The Crown of the Stars - A Spelljammer 5e Tale
Helms and how they work
Virtually all spelljamming vessels are powered by a magic item known as a spelljamming helm, or simply a helm. In most cases, a helm, which appears much like a large throne like chair, acts as an “engine” for the ship. As the pilot’s control station, and as an atmospheric recycler for the vessel. Without a helm, a ship has no ability to move under its own power and can’t replenish its air without exposure to an atmosphere. A major helm can power a ship of up to Colossal size, while a minor helm is sufficient for a ship of up to Huge size.
A helm grants a spelljamming vessel the ability to fly as its pilot wills. A spelljammer has two speeds: its cruising speed dictates how rapidly it can cover long distances (such as the void between worlds), while its tactical speed indicates how quickly it moves when in the vicinity of other sizable objects (such as in combat).
Away from planets and other large objects, a ship moves at what is called cruising speed. The cruising speed of a ship depends on the helm propelling it. A minor helm allows a ship to travel between adjacent planets tn 2d6+2 days, while a major helm moves between adjacent planets m 1d6+1 days. (The random element assumes that even adjacent planets may be tn different parts of their orbits. In extreme circumstances, you could double or even triple these times.
While in cruising speed, a spelljammer cannot interact with other objects in any way. Effectively, it moves so quickly as to be invisible to other objects. However, a ship may only move at cruising speed if its natural gravity exceeds the influence of the natural gravity of other objects in nearby space. A ship moving at cruising speed that comes too close to another object of sufficient size (and thus natural gravity) immediately drops out of cruising speed (see Tactical Speed, below).
In addition to a ship’s cruising speed the rate at which it travels between worlds-every ship has a tactical speed used in combat situations.A ship’s tactical speed depends on its size and the type of helm powering the ship (minor or major).
This value represents the distance (in feet) that a spelljammer can move with a single action.
Can move ships up to 40 tons
Speed: (Highest level caster class/4 + 20/tonnage (round down) )* 150’
Can move ships up to 100 tons
Speed: (Highest level caster class/3 + 50/tonnage (round down))* 150’
These helms, invented by the Mindflayers, have been adapted for use by many other races with natural spell-like abilities. They resemble major and minor helms, but their primary difference is that they can be linked together, increasing their overall power, and can be used by non-mages, provided they have natural spell-like abilities available to them.
For each helm in the series that is currently being manned, the ships speed increases by 150’. Generally, series helms contain between three and five active helms at any one time.
Series helms can move a ship between 5 and 50 tons.
Favored by the Neogi and other evil races of spacefarers, this type of spelljamming helm feeds off of the life energies of an individual within (who is, more often than not, there against his will).
Every day of operation sucks 1 CON points from the creature within, and requires a Death save. A failed saving throw the loss is permanent. Once a creature’s CON is reduced to 0 the creature dies.
The Ship’s Rating can be calculated by assuming that the creature within was a wizard using a minor helm, at that creature’s current hit dice. For example: a 6th level thief will operate as though he were a 6th level mage.
A helm provides sufficient breathable air to sustain all those aboard the ship. As long as the helm operates, the air aboard a spelljamming vessel is clean and breathable. A ship with an inoperative helm, or one without a helm, cannot recycle air used by its crew. In this case, assume that the air of a typical ship with a normal crew complement becomes stale after 1 day and foul after 3 days. Smaller or larger crews use up air at slower or faster rates as appropriate.
Updated Helm info
In ages past, the enigmatic blue giants known as the arcane came forward and offered a seafaring tribe of elves an odd item: a large metal throne to be bolted onto a ship. The arcane claimed it would allow them to make the ship fly. More than that, though, they claimed it would allow them to fly their ship through the heavens, from their own world to the other worlds in the night sky. The called it a helm, and they called using it to fly through the stars “spelljamming.”
Since that fateful day the arcane have been selling their spelljamming helms to most any buyer, and they seem to have a limitless supply of these powerful items. Perhaps more surprising is the strangely low prices they charge. While not affordable to the common man, a helm is cheap enough that an entire society of spacefaring people has arisen.
A spelljamming helm is typically a chair that is bolted onto the ship it is to propel. They are quite sturdily built, and while they are not adorned with gems or rare metals, they look quite throne-like. They are typically well cushioned and comfortable.
A standard helm is designed to fit any medium-size humanoid, and anything smaller can sit in it as well. The arcane build helms to suit other races, though, including up to huge size humanoids. They also build helms for non-humanoid races, such as the dracon or rastipede. Such helms look like low, wide couches.
Attaching a Helm
In order for a helm to propel a ship it must be firmly attached to a deck on the ship. Helms cannot propel anything smaller than one ton (1,350 cubic feet). A helm has a bolt hole on each leg for bolting the helm to the deck. Each hole must be bolted, otherwise the helm will not activate. Once bolted to the deck the helm must attune itself to the ship. This requires someone to activate the helm (see Activating a Helm, below) and it must remain continually active for one minute per ton of the ship. The helm will not propel the ship until this time is over. Once attuned, the helm need never go through this process with the ship unless it is unbolted and then reattached.
Activating a Helm
A spelljamming helm does not do anything without being linked to someone sitting upon it. Linking to a helm is simple: the helmsman simply sits on the helm and concentrates for a moment. This is normally a standard action, though if it is the first time the helmsman has linked with that helm he must spend 1d4+1 consecutive rounds attuning his mind to the helm.
Once the helm is active the helmsman can use any function available (see Helm Functions, below), though it may take some time before he can move. The helm remains active as long as the helmsman remains seated. He cannot end the link by will, but rather must break all contact with the helm. Contact remains as long as at least some small part of the helmsman in contact with the helm. Thus a helmsman could actually stand up from the helm, as long as he had his hand on the helm.
Though it takes but a thought to activate a helm, it takes a few moments for the field of magic the helm creates to fully form: 1 second per ton of the ship. In combat situations, divide this time by six and round up to find the number of rounds it takes before the ship can move. The round the helmsman activates the helm counts as the first round. For example, the helmsmen of a hammership (40 tons) are changing shifts. The linked helmsman rises from the helm and the other helmsman sits down. At that moment a pirate ship comes from behind an asteroid. The helmsman sits down the first round, activating the helm. From that point it will take 40 seconds before the ship can move. 40 divided by 10 is 4. So, on the fifth round the ship can move. As you can see, changing helmsman is not something most ships will want to do when faced with martial conflict. A helmsman can only remain on a helm for a limited time before he starts to become fatigued. Linking with a helm can tire a person out. After twelve consecutive hours on a helm—breaks of less than four hours do not count—the helmsman must make a Fortitude save (DC 12) or become fatigued. Every hour after the first the DC of the saving throw increases by one (i.e. 13 on the second hour, 14 on the third, and so on). This fatigued state cannot be healed while the helmsman is linked to the helm. If a helmsman fails a second save they become unconscious.
While on the helm the helmsman can perform a number of functions:
- As a move action the helmsman can switch his perception so he sees whatever he would be able to see if he was standing on any desired point on the outer hull of the ship. This could be the forecastle, the aft deck, from underneath the ship, standing in the crow’s nest, and so on. Switching to other locations on the ship requires a move action. The acuity of the helmsman’s vision is not important; visual acuity is equal to a normal human, so a blind man can see as well as anyone else. The helmsman can make Perception checks as normal. The helm must be bolted and attuned to a ship to use this function.
- If the helmsman is a spellcaster he can channel his available spell power into the helm, storing it for later use.
- The helmsman can determine how much power is left in the helm, as well as its maximum speed and the maximum size of ship it can propel.
- The helmsman can move the ship about. The helm must be bolted and attuned to a ship to use this function.
- While linked with the helm, the helmsman’s basic bodily functions are suppressed; they do not stop, but the effects are not felt. This includes the need to eat, drink and use the bathroom. Once the helmsman unlinks, these needs will return, and the helmsman will likely need to eat a good meal and feed the scaavers. The helm must be bolted and attuned to a ship to use this function.