Spelljammer More Spelljammer Details Emerge: Spelljammer Academy, Flash Gordon, Light of Xaryxis

As you've heard, the D&D team officially announced yesterday what has long been teased – Spelljammer is coming to 5th Edition. (The team says that they announced Spelljammer on April 1 only no one believed them.) After the official presentation during today's D&D Direct, Chris Perkins, one of the architects of 5th edition and the project lead for the Spelljammer team, answered some additional questions.


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Much like the original 1989 boxed set the 5E version will be called Spelljammer: Adventures in Space. Instead of a boxed set, the new Spelljammer is a slipcase edition containing three books, double-sided poster map, and a DM screen specifically for Spelljammer. An alternate cover version will be available through game and hobby stores. That second set will have different art on the slipcase, books, and DM screen exterior.

When asked if any of the Spelljammer books in the slipcase will be available for individual sale Perkins said that they're only talking about the bundle package at this time. “But it's safe to say that we'll have some mechanism for breaking up the material into smaller pieces later,” said Perkins.

While not confirmed it's safe to assume that that might refer to the fact that through D&D Beyond users can buy sections of books so selling digital versions of just the individual books there would be reasonable. But since the D&D Beyond sale is not yet complete the D&D Team didn't want to discuss the digital content service.

D&D Executive producer Ray Winninger and Perkins said that Spelljammer was their pandemic lockdown project. They wanted to create “something fun” that would make people happy. They're also trying to give D&D fans a range of adventure types.

That goal also informed the decision to release Spelljammer as a three-book slipcase set with a DMs screen. “We wanted to surprise and delight people,” said Perkins, “and have them not feel they were trapped in a format.”

The slipcase format also allows them to test the waters for how to package an adventure and setting. How well it's received will determine if they do it again. Perkins wouldn't address any future Spelljammer releases after this set and its accompaniments.

However, Perkins did talk briefly about Spelljammer Academy, and how it ties into the Spelljammer: Adventures in Space set. Spelljammer Academy will contain digital content that's free to registered users of the Wizards website. Perkins called it a “friendly introduction to the concept of spelljamming” that explains what the setting is, and how to run a Spelljammer campaign. Spelljammer Academy will also have a lower-level adventure that can take players from 1st to 5th level.

That ties into the slipcase set adventure, Light of Xaryxis, which is for players 5th to 8th level. However, if Spelljammer Academy isn't your speed, Perkins said Light of Xaryxis has “several mechanisms to get players prepped for that,” meaning 5th level, including running one of the Starter Sets or making characters at 5th level. A more detailed announcement on Spelljammer Academy will be made when it's closer to launch, which is currently set for July. The slipcase set has an August 16 release date.

Light of Xaryxis is a journey through wildspace and astral sea,” said Perkins. Among other locations showcased in the adventure are two new wildspace locations as well as the fan favorite Rock of Bral, which is a campaign hub in space where players can shop, carouse, and gather information. The set comes with a big poster of Rock of Bral that Perkins said contains an incredible level of detail.

The Light of Xaryxis adventure has 12 episodes. Each chapter ends in a cliffhanger. For those unfamiliar with the space adventure setting Perkins explained that “Spelljammer is about a journey through the oceans of wildspace and the astral sea. When you leave your world in D&D on a spelljammer you're sailing into a new ocean of adventure. Creatures abide there. You can have a whole campaign visiting cities in space.”

Perkins mentioned that Spelljammer first came out at the height of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and he was a big fan of both. He added that Boo's Astral Menagerie, one of the books in the slipcase, gives a lot of fodder for creating episodic adventures akin to ST:NG where the players can travel, visit cities on asteroids, and explore locations in wildspace and the astral sea.

Boo's Astral Menagerie is, obviously, the creature guide for the setting. It will include a murder comet, vampirates, space clowns, and, of course, a few space dragons such as lunar dragons, among others. That's not surprising since in a separate Q&A Shelly Mazzanoble commented that D&D fans “love dragons” and always want more.

Perkins said that he loves the kindori, which are space whales. He “loves that you build a cottage on the back of a space whale instead of a having spelljammer ship,” communicate with the kindori, and sail that around.”

When asked about changes from the original Spelljammer set to the new one, Perkins talks about navigation for spelljammer ships. Traveling through space in the setting requires a spelljammer helm. In old editions using the helm “sucked magic out of you” so you lost spells for the day to navigate the ship.

Perkins said he toyed with the idea of keeping that mechanic but decided that “it saps fun away from the player who has to pilot the ship.” In the upcoming version a player will have to attune to a spelljammer helm to use it, and that can take some time, but it “does not deprive you of things you need to survive encounters,” Perkins added.

The Astral Adventurer's Guide has the rules for spelljammer helms as well as how to make one within the game. It's a book for both players and DMs. It includes six new player race options: astral elves, autognomes, giff (a hippo-humanoid creature that made its 5th Edition appearance in Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes), hadozee (a sort of flying primate humanoid), plasmoids, and the psionic insectile humanoid species thri-kreen. Perkins thinks that the plasmoids will be the breakout stars of Spelljammer, and said they were the first playable ooze in D&D.

Perkins never mentioned the word “Planescape,” but I'm more convinced than ever that Planescape will be one of the old settings revived in 2023. While talking about wildspace and the astral sea Perkins said, “If you travel out far enough from the star in your system wildspace gets silvery and hazy, and you transition into the astral sea where dead gods are trapped, githyanki live there. It's an ageless silvery void. Travel far enough in there you can reach wildspace again and encounter other worlds of the D&D cosmology in a different way than a plane shift spell would go.”

Perkins added later that you “can travel between material planes through wildspace.” He said that The Astral Adventurer's Guide “will include more details on how wildspace systems work. It won't describe the other worlds [meaning other setting books]. Other books do that. This book is about describing wildspace and astral sea.” Perkins added that it gives a few wildspace systems to be a framework for DMs so they can create their own.

Perkins also said that some day he wants to do a future adventure with giant space hamsters everywhere. Why? “Giant space hamsters tell you something about D&D because no matter how serious a situation is, it also has giant space hamsters,” said Perkins. “D&D is an escape, and this is the best escape.”

As far as plush versions of Boo and his space hamster buddies go, Perkins didn't have any news on that. A later discussion with more of the D&D team showed enthusiasm for a plush space hamster product, while acknowledging that plush toys take a lot of work to make.

The astral sea shanty used in the Spelljammer video that debuted today made a splash, too. Perkins said that “Enough people have asked about the song in the video that we might have to something with it. “ The song was made by someone in-house, and it was only intended for the video, but after the enthusiastic reaction it got at the D&D Direct event Perkins will see if they can work something out to put it somewhere.

That led to questions about music for adventures, partnering with Syrinscape, and such. Perkins said that they're working on “a top secret project with a top secret person for flash music so an album is going to drop at an undisclosed time.”

Perkins went onto say that he's a big fan of the music Queen created for the movie Flash Gordon. But about the top secret music project Perkins said, “It's pretty cool, but I can't say more.”
 
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Beth Rimmels

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Stormonu

Legend
Did TSR seriously create a complete Alien-ripoff monster and give them a name that's basically 'nasty' backwards?

There's a lot of talk these days about how 2e's wild plethora of settings was the pinnacle of D&D creativity. We tend to forget that a bunch of it looked reeeeal phoned-in... :LOL:
Yeah, D&D is absolutely filled with riffs from other franchises (GW is especially bad about it as well). I guess it sort of has to be, since it's drawing so much on the zeitgeist of popular myths and stories.

One of the ones that was more eyerolling to me though was the "liquid terminator", the Living Steel from Dragon Mountain. I have always wondered what the hell the designer was thinking including it in that particular adventure about a dragon's lair filled with kobolds ...and then this thing.
 

vecna00

Speculation Specialist Wizard
Yeah, D&D is absolutely filled with riffs from other franchises (GW is especially bad about it as well). I guess it sort of has to be, since it's drawing so much on the zeitgeist of popular myths and stories.

One of the ones that was more eyerolling to me though was the "liquid terminator", the Living Steel from Dragon Mountain. I have always wondered what the hell the designer was thinking including it in that particular adventure about a dragon's lair filled with kobolds ...and then this thing.
I'm pretty sure they were thinking "This thing is cool as hell!"

I mean...I think it's cool as hell :)
 


Einlanzer0

Explorer
I'm a little anxious about the change that Spelljamming is merging into the planar cosmology as opposed to remaining agnostic to the planes and operating purely within the ptolomeic universe model representing the prime material plane.

I feel like it could be an improvement or much worse depending on the execution. I kind of prefer the idea that the astral sea doesn't literally surround individual systems, but rather is more like a separate (planar) dimension that is accessed via wildspace in remote points (black holes maybe! hahah), and that it's mostly just wildspace between stars & galaxies.
 
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I'm a little anxious about the change that Spelljamming is merging into the planar cosmology as opposed to remaining agnostic to the planes and operating purely within the ptolomeic universe model representing the prime material plane.

I feel like it could be an improvement or much worse depending on the execution. I kind of prefer the idea that the astral sea doesn't literally surround individual systems, but rather is more like a separate (planar) dimension that is accessed via wildspace in remote points (black holes maybe! hahah), and that it's mostly just wildspace between stars & galaxies.
The setting book component of the spelljammer set is going to be 64 pages. In that pagecount, the writers have to squeeze any/all player race and other player options, rules for spelljamming, spelljammer navigation, and spelljammer combat, a listing of available ships and their stats (probably 10 at least if the miniatures sets are any guide), and the entirety of the setting guide, plus probably an ‘introduction to spelljammer’ bit and a few pages of dm advice.

I know that on here we’ve debated the planar positioning of wildspace at great length. WotC won’t have the word count to do that, and I suspect they won’t have the inclination either. I reckon we’ll get a paragraph or two, max, of relatively vaguely-worded stuff and then gms can just make up their own minds. A bit like how VRGtR handled religion. The gods etc of ravenloft have been a mess forever, all sorts of logical and setting inconsistencies, canon all over the place, often contradicting itself or listing vastly too many gods to fit in a single hardback in any detail. So WotC, when writing the 5e book, just … didnt bother. Couple of paragraphs basically saying that it’s the DMs problem, half a sidebar on Ezra, then move on to different topics. It was one of several strategic design decisions I hated about that book, but from what I’ve read on here, most people were ok with it.

Prepare to have your questions not be answered, is all I’m saying.
 
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Einlanzer0

Explorer
The setting book component of the spelljammer set is going to be 64 pages. In that pagecount, the writers have to squeeze any/all player race and other player options, rules for spelljamming, spelljammer navigation, and spelljammer combat, a listing of available ships and their stats (probably 10 at least if the miniatures sets are any guide), and the entirety of the setting guide, plus probably an ‘introduction to spelljammer’ bit and a few pages of dm advice.

I know that on here we’ve debated the planar positioning of wildspace at great length. WotC won’t have the word count to do that, and I suspect they won’t have the inclination either. I reckon we’ll get a paragraph or two, max, of relatively vaguely-worded stuff and then gms can just make up their own minds. A bit like how VRGtR handled religion. The gods etc of ravenloft have been a mess forever, all sorts of logical and setting inconsistencies, canon all over the place, often contradicting itself or listing vastly too many gods to fit in a single hardback in any detail. So WotC, when writing the 5e book, just … didnt bother. Couple of paragraphs basically saying that it’s the DMs problem, half a sidebar on Ezra, then move on to different topics. It was one of several strategic design decisions I hated about that book, but from what I’ve read on here, most people were ok with it.

Prepare to have your questions not be answered, is all I’m saying.

Well, I don't actually mind this too much; what I dislike is having my questions answered in ways that create cognitive dissonance for me and then I have to feel like I'm breaking or changing established canon to set it up how I want. In general, I think the approach you describe above is the correct approach.

I even wish they had done that with FR instead of doing another timeleap where they tried to canonically undo what was done in 4e. Instead, it would have been far, far better to just return the setting to its 1e roots and establish that era as the canon era since it was way less prescribed and way more flexible. Then individual DMs could just draw from FR's history to adapt the setting to their own needs. I know that is technically still possible, but it would be easier if that's how they had officially presented the realms in 5e. I'm still hoping we get a full FR sourcebook that does this.
 


Kurotowa

Legend
Mix-and-match? Elves with upper-class English accents and 5-7 names? Though it's not that much of a mix - some of our real-world nobility aren't short of a name or two...
Speaking of Spelljammer's elves, anyone want to lay odds that the Scro and the Unhuman Wars get de-emphasized if not cut entirely? That sort of normalizing of fantasy racism and imperialism is not as accepted as it was back in the 2e era. Heck, the Elven Imperial Fleet may be gone too, replaced by the similar but distinct Astral Elves.

Ravenloft 5e could get away with being in semi-continuity with earlier versions thanks to dream logic and "The Dark Powers did it". There's no such excuse for Spelljammer, and I'm betting on a cleaner break that presents a new version of the setting entirely.
 

FitzTheRuke

Legend
They could simply call Scro "orcs" and ditch that silly "spell stuff backwards to make it new/different"-thing that they love so much. Obviously, they'd need to change their story a bit, too.
 

delericho

Legend
Speaking of Spelljammer's elves, anyone want to lay odds that the Scro and the Unhuman Wars get de-emphasized if not cut entirely? That sort of normalizing of fantasy racism and imperialism is not as accepted as it was back in the 2e era. Heck, the Elven Imperial Fleet may be gone too, replaced by the similar but distinct Astral Elves.

Very likely. Which is unfortunate - I thought casting the elves as one of the bad guys was amongst the smartest decisions made in the setting. Usually D&D's designers make a fetish of their elf-love.
 

Very likely. Which is unfortunate - I thought casting the elves as one of the bad guys was amongst the smartest decisions made in the setting. Usually D&D's designers make a fetish of their elf-love.
To be fair, that's been a lot less true in 5th ed than it was in 2nd and 3rd (I can't speak for 4th). 5th ed is all about animal-people and giants, it seems. and of course the Feywild.

And judging from the astral elf miniature design we've seen, it's a pretty safe bet that they're not exactly on the path of 100% sweetness and light in the new iteration of SJ.
 

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