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Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Great Spelljammer D&D Next Playtest

I usually run a D&D Next game for two players every Friday, but one couldn't make it tonight. I cooked up a special solo scenario for the other player - we were going to try out some Spelljammer stuff using D&D Next rules!

Let me warn you, this post has dirty stuff in it. That is correct my trusty companion, we explored Ed Greenwood's "Bedwarmers and Willing-arms". Explored them thoroughly!

She runs a male dragonborn fighter named "Mu Yung" who wields a soul-sucking sword called diamond death. She is a veteran of Skull & Shackles, as well as the early 4e adventures and of course she was the player who seduced the bad guy to create a certain Sperm Blade. As is the custom, we both wore pajama pants for the occasion.

I dropped the side quest hook on her full force and in seconds Mu Yung had paid a spelljamming ship captain to take him to an asteroid which was a few days away. The galleon was crewed by grommams (kimono-wearing ape men who spoke in sign language), as well as a SPACE SAGE, a space pirate and a space babe with big hair and face paint.
It's like a go-bot
Those clear dice are SPECIAL DICE~
They'd barely left the planet when a scro ship attacked. If you remember, scro are literate space orcs. I like the scro, but wow... their ship is a little goofy looking. It looks like a toy. The preying mantis arms are meant to hook on to the ship so the scro can board.

I did very simple conversions, basically reversing the armor classes and keeping the to-hits the same. A galleon has 40 "hull points" (hit points) and the scro mantis has 60, so this was not a fair fight. But it was just a test and I would have an elven ship jump in to help Mu if things got scary.

She agreed that the scro ship looked sort of stupid. She also added that she didn't like the name "scro". I asked why."Scrotum." Oh. Now they're ruined.

The elves are sort of the police of space in spelljammer. They are known as the Elven Imperial Fleet, and they hate the scro. My findings:

The ships are too slow: With an SR of 2, the ships move 2 hexes (if you want to turn your ship, that costs 1 hex). Encounters start with the ships 11-20 hexes away from each other. The range on the ballistas is about 4 hexes. So yeah, it's a little slow and awkward.

Too little damage: Ballistas do d3 damage and fire once every 3 rounds! The scro ship has 60 hull points. That's an awful lot of back and forth. It seemed pointless not to just board, as it seems like the fights would get dull. I am thinking of bumping it up to d8 damage, though she thinks that is too high. It was also quickly apparent that book-keeping was necessary to know when you could fire your weapons again. It was trickier than expected. Maybe it would be easier to just get rid of re-load times.

The critical hit chart is awesome: The expanded threat range and the crit effects really add a lot of realism and excitement. A critical hit in ship-to-ship is a big deal. The galleon was hit with a critical, and one of the ballistas was destroyed.

Facing confusion: I couldn't tell if a ship could only move in the direction it is facing. What made me wonder were the rules on moving backwards (up to 2 hexes). I guess that means you can't "shift" sideways in a spelljammer?

Overall, it was OK. She seemed to like it. It was so different that it felt pretty fun, even in "test" mode. It has a slower "Star Trek" ship fight feel. 

The Elves bailed out Mu and the galleon. One of the elves used one of those gadabout vine things that sprouts wings to fly on to the galleon. She definitely liked that and wanted one for the Mu-man. The spelljammer elven plant-items are very cool.

The galleon stopped off at an asteroid settlement for repairs. Oh hey look, there just happens to be a "festhall" over there! What are the chances?! Utilizing all that I've learned from Ed Greenwood's extensive efforts, Mu Yung was soon over-whelmed by the wide variety of supple companions.

A day later, the galleon flew toward its' destination. Along the way, the ship ran into some scavvers and spaceworms. What I like about these creatures is that they don't automatically attack. The weaker scavvers just scrounge for food and are a nuisance. The spaceworms actually have a chart that you roll on to see what they do. I rolled a 4, which meant that they landed on crates and began to wither and die. How weird!

I realize now that I should have portrayed the crew getting rid of the bodies of the scavvers and spaceworms, as that could be a real problem on a ship.

The Galleon at last reached its' destination - an asteroid with a weird magic garden. The asteroid was being colonized by gnomes who had built lots of tubes for their giant space hamsters.

She wanted a space hamster as a pet. She also met a SPACE OWL who became an ally.

We did some stuff with the garden and the godspawn (also taken from the Ed Greenwood archive) and wrapped up the session. I decided against running another ship fight against a gnomish sidewheeler, partly because I felt that the rules needed tweaking, and partly because it fired globes full of black pudding which seemed like it would be time-consuming.

Overall: We both liked it and feel we could definitely jump in to a whole Spelljammer campaign. I really look forward to handing the players a ship full of fun NPCs and let them cut loose, but there will definitely be some tweaking involved. I would like to have at least one ship battle per session, but as it is right now it seems like it would get tedious.


Jason R said...

My plan is to give the Sails of Glory rules a try for ship to ship combat. I haven't picked up the game yet, but when I do, I'll see what mods will be required, if any. The reviews of the game seem to point to easy administration, yet with a satisfyingly accurate simulation. We'll see!

In my revision of the spelljammer rules, I've abandoned the idea of true three-dimensional combat and gone with an explanation via my own spelljammer physics why these encounters snap to the same plane. I also do not like combat without the availability of cannons. There's no way there would be decisive victories using balistas and catapults. It's lame. Again, I've tailored the physics so that cannons do not find themselves being used anywhere except by ships at sea or in wildspace.

I want to do all this before I die lol

Sean said...

I've never heard of Sail of Glory. I'll check it out! Sounds awesome. Also, the idea of cannons with magic power sounds really cool, too.

Jason R said...

I've changed a lot of the spelljammer mechanics, but one thing i didn't feel needed much of a revision is the idea of cannons being powered by "smoke powder." Using this arcane alchemical substance, the DM can limit availability to taste. Although other arcane powered siege engines are possible of course, I like the feel of the cannon as a "mundane" weapon that can be crewed by sailors. Horatio Hornblower dialed back a century or two, and then thrust into wildspace! Whoo hoo!