How to Convert Spelljammer to 5th Edition


Lightyear FM

Want a perspective on what flying through space might actually look like?  Here’s one project to give you an idea.  Working on the knowledge that radio waves travel at the speed of light, this simulation shows you the local neighbourhood near Earth (excluding exoplanets) up to the limit of the first Earth radio broadcasts; up to 110 years ago (as of 2015).

Things I learned from this:

  • In general, stars don’t float randomly by themselves.  They appear in clusters.  We’re part of a pretty little cluster of mostly much tinier, dimmer stars than our own, that might look like the Pleiades with a red-shift in someone else’s perspective.
  • We can infer that most of the stars near us are smaller/dimmer than our own because most of them have alpha-numeric names (more on that in a minute).  Also, stars progress from red to orange to yellow to white to blue in terms of brightness and most of the stars around us are more orange than we are.
  • Every once in a while you do get singular stars just floating in a void, but it’s the exception, not the rule.
  • There are two nebulae relatively near to us.  One’s about 40 light years away and the other is about 80 light years away.  Each is about 10 light years across.

Naming conventions of stars:

  • The oldest stars we know about have proper names.  Those tend to be the brightest from our perspective and are typically the ones visible with the naked eye.  Most such names are derived from the Arabic language.  You’ll see relatively few of them in our local neighbourhood (Sirius, Fomalhaut, Pollux, etc.)
  • Sometimes stars are named for astronomers or the people who discovered them.  You’ll see a couple of those in this simulation.  One of them, Barnard’s Star, which you’ll see right after the Centauri stars that are our closest neighbours, blasted right through the edge of our solar system only 70,000 years ago!  Talk about a near-miss!
  • Some stars are catalogued.  The Bayer Designation names stars by a lower case Greek letter generally representing its corresponding number, plus the constellation it appears in. (ie. Sigma Sagittarii).  Once all 26 Greek letters have been assigned, letters of the Arabic-derived alphabet are used (ie. G Scorpii).  Sometimes when concurrent stars were discovered (like, say the smaller star in the Alpha Centauri binary) it was designated with a superscript.  The Flamsteed Designation is used when no Bayer Designation exists or when the Bayer designation uses numeric superscripts, because it’s less awkward.  (ie. 61 Cygni).  These stars are usually visible with a decent telescope.
  • The most recently discovered stars, visible with ultra high resolution or space telescopes and tracked by computers, are named with an alpha-numeric designation based on their position in the sky.  Over 990 million such objects exist.
  • Special cases: Pulsars are designated by the prefix PSR, with a series of hyphenated numbers in which the first indicates its right ascension and the second its degree of inclination.  Supernovae are designated by the prefix SN, plus the year they were discovered in, and if there was more than one, a letter indicating the order of discovery (ie. SN 1987A.)  A few supernovae are known by the year they occurred in (ie. SN 1604, also known as Kepler’s Star).  Novae are usually given a name according to the naming convention of the General Catalogue of Variable Stars, which includes a number or letter designation and the constellation it’s from (ie. V841 Ophiuchi, SZ Persei, T Bootis.)

Here’s a preview to show you what it looks like: you can find the simulation itself at  Note that if you hover your cursor over each celestial body (save the Earth, the Moon and the Sun) it will tell you what it is and how far away from Earth it is.  Enjoy the simulation! – An interactive journey through space, time, & music from chris baker on Vimeo.


Les grands courants philosophiques à travers les Sphères Connues

Les voyages de Deryn Naythas


Si les peuples qui vécurent durant l’Âge des légendes semblent devoir posséder des motivations incompréhensibles pour les espèces plus jeunes, et que les Âges sombres ne soient finalement qu’une succession de conflits à une échelle sans précédent, c’est bien durant l’Âge spirituel que se développent et s’affirment de grands principes qui vont rapidement exalter les ancêtres des Syndarh, des Mordd et des primitifs Valoriens.

Le Point d’Equilibre, la pensée mystique

MindsEyeSous la guidance des Sharood, les Voies de l’Esprit sont développées en opposition au règne de la magie Reigar. Bien des élus de pratiquement tous les peuples d’alors sont initiés aux pratiques psioniques, afin de pouvoir par la suite dresser les leurs contre une tyrannie mystique qui n’existe déjà plus. A travers ce conflit que souhaitent initier les Sharood apparaît cependant le fondement d’un mode de pensée qui amènera la région des Sphères Connues à s’affranchir régulièrement du joug d’un…

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Symphonies of the Planets

Although space is a virtual vacuum, this does not mean that there is no sound in space.  Sound does exist as electromagnetic vibrations.

Through specially designed instruments, the Voyager, INJUN 1, ISEE 1, and HAWKEYE space probes used Plasma Wave antenna to record the vibrations of the planets that they visited that are within the range of human hearing (20 to 20,000 Hz).

To be fair, however, they are often quiet; quiet enough that they are difficult, if not impossible, for the human ear to hear.

The recorded sounds are the complex interactions of charged electromagnetic particles from the Solar Wind, ionospheres, and planetary magnetospheres.  Here’s a sample of some of the recordings released by NASA:

Here is a recording (and photos) of the noise of the Singing Comet, 67P, as recorded by the Rosetta spacecraft (though in this case the volume has been increased by 10,000 times):

And here is a full playlist of the Symphony of the Planets.  These five CDs, which are now out of print, were created from the complex sounds recorded by the Voyager probes.

Yes, really.  This is real world stuff I’m talking about, not just Arcane Space!

So if you’d like to imagine what it sounds like aboard a Spelljamming ship, picture that the closer you got to a planetary body, the more of this kind of sound you would hear.  It would start as faint, water-like popping noises.  Then you would wonder when the wind noise had started.  Then you might notice a high-pitched drone like a wet finger on crystal or a Tibetan singing bowl.  In some cases (Suns, large planetary bodies) you might notice a low droning buzz, like the sound of a WWII airplane.  The closer you got to the planetary body, the louder it would get, and when you reached a planetary gravity plane, it would be a veritable cacophony to ears accustomed only to the creak of the ship, the flap of sails and the quiet of the Void; which would fade again into the background once you hit atmosphere and terrestrial noises began to reach your ears.  Or you might be sailing along in space, likely with continual distant popping sounds that would be more rapid the closer you were to the center of the sphere, and all of a sudden a Solar Gale might whip wind and ringing and high-pitched drones through the air envelope.  In which case, a sargasso might be heralded by a sudden, deafening silence.



Modern Space Horror Stories – Astronaut Sights UFO?

Recently I’ve been watching these top 10 and top 15 lists, and some of them led me to some horror stories in the history of our space programs.  It’s worth noting because even with Grubbian physics, some of these dangers are still a potential risk for spelljammers.  And certainly the legacy of surviving those sorts of risks is something we, as fans of space travellers, should remember.  I’ll be posting a series of these over the next few days, so if you have a weak stomach, you may want to avoid this series.

Now this is from one of those conspiracy theory channels — which of course should be mostly sneered at in contempt — but the audio and footage in the clip are real.  In footage released by the European Space Agency, Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, who is Italy’s first woman in space, can be heard shouting out in shock at something she saw during the docking of the Soyuz spacecraft.  What would cause a professional astronaut to shriek in surprise like that?  What was the UFO in the video image?  I suppose it could have been a meteorite that freaked her out by its closeness . . .



Modern Space Horror Stories – Death of a Cosmonaut

Recently I’ve been watching these top 10 and top 15 lists, and some of them led me to some horror stories in the history of our space programs.  It’s worth noting because even with Grubbian physics, some of these dangers are still a potential risk for spelljammers.  And certainly the legacy of surviving those sorts of risks is something we, as fans of space travellers, should remember.  I’ll be posting a series of these over the next few days, so if you have a weak stomach, you may want to avoid this series.

Vladimir Mikhaylovich Komarov (Russian: Влади́мир Миха́йлович Комаро́в; IPA: [vlɐˈdʲimʲɪr mʲɪˈxaɪləvʲɪtɕ kəmɐˈrof]; 16 March 1927 – 24 April 1967) was a Soviet test pilot, aerospace engineer and cosmonaut in the first group of cosmonauts selected in 1960. He was one of the most highly experienced and well-qualified candidates accepted into “Air Force Group One”. . . . His spaceflight on Soyuz 1 made him the first Soviet cosmonaut to fly into outer space more than once, and he became the first human to die on a space mission—he was killed when the Soyuz 1 space capsule crashed after re-entry on 24 April 1967 due to a parachute failure.[1] However, because he died when the capsule crashed into ground, he is not considered the first human fatality in outer space.  (Source: Wikipedia)

The audio recording in the video above was purportedly recorded by an American observation station in Turkey.  In the recording, Komarov was heard to be cursing in rage at the people who perhaps knowingly “put him inside a botched spaceship” as he crashed towards the earth.  A rather chilling tale is told at Rare Historical Photos about a government desperate to display their power, a bunch of engineers and bureaucrats too scared to point out the design flaws they saw to their superiors, and a man who went on a doomed mission to save a friend; along with this photo of his open casket funeral, which, according to the story, had been his dying wish, so that the people responsible could look at what they had done.

Soviet military officials view the remains of cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov. Courtesy of Rare Historical Photos.