Campaign of the Month: April 2011
Planejammer: The Spelljoined
The cheapest, and most common, means of propulsion for a spelljammer are to rig a ship up with Splendid Sails. These are magical sails, sometimes made from kindori hide, that do not require a spell-caster to use. They are reasonably cheap; the cost to outfit a tradesman with a full set is far less than the price of a true spelljamming helm. The downside is that ships operating with Splendid Sails cannot land or take off of any object larger than a small moon. The sole exception is flat worlds, where ships with Splendid Sails can sail to the edge of the gravity plane for the purposes of landing and taking off. Ships using these helms are limited to travelling between asteroids, small moons, nebula, flat worlds, and orbital cities. Many merchant vessels outfitted with Splendid Sails will never land on worlds, but instead travel between cities orbiting those worlds. Goods are traded to local merchants, who in turn use helm-equipped galleons or teleportation to transport merchandise to markets across the world.
Splendid Sails are most typically seen on vessels of 45 tons or less. In theory they can be used on ships up to 100 tons, or perhaps even more, but most captains wealthy enough to operate squidships and heavier prefer to use true helms. It is a matter of pride to some, while others reason a more practical reason that the ability to make planetfall is worth the cost. Even still, many a hammership captain will keep a spare set aboard ship as an emergency power source should the helm be disabled or destroyed.
The majority of ships consistently using Splendid Sails are merchant vessels: dragonflies, wasps, eelships, tradesmen, and lampreys. They are also used on salvaged groundling vessels such as caravels and even galleons as captains remove the helms that brought them into space and install them on more rugged ships. Splendid Sails are frequently used by inexperienced adventurers who are native to wildspace. These first-time adventurers are often rich enough to purchase a small vessel, such as a dragonfly or caravel, but too poor to afford a true helm, so settle for a set of Splendid Sails. Pirates, too, use these sails, but only until they can pillage something better. Splendid Sails are also favored by those ships lacking enough spellcasters to power the vessel at all times.