Sunday, November 27, 2022

Influence & Inspiration for Spelljammer: Treasure Planet

This movie came out twenty years ago in campaign history. At the time I missed it, but I noticed Treasure Planet again was because the title popped up as a link in an article about the Spelljammer campaign setting on Wikipedia. That was back around 2014 when I started developing ideas for what became Aetherial Adventures, my homebrew space fantasy setting for the Pathfinder RPG. I think it was mentioned there because it has a similar feel to Spelljammer, and so I gave it a watch. I love it! In hindsight, it also gave some valuable inspiration for running space fantasy adventures and campaigns.

  • It gives viewers a good look at life aboard a ship in space. Once the vessel sets sail, there is nowhere to go that isn't aboard the ship. That makes it hard to keep secrets between factions, and conflict is likely to start brewing. While a spelljammer ship could just be a means of moving the PCs from Point A to Point B, one that carries a larger crew for operating shipboard weapons or for conducting exploration could see these kinds of factions arise.

  • The main NPCs are given really distinct personalities. Long John Silver is clearly a scoundrel, and many of the crew members are grumbling malcontents. I could see this playing out in a game with some of the NPCs muttering comments under their breath when given orders, another snooping in places where he shouldn't be, and the like.

  • Following up on that, it's interesting to see situations in which the PCs need to work together with their rivals and even their enemies for everyone to survive, setting aside their own conflicts until that escape has been achieved. In the end, we know that the overarching conflict will eventually boil over.

  • It is also fun to think how a treasure hunt in Spelljammer would go. I can imagine such plot devices as a captain's logbook containing cryptic clues; an orrery that relates to some kind of planetary alignment; and the like. In fact, just like in the movie, I think this kind of treasure hunt would provide an excellent reason and means for some low-level adventurers (such as Jim Hawkins and Dr. Delbert Doppler) to set off and explore their space system, finding clues in various notable locations.

  • The movie Treasure Planet is, of course, an adaptation of the novel Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson. He, in turn, drew inspiration from the book A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates. That book is a veritable encyclopedia for the Golden Age of Piracy, with tales of such cutthroats as Blackbeard, “Calico” Jack Rackham, Anne Bonny, and many others. In a setting that draws inspiration from this film, it is intriguing to speculate about how such a lawless frontier could develop in a location like an asteroid belt in a remote solar system. I think the Rock of Bral would fit nicely into such a place, serving as a bastion of civilization.

  • In the end, just like in the novel, one of the main villains survives. This is something that I don't do much in my own campaigns, but that I should explore in the future in order to build up the long-term sense of familiarity and drama.*

  • Finally, a treasure hoard like that of Captain Flint provides a number of plot hooks for further adventures. What if victims of the pirate attacks try to reclaim lost goods? What if there was evidence that someone betrayed a vessel to the pirates, leading to an attack? Finally, what happens when Silver, or another surviving pirate, comes back to steal it?


*In fact, based on the Wikipedia article, it sounds like there were already plans in discussion for a sequel, which is described as follows:


In the sequel, Jim Hawkins and Kate, his love interest and classmate at the Royal Interstellar Academy, must team with Long John Silver to stop the villainous Ironbeard from freeing the inmates of Botany Bay Prison Asteroid.


-Nate



Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Preview for Rise of the Mimic Moon



This scenario was recently released by Kobold Press, and it looked too intriguing to pass up on it. Here are the thoughts I had while reading it.

  • The initial premise, of a mimic the size of a moon, is great!

  • One line, taken from the table Why Do They Want It?, really sold me: “...to transplant the seedling into the chest of a dead god to resurrect it.” That made for a connection with the adventure anthology Graveyard of the Gods, which I am hoping to receive in early 2023.

  • Shortly thereafter is a description of the effects the moon-sized mimic has on the campaign setting: “...causing massive flooding in coastal cities and communities.” While my mind first went to Saltmarsh in Greyhawk, before long I realized that Freeport would be an excellent setting for this adventure.

  • There are numerous fun variants of mimics, along with some new, thematic spells and equipment. I could see the spells and gear being devised by one or more of the mystical groups in Freeport, and presenting surprises to my players.

  • In the suggested timeline for a campaign, one of the sessions is described as “The Great Voidship Heist.” That, of course, screams to be used in a Spelljammer campaign.

  • I don't love the fact that there are three full-page adds in the PDF, something that is not disclosed in the listing for it on DriveThruRPG.com.

All in all, it looks like it will be a lot of fun, and provide a good chance to link together five previous Freeport campaigns with my current Spelljammer one.

Rise of the Mimic Moon

-Nate


Sunday, November 20, 2022

Reflections on Spelljammer Academy

Over the past four sessions my party played through the free adventure Spelljammer Academy; here are my thoughts about how it went.

  • There is lots of room to expand these four scenarios. This year my group is playing every other week, and so it worked well to push through at a faster pace and thus set the group up for Light of Xayrxis.

  • My players were sometimes alarmed about the tasks their characters were being sent to undertake. This was especially the case for one player who missed Session 3, and upon arriving for Session 4 learned that the heroes were crewing a salvaged tyrant ship bound for the beholder world of H'Catha.

  • One option is to add more drilling of skills, especially at the start of sessions: target practice, weapons sparring, navigation exercises, lessons about wildspace geography, and the like. I can imagine starting sessions with the heroes engaged at such tasks, and then moving into specific missions—and thus adventures—afterward.

  • Those exercises could then be used to set up a competition between groups of students, perhaps called crews, similar to that between the four houses in the Harry Potter novels and films. The DM could keep a running tally of how well they do, with some kind of prize or recognition for the overall winners at the end of the term.

  • Another option is to make more use of the illusions in the simulation chamber; have the heroes deal with a jammer leech, fight off a scavver attack, lead a boarding party, train for the H'Catha mission, and the like.


Here is the link to my campaign notes, by the way. 


Spelljammer Campaign Notes


All in all, I was satisfied that these scenarios gave my players and their characters a good introduction to the Spelljammer setting. For DMs who want to draw out the training process, though, there's a good resource called Spelljammer Academy Expanded, available on the DMs Guild website. It presents stat blocks for more of the NPCs, ideas for expanding and adding encounters during the training, and ideas for transitioning from there into the Light of Xaryxis adventure.


-Nate

Spelljammer Academy Expanded




Friday, November 4, 2022

King Tut's Tomb--100 Years Ago in Campaign History

It would not be fitting for a blog that presents Treasure Hunter Adventures material to miss today's anniversary. One hundred years ago, Howard Carter found the tomb of King Tutankhamen. 

-Nate

History.com Article



Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Captain Quin's Logbook: Wildspace Hunting Ship

Continuing my experiment, this two-page supplement for use with Spelljammer presents a wildspace hunting ship, with deck plans and descriptions, stats for the captain and crew, and suggestions for working them into adventures and campaigns. 

-Nate 

Captain Quin's Logbook: Wildspace Hunting Ship



Sunday, October 23, 2022

Frontier Bugle Calls

I've been doing some research to learn more about the bugle calls used by the United States Cavalry, to provide some color for adventures taking place on the frontier for The Sixth Gun; now I have found a good source. 

-Nate 

Bugle Calls on Youtube



Sunday, October 2, 2022

Captain Quin's Logbook: Dwarf Asteroid Miners

Here's a little experiment, a two-page supplement for use with D&D 5e and the Spelljammer setting. It presents stats for dwarf asteroid miners, stats and deck plans for a bark, and plot hooks for involving them in adventures and campaigns. 

-Nate 

Captain Quin's Logbook: Dwarf Asteroid Miners