A DRAGONSTAR Campaign and Resource
When the Dragonstar Campaign Setting was first announced I was immediately fascinated and began to rework a campaign concept I called Arcanum of the Stars to fit within the universe. The campaign setting spawned a whole framework in my head for a campaign that would combine the D&D Worlds and the Dragonstar universe. It was a mesh of a multitude of ideas from not only D&D but Alternity and a role-playing game called Skyrealms of Jorune.
As I began developing the campaign I also began writing Realmsian Dragonstar, which took on a life of its own, so to speak. Soon I was doing more writing than campaign development and that was fine at the time. It also didn’t hurt that Realmsian Dragonstar soon had a following, first on the DSD20 Yahoo Group and then, later, here on EN World. However, I have hit a wall when it comes to the story, as I haven’t worked out where it will eventually end up.
Thus, my interest in Dragonstar began to wane as new D20 products came out to sate my need for something new. Plus, I threw myself into my homebrewed D&D campaign setting, World of Kulan. My passion for Dragonstar hadn’t died, it just needed time to reset. And when Fantasy Flight Games announced that the Dragonstar product line would not continue, soon after v.3.5 came out, it didn’t inspire me to “get back to it”.
So why am I doing this now?
I’m doing this because I think Dragonstar is the best campaign setting concept to come out of the creation of the D20 System. Others might really like Privateer Press’s Iron Kingdoms or Sword and Sorcery Studio’s Scarred Lands, but me, I won’t ever give up my Dragonstar books. They are as vital to my gaming shelve as the D&D core rulebooks. I’m also doing this because I think Dragonstar fans deserve better than just having the product line discontinued.
I’m hoping that Arcanum of the Stars will be one of the pinnacle unofficial sources for Dragonstar. Of course, it won’t all be original, as I’m all about borrowing from the best and that is what I’m going to do. Whether it is Neo’s Custom Ship Construction Rules or material from such sources as Alternity, Skyrealms of Jorune, Spelljammer, or something else entirely.
In my mind, there is no limit to where this can go.
February 26, 2005 (re-posted here Oct. 20, 2018)
Arcanum of the Stars is a Dragonstar campaign first and foremost. It has been influenced by so many concepts that I sometimes lose track of what came from where. Arcanum of the Stars (abbreviated AotS) originally came for the idea of creating a senate of different worlds based on the Galactic Senate from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. The group would be called the Arcanum and be to my alternate Spelljammer universe what the Senate is to Star Wars. I toyed with concepts from Spelljammer and rules from the Alternity Game System created by TSR, Inc. Somewhere during all this, the Alternity campaign I called Twilight Galaxy came into existence.
It was a very strange and interesting campaign concept, but it eventually proved to be unworkable.
Then D&D 3rd Edition came out and the gaming industry changed forever. Wizards of the Coast created the D20 System and the Open Gaming License. Companies began jumping on the bandwagon and a new type of gaming reference was soon being sold at the FLGS. The industry saw a D20 boom of product lines for gamers to choose from and Dragonstar was one of those first initial D20 product lines.
Of course, Dragonstar wasn’t traditional sword & sorcery. This is what made me buy the Dragonstar Starfarer’s Handbook and begin reworking Arcanum of the Stars and Twilight Galaxy into one role-playing concept, which would be influenced by both settings as well as the other gaming resources mentioned in the Forward. However, a lot of those original ideas have either spawned new ideas or will be replaced by something else, which is more compatible with the latest revision of Dungeons and Dragons (version 3.5).
Here is what has influenced AotS in the past and will continue to do so.
My idea for Arcanum of the Stars might have been inspired by Star Wars but the campaign architecture I have always had in mind for the setting was influenced by the Alternity Player’s Handbook and Alternity Gamemaster Guide. Now that AotS is set in Dragonstar, which has all the core rules I need, those two books aren’t as vital to the structure of the campaign. The main influence from Alternity in AotS was converting parts of my Twilight Galaxy campaign to be used in conjunction with Dragonstar. Twilight Galaxy was as much an influence on the original campaign structure as Spelljammer.
Star Drive was my favorite Alternity campaign setting and I still shudder regarding the fact that I had to sell the book to help pay my rent in 1999. However, a lot from that setting doesn’t really fit into my Dragonstar campaign. That is, except for Bluefall. The world of Bluefall is important to the campaign (the map was named the Aegis Region for a reason) but will differ a great deal. Bluefall and the Regency will still be a neutral meeting place for the Outlands but its autonomy is under extreme pressure – worse than in Star Drive universe.
Beyond Bluefall, there wasn’t really anything else that I must have as part my Dragonstar campaign. (I might consider bringing Insight into the campaign later on.) The main thing that is so great about Alternity was the species created for it. The fraal, especially, are a major power group in Arcanum of the Stars. And a lot of the other species were also natural choices to be integrated into the campaign – the t’sa, the sesheyans, the weren, and some of the more exotic races from Star Drive (i.e. the bhruu, the deepfallen). One of the main antagonist species from Star Drive, the klicks, are a more benevolent race in my Dragonstar campaign known as the scatti. These insectoids are known for their love of art of all types and they view war as an art form. This viewpoint has caused some friction in the past but most technological Outlanders accept the scatti.
Arcanum of the Stars was originally designed to expand the Spelljammer universe to create a more realistic type of Arcane Space. Now that concept has been integrated into my Farspace Cosmology, which can be found at the Beyond the Moons website. After the D20 System came along, spawning the Dragonstar universe in the minds of Greg Benage and Matt Forbeck, I quickly began modifying AotS into a Dragonstar campaign. The original Arcanum was to be the controlling influence throughout my altered Spelljammer universe. However, in Dragonstar, the Arcanum is designed as a group of powerful Outlander sorcerers, wizards, priests, and psions, that works secretly against the Dragon Empire.
As for official Spelljammer material in Dragonstar, I have already begun integrating several worlds that have Spelljammer accessories designed for them. Realmspace, Greyspace, and Krynnspace are all to be redone as Outlands worlds in the Aegis Region. Arcanum of the Stars also includes a modified Dragonstar version of the Rock of Bral. Other source material, such as the Astromundi Cluster, might get included later on, but since I no longer own many of the Spelljammer references I once did it might not happen.
As for the races and creatures from the Spelljammer universe, I have already started to incorporate several Spelljammer races such as the arcane, beholders, dracons, the giff and two other races that I think I got off the Internet – the raia and the juna. (I know I didn’t create these races, but I can’t find any reference to them officially.) Along with all the SJ races there are the spelljammer hulls. Old Spelljammers designs are becoming Dragonstar explorers, free traders, or freighters, and the elven man-o-war makes for an amazing corvette design. And, of course, there are multi-sized beholder tyrantships and nautiloids.
SKYREALMS OF JORUNE
“Skyrealms of Jorune is a role-playing game originally designed by Andrew Leker for an English class assignment. Miles Teves, a friend and classmate of Leker, contributed additional development with his art. This first initial product is know as The First Edition and included one supplement called The Maustin Caji.”
My first exposure to this product line was the Skyrealms of Jorune boxed set (which I also had to sell) known as Second Edition. And while I didn’t have any of the support material designed for the boxed set, what was in the box was unlike any other role-playing game I’d ever seen. Several of the races described in Skyrealms of Jorune were so alien that the product just begged me to buy it and use it somehow. The front of the box was the catalyst though. Soon I came to know the alien races of Skyrealms of Jorune: the acubon, blounts, the bronth, the cleash, corastins, crugars, the ramian, the salu, scarmis, shanthas, thivins, thriddles, and the woffen.
Originally, these races were integrated into my Twilight Galaxy Alternity campaign. But when Dragonstar was announced I saw less of a need for my own original space campaign designs, which Arcanum of the Stars and Twilight Galaxy both were at the time. I soon decided that AotS would continue on while Twilight Galaxy would end. But what to do with all the work I put into turning the races of Jorune into starfaring alien species. Well, the known galaxy of Dragonstar is a big place and soon tons of material from Twilight Galaxy crossed over into AotS including the Jorune races.
With these races came the story of Iscin, which I had also “stellarized” for Twilight Galaxy (and have now tweaked for Dragonstar). Here’s the gist: “Iscin was a fraal xeno-geneticist who lived before the time of Dragon Empire. Some say he created his mutated races before the creation of the twin dragon kingdoms of the Qesemet and the Asamet. The truth is still unknown, the Iscin races don’t even know how long ago it was.”
Note that not all the Jorune races are major power groups in my Dragonstar campaign but some of them are fairly powerful in certain regions (i.e. Crugar Octagonal). Most of the other Jorune races, such as the bronth, don’t have a home world and, instead, exist throughout all of known space just like the other races from the Dragonstar Starfarer’s Handbook.
The main exception is the race known as the cleash (and to a lesser extent the scarmis), which are a race that once existed in great numbers before the dragons ever traveled the stars. The cleash were banished from this Aegis Region by the shanthas (with the help of the fraal) and are only now returning to the Aegis Region. The shanthas are a race in decline and very few pockets of their people still exist in the Aegis Region. Only the power of the Dragon Empire, the fraal, and several militant groups in the Outlands have kept the cleash attacks in check.