Spelljammer: Adventures in Space is both a major return for Dungeons & Dragons and a further expansion of what the popular tabletop role-playing game can offer players. Dungeons & Dragons has always offered its players the prospect of adventures limited only by their collective imagination, but the upcoming Spelljammer: Adventures in Space boxed set is perhaps Wizards of the Coast's most ambitious Dungeons & Dragons product in quite some time.
"Spelljammer has always been a bit of a weirdo," said Spelljammer: Adventures in Space lead developer Chris Perkins during a press briefing last week. "And so we felt like this was a great opportunity to play around with the form factor." Instead of one standard-length campaign-setting book, Spelljammer: Adventures in Space will instead include three 64-page books placed in a slipcase along with a DM's screen and a poster map. The three books are designed to give DMs extra utility, as they allow a player to have the Spelljammer bestiary (called Boo's Astral Menagerie) open and in front of them while running the boxed set's Light of Xaryxis adventure. Perkins also noted that Spelljammer: Adventures in Space had a higher art budget than any other Dungeons & Dragons 5E product, which allowed for "lavish illustrations" in all three books.
Not only does the boxed set reinvent the popular Flash Gordon-esque space setting originally introduced in 1989, but it also brings some very strange new player options that are well beyond what's normally associated with the high fantasy at the heart of most Dungeons & Dragons campaigns. Spelljammer: Adventures in Space includes a total of six new character races, including the first "true" playable construct race and the first playable ooze race. Perkins cited Star Trek as inspiration for several of the character races, likening the Astral Elves to Spock and other Vulcans, the Autognomes to Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, and the oozy Plasmoids to Odo from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. However, all but the Astral Elves are actually established Dungeons & Dragons races. The Autognomes and the hippopotamus-like Giff were long associated with the Spelljammer setting, while the Hadozee, Thri-Kreen, and Plasmoids were all "re-skins" of races from the TSR RPG Star Frontiers that were eventually brought into Spelljammer.
While Spelljammer: Adventures in Space is built on the foundation of the original Spelljammer line of Dungeons & Dragons books, there is one noticeable departure from past lore. The crystal spheres that enclosed various systems and gas-like phlogiston have been replaced by the Astral Sea, a key component of D&D's current cosmology.
"When we were building this version of Spelljammer, we were trying to hook it to the cosmology in the current Dungeon Master's Guide," Perkins said of the change. "That includes the Astral Plane and this concept that the Astral Plane is like an ocean where Githyanki and Mind Flayer ships are zipping back and forth. For this version of Spelljammer, what we opted to do instead is say 'OK, Spelljammer is where you're traveling among the stars. Astral means of the stars. It is the heavenly realms, it is the medium in our cosmology that you pass through to get to other planes and the realms of the gods. We wanted to leverage what we had already and make the Astral Plane one of the key places that we explore in this product." Perkins noted that while it was a divergence from the original setting, the Astral Sea is much more exciting than the phlogiston in terms of encounters.
While Spelljammer is a "space"-themed setting, the ocean and seafaring themes play heavily in Spelljammer: Adventures in Space. Wildspace and the Astral Sea are not only filled with creatures like space whales called kindori and space guppies. The 16 ships found in Spelljammer: Adventures in Space are a mix of weird spaceships like nightspiders and nautiloids and traditional ships like galleons, complete with their own sails and masts. There are other strange creatures lurking in the depths of wildspace, such as the eyemonger, a beholder-like creature shaped like an asteroid that has an anti-magic gullet. Players can also encounter space clowns, who terrorize space on ships with pie-flinging catapults and giant klaxon horns tied to the bow of the ship. Perkins noted that the space clowns were both an example of the "whimsy" found in the Spelljammer books and a nod to one of Perkins' favorite campy sci-fi films, Killer Klowns From Outer Space.
With Dungeons & Dragons now entering its tenth year of using its popular Fifth Edition ruleset, Spelljammer also represents something of a "last frontier" for the current iteration of the game. With Wizards of the Coast thoroughly exploring the Forgotten Realms during the early years of Fifth Edition and having stretched into the game's "multiverse" over the past two years, Perkins said the time was right to revisit Spelljammer. After all, now that Dungeons & Dragons is revisiting its many worlds, what better time to explore the space in between those worlds as well?
For now, Spelljammer: Adventures in Space will serve as the only Spelljammer product for Fifth Edition published by Wizards of the Coast. However, Perkins noted that Wizards could revisit the setting in the future if the boxed set is popular enough. Players will be able to get their hands on Spelljammer: Adventures in Space on August 16th in the Americas and Asia and September 13th in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.