I haven’t sat in on many creative meetings, but I feel (based off of the products and entertainment that phase in and out of my view) that there comes a point in almost every meeting where someone says “Why don’t we make/put/set it in SPACE.”
Sometimes, the results are disastrous. Sometimes, what is created is amazing. It is my personal opinion that the campaign/novel setting of Spelljammer in the Dungeons & Dragons universe is somewhere in between. And this is what makes it beautiful.
As per usual, let me do a little disclaimer here. Spelljammer is quite possibly my favorite D&D setting, so everything I say about it is probably going to be quite biased. I’m just going to assume that you are okay with that.
Let’s do a little defining, and set some context. Spelljammer came out in the late 1980s as a 2nd Edition Campaign setting. In a basic sense, it allowed the typical fantasy style gaming of D&D to take place in space.
One of the most intriguing features of Spelljammer (to me at least) is that it encompasses all other D&D settings. For instance, one could travel to “Realmspace” (The Forgotten Realms), “Kyrnnspace” (Dragonlance), and Greyspace (Greyhawk). This allows player to jump between places and experience an infinite amount of storytelling and adventuring possibilities. The setting features races and creatures found in many D&D settings, with the addition of a few more.
Each world, solar system, or area of space are contained within crystal spheres, with areas of “wildspace” in between. Travel between spheres is made possible by sailing on “the Flow” or the phlogiston. Each ship or structure in space has it’s own gravity and atmosphere.
Why do I care, and why should you?
Space illithids (Mind Flayers), spaceships that run on magic, and a giant metropolis that exists on the back of an unfeasible large manta-ray ship traveling through space. This is what defines the Spelljammer setting for me.
Sound a little over-the-top? Good. I see nothing wrong with that. Think of how many bad ass stories could be told using just that information alone.
But let’s get a couple of things straight. While this setting isn’t for everyone; the magic of it is that it easily could be. From a DM or storyteller’s perspective, the possibilities of what one could do within this setting are seemingly limitless. Feeling a little classic Greyhawk adventuring? Problem solved, without any continuity of a story being broken. Have a player that really likes Firefly? Easily done, and BOOM, instant player investment.
For someone like me, who can be inspired by so many different stories, be they fantasy or sci-fi; and is passionate about so many different types of entertainment, Spelljammer gives me a pot that I can throw all of that stuff into and create exactly the story I want to tell, or that your players want to be a part of.
Let me illustrate a little. I am currently running a Spelljammer campaign, my players just don’t know it yet. In the pot for this campaign are (currently): X-Files, Prometheus, Ancient Aliens (I loved it as a kid. Fight me), Stargate, Cowboy Bebop, Gundam, Robert Howard’s Conan, and some other minor things that I’m sure I’m leaving out. The setting allows me to tell literally any story I want, and it make sense. All of my favorite sci-fi and fantasy stories can be molded into one. It makes me feel all tingly.
It might not make you feel all tingly, but if you ever have a chance to play in or run a Spelljammer campaign, say yes. If done well, you won’t regret it.
Next time we’ll discuss the setting of Dragonlance. Or something else. I haven’t decided yet. Oh, and I’ll try not to disappear for months again.
- The Bookkeeper