There are a number of places where you could start a Spelljammer campaign, but the most obvious options from the original AD&D Adventures in Space boxed set is to start with one of the three campaign worlds that the Adventures in Space boxed set was built around (Krynn, Oerth or Toril) or to start from The Rock of Bral.
There are pros and cons to starting on The Rock of Bral:
- Advantages: Your player’s characters all start off as spacefarers and know a fair amount about how the SJ universe works. Plus you can get the players to build a theme which explains why they are together on The Rock.
- Disadvantages: A lot of the adventure hooks suggested by various Spelljammer products are about getting the players up into space (and they are already there) so those hooks are less easy to use. A second issue is that official Spelljammer adventures are not designed for 1st Level characters.
I think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, because starting your game on The Rock of Bral means that you can tie your PCs in with various NPCs on The Rock. (But if you don’t agree, wait a month or two and there may well be a follow-up article telling you how to Start Your Spelljammer Game on Krynn, Oerth, Toril or somewhere else.)
One of the great things about starting PCs at 1st Level is that players get the chance to make the PCs into a group of people who already know each other and who decide to go on an adventure together. But to get that to work, it can help if the group has some sort of theme for why they know each other. Here are a few suggestions for Bral:
- Children of adventurers: Your PCs are children of another group of adventurers, who now live on The Rock of Bral.
- Children of natives: Your PCs are children of people who have lived and worked on The Rock of Bral all their lives.
- Children of spacefarers: Your PCs are the children of people who live on The Rock of Bral and who work on ships that have The Rock as a home port.
- Apprentices: Your PCs are learning a trade (perhaps a class or perhaps a profession) from NPCs on Bral.
- Organisation: Your PCs work for an organisation, such as the Pragmatic Order of Thought or The Seekers.
Your players may want to mix and match two or more of these group themes or come up with their own theme. If they come up with their own ideas, that is great, because they will be giving you a way to tie their PCs into the NPC groups on Bral.
Low Level Adventuring
As mentioned before, one of the problems with starting in wildspace is that there are not a great deal of adventure hooks for low level PCs. So here are a few ideas to get your PCs adventuring on The Rock itself:
- Messengers: The PCs are asked to find someone and give them a message. Or they may be asked to find someone, give them a message and return with an answer. This is something that could be repeated multiple times. To stop it being mundane, you could have other factors get in the way of the message being delivered.
- Lost Child: An innkeeper or other NPC approaches the PCs to tell them that their child has not come home for dinner. He or she asks the PCs to go looking for the child. This can be a simple case of a child staying out late, with the PCs maybe needing to hunt down a naughty child and catch them, or someone may have kidnapped the child to order and be attempting to sell them onto slavers. Alternatively, you could make this a recurring theme with the same child sneaking off several times before eventually being captured by a slave dealer.
- Delivery: The PCs are asked to collect something and deliver it somewhere. To make this more complex, there could be some NPCs who attempt to steal the thing being delivered.
Getting off of Bral
With the price of spelljamming ships and helms, it would seem that 1st Level PCs are too low to be in control of their own destiny. But the Endless Quest choose-your-adventure book for Wildspace called A Wild Ride has a way to get past this. The lead character of that book is someone who owns his own boat and who explores wildspace around The Rock, looking to salvage items that he can take back to Bral.
There are a number of farming and mining asteroids close to Bral. House Moune, run by Tarilia Moune, who is on the Council of Captains founded two farming asteroids. House Daxault, owned by Gerald Daxault, owns another three farming asteroids. House Zudrik, founded by Mordreggan Zudrik, operates three whaleships that are used to take dwarven miners to asteroids, so that the ore can be stripped out. In wildspace itself, fishermen will be travelling around trying to catch the edible “space fish” that Hackjammer calls “pish”. So there are a number of reasons why small boats without spelljamming helms may be travelling to and from the asteroids close to Bral.
Over at The Piazza, Ashtagon found a low-powered campaign, called the Commoner Campaign. This was a campaign for the NPC commoner class from 3rd Edition. The above groups would be a great way to run a campaign where the player characters start off as normal spacefarers, just trying to do a normal job. And, with all those support industries nearby to The Rock, there are plenty of reasons for people to be asking 1st level PCs to travel out into the local wildspace to carry out seemingly mundane tasks.
- Farm Labourers: One of the asteroids owned by House Mourne or House Daxault has some work that needs to be done. This could be crop picking or some other sort of manual labour. The PCs hear that help is wanted and that they have a chance to travel to another asteroid on a spelljamming ship, as part of the work. This could be a chance to give a group of native Bral PCs their first trip into wildspace.
- Collecting Rock Samples: House Zudrik are sending out a survey ship and want to hire people to collect rock samples. If the PCs are interested in the work, they will travel slightly further afield than the nearby asteroid farms and will get a chance to visit asteroids that are uninhabited.
- Salvage: Both Fine Armors of Bral and Cap’n Gyudd’s Nautical Goods sell items salvaged from wrecks. So if the PCs can explore some wrecks near Bral, they might be able to find something to sell to one of these stores. They can not afford to hire or buy a spelljamming ship, but they hear about Jaxom Starr, a youngster who sails a small boat out to explore the regions around The Rock, looking for items that can be sold in his grandfather’s junk booth back on Bral. If they get themselves a boat, they could go out and try to get some salvage too.
- Asteroid Deliveries: Just as the PCs can make deliveries on Bral itself, they can also make deliveries to and from the farming asteroids nearby. If they can get themselves a boat, they can undercut the prices charged by spelljamming ships.
- Fishing: If the PCs can get themselves a boat, they can go out and try to catch pish or other edible wildspace creatures and sell them at the markets of Bral.
These things could easily be combined. For example, if the PCs built up a relationship with the people of one of the farming asteroids owned by House Mourne or House Daxault, they could travel to The Rock to collect non-perishable supplies like nails or tools and then try to catch pish and look for shipwrecks on the way there and back.
Moving to a Full Blown Campaign
Moving from adventures in and around to a full-blown Spelljammer campaign featuring one or more of the published adventures will work better if you can think of some hooks to tie the early adventures of the PCs in with the plots of the published products.
- SJA1 Wildspace: The lead up to this adventure is that the Skyrunner stops off for supplies and the PCs are supposed to be the experts at the scene of its arrival. That is harder to justify on Bral itself, but a lot easier if the PCs are at the town on one of the farming asteroids, when the Skyrunner drops anchor to collect food and water.
- SJA2 Skull and Crossbows: This adventure starts off in the Rockrat, in the Low City district on Bral. So it is fairly easy to lead into this adventure, so long as the PCs have done some deeds to justify the Pragmatic Order of Thought contacting them. Following this on from SJA1 would work well in a Bral based campaign.
- SJA3 Crystal Spheres: If the PCs were exploring uninhabited asteroids and collecting samples to sell to House Zudrik, that would be an excellent opportunity to have them meet the Hummingbird, while it was trying to hide from mercenaries.
- SJA4 Under The Dark Fist: It is suggested that the PCs own their own ship and may be sailing for The Rock of Bral. So there should be no problems leading into this adventure. If the PCs have already done SJA2, that would give them some history with Prince Andru.
- SJS1 Goblins’ Return: The PCs need to be sent to a meeting onboard an Elven Armada, called Constellation, to start off this adventure. If they have history with the Elven Navy, it should be fairly easy to have them invited to the Elven Forest and then given the writ that allows them to take a ride on any elven ship headed towards the Constellation.
- SJQ Heart of the Enemy: The plot of this adventure follows on fairly naturally from SJS1.
If you are really careful about it, you could probably add setups for all the published adventures into the low level adventures of your PCs. For example, my Lost Child concept could lead to the PCs rescuing a child from slavers and that could be a way to bring them to the attention of the Pragmatic Order of Thought before you run SJA2.
- Tarilia Mourne and House Moune are described on pages 27-28 and 55-57 of SJR5 Rock of Bral.
- House Daxult and Gerald Daxault are described on page 40 of SJR5 Rock of Bral.
- House Zudrik and Mordreggan Zudrik are described on page 40 of SJR5 Rock of Bral.
- Cudrekken Goldfoot and Fine Armors of Bral are described on page 61 of SJR5 Rock of Bral.
- Cap ‘n Gyudd’s Nautical Goods is described on page 70 of SJR5 Rock of Bral.
- Jaxom Starr and his grandfather’s junk booth are described in Endless Quest: A Wild Ride.