D&D General Is Spelljammer really that bad?

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Yeah, our tables PCS are around the same level range as yours and I plan on doing a Spelljammer stint. Given this and other comments I will not be purchasing 5e's Spelljammer. I'd rather convert 2e material to be honest.
My group just hit 12th level and I'm having issues with high level content as well. It's frustrating.
 

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Ondath

Hero
That's not accurate. They do give regular speed which is a flat movement rate based on the individual ship. A Bombard has a fly speed of 35, so it will lose a race to a black pudding. The smaller ships are faster with the Damsel Fly having a speed of 70. So ships go from the faster ship barely being able to outpace a jogging human to warp speed with nothing in-between.
My apologies, I wasn't very clear there - what I meant was that the ships have no difference in spelljamming speed. I believe 2E rules classified different spelljamming speeds according to the quality of the helm (as well as the max spell level the spellcaster using it had access to?), but in 5E they're all 100 million miles per day.

The ships have different speeds at combat, but there the ship stat blocks are not compatible with earlier shipfaring rules (Of Ships and Sea in GoS or the vehicles rules in Descent Into Avernus for one). They give their speed per turn and hour (and like you said, speeds there are very, very slow), the AC, HP and weapon options but that's all. None of the detailed rules about crew management or ship combat peculiarities in GoS are mentioned, nor are they replaced with something sensible.

I mean, I'm not entirely against the idea of setting warp speed at something absolutely high and saying that the ships automatically slow down when approaching something with its gravity plane. It does avoid some of the problems you get from expecting "humane" speeds in combat and requiring millions of miles to be crossed every day for meaningful progress in space. But even then I wish that different helm qualities could have different warp speeds (a minor goes at 50 million miles/day, major does 100 million etc.).
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
But, you keep missing the point. There isn't a setting book, then a monster book, then an adventure. It is all "the setting book"
No, it's not. You claim that, but monsters are not setting. They are monsters that go into a setting. An adventure is only setting for the adventure and nothing more. We have 8 pages of setting.
All three are bundled together for a reason. The monster book has a lot of the setting information in it. The Rielgar are part of the setting, and something that would be great to use, but they are only in the monster book.... because they are going to be foes 99% of the time and putting them anywhere else doesn't make sense. I literally covered this in the OP.
Reigar are no more setting than the ships and flying speed. Both are used in the setting.
And just because you will never use something, doesn't mean it doesn't exist in the setting. I'd never use the Scarlet Brotherhood, doesn't mean I can claim that they aren't part of Greyhawk.
True, but you will find the Scarlet Brotherhood in the setting book where it describes the area they live in, goals, behaviors, etc. This is what I get from the 1e Greyhawk setting on the Scarlet Brotherhood.

"Ruler: HIs Peerless Serenity, the Father of Obedience(true name unknown)
Capital: Unknown, but rumored as a hidden city of splendor and magnificence
Population: 35000+
Demi-Humans: Doubtful
Humanoids: Probable
Resources: Rare woods, spices, gold, gems(I, III and IV)

It is said that an order of monastic religious militarists was founded long ago on the remote plateau south of the closed city of Kro Terlep. This order is purported to espouse the cause of the Suloise as the rightful rulers of all the Flanaess, claiming superiority of that race above all others, and embracing evil as the only hope of achieving its ends. Supposedly the Scarlet Brotherhod is the fruition of these aims, and now it controls the whole of the land from the Vast Swamp to the tip of the peninsula. Brothers of the Scarlet Sign are reportedly hiding as trusted advisors or henchmen in many courts and castles in the north, spying for their master and ready to strike. The thieves as its lower ring, assassins next, and then the smallest and highest ring of monks as superior. The leader of the thieves is called "Elder Cousin," that of the assassins is known as "Foster Uncle" - thus other thieves are entitled "cousins" and assassins "nephews." The temple and monastary of the Scarlet Brotherhood is supposedly a fortress and walled town uno itself, guarded by soldiers, humanoid legions which are being readied for future conquest, and monsters trained to serve the Brotherhood."

That's quite a bit more than "Wanders around space not trusting each other because they destroyed their homeworld and exist to make art and war." which is just lore for the monster, not setting.
 

the Jester

Legend
What advice do you think is necessary to running a "ships in space" game? This isn't a facetious question. To me, unlike Horror adventures which are very unlike traditional DnD, Spelljammer adventures are classical DnD. Explore the Unknown, delve into ruins, and fight monsters. I don't think they needed to explain how to run these adventures, because they are just classic adventures set in a different setting.
I think just the opposite- the setting (space) matters and isn't really explored as a setting in the SJ set. Horror is very much a traditional D&D element and trope. Heck, early D&D was basically survival horror. That said:

Here are some things that make D&D in space different from traditional D&D.

Here are some ideas for making space-based settings and sites, how to set them apart, and some examples of them- asteroids, comets, planets, water worlds, ice worlds, planetary systems, etc. (Which, to be fair, the adventure sticks about one digit into, but it's such a shallow dip into it that I don't think it does the job very well at all.)

Here are some ideas for how space might affect cultures, monsters, etc. (Which the bestiary also sticks the tip of a finger in, but that's about it.) Here is how space elves differ from ground elves because space.

Here are some cool space hazards, such as ion storm, phlogistonic clouds, etc, and ideas for creating your own.

Here's how spaceship combat works differently than waterborne ship combat, especially accounting for the fact that it is in three dimensions.

Here are at least a cursory look at enough star systems/crystal spheres that you can see how much variety they might hold, at least enough to provoke ideas.

That's just off the top of my head. Again, if you find SJ5e satisfying, awesome! I find it to be disappointing but better than nothing. I think if there was much chance of seeing more material expanding it, it could improve markedly, but since I don't buy much 3rd party stuff these days, I'll probably miss it, and would prefer my settings to have more, well, setting, in them.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
8 pages of setting material for SPELLJAMMER, 6 of which is The Rock of Bral means that it's insufficient.

Is there some sort of rule standard? "When writing Spelljammer, you must write at least 10 pages of material"? Because this declaration seems based on.... nothing. I've never heard of some sort of page requirement for settings. You are just asserting this like it is a fact.

The 3e Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting was very good for a setting book. You can measure up the 8 pages of Spelljammer material to that book to see if Spelljammer is sufficient.

But it still doesn't tell you everything, does it? It just has MOAR, but you have yet to show that the spelljammer book actually doesn't contain enough information to run the setting, you've just declared it like it is a fact. And yet, we have people in this very thread that have said they are currently running campaigns using it. How could this be possible if it doesn't contain enough information to run a campaign with?

Um, yes locations inside a city are different from the city as a whole. That's the point.

No. It would be like the Rock of Bral saying it had Starhaven, Andru's palace as a separate location. Oh, wait. That's on page 60 of the 5e setting book. It's part of the 8 pages of setting material.

I'm deleting the rest of your responses regarding the Gondor locations since they amount to more of the same, "An area can't have smaller locations." when everyone knows that they can and do.

Wow... I'd ask if you were serious, but you have to be.

You honestly think it is perfectly justified that when comparing a city to a country, you can take a city, then a palace in that city, then a fountain plaza in that palace in that city and the walls of that city, and count each individually,

Well, then I'll get us up to that sixty locations you want for the lower city of the Rock of Bral. I'm away from my books at the moment, but I can start with The Happy Beholder, then the door of the Happy Beholder, then the Bar Top of the Happy Beholder, then the north wall, the south wall, the eastern wall, then the western wall. Clearly this is far better, I've now got Seven locations instead of just one. If I did this for all seven locations in the lower city, I'd get 49! Then I just count each individual street.

So, there you go Max, over 50 locations just in the lower city of the Rock of Bral. 231 locations minimum for the entire place! After all, locations can have smaller locations within them, as everyone knows.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
My 2 cents:

I wasn't born when the original Spelljammer came out, but I read the 2E books a few years ago. My current campaign has a heavily-homebrewed version of the Spelljammer cosmology, where I combined it with Magic the Gathering-type planeswalkers.

I was very interested in the book before the came out. Then I read it. There are some useful rules stuff, but most of them give very vague ideas (how big air envelopes are etc.) that 1) already existed in the 2E books, sometimes with the same wording, 2) I could've come up with them using common sense. They completely axed any complex rules about space travel, and ships have a warp speed that is the same for all ships (so ship quality never affects travel times) and a regular speed - about which there are no rules.

Seriously, the ship stat blocks are so barebones, and more importantly, the ships in Spelljammer are not compatible with previous ship rules. I expected them to use the seafaring rules in Ghosts of Saltmarsh as a base, but ideas in GoS are abandoned. No other ship combat rules are used. It was so bad that I needed to get my hands on homebrew ship combat rules to have any use of the ship combat side of a setting about spaceships (I got the Captains & Cannons supplement, in case anyone else would be interested in such rules).

Did you find the setting lore changing when you changed the mechanics of the ships?

Worldbuilding-wise, I didn't use anything from the book since the ideas in Xaryxis or the 5E Rock of Bral did not interest me, but that's on me. Nevertheless, there is clearly far less lore than earlier books and even similar 5E books. We have very few wildspace system descriptions, while the 2E book had rules on designing an entire solar system from scratch. As others said, there's no mention of how religion works between different wildspaces, even though that could be an interesting conceptual space.

Why would religion work differently between planets? Religion is religion. Do you think that someone who prays before every meal will suddenly knife-fight before every meal instead just because they went into space and ended up in a different solar system?

As for the monsters, I think the list is SHOCKINGLY small. More importantly, WotC's decision to stop making content for high-level games really hurt the book's usefulness to me. My party was level 13-14 around the time they went to space, with a lot of powerful magic items and NPC sidekicks with them. As a result, I need a lot of high CR monsters to challenge them. Most of the monsters are in CR 3-9 range, so they weren't that useful to me, and the ones that I did use actually came from the D&D Beyond Web Supplement and not the book itself.

And for me, who rarely sees levels 13 and up, more monsters in the range I will actually use is a good thing. Sure, it sucks for you that you didn't have more than six different high level monsters in this one book, but you still have all the other books to pull from.

I get the desire for high level support, I do, but I also get that it is content that doesn't get used as much. So having less of it and more of the middle level stuff that does get used just makes sense.

All in all, I ended up not using the book as much as I wanted. I needed to homebrew 90% of the Spelljammer content for my game, and the remaining 10% I probably could've gotten from delving deeper into the 2E books.

How do you imagine it would have gone if you didn't have a game already at 13th level, and you didn't ever read a spelljammer book before? Do you think you would still think that this setting book was for a bad setting?
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Is there some sort of rule standard? "When writing Spelljammer, you must write at least 10 pages of material"? Because this declaration seems based on.... nothing. I've never heard of some sort of page requirement for settings. You are just asserting this like it is a fact.
You don't see a problem with releasing a setting and then providing 8 pages of setting material?
But it still doesn't tell you everything, does it? It just has MOAR, but you have yet to show that the spelljammer book actually doesn't contain enough information to run the setting, you've just declared it like it is a fact. And yet, we have people in this very thread that have said they are currently running campaigns using it. How could this be possible if it doesn't contain enough information to run a campaign with?
It gives you quite a bit of information on pretty much every major spot on the continent. You can't tell everything, but 8 pages tells pretty much nothing.
You honestly think it is perfectly justified that when comparing a city to a country, you can take a city, then a palace in that city, then a fountain plaza in that palace in that city and the walls of that city, and count each individually
That's reality. You even did it yourself in your OP. This is you...

"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."
Well, then I'll get us up to that sixty locations you want for the lower city of the Rock of Bral. I'm away from my books at the moment, but I can start with The Happy Beholder, then the door of the Happy Beholder, then the Bar Top of the Happy Beholder, then the north wall, the south wall, the eastern wall, then the western wall. Clearly this is far better, I've now got Seven locations instead of just one. If I did this for all seven locations in the lower city, I'd get 49! Then I just count each individual street.
I didn't go down to doors and limited myself to notable locations. If you want to include doors, then well Gondor has a hell of a lot more of them than Bral.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
My players are getting value out of the Tyranny of Dragons campaign I created.
I took an AP with horrible feedback and I created a massive extensive story.

Does one now say that because it worked for ME and MY table, the AP works fine, it is a good AP?

It depends. Why is it a bad adventure? Is it constantly being called a bad adventure because the 2e adventure was longer and had more details?

What makes a good setting doesn't necessarily make a good adventure path. They aren't comparable in that way.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
No, it's not. You claim that, but monsters are not setting. They are monsters that go into a setting. An adventure is only setting for the adventure and nothing more. We have 8 pages of setting.

And you are wrong. Very very wrong.

Reigar are no more setting than the ships and flying speed. Both are used in the setting.

They are an enemy faction. Their motivations are laid out. Their homeworld and a historical event are discussed. Their tactics in combat are discussed. Their specific items and unique ships are discussed. How is none of that lore? How does lore about a unique part of a setting, not lead to setting information.

Sure, their statblock isn't important to the setting, but a monster entry is more than just a statblock.

True, but you will find the Scarlet Brotherhood in the setting book where it describes the area they live in, goals, behaviors, etc. This is what I get from the 1e Greyhawk setting on the Scarlet Brotherhood.

Oh hey! All the same type of information I have about the Reigar and the Space Clowns. So... this is setting information, but if it is found in a monster entry, it isn't setting information any more?

That's quite a bit more than "Wanders around space not trusting each other because they destroyed their homeworld and exist to make art and war." which is just lore for the monster, not setting.

You know, I had food last night. On November 25th, I had more food than I had last night. That doesn't mean the food I had last night wasn't a dinner, and that it wasn't a good dinner.

You keep saying that there isn't enough for the Spelljammer material, but there is plenty there. Just because it is possible to have more doesn't mean it is needed.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
And you are wrong. Very very wrong.
Do you have something beyond, "Nuh uh." to prove why I'm wrong?
They are an enemy faction. Their motivations are laid out. Their homeworld and a historical event are discussed. Their tactics in combat are discussed. Their specific items and unique ships are discussed. How is none of that lore? How does lore about a unique part of a setting, not lead to setting information.
None of that is discussed. Mentioned in a sentence or maybe two is not a discussion. Further, combat tactics, items, etc. are not setting. I will grant that there is a tiny, tiny bit of setting there. The sentence I laid out in my last post would be setting stuff.
Sure, their statblock isn't important to the setting, but a monster entry is more than just a statblock.
Not much. There are few monsters. If we scrape up every bit of setting lore in the book, we get what, one more page of setting? So we're up to 9 pages now! I'll even be generous and give you two pages of setting from the monster book and we can be at an even 10 pages. Now compare that to a real setting book with hundreds of pages and you will see that 5e Spelljammer comes up, well to say it comes up short is an understatement.
You know, I had food last night. On November 25th, I had more food than I had last night. That doesn't mean the food I had last night wasn't a dinner, and that it wasn't a good dinner.
That's true. But if all you have are a few scraps for dinner, it ain't dinner. That's what we got from 5e. A few scraps, rather than a dinner meal.
 

BrokenTwin

Biological Disaster
I've never played in the Spelljammer setting before, I was introduced to D&D in 3.5. The new Spelljammer product seems like a fantastic setting book... for players. Just enough lore and a few zazzy new mechanical options to play with. As a GM, it feels kinda useless as a tool to help me build or run adventures in the setting. It works as an "introduction to Spelljammer" product, but not great as a setting bible in and of itself. Which, to be fair... I don't think it was trying to be? It feels like a book written for the tourists rather than the tour guide. And considering the latter outnumber the former 4-6 to 1 at most tables, I understand why they aimed it where they did.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I've never played in the Spelljammer setting before, I was introduced to D&D in 3.5. The new Spelljammer product seems like a fantastic setting book... for players. Just enough lore and a few zazzy new mechanical options to play with. As a GM, it feels kinda useless as a tool to help me build or run adventures in the setting. It works as an "introduction to Spelljammer" product, but not great as a setting bible in and of itself. Which, to be fair... I don't think it was trying to be? It feels like a book written for the tourists rather than the tour guide. And considering the latter outnumber the former 4-6 to 1 at most tables, I understand why they aimed it where they did.
I mean, that seems silly to me. It's the tour guide that runs the game. Only aiming at the tourists renders the "setting" into a novel to be read, rather than played.
 

BrokenTwin

Biological Disaster
I mean, that seems silly to me. It's the tour guide that runs the game. Only aiming at the tourists renders the "setting" into a novel to be read, rather than played.
I agree as an end user, but ultimately as a company Wizards cares about people buying their product, not what works best for people at the table. If a table has two/three people clamoring to play Spelljammer, the GM is likely going to just put in the elbow grease to make it work regardless of how much support WotC actually gives them. It's still technically less work for the GM than inventing a setting whole-cloth and fighting for buy-in. The argument that "the superior product will prove the most economically viable" has been proven wrong more than enough over the years, unfortunately. I am NOT saying that this product in particular is badwrongfun, just that for what I would use it for it provides insufficient value to me to be worth the purchase. YMMV
 


DragonBelow

Adventurer
I am playing through Light of Xaryxis, and I am about half way done. I have enjoyed playing it a lot. I believe if your aim is to run the provided adventure, it's pretty good. Not all kinds of Spelljammer campaigns are possible with the rules provided, also setting information is very skimpy. I don't have a lot of issue with this because I own all the 2e SJ books, and can fill the gaps, and also there is a lot of stuff in the DMs Guild. Having said that, I wish WotC veered away from adventures for a while and focused in proviing solid treatment of settings.
 

2e and 3e did settings right. First they put out a decent comprehensive setting and then later more detailed sections of the settings. The section on the rock in the first setting product wasn't much to go on, either.

It seems a little unfair then to expect the current 5E book set to have as much on The Rock of Bral as an entire supplemental book devoted to the subject when the original setting box (the equivalent of the current setting) only had 3 pages.

If you’re going to compare one product against everything that was ever produced for Spelljammer in 2E then it’s no wonder you’re disappointed.
 


Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
It seems a little unfair then to expect the current 5E book set to have as much on The Rock of Bral as an entire supplemental book devoted to the subject when the original setting box (the equivalent of the current setting) only had 3 pages.
I disagree and this is why. WotC doesn't put out other books for their settings, so no Rock of Bral supplement is ever going to happen. The Forgotten Realms, the biggest and most popular setting, still doesn't have a setting. It just has a sliver of the setting in the Sword Coast which was put out 7 years ago and no further setting book has been released. That means that the one setting book they release needs to be better and richer.

If they had a faster release schedule and/or released multiple books for a setting, I wouldn't be as upset by sparse crap like we got with the Spelljammer setting books.
 

edosan

Explorer
I didn't even bother picking up Spelljammer because it seemed that WOTC was not interested in doing in-depth campaign settings.

I assume some marketing guy told them no one was going to buy a "just a setting" book so that's why we got Waterdeep mashed in with Dragon Heist, Baldur's Gate mashed in with Descent into Avernus, et cetera. IMO WDH tried to be both a setting book and adventure and didn't go a great job at either.

Between DMs Guild and fanmade stuff, there's hardly any reason to buy setting guides from WOTC any more.
 

No, it's not. You claim that, but monsters are not setting. They are monsters that go into a setting. An adventure is only setting for the adventure and nothing more. We have 8 pages of setting.

Reigar are no more setting than the ships and flying speed. Both are used in the setting.

True, but you will find the Scarlet Brotherhood in the setting book where it describes the area they live in, goals, behaviors, etc. This is what I get from the 1e Greyhawk setting on the Scarlet Brotherhood.

"Ruler: HIs Peerless Serenity, the Father of Obedience(true name unknown)
Capital: Unknown, but rumored as a hidden city of splendor and magnificence
Population: 35000+
Demi-Humans: Doubtful
Humanoids: Probable
Resources: Rare woods, spices, gold, gems(I, III and IV)

It is said that an order of monastic religious militarists was founded long ago on the remote plateau south of the closed city of Kro Terlep. This order is purported to espouse the cause of the Suloise as the rightful rulers of all the Flanaess, claiming superiority of that race above all others, and embracing evil as the only hope of achieving its ends. Supposedly the Scarlet Brotherhod is the fruition of these aims, and now it controls the whole of the land from the Vast Swamp to the tip of the peninsula. Brothers of the Scarlet Sign are reportedly hiding as trusted advisors or henchmen in many courts and castles in the north, spying for their master and ready to strike. The thieves as its lower ring, assassins next, and then the smallest and highest ring of monks as superior. The leader of the thieves is called "Elder Cousin," that of the assassins is known as "Foster Uncle" - thus other thieves are entitled "cousins" and assassins "nephews." The temple and monastary of the Scarlet Brotherhood is supposedly a fortress and walled town uno itself, guarded by soldiers, humanoid legions which are being readied for future conquest, and monsters trained to serve the Brotherhood."

That's quite a bit more than "Wanders around space not trusting each other because they destroyed their homeworld and exist to make art and war." which is just lore for the monster, not setting.
And as a more recent example, here’s what the Eberron book (the gold standard of WotC 5e setting books) uses to cover ONE power group in the setting.

This is in addition to the gazetteer of locations and personalities and the monster descriptions found elsewhere in the book, so it’s not getting bogged down in minutiae, nor is it overly tied to a particular specific location that may not have relevance to your campaign. But it’s crammed with ideas, hooks, advice, etc etc, and RftLW goes into a similar amount of detail for I think 12-15 different power groups, major setting elements or campaign themes, etc etc.

THIS is the sort of setting material that Spelljammer was so lacking in.
 

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