In D&D, the crew always goes down with the ship

On a whim, I dug out my old AD&D Spelljammer books this afternoon. Spelljammer is the woefully under-appreciated space fantasy setting for 2nd edition Dungeons and Dragons; instead of crawling through dungeons looking for goblins to murder, you captain a magic-powered sailing ship through Ptolemaic outer space looking for space goblins to murder. My high school game group really got into it; Spelljammer gave us one of our most memorable game campaigns.

While the general tone of Spelljammer is “swashbuckling adventures in space,” my gaming friends were not content to handwave away the everyday practicalities of space adventuring. When you own a magic space boat, you’ve suddenly got to worry about questions like “How little can we pay our crew without triggering a mutiny?” I found several type-written sheets going into the details:


At first I thought that the “expendables” listed here were consumable items like food and ammunition. But no, that’s the term my players used to describe the ship’s crew. Which is a pretty good summation of most of our Spelljammer adventures.

Looking through this material made me realize how much I miss Spelljammer; it took the inherently silly concept of “D&D… in spaaaaaace!” and wrapped it in just enough seriousness to make it playable, while proudly retaining its goofy side. It only appeared as an official setting during the 2nd edition era; bits and pieces of it turned up in 3rd and 4th editions, but never as a standalone campaign setting. Perhaps one day we’ll return to the stars.

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5 thoughts on “In D&D, the crew always goes down with the ship

  1. Mark

    I don’t remember doing it, but that’s my handwriting at the bottom. I’m so proud. Do you still have a copy of the contract Bill and I wrote promising to keep certain information confidential from the gamemaster (you)? Who could have predicted we’d both end up as (now former) lawyers?

  2. Andy Post author

    Yes, I do have that contract boxed away somewhere. I’ve actually got a big pile of RPG material from our high school days that I keep meaning to go through. Lots of character sheets, hand-drawn maps, and contractual agreements to lie to the GM…

  3. Mark

    I agree, BTW, that the Spelljammer campaign was one of the best we ever did. Remember the animated ship engine that ate books for fuel?

  4. Andy Post author

    Yes! That ship was awesome. Unfortunately I think you guys got that ship not too long before our Spelljammer gaming (and I think our RPGing in general) sort of petered out in the face of college and jobs.

    Definitely one of my favorite campaigns, though. Did you know that I look back at the conclusion of that campaign as one of my biggest GMing screw-ups, by the way? I way overstatted the evil emperor final bad guy, and ended up having an NPC dragon come in and save the day while you guys had to watch. I still cringe with shame for that one–“GM-controlled characters that outshine the players” is the biggest no-no in GMing… hope you aren’t as bitter about it as I am regretful!

  5. Mark

    I do remember it, now that you mention it. It was in that crystal throne room while an epic space battle was raging outside. We had piloted a captured wolf-ship in ahead of the fleet. If it makes you feel any better, my honest reaction was, “Wow, a dragon showed up to save us. That’s awesome!!!” And then we got the crystal ship (based on detailed blue-prints by engineer Jason) as a reward. Win-win.

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