Fantastic Worlds — IN SPACE: Part II

“Let’s see now … the past few weeks have been filled with researching and delivering information about different campaign settings in Dungeons and Dragons, and the stories that can be told through them.”

The old man hands you a document.

“This is the most recent of my musings, but I do not feel that it is yet complete. You see, there is much that I left out without even realizing it. The Spelljammer campaign setting is something that means so much to me, yet I have only devoted a few words to it. We should remedy this.”

Abraheim motions for you to come closer to his desk.

“See!”

He begins flipping through a binder full of notes, hand drawn maps, numbers, scribbles, and doodles.

“This …” He pauses and looks ahead into nothing, lost in the past. “This might be the greatest story I have ever been a part of. It is the binder in which I stored all of my notes for a Spelljammer campaign I wrote many, many years ago.”

He looks back up at you.

“ I can’t help but feel that you still might be a little confused. Read that document first, if you have not yet already. It might help explain some things. In it, I mentioned that I had created a story based off of some of my favorite stories. And I named numerous ones!” The old man gives a chuckle. “Don’t worry, I will explain that in more detail in a moment.”

“But that doesn’t help you much, now does it? Let me go back and explain a few things further then.”

He flips to a page in the binder that depicts two ships, locked in combat with each other. The ships are not on water, however. They are in space. Nor do they look like sea-going vessels. One looks like a giant hammerhead shark, the other like a moth or butterfly. Spells, arrows, and explosives are depicted being fired back and forth at each ship.

“What many people don’t understand about Spelljammer, and thus is a turnoff to some, is that it is pure fantasy taking place in space, which has usually been a setting reserved for Science Fiction. I love both genres, so this makes perfect sense to me. To others though, it might be seen as implausible.”

Abraheim gives you a quick smirk and pulls down an old dusty book from the precarious stack and hold it in front of you. The cover reads “Tractatus de Sphaera.”

“This book depicts a geocentric model of the universe, with all of the celestial bodies circling around the Earth, with the stars and moon being located on a sphere that circles the Earth. It is from the 16th century, I believe. But it has great significance to this setting.”

“The natural laws and physics as we know it do not apply in this setting of Spelljammer. The book describes something similar to the Ptolemaic System. The universe of Spelljammer is in part based off of this system. Each world, or sets of worlds are contained within their own crystal spheres. The areas in between each sphere are called “wildspace” or the “phlogiston.”

The old hand reaches for another book and sets it on the desk. The old and tattered tome looks as if it could fall apart any second. On its cover: Georg Ernst Stahl, Fundamenta chymiae.

“Phlogiston! Such a funny word isn’t it!” Abraheim exclaims. “Stahl, a scientist, wasn’t the first to use this word or come up with the idea, but he developed into what we understand today. Phlogiston, to him and other chemists during the 17th and 18th centuries, was some form of combustible matter, that was neither fire, air, water, or earth. It was their explanation as to what caused combustion. It is what exists between the spheres in Spelljammer. Except in this setting, it has a more magical spin to it. Ships sail rivers of this substance, and it is often referred to as the flow.”

He demonstrates the motion of a ship sailing through the air with the book in his hands. Then, as if he suddenly remembered the state of the book, carefully set it back on his desk.

“Each ship creates their own gravity and atmosphere, allowing for adventurers to safely travel the deck and areas outside of the ship without having to worry about air or falling into the phlogiston. Scientifically, it doesn’t make sense, and is easily debunked. But it is fantastical, not scientific. That is key. Almost any question about the workings of the Spelljammer universe can be answered with a simple phrase: Because magic. Therein lies the beauty. As a story teller, my ind can focus on the story, rather than the natural laws of the universe.”

Abraheim rolls his chair to another desk and picks up a moving picture device. He hands it to you.

This man is quite experienced in the setting and explains it quite well. You should watch that if you have time. Don’t worry, just return the device when you can.”

“I could continue to go on about the basis for the setting, but I do not want to bore you. Indeed, it is late. But before you go, let me further explain my special connection to the setting.”

He wheels back over to the open binder and flips to the front pages.

“Just so you know, I am not bragging. There are many great storytellers out there, and many more that are much greater than I, but this is a story I am proud of, because I got to tell it and experience it with my best friends.”

“It is about the world of Myreath, and the great number of civilizations not yet ready to learn of the power of Spelljammers and inter-sphere travel. Tens of thousands of years ago, a rogue space traveler and his followers came to Myreath. The leader convinced the primitive races that he was a god and his followers were his angels. He forced them to build large structures in his name. They worshiped him and made him a part of their ancient pantheon of gods. Then, on a whim, he left. The world fell into chaos, as the races did not know how to control the power of the Spelljammers. Over the centuries they were forgotten, entire civilizations built and destroyed upon the ruins of the structures their ancestors had built, the Spelljammer ships buried with them. But one group, the First Abbey, kept the memories of the Spelljammers, and guarded their secrets ferociously.”

Abraheim leans back in his chair, puts his hands behind his head, and smiles.

“And that is where it took off. From there, the players carved their way through the history of Myreath and into the spheres and phlogiston beyond,  the universe wherever they went. We could tell any story we wanted. Nothing was too big or too small. No act or feat was too outlandish, and every decision had an effect that rippled through the universe. I got to incorporate my favorite stories, as well as my players’. They got to tell their own stories through this setting, and I got to tell mine.”

The old man looks down at his watch.

“Ah, it seems I have droned on enough. I have enjoyed our little chat. I am always here, buried in my books. Come by again and we can chat about something else! Oh, and if you have any ideas or recommendations, don’t hesitate to let me know. You can use the ship’s communicator to send me a message!”

Abraham kicks out his feet, stretches his arms, ancient bones cracking, and gives a loud yawn.

“Until next time, young friend. Who knows what we will talk about next!”

 

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