D&D General Is Spelljammer really that bad?

jasper

Rotten DM
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.
Um I never played 2E spelljammer. The detail we got was not even beer, it was Budweiser Zero but marketed as Jim Beam. The whole detail could have been a 4.99 PDF and then it would have been a cash grab.
 
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SakanaSensei

Adventurer
I was very, very excited for Spelljammer. Then, it came out, and oh the wailing and gnashing of teeth! I looked over things when I got home that day, but before that I was stuck at work and only able to read people's reactions, and oh man were they bad! By the time I got home, I only wanted to skim it, and my preconceptions were already tainted.

Reading the OP, with the space that's come with time, I think I realized that I kind of let forum opinion ruin a good thing for me, and that sucks. Thanks for the breakdown. I think it may be time for me to step away from online DnD spaces, because it seems like the more I interact with them, the less I like the game.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Is Spelljammer really that bad?
Spelljammer the setting in general? No, it’s fantastic. One of the best settings TSR ever produced.

Spelljammer the 5E slipcase? Yeah, it’s really, really bad. It’s one of the worst, if not the worst.

It’s a tall ships in space set without rules for tall ships in space. Those are in the DMG and Saltmarsh. It’s a setting without much setting. You have to pick up the 2E books to make anything of the setting.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
Well, so far, from the very limited anecdotes in this thread, those who actually played it and used it, enjoyed it.

Has anyone run this and not enjoyed it? That, to me, would be the strongest condemnation. "It doesn't have X" is not a condemnation. If you want X, add it. It's not like it's all that hard. You can use the published 2e stuff, outside of mechanics, as is. You don't even have to do conversions.

Did pick up a really cool random world generator from Reddit. Will have to go poke around my hard drive when I get home and I'll post it here.
Raises Hand. DID NOT ENJOY IT. Had to buy Queen's Flash Gordon CD to listen to in the car to get into the mood to run the kiddie roller coaster. No rules on ship to ship combat except close and board. No new equipment list but Hipp um Giff have guns but no guns listed. And the DMG has guns price too high for a level one or two PC.
WE are NOT GRIPPING about ... If you want X, add it. .... WE are GRIPPING because we HAVE TO ADD.
The freaky Spelljammer Academy had more flavor that the hardcover adventure. At least the PC were a little proactive and could change things.
The book took me 6 sessions of under 4 hours each to finish it. That is not worth the retail price of $45.35 I paid for at Amazon. Add it the $35.35 for the ecopy. So lots of pretty pictures, little meat, and no bones.
The PC part was padded using 2 pages per ship, with the freaking Ballista and Mangeol stats being repeated per page.
The monster book was okay but needed more entries.
If anyone wants to run this. Everyone toss a tener to you DM and get them the Ecopy.
 

At least DM don't have to worry about a player going, "excuse me, what you just said contradicts the book." We don't want any book lore over riding the DM, right?
 


Hussar

Legend
Just a point about ship to ship combat.

As someone who has tried to run multiple ship based campaigns for years, I can totally understand why they went with this ship combat system. Players HATE ship to ship combat. They detest it. I've tried with many different groups and no one showed even the slightest interest in any actual ship combat rules. Being forced to not play their character and now play a gunner or a bosun (or whatever role they have on the ship) has very much proven to be a complete non-starter for every single group I've tried it with.

I've taken a new approach for this campaign. I've ruled that the gravity planes on ships are somewhat chaotic and unstable the further from the center you go. Which means that ranged combat is impossible until both ships share the same gravity plane.

So, basically, all my ship to ship combat will be boarding actions. The players seem very happy with the change.
 


Chaosmancer

Legend
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:

Really early DnD, maybe. But so much of DnD is classical fantasy. I've never felt horror in a DnD game unless the DM is really pushing it hard. That sort of dread and feeling I get from horror just doesn't apply easily.

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.)

I mean... Water worlds and Ice Worlds are really easy to set apart, and are both planets. I'm not trying to be glib, it is just that these things are the same to me as saying we need something in the DMG to tell people how to set jungles apart from deserts. Do we really need that?

Now, alternatively, I have stated that a tool to help create these sites would be very useful. But since we know, for a fact, that these sites exist in the setting... is the lack of the tool actually changing anything about the setting? Sure, the tool would make it easier, but it wouldn't actually add anything to the setting that doesn't already exist within it.

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.

We have some of this, not just from the Bestiary. The Astral Elves are explored quite a lot. And they are different from high elves and wood elves. But also, well, are dwarves really different in space? You also have to remember that if there is a planet with dwarves on it... those are ground dwarves. By definition. Even if they live on an ice world and are completely different culturally than dwarves in every other setting, they would be "ground dwarves"

So you are really talking about dwarves in wild space, or dwarves who are in the Astral Sea... which is partially covered by the Wildspacer and the Astral Drifter. They aren't proscriptive, there is variation expected. And we also have covered how the culture of the Rock of Bral is.

Because, sure, the culture of a dwarven community living on a comet is likely different than that found on Toril. But even in Toril, culture differs far more by the city, and so they can't really give us broad overarching things here. Sure, they could describe how people living on comets might be, and how that is different than people living on desert planets... but those would have to be very vague statements, and likely things the person creating the planet is already thinking about.

The places you live and the things you do are the culture, and if you are a wildspacer traveling the vast reaches of emptiness, that is likely the culture you are ascribing to more than anything else. Unless you come from a specific culture, which would require a specific location.

Would some example cultures be useful? Sure, but no more useful here than they would be in the DMG.

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

Another great tool. But, those things definitely exist in the setting (well, maybe not phlogistonic clouds) so all the tool is doing is making them easier to create.

Would it improve the quality of the product? Sure. But it doesn't change the setting. Just like the rules for Patrons in Last War and Tasha's didn't change the setting of Toril, they just made it easier to run a game where the party has a patron.

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

Great mechanical thing that I wish was better. But even with the poor rules, I know spaceship combat happens in Spelljammer. The setting isn't changing by including different space combat rules.

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.

I'm not sure I follow. They hold as much variety as we want. Sure, maybe a few explicitly laid out systems would be nice, but we have a few anyways. Clownspace, the Doom Space, The Crystal sphere Xaryxis is in, plus we can imagine a basic set up pretty easily. Ideas should be provoked.

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.

But all the things you want to expand it aren't setting. They are tools. A generator for making old battlefields would be great for Eberron, but I don't need that generator to know there are old battlefields in Eberron. A section on how desert people are different from jungle people would be good for the game as a whole, but we haven't needed it yet to run campaigns in jungles or in deserts.

Nothing you have listed here improves the setting, it just makes it easier to generate content for the setting. And I find that to be a fundamental difference. We could certainly improve the product by including tools, but the setting doesn't need the tools, because we know what we want the tools to do. Which means we know what is in the setting.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
You don't see a problem with releasing a setting and then providing 8 pages of setting material?

Since there is more than 8 pages, I don't know what setting you are referring to.

However, I've certainly run settings with far less material than 8 pages. Heck, I could give you a sentence and it would provide enough material to run a very specific setting. Probably a long sentence, since you would pendant it and demand more details or you "couldn't possibly" run it, but it has been done many many times. A paragraph can cover even more.

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.

And yet, plenty of material to run the setting with. As I have discussed. Many times.

The problem is, you refuse to believe it can be run with so little information. In part because you know the "correct" version of the setting, so you see nothing but holes.

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."

Uh huh. Because I was dealing with a single city. Note, I didn't start claiming that every room in the palace was a different notable location. In fact, if you knew the book and counted, you'd note I DIDN'T count the high city, the middle city, the lower city, or the underside as locations. They were divisions where the locations existed.

Meanwhile, you counted the city, the first wall of the city, the second wall of the city, the third wall of the city, the fourth wall of the city, the fifth wall of the city, the sixth wall of the city, the seventh wall of the city, the gate in the walls of the city, the palace, the tower at the top of the palace, the courtyard in the palace... all as separate locations. Which, if I was doing the equivalent, like I said, I could count each wall of each building as a separate location.

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.

What do you call a gate? Isn't it a door for a city?

And yes, so notable, the fifth wall of Minas Tirith is very notably different than the third wall. That pool of water outside the secret waterfall cave, just very notable, it carries significant differences to other pools of water. Oh, and let us not forget naming the same place twice, just under different names.

I wanted you to be honest about the attempt. I was obviously a fool, but that is what I wanted.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
Do you have something beyond, "Nuh uh." to prove why I'm wrong?

Yep, the very next thing I wrote

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.

So... again, it isn't that the material doesn't exist, you just don't think ENOUGH of it exists to warrant acknowledging it exists.

I mean, every one of these beings having a specific item, that only works for them, and allows them a special ability... sure sounds like a setting detail. But it doesn't count because they don't go into multiple paragraphs about it?

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.

I counted 17 pages of lore in the monster manual, but again, you obsession with page count is baffling. I could spend six pages describing a rose bush, and that wouldn't make setting any better. There is so much information in these books, you are just refusing to see it because it doesn't meet some arbitrary standard you have set for being "long enough"

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.

And I disagree, yet again. And I have demonstrated the opposite, multiple times. And all you keep doing is complaining about page counts like that is the only possible metric to measure anything by.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
Spelljammer the setting in general? No, it’s fantastic. One of the best settings TSR ever produced.

Spelljammer the 5E slipcase? Yeah, it’s really, really bad. It’s one of the worst, if not the worst.

It’s a tall ships in space set without rules for tall ships in space. Those are in the DMG and Saltmarsh. It’s a setting without much setting. You have to pick up the 2E books to make anything of the setting.

So all that setting I detail in the OP doesn't exist? Or I must have gotten it from those 2e books I don't own.

Also, again again again again, mechanical rules are not setting. The rules for ship combat don't need to exist for the setting to still be written out and explored. I'm not trying to argue the ship rules couldn't have been better, but they don't determine anything about the setting.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
I was very, very excited for Spelljammer. Then, it came out, and oh the wailing and gnashing of teeth! I looked over things when I got home that day, but before that I was stuck at work and only able to read people's reactions, and oh man were they bad! By the time I got home, I only wanted to skim it, and my preconceptions were already tainted.

Reading the OP, with the space that's come with time, I think I realized that I kind of let forum opinion ruin a good thing for me, and that sucks. Thanks for the breakdown. I think it may be time for me to step away from online DnD spaces, because it seems like the more I interact with them, the less I like the game.

This post makes it all worth it, I think. The same really almost happened to me, but I was working on something else at the time, and that led to me making a really cool connection with the transition space between Wild Space and Astral Sea, that really made the entire book come alive for me.
 


Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Since there is more than 8 pages, I don't know what setting you are referring to.
There's not. In the setting book there are 8 pages total of setting material. The rest are rules, ships, items and PC options,.
And yet, plenty of material to run the setting with. As I have discussed. Many times.
So you've claimed.
The problem is, you refuse to believe it can be run with so little information. In part because you know the "correct" version of the setting, so you see nothing but holes.
No. I have not said it can't be run. I've said it isn't enough to be worthwhile as a setting and would be a crapton of work for me to run it. I would literally have to create 99.99% of the setting.
What do you call a gate? Isn't it a door for a city?
No. It's a gate. If it was a door, it would have been called a door.
That pool of water outside the secret waterfall cave, just very notable, it carries significant differences to other pools of water.
It does. Did you not read the book or watch the movies?
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I counted 17 pages of lore in the monster manual, but again, you obsession with page count is baffling. I could spend six pages describing a rose bush, and that wouldn't make setting any better. There is so much information in these books, you are just refusing to see it because it doesn't meet some arbitrary standard you have set for being "long enough"
Lore =/= setting. For example, the descriptions of monsters is not setting, yet it's a large part of the lore. The preferred tactics of monsters is another chunk of lore that is not setting. Only a small fraction of the lore write-up is setting.
And I disagree, yet again. And I have demonstrated the opposite, multiple times. And all you keep doing is complaining about page counts like that is the only possible metric to measure anything by.
Stating the opposite is not demonstrating the opposite. You've made a claim and I dispute it. This is purely opinion based, so... 🤷‍♂️
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
Just a point about ship to ship combat.

As someone who has tried to run multiple ship based campaigns for years, I can totally understand why they went with this ship combat system. Players HATE ship to ship combat. They detest it. I've tried with many different groups and no one showed even the slightest interest in any actual ship combat rules. Being forced to not play their character and now play a gunner or a bosun (or whatever role they have on the ship) has very much proven to be a complete non-starter for every single group I've tried it with.

I've taken a new approach for this campaign. I've ruled that the gravity planes on ships are somewhat chaotic and unstable the further from the center you go. Which means that ranged combat is impossible until both ships share the same gravity plane.

So, basically, all my ship to ship combat will be boarding actions. The players seem very happy with the change.

Eberron might have a solution to this, though I think it was Exploring Eberron and not Last War. They included Siege Staves in a sidebar. One of them just increased the range of a spell to a huge distance. The other increased it less, but increased the dimensions of the spell by 5ft in all directions. So a cantrip like firebolt could become a 5ft sphere. It was meant to simulate artillery fire for the wars, but I could see it being used to make ship to ship combat more interesting.

Except... not for martials. It would only work if you have spells to cast through the stave. And really, other than boarding actions, there is very little that a martial character could do. I'm sure I could develop weapons for them to use, if I had to, but it is certainly a very troublesome problem to run into, and I've yet to see a great martial fix for ship to ship combat.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
The rules for ship combat don't need to exist for the setting to still be written out and explored. I'm not trying to argue the ship rules couldn't have been better, but they don't determine anything about the setting.
That's not accurate. They strongly impact the quality of the setting. If you have a setting centered around one thing, ships in space, but have super crappy ships in space mechanics, the setting is going to suffer significantly.
 

Carlsen Chris

Explorer
It's always been a niche setting, and one that I have no interest in. Niche settings always sell less, because obviously, but they also tend to have dedicated fan-bases among whom the expectations are high. So I think Spelljammer was always going to be a tougher sell, and the fact that WotC didn't really deliver a full source book rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.
The Forgotten Realms is a niche setting.
 

the Jester

Legend
I mean... Water worlds and Ice Worlds are really easy to set apart, and are both planets. I'm not trying to be glib, it is just that these things are the same to me as saying we need something in the DMG to tell people how to set jungles apart from deserts. Do we really need that?
The DMG isn't a setting.
Now, alternatively, I have stated that a tool to help create these sites would be very useful. But since we know, for a fact, that these sites exist in the setting... is the lack of the tool actually changing anything about the setting? Sure, the tool would make it easier, but it wouldn't actually add anything to the setting that doesn't already exist within it.
If the setting is as bare-bones as 5e SJ is, yes, a tool falls to generate some details falls under my "minimum expectations" bar. If you aren't going to actually put details in the setting (which I think you absolutely should, as that's the whole point of having a setting), then a tool to generate details is the bare minimum that I think ought to be there.

We have some of this, not just from the Bestiary. The Astral Elves are explored quite a lot. And they are different from high elves and wood elves. But also, well, are dwarves really different in space? You also have to remember that if there is a planet with dwarves on it... those are ground dwarves. By definition. Even if they live on an ice world and are completely different culturally than dwarves in every other setting, they would be "ground dwarves"

So you are really talking about dwarves in wild space, or dwarves who are in the Astral Sea... which is partially covered by the Wildspacer and the Astral Drifter. They aren't proscriptive, there is variation expected. And we also have covered how the culture of the Rock of Bral is.

Because, sure, the culture of a dwarven community living on a comet is likely different than that found on Toril. But even in Toril, culture differs far more by the city, and so they can't really give us broad overarching things here. Sure, they could describe how people living on comets might be, and how that is different than people living on desert planets... but those would have to be very vague statements, and likely things the person creating the planet is already thinking about.
I think the gulf between what I expect from a setting and what you expect from a setting is pretty darn wide.

Would some example cultures be useful? Sure, but no more useful here than they would be in the DMG.
The DMG is still not a setting.
Another great tool. But, those things definitely exist in the setting (well, maybe not phlogistonic clouds) so all the tool is doing is making them easier to create.
How about actually describing some of these kinds of things and their mechanics?


Great mechanical thing that I wish was better. But even with the poor rules, I know spaceship combat happens in Spelljammer. The setting isn't changing by including different space combat rules.
Again, it seems like what you are willing to accept as sufficient for a setting is pretty minimalistic. I want more. As I've said before, SJ5e isn't terrible, but it's a long way from good, at least to me.

Nothing you have listed here improves the setting, it just makes it easier to generate content for the setting. And I find that to be a fundamental difference. We could certainly improve the product by including tools, but the setting doesn't need the tools, because we know what we want the tools to do. Which means we know what is in the setting.
If the meager amount of actual setting material in SJ5e is enough for you to be happy, great! But you are not going to persuade me that it's enough for me, because it really isn't. It's thin. I really expect some setting in my settings, and SJ5e gives me the equivalent of a thin broth instead of a meaty stew.
 

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