Fantasy-Fi or Science-Fantasy?
Magic in Space!
With the recent announcement of Spelljammer, a lot of people have been asking themselves about using magic in space, and the approach taken by Spelljammer is to take a fantasy setting already with magic and move it into space. It's a cool setting, but it's not the only one that has done so.
A different take on it is Starfinder that's gone the opposite way. It's taken a science-fiction setting (that's already in space) and then added magic instead. So where Spelljammer could be called fantasy-fi, Starfinder finds itself on science-fantasy.
So what does this actually mean?
Well in game terms, the answer for the moment is: Who knows? We've yet to see the actual parts of Spelljammer that are going to come out, beyond what's been shown in Unearthed Arcana, but we can venture a guess on it though based on what we've seen.
Looking at the actual product announcement we see that they have an Adventurer's Guide, a Monster Book, and an Adventure for levels 5-8. To be honest, as a fan of the old Spelljammer, that's really rather disappointing. I'd expected a full hardcover just covering the setting itself, and certainly for it to be more than 64 pages - something more akin to the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide. The monster book I think should be fine, 60 monsters should enable you to populate your Wildspace adventures with something new, especially if you take the old way of doing it that Spelljammer used to, and simply adapt old monsters into the new setting. For AD&D that's how the orcs (in their savage, bestial form) became the scro (a prideful race dedicated to orderly war).
Regardless though, it feels as if something is missing unless they put out more.
Compare that to Paizo's approach with Starfinder. They went WHOLE HOG on it. A free adventure (First Contact) was released alongside the large hardcover rulebook. Shortly thereafter a full-size monster book arrived and then it just started rolling from there. Obviously, there are some differences due to the fact that Starfinder was a new system at the type, compared to the Pathfinder (1 as we later found out) that it was created as an outlier from. But their support for it was still far more THERE than what Wizards of the Coast are serving up at the moment. Hopefully, WotC will add more support in the future, but with the Dragonlance stuff coming out shortly thereafter, who knows?
That said, is this a good thing? I think so.
Especially if this means that Spelljammer is opened up as an IP on the dmsguild — allowing for more people to get on the platform and for more players to find a unique setting that they can devote themselves to cannot be a bad thing. Just look at Curse of Strahd as an example. It was solely a campaign setting, but it revived Ravenloft into a setting of its own once more, and though it took years, it still ended up getting more content in the form of the Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft. (Honesty forces me to say that I'm not a fan of the Guide. There are some changes I disagree with in the tone of the domains and the like — it's not all bad, but the things I don't like do outweigh the things I do. One of the many reasons I was part of the authors of the Van Richten's Encyclopedia. We stick closely to the original vision of the domains, while still making changes that we believe are needed, or better than what was presented to us before).
Hopefully, that will apply to Spelljammer (and Dragonlance) as well. We would like to see more of this. :)
Anyway, I hope to see you all back next week. :)