Book 1 - The Astrogator's Guide

The Astromundi Cluster

The Astromundi Cluster is an unimaginably old crystal sphere, predating all of the other known spheres by at least several millennia.

During its early existence, the Cluster possessed a single sun and three planets, each roughly classified as size G. These planets orbited the sun, carrying along several moons as they went. No one can say for certain how long this lasted, but the inhabitants of the sphere were spelljamming for more than a thousand years before the First Cataclysm.

Two of the planets collided, grinding their great civilizations away between their inestimable weight. The moons of the planets collided as well, shattering into hundreds of craggy chunks that eventually drifted into stable orbits and formed belts. The two planets that had collided fractured, and their pieces drifted out and away from their molten cores. Records held by Antilan historians speak of the First Cataclysm lasting several years, though it is difficult to say precisely how long it actually was. When it ended, the Astromundi sphere had one planet, several planetoids and several thousand asteroids floating about. The cores of the demolished planets were compacted into a single, fiery mass by the force of the Cataclysm, forming a second sun that fell into orbit around the primary.

The surviving planet was also the largest and is the origin of the sphere’s name, Astromundi. Life on that planet thrived for eons more, and empires rose and fell as violent cultures met and warred. Spelljamming continued, and many societies grew to depend on their spelljammers to provide them with raw materials gleaned from the asteroids. Unfortunately, the people of Astromundi had also become used to relying on trade with the other two worlds, and their economies foundered when this trade was cut off.

With soaring populations, no other planetary masses to expand to, and without the interplanetary trade they had come to depend on, the people of Astromundi began having increasingly violent territorial disputes. Wars lasting decades erupted along borders, embroiling countries in bitter, and seemingly endless, disputes. The dominant human race began purges of their nonhuman neighbors. The nonhumans lashed out in anger and confusion, calling upon the darker forces of the Cluster to inflict terrible curses upon the human aggressors. After that, many human children were born with horrid deformities. Marked by the sins of their parents, these mutants were shunned and cast out.

Eventually, many of the mutant pariahs found themselves hiding out in the planet’s interior. There, in the dark, they were all equal. No one laughed at their deformities, no one pointed an accusing finger. Over time, these mutants stabilized into a single, new race. So long out of the sun they became fearful of it, they despaired of ever walking the surface again.

Ignorant of the new race literally beneath their feet, the warlike humans intensified their exploration of wildspace, desperately searching for suitable places to settle and claim as their own. Little is recorded of what happened to the human explorers. Hidden tomes found in the most ancient of ruins shed some light on the matter, however. These books tell of the Unbidden, who happened upon the spelljamming explorers. Promised conquest and delights beyond imagining, the desperate travelers forged an unholy alliance with the hideous Unbidden. The fruits of this union would affect the destiny of Astromundi forever.

While humanity flirted with forces best left alone, the dwarves, too, were back in the spelljamming game. Dwarven ingenuity and human spelljamming helms were combined and the dwarves set about mining the asteroid belts. Eventually, the dwarves departed Astromundi entirely. Needing permanent settlements, the dwarves built the first of their citadels among the asteroid belts. These immense structures survive to this day, though in many cases they have been abandoned or ruined over time.

The elves were also busy, though with much simpler plans. Enraged by humanity’s ignorance and the self-absorbed attitude of the dwarves, the elves decided to depart Clusterspace altogether. Within the span of a generation, the elves had virtually disappeared from the Shattered Sphere.

Meanwhile, the hidden mutant children of the xenophobic humans plotted the rise of their empire. Ancient texts left by forgotten civilizations were found in the planet’s innards. Fascinated by the power of magic, the new race tried diligently to master this potent weapon. During long decades of isolation and intense study, some of them discovered how to unlock the psionic powers of their minds. As all races do, this group sought deities to call their own, and their prayers were answered. After generations of struggling to survive beneath the crust of their planet, the new race planned to become the conquerors of those who shunned them. Banding together under the banner of their new god, the deformed offspring erupted from their hiding places and use the power of their god to spread the darkness of their home to the surface world.

Much to their surprise, the mutants discovered that their home world was under siege. Great golden spelljamming craft floated above once fabulous cities that now lay in ruins. Entire nations had perished when the spelljamming explorers and their Unbidden allies returned to Astromundi as conquerors.

The mutants cried out in rage and confusion, desperate to destroy those who had deprived them off their vengeance. Their god listened, and the Second Cataclysm shattered Astromundi like bad crockery, scattering its pieces far and wide.

The Unbidden were cast out from this plane by the curse of the mutants’ god, and only a handful of their human allies were able to flee the explosion.

The god of the mutants protected its people and gave them their own place to settle. There, on a cluster of moons orbiting a gas giant, they grew in power and were at last satisfied. Happy to have their own world, the mutants devoted themselves to their religion. To this day, they remain hidden.

The Astromundi Sphere now bore no resemblance to its previous existence. Rather than three large planets and their moons, the sphere now held hundreds of thousands of asteroids, two suns, and dozens of planetoids and lesser moons. The gases released by the two Cataclysms coalesced, forming nebulae and gas giants. And through it all, the hardy humans strove to survive.

This time was very hard on the human race, few of whom had survived the Cataclysms. They were trapped in asteroid belts and planetoids because the secrets of spelljamming were lost in the Cataclysms. The dwarven race was loath to approach the human settlements, fearful of a race capable of destroying their home world. They conducted limited trade, but refused to give up the secrets of their ships.

And then someone found the Astromundi Cluster.

The elves who once called the sphere home returned, and so great were the changes to their home sphere they did not recognize it. The elves traded with the dwarves, and rested from the beatings they had taken during the (inhuman Wars.

The respite was short-lived for the elven race. The goblinoids had pursued the elves through the phlogiston, murderously intent on catching them. When they entered the Astromundi Cluster, the war resumed in earnest, and the elves were again in desperate straits.

Neogi mindspiders were the next to stumble into the Shattered Sphere. They were few in number, however, and hid, plotting among the asteroid belts. They stole the occasional human from their rocky homes, but were powerless to do more.

All who entered the Astromundi Cluster soon discovered an unnerving fact: the Shattered Sphere was easy to enter, but impossible to leave. Only the elves seemed able to find their way out, and they refused to share their secret.

Other races came to the pitcher-plant” sphere as well: illithids, lizard men, beholder-kin, some of the giant races, tinker gnomes, and even dragons. Trapped within the Cluster, the various races began to stake out their claims. Some humans hired dwarven smiths and engineers to create artificial worlds for them, constructed of materials gleaned from the asteroid belts. Other human factions delved ever deeper into the secrets of magic, using arcane powers to fashion settlements for themselves amid the dangerous asteroid belts.

The neogi, unable to snatch and grab as was their wont, settled into the uneasy role of traders. They established trade agreements with several human settlements, exchanging spelljamming technology and hard-to-get goods for human slaves. So it was that the most corrupt of humans were the first to take to the stars again.

The Arcane appeared in Clusterspace during this time, doing what they could to even out the trade imbalance the neogi had created. It was through their efforts that the rest of the humans took to the stars, and they have since provided many items of power to all of the various races.

Neogi vessels attacking a merchant ship

During the passage of another millennium, the Astromundi Cluster established a relatively stable pattern. The asteroid belts fell into fixed orbits, and the erratic paths of the various planetoids evened out at last. The human faction known as the Sun Mages (see below) rose as the premier power in the Cluster. Cruel and powerful, the Sun Mages compete with the newcomer illithids for supreme control of the sphere.

Now, the Cluster is in an almost constant state of tension. The Sun Mages drive for conquest in their sun-powered ships, using their great citadels to shade small settlements from the sun and bombard them into submission. The illithids are more subtle, working deep intrigues and sinister plots with the aid of their human allies. The Arcane have remained neutral in their dealings with all factions, true to their vow of selling to the highest bidder.

The sphere is ripe for adventure. No one stays in any one place for long, and many settlements exist in the asteroid belts to escape the Sun Mages’ predations. There are no groundlings here, since everyone knows and uses spelljamming in some form. Welcome to a realm of true Spelljamming.


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