D&D 5E Spelljammer in D&D 5e Speculation: How Will the Setting Be Changed?

AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
Ever since Wizards of the Coast released the Travelers of the Multiverse Unearthed Arcana last October there has been a lot of speculation and theorization about how the setting would be translated to D&D 5e. There have been quite a few changes to both the D&D ruleset and its cosmology since the setting's last full appearance in AD&D 2e, many of which could affect the difficulty of translating the setting to 5e's ruleset and cosmology. From the additions of certain newer Planes of Existence (the Feywild and Shadowfell) to the revised history of D&D's cosmology (through the First World Creation Myth from Fizban's Treasury of Dragons) to the changes to how Spelljamming Helms work (contained in Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage) to the additions of multiple settings without Crystal Spheres (Theros, Ravnica, Strixhaven, and Eberron), there is certainly a lot of work that needs to be done to semi-accurately translate the setting to D&D 5e.
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Although we will not know for sure what will stay the same and what will change about the setting, we can speculate. And, given that we have had quite a few Easter Eggs and cameos to Spelljammer throughout the history of official D&D 5e products and have seen how Wizards of the Coast has translated other old settings to D&D 5e, we can make some pretty good guesses and predictions about the major changes that will be made to the overall setting in whatever future sourcebook the Travelers of the Multiverse UA gets officially published into.

Additionally, this post will be largely cover the most major and likely changes to Spelljammer that could be made if/when it gets officially published in D&D 5e. The setting is just too big to cover literally everything that could possibly change.

Now, let's get to the speculation.

What Will Definitely Change?​

There are very few things that we can 100% say will change when it gets officially translated to D&D 5e, but here are some of the things that I think will definitely change about it in a future release of the setting:
  • Aperusa will either go the way of the Dodo, or they will get a similar treatment to what was received by the Vistani in Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft. As they're not at all a major part of the setting, I think they'll just not be included at all in an official 5e Spelljammer book, being retconned out of existence (much like the Caliban from Ravenloft), but there is a chance that they stick around. They could get a more explicit connection to the Vistani from Ravenloft, being stated to just be Vistani that made their way to Wildspace, which could be used as a way to further connect the D&D Multiverse.
  • Races presented in the book will no longer have attached cultural proficiencies or stereotypes, such as the Giff with their connection to gunpowder and firearms. There might be small sections mentioning connections like these, but otherwise, culture will be entirely removed from playable races presented in the setting, opening them up for a larger variety of themes. The book will probably mention how the dominant Giff culture in much of Wildspace is very fond of firearms, but also mention how a Giff raised in other environments might prefer studying magic or repairing Spelljamming ships.
  • Most non-iconic monsters from Spelljammer's previous monster compendiums will not be present in the setting. Now, this one is a bit broader than the others, but I still think it's sure to happen if/when D&D 5e gets an official Spelljammer book. Spelljammer has had dozens of different original creatures created specifically to inhabit the setting in the bestiaries that were published for it, and many of them are either redundant with more classic D&D monsters or are just entirely unnecessary to the core ideas and themes of the setting. For example, some creatures that will almost definitely make it into a Spelljammer Bestiary are; Giant Space Hamsters, Dohwar and their Space Swine mounts, Arcane, Neogi, and Oortlings. However, stuff like Kindori (space whales), K'r'r'r (yes, that really is their name), Space Mimics, and Syllix will probably not make it into the book.
  • The way that Spelljamming Helms function will definitely change, based on what we've seen of them from Dungeon of the Mad Mage. They'll probably no longer prevent you from casting spells (a bit ironic with the name that means "jamming/stopping spells"), will create oxygen for the ship instead of making the DM keep track of it, and will be simplified into just a few different types to avoid extra paperwork when using them. This and much of the rest of the setting that previously required a lot of notes to keep track of will be simplified to make for an easier time for those playing in the setting.
  • The setting will use Vehicle mechanics similar to those presented in Ghosts of Saltmarsh and Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus for Spelljammers and other vehicles that are major parts of the setting. If they use Action Stations (vehicle weapons) like the Infernal War-Machines from Descent into Avernus, that could be a surefire way to make space combat much more exciting than it used to be in Spelljammer. Vehicles are a major part of Spelljammer, and since we have functioning Vehicle rules in 5e already, it just makes sense to use them in this product.
  • Edit: @James Gasik mentioned that Spelljammer originally had clerics and other divine spellcasters not be able to gain their magic in other crystal spheres that their god(s) weren't present in. Due to a fundamental change in how Divine spellcasting works from earlier editions, a 5e version of Spelljammer would definitely change this.
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What Will Probably Change?​

This is more based on opinion and speculation than the above section. There are much more things that are "probably" going to happen than what is all but confirmed to change in whatever Spelljammer product we will get for D&D 5e. Here are some options:
  • The Rock of Bral will get an entire section of the book to outline the natural starting point of many Spelljammer campaigns, much like how Sharn does in Eberron: Rising from the Last War. There will probably also be a tie-in adventure that takes place/starts on the Rock of Bral in order to easily introduce players to the overall feel of the setting. There will probably also be a poster map in the back of the book for the Rock of Bral, like how a lot of 5e books have now (maybe with Realmspace on the other side).
  • Gith and Illithids will have a larger role in this version of Spelljammer than they did in the original version of the setting. Originally, the few Gith that were present in Spelljammer were just called "pirates of Gith", and didn't have a major role in the setting, while Mind Flayers (the sworn enemies of both Githyanki and Githzerai) very much did. We've already seen from the various cameos of Spelljammer that we've had since D&D 5e was first released that there seems to be an even larger focus on the Illithids than there was before, through the focus on Mind Flayers in Baldur's Gate 3, to the crashed Nautiloid ship and Gnome Ceremorphs in Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden, to the Squid Ship with a Mind Flayer pilot trapped in Undermountain. When Spelljammer gets officially published, I fully expect Illithids and their conflicts with the Gith to become a larger focal point of the setting, with advice on how to incorporate both sides into an adventure/encounter.
  • I think Aberrations, in general, will be a bigger focus of the setting's bestiary, as they are the "alien" creature type and it makes sense for them to have a major role in the Outer Space campaign setting. The setting already had a major focus on Neogi, Beholders, and Illithids, so expanding that theme a bit more to include stuff like Star Spawn, Flumphs, Morkoth, and possibly Slaad would definitely make sense for the world.
  • Wizards of the Coast will work to incorporate all of the classes and a few newer subclasses into the setting. Stuff like the Circle of Stars Druid, Twilight Clerics, the Artificer class, possibly the new Lunar Sorcerer, and so on. They'll try to give a place in this setting for every class and role that a character can be.
  • The Feywildspace and Shadowfellspace, maybe? It probably won't get much information, but I'm guessing that WotC will at least touch on what Wildspace looks like in both the Feywild and Shadowfell. Maybe in the Shadowfell, all stars are replaced with Black Holes, and that's why it's always dark in the Shadowfell? (I don't know how you would emulate the eternal twilight and "ever-setting sun" in the Feywild, though.) Anyway, I think that connecting Wildspace to D&D's Feywild and Shadowfell would be a smart move because it would both make traveling in Spelljammer more interesting and be a unique twist on the typical "Space Fantasy" genre that no other setting has. They could call Wildspace in the Shadowfell something cool like "The Void" and have it be filled with remnants of destroyed Spelljamming expeditions that slipped through Shadow Crossings and ruined space colonies filled with the undead, restless spirits of those misfortuned travelers. The "Feywildspace" could be dominated by Eladrin from the Elven Imperial Navy, maybe with a connection to Evermeet, with space-conflicts between the Seelie and Unseelie Fey, maybe? And giant Domains of Delight for star-based Archfey, moon-spirits, and stuff like that?

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What Else Could Change?​

This is the easiest section to come up with options for, so I'm going to rein myself in here. These are things that I think are fairly likely, but not at all guaranteed and could possibly cause major problems for the setting if they happened:
  • A lot of people have suggested that the Phlogiston might get replaced with the Astral Plane/Sea, like how the cosmology worked in D&D 4e. The presence of the Astral Elves in the Travelers of the Multiverse UA might hint at this, as their lore shares some traits with 4e's Astral Sea, but we don't know for certain either way right now. I'm not against this change and think it could be interesting if executed correctly, but a lot of people are absolutely against this. A change of this magnitude could alienate older fans of the setting, but I think that it could work with the right execution. This could work well to make the conflict between the Gith and Illithids be more present in this setting, could help give more creatures a home in the Astral Plane, and help introduce more creatures to Spelljammer that fit thematically but historically haven't been a part of it (Slaad, Morkoth, and so on).
  • Some individual planets from different Crystal Spheres could change or get more information, but I don't know if this type of book would have enough space for detailed descriptions of more than just one sample Crystal Sphere. Maybe if they end up doing more than one book for Spelljammer it could cover more, but that's fairly unlikely, as they've never done anything like that in 5e so far.
  • Some background lore of the setting that used to be pretty important could be made less important or retconned entirely. Possible candidates for this could be the Arcane Giants, the Vodoni Empire, the number of Nautiloid ships, and the Spelljammer spelljamming ship from the setting. I'm not exactly sure why they would retcon these, but they're not 100% necessary to the concept of the setting, so they could change.


Those are my predictions and thoughts on how Spelljammer could change in an official D&D 5e setting book. What are your thoughts? Any disagreements on any of the changes that I think will be made? Do you have any other suggestions for what could change? What creatures from older Spelljammer Monster Compendiums do you think will come back and which ones do you think will be abandoned? Do you think that Wildspace in the Feywild or Shadowfell will be covered at all? What are your thoughts on those concepts proposed in this post?

Feel free to discuss all things related to this topic and the questions below.
 
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When it comes to crystal spheres, I have a feeling we'll get a detailed look at Realmspace, and then example overviews of one or two other crystal spheres (Krynnspace and Greyspace?), and then lots of tables to create random crystal spheres or inspire DMs in creating their own. And probably a list of some notable other crystal spheres with descriptions of a few sentences, like the lesser Domains of Dreads were presented in the Ravenloft setting book.

As I said in another thread, I have a feeling the adventure will start on Toril, go through Realmspace with a stop at the Rock of Bral, and then exit the crystal sphere and travel to another one - quite possibly Krynn to tie in with the probably Dragonlance book (presumably) coming out later this year.

I have a feeling the bestiary is actually going to be fairly varied, and not as concise as you're suspecting. Obviously not as detailed as the two 2e Monstrous Compendiums, but with a good selection of space creature goodness. There will also be an appendix with vehicle stats, which is probably the one thing that is 100% certain.

I don't think they'll drop the Phlogiston entirely, but they might scale back the "If you light a fire, everyone dies" aspect of it. They might also state that certain ships, like those of the gith and the illithids, are able to travel to the Astral Plane, but this is a secret that only those races (and maybe our mysterious Astral Elves?) have knowledge of.
 



JEB

Legend
Aperusa will either go the way of the Dodo, or they will get a similar treatment to what was received by the Vistani in Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft. As they're not at all a major part of the setting, I think they'll just not be included at all in an official 5e Spelljammer book, being retconned out of existence (much like the Caliban from Ravenloft), but there is a chance that they stick around. They could get a more explicit connection to the Vistani from Ravenloft, being stated to just be Vistani that made their way to Wildspace, which could be used as a way to further connect the D&D Multiverse.
In 4E, I think the Vistani were part of their "Planejammer" approach to the planes. So there's precedent for having them in place of the Aperusa in a Spelljammer type setting. (I could see a slim chance of an Easter egg reference to them, though, as a Vistani grouping or the like.)

Most non-iconic monsters from Spelljammer's previous monster compendiums will not be present in the setting.
Agreed, alas. I think you've guessed at most of the iconic keepers (especially GSHs and arcane/mercane). I might expect their various beholder-kin to make a comeback as well, to fill out any beholder space empire.

Gith and Illithids will have a larger role in this version of Spelljammer than they did in the original version of the setting.
Agreed! Good catch. (Note this would also fit a "Planejammer" approach.)

The Feywildspace and Shadowfellspace, maybe?
I'm not sure they'll do this, but damned if it isn't an interesting idea. (I know somewhere they mentioned that the Mists of Ravenloft can appear in Wildspace...)
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
More than likely it won't be a Spelljammer thing. It'll be Planejammer. Some of the locations might be used. Some of the proper nouns and races, etc...but everything that made Spelljammer great will be left on the cutting room floor.

The reason for my pessimism? The Kyrnn UA. It didn't hold back in being explicitly and openly Dragonlance. The Multiverse UA...not so much. Not a single mention of Spelljammer, nor anything directly associated with Spelljammer besides the UA happening to include a few specific races that happen to be most known for being in Spelljammer. Oh yeah, plus some from Star Frontiers.
 

AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
In 4E, I think the Vistani were part of their "Planejammer" approach to the planes. So there's precedent for having them in place of the Aperusa in a Spelljammer type setting. (I could see a slim chance of an Easter egg reference to them, though, as a Vistani grouping or the like.)
I've never played 4e, but that's interesting. It definitely could fit well into the setting. The whole point of Spelljammer from a meta-standpoint is to connect most of the settings together, so having a Vistani cameo that replaces the Aperusa could definitely work well.
Agreed, alas. I think you've guessed at most of the iconic keepers (especially GSHs and arcane/mercane). I might expect their various beholder-kin to make a comeback as well, to fill out any beholder space empire.
Personally, I'm fine with them dropping some/most of the more "out there" monsters from those compendiums, because some of them are so bizarre that I just don't think they work well in a campaign or D&D, but I do hope that some of them make it. Stuff like the Infinity Vine, Astereater, and Dracon. The Firelich could be cool, too. Or, at least one of those "living comet" monsters that the setting has.
Agreed! Good catch. (Note this would also fit a "Planejammer" approach.)
Yep! That's partially why I included it.
I'm not sure they'll do this, but damned if it isn't an interesting idea. (I know somewhere they mentioned that the Mists of Ravenloft can appear in Wildspace...)
Yeah, I think that it's something definitely worth exploring. If they don't officially cover this, I probably will homebrew my own version. That could make for a really awesome DMsGuild product.
 


JEB

Legend
More than likely it won't be a Spelljammer thing. It'll be Planejammer. Some of the locations might be used. Some of the proper nouns and races, etc...but everything that made Spelljammer great will be left on the cutting room floor.
On the one hand, I'm not likely to buy any 5E Spelljammer that brings it back as something barely recognizable (as they did with Ravenloft) and upsets a significant segment of veteran Spelljammer fans.

On the other hand, they can and should update the Spelljammer setting for modern audiences, especially to iron out any rough spots that might not hold up (like the aperusa). And I think they can do so without losing the things that made Spelljammer great to veteran fans. The majority of the updates @AcererakTriple6 listed should be quite compatible with the old setting.
 


Other than the general idea of D&D in space and some of the ship design, I can't think of anything that is so beloved from the original setting that it couldn't be changed/ updated / improved. Personally I thought 'Shadow of the spider moon' was the coolest take on the setting, so I'm hoping they really go to town with new ideas if we ever get it.

I'm all for the Planescape cross-over that's been speculated for a while now, although this seems less likely to me now than it has previously.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
How did the 2e phlogiston interact with the ethereal plane?

I view the ethereal plane as the physical but immaterial forces of the material plane.

Feywild is the Positive Ethereal, Shadowfell is the Negative Ethereal, and the ethereal plane itself is a mix.

In any case, a 5e spelljammer shift might relate to Fey and Shadow similar to the way a 2e one did the ether.
 


Yaarel

Mind Mage
I think they'll get completely rid of the phlogiston and use the Astral plane to connect everything.
Maybe say the "aster" of the astral plane and the phlogiston are the same thing? In other words, phlogiston is the stuff that thoughts are made out of.

It seems clear, the astral plane is the means to go from one setting to an other via the astral plane.

There is a "note" from Tasha mentioning humorless Mordenkeinen coming from Greyhawk via the astral.
 

JEB

Legend
Personally, I'm fine with them dropping some/most of the more "out there" monsters from those compendiums, because some of them are so bizarre that I just don't think they work well in a campaign or D&D, but I do hope that some of them make it. Stuff like the Infinity Vine, Astereater, and Dracon. The Firelich could be cool, too. Or, at least one of those "living comet" monsters that the setting has.
My favorite Spelljammer creature was the clockwork horror, which is one I could see making a comeback (they're basically the Replicators from the Stargate franchise, except they appeared first). Others I was fond of (but are less likely to return) are the plasman, spiritjam, and survivor.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
On the one hand, I'm not likely to buy any 5E Spelljammer that brings it back as something barely recognizable (as they did with Ravenloft) and upsets a significant segment of veteran Spelljammer fans.
Honestly, I'm such a nut for the setting as long as it has enough mechanics to make even the vague idea of Spelljammer work (just to save me the trouble), I'll likely buy it. Either way, I'll keep on using the fluff from 2E.
On the other hand, they can and should update the Spelljammer setting for modern audiences, especially to iron out any rough spots that might not hold up (like the aperusa).
When it comes to updating things I'm a bit more conservative. If it's not mostly the same, it's not worthwhile for the fluff. Mechanics, it's more about saving me the time or having to print out / photo copy the relevant pages from PDFs or ancient physical books.
And I think they can do so without losing the things that made Spelljammer great to veteran fans. The majority of the updates @AcererakTriple6 listed should be quite compatible with the old setting.
I'm torn, honestly. I wouldn't want it tamed or watered-down. Like this:
Personally, I'm fine with them dropping some/most of the more "out there" monsters from those compendiums, because some of them are so bizarre that I just don't think they work well in a campaign or D&D, but I do hope that some of them make it. Stuff like the Infinity Vine, Astereater, and Dracon. The Firelich could be cool, too. Or, at least one of those "living comet" monsters that the setting has.
Removing the "out there stuff" would be a deal breaker. That's a large part of the draw. I know the tagline is "D&D...in SPAAAACE!" but if that's all it is...the exact same races, monsters, classes...only in space. Damn, that's dull. Ships powered by space hamsters is the cool part. Crystal Spheres and the weird, absurd, crazy stuff is the cool part. The Phlogiston is the cool part. Remove those and it's like the '60s or '70s without the psychedelics. There's no point. The more bizarre the better.
 

My favorite Spelljammer creature was the clockwork horror, which is one I could see making a comeback (they're basically the Replicators from the Stargate franchise, except they appeared first). Others I was fond of (but are less likely to return) are the plasman, spiritjam, and survivor.
Actually, Jeff Grubb has stated that the clockwork horrors were based on the Daleks from Doctor Who, just changed in form enough as to not cause any copyright issues. It becomes fairly obvious once you dig into their hierarchy and origin story, as well as their weapons (one type uses jets of steam like the '60s movie Daleks did, while others use lightning and disintegration beams like the TV Daleks did)...
 

Raduin711

Adventurer
Personally, I'm fine with them dropping some/most of the more "out there" monsters from those compendiums, because some of them are so bizarre that I just don't think they work well in a campaign or D&D, but I do hope that some of them make it. Stuff like the Infinity Vine, Astereater, and Dracon. The Firelich could be cool, too. Or, at least one of those "living comet" monsters that the setting has.
The Dracon, as far as player character races go, feels like it is treading ground that the Dragonborn have already covered, and in a less troublesome way. Because I don't see a whole lot of nostalgia for this race out there, I just don't think it would be missed.
 
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JEB

Legend
Actually, Jeff Grubb has stated that the clockwork horrors were based on the Daleks from Doctor Who, just changed in form enough as to not cause any copyright issues. It becomes fairly obvious once you dig into their hierarchy and origin story, as well as their weapons (one type uses jets of steam like the '60s movie Daleks did, while others use lightning and disintegration beams like the TV Daleks did)...
Well, now I like them even more. Well done.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
One thing I really hope they change is the lack of cannons on Spelljammer ships. I know the Phlogiston. I like the Phlogiston. I hope they keep the Phlogiston. But I hope they make the air pocket generated by a Spelljammer helm push the Phlogiston away, allowing ships to have cannons. Because come on. You can't have Age of Sail pirates in space without the cannons. It's just silly otherwise.
 

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