Spelljamming: “I Reject Your Reality and Create My Own.”

While the term “I reject your reality and create my own” is more often used to describe the supporters of a particular former United States President, defendants in well-publicized celebrity defamation suits, and certain dictators who think everything is going swimmingly in their unwarranted invasion of a neighboring country, in this instance it refers to some of the glaringly awful aspects of Dungeons & Dragons Spelljammer gaming supplement. On the surface the idea of space travel mixing with traditional themes of magic and swordplay might seem like a nerd’s paradise, there are some portions of the notion that fall woefully short. Therefore, I have come up with some workarounds that are the standard operating procedures in my game. And as a Game Master, fully in charge of deciding what is and isn’t going to serve as a “rule” this is absolutely my prerogative. All other Game Masters take note: You can change any rule in the game if you don’t like it. Rather like being a pirate. View them more as guidelines than firm and fast regulations.

The first thing I did away with was the concept of “the spheres”. It is a novel way to view the multiverse, I’ll grant you that, but it has so many problematic issues one scarcely knows where to being listing them. The biggest one is that it strips away all of the mystery and mystique of the universe itself by replacing it with the imagery of a bunch of ping pong balls floating around a punchbowl full of highly volatile gas. Mind you, I like the idea of highly volatile gas being the risk that adventurers must take in order to shortcut from one solar system to another. But the sphere idea needs to go. Here is my workaround.

Think instead of the spheres in Spelljamming as being concepts of distance rather than actual solid, indestructible objects. In Spelljamming the spheres each contain a solar system and are therefore ridiculously vast. The measurement of a sphere’s radius is from the center of the star or other celestial body that sits as the main gravitational pull for all the other planets in the system to a distance outward that is equal to twice the distance of that central body to the planet furthest away from it in orbit around it. Using our own solar system as a guide, the average distance of Pluto from the sun is roughly 3.7 billion miles. Our sphere would therefore have a radius of 7.4 billion miles. Spelljammers have the ability to travel at insane speeds so this isn’t too much of a difficulty to overcome. But what happens when a vessel wants to travel to another solar system? Even at Spelljamming speeds it could take centuries to make that trip. Instead of finding a portal in the crystal shell or sphere to allow transit out of it and into the phlogiston which connects all of the spheres to each other because the spheres are floating in it, spellcasters or people using the proper magical items can, at the outer range of the solar system as described above, open a portal into the phlogiston which exists as a sort of pseudo-liquid kind of gas which exists between planes. By sailing through this nether realm in the proper navigational course they can then pop open another portal and sail through to find themselves in a completely different solar system. In a way this is mimicking the concept of “warp speed” in the “Star Trek” television series and movies or going into lightspeed in the “Star Wars” films and related media. Still nerdy, and far less problematic.

The second thing I did was remove the hilarious and yet absurd gravity rules for Spelljammers. Take a good long look at the artwork for Spelljammer ships. None of it reflects the way the rules work regarding gravity. None of it. So, drop the pretense and just do gravity the way gravity works. And to make it simple, yes, ships are always right side up, just deal with it. Making it overly complicated only makes the players have to think more and the poor dears are already at a distinct disadvantage in this arena. They are trying to figure out what the hell is going on in the story without needing to spend precious energy figuring out how to keep a bowling ball from killing everyone if it is hurled overboard incorrectly.

There are a couple of other things that I have manipulated in Spelljamming to make it better suit my needs in the campaign, but those can be set aside for another time. The key takeaway is that the rules are there to be a guide. Game Masters can, and should, make the changes they need.