As someone who has voraciously consumed all things Dungeons & Dragons after catching the bug last fall, I cannot truly explain the wide-eyed wonder I experienced when I first heard of spelljamming. Already a lover of sci-fi, especially that which is deeply tied to many of the features inspired by fantasy media, and now a full addict to D&D, it is like fate that Wizards of the Coast decided to give me, personally, the gift of magical space travel in Spelljammer: Adventures in Space. And it is a fantastic jumping off point that will lead, one hopes, to more spelljamming in the future!
Spelljamming, for those uninitiated, is a magical phenomenon in the multiverse of Dungeons & Dragons that allows for those of notable arcane power to pilot helmed ships beyond the earthly bonds of the various planets of the Material Plane (where settings like the Forgotten Realms and Eberron exist) to Wildspace, the Astral Sea, and other wonders of the Astral Plane. This marriage of fantasy and sci-fi flavors this spacefaring with a particularly nautical flair, with spaceworthy vessels ranging from traditional galleons to classic D&D tentpoles like the nautiloid to a number of ships inspired by seafaring creatures like hammerhead sharks, lampreys, turtles, and squids. Importantly, a spellcaster must pilot these ships from a magical item called a spelljamming helm, and with that, the ship can undergo interstellar travel at hyperspeed.
Spelljammer: Adventures in Space is a box set consisting of three different books and a spelljamming-specific Dungeon Master screen. The centerpiece of this set is the Astral Adventurer’s Guide, which provides a wide range of setting-specific information about the Astral Plane, which includes the Material Plane-encompassing Wildspace and the interstellar Astral Sea. A number of player options are included, including six new races: the ageless and ethereal Astral Elves, the quirky construct Autognomes, the gun-wielding hippofolk Giff, the uplifted simian Hadozee, the amorphous ooze Plasmoids, and the four-armed insectoid Thri-Kreen. Also included are spelljamming-relevant backgrounds, spells, and magic items to help give your character more of that spacer flare. Notably, following in the footsteps of more recent books like Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos, the backgrounds incorporate more significant bonuses to players. Of particular note is the section on spelljamming ships, including ship-to-ship combat and the physics inherent to space travel (although interestingly not the mechanics of piloting).
While the Astral Adventurer’s Guide has plenty of good, it’s hard to not feel like you need to ask for more. Spelljammer feels like it would have been the perfect opportunity to introduce a new space-related subclass for the Artificer, an astral-focused archetype for Rangers, or astral patrons for Warlocks, for example. If not, new optional class features, new choices inspired by an astral setting, or even just some flavor text on how classes might adapt to outer space could greatly inform how a player can adjust their character for a decidedly different campaign setting. In addition, only two new spells and three new magic items feels like it is only scratching the surface of what might be possible as your adventurers journey to the stars for the first time, running into countless new peoples from countless worlds where countless differing traditions of spellcasting exist. Hopefully, this will be just the first set of official releases on spelljamming for the 5th edition.
Boo’s Astral Menagerie is the Monster Manual of spelljamming campaigns and oh boy does it deliver on the weird and fantastic. Notable entries of this monstrous compendium include astral versions of classic fantasy monsters, such as the very cool Solar and Lunar Dragons, but its strength is really in the bizarre that resides in the Astral Plane. Space clowns (cursed humans fallen to a god of frivolity), vampirates (energy vampires and also pirates), and psurlons (literally worms that can eat you to gain your memories and identity) are just the beginning of the eldritch horrors that await you among the stars. Staying in the nautical theme of the material (and my own personal love of whales), I think it is particularly important to highlight the kindori, mouthless space whales whose skeletons can be turned into spelljamming ships. This volume is a great extension of the creature statistics already included in previous 5th edition titles like the Monster Manual, Monsters of the Multiverse, and Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons.
The final book of the trio is Light of Xaryxis, a spelljamming adventure that brings characters from 5th to 8th level. This level range is the favorite of many players, so this adventure will be rather appealing to many folks looking to create a character with a bit more power than usual. It should be noted that Wizards of the Coast released a prequel campaign, Spelljammer Academy, through their recently-acquired D&D Beyond companion website, if you prefer to play a character from 1st level. I admittedly did not delve too deeply into this adventure in hopes of not spoiling myself of a potential future campaign, but I am intrigued by the heavy focus on the Astral Elves, as settings in an elven locale have been rather rare in the published adventures in 5th edition.
As a set, Spelljammer: Adventures in Space is a great addition to the rapidly expanding 5th edition of Dungeons & Dragons. While further exploration of spelljamming and the possibilities it provides to player characters would definitely be beneficial, there is no denying that this newest installment to the mythos of the most recognizable tabletop roleplaying game is a promising glimmer of what is to come. We here at GateCrashers hope that Wizards of the Coast continues along this path towards new horizons.
Spelljammer: Adventures in Space is available in print and digitally. Stop by your favorite local game store to purchase, or head over to D&D Beyond or Roll20 for digital versions that can be incorporated into digital character builders.
Looking for more Dungeons & Dragons from your favorite GateCrashers? Look out for some announcements on some hands-on dice rolling coming to you soon!