D&D General Is Spelljammer really that bad?

Chaosmancer

Legend
It isn't actually bad, it's just utterly inadequate (and it's very large, elaborate, and expensive while still being inadequate, which didn't help its reception). What there is, is mostly quite ok. I have my issues with some of the player-facing material (I still hate elves having floating proficiencies, and the less said about the various hadozee disasters the better) but it seems acceptable, on the whole.

I loved Elves having floating proficienies. It really sells them as being reincarnated beings. I've been advocating for that to happen more.

As for the expense... I don't see it. It cost about $50, the same as just about every other DnD book. Now, you might argue it was three books, but I think this is a misconception. It was one book, packaged as three. With a high quality map and a DM screen.

You can reasonably argue for not having locations in a Spelljammer setting book, sure. Space is big, and you can't cover it all - thought there's not many excuses for not at least covering SOME of it. But in that case, you need to cover organisations. Tell us who the Imperial Elven Navy (or the neogi, or the giff, or the beholders or even the scro or the Shou trading fleets) are, what they want. How are they structured, what are their goals, their enemies, their leaders, their tactics and strategies, their strongholds, their internal factions, the members of their organisation that PCs are likely to encounter in diplomatic/military/exploratory/assassination scenarios? How does a PC join up, if they're so inclined? What does an adventure involving them look like? Give us plot hooks for these organisations, give us a variety of stat blocks for members of each organisation useable at different CRs. In short, go look in the organisations section of Rising From The Last War, and do exactly what they did there, because that was really solid, useful, practical material for running a campaign.

Um... can you be more specific about which section you are talking about for Rising? Because as far as I can tell, it doesn't do this... at all. I mean, I love Rising, but what you are describing isn't even in there.

I just flipped to the page on Breland. I see the name of their Capitol, some vague details like the Dark Lanterns existing and who rules the nation, some quick and dirty details major locations, and some "if you are from this country" stuff. But how is the country structured? Other than being a monarchy I have no idea. What are their tactics and strategies? Um... spying like everyone else? Strongholds... basically none? Internal factions? No idea. Statblocks? Zero specific to Breland.

I think the big thing you are missing here, and maybe what is going on with your comparison, is the focus of the setting. Eberron is highly focused on the political and social structures of Khorvaire, they just finished a massive war and many many plot hooks revolve around the fact that everything is a powder keg about to kick off the Second Great War. So, Breland's relationship with its neighbors is important, as is how the previous war affected it. Those are the focus of the setting.

But the Imperial Astral Elven Navy (which one?) isn't a focus of Spelljammer. And that "which one" isn't a throw away question. The Xaryxis side bar makes it very clear what is going on. There is not one single Astral Elven Empire that rules all Astral Elves. They are but one. And this applies to the Beholders as well. Why would I need a paragraph telling me ANYTHING about the Beholder navy? They are xenophobic paranoids who can usually not stand the sight of other Beholders. They are highly individualized, every beholder ship should fight somewhat differently, they don't work together in the way you are implying. And so, all you are asking for are examples of specific fleets, when that isn't the focus of the setting.

I would also note something very key with this section of your post. You want information on the Scro or the Shou... but those words are meaningless to me. They don't exist in these books. That tells me you are coming at this with expectations of the previous edition. You are looking for things that don't exist in 5e Spelljammer, and therefore are disappointed because you aren't seeing them.

I'm not even mad about them not including anything about religion, just disappointed. It's annoying, but after they wimped out on covering it in Ravenloft, they were never going to do it here.

What religions should they cover? Why would Spelljammer have different religions than the base gods we generally discuss? I mean, there are tons of deities referenced in the PHB, don't all of those apply and more?

There's lots of classic spelljammer monsters that the weren't included in Boo's book, so that a bunch of last-minute Dark sun rebrands could be shoved in there. Spelljammer and Dark Sun are thematically worlds apart. Belgoi etc fit in a Spelljammer monster manual like a live weasel fits in a caesar salad. If, as you argue, there's already enough monsters in other sourcebooks that you don't need any more here, wind the monster book into the adventure book, don't just pad it out with critters that belong in an utterly different setting (if an anaemic 64 page pamphlet can be called 'padded out')

Again, you are going in with expectations, and therefore disappointed. But someone picking this book up with no expectations isn't going to be disappointed by classic monsters not appearing, because those monsters do not exist to that person. "I wanted to see X" is very different from "this is a bad setting, because it needs X"

Also, no idea what a Belgoi is, can't find that in my book. Nothing in the book seemed like it radically didn't fit. The B'rohg were weird, but their mention of often being taken as gladiators makes sense. In fact... I'm honestly baffled. All of these fit to my eye. Nothing here seems like it doesn't.

The Spelljammer box is fundamentally not what was advertised. It isn't a campaign setting, even though it claims to be. It's an adventure that is dressed up as a campaign setting, like Strixhaven was, and like WotCs preferred model seems to be these days. Radiant Citadel was the same sort of product but to its credit, was more honest about it. The setting material only really exists in a bare minimum form to support the campaign. The great majority of locations it covers are only detailed in the adventure and lack info that you'd need to make them useful outside the narrow scope of that plot, many of the monsters are not Spelljammer monsters and are only here because of the not-Athas world in the adventure, etc etc. Which is ... fine .. if that's your thing. You can play a non-Xaryxis campaign using this book in the same way you can run a non-Strahd Ravenloft campaign using only Curse of Strahd as your campaign setting. Maybe the hags are your campaign-ending bad guys instead of the snappy-dressing guy in the castle. Of course it's possible, but it's not intended, and the product doesn't make it easy.

I'd argue you are utterly wrong.

This setting material is sufficient for me to run a non-Xaryxis campaign from levels 3 to 15 with ease. Now, part of that is going to be creating a lot of NPCs and other content... but that is going to happen with anything.

If I wanted to run an Eberron adventure, set in New Cyre to explore the Mournlands... I'm going to have to make up a lot of NPCs. The only ones provided by the book are King Boranel ir'Wynarn (no details other than he is popular), his children (shrug, they don't even get names), Prince Oargev of Cyre, and the Lord of Blades. I could involve House Cannith I guess which gives me the three barons, again just names.

But those are all LEADERS. So... who runs the inn in New Cyre? Who is the local blacksmith? Who are rival factions exploring the Mournlands? I'd have to make up the majority of the characters in the story, because unless the PCs only ever talk to kings, I have no other NPCs.

So, when I make up who the middle manager of the Docks at the Rock is... how is that any different than making up an innkeeper in New Cyre? When I make up a pirate queen to assault my players as they explore an abandoned asteroid colony, how is that different than making up a Bandit Leader who assaults them as they explore a town in the Mournlands?

Spelljammer isn't a setting about political intrigue, it is a space setting, about exploring space. Just like Star Trek, each place they go can be made whole cloth, and that's fine. It actually gives me some freedom, because I'm not constrained by a highly detailed lay out of the entire universe. What's out there? Stuff like this, which is plenty to get started.

Aside from any/all of that, the format really bugged me. We've been told continually that printing costs are high and printstock is in short supply - so why was this product sold in a format that involved so much wildly unnecessary cardboard? There is FAR more cardboard than paper in the slipcase version. I don't need or want a slipcase, i don't need or want a DM screen. Don't give me all these expensive extra gubbins and fripperies and then spit out a skimpy content-light paraphrase of a campaign setting. Give me useful, practical gaming content, then let Beadle and Grimm worry about all the bells and whistles later. I kinda hate to pan this product as much as I am, because I like Spelljammer and I do want WotC to give us a decent 5th ed adaptation of legacy settings Dark Sun (or even a modernised Al-Qadim!). And the art department knocked it out of the park, the books are gorgeous. But all in all, the whole product is just an overwhelming victory of style over substance, and a massive lost opportunity.

None of this applies one iota to the setting material. This is all just complaints on the product design.
 

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nevin

Hero
So, slightly click-baity title, let me give context. I was reading through this thread (WotC - WotC needs an Elon Musk) about if WoTC needs Elon Musk, and one of the complaints that caught my eye amongst the various points of discussion was that WoTC has released "no good sourcebooks". Except Eberron, they were quick to say.

My initial thought was to take Theros or Ravnica and do this type of post for them, but discussion continued and Spelljammer was a hot button for a moment, so I got to thinking. If we take out all the expectations, if we take out the mechanics, if we looked solely at it as a setting as seen by a new pair of eyes with no idea of what this "spell yammer" thing is.... are these books really a bad sourcebook? I mean, the product is panned pretty heavily by the fan base, so if I can show it is a decent sourcebook then the other, better products, would be even better, right?

So.... what does it look like?

Some Parameters
When discussing this, it is probably best to start at the beginning and lay out the context of the setting, right?

So, what is Spelljammer in a pithy one-liner? Ravenloft is "DnD but Horror", Strixhaven is "DnD but Harry Potter", Theros is "DnD but Greek Myths". What is Spelljammer? DnD but Space. Really, you can quibble about it, but it seems the most accepted version. Heck, one of the most commonly talked about Spelljammer creatures is the Giant Space Hamster. So, we are talking about Space, or a version of space. Which means for 99% of our Space/Sci-Fi needs we would look to two models. Star Wars. Star Trek. And for my money, Spelljammer is a lot more like Star Trek. It is more about exploration than a single hero's journey.

Okay, now... what should we limit the discussion to? To give a bit of a preview, one of the things that makes sense to discuss in a setting are the antagonistic factions. For Spelljammer that would include Illithids. But, the spelljammer books don't give any statblocks for Illithids, they barely discuss them. But... do they need to? The Monster Manual covers them pretty well, and if you don't think the Monster Manual is enough there was Volos (psionic weaponry for instance), and there is more stuff in Fizban's (Elder Brain Dragon), and Multiverse (Ultharid, Elder Brain). I don't know if I need the setting book to rehash everything about Illithids if they are largely unchanged. And considering what is said about them in those sources... they would be largely unchaged.

But is it fair to include them? I think it is at least fair to mention the Monster Manual, but I'd find Monsters of the Multiverse to be fair game as a resource for the setting as well. It would be used for other settings after all. This probably isn't too contreversial, but I bring it up because I'm also going to be using two other books, and expect that will be contreversial. Boo's Astral Menagerie and Light of Xaryxis.

Now, people might object, especially to Xaryxis. It's an adventure, not the source book! However, there is something worth noting here. You can't buy just Astral Adventurer's Guide as a stand-alone product. The only way to buy this book, officially, is as a bundle. I've never seen them not packaged together. So, anyone who buys the Spelljammer for 5e gets all three books. So, if they are packaged together, then isn't it fair to consider them together? I mean, we are free to consider the Monster Manual, which needs to be bought separately, so this feels fair to me. On the same hand, I don't see any reason to dock Spelljammer for not including details on Toril or Khorvaire. If I want to run part of an adventure on those worlds, then I would expect to need those setting books. It wouldn't be fair to say that Spelljammer had to detail every other setting. It is only responsible for the space it claims.

So, what's in the book? Do you have enough to run the setting?


Astral Adventures
The books open up with something fairly important to the setting. We get how the space deals with the Material planes. It also establishes some facts about the Astral Sea. Being in it leaves you timeless, ageless, ect. This is important for later parts of the setting.

We then (still on the first page) get told that Light of Xaryxis is meant as an introduction to Spelljammer for the party. We also get the Rock of Bral mentioned, and ten potential adventure hooks. The reason this is important is because it helps tell the DM about the types of adventures that could be run in this setting. We get another mention of the Rock, and an autognome, #10 is the same with a Plasmoid Boss. We get an inherited ship and treasure maps. #3 is specifically meant to take place in a non-spelljammer campaign, likely needing to blend elements of the two. Same with #6. #4 gets us a patron (Tasha's rules) and a ship. #5 talks about being hired for a space war. #7 is a take on Moby Dick hunting a White Kindori, #9 is transporting cargo. #8 could be like three and six, but it could also be a unique take. You crash land, fight off the natives until you can be rescued.

So, what types of adventures can be had in Spelljammer? You can go exploring with treasure maps, crash land on alien planets, involve yourself in interplanetary wars, take inspiration from classical tales of the high seas, likely including pirate stories. You can go or come from other settings. Two pages in, and we have a solid grasp of a skeleton of this setting, and some unique things in it.

What follows are two unique backgrounds, which tie into the major two "sections" of Spelljammer that would be different than the stuff you might have gotten from the PHB. The Wildspacer also gives a whole host of unique Spelljammer creatures you may have encountered. Then we get five new races. Their lore is a bit short and sweet, but frankly it works. Autognomes provide plot hooks, Giff have a plot hook or two, Hadozee give us their homeworld, not in detail but it doesn't have to. Now, why say that?


How Important is Detail

See, there is something I think that could be written for the Spelljammer book that they didn't. More locations. However, at the same time, I don't think it is necessary. Remember when I mentioned one of the potential types of adventures for Spelljammer were nautitical novels? One "trick" of those sorts of stories was taking advantage of the sheer size of the ocean to make up new locations. Lilliput and Blefuscu were made up whole cloth. The island that Robin Crusoe landed on is completely vague, as far as the version I read. Treasure Island? Could be anywhere.

And by that same token, you could run a spelljammer adventure on the planet of Blefuscu. One of the starting options is stranding you on a "desert island" awaiting rescue from a passing ship, like Crusoe. Treasure Island in space (Treasure Planet) could be argued to be better than the original. We could take from sci-fi stories and have hulls and ghost ships, space stations where a great deal happens. They could have given us a list of locations, a planet of dire animals, a planet with deadly plants, a planet that seems like a utopia but is a psychic trap, a planet that eats people... but many of these ideas are obvious. A chart full of these ideas could be useful, but was it necessary? I'm not convinced, because the setting works with the vagueness. All of these ideas I've listed and many many more exist in Spelljammer. Of course they do.

Now, one thing they do provide, and again, could have been a bit more detail on, are maps and types of ships. But these ships, even if I am not happy with their mechanics, do carry some of the setting. The Giff have a navy. Damselflies work as courier's, pirate ships, military command vessels, they even have private races for Damselflies between hotshots. That is a plot right there. Many of these ships mention merchants and pirates, both of whom would be vital to a setting like Spelljammer. They don't give us specific pirate lords or famous merchants, but again... do they need to? Space if huge. There are likely dozens upon dozens of pirate lords. It would have been nice, but the setting works with just knowing that there are pirates out there and what types of ships they prefer.

We also get some layers of age. Lamprey's, Scorpions and Squid Ships are old ships. Shrikes are new. Galleons and flying fish are common. We don't get percentage numbers, but this information paints a picture. We also get some unique ships, like the Living Ship.

But more importantly, much like the Giff navy, we get foes mentioned. Psurlons, Illithid, Neogi, Astral Elves, Beholders. This is a fairly extensive set of enemies before we've even looked at the monster book, many of whom readers would already have details of from other books. And it fits into the theme we are building so far. Everything is out here, but these specific things are notable and should be watched out for.


The Rock of Bral

And then we have the Rock. We get a brief history of the place, and are told Prince Andru is in charge. In one of the few things I'm furious about this book doing, they ruin the mystery and just state that Andru killed his brother, but we also get a chief advisor with enough detail to run him and a Captain of the Royal Guard. We know there are three Magistrates who handle crime, and a magistrate's watch that enforces their laws. We get the Underbaron's (human who controls the lower city and docks, halfling in the Burrows who controls the craftsmen, Elf who runs a specific location as well as minstrels and entertainers, and an Illithid who is secretive and unknown.) We get details on the High City as well as seven notable locations, the middle city with eleven more locations, and the Lower city with ten more. Finally there is the "underside" and five more locations.

That's.... honestly a lot. Going through a quick skim that is thirty-three specific locations, and about 15 NPCs. Sure, it isn't a realms encyclopedia, but it is more than enough to run the Rock as a location, as well as leaving obvious things for me to fill in. They have a Temple District, who is the head of the Temple of Moradin? They don't say, but there is obviously one and I can fill in that detail. The book also came with a very detailed map of the Rock, which is a small enough area that you can actually use the street names and individual buildings. Which is wonderful.

But, is this all?

Can a Monster Book be a Setting Book?

Spoiler? Yeah, I think it can.

Remember one of the things I mentioned that the other book didn't need? Like lists of pirates and merchants?

Guess what is in Boo's book? "Ship Encounters" include:
  • Captain Myrtle Hunt of the Bombard Leviathan
  • Captain Krig Kalu of the Damselfly Voidwinder
  • Captain Thaal Vod of the Flying Fish Horizon
  • Captain Veluna Valderak of the Hammerhead Jander Sunstar
  • Captain Uscath of the Lamprey Astral Prize
  • Captain Queth of the Living Ship Eldervine
  • The Nautiloid Neurophage with a Mind Flayer crew (no captain? Well, that's Mindflayer's isn't it?)
  • Captain Yeshk of the Nightspider Malevolence
  • Captain Huraj of the Scorpion Claws of Huraj
  • Captain Yaj of the Shrike Fedifensor
  • Captain Xorpha Eleven-Eyes of the Space Galleon Eleventh
  • Captain Mystan the Mighty of the Space Galleon Great Kindori
  • Captain Arviglas Syken of the Squid Ship Syken's Reach along with her Daughter Tenebra
  • Captain Xaleen of the Star Moth Apex
  • Captain Shelby Norkle of the Turtle Snorkel
  • Tyrant Ship Doomdreamer (No captain, which could be fun or an oversight)
And the abandoned Wasp Adventure

For those of you paying attention, that is not only one example each of each of the ships (two for galleons and the Wasp is abandoned), but I copied them in order from the encounter table... and that is the same order as the ships are presented in the other book. Now, could they have put all of these as examples in that book? Sure, but these are encounters, those are the baseline ships if someone wants to use them. This actually makes a lot of sense. And many of these don't go into details on the personalities of these captains, but do they need to? Is the setting worse if I play Captain Xaleen as a no-nonsense warrior with a strict sense of duty transporting a noble, and someone else plays them as a power-hungry captain trying to seduce the noble on board their ship who was enamored with the idea of adventure? The setting doesn't rest on these characters, so they don't need detailed. And not being detailed means we, as DMs, can play with their presentation to fit our needs.

But, well, we need factions right? We need different political and military forces for the players to encounter and affect. That's a major part of the setting and the previous book gave us none of that...

But this book provides it.

  • Aartuks, war-like plant people whose homeworld was destroyed by Beholders.
  • Astral Elves, Zealots devoted to their gods fighting various enemies like the Psurlons, Illithids and Githyanki. They also call out that the Xaryxis is but a single society of these elves, meaning there are a lot more that are possible.
  • Chwinga, little cute astronauts that can help travelers.
  • Dohwar, peguin-like merchant people who are always looking for a deal
  • Reigar, humanoids evolved from squids who relish in war and destruction. Destroyed their own homeworld
  • Giff, hippo-people with a love of guns and military. Lost their homeworld
  • Githyanki, people from the Astral Sea who became pirates and rebelled against the Illithid
  • Hadozee, and here we get a desctription of their homeworld, Yazir
  • Mercane, a race of a strange hive mind, merchants
  • Neogi are detailed here
  • Plasmoids have more detail, especially a bit on their splitting
  • Psurlons, psychic worm people that eat sentient beings
  • Space Clowns, specific fiendish clowns that attack ships and infiltrate societies. Even gives us their home world
  • Ssuran, lizardfolk in space
  • Thri-kreen are detailed here
  • Vampirates, a specific version of vampires unique to spelljammer

These are a lot of factions that we can deal with. A lot of plot hooks put in here. And we even get some relationships between some of them.

Do we have things that can be encountered on the surfaces of places? With Braxat, Megapedes, B'rohg, Gaj we have some unique monsters. We also still have the entirety of the monster manual and the entirety of the other books.

Do we have things to encounter in space? From Esthetics, Eye Mongers, and Murder Comets aproaching you, Feyr and Jammer Leeches inflitrating the ships, massive things like Kindori and scavvers, lunar and solar dragons... yeah, there is a ton of stuff to encounter here.

In fact, the monster book gives me more than enough setting information. I don't need a detailed history of how many times the Reigar have fought the Astral Elves, and that military victories were had at XXX and YYY across the asteroid belt [Blank]. That stuff may be interesting, but we are dealing with SPACE. It is vast, and it is so vast that you will always find more stuff after you've listed it. And we don't need that information. DMs don't need that information to run the setting, we just need to know that both factions exist and how they are, because that leads to the obvious that they will fight. (Mostly because the Reigar fight everything)

And I still haven't gotten to the adventure, which gives more locations, more NPCs, and expands even more on stuff. And, sure, it is an adventure, but most of the 2e lore came from adventures too. So why can't this?

So, actually, at the end of the day, for someone who has no preconceptions? This is a REALLY GOOD source book. It gives tons of hooks, tons of unique things about the setting, and leaves out the encyclopedia aspect that can bog these things down with dates and wars and "who is the current leader of the yadda yadda". Which, might be bad for a different setting, but Spelljammer 5e is meant to evoke those sea-faring themes. Just because you encounter the Empire of Xaryxis doesn't mean it is the only Astral Elf empire, or even one anyone actually cares about. It is one, among the countless stars.

And dang, that makes for a cool setting.
Its having the same proble it did in 2e. most people like thier fantasy to be more lime legends, myths and tolkien.

SpellJammer is really more like a Fusion meal of Victorian SciFi over a fantasy base.
I always liked it but I rarely got players to try it, and they aleays wanted to go back to original dnd

Its actually pretty good but if you want space and scifi traveller or startrek are a better choice.

I think they should have gone victorian steampunk fantasy with it. might have been recieved bettsr
 

I played in a few Spelljammer campaigns. It never really resonated with me personally but I knew people who liked it, and got deep into the lore (I barely grasp the lore as I was just a player in those games). It did seem like a good method for connecting the different settings
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
The setting is very, very sparse. Too sparse. 5e gave me 6 pages on the Rock of Bral. 2e gave me 85 pages on it.

Do you need 85 pages for the setting to work? Again, "I am approaching this with the expectations of 2e" isn't something a 20-something who sees it on the shelf is thinking. They are thinking "this is the newest DnD product, what is it like?"

5e gives me...

"The Happy Beholder
This prosperous tavern is owned and run by Large Luigi, a locally famous, lawful neutral beholder. Luigi has an encyclopedic knowledge of all sorts of topics, and he's more than happy to share information with just about anybody. He's a civic-minded, well-liked citizen who has no political ambitions. His tavern is rarely troubled by bullies or thieves."

This seems perfectly adequate for me. Tells me a lot about Large Luigi, plenty to run him as an NPC

The Rock of Bral gives me...

"The Happy Beholder
A small but prosperous tavern, the Laughing Beholder is owned by none other than Large Luigi, the famous beholder and tavern keeper. Luigi is an extremely wise and knowledgeable beholder who is one of the very few members of his race to understand the beholder destiny-to learn and to teach. Luigi is a civic minded and well-liked citizen of Bral, and spends most of this time listening to the rumors of far spheres and great adventures. Very few people realize that Luigi's knowledge is godlike in its scope-that he is a vision of the potential of the beholder race. he has, at one time, known everything there is to know about anything in the entire multiverse. Chances are good that he realizes that all of eistence is contained withing the imaginations of a weird class of beings beyond gods who call themselves roleplayers.

Luigi is more than happy to share information with anyone who cares to seek the answers from him but he has an infuriating tendency to withhold vital knowledge. He cannot reveal knowledge that would upset the balance of the cosmos and on many occasions that could depend on something as simple as an adventurer knowing where to find a fabled ruin or a reclusive hermit. All he asks in return is a song or story for his many patrons.

The Laughing beholder is rarely troubled by bullies or hoodlums. Large Luigi's powerful magical abilities quickly put an end to trouble virtually before it starts."

So... a lot of words to give basically the same information. Only, instead of "he's a really smart person and a good resource for information" he is an nigh-omniscient knower of all things, a god of a beholder with a vision for his species... So, does this make him a better character? I doubt it. The 5e version gives plenty for him to be a good NPC.

I mean, I guess he fits better as a Beholder, being certain that he knows everything and is basically a god, but frankly it isn't needed.

The OP says that the 5e book has 33 locations on Bral. It gives 7. A whole 7! Locations in the lower city. 2e on the other hand gives 62 locations in the lower city, and in more detail than 5e gives to the meager 7 locations it mentions.

The 2e books give more names of individuals on Bral by far than 5e does, and only 2e gives any stats for them.

2e gives more information =/= 5e doesn't give enough information to be a setting book.

I own games, set in unique settings, that do not have as many NPCs and locations as this 5e book does for the Rock. Those are settings, real settings, that people run in. So how is the Rock not sufficient? Sure, it is less than 2e, but if you had never touched a single 2e book in your entire life, that wouldn't be a comparison you could even make. So... does it matter in determining if this is a good setting book for people who are being introduced to a new setting? I think not.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
I disagree that it's REALLY GOOD, or even good, but it isn't bad. It's mostly just very low value. If they had read Stars Without Number and filled it with tables of similar quality it would have been much more useful for actually running a Spelljammer campaign. I don't feel the same need for rules as a lot of people, but I know that bothered lots of folks too.

I'm not mad, just disappointed.

This I can agree to. I would have liked a chart or two with different planet features I could mix and match, and one with various types of space locations I could mess with.

I don't think it is necessary, but it would have been nice.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
My opinion in 5E Spelljammer.

Grab your favorite beer/IPA.

Divide into three cans and top up with water.

"That's not what I want".

"Yes it is it's Spelljammer, says so right there on the can.

"That's not beer"

"Same concept it's got beer in it"

Erm no I'll pass.

So... again, just because it isn't the same as the 2e version means it cannot be a good setting for someone who has never touched 2e?

Unlike watering down a beer, less information in a setting doesn't make that information lesser. It is like buying a single can of your favorite beer instead of a warehouse full. Sure, you have less, but that doesn't mean it isn't good for someone trying it for the first time.
 

Weiley31

Legend
I like Spelljammer 5E, but I can agree with people on how the books are light when it comes to stuff.
It would've been nice if it got some loving like Dragonlance is getting, with the Dragonlance Companion and the Tasslehoff book.

Could be worse I suppose.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
I never owned Spelljammer previous to 5e, so your hypothesis is unfounded. Previous ownership might impact feelings about setting changes, not the depth and over all quality of the content of product.
Are you suggesting that the person who has seen previous depth in Spelljammer material in the past and the person who has no idea of the potential depth of Spelljammer material will have the exact same feelings on the matter on this particular boxed set?

Okay. I mean I suppose it's possible. But I would then perhaps just change the hypothesis to say that anyone with any past reference to the depth of any past edition D&D campaign setting would find the current Spelljammer shallow (because they'd be comparing it to other much grander setting materials they have experience with) whereas someone with little to no D&D setting material experience might not find it lacking at all (since as the saying goes, "You don't know what you don't know".)

At the end of the day it doesn't really matter either way... either you decide to play 5E Spelljammer as you bought it, you play 5E Spelljammer and include/adopt all kinds of extra stuff from the previous Spelljammer material you own, or you decide not to play it at all.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Do you need 85 pages for the setting to work? Again, "I am approaching this with the expectations of 2e" isn't something a 20-something who sees it on the shelf is thinking. They are thinking "this is the newest DnD product, what is it like?"
My issue is that new player or old, if I use what 5e gave me I have to put in craptons of work myself to make anything they mention work. Bral, ship combat, ship movement is just stupid, etc. They devote an entire 5 pages to adventuring. A whole 5 pages!!! The rest is taken up by ships and the meager 5 pages on Bral. It's worthless as a setting, giving us nearly double the pages on character options than they spend on adventuring in the "setting."
This seems perfectly adequate for me. Tells me a lot about Large Luigi, plenty to run him as an NPC
And you'd get it wrong without the 2e stuff to let you know how he got his knowledge, his outlook on that knowledge and why he withholds some information.
So... a lot of words to give basically the same information.
It wasn't the same information. 2e tells us a lot more about running Luigi.
Only, instead of "he's a really smart person and a good resource for information" he is an nigh-omniscient knower of all things, a god of a beholder with a vision for his species... So, does this make him a better character?
Absolutely. It makes him far more interesting.
I mean, I guess he fits better as a Beholder, being certain that he knows everything and is basically a god, but frankly it isn't needed.
Nothing is needed. They could have just given you the name of the bar and let you make the innkeeper.
2e gives more information =/= 5e doesn't give enough information to be a setting book.
That's the one place the 5e book mentions in any detail at all. I had to go with that since the 5e book is so sparse it makes a desert look like a rainforest. And I love how you ignored that there are 62 locations in the lower city in the 2e book, detailed NPCs to use that the 5e book doesn't even mention, many, many extra locations in the rest of the city that the 5e book doesn't mention, and more. The 2e book has depth. The 5e book is 2 dimensional.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
The Spelljammer case has some interesting points of interest, Clownspace, Astral Dominions, Hazdoo homeworld, Rock of Bral, etc..., the problem is none of that is going any depth at all, a brief mention, say a paragraph or two at most and then forgotten. Why is a Nerath Astral Dominion near Realmspace all of a sudden?

I mean their map of the Wildspace, Dead Gods, and Astral Dominions near Toril don't even get named, except Doomspace.

How much detail do you really need? The Hadozee homeworld is a jungle planet with massive monsters, where a race of flying monkey people evolved and built a civilization. Do I need more than that to effectively run a Spelljammer campaign? Clown Space, just as a name, gives me plenty of information.

I think, perhaps, the issue may come from how I see the locations in a Spelljammer campaign. The Hadozee homeworld is more like a town with a dungeon nearby. I don't expect the setting to detail every town and every dungeon that is in the entire setting. But where other settings have lands and politics that matter to the story of the setting, Spelljammer doesn't. You can't enforce laws in the depths of space or far into the ocean, the only law that matters is the Captain and the law of Might makes Right. More details could be nice, but I don't think they are necessary to run the setting.

No explanation for how established material plane settings interact with Spelljammer.

Good. Most of them don't interact with Spelljammer, and anything coming to Spelljammer from another setting is going to be based on that settings book, it shouldn't be up to Spelljammer to explain Greyhawk to anyone. That's Greyahwk's job.

The Spelljamming mechanics don't even work properly, there are youtubers who can explain this far better then I.

Mechanics =/= setting. I agree the mechanics are lacking, but that has no bearing on the setting. Many settings exist in media with no mechanics, so you can't say it is a bad setting because of a lack of mechanics.

There should have been a fouth book, Wildspace & Astral Dominions exploring those sorts of locations.

Some of the coolest Spelljamming Monsters got dumped online for free because they ran out space because they blew the price budget of the product on aesthetics and a fancy slipcase, no room for more actual, useful content.

So you are coming in with expectations from 2e, "I want to see this monster again". But that doesn't mean anything to someone who has never played Spelljammer and has never seen those monsters.

Also, if they are free online... isn't that great? Why are we complaining about getting free content?

The product is all sizzle and no steak, all style and no substance.

Making it a slipcase, which is supposed to be reserved for collectors at a later point or as gift sets of multiple products, not breaking one product into parts to make it look impressive while causing the price to explode, squeezing out actual content to keep the price from Ballooning farther.

I suspect the Slipcase disaster and the upcoming one in Planescape, is why Ray Winninger is no longer working for WotC (either he was responsible for this bad idea and got fired or he objected to thid disaster of a product and left in protest).

I don't object to the setting changes, I get their purpose, I object to the lack of depth, details, and the type of product it was turned into instead of a 320+ page book it should have been.

Majority of this is just complaining about packaging, nothing about the actual setting. Would the quality of the setting information improve if the book was presented as a paperback instead?
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
Group made new characters and I'm running the Light of Xaryxis adventure for them. So far, they are absolutely loving it - 2 played a bit with Spelljammer, back in the day, and they are clearly having as much fun as the rest of the group..

As for is the supplement too sparce? Hard for me to say, as I have access to my old spelljamer stuff and remember some of it anyway. But frankly, that doesn't matter, you can pick up any given old Spelljammer supplement on DMsGuild for under $10 - if you feel you need extra depth.

So far, haven't needed it for the adventure, the info provided has been more than sufficient (Had the Rock of Bral supplement ready in case the group decided to go deeper into it - wasn't necessary at all, the info provided in the 5e supplement was fine).

In short, for my group, the 5e Spelljammer stuff has been great.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
I really like what is there. If they expanded what they had here to a 320 page book with a basic overview of systems for established D&D worlds and lots of tables for making up new systems...it would have been on the same level as Eberron.
 

the Jester

Legend
It's not terrible, but it's not good, and it's absolutely lacking. The best part is the monster book; the worst is the adventure, which frankly suffers from the new obsession with being able to finish it in a few nights- it's extremely linear, with very little that is actually challenging. There's really not enough detail about the setting itself- it gives a pretty sparse overview of wildspace and the Astral Sea, but not much in terms of locations, interesting things to explore, etc.

I love Spelljammer, but I give 5e's feeble stab at it a C-.
 


I think the spelljammer needs to be built as a dedicated world instead of trying to be connective tissue for other worlds.

I've done some stewing with a few people and well, here it is.


 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Clown Space, just as a name, gives me plenty of information.
No it doesn't. It gives you no information at all. Is it named that because clowns come from there? Or is it because all of the inhabitants have a highly developed sense of humor(class clowns)? Or could it be because instead of giant space whales it has giant space clown fish? You don't know, because no information is conveyed to you based on a name. It can inspire you to think of things related to clowns, but that's it.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
So... again, just because it isn't the same as the 2e version means it cannot be a good setting for someone who has never touched 2e?

Unlike watering down a beer, less information in a setting doesn't make that information lesser. It is like buying a single can of your favorite beer instead of a warehouse full. Sure, you have less, but that doesn't mean it isn't good for someone trying it for the first time.

Doesn't have to be the same but if you're using the name it's gonna get compared to what came before.

I had ordered it but canceled once reports started coming in. It's even more expensive here think no Amazon sales add more.

.I don't expect them to match 2E product line just comparing boxed set to boxed set (1989 to 2022).
It's your 2.5% light beer because you can't get drunk in front of your in llaws vs a nice 7-8% whatever.

No point, anemic, wasted.
 


Chaosmancer

Legend
My issue is that new player or old, if I use what 5e gave me I have to put in craptons of work myself to make anything they mention work. Bral, ship combat, ship movement is just stupid, etc. They devote an entire 5 pages to adventuring. A whole 5 pages!!! The rest is taken up by ships and the meager 5 pages on Bral. It's worthless as a setting, giving us nearly double the pages on character options than they spend on adventuring in the "setting."

Ship combat and Ship movement is not setting material. That is mechanics. This is like saying that Faerun is a terrible setting because of the ship combat rules (since they mostly the same rules) that has nothing to do with the setting.

And, I don't see needing to put in any more work to run the Rock of Bral than I need to put in to run Waterdeep, Chult or Neolantin. Do I have to put in work? Sure. But not an unusual amount of work.

And, whether or not 5 pages (5 pages!!!) matters is how good those pages are. And they are really good. I've got a solid idea of how to run those adventures. I don't need another ten pages, I've got plenty.

And you'd get it wrong without the 2e stuff to let you know how he got his knowledge, his outlook on that knowledge and why he withholds some information.

I cannot possibly get it wrong. If I'm running him with only the 5e knowledge, then I'm running him completely fine. Because there is no right or wrong way for me to depict an NPC.


It wasn't the same information. 2e tells us a lot more about running Luigi.

Sure, it gives us a bit more insanity and pride for him, but I don't need that. And again, you are going at this as "There is a correct way, because there was an old version of the setting." Someone who has never touched or heard of 2e isn't going to be running Large Luigi and thinking "something feels off, it feels like I'm missing some massive gap about this character" . No, they are going to be running him, and they will be running him correctly for their game, because we have plenty of information.

Try and stop thinking about 2e and look at the 5e Spelljammer as if it was the first version of the setting. Because for many people? It is.

Absolutely. It makes him far more interesting.

He's a fat, friendly beholder barkeeper. He was plenty interesting without being a god of knowledge.

Nothing is needed. They could have just given you the name of the bar and let you make the innkeeper.

Correct. Would that be a bad thing? Would the setting not work just because a bar existed, but the bartender wasn't listed down explicitly?

Plenty of settings have bars with no names. PLenty of settings tell us about a country, and name a capital and never name a single bar in that country. That doesn't make them bad settings

That's the one place the 5e book mentions in any detail at all. I had to go with that since the 5e book is so sparse it makes a desert look like a rainforest. And I love how you ignored that there are 62 locations in the lower city in the 2e book, detailed NPCs to use that the 5e book doesn't even mention, many, many extra locations in the rest of the city that the 5e book doesn't mention, and more. The 2e book has depth. The 5e book is 2 dimensional.

I love how you continue refusing to engage the premise. But, let's try this. 62 locations is the minimum right?

Name 50 locations in Gondor. Middle Earth is a great setting, right? You wouldn't say Middle Earth is a two-dimensional setting with no depth, so if the Lower City of the Rock of Bral (a section of a single city) needs at least 60 locations to be functional, then Gondor should have at least 50 right?

Here, I'll make it even easier, 50 locations between Gondor and Rohan.


Yes, the book doesn't list every single location in all of Spelljammer, but do they need to? Do they actually need to detail hundreds of planets and thousands of ships, or is the fact that we know those things are out there plenty to run the setting?
 

AdmundfortGeographer

Getting lost in fantasy maps
I got it finally. I like this iteration a lot. (I bought the platinum Beedle and Grimm’s version, which was printed with the errata!)

My first intro to AD&D was playing Spelljammer. I know people say it is a setting in its own, but I never felt that. As a player I always felt it was a way to get between settings by ship. We went between Realms, Krynn, Ravenloft, and some of the locations mentioned only in earlier Spelljammer stuff.

This gives that In 5E well enough that I’m satisfied.

I do wish there was more. I always do. But I also love when I get thin references to things which I, as DM, can run with on my own and expand. And in that Spelljammer 5E seems to lean quite a bit.

I never intended to re-boot a Spelljammer campaign that retread the old material. I wanted a toolbox for running 5E adventures in my own home brew fantasy space. Ships, space encounters, weird creatures, weird gravity, light ship combat.

Speaking of ship combat. I was worried it would be far too light for even my use. It is light, no doubt! But I like what is it and have no intention of hunting out some separate rules system to hack in.
 
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