Building a Bespoke Game Out of Spelljammer (A)OSE and Flying Swordsmen

Spelljammer OSE
Flying Swordsmen

So, I am getting the chance-- in upcoming months-- to run a game for my wife’s sister-in-law and possibly her baby brother, some of my friends, and some of our mutual friends. (I vastly prefer a large group when I’m running.) Most of what I’ve been told about the tastes of the people I haven’t played with before is that they like “classic D&D”, which doesn’t actually refer to our obsession-- it means D&D races and D&D classes and doing D&D things.

I can go as far as… Spelljammer. I can even go as far as running Spelljammer with more of an emphasis on Adventures in Space and less of an emphasis on Complete Spacefarer’s Handbook. (This wounds me, but what will a man not do for his family?) So I am taking the premise of SJ with the space mechanics but ditching the Radiant Triangle and a lot of the weird/silly stuff.

As fair compensation, I’m really ramping up the heavily implied “Asian fantasy” elements, hence Flying Swordsmen. I’m trying to smoosh up a whole lot of disparate parts and then streamline into into a single coherent whole.

Basic setting premise is that there are two Suns, just far enough apart that the middle planets all spend between one-third and one-quarter of their year closer to the other Sun than their own. Dozens and dozens and dozens of planets and moons in orbit around these two Stars; I’ll be running my players through a collaborative worldbuilding process to populate them.


I’m not so much using Western/Eastern classes as a I am smooshing them together, and generally using Western/English names for everything. So the Cavalier is both the Samurai and the Knight, the Swashbuckler is as handy with the jian as the rapier, etc. etc. etc.

System-wise… I am basically reinventing the concept of feats and trying to fold the martial arts system, thief skills, and… just a bunch of other stuff into it.

Everyone has a focus pool and a spell pool and has (at least) feat options for making use of them. Dividing classes into the standard Warrior, Rogue, Mage, and Priest and aiming to have 3-4 classes per group, plus my nonhuman racial classes.

The Warrior classes are Cavalier, Swashbuckler, and Ranger. Swashbuckler and Ranger are both kinda roguish, in different ways-- with Swashbuckler being the closest to the traditional Fighter.

The Rogue classes are Freebooter, Assassin, and Bard. Freebooter is closest to the traditional Thief, but for those familiar with niche AD&D products: they’re more like a cross between the Shinobi Fighter and the Shinobi Thief. Assassins are… like, a cross between the 1e Assassin and the 3.5 Assasin PrC. Bards are similarly a combination of their 1e/2e/3e presentations.

My Mages and Priests are still very much works-in-progress. The Wizard gets to specialize in two schools of philosophy-- but then they only get Minor access to the schools that aren’t banned. The Sorcerer is a spontaneous spellcaster who gets free Signature Spells; they have Major access to the elemental schools plus one school of effect of their choice, and Minor access to the other schools of effect. (They are optionally draconic.)

Priests… I am uncomfortable with the way D&D handles polytheism, so I… just refuse to engage. The clerical religious tradition is the Order of the Holy Light, a sort of New Age monotheist/pantheist faith that pursues personal enlightenment through compassionate works. I am basing an ancestral/elemental animist priest class on Rokugani shugenja. I have got a very vague notion that my third is going to be some kind of alienist druid seeking enlightenment through self-transformation.

That leaves my nonhumans. Elves are multiclass warrior/spellcasters, though the exact blend depends on their subtype: Sun, Moon, Star, Earth, and Shadow. Dwarves are tougher than Cavaliers with better dungeoneering skills than the Swashbuckler; their subraces are based on them being miniature true giants, and there’s an alternate class for Dwarf Clerics. Not a fan of the Gnomish subraces, but they have two classes to emphasize being more Illusionist or more Druid. Halflings… I am calling Hin (another personal pet peeve of mine) and they come in exciting new Bard and Assassin flavors.

The other races… I am definitely using the Gith and the Thri-Kreen/XIxchil, in a constant three-way cold war with the Imperial Elven Navy. (On top of the Gith’s… zerth problem.)

Then, I am trying to figure out what to do with the rest. I don’t know what to do with half-races in a race-as-class system, but I do feel like I should do something. That’s orcs and ogres; I refuse to acknowledge that scro are anything but orcs with class levels. I could do kobolds or goblins, but do I want to do both? I like hobgoblins and I like bugbears. Ogre magi? Trolls?

Definitely want to do lizardmen… call them “Sleeth” after Gamma World.

I am basically reinventing the concept of “feats” by trying to combine WP/NWP, thief skills, and Flying Swordsmen’s martial arts rules into a unified whole.

General speaking, these feats are divided into Combat/WP, Skill/NWP, and Magic feats and every class gets its own progression in all of them. They’re going to get a lot more of these than AD&D characters get WP/NWP, and a lot fewer of them than Flying Swordsmen characters get martial arts powers.

Characters have a focus pool that works a lot like a Monk’s ki pool in later editions, and a little bit like psionic focus in 3.PF.

Characters also have a spell pool and… classes that don’t cast spells will have some feat options they can select to allow them to use those spell points. I’m still working on the numbers, but I’m really leaning into Chapter 6 of Player’s Option: Spells & Magic for wringing everything I can out of this mechanic.

Both Mages and Priests can have Minor access to a spell list. You can cast spells from your Minor lists at the same level as Major spells… but they cost more spell points.

Likewise, there are several different ways to determine Fixed versus Free Magick, with Free Magick being a way to emergency cast spells you haven’t prepared by spending a lot more spell points.

I’m more or less just using AD&D spells as-is, though I am definitely favoring (A)OSE sources whenever possible.