More Fun, In Space

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My son and I went to Nuke-Con this past Saturday. I am hoping that next year we will get more time to game. He could only attend from about 3pm - 8pm due to an overnight camping trip Friday and a library event on Sunday. Still, he comes up with a few gems no matter where we are.

Tonight I reminded him about the Howerter post. I mentioned it because I shared that I was proud of him for being imaginative. Before I could say much more, he looks at me and says,

What if the dolphins could make their own bubbles and float into the sky? Why not into outer space?

See, I've been sitting around trying to figure out the ecology of some kind of huge creature that floats in the atmosphere due to a huge air bladder filled with hydrogen. I figured that it goes into low-orbit to escape predators, thus humans take advantage of these creatures to fly into outer space.

While I am pondering the questions of how and why, my son asks the most important question in any game: Why not?

I posted about a race of dolphins that adventured on land because I like ideas that are so far removed from anything I could invent. The more I thought about it, though, I wondering why they would go through all the trouble to create the equipment necessary to adventure on land. On land, they can use swords, but they can't take them home. Even if they did, they serve no purpose. Potions don't work underwater either. Many spells do not function or cannot be controlled underwater. Again, why would they bother?

To see what's there.

I had to admit to myself that OSR games that I play are similar. Why does a group of sentient folks adventure in the Elemental Plane of Fire Seriously, the plane of Fire. In my 1e days, we went to the Plane of Magma. Why did TSR actually make a book about adventuring in Hell?

Why not? My high school group went to Tiamat's lair just to knock on the door. They went off the map in Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth just to see what was North and West. Spell research turned out to be mostly useless in game play, but it was great to have spells like Itchy Teeth, Boomerang Sword, and Explosive Diarrhea. I think one of the guys actually tried to make evil Ioun Stones and launch them in a sling against various monsters. (Critical fail and the stone circled his head draining hit points until the Cleric stopped laughing and cast Remove Curse.)

So, I look forward to sailing the spaces between the stars in a small crystalline sphere. With a dolphin. Maybe the bubble can somehow interface with another's ship navigation system. The dolphin are mildly psionic, so why not?

For what it is worth, Explosive Diarrhea did get one use in play. The mage cast it on Iuz the Evil and he failed the save. Mind you, it didn't save the party, but at least one researched spell actually worked.

Let Me Tell You About Spelljammer

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The primary reason that I love Spelljammer so much is that it provides an in-game reason to mix together elements of multiple settings, genres, and ideas. Our high school group rotated GM duties and having Spelljammer allowed us to add and remove just about anything. The overpowered laser pistols from the last adventure?

They only work on the planet you just left. Considering that you are being chased by half of all organized crime on that world, going back isn't really an option. You might get a decent price from the Mintakans† - they tend to be less discerning than the Arcane.

Then there was the third group of Gith followers, the Githxaren. They were neutral in the struggle between Githyanki and Githzarei. They drifted in and out of the Ethereal Plane quietly building a peaceful homeworld away from the mind flayers and the other Gith. Since they were based off the Githyanki and Githzerai in Fiend Folio, they basically had the same limitations, but they also had a druid-paladin type of class that I have since lost to time and several moves.

On the home world where all the PCs began before heading off into space,there was one mech from Battletech, an ancient Atlas that had just enough energy to launch either one shot of the PPC or a short-range missile. I put it there to battle the Tarrasque if the players managed to wake it up. (They never did.)

I had my minotaur cleric from Krynn, but others had human fighters, thieves and magic-users that wouldn't have raised an eyebrow. There were worlds with all sorts of odds and sods from all over. Yes, I had the giant space hamsters, gnomish ships (though I claimed that they were from Krynnspace). The name Iuz was thrown around a lot as if Greyspace didn't have enough issues with an evil demigod. There were time travelers, grey aliens and even Voyager I (though the PCs never found it).

If that wasn't enough, then a trip through the Phologiston would bring you to Space 1889 (Thanks Polyhedron 73-74!). There were zat (SJR4 Practical Planetology) found here and there in every sphere. You could find scro and nilbogs just about everywhere, whilst orcs and goblins were pretty rare. Did I happen to mention the phraints and the planet of the gorilla bears?

We Get It: Spelljammer is Gonzo

Well there is that, but I didn't always run it that way. Some adventures were  cargo missions and many were just exploratory. Things really didn't get really weird until we all went to the Outer Planes. The point is that I felt free to add things I liked, but I had a convenient way to remove things from play if I needed to. In some ways, it was like continuity in the Doctor Who universe - The Great Paradox is that there is no Great Paradox.

I overthink settings quite a bit. Recently I posted about generating a reason for Clerics to use maces instead of edged weapons that required a rewrite of ancient history where mankind skipped the bronze age due to a lack of copper. This further necessitated that the universe uses tin pieces and that copper pieces are used the way most people use silver pieces. Once the iron age came...

I can get lost in all of that because I want something to be internally consistent and passingly logical.

With Spelljammer, elements of the universe simply exist without explanation or reason. You could try, but why bother?

Who built the great Spelljammer ship? While you spend time in the Library at the Nexus of the Multiverse answering that question, we're just going to throw a lasso around it and see if we can steal it.

Why do the Arcane sell Spelljamming Helms, but not other advanced technology? You still buy from them? Those has-beens are outclassed at every turn by the Mintakans†. Besides, the Mintakans are more fun at a party.

So gravity goes to the center of the ship in most spheres, but there is no gravity in others. What's up with that? Your biggest concern is finding a sphere where air envelopes don't work. We got plants all over the ship just in case, but that only buys us 15 minutes of air. If we find one of those spheres, I think we'll throw you off the ship first.

With the ability to move in three dimensions, how can a ballista be an effective weapon in ship to ship combat? You just took 8 hull points of damage from an accelerator. The scro have magic missile guns on their ship. Shut up and load your cannon. We can't take another hit like that one.

How can making things in a planet-sized forge move a ship? Can you really take a giant hamster seriously? You didn't mention that all ships are shaped like animals, except a human Tradesman ship. Don't get those, they're Maneuverability Class C on a really good day.

The setting wasn't perfect - I disliked that mages were the only pilots. Even with that, the game was fun. Crawling around in dungeons are fun, too. I like a good hexcrawl and trips to unknown planes, too. Spelljammer represented to me an escape from Gygaxian Naturalism and Jacqauy-ed dungeons. After a session or two of Spelljammer, even if there were no laughs, I found it easier to enjoy the "real world" of a more typical fantasy world.

So there you are, I talked about Spelljammer for an entire post without drifting off into the ether. Next time, I get to talk about the d12. Oh the d12...

† I don't remember the name of the trading rivals to the Arcane. Since they were loosely based on the Orion Free Traders in Star Trek, I took the name of one of the stars in the Orion constellation as an easy way to reference them.

Quick Notes

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I have a post in the queue about an alternate origin of dragons. This article is in the same vein (though not the same manner) as the dwarves of Dwimmermount. It should show up on Monday. Today, however, there is a hodpodge of ideas that I wanted to share instead of creating yet more draft posts.

Azamar Review

Over 250 people have read my review of Azamar over the past few days. I hope that it was helpful. Sales seem to be going well, it is #12 on the Hottest Items list at My two part review can be found at these links:

Azamar Part the First
Azamar Part the Second

Arcanist Rules

I've written about a skill-based mage called the Arcanist for Andras a number of times. Before jotting down a few notes, here is an index:

First Draft of the Arcanist (I don't like this version)
Discussion of Spell Points
Yet More Thoughts on Spell Points
A Brief Mention about the Spell List
The First Stats Appear for the Arcanist

I've shifted a bit from the OpenQuest Magnitude chart to using the Open D6 chart. I've also changed the spell point system. The main reason for doing this was the ability to create spells by effect. I still generate some spells from TFT, OpenQuest, 2e Psionics, etc. The difference is that now there are spells from OpenD6 as well. Basing spell creation on a simplied OpenD6 spell building system allows the Arcanist to have similar spell school options as regular Mages. In other words, you can have a specialist Arcanist.

Another reason for changing to something like the OpenD6 spell system is that I can provide bonuses/penalties for all kinds of situations that would pertain only to a skill-based mage. For example:

Increasing Casting Time to 9:                 +2
Increasing Casting Time by a round:   +5
Eschewing Material Components:         -2
Eschewing Verbal Components:            -2
Eschewing Somatic Components:         -2
Casting a Spell with students:                +1 per student max +10

Again, the Arcanist cannot change the intensity, range or area of the effect without researching a new spell. However, that research will be significantly reduced from the cost of researching the original spell.

With the group casting bonus, if would be fair to surmise that there are some spells that can only be cast by a group of Arcanists. The +1 per student bonus is only for spell that were originally created to be cast by a sole Arcanist. Group Spells that will be given in a later PDF have the benefit of a community already factored in.

New Dice

I went to an educational store and picked up some unusual dice. One is a d6 that has negative numbers. The others are all fractional. There is a red d8 that features 1/8 through 1,  a white d10 with 1/10 through 1 and two white d6's that have different fractions. One d6 has 1/6 through 1. The other d6 has 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, 1/6, 1/8 and 1/12. Lots of fun to be had besides adding and subtracting fractions practice.


I've asked Google+ developers for a page that anyone could post upcoming hangouts on. I could post something here, but I'm thinking of something that is editable by the community and doesn't rely on me to find all the ConstantCon Hangouts and Games that are going on. Here's to hoping.

Also on the ConstantCon front, I hope to have a game scheduled to start in November for a Spelljammer game. I am a parent of two young ones, so it will be a weekend schedule.