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General The 2e Setting Explosion: Spelljammer v. Athas, and the Multiverse as Single Settting (Part 3)

Snarf Zagyg

Aleena died for your sins.
This is part three in what I realize is now probably going to be a four-part series. Parts 1 and 2:


Also, apparently I need some disclaimers? So here it is:

Disclaimer 1: People can modify whatever they want to in their homegame. I'm more curious about early history of published material.
Disclaimer 2: I am not interested in arguing or being "right." More in observing the historical changes and seeing what they might mean. I'm not trying to convert anyone to running their own games in any particular way. Talking the history of the multiverse is fun, arguing about what is better is not (for me, you're welcome to whatever you want to say!).
Disclaimer 3: The reason I started writing this is because I was re-reading Q1, and began thinking about the shifting focus vis-a-vis alternate planes in the Prime Material and the Outer Planes. No other reason. After scouring the internet, I didn't see anyone else had really covered the issue. So either I'm FIRST!!11!!! or I'm really bad at googling.


A. A Brief History of Campaign Settings.

To set the table here requires a quick explanation as to origin of campaign settings in D&D. Given that this isn't the main thrust of the discussion, I am going to be brief and will probably omit or elide a few details (I am going off memory here). In the beginning, TSR viewed campaign settings in much the same was as modules; after all, who would buy something that people made themselves? So while there were references to the home campaign of Gygax (Greyhawk), other people were assumed to be creating their own campaign worlds. Of course, there were always third-party products (City State of the Invincible Overlord, for example). But usually, you played in some vaguely D&D-ish melange that you had created.

By the time of 2e, the only official D&D campaign settings were Greyhawk (1980, although referred to prior to that), Mystara/Known World (1981), Dragonlance (1984), Kara Tur (1985), Lankhmar (1985), Conan (1985), and Forgotten Realms (1987).

Of these, two were licensed properties that fell into disuse and are rarely considered part of the D&D settings anymore (Lankhmar, Conan). One of them has been been devoured by Faerun, Eater of Worlds (Kara Tur), as detailed later. One setting was primarily the alternate rule set (Mystara, home of B/X and BECMI). That left the three classic AD&D settings; Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, and Dragonlance.


B. Settings, Settings, Everywhere! And not a drop to drink.... The 2e Explosion.

As previously detailed, the switch from the Gygaxian Multiverse with an emphasis on travel between, and adventure in, alternate material planes to the Grubbs-ian "each material plane is an island" that we saw in the Manual of the Planes had an impact from my point of view. And this is best exemplified by the first two settings pushed out for 2e; Spelljammer and Dark Sun, iconic settings that best exemplify the change in the multiverse and the new emphasis on worlds that remain apart.

Spelljammer was the fist published setting for 2e; and weirdly, it was also by Grubb, who had (IMO) recently and very subtly changed the multiverse view. Released in 1989, at first glance it appears to continue and expand upon the profound weirdness that was OD&D and AD&D. Giant space hamsters! Phlogiston! Weird human/hippo hybrids! Travelling from one campaign world to another! But it doesn't take the gaze of a xenophobic beholder to realize that as cool as this setting was, it was the first step in curtailing the exploration of other settings within 2e.

Admittedly, it looked like the Manual of the Planes took away the easy ability to go from world to world, and Spelljammer brought it back in. But in reality, it didn't. Yes, it explicitly included Greyspace (Greyhawk), Realmspace (Forgotten Realms), and Krynnspace (Dragonlance). In fact, that was the explicit design goal. "The setting should link together the Realms, Krynn, and Greyhawk without invalidating any of those worlds or the games already set there." (SJ 3). Notably, the entirety of the Spelljammer, and the Crystal Spheres, has the following constraints:
A. Every world must be a D&D-type fantasy world. While there are allowances for space hippos, there is no allowance to spelljam to Gamma World.
B. There can be no variations in rules. Prior to 2e, many gamers were quite used to going back and forth between 1e and BECMI (at the very least, they would play the modules interchangeably). You could not, however, travel to the the well-known world of Mystara.

Two years later, Dark Sun (Athas) revealed that this change in direction was permanent. Athas did not want your cross-pollination with other worlds. "No creatures from the SPELLAMMER Monstrous Compendiums live on Athas." Athas is treated as cut off, separate, away from the deities that populate other planes. It is treated as cut off. It is remarkable, yet unsurprising, that the very first edition post-Spelljammer both declines to use Spelljammer and also adopts a cribbed cosmology; this is something that would repeat time and again moving forward.

And this gets to the shift presaged in Manual of the Planes, and completed in 2e. It was a shift in the viewpoint of the published material; prior to the Manual of the Planes shift and the 2e explosion, a "campaign" would often be a loose collection of places, modules, and excursions between genres and rulesets; a campaign was what your characters happened to do. Later, a campaign setting became much more important; you didn't visit Athas or Eberron like you did Dungeonland or Gamma World or a spaceship in the Barrier Peaks or Caer Sidi; instead, Athas was the game.

Now, that didn't mean that there weren't kitchen sink settings (I HAVE BECOME FAERUN, DEVOURER OF SETTINGS!) that would add in a little flair (Kara Tur, Al Qadim, Maztica etc.). But it did mean that the setting become an entity onto itself.


I will save my final thoughts for Part 4, and see if I can wrap this up. Probably not in a very satisfying manner, but it's worth a shot!
 
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dave2008

Legend
Hmm. I feel this is premature as you never completed the Thesis of Part 2: Why is this important. I asked directly but you never replied.

EDIT: That being said I have enjoyed these post and thank you for the research and analysis
 

Snarf Zagyg

Aleena died for your sins.
Hmm. I feel this is premature as you never completed the Thesis of Part 2: Why is this important. I asked directly but you never replied.

EDIT: That being said I have enjoyed these post and thank you for the research and analysis
I'm going to try and wrap this up in part 4; I don't want to go too much into it now, but it's kind of like the difference between episodic TV and long-arc TV.

For example, if you watch Doctor Who, the constant is the Doctor and/or the companions. Different shows might be funny, scary, set in the past or the future, on earth or in space, and so on. It's about the adventures of the characters.

On the other hand, if you have a different type of paradigm (such as the Sorpanos) you concentrate on deepening that milieu. It is about an exploration of Tony Soprano within that setting. There is a beginning and an end, and while there is some variation in tone and sensibility, it is really about the characters within the setting.

If you think of it in those terms, certain other features seem to make sense (the silo-ing of settings, the gradual shift from stand-alone modules to long-form adventure paths, the change in tone and genre fidelity, and so on). As to the causal connection ... eh, who knows? This is more observational at this point. :)
 

Mort

Adventurer
Supporter
Admittedly, it looked like the Manual of the Planes took away the easy ability to go from world to world, and Spelljammer brought it back in. But in reality, it didn't. Yes, it explicitly included Greyspace (Greyhawk), Realmspace (Forgotten Realms), and Krynnspace (Dragonlance). In fact, that was the explicit design goal. "The setting should link together the Realms, Krynn, and Greyhawk without invalidating any of those worlds or the games already set there." (SJ 3). Notably, the entirety of the Spelljammer, and the Crystal Spheres, has the following constraints:
A. Every world must be a D&D-type fantasy world. While there are allowances for space hippos, there is no allowance to spelljam to Gamma World.
B. There can be no variations in rules. Prior to 2e, many gamers were quite used to going back and forth between 1e and BECMI (at the very least, they would play the modules interchangeably). You could not, however, travel to the the well-known world of Mystara.
Was this explicitly stated? It's been a long time since I cracked spelljammer open. If so, that's actually a bit sad - I always liked the anything goes nature of the early supplements.

The second major campaign setting for 2e, Dark Sun (Athas) revealed that this change in direction was permanent. Athas did not want your cross-pollination with other worlds. "No creatures from the SPELLAMMER Monstrous Compendiums live on Athas." Athas is treated as cut off, separate, away from the deities that populate other planes. It is treated as cut off. It is remarkable, yet unsurprising, that the very first edition post-Spelljammer both declines to use Spelljammer and also adopts a cribbed cosmology; this is something that would repeat time and again moving forward.
This I do recall - though I was fuzzy on the timing. It made sense at the time since Athas was so different. Though frankly I ignored it, my group in Greyhawk had a rather memorable encounter with Athasian halflings shortly after they were introduced.
 
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dave2008

Legend
I'm going to try and wrap this up in part 4; I don't want to go too much into it now, ...
OK, but I was referencing your Part 2 that was titled: "Manual of the Planes: The Switch to a Standard Multiverse, and Why it Matters" The bold part is what I was looking for an answer for in Part 2. If that isn't in part 2 (which I didn't think it was), then perhaps a title edit is in order?
 

Snarf Zagyg

Aleena died for your sins.
OK, but I was referencing your Part 2 that was titled: "Manual of the Planes: The Switch to a Standard Multiverse, and Why it Matters" The bold part is what I was looking for an answer for in Part 2. If that isn't in part 2 (which I didn't think it was), then perhaps a title edit is in order?
"Post-Gygax, of course, there has to be an outer plane, a Dread plane, in order to have that type of adventure of campaign. On the one hand, you could say that this doesn't change anything; what is the difference between an alternate prime material plane and a demiplane? But on the other hand, it is different. Because function follows form; the easy standard that we once had (as seen in the other article, with the linked-to example from Jim Ward in 1974, having three doors!) for quickly and easily changing genres, rules, and tone are now calcified and hardened into stronger rules."

That's the why; function follows form.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
The second major campaign setting for 2e, Dark Sun (Athas) revealed that this change in direction was permanent.
As a note, Dark Sun (1991) was the third campaign setting for AD&D 2E. After Spelljammer (1989), the next campaign setting to be released was Ravenloft (1990; while I6 Ravenloft (1983) and I10 Ravenloft II: The House on Gryphon Hill (1986) were both published for AD&D 1E, Ravenloft didn't become its own campaign setting until the Realm of Terror boxed set was released for AD&D 2E).

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Snarf Zagyg

Aleena died for your sins.
As a note, Dark Sun (1991) was the third campaign setting for AD&D 2E. After Spelljammer (1989), the next campaign setting to be released was Ravenloft (1990).

Please note that I'm using affiliate links in this post.
I'm going partly off memory as I no longer have my Realm of Terror, but I will edit that language given the amount of work that "major" might be doing in my sentence.
 

dave2008

Legend
"Post-Gygax, of course, there has to be an outer plane, a Dread plane, in order to have that type of adventure of campaign. On the one hand, you could say that this doesn't change anything; what is the difference between an alternate prime material plane and a demiplane? But on the other hand, it is different. Because function follows form; the easy standard that we once had (as seen in the other article, with the linked-to example from Jim Ward in 1974, having three doors!) for quickly and easily changing genres, rules, and tone are now calcified and hardened into stronger rules."

That's the why; function follows form.
OK, that wasn't clear to me. However, it also appears to not be true in this case. If it is important to your thesis you might want to dive into that a bit more. Or maybe it is not that important. Of course you could just dismiss at least 4e altogether as I know some do.

EDIT: I apologize but there is no need to respond. I find this research interesting, but I don't care enough to continue. It just doesn't effect me in any way. I need to spend my time on things that do and stop getting distracted!
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Was this explicitly stated? It's been a long time since I cracked spelljammer open. If so, that's actually a bit sad - I always liked the anything goes nature of the early supplements.
This is what Spelljammer says about other planets.

"Many of the fantasy worlds share similar creatures, species, and types of government. A native of Waterdeep would not be totally lost in Greyhawk, and an elf from Silvanesti could fit in at the elven courts of Evermeet. Other planets do not necessarily share those same similarities, and the DM may create worlds to fit his fancy and the needs of his adventures."

So, sure, you could visit Gamma world or whatever if the DM wanted.
 

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
I haven't read this whole post yet (and I will), but I will say that I'm a little frustrated with Disclaimer 2.

I know you say you don't want to have an argument or being "proven right," but a good section of your post is opinion rather than fact. So it's perfectly fine for someone to challenge your suppositions.

Also I don't think anyone in either posts has argued against you that one way is better than the other (even though you say yourself you prefer the Gygaxian multiverse), I think people do disagree that the distinction between the Gygaxian multiverse and the 5E multiverse is that large, or even matters much.
 

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
Disclaimer 2: I am not interested in arguing or being "right." More in observing the historical changes and seeing what they might mean. I'm not trying to convert anyone to running their own games in any particular way. Talking the history of the multiverse is fun, arguing about what is better is not (for me, you're welcome to whatever you want to say!).
Ok, actually read the full post! Full disclosure, I'm ignoring Disclaimer 2. I know you're not trying to convert anyone, but after reading what you think about "seeing what they might mean," I kind of disagree with your leaps so I'm going to point them out. I'm not going to say what is better or not, but I do disagree with what you seem to think the design changes actually mean.

Firstly, I don't know how the Manual of the Planes stops players from traveling from world to world. It's clearly not true, as you have a bunch of characters cross-pollinating within both Spelljammer and Ravenloft from various settings.

A. Every world must be a D&D-type fantasy world. While there are allowances for space hippos, there is no allowance to spelljam to Gamma World.
B. There can be no variations in rules. Prior to 2e, many gamers were quite used to going back and forth between 1e and BECMI (at the very least, they would play the modules interchangeably). You could not, however, travel to the the well-known world of Mystara.
Is there an actual source for these assumptions? I haven't seen anything that states "D&D are fantasy only, you can't sci-fi!" If not this is a big assumption.

Two years later, Dark Sun (Athas) revealed that this change in direction was permanent. Athas did not want your cross-pollination with other worlds. "No creatures from the SPELLAMMER Monstrous Compendiums live on Athas." Athas is treated as cut off, separate, away from the deities that populate other planes. It is treated as cut off. It is remarkable, yet unsurprising, that the very first edition post-Spelljammer both declines to use Spelljammer and also adopts a cribbed cosmology; this is something that would repeat time and again moving forward.
To be clear, the whole premise of Dark Sun (that it is a post-apocalyptic wasteland) kind of breaks down if people can just up-and-leave. It's also not even true; there are actual Dark Sun modules where the Githyanki invade Athas, showing that Dark Sun isn't as cut-off as people first assume.

I'll be honest here, I am so very very confused by this whole series of posts. The changes you're saying happened did indeed happen, but they haven't invalidated any aspect of Gygaxian portals and multiversal concepts. It just adds some structure to explain how those concepts are possible.

5E goes out of its way to embrace several of the Gygaxian elements you love. Dungeon of the Made Mage pulls elements from other settings into its nutty expanse of material, including Spelljammer. Characters like Acererak from Greyhawk and even Critical Role characters have appeared in Forgotten Realms content. They even released the Lost Laboratory of Kwalish which is a direct call-out to Expedition of the Barrier Peaks.

I love the amount of research you're doing and also love the nostalgia of TSR (which I share), but I do disagree that the material of today somehow invalidates it... it's all still very possible, and still being sprinkled throughout new material.
 


atanakar

Hero
There was no sci-fi crossovers after Gygax left, no siree

View attachment 122583

(Oh, and it also has ways to crossover a D&D and Alternity campaign. Imagine that).
WOW!

Quote : Shannon Appelcline
«Future History. A different take on monstrous robot appears on the cover of Dragon #258 (April 1999). That links to "Mage vs Machine", an article by Bruce R. Cordell that introduces the science fantasy sheen. They return in "Revenge of the Sheens" in Dragon #270 (April 2000). Though these monsters are different than the Overseer technology of Tale of the Comet, a tie-in is suggested: "At least two points of origin for machine life cysts are currently known, the Barrier Peaks and the Rael cysts."

Meanwhile, in Dungeon #126 (September 2005), Wolfgang Baur presents "The Clockwork Fortress", with suggested links to the sheen. It's also linked to the classic City of Gods from Blackmoor, proving that it's science fantasy all the way down.»
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
B. There can be no variations in rules. Prior to 2e, many gamers were quite used to going back and forth between 1e and BECMI (at the very least, they would play the modules interchangeably). You could not, however, travel to the the well-known world of Mystara.
I feel like there's a level of nuance that's being lost here. While the planar arrangement in AD&D was certainly different from the planar arrangement for BECMI (as described in the Immortals Set (1986), as I recall), it was worth noting that the D&D Rules Cyclopedia (1991) had an appendix that talked about conversion between BECMI and AD&D 2E. It even mentioned that it was "convenient" to assume that the two games took place in separate realities, and that moving characters between them was a "reality shift."

That term suggests (though it's not definitive) that the idea came, at least in part, from Bruce Heard's "Up, Away, and Beyond" article in Dragon magazine #160 (August, 1990), which talked about crossing over between D&D settings in more detail.

Please note the use of affiliate links in this post.
 

I feel like there's a level of nuance that's being lost here. While the planar arrangement in AD&D was certainly different from the planar arrangement for BECMI (as described in the Immortals Set (1986), as I recall), it was worth noting that the D&D Rules Cyclopedia (1991) had an appendix that talked about conversion between BECMI and AD&D 2E. It even mentioned that it was "convenient" to assume that the two games took place in separate realities, and that moving characters between them was a "reality shift."

That term suggests (though it's not definitive) that the idea came, at least in part, from Bruce Heard's "Up, Away, and Beyond" article in Dragon magazine #160 (August, 1990), which talked about crossing over between D&D settings in more detail.

Please note the use of affiliate links in this post.
Well Gygax and his players didn't cross between various D&D editions, since Gygax never really played 1st edition. He played his own OD&D/1E hybrid.
 



3catcircus

Adventurer
There is so much that is wrong with this thread - and it feels so right...

Other than Planescape which I feel was a terrible way to open up the planes to high level adventures (if you have to be high level to travel there, why can the local version in Sigil not have to be?), the ability to travel amongst multiple worlds and locales opens up the ability to have multiple campaigns in play at once, give the primary DM a break, and do one-shots on a whim.

The only problem is dealing with whiners who demand their "player agency" at the expense of a good campaign.
 

David Howery

Adventurer
I'd always thought the DS world was 'closed off' due to the really weird magic system it had there... doesn't really fit in well with the others. That said, it didn't stop the Ravenloft demiplane from entering it and stealing the population of a city to make another Island there...
 

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