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

Scribe

Legend
The trailer for the Streaming SJ game felt very much GotG styled, with the 80's rock, the retro-future font and styling, and the bi-lighting color scheme. Watching the Thor: Love & Thunder trailer in the same week as the SJ one cemented its very much the same "future by way of 1980's" styling.

And I for one love it.
Yeah that retro style, all good. I really look forward to the next few Marvel films, and I loved Ragnarok.
 

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Faolyn

(she/her)
Dude, I have never played 2e, but just from the research I did to run a D&D 5e version of Spelljammer a few years back, even I can tell you that Spelljammer is goofy and always has been. If you want to play D&D in space in a serious way, Spelljammer is not really the setting for you (at least, not as written). Starfinder is much better suited for that style of play than Spelljammer is.
Even ignoring the giant space hamsters (and that gnome ships are powered by said hamsters in giant hamster wheels) and explosives-loving British military hippo-folk, there's also telepathic uber-capitalist paranoid penguins that ride flying pigs, the a type of earth elemental that's nicknamed "mud (Mudd's) women", androgynous anime-style people that literally sparkle and who ride on/in animal-shaped magical mechas, a beholder who runs a bar, body-mod-crazy mantis-folks, space-police centaur-like celestials that literally glow with red and blue lights, at least about half the quotes on the bottom of the pages of the Complete Spacefarer's Handbook, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. But anyway, yeah. Spelljammer is goofy. (Although I think the more traditional phrasing is gonzo.)

That being said, I think it wouldn't be at all difficult to run even pure 2e-style in a serious way. You wouldn't even have to remove the goofy things. You'd just have to describe them in a less goofy way.
 




Dude, I have never played 2e, but just from the research I did to run a D&D 5e version of Spelljammer a few years back, even I can tell you that Spelljammer is goofy and always has been. If you want to play D&D in space in a serious way, Spelljammer is not really the setting for you (at least, not as written). Starfinder is much better suited for that style of play than Spelljammer is.

Play Spelljammer however you want, but it was never Nolan-gritty. If anything, Batman and Robin with its terrible jokes and ridiculousness are the most accurate to the overall theme of Spelljammer.
We played the heck out Spelljamer back in the day. Did you read any of the old Modules? They were more Starwars than anything else. Well 90s plot railroads but definitely not a goofy as the internet would have you believe.

But I guess my real point is the batman comics have a ton of goofy and nonsensical stuff in them and the basic premise is just as ridicules as magic space galleons, but you don't have to use all the stuff in the batman comics to make a batman movie. You can pick a choose. I hope they choose to go more straight and less camp.
 

I never played Spelljammer back in the day, but i picked up a bunch of the products from DMsguild a while back and had a read through. Oddly enough, it was the serious stuff that spoke to me the most. It's actually quite a grim setting on a macro scale despite all the trippiness. The big competing major powers are a stew of feuding braineating aberration slavers and a roving armada of arrogant genocide elves. The wacky hippo people are basically principleless mercenaries who'll kill anyone so long as they get to make cool explosions doing it. I do think they missed a bit of a trick with the scro, they could have been made much more sympathetic than they were and the setting would have been more interesting, but this was 2e and it was the era of Pretty Elves Uber Alles, and even the modules involving the scro railroaded the PCs into working for the genocide elves from the very first scene.

It certainly did lead to some tonal whiplash though. There was one duology of modules where the first one has you doing a gritty infiltration of a scro warbase packed with brutal feuding troops to discover the truth about their new planet killer weapon - and then the sequel is a complete hallucinogen holiday where you have to steal a tentacle planet's favorite toy and use it to repair a fish constellation, and then have to try to convince the planet of the rainbow pegasus ponies that it's ok to eat the purple plants after all.

I do think that the idea of having most of the major powers be various degrees of evil or unlikeable works well for the setting though - it pushes the PCs into a sort of privateer lifestyle, where they're a plucky band on their ship acting independently, trusting nobody but themselves, relying on their wits to dodge the Imperial Star Destroyers and beholder ships in weird and profitable corners of space. And that's certainly what you want out of a setting like this.
 

FitzTheRuke

Legend
I do think that the idea of having most of the major powers be various degrees of evil or unlikeable works well for the setting though - it pushes the PCs into a sort of privateer lifestyle, where they're a plucky band on their ship acting independently, trusting nobody but themselves, relying on their wits to dodge the Imperial Star Destroyers and beholder ships in weird and profitable corners of space. And that's certainly what you want out of a setting like this.

Thanks for this. I now know how I will run my eventual Spelljammer game. Like a Warhammer 40K RPG with the serial numbers filed off and replaced with D&D.
 

Ironically, I really liked Shadow of the Spider Moon when that came out in Dungeon/Polyhedron. I liked it was a serious attempt at the setting, used only what was in the Core Rules (no hippos, no hamsters) and was self-contained as a setting rather than being another "world hopping" system. I never did get a chance to run it, but I loved that take.

The Spidermoon setting was a good take on spelljammer. This one wasn't bad either


I think people also forget that Tinker gnomes were so prevelant to help link Spelljammer to Drahonlance. (Better than Kinder I guess?)
 

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