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D&D General Is Spelljammer really that bad?


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If you're willing to shell out the big bucks, you can get a complete 5E setting like Ptolus!

Ironically, as someone who DID shell out the big bucks for the Ptolus hardback (i needed something to read in lockdown!) and who has been criticising Spelljammer on here for lacking meat, Ptolus went too far the other way for me. Too dense, every corner too obsessively detailed, too prescriptive, too much 'canon', if you like.
 



Hussar

Legend
My main takeaway from the thread: yes, Spelljammer is exactly as bad, or as good, as you think it is.
Like a lot of things, it's probably not as good as some people think it is, but, also, probably not as bad as others are claiming. And, honestly, it's really hard to tell sometimes. Horde of the Dragon Queen got absolutely roasted as a module for years. Heck, I think someone in this thread mentioned how bad a module it is.

Yet, it's been rereleased again, and consistently is one of hte best selling non-core 5e books, meaning that it's probably one of the best selling modules of all time. As in somewhere in the same range as Against the Giants and other classic modules.

So, is it terrible or not? Well ... that's not a straightforward answer.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
So you've claimed.

And yet you haven't responded to a single one of them, except to point out that "2e had a different version of Luigi".

So, since you seem incapable of actually refuting my points, why should I assume my points are incorrect? Just because someone else wrote a bigger book? A Haiku is still a poem, even though the Odyssey exists. So a setting can still be a setting that is put together and useful even in the face of some previous version having more pages written about it.

No. I have not said it can't be run. I've said it isn't enough to be worthwhile as a setting and would be a crapton of work for me to run it. I would literally have to create 99.99% of the setting.

Really? 99.99%? Even if I assume monsters are only 20% of a setting, are you really trying to claim that between the Monster Manual, Boo's Menagerie, and the Monsters of the Multiverse you STILL don't have enough monsters to cover that 20%?

Even with the write up of the Astral Elves, the story of the Gith (from Volos and Multiverse), the Hadozee, the Plasmoids, the Giff, The Thri-kreen (Monster Manual and Astral and Boo's) the tieflings, aasimar... I mean I could list races forever, and you still feel like you only have a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the available races?

You have over 14 example captains, multiple locations in a single city, and multiple plots and challenges, yet you don't even have 1% of a campaign?

I'm not saying there isn't work to be done, you need to figure out a handful of extra NPCs, but other than that? This setting is good to run multiple campaigns in.

No. It's a gate. If it was a door, it would have been called a door.

Right, and a throne shares nothing in common with a chair. Stop being facetious

It does. Did you not read the book or watch the movies?

It was the pool of water Gollum was swimming in when he got caught. I'm sure adventurers from all over Middle-Earth flock to see that pool Gollum was swimming in that one time he got caught, it is practically a national monument, everyone knows about it and it is highly important. It isn't like Gollum being caught hiding in a bush wouldn't have had the exact same outcome for the story.

Oh... wait... it absolutely would have, because the pool of water at the base of the waterfall wasn't notable or special at all. What mattered was Gollum getting caught. It is like claiming the corner of the Prancing Pony is particularly notable, because that's the corner Strider was sitting in.

Lore =/= setting. For example, the descriptions of monsters is not setting, yet it's a large part of the lore. The preferred tactics of monsters is another chunk of lore that is not setting. Only a small fraction of the lore write-up is setting.

So, setting is just what you say it is? And since you claim it doesn't exist and isn't part of the setting, it isn't?

Here is a fun fact, iron exports aren't setting either. It largely doesn't matter if a country is wealthy from iron exports or wheat exports.

Stating the opposite is not demonstrating the opposite. You've made a claim and I dispute it. This is purely opinion based, so... 🤷‍♂️

And yet, I have provided evidence and examples. Meanwhile, you have just "nu'uh".

So, which of us has a stronger position I wonder?


That's not accurate. They strongly impact the quality of the setting. If you have a setting centered around one thing, ships in space, but have super crappy ships in space mechanics, the setting is going to suffer significantly.

So, if I made a Star Wars game, but uses these ship combat rules, then Star Wars is a bad setting? Bold take.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
The DMG isn't a setting.

Correct. Yet it has information that can be useful for settings. Are we supposed to reprint that information in every possible setting book to be able to count that information towards a setting?

If the setting is as bare-bones as 5e SJ is, yes, a tool falls to generate some details falls under my "minimum expectations" bar. If you aren't going to actually put details in the setting (which I think you absolutely should, as that's the whole point of having a setting), then a tool to generate details is the bare minimum that I think ought to be there.

But the things still exist. Whether or not you have a chart that allows you to roll randomly for "Ice planet ruled by Orcs but containing Giant Monsters" doesn't change the fact that an ice planet ruled by orcs but containing giant monsters absolutely exists in Spelljammer.

A massive asteroid hive of Thri-Kreen exists in Spelljammer. This fact doesn't change just because there isn't a random chart with this as an option.

I think that the bare-bones nature of the material was a conscious choice. Because whether or not something exists in an infinite space full of various planets is entirely up to the DM.

I think the gulf between what I expect from a setting and what you expect from a setting is pretty darn wide.

For a setting like Eberron, I'd have different expectations. It depends on what the goals and themes of the setting are. Spelljammer isn't about geo-politics, so a lack of geo-politics doesn't bother me.

How about actually describing some of these kinds of things and their mechanics?

Check the DMG for how to create hazards? Check Tasha's for how to create things like Supernatural Regions or Magical Phenomena.

Would like an Death Storm? Here you go

Necrotic Tempest. Storms infused with the essence of death roil with dark clouds that manifest leering skulls and bone-white lightning. Any creature exposed to the storm that isn’t a construct or an undead must succeed on a DC 13 Constitution saving throw at the end of each minute or take 3d6 necrotic damage.

A creature that dies in a necrotic tempest rises as a skeleton or zombie (your choice) 1d10 minutes later.

A necrotic tempest lasts for 1d4 hours and leaves crops withered and wells undrinkable for 1d4 days after its passing.

Sure, the DMG isn't a setting. Tasha's isn't a setting. But magical storms aren't specific to Spelljammer, so again, would you want to reprint this in every single setting because it might be useful? A meteor shower on a spelljammer isn't any different than a trap or hazard on a forest path, We don't have special rules for how a swinging log trap affects a wagon, but if you needed that to happen the DMG has given you a starting point.

Again, I'm not saying that these things wouldn't have been nice. They would have been very nice. But is the setting really non-functional because we didn't get stats for a meteor shower and how it affects a spelljammer?

Again, it seems like what you are willing to accept as sufficient for a setting is pretty minimalistic. I want more. As I've said before, SJ5e isn't terrible, but it's a long way from good, at least to me.

In this instance? Yeah, I can see the value in a minimalist approach. I'd expect more from a different setting. But, what I am challenging here is that the setting lore, the stuff that makes a setting different from a different setting, doesn't seem to be the thing people are complaining about. They are complaining about the mechanics and a lack of random generation tables. Which are nice, but not the setting.

Finding a random planet generator is far easier than fixing a broken setting.

If the meager amount of actual setting material in SJ5e is enough for you to be happy, great! But you are not going to persuade me that it's enough for me, because it really isn't. It's thin. I really expect some setting in my settings, and SJ5e gives me the equivalent of a thin broth instead of a meaty stew.

So what actual setting materials are we missing? There is setting in the SJ5e, I've gone over it a few times. But no one seems to be stepping up and saying "we don't know nearly enough about X, and that is vital to the setting functioning." It is all "we don't have write-ups for random planets" and "the ship mechanics are bad", which to me aren't setting problems.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
And yet you haven't responded to a single one of them, except to point out that "2e had a different version of Luigi".
I've responded to your claims about the Astral Adventures being setting. I've responded to your claims about the Rock being setting. And I've responded to your claims that monsters = setting. Those are your major points. What did I miss?
So, since you seem incapable of actually refuting my points, why should I assume my points are incorrect? Just because someone else wrote a bigger book? A Haiku is still a poem, even though the Odyssey exists. So a setting can still be a setting that is put together and useful even in the face of some previous version having more pages written about it.
Just like the haiku and Odyssey, a movie short and a movie are also "the same." Do you think enough people would pay $30+ to go see a 3 minute movie short to keep the movie industry going? I don't. Substandard amounts of quantity, regardless of quality(and the 10 pages of Spelljammer campaign are not high quality) just don't cut it.
Really? 99.99%? Even if I assume monsters are only 20% of a setting, are you really trying to claim that between the Monster Manual, Boo's Menagerie, and the Monsters of the Multiverse you STILL don't have enough monsters to cover that 20%?
Yes. 99.99% of the Spelljammer setting has to be literally invented by me. To run the rock of Bral I would have to come up with 10-20x more information at a minimum than is provided for me, and that's the ONLY space location given to us. That means that every asteroid, moon, planet other than the primary setting, floating city or quite literally everything I come up with is setting that I have to come up with outside of what is given to me. Same with Astral setting locations. I have to create it 100% of those. Monsters =/= setting, so the MM and MoM aren't part of setting and aren't specifically Spelljammer anyway, so the lore of those creatures is not specifically Spelljammer setting in any case.

So yes, the 8 pages of setting material in the Adventures Guide and the 2(and I'm being generous) pages of monster lore that is actual setting in the Boo's Menagerie amounts to about .01 of what I would be using when it comes to Spelljammer.
You have over 14 example captains, multiple locations in a single city, and multiple plots and challenges, yet you don't even have 1% of a campaign?
Not even close. If you think I have more, your campaigns must be really, really small.

Let's take just 1 of the 14 captains. If he's that important to the campaign, I'd have to add the rest of the crew one by one, giving them names and a personality quirk. Create the officers in great detail. Modify the ship to make it unique, fleshing out each cabin, what goods the ship contains, their equipment, etc. Giving me "a captain" gives me very little of what I would need for just that one ship.

The Rock is woefully incomplete. Let's take Large Luigi's tavern. It gives me no visual, so I have to create that in great detail. It gives me no menu, so I have to create that as well. It gives me no real personality for him, so I have to create that in detail. It gives me no staff for him, so I have to create them with their personalities and quirks. What I'm given is less than 5% of what I would need.

So yes, having to create literally every space or astral location other than the Rock of Brak, detail all of the NPCs they give and that I make, plus detail out every location in the Rock of Bral since they are all substandard means that I'm doing 99.99% of the work on the setting.
Right, and a throne shares nothing in common with a chair. Stop being facetious
Stop tossing out Red Herrings. A gate is not a door. A throne is not a chair. A hill is not a mountain. A pond is not an ocean. A shrub is not a Giant Sequoia. A mackerel is not a shark. Having some similarity does not make something the same.
So, if I made a Star Wars game, but uses these ship combat rules, then Star Wars is a bad setting? Bold take.
Your Star Wars setting would suffer tremendously if you used those combat rules. I would not want to play in it. Your False Equivalence where you equate your personal Star Wars setting being bad for using horrible ship combat rules to all Star Wars settings being bad is..............................pretty bold.
 

For a setting like Eberron, I'd have different expectations. It depends on what the goals and themes of the setting are. Spelljammer isn't about geo-politics, so a lack of geo-politics doesn't bother me.
If the SJ setting book has notably lower page count, or at least setting information than another setting book, that should be an issue. If you need other books to make a setting come alive, that's another issue. If a major factor of Eberron is geo-politics and that gets 80 pages*, I expect the main "hook" of SJ to receive 80 pages in turn. New monsters, classes, races, magic items, &c. are certainly excellent details that can highlight the theme of the setting. But, I wouldn't consider that "setting"; we've had that style of setting reveal with the Scarred Lands, and that was woefully insufficient until proper setting books came out. An excellent tease, certainly, but I don't think we're getting more SJ books.

It's sounding like complaints about planar details from another thread. "The Plane of Fire is boring because all we know about is the City of Brass." When you have a page or two at most about a realm with vastly different physics, you have little space to explain themes and illustrate locales. I can only presume there was much more space available in this resource for tall ships in space.

Something I am currently musing about is how much is in the book knowing that there are the old materials available. Was there an assumption that the setting need only be introduced and given enough rules? Then, if the purchaser is sufficiently interested they can peruse the back catalog for further information and ideas?

* A number for illustrative purposes only.
 

If the SJ setting book has notably lower page count, or at least setting information than another setting book, that should be an issue. If you need other books to make a setting come alive, that's another issue.

Something I am currently musing about is how much is in the book knowing that there are the old materials available. Was there an assumption that the setting need only be introduced and given enough rules? Then, if the purchaser is sufficiently interested they can peruse the back catalog for further information and ideas?

Personally I prefer to compare the current setting books to the original box set.

The current 5E book set has 3 x 64 pgs
The original 2E box set was 2 x 96 pgs + handouts

So it has the exact same page count as the original campaign setting (not counting the handouts).

I think the expectation to use the older material as mentioned in your last point is more an understanding that the fans of the original 2E will already have their old books still anyway, but selling some old stuff to new fans would certainly be on the agenda too.
 

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