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Adjacent Solar Systems/Crystal Spheresby Ripvanwormer
Mystara's neighboring stars, according to the Immortals Set, are: Alpha Centauri, Sirius, Epsilon Eridani, Procyon, 61 Cygni, Tau Ceti, and Altair. Several stars that are near to Earth, like Barnard's Star, are not mentioned. I will presume that Mystaraverse equivalents of these stars do not exist, then. Mystara's constellations are completely unlike Earth's constellations, so I'll assume there's no correlation between our immediate universe and Mystara's immediate universe apart from these seven neighboring stars, assuming the constellations are an accurate map of the neighboring crystal spheres.
The Immortals set says the entire galaxy only has 125 races, out of 125 billion stars, that are able to use magic or technology, and the statement that the closest magic-using civilization outside Mystara's system is Epsilon Eridani has to be read in that context. I'm sure Mentzer did this because trying to figure out how billions of races capable of becoming Immortals fit into the 2000 members of the Immortal Hierarchy would be a giant headache, from a Spelljammer perspective it's no fun - nearly all spheres should have some magic-users or technology-users in them to keep things interesting.
But the seven close stars are "canon," to some degree, so I have no problem with using them as a basis for designing neighboring spheres. They could be combined with any of the other ideas above or below.
- Alpha Centauri - 4.3 light years away. Double star system. Possible location of Old Alphatia. In Old Alphatia, Alpha Centauri A and Alpha Centauri B were known as the Air Sun and the Fire Sun. Alpha Centauri A, the Air Sun or Auros, is a yellow-white fire body only slightly larger than Mystara's sun. Alpha Centauri B, also called the Fire Sun, Hearth Sun, or Pyros, is slightly smaller than Mystara's sun, and more orangish-yellow. They are about as far apart from each other as Mystara and m-Saturn are. "Proxima Centauri" is a tiny fire body on the fringes of the sphere, visible from Alphatia as a wandering star but not as a true third sun. Alphatia itself orbits Alpha Centauri A at a distance slightly further than Mystara orbits its sun, so that the white star seems about the same size in their sky as Mystara's sun seems in its sky. Pyros appears as a bright, tiny, second sun.
- Sirius - 8.6 light years away. Double star system. Sirius A is a large white fire body, twice as big as Mystara's yellow sun, while Sirius B is a white dwarf companion about the size of Mystara, orbiting at a distance about equal to m-Uranus.
- Epsilon Eridani - 10.7 light years away. Closest civilization able to use magic on several planets orbiting this star.
- Procyon - 11 light years away. Double star system. Procyon A is a white star twice the size of Mystara's sun. Procyon B is a white dwarf with a radius 8,300 km, much cooler than most fire bodies. It orbits Procyon-A at about the same distance as m-Uranus.
- 61 Cygni = 11.1 light years away. Double star system. Both stars are old and red, with one only slightly bigger than the other.
- Tau Ceti - 11.2 light years away. In Frank Mentzer's own campaign, this was the sun of Oerth, so it'd be my preference that this was another name for Liga in Greyspace.
- Altair - 15.7 light years away.
Outer Planes as crystal spheres
The Immortals Set defines outer planes as pocket universes accessible from the Astral Plane (or from other outer planes; they can be cut off from the multiverse entirely, but only through Immortal intervention). They are similar to the Prime Plane where Mystara exists, but finite in size. Typically they're about five trillion miles in diameter, so they may contain several star systems within them. However, they're analogous enough to crystal spheres that I think it's worth considering adapting some of the published planes as crystal spheres adjacent to Mystaraspace. While the Frank Mentzer Immortal's Set cosmology was the first D&D cosmology I was exposed to, I've since been influenced enough by the Great Wheel cosmology that I have trouble accepting a plane containing a solar system and populated entirely by mortal races as an Outer Plane; it works better as a sphere on the Prime for me. As such, the Masters and Immortals modules contain a host of possible spheres ripe for inclusion in Mystara's section of the universe.
Other planes work fine for me as otherworldly places, like Pyts and Draesten in Wrath of the Immortals (since they're where the immortals live), or the home plane of the tonals in IM1, The Immortal Storm (since it's populated by living beings made of sound).
So, in no particular order, here's a list of the planes that I think would make good spheres:
- The Star Kingdoms (Old Alphatia). This was presented in M1, Into the Maelstrom, as a world in another part of the galaxy, but it was retconned as an outer plane in Wrath of the Immortals. I kind of get why - it's a world where the forces of Fire and Air, identified with the spheres of Energy and Thought, are predominant over the other Spheres of Power, and outer planes are supposed to be biased toward certain spheres, while the Prime Plane is balanced. However, it's a world filled with mortal races, and not an insignificant number of Mystara's Immortals were originally mortals from Old Alphatia. According to the Immortals rules, only the Prime Plane has the right mix of forces to be the ideal origin for Immortals, which is why the Immortal Hierarchy places such importance on the Prime. Very rarely, a native of another plane might become Immortal, but I think too many Alphatians became Immortal for it to be part of the Outer Planes. And in any case, Alphatia is so prime-like in nature (particularly before it broke apart and became the Star Kingdoms) that it seems most appropriate as a Prime world, especially in a universe where clusterworlds of this sort aren't uncommon (Greyspace has two).
- Eloysia. This is an exotic kind of place detailed in module M4, Five Coins for a Kingdom. Eloysia is never actually called an outer plane here - it's defined as something like a parallel universe, where instead of vacuum the cosmos is filled with solid matter called plenum, with life existing in air-filled bubbles the size of solar systems. Eloysia is supposedly "quintillions of cubic light years" in extent, making it finite but far bigger than the largest kind of outer plane described in the Immortals Set, though I expect it would have been retconned as an outer plane if it had been mentioned anywhere subsequently. The only relevant area is a single "bubble" characterized by islands floating in concentric shells around the central sun.
Significantly, this is basically the same idea as Kofuspace, described in SJA4, Under the Dark Fist: a solid crystal sphere with habitable bubbles, each bubble containing a small star. Kofuspace is supposed to be populated by dark-skinned elves, but they need not be the only races in every one of the bubbles. There's plenty of room for one of the bubbles to be Eloysia, and be more or less exactly as described in M4. Because Kofuspace is poorly detailed, but Eloysia is fairly thoroughly detailed, I'd assume they were the same place.
- The Center of the Galaxy. Visited in IM1, this isn't anywhere near Mystara (which is at the edge of the galaxy), but it must exist somewhere in the same universe. The spheres are much closer together here, and in the very center of the galaxy is an enormous sphere stuffed full of fire bodies. In the very center, new stars are continually born from a gate to the elemental plane of fire.
- Earth. In IM1, the PCs visit an outer plane that's identical to our modern Earth in all but one respect: the fantasy genre doesn't exist. People read realistic fiction instead. I suppose this avoids the paradox of playing a D&D game set in a world where people also play D&D, and in which dopplegangers of the players are busy recursively playing the game that they're part of, etc. Some have suggested this is the same as the fantastic Earth of LaTerre/the Dimension of Myth, but I don't think so. It's the other end of the spectrum; LaTerre is Earth where magic is real. Magic never developed on the IM1 Earth; people don't even write fictional books or design roleplaying games in which magic happens. LaTerre is more magical than our own world, while IM1's Earth is a world less magical than our own. So I think they're different places, though they share a continuum of sorts. I wouldn't make Earth an outer plane, but I wouldn't put it in a crystal sphere, either; I'd make it an alternate dimension. Since the whole point of Earth is that it's mundane and non magical, putting it in the fantastic universe of Spelljammer, even if we assume "realistic" physics apply in that sphere, would be inappropriate. LaTerre is the Earth of H.P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith, and I think fitting the Cthulhu mythos into the Spelljammer universe is equally problematic, so I'd make it an alternate dimension too.
- Midgard. Described as an outer plane in The Northern Reaches gazetteer, I think this would be fine as part of a crystal sphere. It could also be LaTerre during a specific era, but there's ample precedent for a world based on Norse history and mythology in AD&D - the Norse gods live in the Outer Planes, so it's only natural that somewhere there's a world that's very close to the myths they're associated with. This world is also mentioned in the first edition Manual of the Planes and in an article by Roger E. Moore in Dragon Magazine that I don't feel like looking up right now. I'd make it clear to any traveler that the sphere is the skull of a giant; the eye sockets and nose hole would be the portals into the sphere. The world is a fairly typical disk world (with continents resembling Earth's, growing increasingly distorted the further they are away from Scandinavia) when seen from above, but when seen from below it is obviously the hideously distorted corpse of a headless giant, with twisted, rotted limbs and organs dangling beneath; the inhabitable zone is a circular area on his hunched back, surrounded by ocean. The sphere also contains a sun, a moon, and small fire bodies representing stars and planets. More massive than the planet itself, a root of Yggdrasil, the World Ash, extends to the planet from the Astral Plane. The other worlds described in The Northern Reaches are outer planes, probably the same ones named in the Great Wheel cosmology for simplicity.
- Serpentia. One of the 24 Planes of Mazikeen described in IM3, The Best of Intentions. The only part described is a Mystara-like planet colonized by serpent-like humanoids. This would work as a crystal sphere, possibly connected to Mystara's ancient Carnifex race. The serpentmen worship Stirpicore, a four-armed deity who is in truth an aspect of the Immortal Mazikeen.
- The Warrens. Another of Mazikeen's 24 planes, this plane is a transparent homage to the PARANOIA RPG. Personally, I'd minimize the PARANOIA elements and make it the ancient, decadent home sphere of the now-defunct Galactic Federation. More to come on this.
- Grogggor. The only named world is the planet Grogggor, a Venus-like hothouse inhabited by slimy mounds of vegetable-matter called Grogggors. They're a sapient race of philosophers, who know more than they seem to.
- Draedenden. A void containing nothing but five maggot-like creatures, each ten kilometers in length. They're believed to be larval draedens. This plane was retconned as a demiplane in Dragon #353 (this is indirectly my fault for telling the author about the plane), but given its size and nature I think it works well as a crystal sphere - perhaps Havard's Draeden Space, since being the place where their young gestate would give the draedens ample reason to go here rather than the Phlogiston.
- Arcade. A plane that's essentially a cosmic game of pinball, with an observation sphere fleeing from a school of blackballs (umbral blots in 3e). Elsewhere there are suns, planets, and cosmic debris. A sphere whose worlds were destroyed by blackballs might be an interesting variation; otherwise there's not enough detail to know whether Arcade is interesting or not. If you use the 3e origin of umbral blots, where they destroyed the elder pantheon of gods who created them, this would be the home sphere of those gods. If you use the OD&D/Mystara origin of blackballs, one has to wonder why the Old Ones from beyond the Vortex Dimension felt the need to destroy a civilization with their servants. Perhaps they had stumbled upon secrets that threatened the cosmic order.
- Wyrm. A world ruled by evil, stupid, dragons and populated by goblins. There are a number of dragon-ruled Spelljammer spheres, for example Golotspace from Under the Dark Fist. Perhaps this is the same place.
- Morcellate. This plane is cut off from the Astral Plane, marooning a colony of planar spiders until they find a way out. They zoom across the local wildspace in "flying saucers." Perhaps this was once part of the Galactic Federation, when it existed.
- Pyx. A plane inhabited by killer robots created by a long-dead civilization. The plane contains a solar system, but it is undescribed. Another former Federation sphere, I think. The robots are "mek" detailed in the Mystara Monstrous Compendium Appendix, among other places, but the "sheens" from Dragon #258 and Dragon #270 are more interesting.
- Infuma. This plane contains a planet full of steampunk (before the word was commonly used, so it says "19th century Jules-Verne-style technology") dwarves who travel the skies in vast airships. I think this is breathtakingly awesome, and needs to be developed further.
- Lopadotemachoselachogaleokranioleipsanodrimypotrimmatosilphio Paraomelitokatekechymenokichlepiko Ssyphophattoperisteralektryonop Tekephalliokigklopeleiolagoiosiraiabaphetraganopptekrygon needs a shorter name, I think. It translates as "happyhome." An ocean of air inhabited by a sapient race of giant philosophical bacteria. They could be the inhabitants of a single air world instead; I wouldn't mind playing a sapient giant bacterium player character.
- Rocta. A farm for creatures who feed on time. This would work better as a demiplane, outer plane, or the like than a crystal sphere.
- Splackknuck. A system of torus-shaped water worlds orbiting other torus-shaped water worlds. Something like this is bound to exist somewhere in the Spelljammer universe. With no fire worlds in the system, the sphere is pitch dark (though not cold enough for the water to freeze). The inhabitants are intelligent bubbles that feed on smaller, unintelligent bubbles (the ecosystem is ultimately based on magical energy rather than light), but this seems like a perfect place for illithids, aboleths, and other light-hating creatures to set up bases.
- Typp. The world features a race of bipedal turtles (probably the same as Mystaran tortles) warring with an impulsive race of furry avians (possibly one of the humanoid bat races that have been reinvented several times in the history of D&D). A tortle/batfolk world sounds like a decent idea.
- Unsoncy. A floating disk of debris, thousands of miles wide, surrounding a singularity in the center of the plane. The debris is filled with objects lost throughout the multiverse.
- Partheniad. An amazon planet.
- Gargantua. A Dyson sphere populated by giants the size of planets, this seems more or less identical to Herdspace from the novel The Maelstrom's Eye.
- Nubilate. An air world where the Immortal Mazikeen is trying to breed air elementals of unusual size. This could work as a plane.
- Paradise and Hades. These are false afterlives created by Mazikeen as an experiment. Since both planes exist purely to reward or torment a single individual, they wouldn't make good crystal spheres.
- Thoke. Every planet in this system is shattered by draedens eons ago, presumedly because the inhabitants had knowledge that threatened them. This sounds like Havard's Draeden Space, although no draedens dwell here now.
- Slobbovia. A toroidal planet obsessed with an odd game called Mongeef. Contains two known empires, Slobbovia and Valgoria.
- Newmarket. A dungeon world designed as a massive testing ground for prospective Immortals. The whole point of this plane is that it's not on the Prime Plane.
- Scriniary. An organic computer powered by microscopic life. Definitely not a crystal sphere.
- Zelotypia. Another cosmic pinball machine, possibly? There's no detail on this plane, only on its single inhabitant.
- Corridor. Inhabited by a static, orderly people known as the Sudarans, who consider madness to be both cursed and holy.
- Rylum. From IM2, Wrath of Olympus. Home of the planet Simoom, which is actually a fairly interesting place, a hot desert world beneath a giant red sun. Simoom is inhabited by the Isiidi, a race of tall humanoids with thick brownish skin, salamanders who engage in ritual dances, and red dragons. A portal called Orcus's Gate leads to the otherworldly realm of Orcus, as well as elsewhere.
Link to Pelinorespace thread, for the sake of organization. I placed the obscure D&D world of Pelinore between Aelos and Oerth. This doesn't mean Aelos orbits one of the seven "near stars" (it could be more distant than that, though I connected it to Mystara with a specific phlogiston current).