The Nature of Space and Magic

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The Nature of Space and Magic

Postby xorial » Sun Jul 03, 2011 8:20 pm

Jeff Grub mentioned in his blog that TSR made the decision not to use æther as an explanation for space travel in Spelljammer. He had his reasons at the time, but I see that using this would actually better explain many things in a fantasy based world. With that disclaimer, here we go.

Æther in Greek mythology is one of the Protogenoi, the first-born elemental gods. He is the personification of the upper sky, space, and heaven, and is the elemental god of the "Bright, Glowing, Upper Air." He is the pure upper air that the gods breathe, as opposed to the normal air mortals breathe. According to ancient and medieval science æther is the material that fills the region of the universe above the terrestrial sphere.

I propose this usage of æther be used to define magic. Æther is the medium of magic. As a medium used in this manner, magic is easier explained. Dead magic areas have somehow been purged of æther. Magic is the manipulation of this medium. Wizard use science, sorcerers use personal connection, clerics borrow from the gods, and psions manipulate it with the mind. Æther can be used by GMs, or ignored. Not all cultures need to be aware of the medium to use it.

How does this help Spelljammer? Helms are the device through which the medium of Æther is transformed to interact with the physical world. Using this model, we can change helms from a power source to a control device. Casters would not lose their spells. It would be a device for casters, but still allow those with Use Magic Device to attempt control. Helm use can impose fatigue and other conditions for usage, which in turn may limit spell usage. This can also enhance a spellcaster. Feats can be incorporated for magic use while using a helm, akin to natural spell for druids. One can be made for delivering touch spells to anyone touch the vessel. Not enhancing the spells, but allowing a shocking grasp to be delivered to a foe sneaking behind a friend. Or, casting a cure spell to a badly injured crewman.

I may post other thoughts on the subject, later.

MODERATOR NOTE (by Big Mac): Thread not really related to Beyond the Moons' 3e conversion process. Moving to main SJ forum.
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Re: The Nature of Space and Magic

Postby Big Mac » Tue Aug 16, 2011 7:44 pm

xorial wrote:Jeff Grub mentioned in his blog that TSR made the decision not to use æther as an explanation for space travel in Spelljammer. He had his reasons at the time, but I see that using this would actually better explain many things in a fantasy based world. With that disclaimer, here we go.


I read that blog entry too. It was pretty interesting. IIRC, he avoided going with something like æther, as it had already been done elsewhere.

I generally like Jeff Grubb's quirky decisions for SJ, as they all add up to give it a character.

xorial wrote:Æther in Greek mythology is one of the Protogenoi, the first-born elemental gods. He is the personification of the upper sky, space, and heaven, and is the elemental god of the "Bright, Glowing, Upper Air." He is the pure upper air that the gods breathe, as opposed to the normal air mortals breathe. According to ancient and medieval science æther is the material that fills the region of the universe above the terrestrial sphere.

I propose this usage of æther be used to define magic. Æther is the medium of magic. As a medium used in this manner, magic is easier explained. Dead magic areas have somehow been purged of æther. Magic is the manipulation of this medium. Wizard use science, sorcerers use personal connection, clerics borrow from the gods, and psions manipulate it with the mind. Æther can be used by GMs, or ignored. Not all cultures need to be aware of the medium to use it.

How does this help Spelljammer? Helms are the device through which the medium of Æther is transformed to interact with the physical world. Using this model, we can change helms from a power source to a control device. Casters would not lose their spells. It would be a device for casters, but still allow those with Use Magic Device to attempt control. Helm use can impose fatigue and other conditions for usage, which in turn may limit spell usage. This can also enhance a spellcaster. Feats can be incorporated for magic use while using a helm, akin to natural spell for druids. One can be made for delivering touch spells to anyone touch the vessel. Not enhancing the spells, but allowing a shocking grasp to be delivered to a foe sneaking behind a friend. Or, casting a cure spell to a badly injured crewman.


Have you read about The Weave (and Shadow Weave) from Forgotten Realms? That seems to be very similar to what you are talking about. Only there, The Weave is an aspect of the local deity of magic (and the Shadow Weave is an aspect of her rival), rather than a generic thing that is found on other D&D worlds.

Perhaps the concept of æther could be used to good effect in Greatspace, where the Protogenoi could be tied into the local cosmology model and a new spin could be put onto The Great Wheel. And Greatspace's new "scientific sages" could attempt to spread their scientific theory of æther to other crystal spheres. Although, like other theories, it would have other groups that ignore it, dispute it or violently disagree with it.
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Re: The Nature of Space and Magic

Postby Davane » Thu Sep 22, 2011 3:16 am

Who actually came up with the idea that helms are a power source? Does that mean that Spelljammers are technically classed as major/unique artefacts? Because if helms are power sources of magic, that makes them basically like the many magical sources of power available in D&D already, and opens up a new range of possibilities, including the helmcaster, a spellcaster who gains their magical abilities directly from the power of the spelljammer helm, possibly considering a specific spelljamer a bonded artefact like a psicrystal or something.

But this is all digression, because I think helms really work best as control mechanisms, that can run on a number of different sources, which opens the ability of aether as being just one potential source. Of course, it also means other power sources might also exist, and you could have faithjammers, bloodjammers ("Blood for the Blood Ship!"), and all sorts of other interesting means of getting around...
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Re: The Nature of Space and Magic

Postby Havard » Thu Sep 22, 2011 9:54 am

Helms arent really power sources, they only allow spellcasters to channel their magical power in a certain way. That's not to say that Helms arent powerful.

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