Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Game 397: Spelljammer: Pirates of Realmspace (1992)

      
Spelljammer: Pirates of Realmspace
Canada
Cybertech (developer); Strategic Simulations, Inc. (publisher)
Released 1992 for DOS
Date Started: 20 January 2021
 
This is my first exposure to the Spelljammer setting. I rather like it. It crosses genres in a way we rarely see: science fiction on top of a fantasy base. We see it go the other way a lot, as in Star Wars and Babylon 5. But fantasy characters usually remain firmly rooted on their own planets. If they don't, they typically travel to other places through some kind of magic portal or dimensional shifting, not by actually taking space ships. (Dungeons and Dragons uses this alternate approach with its "planes" and Planescape setting.) Might and Magic is an exception, but a confusing one, since you never really learn the rules of the (mostly hidden) science fiction universe. Brandon Sanderson's "Cosmere" is another example, although it also has kept most of the sci-fi parts hidden for now. 
       
I expected Spelljammer to occupy a completely different universe than the Dungeons and Dragons games I've played so far. Instead, it launches--quite literally--from the familiar Forgotten Realms Setting of Waterdeep. From there, instead of going south to Baldur's Gate or north to Luskan, it goes up--to space. And why not? Clearly there is a "space" in the Forgotten Realms. The planet is called "Toril," suggesting there are other planets. At nighttime, you can see stars.
       
You can play a female, but you assign sex after class and race, so all the default portraits are male.
     
But because Spelljammer is sci-fi grafted onto fantasy rather than the other way around, its space doesn't have to be our space--and it's not. The stars, therefore, are not other suns in the vast distance. They are instead small holes in the crystal sphere that surrounds what we would think of as Toril's "solar system," allowing people to see the "phlogiston" that exists between solar systems. Through the "wildspace" within solar systems and the phlogiston between them sail a variety of ships, powered by spellcasters wearing special helms called "spelljamming helms." [Ed. I was interpreting "helm" as "helmet," when I guess it's meant as the helm (wheel and other steering mechanisms) of a ship.] These ships don't need to worry about gravity and atmosphere because their science is not our science.
       
These are definitely the working-class versions of their associated races.
       
I guess the entire Spelljammer setting is no longer canon. It was only around from 1989 to 1993, when Planescape replaced as a method for connecting the various D&D campaign settings. I think that's too bad. I admittedly don't have much experience with it, but I fundamentally don't "get" Planescape, whereas I took to Spelljammer immediately (in saying that, I'm talking less about the game and more about the documentation). I would have loved to see it appear in the Infinity Engine. It draws from Ptolemaic theory, Jules Verne, steampunk, and classic nautical fiction, including pirate adventures. I could have done with a whole series of games in this setting.
    
Spelljammer of course came after the GreyHawk, Forgotten Realms, Ravenloft, Dragonlance, Kara-Tur, and several other Dungeons and Dragons campaign settings, each with their own origin stories, and now they were connected in a shared universe. The game manual highlights the theological complications associated with insisting that these settings are all "spheres" in a shared universe and that the gods, therefore, may only be gods of their own "spheres." 
    
My first ship.
      
The box claims that the game uses the second edition of the AD&D ruleset, which had come out in 1989. I spent some time researching what that should mean. First, the caps on classes based on race are gone, but that's not a huge advantage here because the experience levels don't go very high and there's no sequel. [Ed. I was wrong about this. There are fewer restrictions, and I think some of the caps have been raised, but they're not gone.] But I also thought AD&D2 was supposed to offer more classes, including the bard and the druid, and those aren't present in the game. Neither are weapon proficiencies. "Melf's Acid Arrow" appears as a spell, but I think that was in AD&D1 and the gold box games just never included it. Some of you who have more expertise with the rules may have to alert me to more of the changes.
   
Either way, the same familiar races, classes, alignments, and attributes are present as you create your captain. Although the game could theoretically draw on the conventions of any of the constituent campaign settings, it seems to use familiar Forgotten Realms themes. Mages are thus just mages--not white or black or red. I don't know how clerics figure out what gods they worship; I guess it depends on where they were born.
 
I created a chaotic good half-elf ranger named Woodes. (The default name, strangely, was "Guilt.") The game automatically assigned attributes, but I was able to re-roll, and I did until I had acceptable intelligence, strength, and dexterity. The rolls were pretty generous, rarely going less than 13 and never less than 10 except for charisma. You start at Level 5 with nearly 20,000 experience points.
        
Later, I'll have wished I held out for more hit points.
         
The backstory has the main character born on Toril, unaware of the other worlds of the cosmos until he meets a spelljammer captain one night in a Waterdeep tavern. Initially skeptical of the captain's claims to have sailed the stars, the character's doubts are dispelled when the captain invites him aboard the vessel and takes him on a short trip to the moon. The captain explains that he wants to retire to Waterdeep and thus sells the craft to the character, who assembles a crew and embarks on his own career on the high aether.
      
If a Star Wars movie was just 90 minutes of title crawl.


   
The game begins with the ship in wildspace. It is a galleon called the Meandering Beast that can only land in water. A large crew is aboard, already assigned to various positions on the ship. In addition to Captain Woodes, I have:
   
  • First mate: Grendal, a lawful good half-elf cleric
  • Helmsman: Loric Brightshield, a lawful good human cleric
  • 2nd Helmsman: Moran Silverleaf, a lawful good elf mage
  • Navigator: Melcar the Wise, a lawful good human mage
  • Lookout: Norv Greybard, a lawful good human mage
  • Crew: Grog Stiffbeard, a lawful good human fighter
  • Crew: Sir Aeron, a lawful good human paladin
  • Crew: Stephan Longlegs, a lawful good half-elf ranger
  • Crew: Sopa Swiftfingers, a chaotic good halfling thief
  
Screw evil characters, women, and gnomes, I guess. Everyone is Level 5 and has an appropriate selection of weapons and spells. Inventory includes cloaks, helms, and boots along with melee and missile weapons and trade items like holy symbols and thieves' picks. Oddly, some of the attributes seem a bit low for the characters' chosen classes. My clerics have wisdom scores of 11 and 12. One of my mages has an intelligence of 11 but a dexterity of 18.
  
My hardy crew..
        
The game has started me with no job and no clue. I'm adrift in a starfield with no particular destination. There are no log entries, no manifest, and three tons of cargo: one ton each of elm, pine, and limestone.
   
A check of the map shows I can visit any of the planets in Toril's system, both outer (Chandos, Garden, and Glyth) and inner (Karpri, Coliar, Anadia, and Toril). I don't know anything about the lore of these systems, but the manual has a short description of each. I decide to start where the manual does, on Coliar, home of "races of lizard men, aaracokra, and dragons." I set the destination and spelljam there automatically, which takes about a minute of zooming through space. 
       
You can set a course for a planet by selecting it on the map.
      
Upon arrival, I'm given a choice of Hisssta and Athanar; I choose the former. Arriving at a city in this game is like arriving at a port in Pirates! You have options to visit whatever the government building is called and talk to the governor (although you need an invitation, which I don't have), visit the docks to repair your ship, visit the cargo warehouse to buy and sell cargo and take special missions, buy and sell individual equipment at shops, get healed at a temple, and go to the bar for drinks, rumors, or work. Most ports seem to have some analog of all of these options.
      
Any game that features lizard men goes crazy with the onomatopoeia.
     
Every port requires you to pay a certain amount of money in taxes every time you dock. These vary from place to place and even time to time, and I haven't worked out the specific formula. I had a few jobs that were basically negated by the taxes required to dock and finish the job. I know--ha, ha, I was just expressing a willingness to pay higher taxes in my Star Quest entry. This is a fantasy game, and as far as I know, I'm not getting health care or highways for that money.
       
It's the "cargo tax" that gets you.
       
The developers took more inspiration from Pirates! than just the town options. The three basic ways of making money seem to be identical: buy and sell cargo, loot other ships (you can wait for hostile ones if you want to play "good"), and perform special missions. On this first visit, I am approached by a halfling who claims to have escaped from slavers and wants me to take him home to Anadia. I readily agree, even though a rumor in the same tavern says that "Anadia is so close to the sun that some ships burn before they can dock."
        
My first quest!
        
As I leave port, the crew demands to be paid, but that's a pittance compared to the taxes. I give them around 40 gold and then we're off to Anadia.
   
Right out of port, we're approached by a hostile spelljammer. Other than briefly playing with the options, which include firing ship's weapons and ramming, I haven't done much with the ship combat system. Instead, I simply close the distance and grapple. I want to see what the party combat system is like.
      
Ramming seems to be a bad idea.
     
It's going to take some getting used to. It is similar to Gold Box combat in rules. You and the enemy characters take turns based on initiative. During a character's turn, he has options to attack, defend, guard, cast, turn undead, change equipment, heal a companion, or flee (I don't know how that works in space). There's a new option to stop combat and "parlay" [sic]. You have movement points that I assume are based on encumbrance.
   
There are a few changes, though. First, the graphics are much different. They look a lot like Ultima VI. Second, each enemy icon can actually represent a stack of foes, and you have to kill all of them for the icon to disappear. Third, it turns out that I have crewmembers other than the officers! They're not named, and I can't control them directly in combat. They're mostly fighters, it seems, and they mostly shoot missile weapons, but they're pretty effective. 
 
The combat map varies from ship to ship, but it includes lots of barriers and rooms that can hide enemies and make it tough to track them all down.  
       
Until I got some experience, I wasn't sure which characters were mine.
         
This first combat goes horribly. I've forgotten to have my spellcasters memorize spells, so they're useless. My attackers are humanoid, and since I've never fought with this combat system before, I have a lot of trouble distinguishing friend from foe. My characters seem to go down awfully fast for Level 5. After a couple of them die, I kill the emulator and reload. This is before I got the quest on Coliar, so I have to return. The halfling isn't there anymore, but I get a similar quest (escaped from slavers) from a guy who wants to go to Toril.
       
In a later combat with lizard men, this was a bit easier.
        
You can only have one mission at a time, plus one cargo mission. The cargo missions almost always pay less than the ones you get in bars. I eventually learn that you get three chances per visit to accept or reject cargo missions, so you can try to hold out for one going to the same place as your other mission, if that makes sense.
   
You'll pay me 1,000 gold to deliver a single hammer to another planet?
        
When we get to Toril, I start recording the prices of cargo. I make a spreadsheet so that I can figure out how much each product (dwarven ale, steel, elm, cattle, copper, limestone, etc.) sells in each port and figure out which items might be profitable to trade. This soon becomes complicated. It turns out that the ports don't sell the same cargo, so it's hard to make comparisons. Even at a single port, the cargo offerings might change between visits. For insance, elm was selling for 250 gold per unit on Toril and 3,500 per unit on Hissta. I figured that would be like printing money. But when I returned to Toril to buy a bunch, there was no more elm. Finally, as I learned painfully, ports only pay half of what they sell the same cargo for. I'll keep recording the prices, but it seems like it's going to be tough making a profit this way.
    
I spent a while taking ferrying missions. A guy wants to go to Garden (huge taxes, but he paid well). A noble on Toril wants me to pick up his son's fiancée and bring her back to Toril. A family of refugees is trying to get to Ananda. The specific stories don't really matter.
   
Great. Now to pay half of that in taxes.
        
I get stopped by enemy vessels a couple of times, but my crew gets slaughtered every time. The closest I get is in a battle with some lizardmen, but they kill three of my characters, and I decide not to take that heavy a loss. I do finally memorize spells, and they work reasonably well, but it's not enough. A party of elves boards me at one point and just wipes me out with their arrows.
       
I did manage to fry a few of them.
      
Not all ships are hostile. The game has a "hailing" system that allows you to demand the enemy surrender or just hail him and talk. There are even some minor dialogue options within the associated conversation.
         
Talking with some vessel.
           
Finally, I see a strange ship that looks like a spider. Determined to win just once, I close and board it, only to find it completely deserted. All I can do is loot the ship. The game offers me the opportunity to trade ships, but while the new one has more cargo room and better offensive capabilities, the manual says it can't land at any ports. That's a dealbreaker. I do loot it for an upgrade spelljammer helm, some gold, and some minor bits of inventory (e.g., a suit of chainmail). It's pretty lucrative for not having to do any work. According to the manual, these spider ships are built by the Neogi, a "cross between a wolf spider and a moray eel." I can't quite picture that.
          
Woodes wanders an empty ship. Nothing to do but "loot" it.
       
Since different ships hold different numbers of crew, I suspect the goal here is to make enough money that I can afford a bigger ship with a bigger crew compliment, so it's like going into battle with an army. I haven't really looked at ship prices yet.
  
I'm wondering whether I get any experience for these non-combat missions, and it turns out that my main character does. He goes up to Level 6 as I complete the next mission. The rest of the officers don't seem to budge.   
       
Now I want to know how it determines experience. Light years traveled?
         
Back on Waterdeep, a government official meets me in the bar and asks me to look into a pirate vessel creating mischief around Anadia. I agree and head for the innermost planet, which involves skirting around the sun. I find no pirates on the way to the planet, but as I pull away, a pirate ship appears off my bow. I close and grapple. I'm determined to finally win one.
    
One wonders what all those appendages do.
     
My hopes dissipate as soon as I see my enemy: illithid. About seven of them, along with a bunch of fighter and gnome thralls. They're immune to magic and manage to stun several of my characters per round with psionic attacks. I manage to kill exactly one of them before I inevitably lose the battle.
        
Aren't mind flayers awfully advanced for Level 5?
        
Miscellaneous notes:
     
  • A lot of the shopkeepers are digitized photos. They look pretty bad.
       
Ah, I see this bar carries The Boss Hog Edition 六.
      
  • Although space is a 3D environment, you only ever have one heading to a planet, and you can only ever move in two dimensions.
  • Half the time I choose "spelljam to destination," I arrive near the planet but not at the planet. I sometimes have to choose it a few times.
  • The interface is great. The game can be run by mouse or keyboard; the keyboard commands are obvious and intuitive. 
  • When the game began, I had hoped my adventures would take me to Krynn and Greyhawk, but it appears that the game is limited to the Forgotten Realms system of planets. 
  • None of my mages who have Level 3 spells have "Fireball." The manual insists that it exists, though. It seems like a bad idea to cast it on a ship.
      
As far as I can tell, the few changes to the combat system don't weaken it at all. I still think it's a great system. I just wouldn't mind winning a combat for once. As for the rest of it, I can see why the game didn't really click. Flying from port to port without much to do in space and with no way to really explore the planets doesn't make for a very exciting game.
   
Time so far: 4 hours
 

150 comments:

  1. I played this last year! I also had and played it back when it first came out, but never got anywhere with it due to the combat challenges you mention, so it was nice to finally win it. Couple random things:

    A spelljamming helm isn't a helmet you wear, it's like a ship's helm. Apparently they mostly look like chairs?

    I don't know as much about the 1e to 2e transition in AD&D, but I do know rangers have a bunch of ability prerequisites, so that might be why they were coming up so high?

    Combat is indeed pretty hard -- you can outfit your full crew with magic items, though, which is an important progression route since as you noticed only your captain appears to gain experience.

    Some small mechanical spoilers:

    V nyfb xrcg n fcernqfurrg bs pnetb cevprf, ohg nf sne nf V pbhyq gryy gur cevprf ner gur fnzr ng rnpu cbeg -- bayl ninvynovyvgl punatrf -- fb lbh pna'g znxr zbarl genqvat, bayl fryyvat pnetb lbh trg sebz bgure fuvcf.

    Lbh pna hctenqr lbhe fuvc, ohg nyy gur bcgvbaf V sbhaq jrer vasrevbe gb gur fgnegvat fuvc, fb V whfg fghpx jvgu gung guebhtu gur shyy tnzr.

    V qba'g guvax V sbhaq n jnl gb yrnea arj fcryyf -- vs abobql unf sveronyy, zvtug jryy or gung lbh jba'g or noyr gb trg vg.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are mostly correct about the helm, but I think there are also portable helms that are worn. I could be wrong; it's been a long time since I looked at those books.

      Delete
    2. There is the magical Crown of Stars which is worn and functions as a minor helm, and most importantly works within a mile of the ship. But otherwise they are fixed devices of various kinds (chairs, furnaces, etc). No idea how many of these options show up in this game.

      Delete
    3. Ha. That's funny. I was picturing a big helmet with lots of tubes coming out that connected to various parts of the ship. It didn't occur to me that "helm" has a different connotation nautically.

      Delete
    4. It clicked to me when I realised what a "Helms"man is doing on a ship

      Delete
    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
  2. Wow, this does look a lot like U6. I used to enjoy the tabletop version of this setting, I was not aware there was a computer game of it. Does the game include things like air pockets and gravity planes, too?

    AD&D 2E does have bards, druids, and race/level caps; just not all games implement them. The spell Melf's Acid Arrow comes from 1E but exists in every edition. EOB (another 2E game) also has it.

    Well, the game IS called "Pirates of REALMspace", meaning the crystal sphere with the Forgotten Realms in it. I suppose Krynnspace and Greyspace are not included (there may be copyright reasons involved). Kara-Tur is in fact part of the Forgotten Realms. Ravenloft is not accessible by spaceship due to how Ravenloft works. The other D&D settings are not canonically part of Spelljammer, as far as I'm aware. I'm sure you'll find the Rock of Bral (an asteroid) sooner or later.

    And yes, casting Fireball on shipboard is a bad idea. This may be why the game doesn't include that spell.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It apparently does include "Fireball"; I just don't have it in the party.

      Delete
    2. I don't see anything in the game that has to do with gravity. Air is a thing. It can get befouled by things like smoke, and you have to refresh and replenish it when you reach planets. I'm not sure exactly what's keeping it contained to the ship.

      Delete
    3. By Spelljammer lore, every sufficiently large object (such as a ship) has its own gravity plane unless overridden by a nearby much larger object (such as a planet). That means that a ship's gravity plane keeps the air on. It also means you can stand upside down on the bottom (since it's a plane), or if you aim right, toss things overboard and have them curve under the ship and pop up on the other side.

      Point is, the setting has some pretty well-developed weird science to it.

      Delete
    4. Well, if Athas / Dark Sun is part of Spelljammer, there is an easy profit route : import metal to Athas, export obsidian.

      On the other hand, you really don't want defilers move from Athas to Forgotten Realms or anywhere, or soon you have 2 Athas.

      Delete
    5. Pretty sure Athas was specifically called out as inaccessible to spelljamming (and pretty inaccessible to planar travel too...)

      Delete
    6. Ah yes, I remember something about why getting into Athas is a one-way trip with no exit, and thus summoned elementals are very, very unhappy because iirc they are not "sent back" at the end of the summoning. Also why there is no God and no God willing to fill the void, and why Githyanki race of planar travellers/raiders stuck on Athas devoluted (or evoluted, given their psionic powers) as the Athasian Giths.

      Delete
    7. Did not stop Kalidnay to be taken by the mists of Ravenloft, in the 2nd edition anyway. It becomes more complicated later.

      Delete
  3. There wasn't many mechanical differences between AD&D 1st and 2nd. There were some races (half-orc) and classes (assassin, illusionist) removed, bard was added as a normal class, and specialized mages appeared with tiny differences to a normal wizard. Cleric spells are divided into spheres and clerics/druids have access to only some of these. Non-combat proficiencies were introduced as a rudimentary skill-system. Thief skills' development was changed a bit, and THAC0 became the only official way to do combat. Psionics were removed from the core rules. Other than these, many spells and monsters were changed. And, to protect the innocents, demons were renamed tan'ari and devils are now called baatezu.

    As you can see, regarding these CRPGs there were almost no relevant changes. Even the class changes are irrelevant, because Spelljammer only has 6 of them in the game. Non-combat proficiencies are missing from the game, I assume thieving abilities are missing from the game and I don't think psionics were ever part of the Gold Box engine.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Monk was another base class from 1e that got cut.

      As Laszlo says, 2e is mostly just balancing and organising.

      3e is a big shift, 4e an even bigger shift, and 5e goes back to feeling quite like 3e. There's also 3.5e which is to 3e what 2e is to 1e.

      Delete
    2. Also, level limits for non-humans still existed in 2e, and rudely, weren't even in the PHB!

      Delete
    3. (Thus you might create a halfling cleric only to be informed at a later date by your DM that you'd never advance beyond Level 8)

      Delete
    4. Maximum Strength based on race and sex was removed, everyone could potentially hit 18(00) except halflings who got a -1 and maxed at 17

      Delete
    5. There were a few other minor changes going from 1st to 2nd editions of AD&D:
      * Rangers went from having wizard spells to druid spells.
      * Proficiencies were not new per se, but were brought into the core books instead of being split across several optional books

      As Tristan points out, 2e was mostly a reorganization of 1e material as TSR felt the rules had gotten spread out over too many books. I'm sure a nice side bonus was that TSR got to sell the same material twice.

      Delete
    6. Getting a comprehensive list of the actual differences between AD&D rule sets is harder than I would have expected, at least using Google. I appreciate if anyone has a good source for me to consult in the future.

      Delete
    7. Sheesh, that's a hard one. From the perspective of character building/development, in first edition you pick a race and a class, and that's it.

      In 2E, you also gain skills as you level up (weapon and non-weapon proficiencies) and there are subclasses (kits), but these are all optional rules and rarely seen in CRPGs. Nevertheless this is THE most common ruleset for D&D CRPGs, and the one with the most official settings.

      In 3E, you can pick a class every level (so you can combine classes), skill points every level, and a special ability (feat) every couple of levels. Since 3E is legally "open content", it has an absolutely staggering amount of material from any number of third-party publishers, but not a lot of CRPGs.

      In 4E, you pick only a single class, but get "powers" as you level up. For casters, that means spells; for e.g. fighters that means combat maneuvers (which mechanically work the same as spells). You pick skills only at first level, and still get a feat every couple levels.

      And in 5E, you are back to picking a class every level, but get skills only at first level, and feats are an optional rule.

      1E and 2E have five kinds of "saving throw" with obtuse names, and attack and armor values going down (low AC is good). 3E and up have three kinds of saving throw (fortitude, reflex, willpower) and every value goes up (high AC is good). 3E also drops the special scale for strength scores (instead of 18/01 through 18/99 you just go straight to 19).

      I think that's the gist of it.

      Delete
    8. I don't think you will find an itemized list of differences, apart maybe from the main differences between the two edition's base PHB books. Even that would be hard: 1st is 130 pages, 2nd is 250 pages long.

      Plus the later books added an insane amount of canonical content. They are mostly the same game regarding the mechanics. The presentation and for many, the overall mood of the game changed. In my opinion, this was when roleplaying games entered the real mainstream.

      Delete
    9. This is an era in which fans of different franchises invest thousands of hours in typing every last bit of minutiae into fan sites and wikis. I can't imagine the list of differences between 1E and 2E is longer than the list of minor characters in the Star Wars expanded universe. But I guess I could be wrong, since I can find the latter and not the former.

      When you say "later books," what do you mean? I remember some huge differences between 2E and 3E, for instance.

      Delete
    10. Even Radiant's summary above, which I know is far from comprehensive, is still more valuable than most of what I was finding through a Google search. Thanks!

      Delete
    11. By "later books" I mean the official rulebooks and expansions and modules. In AD&D2 every class and every race got their own book, there were literally thousands of spells published. They were still AD&D2, as everything was official.

      And then there were the different worlds with their own races, magic, classes, rules, systems (like pisonics and defiler magic in Dark Sun, controlling baronies and having bloodlines in Birthright etc.). Those are still AD&D2.

      Here is a quick primer on the different editions: https://rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/13212/what-are-the-big-differences-among-the-dd-editions

      Delete
    12. That helps, thanks, but I was really hoping to find something that answered more detailed questions, like what were the level caps on elf mages in AD&D2 vs. 3 or when did "Color Spray" show up a first-level mage spell, or when did "Cantrips" first appear? That kind of thing.

      Delete
    13. Fallout 3 and 4 have quite similar game mechanics. You could of course pick out 5-6 enormous and 10+ smaller changes between them, but you couldn't list every single difference, because if you look at them with that perspective, it seems that everything changed. It's a bit like that between those editions too.

      I hope it's not a stupid analogy.

      Delete
    14. Unfortunately, I don't know such a source. For some the lore, there are insanely detailed Wiki pages, but for mechanics, it's mostly 5E right now. So you have to Google every question like that, or check out the core books from every edition...

      (Elven mages can be at max 15th level in AD&D2 - there were no racial level limits in 3rd edition and later ones. Color Spray was in AD&D1 as an illusionist spell, it debuted as a wizard spell in AD&D2. Cantrips debuted in Dragon magazine as an equivalent of level 0 spells and thus were part of AD&D1.)

      Delete
    15. I have to second Laszlo here. To compile information down to the level of detail of individual spells across editions would be a massive undertaking that IMO would dwarf any fan wiki.

      Different fan websites generally have bits and pieces that you can find online. For example, level caps by race in 1E or 2E can be found by Googling "D&D level caps 1E". Level caps stopped being a thing starting in 3E.

      Delete
    16. But of COURSE a wiki exists that tracks all the versions of Color Spray throughout the editions. But it only tracks a couple hundred common spells, not the over-nine-thousand printed for 2E and especially 3E.

      https://forgottenrealms.fandom.com/wiki/Color_spray

      Delete
    17. SO what you're telling me is that D&D fans will still get on my case about every mistake I make regarding the various editions, but there's no where I can go to easily research the differences between editions. Sounds par-for-the-course with this endeavor.

      Delete
    18. Probably not? Most D&D fans have one favorite edition and aren't all that familiar with the others (except by being keenly aware that their favorite is vastly superior than anything else :) ).

      3E came out in 2000, so that's substantially newer than your current games, whereas almost no tabletop game plays anything older than that. So you're probably safe here; you're likely one of the foremost authorities on 2E by now.

      Delete
    19. It always shocked me how 4E never really got any CRPGs. It's not the greatest rule set for tabletop, but it feels like it was tailor-made for a tactical CRPG experience.

      Delete
    20. There is only OD&D... I'm not sure what these heatherns are talking about otherwise. Editions? Never heard of them... G...

      Cantrips were first mentioned in Dragon magazine years ago! I don't recall the edition though.

      Ignore those who fuss about the editions. There are too many differences to worry about them!

      Delete
    21. Tried to post a long reply. Seems to have been eaten by the browser gods. But I apologize if both get posted, and this is redundant.

      1) A pox on anyone who has given you a hard time about semantical differences between 1E and 2E. Even as someone well versed in several editions of the rules, I sometimes mix up details. Some people just need to argue I guess?

      2) It would be difficult, if not impossible, to properly provide a diff of each edition, for a myriad of reasons.

      a) 1E is so poorly organized, that you’d need to essentially re-edit, and index it, to use it as a viable reference. This is why stuff like OSRIC is so popular. (And no, you can’t just use OSRIC, since even that had some changes from 1E.)

      b) 1E is written in “High Gygaxian”. e.g. a the writings of a middle aged midwestern fantasy/wargaming/sci-fi nerd, that enjoyed using obscure “medieval” words and vague prose. This makes interpretations of its rules, even for self reference, difficult at times (see the ADDICT document on surprise/initiative roles in 1E for an example.) It would be even more difficult to properly quantify everything for categorization and comparative purposes.

      c) Every edition was expanded upon, but a non-standard set of expansion materials:

      1E had Dragon magazine, modules, additional core hardbacks, setting books and boxed sets.

      2E had Dragon magazine, The “Complete” series, the “Book of” series, the Players Options hardbacks, additional core hardbacks, modules, setting books, and boxed sets.

      I’m less familiar with 3-5E, but they all were expanded upon in a similar manner to 2E, albeit with differing titles, and a differing organizational structure to the expansion material.

      So you can’t, for example, compare the Complete Fighters Handbook 1E version, to the 2E version, because the 1E version didn’t exist. Can’t compare the 2E with the 3E one because…again…it doesn’t exist.

      Even when there’s some parity, when you look at Complete Fighter’s Handbook vs Sword and Fist in 3E, there’s enough of a lack of parity, to make a direct comparison impossible.

      3) 2E and later materials were produced foremost for profit (5E is an exception to all of this btw.) They were not edited well. Their individual rules were often not reviewed by a central body that could omit them, or say “hey we already published a rule for this”. So at times you’d have to denote the 5 ways a rule was presented in various materials 2-4E, while comparing against prior versions.

      4) Major system changes happened between 2E and 3E. Additional major changes happened between 3.x and 4E. Then more major changes happened between 4E and 5E. These changes would make comparisons of specific rules quite difficult to adequately compare. In some cases you could just say “rule X was switched to a standard D20 ruleset skill role”. But in others it’s a lot more complex and hard to explain to those without understanding of the rules.

      5) Philosophical changes were a major component of the edition changes. Those are hard to quantify. 4E, for example, has a lot of MMO influence. Which makes sense as it was competing with Wow in it’s prime, when it launched. But that’s also a drastic simplification of what the designers were going for. In some cases you can directly obtain the philosophy the designers had (in the case of 4E-5E they were writing blog posts iirc) but in others like 1E, the best you can do is guess and infer based on evidence and historical context.

      6) I can’t imagine anyone would want to actually do this.

      Someone, please, prove me wrong. But it seems thankless, and boring. You’d have to denote the most banal and trivial things to accurately do this. You’d be listing changes in stat blocks between editions. Changes in the cost of hiring torch bearers, and/or if you even *can* hire a torch bearer in said edition.

      So. Yeah. It may happen someday. Maybe it’s something your community could try to do. But it’s a massive undertaking, and not a particularly entertaining one.

      Delete
    22. Worth noting that D&D is really weird in this aspect. Most other TTRPGs that have specific numbered editions CAN have such a guide, and often have official conversion procedures to make things easier. To my knowledge, only Traveler has anything close to the "reinvented several times" nature of D&D.

      Delete
    23. I wonder if the Forgotten Realms is the most extensively described fictional world in history. There's more than Middle-Earth at this point.

      It's impossible to keep track of all the minor differences in D&D editions; I'd just have fun and not worry too much about people nitpicking whether Melf's Acid Arrow was in 1st or 2nd edition. (It showed up in Unearthed Arcana, which is probably why people don't remember it.)

      As a fun aside, 'Melf' was apparently just the character type written on the sheet, 'male elf'. The guy thought it was a name and they ran with it.

      Delete
    24. Any sufficiently complex tabletop RPG has the same problem. RPGs aren't formal specifications, they are a wild mix of formulas, tables, text etc., complicated by being split up into different rule books and addons.

      If you give a clearly defined scope, both in terms of considered source material, and specific rule aspect (character creation, spell lists and effects, ...), I'm certain such a comparison could be made. But what purpose would it serve?

      Delete
    25. The 1E and 2E rulesets are each three books with a couple of hundred pages in each, and almost every race, class, spell, and specific rule got some kind of minor tweak. The list of changes between 1E and 2E would not be much shorter than the rulebooks themselves.

      A list of major changes is easier, although it's difficult to define major, but the pages you've already found dealing with the adjusted default races and classes mostly cover it.

      Delete
    26. (But it's worth noting that no videogame has ever offered a full and faithful adaptation of those rules, although the Beamdog Enhanced Editions of the Infinity Engine games come close, as does Solasta: Crown of the Magister. The changes to make them work as a videogame are usually fairly major. But anyway, the game manual to Spelljammer is going to be a better guide to how they've interpreted the 2E rules than the actual 2E Player's Handbook.)

      Delete
  4. Those character portraits are from EotB, although redrawn.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Sorry, but I'm found yet another shareware RPG not on your list.
    https://www.mobygames.com/game/win3x/superher

    I actually played it once, back in the 90s. There is really a kind of character generation, stat-based combat and the character gaining points to improve her stats. Not sure if there is any equipment. It also may be somewhat notable as a superhero-themed RPG and for having a story about female protagonist.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Setting note. Spelljammer was an addition to the entire setting, which included Planescape. In D&D there's the Material Plane, where most settings were, the inner (elemental) Planes, and the outer (divine) Planes. Spelljammer was just showing how the the different settings connected in the Material Plane.

    I don't think it's still canon though.

    And another side note, from what I heard Spelljammer was deliberately unbalanced. The CEO of TSR at the time hated the thought of adults playing games, and wouldn't let anyone do any testing while working. So they didn't even bother when Spelljammer came out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What is "canon" is a complicated matter. Back in 2E, nothing from the official Forgotten Realms material references Spelljammer, or for that matter Planescape. But the Spelljammer books do reference the FR (plus Greyhawk and Dragonlance; but not the dozen-or-so other official D&D settings). Spelljammer doesn't mention Planescape either, nor vice versa; the two wer separate projects and not intended to be compatible.

      This basically means that there were THREE continuities: Forgotten Realms standalone; Spelljammer (which includes FR); and Planescape (which also includes FR, but not Spelljammer).

      Of these settings, 3rd and 5th edition use FR-with-Planescape by default, although they haven't printed new material about Sigil. 4th edition uses FR-without-Planescape by default; so 4E retcons Planescape away, and 5E retcons it back. The Spelljammer continuity was discontinued after second edition (20 years ago), apart from a couple shout-outs.

      Delete
    2. 4th added Sigil back in in DM Guide 2. Of course the cosmology was still different from the great ring

      Delete
    3. And there is Baldur's Gate 2. With the references to both Planescape (Haer'Dalis and his quest) and Spelljammer (the ship in Ust Natha). But I guess, it counts as one of the shout-outs.

      Delete
    4. Unknown above again (I thought I didn't do that).

      I know at least one of the Planescape manuals mentioned something from Spelljammer, but it's been a long time since I read them.

      Although most of the Material Plane setting specific works (like Greyhawk) didn't mention Spelljammer or Planescape, they were all considered canon at the time. The setting specific stuff just didn't mention them because not everyone had the other settings, or didn't plan on using them.

      I don't know if it was canon or not, but I have seen a Spelljammer map that showed many crystal spheres. A few were from some of the other 2nd edition settings, but some of those were hard to enter or didn't have a current leading to them.

      Delete
    5. Also, a lot of the older info that was used in Planescape was actually background info from Greyhawk. But it's been retconned so often I don't know which exact parts, other than the ancient law/chaos fight in the outer planes.

      Delete
    6. Well, you say these things are "all considered canon", but the question is by WHOM exactly.

      If Planescape or Spelljammer books claim that some setting (e.g. Dark Sun) is part of their overall cosmology, BUT actual Dark Sun books directly contradict that (and they do: Dark Sun claims a vastly different cosmology, and Dragonlance suggests likewise), then clearly there are two or more distinct and separate canons/continuities.

      I'd be curious to find out whether (e.g.) Ed Greenwood's Forgotten Realms novels or Weis & Hickman's Dragonlance novels contain any mentions of Spelljammer and/or Planescape.

      Delete
    7. I can't speak to the Greenwood FR novels, but the Weis & Hickman Krynn canon does not mention Spelljammer or Planescape, and I don't *think* it ever references any of the other D&D settings in any way.

      Delete
    8. D&D being one setting was added later on in the game. I know that Hickman hated it. But it was retconned into the various settings that they were all connected, and any 'differences' were due to misunderstandings.

      Most specific setting didn't mention it because, as I said earlier, not everyone had or planned to use multiple settings in a campaign. But after TSR started crossing over the settings it became canon.

      Trying to make reconcile the differences is a headache, but the general Planescape info was there in 1st edition. And was used in Forgotten Realms. I've seen current info directly linking the law/chaos fight in the Greyhawk setting to the Forgotten Realms history, including changes in 4th and 5th editions.

      Every non setting specific publications I've seen assume that the settings ARE linked, but not everyone plays that way.

      Delete
    9. "It was added", "it was retconned"... again, by WHOM exactly? I get that that's YOUR canon, but what's your source?

      Delete
    10. I mean, by TSR, who made these kinds of decisions without necessarily deferring to the particular people who made each specific campaign setting, and who may or may not have been intentionally contradicting stuff other folks did? Like, Weis and Hickman's canon for Dragonlance isn't the same as the "official" TSR Dragonlance canon. Dragonlance's Dark Queen is a Lawful Evil goddess who lives in the Abyss, per DL, except in the larger cosmology the Abyss is where Chaotic Evil demons live, so this was ironed out by saying that the Dark Queen's Abyss is actually part of the Nine Hells instead. Greenwood's Forgotten Realms is obviously not TSR's Forgotten Realms -- Moonshae, Kara Tur, and Zakhara/Al Qadim were, I believe, later additions by others at the company (well, earlier in the case of Kara Tur), and Greenwood's Realms reportedly is *much* less PG.

      So the whole idea that there's one canon here is not really viable -- TSR wasn't super consistent or coordinated, people contradicted each other all the time, and the creator-types we're conditioned to think of as being responsible for the campaign settings weren't responsible for all the decisions, which changed over time anyway.

      With that said, though, the idea that everybody's different campaigns are all happening on slightly-different Prime Material planes, and you can travel between them using planar magic goes back at least to the 1st Edition Manual of the Planes (1987) -- and probably shows up before that too, I'd guess. Spelljammer is obviously all about connecting the campaign worlds, as was the later Planescape (which was itself an update of the Manual of the Planes). There were tons of Dragon and Dungeon magazine articles about connecting them, and lots of explicit connection points (Skullport, a pirate haven below Undermountain in the Forgotten Realms, is specifically detailed in a FR boxed set as I recall, and is also a major spelljamming port). There were official novels crossing over between the worlds -- the Spelljammer novel sextet starts off on Dragonlance's Krynn. The Dark Sun campaign setting explicitly says Spelljammer monsters are off-limits, and planar creatures travel there only rarely -- it's meant to be largely crossover-independent, but the material about the broader "multiverse" is certainly there.

      And more broadly even than that, of course this was all about providing material for individual games. Most folks I knew -- and I suspect this is true broadly -- ran games in hermetically-sealed worlds with no crossovers, even if they did use FR or DL instead of a homebrew setting. But I also know someone who ran a gonzo Planescape game with Thri-Kreen from Athas running around with Knights of Solamnia.

      Delete
    11. Canon implies that there is some central authoritative source that decides what's "real" to a setting versus what isn't. While a source might be the original author(s), it can also be an organization like the Star Wars storytelling group at LucasArts. TSR was never really such a source, primarily because their interest was more in selling games than in producing fiction.

      The above discussion gets directly to the idea that the idea of canon gets very fuzzy when applied to tabletop RPGs, where individual groups are making/telling their own stories. These days, WotC tries to thread the needle (mostly successfully IMO) by suggesting links that groups can use without enforcing canonicity via fiat.

      Delete
    12. For example, Dark Sun in 4e tries to square its original 2e cosmology (the Black and Grey was it?) by suggesting analogues to the 4e cosmology (the Shadowfell, etc.).

      I don't think the WotC says this definitively because they view their role as making products that allow people to have fun as they see fit. Canonizing certain settings/events/characters/etc. might annoy some potential consumers, so there's not a lot of upside to WotC to do that.

      Delete
    13. In my setting which mostly plays in Pathfinders Golarion I include planescape and spelljammer, doesn't come up in many campaigns but its there. So some people put them together, but I don't think TSR ever really cared if you did or not.

      Delete
    14. Basically, SpellJammer rules have never been updated beyond 2nd Edition....making it no longer canon...for now.

      Delete
    15. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    16. Tetrapod does a nice job of explaining it.

      Basically... this is like every other large sci fi or fantasy world that has existed for years and had numerous people working on it for years with different visions of what should be.

      It's like arguing about the canon in Star Trek!

      Hundreds of people have generated content for Trek since 1964 when Gene Roddenberry wrote his first outline...

      Its fun arguing and discussing, but ultimately, just enjoy it for what it is folks!

      Delete
  7. I'm almost certain that spelljamming is still canon in D&D, but it just hasn't been mentioned much since 2nd edition. I think a crashed ship appears as a background element in one of the recent adventures for 5th edition, but it's possible I'm making that up.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. See above. It gets the occasional (rare) shout-out, but hasn't been canon since 2E.

      Delete
    2. I think I've heard Baldur's Gate 3 starts with the player captured in an Illithid spelljammer, no?

      Delete
    3. The Baldur's Gate 3 trailer notably features a Nautiloid.

      Delete
    4. Potential spoilers for Baldur's Gate 3:

      Gur vagebqhpgbel ivqrb sbe Onyqhe'f Tngr 3 unf gur cynlre'f punenpgre vzcevfbarq nobneq n Anhgvybvq, juvpu vf gura nggnpxrq ol Tvgulnaxv evqvat erq qentbaf. Gur fuvc syrrf, jnecvat sebz Gbevy gb jung nccrnef gb or n cynar bs uryy naq riraghnyyl, onpx gb Gbevy, jurer vg penfurf. V'z yrnivat bhg fbzr qrgnvyf gung nera'g eryrinag naq fbzr gung cebonoyl ner ohg V'ir sbetbggra.

      I'm not familiar enough with the lore to know whether the existence of Nautiloids necessarily implies a connection to Spelljammer. Is moving between planes a Spelljammer-only concept?

      Delete
    5. Ah yes, Baldur's Gate 3 is what I'm half-remembering.

      Delete
    6. I think the 5e book Dungeon of the Mad Mage includes a spelljamming helm or ship, but I think it's intended more as an Easter egg for longtime D&D fans as opposed to "canonizing" Spelljammer.

      Delete
    7. That's an intriguing movie. Moving between planes is not limited to Spelljammer (and in fact, SJ is mainly about space flight, not planeshifting per se), but Nautiloids are definitely from SJ, and Gith are also found in SJ.

      D&D-In-Space is definitely making a comeback because let's face it, space ships are COOL. That said, I'm not aware of any mentions of SJ in official rulebooks or setting books, just in CRPGs or adventure modules. Compare: the Kilrathi ship in Ultima 7.

      Delete
    8. Spelljammer takes place on the Prime Material. Worlds and their solar systems are contained in Chrystal Spheres, and between the Spheres is the Phlogiston. The Phlogiston is a highly flammable atmosphere.

      Delete
    9. Phlogiston is another part of Spelljammer's charming weird science approach. Note that this is a real-world (if long discredited) scientific theory, and it also appears in Origin's Martian Dreams.

      Delete
    10. Wait... what? Phlogiston has been discredited? When did this happen?

      Delete
    11. I think Phlogiston got blown up when Korben Dallas went there to get the elemental stones.

      Delete
    12. In terms of official materials, the 5E adventure Dungeon of the Mad Mage includes a spelljamming helm. The 5E adventure Rime of the Frostmaiden includes a crashed nautiloid, and a player background that sees them coming from another world, such as Krynn or Athas. But at least at this stage, the spelljamming ports in places like Waterdeep definitely no longer exist (we've had a fairly extensive treatment of that city with no mention of them), so either they're just Easter eggs, or it's much less open and in-your-face than in 2E.

      Delete
    13. Arthurdawg, maybe you were just kidding, but just in case... Or in case some other reader is not kidding...

      Phlogiston was discredited about 250 years ago, before the French Revolution. The proof that the phlogiston theory was wrong marked the birth of modern chemistry.

      And flat earth models were discredited 2300 years ago in Ancient Greece ;P

      Delete
  8. I never did play this one, but I do remember reading that it suffered from very harsh development problems. I have not heard good things, but sometimes these games can surprise you. Hopefully it's better than its reputation implies.

    ReplyDelete
  9. The scenario of seeing an intimidating ship, expecting a big fight, and finding it deserted could be pretty atmospheric with better presentation.

    But whatever the intention, Spelljammer feels more given to the farcical to me. I can easily imagine a cheesy movie adaption where the characters constantly yell Jammin! as a catchphrase.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So back in the 90s there was a board game adaptation of AD&D called DragonStrike, which came with a pretty cheese VHS that served as an introduction to the concept of roleplaying while also acting out the adventure. They originally planned a Spelljammer follow up called WildSpace; it was never made but the trailer survives on Youtube and it is glorious.

      Delete
    2. Oh good lord. My friend and I loved that DragonStrike video (the game wasn't bad either IIRC), but had no idea this follow-up was ever planned. Cheers for flagging!

      Delete
    3. "I can easily imagine a cheesy movie adaption where the characters constantly yell Jammin! as a catchphrase." Audible laughter was produced.

      I originally started this entry noting that the term "jam" seemed to come into prominence in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Jazz musicians had been using it going back to the 1920s, of course, but suddenly you had Pearl Jam and Space Jam and Spelljamming.

      I mentioned this to Irene, and she said, "I think more likely it's from the type of ship."

      I said, "There's a type of ship called a 'jammer'?"

      She looked at me like I was an idiot. "An icejammer? You've never heard of that?!"

      I told her that OF COURSE I'd heard of an "icejammer," went back upstairs in a huff, deleted the paragraph, and started the entry anew.

      Now I'm Googling, and I see that there is in fact no such thing as an "icejammer." There's an iceBREAKER, which she must have been thinking of. So now I'm back to "Spelljammer" coming from the 1990s fascination with the word "jam" again.

      Delete
    4. Yes, a windjammer is a type of ship. I've never heard of an icejammer though.

      Delete
    5. Oh, you know what? @#&@ hell. I think Irene said "windjammer." I've had ice/icebreaking on my mind because the river has started to freeze. Well, that anecdote was pointless then, and I'm back to where I was. Clearly it's based on "windjammer" and not a 1990s fetish for "jam."

      Delete
    6. There's also a street in a nearby town called "Windjammer Lane," where I think we looked at a house for sale. That would explain why she thought I should know the word. #*@$. I'm not having a good week.

      Delete
    7. This thread was a rollercoaster

      Delete
    8. None of the above discounts an early 90s fascination with the word jam. Sure. The game's name wasn't part of that, but who's to say the game didn't get made because a clueless exec saw the name and thought "perfect! The kids love jamming!"

      Delete
    9. Sure... you should listen to "Pump Up the Jam!"

      Delete
    10. These things are influenced by things outside the game world, often in funny ways; notice the eighties hair in the Goldbox games.

      I really liked a lot of the alt-settings from 2e and am sorry they let them go.

      Delete
    11. let's not forget such classics as Strawberry Jam and Raspberry Jam ;)

      Delete
    12. To give another example from the early-1990s, there briefly existed the Halifax [Nova Scotia, Canada] Windjammers basketball team. Their logo suggests a sailboat.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halifax_Windjammers

      Delete
    13. Hmm, I thought the 90s obsession with jamming was borrowed from Bob Marley and Raggae. *shrug* who knows?

      Delete
    14. I think of jam bands, which I believe started in the 60s with the Grateful Dead? (although I'm not sure when the terminology "jam band" started getting used)

      Delete
  10. I never got into the game, but I read all the Spelljammer books. I loved the setting, travelling to all the different worlds/settings was a neat idea. It's nice to read all about the game rather than trying to play it myself.

    Also, I think Spelljammer helms aren't helmets, they are like the captain's chair. You sit at the helm and cast magic into it to power the vessel. Some ships would have back up helms in case the primary was damaged, and there were magic items made for helms that allowed non-magic-users to fly.

    ReplyDelete
  11. AD&D 2E did have weapon proficiencies but games didn’t really include these until Baldur’s Gate IIRC

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hi Chester! Great post as always. I stumbled upon your youtube channel and liked it very much. Do you consider posting new videos there sometime? It really add to experience.

    PS Sorry for my awful Enlgish -)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm always thinking about doing more videos, but it takes a long time and I have lots of other things on my list.

      Delete
  13. The SJ setting was a fun idea that was likely let down in the execution, I would guess due to lack of support from TSR.

    Interesting trivia about this game, its devs previously made the never-finished-by-you Deathlord as well as working on a local-to-me dial-up MUD called The Majik Realm at ICE Online. This game was made by a couple of guys in their basement but they rented an office for a week when SSI was sending someone over to meet them in person and see how things were going.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I wonder if you'll happen across any (non-miniature) giant space hamsters in this game?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I still have an article from an ancient issue of dragon, where readers had submitted, increasingly silly variants of giant space hamsters.

      Delete
    2. Note that Boo from Baldur's Gate was supposedly a miniature giant space hamster.

      Delete
  15. From this entry, this game reminds me a lot of Star Command.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I loved the fact that Pirates of Realmspace let me role-play a peaceful merchant, trading goods between planets and earning experience levels from that alone. I simply avoided any space battle until... I noticed that my reputation was "infamous".

    What? Infamous? All my crew members always went back to their families alive. I made no widow and no orphan, because I am the opposite of a bloodthirsty brawler. Very few other spelljamming captains [players] could say the same.

    I quit.

    (Also, I concluded that this game is inferior to Origin's Space Rogue, released 3 years earlier. Given the absolute lack of 3D movement in space, it could have been Pirates of the Sword Coast with just a few cosmetic changes.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Space Rogue is definitely better than this for space combat. I was hoping for something like Pirates! merged with the Gold Box, but alas.

      Delete
    2. I wonder whether the game actuially meant you were"famous" but the devs confused the two words. It wouldn't be the first time that's happened in a game.

      Delete
    3. It might be a Pirates! influence where you became famous, then notorious, and finally infamous! (with the exclamation mark, of course).

      Delete
    4. No, I think the game expected the player to fight lots of battles instead of fleeing. I simply role-played what came natural to me, but the game's karma-meter measured other parameters.

      Delete
    5. Maybe the game wanted to tell you you were unknown, the opposite of famous.

      Delete
    6. Chester, it seems that this game took various inspirations, but too little of each: Gold Box for combat, Pirates! for the towns, Elite or Space Rogue for space combat. I expect it to score far less than any of those, that is well below 45.

      About the rest, I was just role-playing the "peaceful but outraged merchant" :D :D :D My deal-breaker with this game was the realisation that is was limited to Realmspace. I wanted to visit Krynn, Greyhawk and Clusterspace, and also find THE Spelljammer (link to Forgotten Realms wiki).

      Delete
  17. I agree the Neogi are hard to picture, just think of a spider with an eel where the head would be. Lots of art, as well as information about their role in Spelljammer. I believe they were a create created specifically for Spelljammer, as were the giff, who were basically anthropomorphic hippos that loved gunpowder and British Navy uniforms. Not all of the creativity for this setting was equally inspired. https://forgottenrealms.fandom.com/wiki/Neogi

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Err. Lots of art exists, as seen in the link. Hit submit too fast.

      Delete
    2. Funny. I was thinking about how the ships and rumors about the Neogi were a lot like the "Shadows" in Babylon 5. Now that artwork suggests that they even look alike on the lower half.

      Delete
    3. I wondered if there was a connection, but the creators of Babylon 5 has not acknowledged one, and I think he would have.

      Depending on how strong your desire is to acquaint yourself with the setting, you may be interested to know they not only produced the usual trove of books as aids for gaming, but also a series of novels ("The Cloakmaster Cycle") and DC did a series of comics in the setting. Because I am morbidly fascinated by the setting, I've read them all, and would primarily recommend them to others who share this morbid fascination, as none of them are particularly great literature.

      I'm not particularly snobbish about the books I read, either- some of the greatest talents in writing have been drawn to sci fi and fantasy. Just... not in this case. I was mostly interested in what they would do with the setting, and it scratched that itch.

      Delete
    4. I love neogi. Great villains. I use them as boss creatures. Neogi warlocks make excellent long-term antagonists for good parties. Most players have never heard of them.

      Delete
    5. Beat me to the punch! I had this one from the Spelljammer Wiki https://spelljammer.fandom.com/wiki/Neogi
      If memory serves me, the image is actually sourced from the AD&D 2nd Ed Monstrous Manual

      Delete
    6. I have to laugh at the concept of a race called "neogi." My advisor in college was an Indian lady called Dr. Neogi. Definitely not eel or spider-shaped. ;)

      Delete
  18. The setting is interrsing, but I don't see any aciende fiction here. It is pure fantasy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's science fiction as it would be to a fantasy race. That's why I say it starts with the fantasy and then adds the science fiction instead of the other way around.

      Delete
    2. It uses science fiction *tropes* like spaceships, travel between other planets, and extraterrestrials. It's not realistic by any stretch of the imagination, and is not intended to be.

      Delete
  19. For what it's worth, Google tells me that a historical Lucerne hammer probably weighed about 5 lbs. So a cargo of 0.5 tons of lucern hammers probably consists of a crate of a couple hundred hammers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Makes you wonder how easy spaceflight had become, if it was easier to order a few hundred hammers from another planet then, say, anywhere on the same planet at all. It was clearly cover for smuggling something. Maybe inside the hammer heads?

      Delete
    2. I like the idea that Swiss polearm technology is so advanced it's in demand not only on other planets, but on other planets of existence.

      Delete
    3. It does make one wonder what exactly "Lucerne" is supposed to mean in a world with no Switzerland.

      Delete
    4. Yeah, but go down that road and you start wondering why there are "paladins" in a world that never had a Pallas or why there are "becs-de-corbin" instead of "ravens' beaks." That makes me wonder. When a D&D character shouts, "Toss me my glaive-guisarme!," does he realize he's using a term from another language? What language does he think it is?

      Delete
    5. Naturally, there's a relevant XKCD:

      https://xkcd.com/890/

      Delete
    6. Maybe I'm killing the joke but surely the characters don't actually know what "paladins" or "glaive-guisarmes" are, and instead they know those things by their names in (probably) Chondathan.

      Delete
    7. I prefer the idea that we live in the same multiverse as all D&D worlds. The lucerne hammer simply spread from our Earth throughout the planes because it is that freaking great.

      Is there really a connection between the Greek Titan Pallas and "Paladin"? I thought Paladin came from "palace," Charlemagne's palace to be precise.

      Delete
    8. I think that's right, and then palace comes from Rome's Palatine Hill I believe -- so you run into the same issue of earth-dependence no matter which way you go!

      Delete
    9. In Alan Dean Foster's novelization of the original Star Wars, Luke actually asks what a duck is when Ben remarks that even a duck has to be taught to swim. So even then someone had noticed this and had a bit of fun with it.

      Delete
    10. Ah! I didn't realize "palace" came from Palatine. But that explains the Pallas connection. Wikipedia tells me the Palatine Hill is named for settlers from Pallantium, which was named for it's founder... Pallas (not the Titan).

      So Chet was far ahead of me.

      Delete
  20. There was an older Atari 800XL game about space trading. You could make a great deal if you traded the right good at the right port. There were also taxes and the chance of being assassinated by a trading guild, hostile to independent traders. I forget the name, but your description of Spelljammer brought my memory of it back instantly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. SunDog was another great old space trading game. I played it on my cousin's Apple IIc.

      Delete
    2. PSI-5 Trading Company. I had this for the C64 :-)

      Delete
    3. Omnitrend's Universe also fits the bill for an Atari 800XL space trading game. It was definitely a more popular genre than it is now.

      Delete
    4. An Atari 800 XL trading game - Colony or M.U.L.E. come to my mind (?)

      Delete
    5. PSI-5! That takes me back.

      Delete
  21. Wizardry has a sci-fi background too, though it's possible that it only appears in the later games (Might and Magic had it from the start, though in some later games they dropped or ignored it.)

    ReplyDelete
  22. This sounds like something that started as "Pirates, but fantasy" and then got a Spelljammer coat of paint. I'd imagine it was supposed to be a Spelljammer game from the start, but so far it sounds like the setting's just getting used as window dressing

    ReplyDelete
  23. ...and one with the relevant theme: Pirates of the Barbary Coast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euYgb7Pvp60

    ReplyDelete
  24. Whoever picked beige-on-beige for the menu font in this game deserves to be thrown out of the airlock.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, thanks for bringing that up. I meant to mention that.

      Delete
  25. If you are looking to soften up the enemy crew before a boarding action, then there is an option to target the ship's crew with your ship-to-ship weapons. The buttons that appear when you enter the same space as an enemy ship have a "targeting weapons" option. Looking at the manual, it's the lower left hand button with a question mark over some ballista bolts and stones. You can target enemy crew, the ship's rigging, or opt for straight out hull damage. Different weapons (catapult, ballista, etc.) may be more or less effective for different targets. It's been ages since I've played this, but I seem to recall having some success at making combat simpler by picking off enemy crew for a while before boarding.

    Also, I don't recall the landing details of a ship actually making a difference in the game. Ships are listed as water only, land only, or cannot land. I don't remember it affecting your ability to approach a port, dock, or load cargo. I'm fairly sure I had a Tradesman ship (which, according to the manual, cannot land) that I purchased in Waterdeep for running cargo around during one game.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah - you can also target the other ship's weapons, which is an incredibly helpful option.

      Delete
    2. You can also simply destroy the ship and recover the salvage which in the case of "Defeat Pirate" is my recommended option since its easier to do than a boarding action. Especially after you buy additional weapons/get larger ship (I recommend the Hammerhead).

      Delete
    3. Do you know if this works on the dwarven fortress?

      Delete
    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    6. Sadly, I'm pretty sure that it doesn't -- I very much second the recommendation to blow up the targets of jobs/quests, since it's much quicker and easier than boarding and I believe the rewards are pretty much the same.

      Spoiler on the game's progression:

      Gur qjneira pvgnqry ovg vf gur bar erdhverq ovg bs obneqvat pbzong va gur tnzr.

      Delete
  26. I like the idea of Spelljammer but never really looked into the setting. I'm curious how the plot develops, as well as if the reading mechanics end up being more useful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oops, meant "trading mechanics." You'd hope reading would be useful.

      Delete
  27. Thanks as always for another great entry. It's somewhat amusing that Filfre has posted on a remarkably similar topic with Charles Guy’s Galaxy in a Box :)

    ReplyDelete
  28. "He claimed to have a bottle of rare Elven wine which he hadn't yet opened."

    If I had a nickel for every time I've heard that line...

    ReplyDelete

I welcome all comments about the material in this blog, and I generally do not censor them. However, please follow these rules:

1. Do not link to any commercial entities, including Kickstarter campaigns, unless they're directly relevant to the material in the associated blog posting. (For instance, that GOG is selling the particular game I'm playing is relevant; that Steam is having a sale this week on other games is not.) This also includes user names that link to advertising.

2. Please avoid profanity and vulgar language. I don't want my blog flagged by too many filters.

3. Please don't comment anonymously. It makes it impossible to tell who's who in a thread. Choose the "Name/URL" option, pick a name for yourself, and just leave the URL blank.

4. I appreciate if you use ROT13 for explicit spoilers for the current game and upcoming games. Please at least mention "ROT13" in the comment so we don't get a lot of replies saying "what is that gibberish?"

Also, Blogger has a way of "eating" comments, so I highly recommend that you copy your words to the clipboard before submitting, just in case.

I read all comments, no matter how old the entry. So do many of my subscribers. Reader comments on "old" games continue to supplement our understanding of them. As such, all comment threads on this blog are live and active unless I specifically turn them off. There is no such thing as "necro-posting" on this blog, and thus no need to use that term.

I will delete any comments that simply point out typos. If you want to use the commenting system to alert me to them, great, I appreciate it, but there's no reason to leave such comments preserved for posterity.

I'm sorry for any difficulty commenting. I turn moderation on and off and "word verification" on and off frequently depending on the volume of spam I'm receiving. I only use either when spam gets out of control, so I appreciate your patience with both moderation tools.