Spelljammer WTF Spelljamming? (5e) Orbital Mechanics

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As a kerbal space program player, trying to ignore all science in a space themed DnD game just leaves me with a migraine. :ROFLMAO:
I've felt that pain trying to play pick-up Traveller games at conventions. When the basic premise of a scenario relies upon a wildly mistaken interpretation of orbital mechanics, you know it's going to be tough.

I'm not disagreeing with you, I'm just pointing out that it's hard to gauge where Spelljammer sits on the scale before you play it, which can lead to mismatched expectations. As you said, it took you 30 years to come around on it.

Heh, it’s funny. I kept looking at it as sci-if with wizards and elves. As mentioned, it wasn’t until I began revisiting the inspirational stories of my childhood, many of which were animated, that I began to really start to understand the central conceits. However, it was reading about Greyhawk that actually made it click for me. Seeing that Celestian was a god of space blew my mind. Space gods? That’s some weird stuff! I then looked at it from the perspective of space gods, space wizards, space pirates, space orcs, space elves, and so on, and it suddenly unfolded before me.


This is what serves as the biggest hurdle for people enjoying Spelljammer in general, IMO. Spelljammer works best once one can free one’s mind, shed current scientific understanding of the cosmos, and embrace an imaginative milieu which glorifies in an older understanding of the nature of space. Once one is unclouded by the rational, scientific facts, a world of wonder opens up, and things like The Little Prince (the opening of the novel, at least), Jon Carter, Flash Gordon, and so forth become further inspiration instead of outdated.
Well said. This is not modern SF at all. It's Space 1889. The inspirations are totally different. Like you said, The Little Prince, Flash Gordon, Marvel Comics, Weird Tales, heck, most of the earliest SF like Verne or Wells fits in here too.

I'm not disagreeing with you, I'm just pointing out that it's hard to gauge where Spelljammer sits on the scale before you play it, which can lead to mismatched expectations. As you said, it took you 30 years to come around on it.

It's fine if everyone knows what they're getting into, but if the DM is talking to their players about this great spaceships-in-D&D setting he wants to try, a lot of them are going to turn up expecting to play something other than what the setting can deliver.
Yeah, that's fair. Well, fair in that the DM might not quite paint the right picture for what the game is about. The books themselves are unabashed about it. They are pretty clear and up front what Spelljammer is and it's very, very much NOT modern SF. Heck, I'd argue that it's barely SF at all. Thematically it's not, not really. It's far more pulpy and campy in it's origins. But, in any case, yeah, anyone expecting a Spelljammer game to be in the vein of Babylon 5 or even Star Trek is going to be sorely disappointed.

Heh. I'm SO reminded of reasons I've never liked Spelljammer.
Really, that's totally fair. I totally get it. If you're not into campy, 30's style SF, then, nope, Spelljammer is not really going to (ahem) rock your boat. I became a big Steampunk fan later in life, much later than when Spelljammer was a thing. It's actually pretty cool to come back around to Spelljammer now as a Steampunk fan and use the tropes and themes of steampunk in D&D.

Space and Science should not be mentioned in the same sentence as .
Using those words gives the totally wrong impression of Spelljammer. IMO, instead of space, terms like 'the in-between' or 'the void' or such should be used. And "atmosphere" should be thrown right out!


Another thing, I don’t know why Spelljammer decided to retain the ”real world” distances between objects that you would need a million-mile-per-day flying speed (about 41.6K mph). Attempting to have ship-to-ship interception/detection/avoidance at that speed with essentially line-of-sight detection is pretty ludicrous, for one thing. I’ve decided for my own game to cut that down drastically - into about the ten thousand-miles-a-day category (so in the neighborhood of 400-500 mph, slowing to “tactical” speeds of about 30-50 mph), but keep the time distance (i.e, about 3 days to the local moon, 30 days to the edge of the system). Still gives a “warp” system, but then a safer speed for ”impulse” and general getting around.

Of course, this being fantasy and all, I assume that spherical “planets” that are Earth-sized or larger are anomalies, instead of normally being a single plate of land mass held up by elephants on a turtle’s back…


Pedantic Grognard
Hang on. What’s a gas giant? Those don’t exist.
Sure they do. Krynnspace has one (Zivilyn, size class F air body), Greyspace has two (Edill and Gnibile, both size class G air bodies, the latter explicitly called a "gas giant" on p. 91 of the original boxed set's Lorebook of the Void), and Realmspace has one (Coliar, size class G air body, also explicitly called a "gas giant", same work, p.94).

I mean, sure, you can do whatever you want in your campaign. But both the example systems and the usual systems generated by the original boxed set's generation system look a lot more like the modern understanding of the Solar System than you're suggesting. It supports weird systems (and it also does things like having the "gas giants" be breathable air at standard pressure through-and-through, or Oerth be the center of its system orbited by its sun), but the really weird systems with giant beetles pushing things around, while allowed for, weren't the default.

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