Spellcrash is a gonzo Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting I’m building featuring dying gods, trapped demons, impossible worlds and the most bizarre monsters the game’s ever known. It’s built around the cursed star system of Star’s End, which unerringly draws the lost and insane to it like bees to nectar.
My inspiration comes from planetary romance novels of old (John Carter of Mars) as well as more modern takes on the concept (Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok). And, of course, there’s Spelljammer, TSR’s 1989 space fantasy boxed set for Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition that introduced the concept of void-travelling starships, crystal spheres, and giant space hamsters.
Like Sakaar in Thor: Ragnarok (and the comic that inspired it, Planet Hulk) I envision Spellcrash as destination for all of the Bermuda Triangles of the multiverse, dumping monsters and adventurers into a hodgepodge realm where anything is possible … except for escape. Towering mountain ranges divide the various zones of the planet, which is covered in craters from incoming space debris. I want to populate this world with the wildest and weirdest monsters that D&D has to offer (and yes, even the flumphs will have a home here).
A Spellcrash campaign begins with our heroes emerging from the Entropy Gate into the Star’s End system. With their Spelljammer out of control, they careen through the system until the gas giant Titandeath grabs them and sends them smashing into Terminus, one of its moons.
The system is dominated by a red giant star which is slowly being devoured by the Demonmaw, a massive black hole. In truth, these are stellar manifestations of a divine struggle. The black hole is the high gravity prison for one of the multiverse’s first demons. The star is an ancient god of justice who is sacrificing his very essence to prevent the demon from escaping. That struggle causes stellar storms to surge through the solar system, mirroring the physical struggles between followers of the dying god and cultists of the imprisoned demon that play out on Terminus.
While a rough sketch of the entire solar system exists, I expect most of the action to take place on Terminus as our heroes confront the strangest monsters in the D&D Mythos including the neogi (spider-like alien monsters), gammeroids (humanoid turtles), giff (humanoid hippopotamus with a love for firearms) and — of course — the giant space hamsters. Aside from the standard Spelljammer races, I also want to include the stranger monsters in the Dungeons & Dragonsuniverse. Imagine mountain ranges that incorporate the corpse of a tarrasque, flocks of floating grell (think brains with tentacles and a beak), brain-eating mindflayers scheming for planetary dominance, underground cities built by the insectile thri-keen, and plenty of other strangeness.
Why Spellcrash? I’m doing this is to give myself permission to screw up. I’ve been experimenting with mapping and I have other worlds I want to build … but I keep finding myself paralyzed by making that first sketch or jotting down some plot points. It’s a kind of writers block brought on by a fear that I’m going to mess it up … but with Spellcrash all those concerns go out the airlock. The whole point of the thing is to craft a broken world — if I mess up, I either throw out my work or embrace it.
And damn it … I need this! After a year featuring a broken ankle, a damn hard six months at work, and family challenges both large and small, I need a creative outlet. I need to give my stressed out brain something to work on that doesn’t have any deadlines.
A good example of this hesitation in action is a hexcrawl. I’ve been kicking around doing one for our D&D Kids campaign or building out a map of the Pomarj peninsula using some of those concepts, but I kept getting stuck when it came time to put pencil to paper. For some reason I’ve got this creative block when it comes to putting pencil to paper. With Spellcrash, I’ve giving myself permission to screw up. The end result is going to be a chaotic setting that that might not quite fit together … but that’s ok. That is, in fact, the point of the setting.
Spellcrash is my summer project. I’ve been working on it throughout the summer, mostly in Moleskine notebooks and sketchpads. I’ll be translating those into web pages as time permits.
- Spelljammer: Beyond the Moons: The official fan website.
- Spelljammer Wiki: A fan-created reference for the campaign setting.
- Nerdarchy – “Spelljammer for D&D 5th Edition”: Nerdarchy’s take on adapting Spelljammer for D&D 5th Edition.
- Spelljammer Gone Wild: A varient Spelljammer campaign with a steampunk vibe.
- Revising Spelljammer: A fan attempt to turn Spelljammer into a more cohesive campaign setting.