Spelljammer: Adventures in Space
Space, the final fron—no, that’s not it. My god, it’s full of star—aaargh. That’s not it either. Spelljammer: Adventures in Space. Now that’s more like it!
Not that the first two attempts were that far off the mark. Ever wish your D&D game was a bit more cosmic? More surreal or psychedelic or horrifying or just flat-out strange? Well, if that’s the case, we’ve got good news for you, buster: Spelljammer is back, baby!
The Original Spelljammer — D&D gets weird(er)
Spelljammer: AD&D Adventures in Space was launched in 1989 as a boxed set for AD&D second edition. Written by veteran developer Jeff Grubb, the line was a fan favorite. The product line ran until 1993 and eventually comprised four boxed sets, eight supplements and seven adventures. Not to mention numerous comic books and novels.
An important part of the overall idea was to provide a way to connect campaigns from any setting; it did so by adapting the Ptolemaic system. Ptolemy was an Egyptian astronomer; writing in the second century CE, he proposed that the solar system was a sphere rotating around the earth.
Spelljammer took this idea and ran with it. Each realm or campaign setting was its sphere. The boxed set proposed three: Realmspace (Forgotten Realms), Krynnspace (Dragonlance) and Greyspace (Greyhawk). The spheres floated in an ‘ocean’ of phlogiston and ‘flow rivers’ made travel possible between spheres.
So, just how do you travel between spheres? Using a spelljammer helm, of course. That’s ‘helm’ as in the helm of a ship (a chair or command post), not ‘helm’ as in helmet. Any magic-using character can use the helm, creating a protective bubble around the ship so the crew can breathe. Longboats and galleons and ships of war might have spelljammer helms. So too might other, more alien ship designs – spiders, manta rays, hammerheads and nautiluses, for example.
Who you met and what you did
Spelljammer also introduced some new races, including the Neogi (eel/spider creatures), Giff (piratical space hippos) and Thri-kreen (space mantises from TSR’s Star Frontiers sci-fi RPG).
Ship-to-ship combat was another big part of the game, with rules for battles underscoring the setting’s ‘space pirates’ vibe. From fearless buccaneers to doughty explorers and treasure hunters, you never knew who you might run into out there in the phlogiston.
The setting could be used in two ways: as a device to allow GMs to mix and match campaign settings and characters or to create a full-blown Spelljammer campaign focusing on travel and adventure between the spheres. The default villains were the Neogi, with their terrifying spider ships, and the Illithid (mind flayers), whose Nautiloid ships had a habit of turning up just when they were least expected (yes, that’s a paradox; mind flayers can be like that).
What’s this new Spelljammer edition, then?
There have been hints about Spelljammer’s return. Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage included an Illithid and a captured spelljamming ship. The Unearthed Arcana: Travelers of the Multiverse (pdf) playtest package had four Spelljammer races: Autognomes, Giff, Hadozee (Star Frontiers’ Yazirians) and Plasmoids (Star Frontiers’ Dralasites).
But the big announcement was met with universal delight. The new edition—Spelljammer: Adventures in Space—is sold as a boxed set containing a double-sided map, four-panel DM screen and three 64-page hardcover books: Astral Adventurer’s Guide, Boo’s Astral Menagerie and an adventure: Light of Xaryxis. A limited edition with cover art by Hydro74 will only be available at hobby stores, including Noble Knight Games.
Players can enjoy six new playable races: the all-new Astral Elves (immortal Vulcan-esque space explorers) and Autognomes (mechanical gnome constructs); the Giff, returning from the original setting; and the aforementioned, Star Frontiers-derived Hadozee, Thri-kreen and Plasmoids.
The cosmology has been updated, too. Now, instead of travelling through ‘wildspace’ to reach a sphere’s rigid, impermeable and undamageable walls, a realm’s wildspace gradually gives way to the phlogiston, which corresponds to the astral plane. You’ll find Githyanki, Illithid and Neogi ships, other spelljammers, and the Rock of Bral – a giant asteroid/space manta-ray with a city on its back that’s a pirate haven and a useful campaign hub or starting point.
The rest is up to you
If you’re intrigued—of course you are—then it’s time to buckle up and fling yourself to the stars!
Spelljammer: Adventures in Space is a stand-alone release; Wizards of the Coast says it has no plans to release further material. Unless it sells lots of copies and the fans demand it. What are the odds?
Wizards of the Coast has also made available to stream a soundtrack that accompanies the release:
…oh, and did we mention the space hamsters?!
Written by Michael B.
Michael’s from Sydney, Australia. Over the years he’s organized game conventions, contributed to magazines, and written supplements for White Wolf and Dream Pod 9. Arr! Now he’s pulling on his space pirate gear and heading out to shoot and loot, mateys!
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