A Walk Through the Planes – Part 6.25: Voidjammers!




In honor of Spelljammer’s return to the Dungeons & Dragons fold after nearly 30 years of absence, it’s time for us to take a look at a strange crossover between the planes of the multiverse and this campaign setting. What’s more, it’s a strange crossover that, despite being long forgotten, has a lot of relevance to the new version of spelljamming, or at least what I know of it right now. Back in July of 1990, Randal S. Doering wrote an article for Dragon Magazine titled “Voidjammers!” that I skipped until now on the assumption, when glancing past it a couple years ago, that it was only concerned with Spelljammer. Yet despite the name and appearance of the article, it’s not about Spelljammer at all, as it focuses upon the idea of magic-based ships traveling the Astral Plane, which is much how things now work in Fifth Edition (at least, as far as I can tell given that the new book’s not actually out yet). 

Now, I’m not a huge Spelljammer fan. Frankly, it was before more time, and more than that, when I tried to get into it later the rules involved with all of its travel seemed finicky and counterintuitive. I never even cared for the ptolemaic spheres cosmology model it pulled from, and while I know that many consider it the height of TSR’s creativity, I’ve always ignored the setting as much as I could. Frankly, if I want space roleplaying, I’d rather use something approximating typical sci-fi like in Starfinder, rather than Spelljammer’s weird fantasy-sci-fi mashup. But on the other hand, it did give us giant space hamsters, so Spelljammer can’t be all bad. The main gist of the setting consists of the idea that through magic, you can travel on ships from one world to the next. How this works is kind of wonky, but all of this Spelljammer info is also largely irrelevant, because “Voidjammers,” aside from the name, chooses to ignore this facet of the D&D multiverse just as much as I do. 

The few pieces of art in the piece are by Bob Klasnich, who I claimed not long ago that we’d never be seeing from again, so here’s a reminder of how frequently I’m wrong about very basic things.

About a thousand years ago, an archmage by the name of Peregrin became bored with adventuring on the Prime Material plane. He had overcome the most deadly foes of his world and had no interest in politics or a life of quiet research. Forsaking his home plane forever, he packed up his belongings and set off to seek a life in other realities. He wandered dozens of planes, frequently crossing the Astral as he did so, and eventually it dawned on him that he could do something greater than simply wander in boredom. Instead, he could help travelers get around in the Astral plane, making their lives more interesting and exciting.


In short, the archmage Peregrin decided that the best use of his nigh-infinite power and resources was to create an “Astral taxi service,” as the article chooses to call his voidjammers. Which I guess is one way to do things. After all, who are we to judge what someone with godlike power and endless wealth does with it, except to say that this is definitely a weird and nearly pointless hobby to adopt. I suppose it could be worse—at least Peregrin’s still better than Elon Musk.


As of this article, Peregrin owns and operates a fleet of 10 voidjammer ships, which cruise the Astral Plane picking up high-paying passengers and ferrying them along to specific places on their routes. And really, except for individuals willing to pay some truly astronomical (haha, get it? *sigh*) rates, it’s more of an extremely expensive bus service than a taxi, but in either case it allows passengers to ride in relative comfort and style. These ships are heavily decked with weapons, faster than anything in the Astral Plane short of githyanki, and able to call the archmage Peregrin and his personal, even-more-ridiculously powerful voidjammer in for help should the need arise. If you want to skip the dangers of the Astral Plane and have far, far more money than sense, voidjammers are the way to go. 

It’s a boat. But in the Astral Plane. And that’s pretty much it.

The most fascinating part of this article is its explanation for how these ships get about. After all, it’s thought that moves individuals through the Astral, whereas inanimate objects stay put. Peregrin’s solution? “Freshly slain mind flayer brains.” That’s right, every voidjammer is powered by a pair of mind flayer brains, working in tandem with the ships’ magical construction to move things around. Why would the mind flayers be ok with this? Well, they’re not, not remotely. “The brains are operated upon to remove the personality and will of the individual mind flayer while preserving the great psionic power and complex psychic structure of the creature’s mind.” Peregrin rips the brains from sentient beings, lobotomizes them, then enslaves them to power his Astral buses. Somehow, this cartoonishly evil act only makes him Lawful Neutral, which, uhh, says something about how dumb the alignment system tends to be. 


The level of detail that Doering puts into making sense of voidjammers is impressive. The makeup of each crew is documented in-depth, with a full rundown on every job required for operating the ships. Likewise, Peregrin and his ship The Voyager are given their own information, and we learn about the paths and backstory for this whole weird operation. Overall, it’s not a bad idea for something to add to the Astral Plane, the issue being that at its heart this is a difficult organization to make much sense of. Peregrin’s motivations are minimal, and individuals powerful enough to get to the Astral Plane most likely won’t want anything to do with these buses. Which doesn’t mean that they couldn’t easily be used in a campaign, just that they’re not an entirely logical part of the multiverse, despite the plethora of details about everything from their bus stops to their relationship with the githyanki.


Ultimately, I suspect that this article’s idea became forgotten not because it’s a badly written⁠—for a fan piece in particular, it’s quite professional and excellently polished⁠—but because others, like Monte Cook who wrote A Guide to the Astral Plane, simply skipped over it. Like me, they assumed it wasn’t planar content at all, and so this odd bus service of the planes was forgotten. And while I truly doubt anyone involved with fifth edition’s version of Spelljammer has any idea this article exists either, there’s no reason you can’t easily take this concept and add it to a campaign using the new Spelljammer rules today. However, since presumably the new version of the Astral Plane doesn’t require lobotomizing illithids for propulsion, maybe you’ll want to leave that part of the whole thing out as well.

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