Aerial vessels such as the flying cities of the Sikkim, the dwarven balloons, and even the questionable kobold-crafted ships, while certainly not common, generate excited commentary in taverns and market squares across Midgard. Even rarer though are the crafts that soar above these atmospheric constructs to venture into the Void (called also Ginnungagap), where the glittering planar spheres hang in the branches of Yggdrasil.
Sailing the Void
When the war ended and the gods stood victorious over the body of their progenitor, Aurgelmir, the final breath of the first giant drifted into the Void. As the breath reflected from the planes and danced among the leaves of the World Tree, it fractured into long, flowing currents between various locations, swirling and eddying unexpectedly in others.
Known as Ymir’s Rattle, these “winds” function like swiftly moving rivers of air in the Void, allowing ships equipped with arcane voidhelms to travel at great speed. The strongest currents push objects away from their routes, leaving their course free from natural obstacles. Apart from the currents, patterns of wind revolve around the World Tree and the planes, providing enough propulsion for voidships to function like seafaring vessels.
Midgard’s Sphere. Seen from the outside, Midgard hangs from the World Tree like a glittering crystal ornament. Inside the membranous planar barrier, Midgard’s planar sphere contains the disk of the world itself and the sun, eight moons, and five planets that orbit it.
Conditions in the Void. The Void is not a vacuum near absolute zero temperatures (unlike space around our own world). The conditions of Ginnungagap are similar to those atop the highest of mountains. While there is breathable air, it is very thin and not enough to support humanoid life, and cold weather gear must be used to fend off the frigidness that averages around −30 degrees Fahrenheit.
There is no real gravity in this Realm Beyond. Large objects, planes, and the World Tree itself all generate their own gravitational fields. Gravity extends 1 mile from the outer surface of an object without an atmosphere, such as an asteroid, or 5 miles from the edge of the atmosphere of a planet or object possessing an atmosphere.
Though dark, the Void is by no means a lightless space. The World Tree glows with an eternal radiance. The planar spheres reflect this luminescence like crystal ornaments, and the living stars (see Creature Codex) wander the dark, providing their own brilliance. Illumination similar to a night with a half-moon is typical.
Voidsails. Traditional sails provide the actual propulsion for a voidship. Within an atmosphere, the sails use terrestrial winds, and outside of an atmosphere, they catch Ymir’s Rattle. Either way, a ship’s forward speed and maneuverability is the same regardless of what winds the sails use. The exception to this rule is when traveling at voidspeed (see below).
Arcane Helms. The vessels that sail the black use magical ships’ helms to guide them through air and space. When placed aboard a ship, an arcane voidhelm generates a bubble of artificial gravity and breathable air around that ship. Moreover, the helm allows the ship to levitate and travel at a special movement rate called voidspeed.
Though there are many varieties with greater or lesser abilities, a basic magical ship’s helm is described below.
Wondrous Item, Rare (Requires Attunement)
This ornate ship’s wheel or tiller is fashioned of glyph-inscribed wood with crystal inlays, and it functions to provide levitation and maneuverability for a vessel in the Void.
Passive Properties. The following properties of the helm come into play even when no creature is attuned to it:
- When placed aboard a vessel, the helm generates a bubble of breathable air and gravity around the ship. This bubble extends from the hull in all directions out to a distance equal to the length of the ship. The temperature within the bubble is comfortable and life sustaining. Creatures and objects that fall overboard bob in the bubble as if it were water. While underway, the area between the hull and the edge of the bubble is subject to the relative speed of the vessel (to a maximum equal to the ship’s normal maximum speed) and is shielded from any effects of traveling at voidspeed.
Active Properties. While attuned to the helm, you have the sensation of a harmless electrical charge running over your skin. You gain the following abilities when you grasp the helm:
- You can use the helm to levitate the ship (moving upward or downward relative to the current orientation of the vessel) at a rate equal to the ship’s normal speed.
- You can steer the vessel in much the same way as the tiller or wheel can maneuver a seafaring ship.
- As an action, you can bring the vessel to voidspeed as long as it is outside of a gravity well. You can use another action to drop out of voidspeed and resume normal momentum. When a vessel drops out of voidspeed, it begins the turn traveling at its normal maximum speed. A vessel moving at voidspeed that enters a gravity well uncontrollably drops to normal speed. All creatures on the vessel must make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw, suffering 10d10 force damage on a failed saving throw or half as much damage on a successful one.
Voidspeed Navigation and Travel Time. This magically faster-than-light travel allows a vessel to move at the unimaginable speed of the swiftly moving currents of the Void winds. When traveling at voidspeed, a vessel follows the course of the wind’s current, abstractly rendered as a straight line, and can’t maneuver. Voidships must drop to normal speed to make any course change before resuming a journey at voidspeed. Thus, a chart of a vessel traveling at voidspeed resembles a series of long straight lines, interspersed by course changes at normal speed.
Captains and navigators typically use Midgard’s cardinal directions (north, east, west, and south) with the World Tree as the center of the compass. Traveling up the trunk is called crownward while down the trunk is rootward. Notable sites act as navigational markers, like the prominent ratatosk community of Grenstad or the massive black-iron spike and its fluttering rope fragment where Wotan hung to gain the knowledge of runes.
The time to travel the millions of miles at voidspeed is swift but not instantaneous since the wind currents change course as they ebb and flow. A vessel’s travel time depends on whether it sails within a planar sphere or outside of one:
- Within a planar sphere (but outside a gravity well), travel from one celestial object to another takes 1d3 days with 1d2 − 1 stops at normal speed to maneuver.
- Outside of a planar sphere, travel takes 1d20 + 3 days to travel from one planar location to another with 1d6 − 1 stops at normal speed to maneuver.
Read more of this article (complete with voidship statistics) and others in Warlock, our regular zine for 5th Edition, only on Patreon!