:The dangers of a water world are twofold: sinking and drowning. A ship that lands on a water world with an atmosphere has no trouble, but one that dives beneath its surface will loose its air envelope, unless the retain air spell has been used to keep the air bubble intact. Still, unless the craft has been designed for sea travel, it will sink, taking damage from the pressure and eventually rupturing from the water pressing in on the envelope. This damage is similar to the heat damage from fire bodies - an additional 1d6 points per round of sinking. Bodies and other buoyant items will tend to float as flotsam to the surface. Unless the individuals on board can swim or breathe water, they face the danger of drowning.
The factoids I get from this are:
  • Retain Air keeps the air bubble of a ship intact,
  • Retain Air does not prevent a sinking ship from taking pressure damage,
  • a ship destroyed by pressure damage will rupture and
  • If the spell fails underwater, boyant items (including bodies) will float to the surface.
Although it isn't certain, I'm guessing that a ship that ruptures will break up (as per standard rules) into a number of pieces and that the Retain Air spell would not protect these pieces. I'm thinking that it would either only protect one remaining piece of a ruptured ship or that it would fail completely.

We now know what was written about the Retain Air spell, but I would like to discuss it, and all similar effect from SJ canon (or related effects from D&D canon) with the eventual goal of creating a spell as close to what Retain Air should be as possible (and a 3e version).
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Re: [spell] Retain Air (missing SJ spell)

Post by Big Mac »

As I said over in the Voidscan thread, Static was working on a version of Retain air (and Voidscan) spell.

You can see it here: Spelljammer-L Archives - - May 2000, week 5 (#39)
Static on the SJML wrote:I havn't put this up yet bacause it's part of the air/gravity article I'm working on for the council, but here's the original post:

The Retain Air Envelope spell is mentioned in another reference -- can't remember which one -- and makes it sound like a low level priest spell. I was going to wait until I had all the specifics figured out before I posted this, but...

Retain Air Envelope (Priest 1 / Wizard 2)
Sphere: Elemental / School: Abjuration/Alteration
AE: 5 tons + 1 ton per level (or maybe 2 tons / level)
Duration: 2d4 days
Range: 10 yards

This spells isolates a certain volume of air from its surroundings. The "barrier" it forms offers only the slightest resistance to any person or thing that travels through it. All the barrier does is keep the air inside of it from mixing with the air outside. For instance, a volume of air would be unaffected even if a Stinking Cloud was cast near it. It would also keep the noxious gas inside if it the spell was cast there.

The spell's main use is to keep small shuttles and/or escape craft isolated from the main ship. If the mother ship's air was to become foul or otherwise unbreathable, the small craft wouldn't have its atmosphere affected.

Note that this spell is not useless to cast on a big ship, because it could be used to keep out the hostile atmosphere of a planet. (This effect was attributed to the helm in Maelstrom's Eye.) Here's my reasoning for everything (off the top of my head):
Spell level - In one of the references it says that a priest is usually kept onboard just to keep this spell up. This implies a "generic", low-level priest. This also seems like a mage spell, to me.
Area of Effect - The spell was mentioned under a low tonnage ship entry -- the Wreckboat. This made me think that it was mainly used on small ships.
Duration - I just got the impression that it wasn't a very long lasting spell because of the requirement to keep a priest on board to refresh it. In fact, the duration may be more like 1d6 or even 1d4 days.

<snip - Voidscan removed>
As I said in the other thread, I can't find the air/gravity article that Static was working on, so this might be something that was interrupted.
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Re: [spell] Retain Air (missing SJ spell)

Post by Dave L »

It seems to me that the article is saying that anyone protected by the spell will still die if the water pressure becomes too great - the water will press in on the bubble and compress it into a smaller and smaller volume. The ship will start to break up once the bubble is compressed to a smaller volume than the ship itself, but the bubble, and any crew contained in it, will keep sinking.

I suppose a maximum pressure/depth should be specified, at which time the bubble will rupture and explosive compression will take place on the contents. Not nice.

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Re: [spell] Retain Air (missing SJ spell)

Post by Big Mac »

Dave L wrote:It seems to me that the article is saying that anyone protected by the spell will still die if the water pressure becomes too great - the water will press in on the bubble and compress it into a smaller and smaller volume. The ship will start to break up once the bubble is compressed to a smaller volume than the ship itself, but the bubble, and any crew contained in it, will keep sinking.
I thought that at first, but the description refers to damage that occurs when you fly into a sun: "This damage is similar to the heat damage from fire bodies - an additional 1d6 points per round of sinking."
LotV pages 32 + 34 wrote: wrote:In game terms think of the fire world as being surrounded by rings or zones of heat. As the characters move closer to the centre, the heat increases. At the farthest zone there is no heat or fire damage. One zone in, living creatures take 1d6 points of damage per round, and this doubles with each ring moved into, to a maximum of 30d6 per round. Hulls take similar damage with 10 hit points equalling 1 point of hull damage. Fires will start with the first hull point of damage, and at further zones even rock will liquefy and steel will melt. The size of these zones depends on the size of the fire body, but as a rule of thumb, a body falling uncontrollably toward a sun will pass through one ring per round.
(I personally think that the world "doubles" is a mistake and that the damage would go 1d6, 2d6, 3d6...28d6, 29d6, 30d6. The reason I think this is that if you double 1 repeatedly you will get 32.)

Anyhoo, ignoring the references to fires starting and rock and steel melting you would something like this for a water world:
Adjusted water world rules wrote:In game terms think of the centre of a water world as being surrounded by rings or zones of pressure. As the characters move closer to the centre, the pressure increases. At the farthest zone there is no pressure damage. One zone in, living creatures take 1d6 points of damage per round, and this doubles with each ring moved into, to a maximum of 30d6 per round. Hulls take similar damage with 10 hit points equalling 1 point of hull damage. The size of these zones depends on the size of the water body, but as a rule of thumb, a body sinking uncontrollably toward the centre of a water world will pass through one ring per round.
I'm not sure what would happen when the ship starts to take hull damage. Perhaps windows would crack or the hull would split and cease to be watertight (neither of these things would affect a ship with the Retain Air spell).
Dave L wrote:I suppose a maximum pressure/depth should be specified, at which time the bubble will rupture and explosive compression will take place on the contents. Not nice.
I don't think you need to set a maximum pressure/depth. If you are applying pressure damage to both the crew and the ship, crewmen would start to die of pressure and the ship would eventually rupture even in a 2d6 hit point zone.

However, I think it might be worth asking how deep the zero damage zone might go. We know that standard D&D rules allow characters to swim below the surface without being crushed to death, so it doesn't make sense for them to take 1d6 if they are within a Retain Air spell.
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Re: [spell] Retain Air (missing SJ spell)

Post by Big Mac »

By the way, Evermeet: Island of Elves (which contains Spelljammer bits) treats air envelopes incorrectly and has air leaking away if a helmsman is not on the helm (when SJ canon says that air envelopes are stable even if a helmsman is not on the helm). But, although she is not correct, she clearly seems to be trying to put a lot of detail into the encounter. It doesn't really make sense for her to put that much effort in and yet be wrong. I think it is possible that Elaine Cunningham was given a copy of the Retain Air spell when she was doing her research for the novel.

I think it might be worth hunting down the passages involving air envelopes and posting them here.
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Re: [spell] Retain Air (missing SJ spell)

Post by AuldDragon »

Big Mac wrote:By the way, Evermeet: Island of Elves (which contains Spelljammer bits) treats air envelopes incorrectly and has air leaking away if a helmsman is not on the helm (when SJ canon says that air envelopes are stable even if a helmsman is not on the helm). But, although she is not correct, she clearly seems to be trying to put a lot of detail into the encounter. It doesn't really make sense for her to put that much effort in and yet be wrong. I think it is possible that Elaine Cunningham was given a copy of the Retain Air spell when she was doing her research for the novel.

I think it might be worth hunting down the passages involving air envelopes and posting them here.
It's possible to do a lot of research and still be wrong. Note also that Evermeet is canonically a book WITHIN the Forgotten Realms, written by Danilo. It's entirely possible HE got it wrong, but Elaine didn't want to correct him for our copy of the publication. :)

Also, I disagree with Static. I think this spell would be used primarily to allow a ship to explore hostile terrain (voidworlds in particular), and would maybe up the spell level to P2 and have it affect either 5 tons/level or 10 tons/level.

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Re: [spell] Retain Air (missing SJ spell)

Post by Jaid »

Big Mac wrote: However, I think it might be worth asking how deep the zero damage zone might go. We know that standard D&D rules allow characters to swim below the surface without being crushed to death, so it doesn't make sense for them to take 1d6 if they are within a Retain Air spell.
a bit of quick research tells me that normal air is mostly ok to use at depths of up to ~230 feet. for convenience, i'd say 200 feet should be the safe zone (that article also notes that individuals have varying tolerance, and advises against diving to such depths).

but that could be your starting point, at any rate.

edit: hmmm... the same article mentions that 130 feet is as far as you can go without needing to stop for decompression.

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[spell] Retain Air (missing SJ spell)

Post by TBeholder »

Big Mac wrote:I had not heard of this (missing) Spelljammer spell until Chrysalid wrote about it in her Help for translation thread.
Someone told her that this spell, and also Retain Air, were missing spells from the AD&D Adventures in Space boxed set. She found the location of the text mentioning the Retain Air spell, but so far, none of us have been able to spot a reference to Voidscan.
I have looked on the Internet, and seen a few (but not many) people talking about this lost SJ spell a long time ago, but nobody has actually said where it comes from.
I would like to read exactly what is written about Voidscan.
Does anyone know what book Voidscan is mentioned in (and the exact page it is mentioned on)? It might be in the AD&D Adventures in Space boxed set, but given that we haven't found it, it might also be in any other SJ product.
Retain Air Envelope was also mentioned in the description of Wreckboat (naturally) - Lost Ships, War Captains' Companion. Apparently it was in the internal materials from the start, but didn't get to published sourcebooks.
So here's what the search of this more full term brought to me: a message on Wizards' listserv with stats. The same on sjml.spelljammer.org. This one seems to be fanon, though developers posted there too.

MODERATOR EDIT (by Big Mac): Moved over from [spell] Voidscan (missing SJ spell) thread.

I'm just trying to keep the two threads tidy. Nobody did anything wrong.
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Re: [spell] Retain Air (missing SJ spell)

Post by Azaghal »

Welcome to the Piazza Lord Torath and TBeholder!! Sorry about the "AE" guys, I was off a bit at the time. Agreed, the spell needs some sort of defined range.

MODERATOR EDIT (by Big Mac): Moved over from [spell] Voidscan (missing SJ spell) thread.

I'm just trying to keep the two threads tidy. Nobody did anything wrong.
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Re: [spell] Retain Air (missing SJ spell)

Post by Big Mac »

TBeholder wrote:Retain Air Envelope was also mentioned in the description of Wreckboat (naturally) - Lost Ships, War Captains' Companion. Apparently it was in the internal materials from the start, but didn't get to published sourcebooks.
Welcome to The Piazza (from an illithid to a beholder :lol: )!

Thanks for the information. I'm going to have a read of Lost Ships tonight. If we examine all the related text from that book, we might be able to infer why Static was trying to develop the spell this way.

If this spell is actually in the internal materials, there is a small possibility that one of the TSR developers might have a copy somewhere. It would be nice to actually get hold of the unpublished canon version of the spell (if it exists in more than notes).
TBeholder wrote:So here's what the search of this more full term brought to me: a message on Wizards' listserv with stats. The same on sjml.spelljammer.org. This one seems to be fanon, though developers posted there too.
The "ugly" page is Oracle's own copy of the SJML and the "pretty" page is Beyond the Moons' backup of the SJML.

The person working on the spell is Static, who is an expert at Spelljammer (and the webmaster of Beyond the Moons) but this seems to be a draft version, that he posted to try to help someone who needed it before it could be finished.
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Re: [spell] Retain Air (missing SJ spell)

Post by TBeholder »

AuldDragon wrote:It's possible to do a lot of research and still be wrong. Note also that Evermeet is canonically a book WITHIN the Forgotten Realms, written by Danilo. It's entirely possible HE got it wrong, but Elaine didn't want to correct him for our copy of the publication. :)
According to the author herself, the perspective of Danilo is a part of the whole point. Which is normal for Realmslore, between these stories narrated by Malik the Seraph of Lies and Mintiper's Chapbook made of comments on comments. ;)
AuldDragon wrote: Also, I disagree with Static. I think this spell would be used primarily to allow a ship to explore hostile terrain (voidworlds in particular), and would maybe up the spell level to P2 and have it affect either 5 tons/level or 10 tons/level.
To think about it, in order to get the idea better we shall establish what it really said to do and then compare with known spells, right? So...
Assuming it's the same, two uses are to keep air envelope when it's displaced by water for landing purpose and to keep it from mixing with the mothership's on inactive boats, that is to emulate one of active helm's functions on inert vessels.
Also, "how wreckboats keep the air clean if they can't replenish it?" is an interesting question, and it's said that when a wreckboat is used as a shuttle, "A priest usually travels aboard so that the boat's retain air envelope spell can be dropped withing the world's atmohsphere, the air replenished, and then another retain spell cast before the atmosphere is left" - though this leaves more questions than answers.

:idea: To have something comparable, Forgotten Realms Adventures and Pages from the Mages got a closely related (and possibly based on it) spell:
Hold Vapor (Wiz Abj 3) stops movement/propagation of gases and vapors in AoE, including gas breath weapons and creatures in gaseous form (on failed saving throw, one try per round), even despite natural or magical winds.
AoE: 20'+10'/lvl radius globe, Range: 10'/lvl, Duration: concentration, up to 1 hour.
Now, this means 70' radius for Wiz 5 (minimum to cast) and 140' for Wiz 12 (default AD&D2 item level), which is way more than enough for either purpose: 70' sphere is 1436755 ft^3, with 100 yd^3/ton it's an envelope of a 532 ton ship (not counting the ship itself), 140' is for 4257 tons!
So, this spell "as is" is sorta overkill, but if it works in the void, it's a good way to safely shuttle lots of fresh air onto mothership or base - so much more than 20' radius created by Airsphere at the same level. I'd say that this much air, as long as it's held right on top of the ship's own envelope, should reliably prevent reaching spelljamming speed like any other excessive mass, however.

Retain Air Envelope as a variation of Hold Vapor would be: 1 level lower, indiscriminate two-way (air neither enters nor leaves) barrier, gaseous creatures still pass with saving throw, but unlike with Hold Vapor they are not prevented from transformations and strong winds may break through (level check).
Duration: 1 turn (10 min)/level, so in addition to being autonomous in the first place it starts at half Hold Vapor's top duration, but by 12 lvl reaches double.
Range: touch;
AoE lowered to 5'+2' per level (L3: 2 t, L5: 5 t, L12: 37 t, L18: 106 t) or even 5 tons per level over 2 (L3: 5 t, L5: 15 t, L12: 50 t, L18: 80 t, L22: 100 t).
Compatible with manipulations such as Permanency, Semipermanency and Persistence.
Fair enough?
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Big Mac wrote: If this spell is actually in the internal materials, there is a small possibility that one of the TSR developers might have a copy somewhere. It would be nice to actually get hold of the unpublished canon version of the spell (if it exists in more than notes).
My reasoning is that specific "retain air envelope spell (see SPELLJAMMER boxed set)" most likely means the author assumed it was there because he didn't read the release but drafts/his own copies. There was something, otherwise Ed Greenwood of all people would surely make it himself.
Big Mac wrote: The person working on the spell is Static, who is an expert at Spelljammer (and the webmaster of Beyond the Moons) but this seems to be a draft version, that he posted to try to help someone who needed it before it could be finished.
It was not the first appearance, see the same thread: Static wrote "I posted my version of it, along with some work on Voidscan to the list a long while back", then Doubting Eric complained he can't find it in the archives - in 2000 - so it must have been long while back indeed.
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Re: [spell] Retain Air (missing SJ spell)

Post by Jaid »

minor nitpick, the air envelope is not an effect of a helm, it's an effect of having mass.

non-mixing air envelopes is also not from having a helm. only using a spell like retain air will have this effect.

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Re: [spell] Retain Air (missing SJ spell)

Post by Lord Torath »

TBeholder, The only problem I see with the Retain Air Envelope spell as you have it here is the duration. At 1 turn per level, even a 20th level caster can only hold onto the air for 3 hours and 20 minutes. It needs to have a duration of several days to be at all useful for Spelljammer, especially if it's to be used to maintain the atmosphere of wreck boats while stored on their mothership.

I think I prefer the tonnage-based area of effect. It makes it more useful for exploring hostile atmospheres. I would also argue that this spell should NOT inhibit attaining spelljammer speed, or what's the use of it? If having an atmospherically isolated wreckboat on board your ship prevents spelljamming, no one would ever have one. It's been a while since I've read through my Lorebook of the Void. Do gas clouds pull you out of spelljamming speed?
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Re: [spell] Retain Air (missing SJ spell)

Post by TBeholder »

Jaid wrote:minor nitpick, the air envelope is not an effect of a helm, it's an effect of having mass.
I mean the effect of gravity plane and envelope separation. It isn't absolute of course - gravity plane can be shifted and envelope won't keep itself when quickly forced into another ship envelope or atmosphere (like in freefall).
Lord Torath wrote:TBeholder, The only problem I see with the Retain Air Envelope spell as you have it here is the duration. At 1 turn per level, even a 20th level caster can only hold onto the air for 3 hours and 20 minutes. It needs to have a duration of several days to be at all useful for Spelljammer, especially if it's to be used to maintain the atmosphere of wreck boats while stored on their mothership.
Yes, it's too short if we assume it does this on its own. But for a continuous active low-level abjuration duration significantly more than 1 hour/level is too much. On the other eyestalk, there are ways to control the spell's duration, starting from those i mentioned. On the third eyestalk, Lost Ships implied the spell is simply recast.
Lord Torath wrote:I think I prefer the tonnage-based area of effect. It makes it more useful for exploring hostile atmospheres. I would also argue that this spell should NOT inhibit attaining spelljammer speed, or what's the use of it?
Read carefully: it was about Hold Vapors. It has monstrous AoE which clearly can hold tons of air even on top of a normal ship's envelope, which is why i proposed SJ spell's AoE roughly 5^3 times less. :)
Lord Torath wrote: If having an atmospherically isolated wreckboat on board your ship prevents spelljamming, no one would ever have one. It's been a while since I've read through my Lorebook of the Void. Do gas clouds pull you out of spelljamming speed?
Planetary atmospheres do. I think whatever fits inside the ship's envelope is sort of "cargo", but mass outside counts in any form and shape.
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Re: [spell] Retain Air (missing SJ spell)

Post by glenw »

Though in no way could this be the Ratain Air spell is it interesting for comparison. The 3E Spell Compendium has the 7th level spell "Submerge Ship"

Basically the ship and all its crew are able "sail" underwater for the duration of the spell (I think it is hours per level). For that time the crew apparently opperates as if in air, as long as they stay on the ship.

This could be the template for taking a spelljammer into "inhospitable" environments

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Re: [spell] Retain Air (missing SJ spell)

Post by GMWestermeyer »

Big Mac wrote:By the way, Evermeet: Island of Elves (which contains Spelljammer bits) treats air envelopes incorrectly and has air leaking away if a helmsman is not on the helm (when SJ canon says that air envelopes are stable even if a helmsman is not on the helm). But, although she is not correct, she clearly seems to be trying to put a lot of detail into the encounter. It doesn't really make sense for her to put that much effort in and yet be wrong. I think it is possible that Elaine Cunningham was given a copy of the Retain Air spell when she was doing her research for the novel.

I think it might be worth hunting down the passages involving air envelopes and posting them here.
I spoke with her about this on FB, she was just given wrong information on Spelljammer and how helms work. If you check, she makes the same error in her Cloakmaster novel, The Radiant Dragon.

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Re: [spell] Retain Air (missing SJ spell)

Post by Big Mac »

GMWestermeyer wrote:
Big Mac wrote:By the way, Evermeet: Island of Elves (which contains Spelljammer bits) treats air envelopes incorrectly and has air leaking away if a helmsman is not on the helm (when SJ canon says that air envelopes are stable even if a helmsman is not on the helm). But, although she is not correct, she clearly seems to be trying to put a lot of detail into the encounter. It doesn't really make sense for her to put that much effort in and yet be wrong. I think it is possible that Elaine Cunningham was given a copy of the Retain Air spell when she was doing her research for the novel.

I think it might be worth hunting down the passages involving air envelopes and posting them here.
I spoke with her about this on FB, she was just given wrong information on Spelljammer and how helms work. If you check, she makes the same error in her Cloakmaster novel, The Radiant Dragon.
Oh sure. I knew she was given the wrong information. :)

I was just speculating that the wrong information and a draft of the Retain Air Envelope might have been one and the same.

I recall someone (it might have been Allen Varney) saying that there was some sort of Spelljammer packet, that was distributed to designers who worked on Spelljammer products that were being made before the AD&D Adventures in Space boxed set was published. If we could talk to someone who still has one of those, they might be able to search it to see if Retain Air Envelope is mentioned there. Elaine Cunningham is a smart lady, so if someone gave her information that suggested to her that air envelopes leak, it's possible that she might have been given that packet.
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Re: [spell] Retain Air (missing SJ spell)

Post by GMWestermeyer »

Big Mac wrote:
GMWestermeyer wrote: I spoke with her about this on FB, she was just given wrong information on Spelljammer and how helms work. If you check, she makes the same error in her Cloakmaster novel, The Radiant Dragon.
Oh sure. I knew she was given the wrong information. :)

I was just speculating that the wrong information and a draft of the Retain Air Envelope might have been one and the same.
I understand that, I'm saying it wasn't. The information she was giving said that the helm retained air and gravity. This is clear in both books, especially when the Swanship is crashed in the seas of Armistice. She doesn't remember Spelljammer that well, those were written a score of years ago, IIRC.

GMWestermeyer
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Re: [spell] Retain Air (missing SJ spell)

Post by GMWestermeyer »

Generally speaking, and I'm sorry because I get the 'fun' but you are building castles on sand here. The spells were supposed to be in the original boxed set, but they never made the final draft of a poorly edited book. That's pretty much it. I doubt if they were ever designed beyond the names. After fan debates like this one, and the reference in Lost Ships, Rian, Adam, and I (I think primarily Adam, aka Nightdruid) created a version of the spell because it fit a need and stuck in in Hackjammer. Which was a major purpose of Hackjammer, not to revolutionize Spelljammer, but clean it up a bit.

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Re: [spell] Retain Air (missing SJ spell)

Post by Birchbeer »

GMWestermeyer wrote:Generally speaking, and I'm sorry because I get the 'fun' but you are building castles on sand here. The spells were supposed to be in the original boxed set, but they never made the final draft of a poorly edited book. That's pretty much it. I doubt if they were ever designed beyond the names. After fan debates like this one, and the reference in Lost Ships, Rian, Adam, and I (I think primarily Adam, aka Nightdruid) created a version of the spell because it fit a need and stuck in in Hackjammer. Which was a major purpose of Hackjammer, not to revolutionize Spelljammer, but clean it up a bit.
I never realized that... I'm going to have to get a copy of HackJammer now review. Thanks for the info! :)

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