25 May 2024

Remixing: Spelljammer Light of Xaryxis Part III

tl;dr: how the players actually bounced around the sandbox made by chopping up Light of Xaryxis

In the first part of this remix I wrote about what I did
* Read through Light of Xaryxis (LoX) and rework the framing of the campaign.
* Adapt the adventure by breaking it up into 'plot chunks' which could be separated.
* Created a system for all the action to happen in.
* Dropped the various plot chunks into places that made sense - this got more focus in the second part of the write up.

Below are the records of how the players moved among the various planets where the encounters from the adventure were scattered. Overall it worked well, with the start holding fairly true to what the adventure lays out then going all over the place in the middle before running through the ending more or less as planned out in the book.

To give context for all the movements described, the roster of planets in the system was:
0. The Snuffed Star – the guttering remains of a star, where a prototype starseed had fizzled
1. Gorondirs Throne – small, with a fiery moon that makes it habitable, dwelling of the Sussurans, quasi-Xaryxian loyalists
2. Mystra’s Mirror - small, flat waterworld - uninhabited
3. Hrungirs Roar - titanic air world with a fiery moon and a habitable earthen moebius-strip, seat of the local astral elves, system capital
4. The Great Belt - chain of asteroids within an extended atmosphere inhabited by miners of many origins
5. Obsidian Depths - vast water world, inhabited only by great aquatic beasts
6. Fanthirs Ruin – enormous earth world, once populated by dwarves, now a mindflayer hold
7. The Ring Sea – water belt with rocky clusters and a great moon within it
8. Tears of Joy – tiny warm water world with a population of raft-dwellers

Below is a mid game map with the long diagonal mapping the 'rings' of the system using the old Spelljammer notation. The closer rings (top left) are one day travel at Spelljammer speed, the further apart rings are two days travel apiece. The astral boundary is bottom right corner - so a fair ways out. The map is from mid-campaign but as you can see, there is quite a chunk of distance, multiple days travel between the different planets - so this hex-crawl became *lengthy*.

Looking at how the players actually bounced around sessions to session, between planets and between chapters:
Session Count Session Source
#1Space Whaling A Gygax75
#2Space Whaling B Gygax75
#3Gaus Shaultis (astral), set off sandbox
#4Darkstar, stashed on Tears of Joy, fly Port Artyllin (Great Belt)ch2
#5Find Krux, Xaryxian street ambush (Great Belt) ch4
#6Debrief Krux, go Topolahs Tower, fight scavver (Great Belt) ch5
#7Find Gargenhale, start mutiny fight (Obsidian Depths) ch6
#8Finish Mutiny, meet Xedalli (Obsidian Depths) ch 6/7
#9Retrieve Darkstar, Korvu alliance (Tears of Joy) sandbox
#10Lucent Edict (Obsidian Depths) ch3
#11Clear Lucent Edict, tow, ambushed by Hastain (Great Belt) ch4
#12Reconnect w/ Gargenhale, jumped by Ebonsnare (Great Belt) ch3
#13Arrive Vocaths Base (Fanthirs Ruin) ch8
#14Finish arena fight, get Mindflayers on board (Fanthirs Ruin) ch8
#15Ambush Starmoth, return Port Artyllin (Great Belt) sandbox
#16Port Artylinn refit, governors dinner, Thraj/Xedalli fight (Great Belt) sandbox
#17Goto Port Xaejyre, land quietly, rescue Governor (Great Belt) sandbox
#18Spot Xaryxians, mobilise locals, seek sussurans, extract Warwyck (Gorondirs Throne)ch 7
#19Complete extraction, go to capital (Hrungirs Roar) ch7/9
#20Diplomacy, meet King Zinphine, politicking (Hrungirs Roar) ch 9
#21Kizza does Kord festival, plan masquerade (Hrungirs Roar) sandbox
#22Masquerade, xeleth appears (Hrungirs Roar) ch8
#23Faction round-up, agents ambush (Hrungirs Roar) ch8/9
#24Faction round-up, stalling actions (Hrungirs Roar) ch9
#25Fleet action - dragon, boarding 1st half (Hrungirs Roar) ch10
#26boarding denouement, recovery (Hrungirs Roar) ch10
#27Invade Xaryxis, face off vs Xeleth, Zodar fight (Xaryxis) ch11
#28Xedallis betrayal, Kizza's sacrifice, system destruction (Xaryxis) ch12
As you can see there was a lot of bouncing around between chapters and a bunch of fluffing out - about a fifth of sessions where wholly off the book - and I was trying to stick to the book quite closely as we were driving to do the campaign and get it finished as opposed to an open ended commitment to play forever. Even then, there were some elements where the players just set off for the horizon and I laid down track just ahead of the train.

Things cooked up entirely to fill out the sandbox:
- Session 3 - the relaunch session, with crew recruitment - this was straight forward, a githyanki astral port, NPCs from the two-shot test game, and the campaign hook as a 'quest-giver' briefing with them getting a letter of marque and a mission to find Krux who had not reported in.
- Session 9 - Retrieving the captured Darkstar from the outermost planet and seeking alliance with the inhabitants allowed me to drop in Korvu of A Thousand Thousand Islands with its awesome Prow-headed Knights; perfect for a Spelljamming culture.
- Session 15 - the players decided they wanted to thin the Xaryxian fleet out and they figured from examining the logbooks of the Darkstar and the wrecks that Gargenhales vampirates had disabled that there were likely patrol spots. At this point they had the neogi Ebonsnare so they used it to chase the Darkstar past where they figured another Starmoth would be and then when it came to aid its 'sister in distress' - then both Darkstar and Ebonsnare turned on the Xaryxian ship and after a boarding action, the party had another ship. Needless to say the Starmoth battlemap got a lot of use throughout the campaign.
- Session 16 - return to Port Artylinn (Bral analogue) for refit, do politicking with local governor to try and unroot Xaryxian influence - getting intel that the next largest asteroid city (Port Xaejyre) has been out of contact for a bit. This session also saw a significant altercation between one of the PCs and Princess Xedalli with the astral elf barbarian (raised by asteroid minotaurs) trying to force Xedalli to get more hands-on in seizing back her throne. This was wholly internal party planning and discussions followed by NPC interactions to follow up on those.
- Session 17 - visiting Port Xaejyre, scouting the governors palace there then breaking in to rescue the governor - leading to a fight with some Astral Elves and Fel Adra and her veterans - all these forces recycled from places they were left spare elsewhere in the book. I grabbed a 'floating castle docks' map off the web to become the governors mansion and then staged a sneak-and-fight with that.
- Session 21 - on the system capital (Wintergrasp on Hrungirs Roar) with all the faction politicking from chapter nine happening before and after, the party decided that the best way to draw out friends and foes alike would be to host a grand masquerade and give Xedalli a chance to make a big "Evita" style crowd rallying speech. This was supported by having all the party who could reasonably be outfitted as Xedalli also dressed as her (the two astral elves and the high elf, not the giff nor the thri'keen) along with four hired look-a-likes. I cooked this one up completely, but it did reconnect to the book-plot because this was the first time Xedalli had appeared in public, the first time Xeleth managed to find out where she was and so it triggered the 'Xeleth appears' kidnapping from the end of chapter eight at the end of session. This was done by grabbing a big fancy manor map and then cooking up some Masquerade-as-depth-crawl mechanics.

Overall it worked pretty well - to keep the pace up I left out complications for voyages between worlds beyond the occassional hostile ship. We had a fair few gaps between sessions so I decided things were complex enough without making travel also complex. I think there is another post in the hilarious logistics of Spelljamming if we took it seriously instead of hand-waving things - supplies, air, crew tensions, ship problems - all this within your air envelope, assuming you run into nothing hostile at all. Another post.

I think Light of Xaryxis lends itself well to being chopped up and turned into a sandbox. I did it because I knew if I tried to run it as the railroad it is, the players I had would derail things fairly quickly. By giving them lots of space to come at it their own way it worked much better, without me constantly having to fight to keep things 'on track'. I see a lot of others talking about running this adventure focus on bulking out the Rock of Bral section - more missions, more espionage - but I think the thing to lean into for a Spelljammer sandbox is hitting lots of different locations, doing something very evocative and interesting there and then moving on. Deep intrigues in a city is something that can be done in any campaign, flex Spelljammer for the stuff only it can do.

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