An Introduction to Farspace

Riley Hanolder couldn't believe his luck. As a xenoform expert in Baron's Stone, a small asteroid city in Allorspace, his chance to study other races and cultures were limited. It was hard to study something that didn't live where you grew up.

But now, now all that would change. The alien spelljammer, the Alathon, had landed on Baron's Stone two nights ago and had instantly caused a stir amongst Riley's friends and neighbors. Of course, they had originally thought that the aliens, a purple-skinned humanoid race called the raia, were invading Baron's Stone. Only when the captain of the Alathon stepped out onto the space-rock did the town realize these aliens weren't out to conquer them.

The captain held out fine silk, unlike anything Riley had ever seen before, as a gift. He told the people of Baron's Stone that his people were traders from a distant part of known space and would gladly sell the town anything it wanted from his ship's stores at a discount as long as the crew could use some local supplies to repair the Alathon. Damson Wonersson, the local mayor, gladly accepted the raia captain's gift and stated that Baron's Stone would be happy to help.

Riley had been amazed by the raia from the first moment he met them. Their spelljammer was unlike anything he'd ever seen before. Obviously a special design put together by them, the Alathon was extremely sturdy and made out of something the raia called durawood - wood that is a strong as steel.

And now, here Riley was. On the Alathon heading towards the edge of Allorspace and its crystal shell. He had known instantly that the raia were his chance at begin his xenoform study and get off Baron's Stone. Riley stood on the bow of the Alathon looking towards the edge of his home sphere, hoping to get a glimpse of its crystal shell for the first time.

Then he saw it. It looked plainer than he thought it would. The great shell was pitch black and featureless. He had known it would be, of course. Every spacer living in Allorspace was taught that from infancy. It's just that he had hoped his parents had been wrong. Riley sighed looking over his shoulder towards where Allorspace's asteroid field would be if he could see it anymore. He hadn't even left the sphere yet and he was homesick.

Riley turned back towards the shell just as the captain stepped up next to him. The shell was now looming over the raia spelljammer, yet the ship had yet to slow down. Riley looked at the captain with some concern.

"Uh captain," Riley didn't want to appear rude so he did his best to be diplomatic. "You are planning to enter the flow, correct?"

"You are correct, Master Riley." The captain was one for formality on his ship. "But not quite yet. We haven't passed beyond the boundary of the sphere yet. There is no rush."

"B-but captain," Riley swallowed hard. "The shell. We're going to hit it."

"Ah, yes," the captain smiled at Riley warmly. It was meant to reassure the boy that everything would be fine. "Something I forgot to mention about my people. We are not from your space."

"I don't understand." Riley was confused. "You already told me you were not from Allorspace."

"Ah, but you see, I meant your conception of Arcane Space."

"W-what?"

"My people are from a place beyond what you perceive as the crystal shell. In reality, there isn't a shell there. You just think there is."

"Y-your not s-serious." Riley was ready to throw himself overboard. "The only thing beyond the shells is the phlogiston."

"That is what you believe, Master Riley. It is not what the raia believe."

Riley watched in horror, as the shell loomed closer and closer to the Alathon. They were going to hit. Riley was going to die. The sage of Baron's Stone screamed in terror as the ship sped up. The crew stood there motionless as the ship raced on. Then the captain spoke.

"Believe, Master Riley. There is no shell." His tone was deep and powerful.

"There is no shell." The crew spoke as one voice, their eyes closed in meditation.

Riley closed his eyes and held his breath. He spoke the words over and over in his mind. There is no shell. I'm going to die. There is no shell. I'm going to die. Riley opened his eyes.

"Oh... my... god!"

The Alathon contacted the shell and passed through it like it wasn't there. The ship had passed right through the shell without a portal or anything. Riley felt faint.

He looked back to see that there wasn't any sign of the shell, just the star of Allorspace in the black of space. But it was what stretched out all around him, which unsettled his stomach. Billions of stars as far as the eye could see. Riley was used to seeing stars but not like this. It was so surreal. Riley steadied himself on the rail of the bow, trying not to vomit.

"I-it's not possible. W-where is the flow? Captain, what is this place?"

"Master Riley... welcome to farspace."

What is Farspace?

The Unseen Infinity. The space beyond space. What is beyond, but hidden. Farspace. The Plane of the Unseen Infinity has many names but it is the last one, which is the most used. It is ironic really, for farspace isn't that far away at all. It just seems like it is the first time you discover it exists.

Farspace can be best described as being an extension to space that is hidden by a person's perception of the universe. What does that mean? Well, let me try to explain.

In the Outer Planes, belief is everything. It shapes everything around you including the very essence of the Outer Planes. That is why there are planes aligned to good and evil, as well as chaos and law. That is why the Gods exist, because of belief. This is why there are factions in Sigil and why Sigil doesn't exist in every universe. Belief is everything on the Outer Planes.

Now imagine if you will that belief could shape reality from the Material Plane. Not on the Material Plane, just around it. Could this not have lead to the existence of wildspace, the phlogiston and the crystal shells of our reality? Ask yourself, why do crystal shells exist? Don't have an answer, neither did a lot of sages both on the prime and in the Outer Planes when I asked them. They asked their colleagues what they knew, who in turn researched the possibilities and then asked the faithful of the gods to divine the answer, who turned around and ask their gods why crystal shells exist.

And what do the gods tell the faithful? Well, it depends on the god but usually it is long-winded and cryptic without revealing anything of importance. And when the faithful interpret these divinations, aren't they written down as being the canon of their gods. These faithful then pass on this knowledge to others as belief. It is belief that defines the gods and the planes of existence. Therefore, it is belief itself that creates how each individual sees the universe.

Now do you understand? No. All right, let's try a different approach.

What if the god of the faithful tells them that beyond the world there is space? And what if that god also tells the faithful that beyond space is even more space, filled with billions of stars. And that around these stars are countless worlds, that may or may not contain life. Given that the faithful believe in their god and what he or she or it tells them, wouldn't that belief have power? Wouldn't that belief shape their lives, their homes, their country, their world, and yes, even their universe. Yes, of course it would. For belief is powerful. Powerful enough to wage wars and travel the world to see these wonders that the faithful believe in. And to travel to space and see what belief tells them is already there.

Hmm, what if gods don't tell their faithful the same thing as other gods? Well, that's what holy wars are for, I guess. Gods with different beliefs believe that their way is the right way for their followers. If the faithful of God-B preach something else to the masses then they are heretics and, thus, enemies of the followers of God-A. This usually leads to thousands of years of conflict as the faithful of God-A try to wipe out the faithful of God-B and vice versa.

How does it end you say? Well, sometimes it doesn't. And sometimes one belief wins out over the other and either converts the other God's followers or kills them all. It's not a nice thing to think about, really.

Anyway, sometimes belief is so strong that it shapes reality by the will of the faithful and by word of mouth. When enough people in a sphere believe the same thing, this causes that belief to be manifest in reality. Thus, many worlds believe in crystal shells and, thus, those shells exist for them. However, in other spheres across the universe, some worlds don't believe in crystal shells. And for them, shells don't exist.

Hmm, what's that? What if one world in a sphere believes in one thing while another world in the same sphere believes another. Weren't you paying attention when I was talking about holy wars, gods and the faithful? It's the same thing just on a larger scale. Really, you should drink less mead.

Now, where was I? Ah yes, different belief in different spheres. You see, many people across the universe believe that beyond space is simply more space. A lot more! No, no! Not like a jug of mead is a lot more than a mug of mead. A lot more! More than your puny living mind can interpret, obviously. Hmm, what did I say? Oh nothing, here have another drink...

- From a conversation with Terrigimar, the spacefaring lich

The Plane of the Unseen Infinity is a plane that can be added to the core cosmology of Spelljammer if a DM so wishes. This concept greatly expands the boundaries of the Spelljammer universe and DMs should think long and hard before adding it to their campaign.

The Plane of Unseen Infinity or Farspace is space beyond the boundary of wildspace and the crystal shells. It exists in the same universal state as wildspace and is, thus, an extension of wildspace. The thing that sets it apart from wildspace is that it can be said to exist on top of the phlogiston (or below it if you prefer).

Farspace has its own unique spheres separate from those found in the shell reality (see the sidebar Realities: Breaking the Boundary into Farspace for details on realities). However, these spheres are not enclosed by crystal shells and are for the sake of simplicity like our own solar system, with a touch of magic. They are still called spheres by the inhabitants of the farspace reality. In Arcane Space, the word sphere is synonymous with the phrase solar system. These farspace spheres will use the same rules for universe building in Section 2, as those for the core cosmology.

Farspace Traits

Farspace is coterminous with The Infinite Planes of the Starry Void (Wildspace). The plane is coexistent with the phlogiston and the Ethereal Plane. Unlike wildspace of the shell reality, farspace does not touch the Material Plane or the Plane of Shadow. Thus, to cross into a shell reality Material Plane from farspace, one must either enter wildspace or the Ethereal Plane first then travel to the Material Plane. Crystal shells can never touch farspace, as the shells are part of different cosmological reality. Farspace doesn't have an atmosphere of any kind and is a perfect vacuum.

Note that there isn't a wildspace for every sphere within farspace. The inhabitants of the spheres of farspace call the space around their planets simply 'space'. They refer to the space beyond the sphere as farspace simply because it is farther out into space. Both of the words 'space' and 'farspace' refer to the same plane of existence. Thus, a farspace spelljammer can access the flow from ANYWHERE on the Plane of the Unseen Infinity but NOT from the Material Planes that are a part of the farspace reality. The spheres of farspace do not interact with the phlogiston. Sphere is only a descriptor or another way of saying space near the celestial bodies

Also note that in an alternate Spelljammer Campaign set in Farspace, the spheres of the shell reality do not bob, float or drift through the phlogiston. The shells are stationary as described in the essay, called The Currents of the Phlogiston (by Richard J. Pugh), and it is the currents of the flow that move, giving the impression of the shells bobbing or floating. The spheres of the farspace reality are, of course, stationary as well.

Farspace has the following planar traits:

  • Objective Directional Gravity
  • Standard Time
  • Infinite Size
  • Alterable Morphic
  • No Elemental or Energy Traits
  • Mildly Neutral Aligned
  • Impeded Magic: While, for the most part, magic works in farspace the way it does in wildspace. Magical fire doesn't need air to work properly but if the end result a spellcaster wants requires an atmosphere (i.e. oxygen) then that end result cannot occur. For example, a Fireball spell will work but it hasn't any chance of lighting an object or person on fire.

Also, many divine spells such as Call Lightning don't work in the depths of farspace because of the spell's link to the natural world. It is the choice of each DM to decide which spells he or she wishes to restrict in the cold vacuum of farspace.

Note that the spell Imprisonment doesn't have any effect in farspace, although it could function normally on any rouge celestial body (planet, asteroid, etc.).

Links to other planes are possible in farspace, just as in wildspace. Farspace may have links to the one of the Elemental Planes or other Inner Planes. A direct link from farspace to one of the elemental planes causes elemental material to spill out into the depths of farspace. Such an elemental portal is very rare. Portals to the Negative and Positive Energy Planes can form, as well, and are not as rare as elemental portals (but still rare). A portal to the Negative Energy Plane is called a death hole, while a portal to the Positive Energy Plane is called an effervescent (see Features of the Plane of the Unseen Infinity).

The Ethereal Plane is coexistent with farspace but rarely does a permanent portal form between this plane and farspace. Ethereal Jaunt and Etherealness are good ways to temporarily escape a bad situation such as a fouled atmosphere or deadly monster (as long as that monster can't follow you).

Note that a farspace aware character doesn't need to create a link between farspace and wildspace. To them, there isn't such a thing as crystal shells. Farspace travelers can and do travel anywhere in the universe with this same belief. Some races can even travel to other realities of space unhindered, as their belief is so powerful that it overrides the very nature of the other reality (i.e. the raia).

Farspace Inhabitants

Many of the animals, beasts and magical beasts that exist in wildspace also live in farspace. Buzzjewels, comet steeds, firebirds, giant space hamsters, kindori, krajen, lhee, puffers, q'nidar, scavvers, skullbirds, space owls, space swine, spaceworms, zards and zurchins are just as home in the Plane of the Unseen Infinity as they are in wildspace. The main difference between the creatures encountered in farspace versus those encountered in wildspace is size. Farspace creatures are always at least one size category larger in size and many can be even larger still (i.e. adult krajen in farspace can be up to colossal in size).

Beyond those creatures listed, very few spelljammer creatures have the fortitude to exist in the extreme depths of farspace. One of these versatile creatures is the stellar dragon. As one of the largest 'space' dragons, stellar dragons can go for years without contact with a sphere and have the ability to shift from farspace to the phlogiston at will. The other dragons of wildspace also exist in farspace but are rarer to encounter there. Radiant dragons are the most likely to be encountered, while moon dragons are very unlikely to be encountered in the extreme depths of farspace. Sun dragons are never found in farspace.

Of course, any wildspace creature may exist within the boundary of a farspace sphere.

Beholders: Farspace has its own unique beholder nations. These beholders act similarly to the beholders of the shell reality. Or in other words, each beholder nation believes they are the true beholders of the universe and that all other beholder nations are abominations that must be destroyed. The beholders of farspace are never shell reality aware. (In fact, it can be said that each beholder nation is stuck in its own mad, little reality. :) )

The Arcane: If there is a race that can be said to define Spelljammer, most fans would pick the arcane. These enigmatic traders of spelljamming technology exist in both the shell reality and the farspace reality. To them, there isn't any difference, however. The arcane are aware of both realities and can pass between them without difficulty. In fact, this is how the arcane can seem to simply come and go through the shell reality at will. The arcane wish to keep the secret of the farspace reality from the shellers, in order to better line their pockets and prevent sheller competition in the farspace reality.

The Raia: Raia are unique, in that no one knows where the race comes from. Raia are purple-skinned humanoids with dorsal ridges running down the back, as well as webbed fingers and toes. Their enlarged eyes are pitch black with white pupils, which can be disturbing to see for the first time. They do not have a home world and travel through farspace, as interstellar nomads, in their spelljamming durawood sailing ships.

Raia are masterful artisans and craftsmen but don't have the arcane's need for hard currency. They are just as happy trading a fine roll of silk for a song and hearty meal. They are friendly enough to those that treat them well but are also highly organized militarily and religiously. Raia also make excellent sorcerers but have a strange custom of cutting out an apprentice sorcerer's tongue, making him or her mute. Therefore, raia sorcerers can only cast spells without verbal components or by using the Silent Spell feat.

Raia are also aware of both the farspace and shell realities, just as the arcane. However, they don't often enter the shell reality, which is part of an agreement they have made with the arcane. What the raia gain from this agreement is unknown. It is rumored throughout the spheres, of the farspace reality, that the raia might be aware of other realities as well. And some travelers even claim, they know for a fact, that raia are aware of every reality in existence. (Such tales are usually told over too much wine or mead.) Those shell reality sages that are aware of farspace reality believe that the raia are related to the reigar, although there isn't any proof of this.

Other Spelljammer races: Most classic Spelljammer race can be found living in the spheres of farspace - humans, dwarves, elves, goblinoids, half-elves, half-orcs, halflings, hadozee, hurwaeti, neogi, orcs, rastipedes, etc. Rarely, will you find such races living with the extreme depths of farspace, however. Note that races unique to a particular shell reality sphere are not found in farspace (i.e. kender, tinker gnomes). Also note that the reigar are not native to farspace.

Movement and Combat

While it is possible to travel from one sphere to another through farspace, it isn't recommended. Those that perceive farspace as part of what they believe Arcane Space is like still travel through the flow from sphere to sphere. The difference is that the flow is closer to farspace than it is to wildspace. What that means is that when a farspace aware character opens a portal to the phlogiston from farspace, they only partially shift to that plane of existence. They are there but not there. The traveler is aware of both planes, as if they were traveling through the Ethereal Plane. They are on the phlogiston, but can still see into farspace.

The interesting part is that, while the natural inhabitants of the phlogiston can meet and interact with farspace travelers as normal, those travelers from the shell reality can't perceive a farspace traveler. They don't exist in the same reality as farspace travelers, even though they use the same plane to travel to and from different spheres.

The real wild part is that it doesn't 'always' work the same way for farspace travelers. While traveling through the phlogiston, a farspace traveler can 'sometimes' perceive those from the shell reality, who they refer to as shell travelers or 'shellers'. If a farspace traveler tries to make contact with a shell reality traveler then they may be perceived as an attacking ghost by the sheller. While many farspace travelers are aware of other realities other than the shell reality, they never encounter them in the flow. The reason for this is still unknown. Combat on the flow between a shell reality traveler and a farspace traveler is handled as if the shell reality traveler has the ghost template added on onto the character. They are 'ghosts' to farspace travelers.

As for movement while on a solid object, the planes Objective Directional Gravity means that up and down are relative to that object you are standing on. Therefore, a character can literally walk on either side of a spelljamming vessel, without worrying about failing off. This gravity effect also means that anything that escapes the gravity well of a spelljammer or other large object will float away from that object into farspace until it comes in contact with another solid object.

Farspace Combat: See Leroy Van Camp III's excellent 3e Ship Construction and Combat Rules for how to run ship-to-ship combat in farspace. I will probably add more details on person-to-person combat while floating in the depths of farspace, during the second pass of this document.

Features of the Plane of Unseen Infinity

The Plane of Unseen Infinity has many things that set it apart from wildspace in the shell reality. Yes, it has the same sort of elemental and energy portals that one can find in wildspace. However, the main difference is size. Elemental and energy portals in farspace are as large as a dwarven citadel or elven armada, sometimes larger. These super portals are dangerous places and the space around where they form often has minor elemental or energy traits for hundreds of miles beyond the event horizon of the anomaly.

Black Holes: Black holes in farspace are the same thing as a black hole in the real universe. A black hole has super gravity that will suck in anything that comes to close to its event horizon. Black holes are invisible in farspace if nothing is feeding energy to the hole. However, many black holes form near a single star or binary star in spheres without planets. These spheres never have any sort of natural life living in them, although they could have at one point millions of years ago. Note that opening a portal into the flow can sometimes save a spelljammer that has been pulled over the event horizon. However, the portal must be opened toward the black hole in the hopes that the person controlling the helm can hit the portal before being sucked past it. (Many a foolhardy spelljammer captain has risked getting close to a black hole just to see if they could do it. Most of these captains and their crew have died in the attempt.)

Death Holes: Death holes are those places in farspace where a permanent link to the Negative Energy Plane has formed. These deadly anomalies are invisible in the depths of farspace until it is too late. Death holes have gravity similar to black holes and are just as deadly. Once you have passed the event horizon, only a Miracle or Wish spell will save you, or a portal to the phlogiston (see Black Holes). Those pulled into a death hole find themselves surrounded by millions of the death holes undead victims. These undead creatures are best described as spectral ghouls. They attack en mass and not even an epic character could hope to survive more than a few minutes before being expelled into the Negative Energy Plane.

Effervescents: An effervescent is an anomaly in farspace where a permanent link to the Positive Energy Plane has formed and is just as dangerous as a death hole. An effervescent's gravity is in reverse. Energy from the Positive Energy Plane is sucked into the depths of farspace. This reverse gravity well is like a colossal positive energy tornado. The effervescent buffets anything it touches with positive energy winds. These winds destroy life, as well as restore it. A person or object caught in an effervescent is exposed to so much positive energy that it literally explodes with life, destroying it in the process. Then the anomaly rebuilds the life it destroyed to the point where it destroys it again over and over until it spews the creature or object out. An effervescent is always visible in the depths of farspace.

Elemental Super Portals: Elemental super portals are very rare in the depths of farspace and unheard of within a sphere. These elemental super portals take different forms depending on which elemental plane formed the portal. Elemental fire super portals are often mistaken as rouge radiance or fire planets. Only when you come near the portal do you notice the swirling vortex of elemental fire spewing out from the portal. Elemental earth super portals form dense, mineral-rich asteroid belts orbiting the portal. These portals are rarely unoccupied. Elemental air super portals are the saving grace of those spelljammers that get lost in the depths of farspace. They appear as swirling balls of pure elemental air and are often mistaken for air planets or gas giants. Elemental water super portals are the strangest of the elemental super portals. Because of the nature of farspace, an elemental water super portal will have huge ice belts orbiting a central swirling ball of water encrusted with a thin icy layer. Note that elemental super portals are often the home of elementals and strange spacefaring creatures that have adapted to life near the portal (i.e. fire scavvers).

Raia Nomad Colonies: The durawood sailing ship-style spelljammers of the raia are a common sight amongst the spheres of farspace. These specially built spelljammer often travel tightly together and may even be lashed together with supports and netting. This allows the raia to move from one spelljamming vessel to another, as easily as a crewmember of a normal spelljamming vessel might walk across the deck. It is these joined ships that are referred to as a raia nomad colony. Often these colonies remain in one sphere for months at a time, trading with the local spacefaring community. Strangely, raia never take their ships to groundling ports of call. Raia durawood ships are an amazing achievement and are considered part of the colony, as a durawood spelljammer is basically a liveship.

Rouge Celestial Bodies: Sometimes a celestial body begins its formation in a sphere then breaks away from the sphere due to some unknown event. Any type of celestial body can become rouge, even a radiance or fire body. Most rouge celestial bodies are earth planets, which may or may not become comets depending on the size and speed the celestial body is traveling. If a rouge celestial body keeps its natural rotation and speed then it is possible that live might have formed on that world. Such life would be strange and even more alien in nature, without the light, energy and heat of a star. Of course, fire planets have there own light. A DM is encouraged to create strange luminous life forms for such a rouge world.

Two Spheres for Farspace: Designer's Note - one of the spheres described in this section is farspace version of the Trademeet system that I created for my Arcanum of the Star Dragonstar campaign setting. And while the names are similar, the worlds in this sphere will be a lot different.

Billions of unique spheres exist within the farspace reality. Most of these spheres are similar to those found in the shell reality, except for the fact that crystal shells do not surround them. Spelljammer fans are encouraged to take what I have provided here, as a good starting point for a Spelljammer Campaign set in Farspace and add to it.

Allorspace - This sphere used to exist in the shell reality, until one of its inhabitants met the raia and exposed his sphere to the concept of there being different realities. Of course, that man is long dead and it took hundreds of years after his death before the sphere to shift into the farspace reality. But it proves the point of the arcane, that exposing the shell reality inhabitants to the concept of realities is a dangerous consequence of letting other races from the farspace reality enter the sphere reality. The Arcane Merchants' Alliance actively discourages other races from making contact with shellers, including trade embargoes and the threat of military action. So far, none have risked the wrath of the arcane by attempting to shift another shell sphere to farspace.

Allorspace still survives and hasn't changed much. It has four non-descript planets and an asteroid belt orbiting a fire star. Most of Allorspace's civilization is located in the asteroid belt. The planets (small earth planets) are airless but not totally lifeless. The many crags and craters of these four earth planets are hiding places for vacuum-based monsters and gith pirates. Allorspace was named after the sphere's primary, Allor (very large fire planet). Allor is what is known as a fire planet or fire star. These fiery planets are not like true stars (or radiance stars), in that they don't give off dangerous radiant energy and that life is more likely to exist on the surface. Allor has such life in the form of a dwarf-like race known as the azer, originally from the Elemental Plane of Fire. These fire dwarves tend to keep to themselves.

Tradespace - Rumors abound of the home sphere of the arcane. Are the arcane originally from the farspace reality? If so, then this sphere might exist in your campaign. Tradespace has eight planets orbiting a true star - Des (very small earth planet), Marrilo (small earth planet), Arana (medium earth planet), Salor (very large true gas gaint), Juepet (small earth planet), Allin (very large air planet), Vaigo (very small earth planet) and Burrun (medium earth planet). It is said that the arcane were the only intelligent life to form in Tradespace. All of the planets in the sphere would be under complete control of the arcane and their allies. Arana is the home world of the arcane.

This sphere would be a hub of constant activity as arcane from all over the universe come home to Arana to report their year's activities and profit to the ruling body of the arcane. This group is known as Arcane Merchants' Alliance. It is believed that several servitor races are active members in this alliance. Could the raia be one of them?