The War of the Pirates campaign is set in a unique Crystal Sphere known as Mainspace. This single star system is made up of four planets, their moons and an asteroid belt called the God Smashed Cluster. All of the traditional fantasy races exist among the worlds of Mainspace along with other races such as the Minotaur, the Giff and the Githyanki. Here years of war between pirates and elves and war between pirates have finally reached an uneasy balance.
The first world in Mainspace to experiment with the idea of Spelljammer technology was Dastrion a Class E earth-body filled with various fantasy ecosystems ripe for adventure. The Elven kingdoms of Dastrion were the first to set out into space with the other races following close behind. These explorers quickly discovered the other planets and moons of the solar system some uninhabited and some not so much. Exploration led to colonization and colonization led to trade. Outposts established beyond the God Smashed Cluster were able to make contact with other space-faring races from outside the Crystal Sphere. All of this led to a massive influx of wealth to the planet Dastrion especially for the Elven kingdoms. A few of the less than savory Spelljammers saw this new flow of riches as an opportunity to make some money of their own; thus was piracy born within Mainspace.
As pirates began to attack more and more ships travelling between Dastrion and the other worlds of Mainspace, the Elven kingdoms banded together to stop the attacks. They did this by constructing a massive Spelljammer navy and using it to hunt down and destroy any craft engaged in piracy. The pirates of Mainspace saw their very existence threatened by the Elven armada and also joined together to increase their power. Now three ships would attack merchants; two acting as decoys to draw off the Elven warships and the third swooping in to attack the now unguarded quarry.
Eventually, the Elven Armada found itself stretched too thin to properly monitor all of Mainspace for piracy. The pirates as well found that they could not meet the might of the Elven kingdoms for much longer. They were losing roughly one pirate ship for every one they captured. The Elven leaders agreed to meet with the leaders of the pirates, known as the Pirate Lords, to come to a truce. The Elven kingdoms conceded all of the God Smashed Cluster and beyond to the Pirate Lords as long as the pirates agreed to not molest Elven trade routes. The Elves would continue to maintain a naval blockade around Dastrion to keep rogue pirates out. The deal was reluctantly signed.
This status quo lasted for a few decades with the Elven fleets patrolling the areas around Dastrion and the pirates operating mostly out of Skipjack Bay and other asteroid ports in the Cluster. Trade boomed again and the rich Elves continued to get richer. Everyone seemed content with the arrangement until a pirate named Ching Shih came onto the scene.
Ching Shih did not believe that the pirates should be begging for scraps from the Elves while they continued to get richer. She believed that the combined forces of all of the pirates of Mainspace was more than enough of a match for the Elven fleet. In fact, it was the ineptitude of the Pirate Lords that was responsible for the high loss of pirate lives. Ching Shih was charismatic and her message hit a nerve with many of the younger pirates who did not command large fleets. She began to amass a fleet of her own with each ship under her command flying a red flag.
Ching Shih was demanding of the pirates that joined up with her Red Fleet especially when it came to her code. No pirate under her flag was allowed to steal from another pirate. No ship of the Red Fleet would attack another pirate ship. Most importantly the Red Fleet did not honor any truce between the Elven kingdoms and the Pirate Lords. Ching Shih’s reputation grew as quickly as her fleet did. She began to boldly attack Elven ships and even make incursions into the space around Dastrion. Her path was now set to directly intercept either that of the Elven kingdoms or the Pirate Lords.
It was the Pirate Lords that fired the first shot. They were not willing to let Ching Shih jeopardize the agreement they had with the Elven armada so they dispatched an assassin to the Red Fleet controlled harbor of Dragon’s Wake. The Pirate Lords hoped to catch Ching Shih unaware and cut off the serpent’s head. Unfortunately, the attempt on Ching Shih’s life failed. Ching Shih saw this as an act of war. She declared herself the Pirate Queen and proclaimed that Mainspace belonged to her. And, in violation of her own code, she ordered her fleet to attack all pirate vessels that did not fly under the flag of the Red Fleet. If she couldn’t convince these lesser pirates to join her at least she could purge the Crystal Sphere of their weakness.
What followed was a fierce, but one-sided war between the Red Fleet and the Pirate Lords. The Pirate Lords were outmatched tactically and numerically. Their pleas to the Elven kingdoms for assistance fell on deaf ears. The ships of the Red Fleet cut the disorganized rival fleets to shreds in every battle until only Skipjack Bay remained to mount any kind of defense against the end of the Pirate Lords. The remaining Pirate Lords gathered one last time to finalize their contingency plans and wait for the end to come. However, that end never came. Ching Shih never attacked Skipjack Bay and seemingly vanished from Mainspace all together.
The Pirate Lords celebrated their unearned victory. They rebuilt their fleets and recruited new pirates to take up arms. No discussion was ever made of what had happened to Ching Shih or of preparations in case she returned. Years passed and the Red Fleet faded into nothing more than boogeymen in children’s tales. Until one day, a green pirate crew stumbled upon the wreck of a ship with a prophetic message smeared in blood on the bulkhead of the Captain’s cabin.