Lifejammer Prison ship

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Lifejammer Prison ship

Post by shesheyan » Sat May 12, 2018 12:21 pm

The other night I was watching a rerun of Master & Commander and for some reason I started thinking about Ben-Hur and slave ships. This in turn led me to think about spell jammers.

What if, only hard core criminals were plugged to the lifejammer. A life sentence of service to the royal marine. Each ship would have a roster of 20 criminals* strapped to a chair around the lifejammer. An operator would be in charge of making sure the jammer switches from one man to the other when he is at death's door. One by one they would be fed and given daily exercise by the prison guards.

As with any slave ship it also offers the possibility of escape and riot if the captives are freed somehow - traitor, structural damage to the ship, crash landing, etc.


(*I haven't done the HP math yet)
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Re: Lifejammer Prison ship

Post by Jaid » Sat May 12, 2018 10:31 pm

honestly, i'm not sure why nobody has stumbled across the idea of livestock-powered lifejammers. i mean, it doesn't have to be sapient creatures... arguably, you could stuff the coffin full of rats, and clean them and replace the rats once in a while (a job which i'm sure provides excellent motivation for the crew to not make the officers angry). or you could use cockroaches, or really any sort of pest. or you could transport live chickens and after the lifejammer kills them, there's your dinner.

in any event, one thing to remember is that iirc (i'm afb at the moment) lifejammers do have a chance of causing death as opposed to damage, so you may find yourself going through lives rather quickly even if you try to pull people out before they die (now, it may not bother some people in the setting that being lifejammer fuel is essentially a sentence to be tortured indefinitely until you're fortunate enough to die, but it should probably be limited exclusively to rather evil people).

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Re: Lifejammer Prison ship

Post by night_druid » Sat May 12, 2018 10:36 pm

Jaid wrote:
Sat May 12, 2018 10:31 pm
honestly, i'm not sure why nobody has stumbled across the idea of livestock-powered lifejammers.
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Re: Lifejammer Prison ship

Post by night_druid » Sat May 12, 2018 10:41 pm

That aside, I have to imagine there are certain limitations on minimal amount of heal that is useful for such magic; I have similar problems with the life-extending spell from Netheril. Its supposed to come across as "drain life from other humanoids to extend the life of the magic user, how horrific is that?!" but I can't help but think "why bother with humanoids? Rabbit farm and live forever!" :p
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Re: Lifejammer Prison ship

Post by AuldDragon » Sun May 13, 2018 2:39 am

I can't imagine Lifejammers are painless; forcing people in, even if they're criminals with a death sentence, should be considered an evil act. The same would probably apply to animals, IMO.

I would not allow small animals to power a lifejammer for very long.

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Re: Lifejammer Prison ship

Post by Jaid » Sun May 13, 2018 3:58 am

AuldDragon wrote:
Sun May 13, 2018 2:39 am
I can't imagine Lifejammers are painless; forcing people in, even if they're criminals with a death sentence, should be considered an evil act. The same would probably apply to animals, IMO.

I would not allow small animals to power a lifejammer for very long.

Jeff
oh, i'm pretty sure lifejammers are explicitly painful (in contrast to death helms, which are actually pleasant, but good luck getting a rat to take you where you want even if it is addicted to having the life sucked out of it). that said, while i'm not convinced dumping a swarm of locusts into a lifejammer is by any means a good act, i'm not entirely certain i'd describe it as being a particularly evil act either. individually, they probably don't even live for more than a few seconds anyways. and they don't need to power it for very long, provided you have a whole heck of a lot of them.

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Re: Lifejammer Prison ship

Post by Big Mac » Sun May 13, 2018 11:00 am

shesheyan wrote:
Sat May 12, 2018 12:21 pm
What if, only hard core criminals were plugged to the lifejammer. A life sentence of service to the royal marine. Each ship would have a roster of 20 criminals* strapped to a chair around the lifejammer. An operator would be in charge of making sure the jammer switches from one man to the other when he is at death's door. One by one they would be fed and given daily exercise by the prison guards.
There is certainly an ethical dilemma to that, and the players may wonder if it was evil or acceptable.

But I think it would make for a memorable fantasy society, so I would suggest you turn this into the "unique selling point" of one of the nations in a crystal sphere.

You could probably also do variations on this. For example, having privateers who are given Letters of Marques, authorising them to press-gang the crew of ships of the nation's enemies into Lifejammer service.

Or how about a Mezoamerican spacefarer society, where Eagle Knights and Jaguar Knights engage in Flower Wars against other groundling Mezoamerican nations, in order to capture helmsmen for their Lifejammers.

You might also want to think about a criminal justice system that sentences people to time on the Lifejammer (rather than just thinking about life sentences on the Lifejammer).

If a criminal was given a choice between 20 years in prison or 5 years running a lifejammer, you might be able to set up a situation where there are people who willingly serve as a lifejammer helmsman on a military ship. Perhaps this could even be a thing that a military court does, rather than a civil court.

And if you combined navy sentences to lifejammer service with things like getting beaten with a cat-o-nine tails, keelhauled or being forced to walk the plank, you might be able to create a context where this sentence is actually "better" than some other sentences.

It might also work (without the slavery) for a race with no spellcasting abilities. You could, for example, have a squad of Giff Lifejammer-helmsmen that each do a shift on the Lifejammer and then rotate to perform other duties (with the ship's medical officer examining the members of the squad to make sure they don't pull a shift if they are lookig ill).
shesheyan wrote:
Sat May 12, 2018 12:21 pm
As with any slave ship it also offers the possibility of escape and riot if the captives are freed somehow - traitor, structural damage to the ship, crash landing, etc.


(*I haven't done the HP math yet)
You might get the interesting scenario of a local chapter of the Pragmatic Order of Thought coming to the conclusion that they need to rescue hard-core criminals serving as slave-helmsmen.

Should the players then help the PoTs? who are usually seen as the good guys. Or should they help the nation who have been putting pirates, muderers and other nasty criminals to recapture these dangerous people and put them back where they were?
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Re: Lifejammer Prison ship

Post by shesheyan » Sun May 13, 2018 11:18 am

Big Mac wrote:
Sun May 13, 2018 11:00 am
shesheyan wrote:
Sat May 12, 2018 12:21 pm
What if, only hard core criminals were plugged to the lifejammer. A life sentence of service to the royal marine. Each ship would have a roster of 20 criminals* strapped to a chair around the lifejammer. An operator would be in charge of making sure the jammer switches from one man to the other when he is at death's door. One by one they would be fed and given daily exercise by the prison guards.
There is certainly an ethical dilemma to that, and the players may wonder if it was evil or acceptable.

But I think it would make for a memorable fantasy society, so I would suggest you turn this into the "unique selling point" of one of the nations in a crystal sphere.

You could probably also do variations on this. For example, having privateers who are given Letters of Marques, authorising them to press-gang the crew of ships of the nation's enemies into Lifejammer service.

Or how about a Mezoamerican spacefarer society, where Eagle Knights and Jaguar Knights engage in Flower Wars against other groundling Mezoamerican nations, in order to capture helmsmen for their Lifejammers.

You might also want to think about a criminal justice system that sentences people to time on the Lifejammer (rather than just thinking about life sentences on the Lifejammer).

If a criminal was given a choice between 20 years in prison or 5 years running a lifejammer, you might be able to set up a situation where there are people who willingly serve as a lifejammer helmsman on a military ship. Perhaps this could even be a thing that a military court does, rather than a civil court.

And if you combined navy sentences to lifejammer service with things like getting beaten with a cat-o-nine tails, keelhauled or being forced to walk the plank, you might be able to create a context where this sentence is actually "better" than some other sentences.

It might also work (without the slavery) for a race with no spellcasting abilities. You could, for example, have a squad of Giff Lifejammer-helmsmen that each do a shift on the Lifejammer and then rotate to perform other duties (with the ship's medical officer examining the members of the squad to make sure they don't pull a shift if they are lookig ill).
shesheyan wrote:
Sat May 12, 2018 12:21 pm
As with any slave ship it also offers the possibility of escape and riot if the captives are freed somehow - traitor, structural damage to the ship, crash landing, etc.


(*I haven't done the HP math yet)
You might get the interesting scenario of a local chapter of the Pragmatic Order of Thought coming to the conclusion that they need to rescue hard-core criminals serving as slave-helmsmen.

Should the players then help the PoTs? who are usually seen as the good guys. Or should they help the nation who have been putting pirates, muderers and other nasty criminals to recapture these dangerous people and put them back where they were?
Very helpful post. A lot the reflect on and many possible adventure hooks. I'll be using this type of ship in my Blackmoor campaign in September.
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Re: Lifejammer Prison ship

Post by Big Mac » Sun May 13, 2018 4:46 pm

The write up (on pages 38-39 of Concordance of Arcane Space is careful to say that the Lifejammer is an evil type of helm. I'd say that willfully forcing another person into one (criminal or not) would count as an evil act.
Jaid wrote:
Sat May 12, 2018 10:31 pm
honestly, i'm not sure why nobody has stumbled across the idea of livestock-powered lifejammers. i mean, it doesn't have to be sapient creatures... arguably, you could stuff the coffin full of rats, and clean them and replace the rats once in a while (a job which i'm sure provides excellent motivation for the crew to not make the officers angry). or you could use cockroaches, or really any sort of pest. or you could transport live chickens and after the lifejammer kills them, there's your dinner.
I don't think that the idea of filling a helm with small creatures would work. CoAS says this:
Concordance of Arcane Space, Page 39 wrote:A lifejammer engine gives the ship an SR as if the creature placed within was a wizard using a minor helm. A lifejammer drawing energy from an 8th level fighter, for example, will operate as if an 8th level mage was at the helm.
Everything I see about spelljamming says that an individual operates the helm. So, IMO, only one creature put into the lifejammer can act a a helmsman.

And if a creature has less than one level, they would not generate any SR anyway.

I might still say that the lifejammer drains the life out of chickens, rats or cockroaches, but I wouldn't have the ship move.

There is nothing in the text about what happens to a creature that a lifejammer kills, but if you drained the life out of a chicken, with a lifejammer, I would houserule that the meat was spoiled by the process.
Jaid wrote:
Sat May 12, 2018 10:31 pm
in any event, one thing to remember is that iirc (i'm afb at the moment) lifejammers do have a chance of causing death as opposed to damage, so you may find yourself going through lives rather quickly even if you try to pull people out before they die (now, it may not bother some people in the setting that being lifejammer fuel is essentially a sentence to be tortured indefinitely until you're fortunate enough to die, but it should probably be limited exclusively to rather evil people).
Here is what CoAS says:
Concordance of Arcane Space, Page 39 wrote:For every day of operation, the lifejammer sucks 1-8 hit points from the target. These hit points cannot be regained by healing while the individual is within the lifejammer. In addition, for every day of operation (or part thereof) the lifejammer's victim must save vs death or perish. An individual with god hit points and saving throws is preferred, but a ready supply of weak characters can be jus as useful.
The "part thereof" on the save vs death is interesting. One second is part of a day. I would be tempted to say that the save vs death should be rolled when a victim is put into the lifejammer (and the door is closed).

As for the hit points that are drained, I find it interesting that 1d8 is also the time taken to warm up a spelljamming helm. I would houserule that the same 1d8 represents both the warm-up time and the hit points drained by the victim within the helm. Therefore, I would roll the damage at the start of the shift, and if a victim had 3 hit points and the warm-up time was 6 rounds, I would have them die before the helm finished warming up.
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Re: Lifejammer Prison ship

Post by AuldDragon » Sun May 13, 2018 5:28 pm

Goblins and kobolds, who are less than 1 Hit Die, can be put on the helm. They're less than one Hit Die. I think it would be reasonable to limit it to half-hit die creatures and above, though.
Big Mac wrote:
Sun May 13, 2018 4:46 pm
As for the hit points that are drained, I find it interesting that 1d8 is also the time taken to warm up a spelljamming helm. I would houserule that the same 1d8 represents both the warm-up time and the hit points drained by the victim within the helm. Therefore, I would roll the damage at the start of the shift, and if a victim had 3 hit points and the warm-up time was 6 rounds, I would have them die before the helm finished warming up.
Pretty sure the 1d8 warmup time is not canon.

To be honest, I'm not even sure where it came from in *our* game, because I don't think I ever said that. But it seemed reasonable so I rolled with it. :)

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Re: Lifejammer Prison ship

Post by shesheyan » Sun May 13, 2018 6:24 pm

Big Mac wrote:
Sun May 13, 2018 4:46 pm
The write up (on pages 38-39 of Concordance of Arcane Space is careful to say that the Lifejammer is an evil type of helm. I'd say that willfully forcing another person into one (criminal or not) would count as an evil act.
Letting a person rot in an oubliette half-forgotten and barely fed was common practice by lawful governments of the middle-ages. Others were quartered, hanged, beheaded, impaled or burned at the stake... the punishment fit the crime. I wouldn't say they were evil governments unless these things were done in bad faith, or with a toxic political agenda. I'd rule the Lifejammer is a Lawful Neutral punishment. If you want to make it less cruel you could say that if the condemned survives a period of X time, he his freed, having served his sentence to the fullest.

In such a case the person being drained wouldn't be the pilote. Only the gaz used to propel the ship. The life force is forwarded to an accumulator which the navigator uses by pushing pedals, pulling levers and a steering wheel.
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Re: Lifejammer Prison ship

Post by AuldDragon » Sun May 13, 2018 6:28 pm

The real world doesn't have codified forces of good, evil, law, and chaos. Comparing what was done in the real world is not the best for the game, where those are real, concrete forces.

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Re: Lifejammer Prison ship

Post by shesheyan » Sun May 13, 2018 7:43 pm

AuldDragon wrote:
Sun May 13, 2018 6:28 pm
The real world doesn't have codified forces of good, evil, law, and chaos. Comparing what was done in the real world is not the best for the game, where those are real, concrete forces.

Jeff
I'm well aware of that. What I'm saying is that I don't see lifejammer as automatically Evil. The apparatus doesn't have to be pain inflicting. I won't follow what is written in the books for my campaign anyway - I don't have much use for canon style play. I was looking for inspiration and got many good suggestions. ;)
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Re: Lifejammer Prison ship

Post by Jaid » Mon May 14, 2018 1:40 am

swarms are sometimes treated as individual creatures that have an assigned hit dice value, so i see no particular problem with lack of individual hit dice. other swarms that aren't assigned hit dice are assigned hit points... and the game has rules whereby a certain number of added hit points count as a hit die.

i likewise see no concerns with multiple pilots; in a lifejammer, the person you shove into the box isn't the pilot, they just determine the effectiveness of the pilot. it might be a concern in a death helm, where the person being drained is the pilot.

again, it's probably a somewhat murky moral issue. but my litmus test for whether something is evil or not starts with asking whether i would be condemning it as evil if they weren't getting a mechanical advantage from it... so, for example, if you stepped on a bug deliberately, without being threatened by that bug, and didn't particularly care whether it died instantly or over the course of a few minutes (ie giving it a painful death rather than a clean one), i would not consider you evil. not even if you did it a bunch of times. a bit obsessed, maybe, but not evil.

so, my inclination is that using insects to power a helm is probably not an inherently evil act. i'd let you crush a locust just because you feel like it without having any impact on your alignment, so i'm not inclined to have it matter in this case either.

i also probably wouldn't have the lifejammer not function for the day if the person died. it got its energy, after all (i would have the save vs death result in the death of a lot more members of the swarm than the hp value would indicate though).

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Re: Lifejammer Prison ship

Post by AuldDragon » Mon May 14, 2018 3:06 am

Treating a swarm of insects as one creature for the purpose of a lifejammer feels like abusing the game rules. The description of the helm speaks of putting a creature in it, not multiple creatures, and logically, insects shouldn't have enough life force to power more than a board of wood.

Hit points on top of hit dice shouldn't count as hit dice, because they're not hit dice. They're to make a creature a better combatant than their hit points/hit dice would indicate. They do help in that they can make their saving throws better. A spell that can affect 8 hit die creatures, but not 9, can usually still affect an 8+8 HD creature (unless specified in the text that it can't). So an 8+8 HD creature shouldn't function as a 9 HD creature.

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Re: Lifejammer Prison ship

Post by Jaid » Mon May 14, 2018 6:05 pm

hmmm... pretty sure there's a rule that specifically says anything with a +4 or more to their hit dice counts as having one more hit die than it actually has, at least. maybe that's only for a specific rule though. i'll see if i can track it down later.

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Re: Lifejammer Prison ship

Post by AuldDragon » Mon May 14, 2018 6:29 pm

That is true, but only for saving throws. For every 4 bonus hit points (or portion thereof), the creature is calculated as if it were one Hit Die higher. For THAC0, +3 or higher (but any amount higher) counts as another Hit Die for calculating THAC0. And a +1 shifts the creature to the next higher base Experience value. But these are all specific mechanics, not generalities. Individual spells that affect creatures based on Hit Dice may or may not operate differently based on bonus hit points, but these are called out in the spell description. For example, bonus hit points do not matter for the Sleep spell, except for the upper limit of the spell (4+2 HD creatures can be affected, 4+3 can never be affected). Otherwise, creatures of 2 HD, 2+1 HD, or 2+12 HD all function as 2 HD creatures for adding up the total HD affected. Since the Lifejammer makes no specific distinction between 8, 8+1, or 8+8, they're all 8 HD for determining SR.

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Re: Lifejammer Prison ship

Post by Jaid » Mon May 14, 2018 10:15 pm

the lifejammer also doesn't have any specific text that it doesn't treat creatures that are counted as a certain hit die value as not being that value, which means one way or another there are swarms that you can pull the trick off with because some swarms don't just have a certain number of hit points, they explicitly say to treat them as a creature of a certain hit die (i recall tracking down a rat swarm somewhere with this mechanic, can't recall if it was MM or elsewhere).

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Re: Lifejammer Prison ship

Post by night_druid » Mon May 14, 2018 10:33 pm

"Swarms" weren't really much of anything at the time SJ was written, so the rules weren't really written with them in mind ;)

I certainly could see owners of lifejammers trying to use swarms to power their helms. I sorta see them as being the type that would try anything to power that thing and, most importantly, keep themselves off the blasted thing. Would it work? Eh, maybe, maybe not. All depends on context of the game, I think. Cheap way for PCs to get SR 10? Naw, not gonna work. A rat horde might power the ship for a few days, kill off all the rats, and get them maybe SR 1 or 2. Something to that effect. Good way to clean the ship of rats, but poor way to power a ship.
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Re: Lifejammer Prison ship

Post by Jaid » Mon May 14, 2018 10:41 pm

well, the rat swarm i saw was i think 4 HD, which as i recall for a lifejammer is SR 1.

still, that's SR 1 and being able to travel at spelljamming speeds :P

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Re: Lifejammer Prison ship

Post by night_druid » Mon May 14, 2018 10:47 pm

Eh, I'd not have a problem with it. The rats would all be dead in a week, anyways; I'd rule that a good chuck would die per day as the helm sucked the life from them :)
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Re: Lifejammer Prison ship

Post by Jaid » Tue May 15, 2018 2:21 am

night_druid wrote:
Mon May 14, 2018 10:47 pm
Eh, I'd not have a problem with it. The rats would all be dead in a week, anyways; I'd rule that a good chuck would die per day as the helm sucked the life from them :)
well sure, but that just means you need more rats, same as you might need more of other things to fuel the lifejammer if you weren't using rats :P

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Re: Lifejammer Prison ship

Post by AuldDragon » Tue May 15, 2018 3:38 am

Jaid wrote:
Mon May 14, 2018 10:15 pm
the lifejammer also doesn't have any specific text that it doesn't treat creatures that are counted as a certain hit die value as not being that value, which means one way or another there are swarms that you can pull the trick off with because some swarms don't just have a certain number of hit points, they explicitly say to treat them as a creature of a certain hit die (i recall tracking down a rat swarm somewhere with this mechanic, can't recall if it was MM or elsewhere).
The description of the Lifejammer always uses the singular when describing what can be used with it:

"The lifejammer is a very specialized and evil type of spelljamming helm which feeds off the life energy of an individual placed inside (usually against his will). The lifejammer can function on any creature with hit points, but drains the life out of the creature placed within."

Swarms aren't individuals, and the individual members of the swarm usually don't have hit points (if they do, it is 1-2 or a fraction of 1). Since there are special lifejammers built to handle large creatures like krajen, kindori, and dragons, I would expect that if normal insects or rats worked, that would have been done already. There's no indication that it should work, plenty to indicate it shouldn't, and doing something just because a game mechanic technically allows it is, IMO, a bad way to handle questions of the game.

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Re: Lifejammer Prison ship

Post by Jaid » Tue May 15, 2018 6:04 am

swarms aren't individuals, but some swarms are *treated* as individuals. if we're going with "here's how it works, because the rules say so", then a swarm that is treated as an individual creature should work, even if it is not actually an individual creature.

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Re: Lifejammer Prison ship

Post by Dalillama » Tue May 15, 2018 7:05 am

But that's not what the rules say; the ruleset that included Lifejammer helms doesn't say anything of the sort about swarms.

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