With the licensing of some of Wizards of the Coast’s settings, such as Dragonlance and Ravenloft, there has been talk among fans of licensing out some of the other older settings as well, such as the Spelljammer setting.
Despite there being an interest in having such a license, the fan base is split on how it should be approached. Some will tell you that classic Spelljammer should be updated to 3rd edition rules. Some will say that Spelljammer should be based on Shadow of the Spider Moon, the d20 Spelljammer mini-game in Polyhedron, written by Andy Collins. There’s plenty of other divisions as well, including what tech level Spelljammer should be set at.
As we look at the possibility of licensing the Spelljammer campaign setting, we must look at it through a different lens than in the past. While this is true with the rules, this becomes especially true with the setting.
Spelljammer as a Setting
Spelljammer would have to be looked at in its entirety if licensed, and as one complete setting. You can’t look at it as the Spider Moon setting vs. the classic setting. If you choose one over the other, then you’re bound to alienate a portion of your fan base.
For example, if one built a new 3rd edition Spelljammer solely off of Shadow of the Spider Moon, you would lose a bit of the classic Spelljammer crowd. On the other hand, if one were to focus solely on the classic material, you would lose the new fan base that has come about due to Andy Collins’ work.
Integrating both works together would, in my opinion, be the way to go. You could use Andy’s Spelljammer rules to get you started, and his sphere (which fans have dubbed Pyrespace) would make a good starting point for adventure. Go beyond that sphere, and then you can tie it all together.
Beyond integrating both of the materials, though, is one more key element. You must build a cohesive setting that has materials that are familiar, but also a setting that has some new, interesting, and exciting elements to it.
Perhaps there are new races, and maybe one of them is trying to conquer the other spheres. Perhaps new spheres and new worlds are being discovered (a great way to integrate the classic and d20 Spelljammer settings). Perhaps there is new magic, new technologies, and new ships.
Through tying together the setting, and building upon it, you’ve accomplished one of the hardest goals.
Spelljammer as a Concept
Spelljammer is more than a setting – Spelljammer is a concept. The idea of traveling from world to world through means of magically powered ships with no futuristic technology whatsoever was a new and fresh one, and ripe for adventure.
While building a setting so that players have a place to adventure is important, it is equally important to present Spelljammer as a concept.
This concept of traveling from world to world through fantastic means should be set up to where you could travel to any world, whether it be a D&D world, or the worlds found in your favorite fantasy novels.
Spelljammer is a world that has infinite possibilities. So much can be done with the concept of fantasy space travel. By presenting a cohesive setting while also allowing Spelljammer to be a tool added to any fantasy setting, you ensure your road to success.
I’ve been wanting to see a 3rd edition version of Spelljammer since my first posts on the Wizards COMmunity boards (back when I came back to D&D in the early years of 3.0).
Having studied Spelljammer canon a fair amount (while working out what sort of structure I need to create for Spelljammer Wiki) I have worked out that there is a shortage of material for Spelljammer. As a concept, the Spelljammer universe consists of a large number crystal spheres bobbing in The Phlogiston (with the Cloakmaster Cycle novels actually hinting at the actual magnitude of the Spelljammer universe).
The setting that the AD&D Spelljammer products created is bigger than any other D&D campaign setting (with the possible exception of the Planescape Campaign Setting). But sadly, the size of the product line means that the amount of detail on each of those locations is far lower than most other D&D campaign settings (again with the possible exception of Planescape).
The Spelljammer universe has never been properly described in a single product, but I believe the concept of the SJ universe is a core of Known Spheres, where localised groups of humans have recently taken the lead over the Elven Navy, surrounded by a frontier, where spacefarers from the Known Spheres are less aware of what societies they will encounter when they visit one of the worlds. There are isolated spheres, like the Astromundi Cluster, that have been cut off from the rest of the universe for centuaries. And there are multi-sphere empires, like the Vodoni Empire, outside the trade routes of the Known Spheres.
I believe that the sheer size of the Spelljammer universe, in proportion to the quantity of existing Spelljammer canon, means that a 3rd edition Spelljammer Campaign Setting project, just can not afford to ignore *any* source of Spelljammer lore. The Spelljammer universe is everything you mentioned…and more. It has to include the locations from all of the 2e products, otherwise a GM will not be able to use the old adventures so easily. And it has to include the locations from Shadow of the Spider Moon, because that gives the GM a new sphere and some new options for the 3e era.
There are issues with certain Spelljammer products, both old and new, but ignoring sources of canon because of those issues is something that will just make it harder to get a fanon campaign setting to work. A 3e SJCS should add to what was there before, not take away from it.
I think that the history of the Spelljammer universe needs to be looked at, going back to the mythological origin myths of the Spelljammer itself, and then moving to a series of eras where certain races and spacefaring monsters had power over a large number of spheres. I don’t necessarily see one race controlling the universe and then another taking over the entire universe. Instead I see a universe where there are thousands of spheres and each race starting out from a single sphere and spreading its influence along the flow rivers from that sphere.
Running the entire Spelljammer universe in fast-forward, I see it like a big pond with stones being thrown in to create a number of ripples that spread outward from different areas. And at the very end of the timeline (just before the current day) I see three small stones landing in Realmspace, Krynnspace and Greyspace and forming a complex pattern of ripples that spread out from the Radiant Triangle. And, to me, I see the products that followed the original boxed set showing a series of crystal spheres as the waves of influence from the Radiant Triangle spread towards them.
So my question would not be: “Should the Shadows of the Spidermoon be combined with the existing Spelljammer universe?” My question would be: “Where can Pyrespace best fit into the extended Spelljammer universe?”
And I would be looking at the following questions:
* “How would the changes of the Living Greyhawk Gazeteer, and the core D&D product line, change Greyspace?”
* “How would the changes of the 3rd edition Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, and its follow up product line, change Realmspace?”
* “How would the changes of the 3rd edition Dragonlance Campaign Setting, and the follow up MWP product line, change Krynnspace?” and
* “How would all of these changes combine to influence the rest of the Known Spheres?”
Existing crystal spheres could have new information added to them (so that Greatspace could be expanded into *the* Hellenic crystal sphere). And adventures could have follow up stories created to continue them (so that Under the Dark Fist could evolve into After the Dark Fist).
But one of the other universe changing events is the Second Unhuman War, with the Cloakmaster Cycle giving both sides an urge to cease an Ultimate Helm and take command of The Spelljammer. This urge, as well as the Cloakmaster’s Quest, led to the discovery of the “paramagnetic gradient” and took a large number of ships from the Known Spheres to the centre of the Spelljammer universe. So as well as the 3e era giving the GM access to the scro and many other variations of spacefaring orcs, I think that ordinary spacefarers would soon be learning how far out the Known Spheres were from the Cosmic Egg and there might be more incentive to explore beyond the Known Spheres, map the phlogiston rivers and discover new worlds.
That is how I see the setting moving on, but what of the SJ concept that you mention.
I think that the heart of the Spelljammmer concept – a thing that was always there but never developed is that you can use Spelljammer as a bridge to connect any two Dungeons and Dragons worlds. What I think that 3e Spelljammer needs to be, as well as a campaign setting, is a sourcebook that allows a GM to build a crystal sphere around their own favourite campaign world and populate it with worlds, moons and asteroids.
But after looking at Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, Dragonlance Campaign Setting and Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, I’m not sure that can be achieved with a single book. So I think that a 3e Spelljammer Campaign Setting netbook would be just the start of the 3e SJ universe.
In order to fit in the essentials and improve the level of detail, I would be tempted to make the book both a description of the SJ universe and a Greyspace Gazeteer. My reasoning for picking Greyspace is that WotC picked Greyhawk as the “core world” and a person who just played with core rulebooks and the 3e SJCS would get a fully working crystal sphere.
A brief description of Realmspace, Krynnspace, Bralspace and the rest of the Known Spheres could be followed up with a Realmspace netbook (that builds from the concepts of the 3e FR sourcebooks), a Krynnspace netbook (that builds from MWP’s 3e DL sourcebooks), a Bralspace netbook (that builds on Paul Westermeyer’s research – as well as borrowing from his Jammers campaign) and a Known Spheres netbook (where the fans pull together the canon of the original product line and expand upon it).
That is a four netbook concept that would give you everything that 2e gave us, but would not go beyond the frontier into the unexplained spheres. So more netbooks would be needed to do that sort of thing.
But I think that finishing the three netbooks that Beyond the Moons has been working on is the first step towards creating a 3e SJCS.
Spelljammer for D&D 3rd edition: http://www.spelljammer.org/sj3e/
Spelljammer 3E Conversion Project: http://www.thepiazza.org.uk/bb/viewforum.php?f=49
Spelljammer 3E Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Spelljammer-for-DD-3e/157653177614788
When you indicate that there has been licensing “recently”, please confirm that that you mean “recently” only in the context that DL and Ravenloft have been licensed to third parties in 3e as opposed to poor old Spelljammer which has not.
I do not believe that WOTC would license anything out under the GSL in the same way they did the OGL, but since I am a long term fan of DL I would be willing to grasp at straws and suspend disbelief even if you just wanted to start a rumour that this is happening.
Long Live the Lance.
Recently was of the time of the original writing, which was several years ago. It was in the context of when DL and Ravenloft were licensed. I agree with your assessment that WotC will no longer license out its properties.