Spelljammer-inspired D&D 5E setting Prismanox fits a whole sci-fi universe on a playable movie poster
From co-designer of board game Vast: The Crystal Caverns.
An experimental new sci-fi setting for Dungeons & Dragons 5E will fit an entire galaxy on a single poster, Dicebreaker can exclusively reveal.
Prismanox is the creation of David Somerville, who previously co-designed asymmetrical dungeon-crawling board game Vast: The Crystal Caverns and created a Stone Age setting for D&D 5E, Planegea.
In an ambitious change from traditional sourcebooks for D&D 5E, the whole of Prismanox has been crafted to fit on one side of a standard-size portrait movie poster measuring 27 by 41 inches. Somerville told Dicebreaker the unusual format had come about in a deliberate effort to ensure the setting was “minimalist in detail but maximalist in scope”.
“I built Prismanox as a breath of fresh air while working on Planegea, which is a nearly 400-page setting book,” Somerville explained. “Since I didn't trust myself not to go overboard, I wanted to limit the scope. I determined I'd only produce the setting idea if I could make it ‘something that would fit on one image’.”
The completed setting manages to squeeze in a wealth of details on the sci-fi species and voyagers that populate the galaxy - providing alternatives to D&D 5E’s stock character races and classes - adventure hooks for first to 20th level, equipment and spells, the setting’s futuristic technology, villains for DMs to include in their campaigns, and specific locations across the universe, including the Night’s Gate black hole utilised for travel and a moebius strip-like loop of starships that spans the nebula, known as The River.
“Instead of creating all-new species, I looked at why people love playing the species in the game, and then tried to think of the most space-opera version of that - like the idea that D.W.A.R.F. is the designation for certain kinds of cyborgs, tieflings are the last remnants of a long-dead progenitor race or that a dragonborn is someone who's been altered by draconic radiation from a galactic dragon,” Somerville said.
“It's not trying to reinvent what 5E is - it's trying to bring it into a fresh context that's both familiar and strange at the same time, which is where D&D storytelling thrives.”
The poster includes a central map of Prismanox’s nebula, as well as a separate hex-map for the Omniworld, an arrangement of 30 linked worlds that allows players to warp between planets across the nebula as if travelling by foot - albeit with fairly frequent malfunctions triggered by a roll table.
Somerville said that Prismanox was created in response to the return of D&D’s classic sci-fi setting Spelljammer, with the designer starting work on the setting this April following the announcement of Spelljammer: Adventures in Space for 5E.
“In the same way that Planegea was a response to Eberron - ‘That's amazing! How might I do something like that?’ - so Prismanox was a response to Spelljammer; a kind of aesthetic inquiry into starting with the same design objectives as another setting, but taking none of the same paths to the destination,” Somerville explained, contrasting Spelljammer’s focus on adventures aboard its titular magical boats to Prismanox’s wider variety of travel options, from teleportation to ‘bullet ships’ fired from a cannon with the intention of crashing on a planet.
In addition to Spelljammer, Somerville drew inspiration from sci-fi staples Star Wars and Dune, as well as recent movie Everything Everywhere All at Once, which influenced the setting’s inclusion of a subreality called delvespace and a multiverse that serves as the technological foundation for its magical elements.
“Instead of developing entirely new forms of ship combat and projectile weapon systems, I thought deeply about introducing exciting overland travel, like planets interconnected by a constantly-malfunctioning teleportation grid or carefully-guarded wormholes tunnelling through the dungeon dimension known as delvespace,” Somerville said. “[It] takes very seriously the idea of being both a modern space opera and an homage to the sword-and-sorcery roots of D&D.”
Prismanox will offer the movie poster setting via a Kickstarter in November. The crowdfunding campaign will also offer a version of the setting in a more conventional book format, using the extra space to expand on the lore, artwork and player tools included in the original.