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D&D 5E Astral Wars: A New Hope

Delazar

Adventurer
Did the title give it away? I'm planning a new campaign, and I'd like to do a mix of Planescape and Spelljammer (super original, I know).

But I would also like to have the Multiverse of DnD work a bit like a "galactic empire". Basically, planar travel would be something that the average Joe knows about, and across-planes commerce and communication is a thing.

And of course there will be a tyrannical multi-planes-spanning empire that the heroes will fight against.

I'm still very much at a planning stage, looking for some ideas from the community. I'm going to get HEAVY inspiration from the Star Wars, Star Trek, and Dune universes. So far I'm thinking that Ravnica will be the capital of the Empire, but I'm not sure who or what should the Empire be. I'm thinking maybe the Harmonium (from Planescape), or the Vodoni (from Spelljammer).

With Fizban book coming out, I was also considering do a plane-spanning dragon empire, with the great wyrms ruling from their home plane, and sending their dragonborn armies to conquer the planes.

Also recently saw the last "what if" episode of Marvel, and I thought a "construct" empire would also be neat.

So yeah, a few ideas, but all kind of up there at the moment. If anyone would like to jump in and give some ideas, pls do so!
 

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AtomicPope

Adventurer
Suggestions from someone who is running a 5e Spelljammer/Planescape campaign for several years:
1. Mine the 4e books for Inspiration: one of the many things 4e gets right is their treatment of Planescape and Spelljammer, blending the two together rather than trying to take modern scientific concepts of space and brush over it with wonky magic.
2. Astral Currents - one of the best things about Star Wars, before Jar Jar Abrams and Disney effed it up, was Hyperspace. It was a lot like the Age of Sail in that the ships were limited to specific, known travel routes. In this way, blockades could be set up to catch pirates or intercept enemy fleets. I did this for my Spelljammer campaign, limited movement to specific lanes that were not always open. It also allowed me to have classic Age of Sail hazards like Doldrums where ships would be stuck in the vast ocean of space hoping the Astral Currents would star moving again. It also lets you as a DM limit travel to specific locations: you must go to Planet X and then to to Planet Y.
3. Planar Boundaries - to limit teleportation I set each celestial body in their own planar boundary. In other words, you can't teleport in or out unless you have a known Teleportation circle to zero in on. This gave me a Star Trek "transporter room" on their Spelljammer vessel with a Teleportation Circle. In order to travel to other planets you'd need to either take a Spelljammer or use Planeshift and have the proper circle sequence.
4. Economics - after limiting teleportation and planar travel it makes more sense to use Spelljammers as merchant vessels since it's the only way to transport tonnes of commodities at a time. Using them as troop carriers always made sense but being able to transport souls out of Hell would be a big payday.
5. Grievous Wounds - a big part of running a Spelljammer campaign was getting away from the Dungeon part of D&D. In order to justify a triage on ship I added a House Rule of Grievous Wounds: whenever a character is reduced to zero hp they move one level down the exhaustion track. PCs were less likely to camp out in a dungeon after getting beat up. They would go back to the ship, rest a few days, and then try a different approach. It was more like Star Trek where they would spend time in medical.
6. Limited Natural Healing - a continuation of the injuries was to limit the healing from short rests to ONLY apply if the PCs used a charge from their medical kit, cast a healing spell, or used Song of Rest. That was the only way to spend their hit dice. Furthermore, a long rest didn't regen hit points. They could spend hit dice to heal. This meant that at some point they might be out of hit dice, even after a long rest. It might seem harsh but not when you have a ship and medical bay. Then it all seems to work out as intended. I've ran the game this way for years (the PCs are all 20th level with lots of boons), and it works out just fine. Yes, combat has way more consequences and spells like Healing Word are practically useless but it reinforces a certain style of play.
7. Space Dragons - In my own campaign I had Titans and Giants ruling the Galaxy. Few creatures are Space Worthy, one of them being Giants and the other Dragons. Since Dragons can fly into space and sail along the Astral Currents when they reached adulthood, they could just sail off in search of a soft, unsuspecting world to conquer. Giants, Cloud Giants in particular, could sail through space on their great sky castles and bomb cities from orbit. I added some other kewl, Space Worthy monsters to the list, like Rocs, Pegasus, and Angels.
8. Space Worthy - I treat space like water, sort of. Some creatures can fly, but they can't fly or survive in space. It's like any other trait that allows certain creatures to ignore the penalties of a particular terrain.
 

jgsugden

Legend
I've used the Astral Plane like a sea between universes since the 1990s and the inspiration was much like yours - Babylon 5 being primary of it. I have my version of Sigil in the Astral Plane - in a place where teleportation circles have been dragged together to create a massive bulk of access to different planes (Stargate style). My Lady of Pain is effectively a Cenobite (Hellraiser). It all works really well for me.

You seem to want to capitalize upon existing IP, yet morph it into your concept. The easiest way to do that is to establish a 'current' timeline in each IP (Eberron, FR, Ravnica, etc...) and then advance it by 5 years during which a 'multi-versal' conquest takes shape.

Some options for the ones doing the conquering:

1.) Modrons - There are an insane amount and they have untapped potential. Imagine if an Archfiend supplanted Primus and took control of all of those resources.

2.) Undead - Orcus unleashes a wave across the multiverse that slays a percentage of the entire universe (hey, if you're going to steal from Marvel) and raises them as undead under his control. However, he is thrown down by a mysterious foe who wrests control of the undead from him (as otherwise he'd just destroy with them).

3.) Githyanki invasion - We drastically underestimated their accumulation of resources in the recesses of the Astral Plane. They bomb the capital cities of the Multiverse (or lock them in time, or something else that keeps them out of the action) and then conquer the planes.

4.) Far Realm invasion - Illithid, beholders, Cthulhu, Deep Spawn, Star Spawn, etc... rise up. This could get very funky.

5.) Ancient Evils - Before there were Gods, Archfiends, and Primordials there were the Ancient Evils. They've slumbered in a prison since before history - and someone released them. Now, they've taken control. This could be a less funky version of 4.

6.) The New God - a new God appears and grants powers to a lot of people. Like, 1 in 10 people/intelligent beings are granted significant clerical or warlock powers. This new God does this to create a better world throughout the multiverse, and there is immediate prosperity. And then the guidance from this God begin to shift. Instead of just giving gifts, it turns to discouraging the worship of other Gods, not trusting political leaders, etc... Then, one day, the new God reveals plots meant to end his gifts to the universe and a power struggle between the traditional powers and the New God arise across the multiverse - a struggle the New God wins, leaving the traditional powers as freedom fighters.
 

Stormonu

Legend
Posted this before, but I think it applies here...

Just use the githyanki and the Lich Queen for the Empire (Lich Queen = Palpatine, Githyanki in white plate = stormtroopers, Dead gods = Super Star Destroyers/Death Star). The Lady of Pain becomes Mon Mothma…A rogue modron as R2-D2/C3P0?

Also, I had this idea...
 

I suggest to add elements from Starfinder and d20 Future to cause surprise or the players could notice what is going to happen because they read that book or watched that movie.

Eclipse Phase RPG had got an interesting idea, supercomputers rebels against the humans (transhumans) and they create their own version of Terminators droids and Resident Evil mutants+zombies.
 

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
I suppose if you want a true "Galactic Empire," the Vodoni Empire from Spelljammer is a good fit. They controlled 12 worlds on the Material Plane, and then led a huge invasion fleet against Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, and Krynn.


They're army is made up mostly by lycanthropes, but their leader is a Maedar, or male medusa.

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Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
Are the PCs starting at low levels?
If so, they are sent on a simple fetch quest: their patron has rented an airship. The captain will take you to the Elemental Plane of Air; find and capture an arrowhawk (from 3e Monster Manual) and bring it back; the feathers are useful to craft Rings of Feather Fall. Bonus if you bring the 'hawk back alive so it can regrow more feathers. If a PC is blown off the airship they are not auto-dead, they must be (and can be) rescued.
 

Delazar

Adventurer
thanks to everyone for the reactions so far, all good input, I'm going to address a few things that jolted my imagination.

@AtomicPope thanks for the great suggestions! I heard a lot of good stuff about the 4E book about the Astral Plane, but never got a chance to read it. I'll try to remedy in the near future. I'd like to get away from the "crystal spheres" concept of Spelljammer, and use the Astral Plane/Sea as "magic space", so to say. Which should be what the Plane Above does somehow, if I'm not mistaken.

@jgsugden all great ideas, I especially like the "new god". I actually thought a lot about gods in general, and I would like them to be as LESS involved as possible. But I like the idea of super-powered demigods, like Thanos or Darkseid.

@Urriak Uruk yes, the Vodoni were one of my original choices, I'm just not too intrigued by a werewolves army. But the module where they appear is definitely a font of inspiration for me.

@Eltab your mention of the Plane of Air makes me think that I would like to somehow have all the Outer and Inner planes to be some sort of planet... not sure if this would mess too much with DnD cosmology, but do you think it would be possible?
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
@Eltab your mention of the Plane of Air makes me think that I would like to somehow have all the Outer and Inner planes to be some sort of planet... not sure if this would mess too much with DnD cosmology, but do you think it would be possible?
In the 5e FR cosmology, it seems like the 4e-ish Elemental Chaos is more like a ring or sphere. It is a border between the Astral and the Elemental.

Since, these elements arent in the "Material Plane", they might not be actual matter. They are more like the concept of fire, a thought construct, rather than an actual fire. So this is a kind of fire that exists in the Astral Plane, which is a realm of thought (without matter).

These Astral elementals are like a blue print, a conceptual plan, for how to build the Material Plane out of elements. But in the Astral realm of the Elemental Chaos, these elements are still mind rather than matter.
 

Delazar

Adventurer
The way I'm envisioning this now would be that the Astral Sea is Space, and the only way to reach it is through some Astral Gates that connect the Astral Lanes, a bit like someone suggested above. So indeed I would have "blockades". These Astral Gates would still be relatively near to each planet, like, somewhere where an Airship (from the DMG) could fly to in a couple of hours or so.

And maybe the thing that ushered into this era of multi-planar activity would be this Empire who is the first to have created Astral Gates.

Or maybe these Astral Gates were built aeons ago by the gods, but only recently re-discovered by one specific civilization (githyanki, dragons, mind-flayer, etc), that is now invading other planets.

Like StarGates, but big enough to have Airship go through.

Somehow I want to this to be multi-planar, but still keep it "fantasy"
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I have a dnd in space setting, and what I do is treat the multiverse as a galaxy. There is a fey region of space, the abyss is a "system" near the galactic core that is part of what spins the galaxy and is an immense black hole, the nine hells are a "solar" system with Asmodeus's throne being the "sun", etc.

Space itself is a mix of an aether sea and spaces of vacuum, and there are Star Lanes that go around the galaxy in specific paths, while brave scout pilots and smugglers can seek out aether-stream pathways to avoid the Star Lanes or go places they don't. aether slipstream drives can only handle fairly small craft, though, so stuff like armies and large scale trade are stuck with the star lanes. This dynamic is nice because it creatures a place where a dragon can pass you in traffic while a halfling skiff is docked with your deck as the halfling makes you lunch for a reasonable rate, and where blockades stop most traffic but clever folks in small craft can try to get around them.
 

Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
@Eltab your mention of the Plane of Air makes me think that I would like to somehow have all the Outer and Inner planes to be some sort of planet... not sure if this would mess too much with DnD cosmology, but do you think it would be possible?
It could be possible for all the planes to be on a planet, but you lose something by putting confines or boundaries around many of them. We think of the Greek Gods living on Mt. Olympus and going for a walk to wander the world and meet mortals, but other planes (and inhabitants) need more space.

The Abyss and the Hells keep expanding, as the denizens thereof attack and destroy whatever is within reach, then claim the newly-emptied space for themselves. With infinite time, the whole world would be conquered.

Is the multiverse in a "Points of Light" condition? Points of Dark? In a balance - how is that balance maintained? To open up the most options for mortal adventurers, the immortal forces must each have vast resources but be unable to destroy each other because the others can match it all.

It seems better to me that going to a different plane should feel like taking a book off a bookshelf to read, rather than crossing a river / boundary. You (the PCs) will experience a cool bit, but there is so much more to explore "over the next hill", to do, to experience - a lifetime is not enough. And then you are called away to take care of something else...
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
I read the thread title and thought, "Help me OB1-Githyani, you're my only hope."
See I thought the same, but even further...

I really like the SAGA edition of star wars, and I would love to see it receive a "5e treatment" - SAGA was simpler than 3.X but still could have used more refinement (the math at high level got... wonky)
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
Three big conceits:
1) Star Trek's core conceit is Submarine life. No. Really. That was where Roddenberry got the idea. He just turned the Sea into Space and added weird islands to solve problems on. It expanded from that core, which is still super present in all other Star Trek Media.
2) Star Wars' core conceit is that it's not one thing. It's a War Movie, a Drama, a Romance, a Fantasy Epic, Etc. Star Wars took important elements from various types of media and boiled them in one pot.
3) Star Wars' central "Evil Empire" is great, that's why Star Trek had the Klingons for Kirk, Cardassians and Dominion for DS9, Romulans and Borg for TNG, Etc. But while Star Wars really only had the Empire as a real threat (Okay, there was some crime happening) Trek is better about juggling villainy.

So... here's my suggestions:

1) Space -is- the Astral Plane. Stars at night are other worlds out there, each one it's own Material Plane. No need for the Gates.
2) There's a Spelljammer in one of the D&D Adventures for 5e rules. So you could use that for your game if you want to make travel be Mage-Dependent.
3) Have a central Evil Empire made up of the same people in the Good Guy side, but add in secondary Empires for different themes. This helps create narrative parity and ground things in terms of "War"

So yeah. You've got your Heroic Rebellion lead by charismatic humans uniting an army of various species... maybe have the Evil Empire be Human-Centric, too. Possibly lead by an Elder Brain that is slowly converting members of the Evil Empire into illithid in a sneaky manner. And then on the side have your Klingons and Romulans and Borg and Dominion. The other empires that are alternately united with or against the Evil Empire based on what story you're hoping to tell.

You want Borg? Modrons making humanoid species into Warforged and Autognomes (Based exclusively on size of the original body)

You want a hive species with bug-spaceships? The Kitax Regnum which is lead by the "Voice of the Queen" (a Regent) and is a buncha Thri-Kreen and other insectoid creatures that fly around in living ships birthed by the Queen.

How about setting it during an Illithid/Gith war, where Gith basically fulfill the role of Wookies or Bothans next to the heroic party who takes the death star plans to blow up the illithid Star-Darkener (Many Gith died so we could use this information...)

Yeah. You read that right. Star-Darkener. The illithid want to BLOT OUT THE STARS and leave the universe a cold dead wasteland where only those who submit to Ceremorphosis get to enjoy the warmth of a spring day in star systems that bow to their demands for BRAINS and CONVERTS. Bonus points: Every star darkened increases the horror of reality by allowing horrible Lovecraftian entities more power by increasing the "Darkness between the stars" where they thrive. Soon, they may have enough power to overtake all the bonds the gods placed on them and snuff out all light in the galaxy, whether the illithid want it or not!

You wanna make your evil empire Dragons and Dragonborn? Far out, man, just have them fly through Astral Space without starships (The dragons, I mean). Give the Dragonborn enhancers that turn their natural breath weapons into long-ranged attacks or let them somehow use them more often. Imagine the Gunnery Deck where 20 Dragonborn get together and blast their breath weapons into a cannon that fires them all at an enemy ship in one big blast of energy. Heck, have the Dragons themselves act as living starships with elaborate "Backpacks" that give the Dragonborn crew somewhere to stand.
 

Delazar

Adventurer
@Steampunkette all great ideas! I'm thinking that my tyrant dragon empire will indeed be just one of the many threats to be found in the Astral.

Still not sure about the Spelljammer. I really don't like the idea of NEEDING a mage in order to fly a ship. So I'd prefer a fantasy ship that works like a movie-spaceship, meaning, hey, anyone can fly this, no problem!

The Gate-thing is mostly to "limit" inter-plane travel when I need it done.
 

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The galaxy is a too big space to allow lots of secret societies as potential antagonists, or allies. Maybe there is a cult of cobra-dragons with yuan-ti agents. Maybe there are one main empire, or more, but everybody really are puppeters controlled by the same secret power.

The thoons, a new faction appeared in 3.5 Ed had got a lot of potential.

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To conquer other world can be too hard if the naives go to secret underground bases while the surface suffers a zombie apocalypse, or a rebel supercomputer creating an army or soldier robots and infected mutants (Do you remember Resident Evil and Dead Space?).
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
@Steampunkette all great ideas! I'm thinking that my tyrant dragon empire will indeed be just one of the many threats to be found in the Astral.

Still not sure about the Spelljammer. I really don't like the idea of NEEDING a mage in order to fly a ship. So I'd prefer a fantasy ship that works like a movie-spaceship, meaning, hey, anyone can fly this, no problem!

The Gate-thing is mostly to "limit" inter-plane travel when I need it done.
Glad you like it. I am -right- there with you on the Mage. I vastly prefer good old phlebotinum. Give me Dilithium or Liquid Schwartz or a Beryllium Sphere any day of the week.

Bonus Points if you never really know how much you have of the stuff. Like sometimes it lasts the whole adventure, sometimes you have to make a pitstop at a planet where phlebotinum is mined or harvested and get stuff that's got too many impurities in it but it gets you where you're going, or have to hit up a spaceport for a few hours, or get stranded on some desert planet with a hard wired distress beacon that may or may not be leading the enemy to your location...
 

Stormonu

Legend
@Steampunkette all great ideas! I'm thinking that my tyrant dragon empire will indeed be just one of the many threats to be found in the Astral.

Still not sure about the Spelljammer. I really don't like the idea of NEEDING a mage in order to fly a ship. So I'd prefer a fantasy ship that works like a movie-spaceship, meaning, hey, anyone can fly this, no problem!

The Gate-thing is mostly to "limit" inter-plane travel when I need it done.
Even Spelljammer had alternate means of pulprusion. In the novels, the main character had a ship fueled by feeding it magic items, and the dwarves, the dwarves had magical forges/foundaries they could use to move their fortresses around, the gnomes had technomagical "sidewheelers", the illithid had mindslaver arrays and a host of other methods could be used, I'm sure. I've never been fond of the rules for spelljamming helms myself, so just making the ships rare magical items piloted by whoever is at the helm is the one thing I've wanted to change about Spelljammer.
 

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