Back in 1989, my twin brother and I bought our first roleplaying game books from a buddy; they were the 2nd Edition AD&D Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide. Shortly thereafter we dropped the cash on our first new product, the Spelljammer boxed set. That led us into what was probably the most epic RPG campaign in which I've ever played, one that saw our characters save the known galaxy from the predations of the Vodani horde.
Some ten years later, the familiar and much-loved 2nd Edition was replaced by something startling and new. The 3rd Edition of D&D introduced some notable changes to it, not the least of which was an Open Game License. For someone who had long dreamed of publishing an adventure or article in Dungeon or Dragon magazines, this provided a golden opportunity. After all, many different fledgling companies could now publish material for the biggest RPG of them all, and there were lots of open calls for submissions. Even so, although the OGL created all kinds of niche products for any imaginable campaign setting, space fantasy was still lacking. It is true that Polyhedron published a Spelljammer mini-setting, Shadow of the Spider Moon, but the rules and campaign information contained therein were not open content. It was a solid product, but it didn't provide the same kind of opportunity that material from other publishers presented.
Since then, the shift from D&D's 3rd Edition to its fourth incarnation has given rise to a new phenomenon—Pathfinder. With it there is now a ruleset that is even more open than the material published by Wizards of the Coast, but there are still no rules for running space fantasy scenarios. Clockwork Gnome Publishing took a run at Kickstarting a rulebook, Sailing the Starlit Sea; sadly, although they had lots of good ideas, they ultimately proved unsuccessful. That is why I've been kicking around ideas for a new set of rules, one that is available free of charge and open for the general public to use and modify. I call them Aetherial Adventures.
Hopefully this supplement can do the same thing for other games that the Spelljammer rules did for us, opening up the possibility of traveling from world to world, and thereby creating a truly unlimited vista to serve as a backdrop for fantastic adventures.
The Discovery of Aetherships
The first group to discover the possibility of aetherial flight was a band of adventurers. They made their discovery beneath a pyramid in the middle of a harsh desert; that was where they found the first of three necessary components. It was a solar vessel, a sailing craft engraved with symbols and incantations sacred to the God of the Sun. In the liturgy of that faith, they represented the movement of the world's primary star through the heavens. In more practical terms, however, it was enchanted with the power of levitation.
Of course, that alone wasn't enough to break the barrier of the planet's atmosphere. Sensing that they had a powerful opportunity, the adventurers sought a means of using the newfound vessel. To that end they sought out two local specialists. One was a wizard and weaver, a person who knew how to create a flying carpet. In this case, however, they hired him to imbue that magic into canvas—flying sails. They also found a sea witch. She had long demonstrated the ability to harness the power of the winds in a knotted cord. By increasing the scale, she crafted rigging for the vessel. With all of these elements combined, the aethership could really fly.
These are the magical items without which aetherial travel is not possible.
Aura strong transmutation; CL 3rd
Slot NA; Price* 50,000 gp; Weight NA
Each of these vessels looks similar to other craft of their size, except that they are engraved with symbols and incantations sacred to the God of the Sun. They come in different sizes, such as the small dhow or fishing boat, the medium sloop, the large junk and the huge galleon or merchantman. In addition to being able to levitate, they exude a comfortable warmth that protects against the cold of the aether. Additionally, each is connected magically to an orb that the pilot uses to steer the vessel.
Requirements Craft Wondrous Item; continual flame, levitate; Cost* 25,000 gp
Aura strong transmutation; CL 5th
Slot NA; Price* 25,000 gp; Weight NA
These canvas sheets are imbued with the same magical energies as are flying carpets, except that they are designed to be carried by ships. They provide one half of the locomotive force for the aethership, along with impetus for maneuvering.
Requirements Craft Wondrous Item; fly; Cost* 12,500 gp
Aura strong transmutation; CL 9th
Slot NA; Price* 25,000 gp; Weight NA
These ropes, connected to the aethership's sails, are tied with knots that harness the power of the winds. In addition to contributing to the vessel's mobility, they provide a fresh supply of air to those traveling aboard it.
Requirements Craft Wondrous Item; control winds; Cost* 12,500 gp
Orb of Control
Aura strong transmutation; CL 11th
Slot NA; Price* 12,500 gp; Weight 2 lbs.
This small sphere, crafted from the same wood as the ship with which it is connected, allows its wielder to steer the movements of that vessel. It is sized to fit into the captain's hand, but grows or shrinks to fit the individual.
Requirements Craft Wondrous Item; animate object; Cost* 6,250 gp
*Note that these items are purchased together; it is not effective to purchase three or fewer of the four requisites when attempting aetherial travel.