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Review: Dungeons and Dragons – Spelljammer Adventures in Space

In 2022 Wizards of the Coast deviated from their traditional single book format to develop a 3-book set with slip cover case for the well revered Spelljammer Dungeons and Dragons setting which was conceived during the second editions of the game. Apart from comprising more cardboard and being more expensive what is it and who is it for?

The Spelljammer campaign is very much in the genre of space fantasy rather than science fiction. The origins align much closer to 1930s action pulp fiction than scientific. More Flash-Gordon or Planet of the Apes than Brave New World, 2001 Space Odyssey or Asimov. A more modern comparison would be strange worlds of Guardians of the Galaxy movies.

Ships are powered by magic with passengers sustainable within bubbles of air, in some places there is air between worlds and others not. Locations can and should be varied and extreme. A planet full of Tarrasques (sure no problems), another populated entirely by sentient pelicans and penguins – sure – pick anything from the Hitcher Hikers Guide to the Galaxy – good to go – just keep an eye out for the Vogon highway construction team.

Oh – in Spelljammer space whales are a thing you will encounter

At its core the Spelljammer box set comprises of 4 products:

  • Astral Adventures Guide – A very slim 64 page guide that provides the briefest of insights into the Spelljammer campaign setting, the guide provides some new space faring character races, very basic space physics, ship plans for space ships modeled after insects and creatures (mosquitoes, squids, sharks, spiders, crabs) as well as conventional sailing ships (galleon, cutter). The booklet rounds out with an overview of a starting point for campaigns – The Rock of Bral.
  • Boo’s Astral Menagerie – A 64-page book which contains lore and monster statistics for a range of weird and wonderful creatures that can be found in the Spelljammer settings.
  • Light of Xaryxis – A short linear adventure designed to bring Players from levels 5 to 8 into the Spelljammer setting.
  • A Spelljammer specific Dungeons Masters screen.

As a package the Spelljammer box set is a little bit of a disappointment not because of the traditional single hard back being broken into 4 pieces but because the lore provided (and it is provided in part in both the adventure and Guide) is insufficient to really help a Dungeon Master understand the intent of Spelljammer and provide the necessary tools and inspiration to really push the setting further.

Space Hamsters are a thing in Spelljammer

The missing component of from the guide book is the element that helped Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft really excel as a tool for Dungeons Masters wishing to run a horror game.

In Van Ricthen’s Guide to Ravenloft it was the provision of 44 single paragraph descriptions of Domains or Dread that succinctly outlined a new location and what is happening there. This provided all the necessary inspiration and lore for a Dungeon Master to build upon. 44 Spelljammer equivalent locations would have helped immensely the utility of these books – especially if the monsters not used in the Light of Xyraxis adventure were used to seed these ideas out.

The Light of Xyraxis is a short linear adventure which was designed to be run episodic and in the style of Flash Gordon. The adventure is okay but it is the start of the “Gotcha Ya” moment in the story which also occurs in both the Planescape Adventure and Vecna: Eve of Ruin adventure. The plot line is entirely not needed and any Dungeon Master can easily and quickly address this.

Space Clowns are thing too.

As a campaign setting Spelljammer is potentially fun place but there is just insufficient 5e content provided to really make it sing without the Dungeon Master really investing time to make a story or choosing to purchase from the trove of material that was developed for Spelljammer in previous editions.

For 5e as provided by Wizards of the Coast you really are paying alot for a short simple adventure which is fun to run and play but its a higher price than other adventure alternatives that you can obtain with your cash. If you want it try and purchase as a discount.

The cartography is black and white which is a disappointment for those using virtual tabletops. bit there is a redeeming feature – the art is fantastic.

REVIEW OVERVIEW

Contents
6
Artwork
10
Cartrography
6

REVIEW SUMMARY

A product let down by a lack of lore to really support Dungeons Masters to build their own campaign. The provided adventure and monster book are good but not essential to collect. The cartography will disappoint virtual table top users but the artwork is amazing.
A product let down by a lack of lore to really support Dungeons Masters to build their own campaign. The provided adventure and monster book are good but not essential to collect. The cartography will disappoint virtual table top users but the artwork is amazing.Review: Dungeons and Dragons - Spelljammer Adventures in Space