Spelljammer-Adventures In Realm Space
Ships travel through wildspace by means of the helm-a magical device which converts mystical energy into motive force, the push that moves the spelljammer. This allows rapid movement from planet to planet. Some of the specifics vary from race to race. In general, however, most ships are equipped with a magical device known as a spelljamming helm.
A person with magical abilities sits at the helm and acts as a living engine, providing the magical power to move the ship through wildspace and to perform some basic maneuvering as well.
Any magic can move a ship through wildspace. The more powerful the magic, the faster and further the ship can move.
The chief method of moving through space is through spelljamming-converting magical energy into motive force.
Spelljamming helms are the easiest way to get a ship moving, but not the only one. The dwarves use their forges to propel their great stone citadels, while the beholders use a mutated version of their own species, called an orbus, to provide the power. The mind flayers, who have spell-like ability but do not cast true spells, use series helms to maintain their power.
Most helms and other magical “engines” have a limitation of how large or how small a mass they can move. This, in turn, sets the limit on the size of most space vessels. There are large citadels carved out of asteroids, but these are not mobile in the same sense as a hammership. They only drift, with occasional (and expensive) midcourse corrections. The Spelljammer itself is also an exception.
Helms can be acquired through a number of means, the most usual being discovery in old ruins or raiding an enemy ship for its helm. They may be researched and built by high-level wizards at great expense in both gold and time. Or they may be purchased from the Arcane, a group of humanoid traders who do business in helms and other magical equipment. No one knows the Arcane’s home world, nor have ships of the Arcane ever been spotted. They seem to exist to sell.
Each minor and major spelljammer helm allows the individual seated upon it to move a large mass through space by means of channeling spell energy directly into a motive force. This energy is somewhat useful for maneuvering the ship, but primarily it provides the push that makes the ship move forward (or backward). Maneuvering comes primarily from the ship’s sails and oars.
The power of the force is known as the ship’s rating. A minor helm converts such energy at a rate of 1 point of SR for each five levels of experience. A major helm converts at a rate of 1 SR for every three levels of experience.
At low levels, the difference between using a minor and major helm is small. A fith level wizard will give his ship a SR of 1, regardless of whether a minor or major helm is used. The higher level the user, however, the more important the difference between using major and minor helms. A sixteenth level cleric for example, can give her ship an SR of 5 with a major helm, but only an SR of 3 with a minor helm. A quick summary of levels is included below.
The helm attunes itself to the brain patterns of the character who activated it. Once in synch, the helm siphons away magical energy the moment it begins taking shape, not all at once. But until teh character can rest, thereby breaking the link, the energy invested in any spell he tries to cast is drawn away by the spelljamming helm. This effect occurs regardless of range. Oddly, the helm can utilize the energy only if the character is seated in the helm. Why the helm can draw power from any range, yet gains benefit only from a helmsman actually in contact with it, is one of the foremost unsolved puzzles of spelljamming magic.
Game wise this means using a helm drains the users magical abilities at a steady pace. Every 6 hours of use drains a daily power or 2 encounter powers (Witch become unusable for the rest of the day). Use of a helm for less then 6 hours still drains the user as if they had used it for 6 hours, but they functionally invest the 6 hours of use into the ship for the rest of that day. Meaning if they use the ship for 15 minutes, then come back in a few hours they can still use it for 5 hours and 45 minutes before they have to invest energy into it again. However, this does not apply if the person using the helm is different then the previous user, as the helms do not actually horde energy.
An individual can use either type of helm for 12 hours without tiring. For each hour afterward, the SR drops by 1, to a minimum of 1. After 24 hours, the individual using the helm will pass out and not be able to use the helm again until fully rested.
An individual seated upon a helm can talk and act normally. The sensation of using the helm is akin to being immersed in warm water. As a result of the magical nature of the helm, the spelljamming mage or cleric using the helm can see things around the ship as if he were standing on the deck. The ship becomes an extension of his body, and responds to his demands in movement and maneuverability. The maneuverability of a craft is a reflection of both the spelljamming mage’s ability and the maneuverability class of the ship.
A minor helm can move a ship of up to 50 tons. A major helm can move one of up to 100 tons. In reality, most ship designers keep their craft under the 50 ton range, though there are large men-o-war and juggernauts that are larger than 50 tons.
Only one helm may be in service at a time, though often a minor helm is kept as a back-up, should something happen to the major helm.
Helms draw their magical energies directly from the user, and the speeds they can attain are determined by the level of the individual. All helm-equipped ships travel at the same rate of speed over long distances, bu their differences are apparent at the tactical level. In general, given two similar helms, a ship with the more powerful spelljamming mage or priest is the faster ship.
Helms can be easily installed in any ship, primarily ny lugging them aboard and bolting them to the deck. The minimum hull size required for a helm is 1 ton.
If an individual is slain while using the helm, the ship loses all power until a new spelljamming mage or priest takes command. The ship will drift (at a tactical speed) in a straight line until someone else takes the helm or the ship hits something.
Major and minor helms are nearly (but not completely) indestructible. Unfortunately, this protection does not extend to the individual seated in the helm. Diligent and crafty characters may find ways to destroy helms, but the process is not easy or quick.