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

Beth Rimmels


I'll be sad if/when they get rid of the Unhuman Wars. On the other hand, it could make for an interesting large-scale adventure, should they decide to do it that way.

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I reckon they won't be around as, I've a pet theory on Spelljammer: People care about the aesthetic and mechanics of Spelljammer more than they care about the setting parts, and that's what caught people's mind.

As such I doubt we'll see "This blatently evil elf empire is doing awful things and you're supposed to act like, because they're elves, they're in the right, as opposed to destroying them which is a moral good"


5e Freelancer
I reckon they won't be around as, I've a pet theory on Spelljammer: People care about the aesthetic and mechanics of Spelljammer more than they care about the setting parts, and that's what caught people's mind.
Exactly this. I've run a D&D 5e Spelljammer campaign, and my players loved it. They couldn't care less about whatever the Phlogiston was or what the Unhuman Wars were. But they did care about flying in sailboats through outer space with gunslinging hippo mercenaries while fighting psychic eelspider slavers with their pet Giant Space Hamsters.

That is the main draw of the setting, IME.
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