Spelljammer Why Play Spelljammer Over a Regular Pirate Campaign?


A suffusion of yellow
Actually, ever since I read the totally incredible "On Stranger Tides" by Tim Powers (not the really bad rip-off by PotC), I can't envision a pirate campaign without Voodoo, and I've done just that on a number of occasions, either with 3e or with specific French System (and a comic has just come out based on Baron Slow Death, the villain of a French campaign that I ran more than 20 years ago for my UK friends).

So my next Spelljammer campaign will probably have Loa in spaaaaace...

I’ve played a PC based on Woefully Fat twice in a pirating RPG, and Maitre Carrefour as an NPC -the book is definitely one of my favourites still

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Great Old One
I’ve played a PC based on Woefully Fat twice in a pirating RPG, and Maitre Carrefour as an NPC -the book is definitely one of my favourites still

I suppose you mean Mate Care-For ? :)

That kind of word play was absolutely incredible, and so much part of the fun. And yes, houngans/bokors are great characters, but it's also fantastic that other characters can relate to that kind of magic and still be really effective.


Why Spelljammer? Because it's weird. My players are absolutely not interested in playing a D&D pirate game, and aren't all that interested in a seafaring exploration game, but they're absolutely interested in playing an exploration game in weird fantasy space. (Heck come to think of it they're more interested in playing an exploration game with flying ships on the surface of the gameworld than they are a seafaring one as well - flying ships are a big draw I think).

Are your pirate ships shaped like giant dragonflies, or mollusk shells with mind flayer tentacles, or multi-gravity plane d20 shaped fortresses?
not only this but having a mindflayer kingdom is pretty rare (especially in published settings)

Having said that I can make a starwars game on a single planet with a large city a swamp a dessert and a floating city and duplicate the orginal trilogy easy enough


Getting lost in fantasy maps
not only this but having a mindflayer kingdom is pretty rare (especially in published settings)
One of the biggest lost opportunities was no attempt to make the mind flayer empire in Astromundi make any bit of sense at how it worked.

We keep seeing reference to the mythical ancient empire of elder brains and mind flayers which these villains want to restore, but little effort explaining how it would work if reconstituted.

Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
As others have said, for me it's the difference between Star Trek (albeit Star Trek with Treasure Planet aesthetic/tech) and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Both can be absolute gobs of fun, and I don't even think tone is that important to either; either genre can do horror, suspense, comedy, thrill and action adventure. But I think in terms of genre, they actually do fit different niches.

A sea campaign is always going to be a bit more grounded (no pun intended). Yes you can go from island to island, and each island is going to be very different... but there is an expectation that the sea is not limitless, and even if you're exploring these islands for the first time, someone can always follow you. Eventually, you'll run out of sea to sail, and even if that can last a campaign for years, I think there should be an expectation from the characters that the journey can't go one forever, that there is an end-goal in sight.

A great example of this... is One Piece! This is literally a pirate campaign that has gone on for years, and who knows when/if it will end. However, the characters of One Piece (the strawhat crew) have a tangible goal in sight; to recreate the journey of the Pirate King, Gol D. Roger, find his treasure and become the new Pirate King. Even if the adventure never actually ends and they just keep visiting new island after island, there is an expectation of getting closer to that goal, the challenges and adversaries they face escalating as they get closer to achieving the mantle of Pirate King. This all makes sense; despite being a huge world with seemingly hundreds of islands, the world is finite and doesn't go one forever. And institutions in the world reflect that, with some waiting for the Strawhats at the end (The Four Pirate Emperors) and other pursuing them (The World Government and Marines).

I don't believe that same expectation, that the world is finite and "the adventure eventually ends" really applies to Spelljammer. The Astral Sea is for all intensive purposes, limitless. And much like TOS Star Trek, there isn't really an expectation that the goal can ever be completed; it's just to explore new worlds. And there are always new worlds! I know the show says "It's five-year mission" but there's technically no reason it has to be five years; it can go on forever, and it kind of does (although the person in the captain's chair changes). And I think that does fit a different genre in some ways; you don't really need an "end" as much as a sea campaign does.

That said, you can mostly do the same tropes in either. And obviously, the biggest difference is aesthetic; one is in space, the other is on water. Some folks prefer one or the other.

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