So, when last we left off, our crew was just leaving the dirty and rugged city of Rustlocke, on the Class B planet Papri. They had a new ship, supplies, and plenty of gold. They had said they stayed overnight at the planet, and then left. So that’s how I prepped.
Now, the biggest factor of my prep for this session was the following question. “Are they going to make it to Rock of Braal before the session is over?”
I needed to know this, because prepping a city you aren’t familiar with in a setting that’s still somewhat fresh to everyone is vital. Rock of Braal is the New York City of Spelljammer. It’s the Sigil, the Waterdeep, and the Whiterun of this setting. All culture, crime, politics, and trade goes through here. So prepping it is a multi-day affair for me.
To find out how quickly or slowly the party would be moving, I consulted my travel rules. This is a small page of rules that I’ve designed specifically for Spelljammer, and to give away all of it here would spoil my players big time. But basically, I find out how many days it will take to get from Point A (where they started) to their endpoint (Rock of Braal). I discerned that it would take 15 days of Phlogiston travel, and 32 days of Wildspace travel once they made it inside Realmspace the location of Rock of Braal.
The next part I do separately for the Phlogiston and for Wildspace. I calculate how many events the party will experience in each. So I roll 1d20 for every day in the Phlogiston, and on every roll of a “20” there is one event. For every roll of a “1” there are two events. These events are rolled for on specific tables. One for Phlogiston Events, which is heavy on environmental weirdness and light on ships, and then one for Wildspace events, which is heavier on ships, and lighter on creatures. Types of events include New Sphere or Empire Ship.
I list them out in order, and think of ways to combine them to limit the amount, so we aren’t stopping the party every day. Then I letter them as points B, C, D, E, etc.
I do the same for Wildspace, rolling 1d20 for each day, marking the events, combining them if there are too many, and then I have the fully marked travel log. It should look something like this when all is said and done.
Note: Events have been removed from the back half of the following list, as they have yet to be experienced by the players. The players who enjoy reading this, and hate spoilers.
(Orange is Phlogiston,Purple is Wildspace)
A: Players leave Doomspace
B: New Sphere (Inkspace) (Add X Days to travel, do not roll for encounters)
C: Players leave Inkspace
D: A Phlog Crawler attacks the ship, sneaking up on the strongest crew.
E: A small Tradesman vessel flags down the crew, and attempt to trade. On the vessel are 2 Dohwar merchants, and 3 Giff Bodyguards/Labor. They are carrying Books, Spices, and small cultural items. They also have some equipment.
G: Players enter Realmspace
H: Players spot a Dwarven Temple under Siege by Neogi Slavers with their Umber Hulk slave. (1 Dwarven Cleric, 4 Dwarven Fighters, 4 Neogi, 1 Umber Hulk.)
( ): Players arrive at Rock of Braal
Each event was fairly easy to design. I converted over the Phlog-Crawler to 5th Edition, which proved to be a neat exercise rules-wise. The Giff and Neogi already have 5e stats, so I then converted over the Dohwar, and just re-balanced everything.
So, the prep was set. The players would absolutely not make it to Rock of Braal just yet. Which meant I needed to plan for the various events that they would hit on the way. As well as some fun inter-party NPC driven things. I like to give my NPCs goals and quests of their own, makes them feel more alive.
What Happened Part 1: The completely improv night of revelry
Well I had ended last session with the players already leaving the planet, but this week we had a player who was running late. So we got to around a half-hour of waiting and decided we didn’t wanna cancel the game.
Well we figured something out. You see, the players had mentioned that before they left, they had given themselves an evening of hanging out waiting, just in case the few crew members who left would return. This left the entire crew around 12 hours of undefined action and events, so the three Players who were ready went to the Casino, and fun was had by all. We were just filling in the time that they had stayed there, until the fourth player showed up.
The Casino is run by the Mind Flayers of this planet, the same ones who ran the market. There was an Adult section in the west side of the building, and a section for gambling in the east side of the building. No Mind Flayer strippers though, don’t worry.
Amalia was looking to gamble, so she grabbed 3,000 gold from the ship and spread it evenly around the PCs. Leo was looking to do a bit of “Networking” with any attractive individuals he could find. Vesk was looking to do some hard drinking and have a good time. The NPC they brought with them, Gargax the Goblin, was just tagging along.
To put it into summary, they had a blast. Eventually Amalia went back to the ship in order to grab Oolu, the mysterious Warlock stuck with the group as both a source of wisdom and in order to keep mapping out the Prime Material Plane. She thought Oolu could use the cheering up, and would enjoy some of the nicer ladies.
While Amalia was passing through the closed market, she felt a hand tug her purse, and spun around to meet Zilly, a Kender woman with a confused idea of how “Property” works, and a debt to pay. Amalia had a clever Idea and convinced Zilly to go steal the prized dagger of her crewmate Leo, as a prank. Leo kept his “Dagger of 40 Thieves” in the front of his pants, in order to avoid any situation where he would find himself without a knife.
Zilly succeeded with flying colors, Leo had a moment of panic quickly followed up by shame, and Amalia made a new friend. The crew left the next day with lighter pockets, a new buddy, and a great story.
But that was just the first two hours of the session, and our fourth player had now arrived.
What Happened Part 2: The rest of this journey
Eventually the ship was chugging along through the Phlogiston. The two NPCs who were trading off Helmsman duty were Oolu, the Warlock, and Gargax, the Cleric. (Anytime we stop in the middle of travel downtime, I roll 1d20 to see who is at the helm. 1-10 is Gargax, 11-20 is Oolu.)
Chirp, the Wood Woad who helped to maintain the last ship the crew had, was feeling a little down because he couldn’t repair this new ship. He decided to find a new purpose, and became an assistant chef to Leo. Leo loves to cook, so I’ve been keeping that in mind when I think over what sort of monsters I throw in to the game. Stuff that’s fun to cook should definitely get included, after all.
At some point, Amalia ran into Gargax digging through the ship stores of Gold, looking for something. She wasn’t happy about it, immediately assuming the goblin was thieving from them, but after Gargax’s explanation she was less angry and more confused. Gargax was apparently hunting down coins for his coin collection. He has a small leather book with holes in them, and he’s hunting down a few various fancier coins. One copper, silver, and gold for each sphere in the empire. Only a small run were minted by the Dwarves in the last hundred years. It was a goal of his to collect all nine.
Memphis decided to sit down with Amalia and explain that, when he died back on Doom, he had his core replaced. This was his soul, and Memphis from before was gone. This new Warforged had some of his old ticks and ideals, but was a new person. So now Memphis goes by they/them, and is named Hauberk. The crew was very supportive of this realization, but Gibben Vell and Hauberk are still trying to repair the old core, to maybe bring “Memphis” back somehow.
The party was attacked by some odd undulating elemental creature, with glass skin, and Phlogiston-filled body, that looks like so:
The Phlog Crawler surprised them when Vesk, Gargax, Leo, and Hauberk were sparring. It spread it’s tendrils and started to damage the strength and bodies of them, and it seemed only spells could stop it. Even magic items only did half as much damage. They killed it pretty quick, but it had still gotten a bit of their strength and health. After a short/long rest, the strength was returned.
Back in 2e, a few monsters had the ability to drain the very Ability Scores of a character. These creatures were terrifying, and rightly so. That is a freaky ability. In converting the Phlog-Crawler, I kept this trait, because it was so trademark for the monster. It would take away the fun of running it if it didn’t have the same ability. But I nerfed it’s resistances from the 2e version.
After slaying that creature, the crew came across a merchant ship. Specifically a tradesman.
This ship had a pair of Dohwar merchants and a trio of Giff for labor and protection. Their simple flag was left at half mast, and while the party traded back and forth for items and supplies, discussed why this was. Apparently, two “defenders of Realmspace”, and “heroes of legend” had fallen. The Fighter Rogahn and the Wizard Zelligar. They left their asteroid stronghold and flew off to stop a Neogi fleet. They did not return from the battle, but Realmspace was protected yet again.
All of this was purely rumor and hearsay, but Amalia remembered her past suspicions about what grand riches must lay in that fortress of “Quasqueton”. Hauberk also remembers reading about the two, and their various (perhaps embellished) adventures.
Amalia gathers the crew and thinks about the name of that fortress and remembers that the party had yet to name this new ship. They eventually settled on Vespa Nera.
After moving on and passing into Realmspace, the crew of the good ship Vespa Nera witnesses a Neogi Deathspider locked in combat with a Dwarven Temple of Protection. Captain Amalia quickly surmises that they should help, and assembles the player characters into a strike team, ordering the NPCs to stay behind and fly the ship, as well as fire at the Deathspider with the ships heavy Ballista.
They land on the Dwarven Temple and join the fight, but things go to shit very quickly. The Dwarves communicate that some families have been stolen by the Neogi and are being dragged on board, and beg the Crew to save them. The players stick around to fight for a bit, with Amalia, Leo, and Hauberk moving on into the ship to help the families.
Vesk however, stays back and rages, fighting 1 on 1 with the Neogi’s slave Umber Hulk. Eventually grabbing a flask of Alchemical Fire and shoving it down the Umber Hulk’s throat. Two Neogi get bites on him, one giving him a critical hit. This is what finally drops him, and then when the Neogi use their remaining claw attacks, Vesk is down to two failed death saves.
The party looks on in horror, and Amalia tries to rush in, heal him with a potion, and then Misty Step out. But she just falls under the gaze of the Umber Hulk, and is hyponotized back to where she originated. Vesk rolls his final death save…
And he fails. Vesk Leshraw is dead.
The remaining party drag Amalia into the Deathspider and are now desperately attempting to save the Dwarven hostages.
And thats where we leave them this week.
What I learned
This one was rough. I loved the session through and through, but I always hate having
Player Characters die. All the players had a good time though, a great time actually.
- Jake, the player of Vesk, is happily starting a new character up, and I’ve got the perfect place for the character to be. He’s a really good sport and I enjoy the enthusiasm.
- Chris, the player of Leo, still has the very best accent and mannerisms whenever he plays his spicy sexual chef Rogue. It’s really a fun experience to hear him quickly get into character in the first ten minutes of every session.
- Matt, the player of Hauberk, took a cool new step in the deeper thinking about that character. It’s gonna be exciting to see what the developments he added do to the story.
- Kili, the player of Amalia, was excellent as always with her newly forming captains skills. She’s forming relationships with the other characters, so when people call her boss and captain its because they respect her.
The thing’s I learned this session are pretty simple. The players really appreciate small NPC quirks and Ideals. Such as:
- Chirp the Wood Woad wants to learn how to cook.
- Oolu the Planeswalker wants to explore the world, and that includes finding out about strippers and loving it.
- Gargax the Cleric has a coin collection.
- Gibben the Mechanic is like an angry mother when everyone comes home drunk as skunks from the night of crazy.
- Zilly the Kender kinda has no clue why taking things is wrong, and that’s adorable.
These sorts of small character traits add just enough humanity to each and every one of the crew, without making the overall session about them. It’s just nice hooks to get the party roleplaying, and honestly invest them into the game more.
I couldn’t be luckier to have players who are willing to go deep on backstory and roleplaying, but also go deep on fun non-traditional goofery. Four folks roleplaying various downtime activities on the ship or in port is a great bonus to Spelljammer, because half the time we’re playing, they’re on a ship!
I think the one mistake I had this week was not re-reading Neogi and Umber Hulks before handling that last fight. It worked out fine, but I forgot the Umber Hulk hypnotizing ability until two rounds into the fight, and that can be a big pain in the ass as a player.
I also forgot that Neogi deal a bunch of poison damage on every hit of their bite attacks. 5d6 damage from one attack in a multiattacking CR 3 monster? Yea that was brutal. The key of the battle was to be too rough to stay in, and force the characters to move on to help the families.
Another reminder all DMs should have. If the players think you’re funneling them along or guiding them? If they even get a whiff of it? They won’t listen. They’d rather die fighting than fuck off, especially Barbarians. Be prepared to fuck them up, and be prepared for the dice to absolutely murder them. That’s the game. It happens.
Thanks so much for reading, I’ll be back next saturday to summarize the latest can of fresh hell I unleash upon my poor Spelljammer crew!
Spelljammer Summaries is a simple Campaign Diary article series about my time running a 5e Spelljammer game. It is filled with many details and lore about Spelljammer, with a good portion of my own homebrew details.
If you have any more questions about how to run your own Spelljammer game, Contact me! I’ll be happy to share any personal resources I use.
Here are a few resources from across the web that got me started!