Wizards of the Coast just released a brand-new Unearthed Arcana titled Travelers of the Multiverse. It’s content includes several extra-planetary races, including Astral Elves, Giff, Autognomes, Plasmoids, Thri-kreen, and Hadozees. All of which are staples of a DnD setting that, while much beloved, hasn’t seen a proper update within the rules since its initial release: Spelljammer.
Instant excitement went up through the fanbase, many anticipating the eventual release of Spelljammer rules for 5e (or maybe 5.5e). It’s unclear if that’s what we’re going to get, of course, but the release of these races seems like a pretty good hint at it.
If you’re newer to DnD, its entirely possible that you’ve yet to have come across the setting. So here’s a brief overview, and some tips for including it at your table.
What is Spelljammer?
Spelljammer is Dungeons and Dragons’ primary science fiction setting, wherein players adventure in space, and between the stars.
Of course, this is still DnD, not Star Trek, so things have a distinctly magical overlay – what I like to describe as science fantasy, instead of science fiction. Ships aren’t spaceships, but sailing ships of historical or fantastical design, surrounded by air and guided through the vast ‘Wildspace’ by magic.
Think Disney’s Treasure Planet, or some of those cheesy 80s space operas, if you’re not so sure about what that might look like.
Campaigns in this setting generally stick more to the DnD-style sword and sorcery than technological discovery and hard science fiction, despite the space travel. So if you’re looking for a proper scifi campaign a la Star Trek, Star Wars, Andromeda, or even Firefly, it’d probably be a better idea to look into other game publications.
The History of Spelljammer
Spelljammer was first published for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (DnD 2e) in 1989. Several supplemental books and campaigns were released, and the whole setting gathered plenty of fans and users. Layouts for ships, lore for species and affiliations, and even legendary ships (like the nominative Spelljammer itself), were laid out in a number of books and boxsets.
Eventually, however, Spelljammer was discontinued. TSR Games sold DnD to Wizards of the Coast, who released a couple of stat blocks and ship layouts inspired by the setting, and used crashed Spelljammer ships in modules, but never really moved the setting over wholesale. Fans have done the work themselves, though, and you can find fan made rules for later editions online.
3e rules: Spelljammer for DnD 3rd Edition
4e rules: The Spelljammer 4e Conversion Project
How to Add Spelljammer to Your Current Campaign
If you’re looking for something a little different to spice up your current campaign with, Spelljammer is just the thing for you. You can take it in a couple of different directions, as well.
Spelljammer Ships used for Space Travel
Space travel is the style of Spelljammer game that is most recognizable. It’s what most Spelljammer references in DnD allude to – giant Illithid ships that travel through the galaxy, using psionics and technology far beyond meager medieval understanding.
Campaigns set in this style are usually done in space properly, with ship battles and exploration of asteroids, space stations, and small planets.
- The party meets a warlock with a patron from far beyond the stars. He’s been breaking some of his promises, and that patron approaches the party with a deal – kill him, and they’ll grant them the ability to travel into the Sea of Night itself. But in reality, this Patron is only a small player on the intergalactic scale, and working to his ends might make them some enemies out there in the black.
- A meteor has crashed in the territory of a secluded druid circle, who ask the party to investigate. Imagine their surprise when they find a whole galley instead of a rock. It’s easy to get back into space, but the party soon find themselves mistaken for the original crew, and on the bad side of the group that shot the ship down in the first place.
- While adventuring in the Underdark, the party come across a ship filled with technology and magic the likes of which they’ve never seen. If they can get it to the surface, there’s no telling where it could take them. The last input coordinates into the ship look promising enough…
Spelljammer Ships used for Dimensional Travel
Spelljammer travel also, rather conveniently, allows for the travel between other campaign settings –you could travel from the Forgotten Realms, to Eberron, to Faerun, taking on the best adventures from each. Or, you could simply explore different planets and civilizations, each in different stages of development, and start mixing genres a little bit.
Campaigns set in this style are usually done like a regular campaign, using space travel as a vehicle to get from one fantasy setting to another, rather than focusing on space itself.
- While shopping, the party encounter a merchant with a wide variety of items never before heard of. He’s kind of evasive about exactly where he gets them, but word around the market is that he always gets his goods from the same ship, with a crew that never come ashore. Every once in a while, though, they do take on new hands
- A notice on a ‘help wanted’ board asks for the players to retrieve something from a city that no one has ever heard of. The ad says that transportation will be provided, at least. And free rides between such places sounds like more than adequate payment, should they be successful.
- A god from another dimension has been attempting to disrupt the pantheons of the party’s own world. To stop them, a god grants them a Spelljammer ship, so that they can travel to that world and stop them. What they do with it afterwards is up to them…
Have you ever played Spelljammer? What aspects are you hoping that they’ll bring back into 5e, if any?