Spelljammer 5e Review

Published on August 16, 2022, Last modified on November 14th, 2022

Does cruising across the cosmos, clashing with space pirates, and looting treasure from a thousand worlds tickle your fancy? If so, Spelljammer: Adventures in Space may be the adventure you’re looking for.

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Quick Review (No Spoilers)

What does Spelljammer: Adventures in Space contain?

Pages: 3 Book x 64 pages (192 pages total)
Published: August 16

Spelljammer: Adventures in Space is a campaign setting that takes players beyond their world and into the far reaches of the cosmos! This campaign setting melds fantasy and sci-fi concepts to create a setting in which magic-powered ships can travel through space—known as Wildspace—to other worlds and galaxies. Unlike real space, the vacuum of Spelljammer’s Wildspace is teeming with life—from peaceful aquatic creatures like space guppies, mollymawks, and the whale-like kindori to space-themed horrors like eye monger and murder comet.

The physical Spelljammer: Adventures in Space product is a first of its kind compared to previous fifth edition books in the sense that it contains three separate 64-page books as well as some extra goodies (which are detailed below). Each book contains separate information needed to run Spelljammer adventures:

  • Astral Adventure’s Guide: 6 player races, 2 player backgrounds, 2 spells, 2 magic items, deckplans for 16 spelljamming ships, DM information for running adventures in the Astral Sea, and setting information for the Rock of Bral.
  • Light of Xaryxis: An episodic adventure that takes players from levels 5-8.
  • Boo’s Astral Menagerie: Over 60 creatures for Wildspace encounters.

Pros

  • Has something for everyone as it contains campaign setting information, new player options, and a solid adventure.
  • The setting is very unique compared to other fifth edition products and seems to be chock-full of fun mechanics. Everything from ship-to-ship combat, messing around with gravity planes and air pockets, and traveling into the Astral Plane is very mechanically interesting.
  • What may seem like a relatively short adventure works well with the free adventure, Spelljammer Academy, that can be found on D&D Beyond and takes players from levels 1-5.
  • Minus the astral elves, the player races are unique, mechanically interesting, and for the most part, well-balanced.
  • The deck plans included for each of the spelljamming ships serve as an excellent tool for DMs. Not only will your party get to know their vessel inside and out, but any battle that takes place on a ship already has a battlemap prepared!

Cons

  • The two spells and magic items included in this book are solely meant for navigating Wildspace. In other words, there aren’t any new “fun” options.
  • Due to its limited page count, the adventure included in Spelljammer is very much on the rails. Also, once the relatively short adventure is done, there isn’t any supporting content to continue your adventures. The only location detailed outside of the adventure is the Rock of Bral, and even that doesn’t contain much information.
  • Astral elves both in their role in the adventure and as a player option are boring and uninspired.
  • The biggest cons, in my opinion, is the lack of meaningful ship-to-ship combat mechanics. They have decided to go for player-to-ship combat, as opposed to real dog fights, which makes the promise of a swashbuckling space adventure seem hollow.

Digital or Physical?

With Wizards of the Coast’s recent acquisition of D&D Beyond, it begs the question now more than ever: should I buy the physical product or digital? In most cases, it’s going to be up to how your tables usually play.

Spelljammer is unique because of its unusual product offering. On top of 3 separate hardcover books, the product comes with a DM screen and a poster map of Bral. For tables that play in person, these assets may make the physical product more appealing than usual. It should be noted that the DM screen comes with two rollable (read: fluff) tables that aren’t available anywhere on the digital product.

Whichever product you choose, you’ll be looking at a heftier price tag for Spelljammer than previous fifth edition products. The physical product is coming in at $69.99 on Amazon, a full $20 more expensive than Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel which was released the month prior. The digital product is also getting a markup with D&D Beyond, pricing it at $49.99 rather than the usual $29.99.

In-depth Review (Spoilers Ahead!)

The Player Options

The player backgrounds in this book have followed in a similar vein to the ones included in Strixhaven—and, based on playtest content, this will be the pattern going forward. Instead of granting a minor, passive ability, backgrounds now come with feats attached to them. This certainly pumps the power level of backgrounds included in this book. Previously, the only way to get a feat at first level was to pick up the arguably overpowered (and objectively overplayed) variant human race. While you may not be able to choose any feat with the new backgrounds included in Spelljammer, the Astral Drifter and Wildspacer allow you to pick up two useful feats, the Magic Initiate and Tough feat, respectively.

As for the 6 new player races, for the most part, I love the new options. Not only did we get some classic Spelljammer options, but most of these options stay true to their historic counterparts (thanks to playtesters who were irate at the fact giff didn’t get a firearm proficiency). Bringing in an ooze and monstrosity creature-type race certainly opens the floor up to issues similar to fey player races, wherein they can circumvent the effects of certain spells like hold person and charm person, but how big an issue it is remains to be seen.

The Ships

There are 16 ships included in the Astral Adventurer’s Guide:

  • Bombard
  • Damselfly Ship
  • Flying Fish Ship
  • Hammerhead Ship
  • Lamprey Ship
  • Living Ship
  • Nautiloid
  • Nightspider
  • Scorpion Ship
  • Shrike Ship
  • Space Galleon
  • Squid Ship
  • Star Moth
  • Turtle Ship
  • Tyrant Ship
  • Wasp Ship

Each of these vessels comes with a page of information and a deck plan. In my opinion, the information associated with each ship is more streamlined and useable than Ghosts of Saltmarsh, the last time ships were included in a fifth edition product. It’s interesting that each shipboard weapon costs a number of actions to use, so if you start to lose crew members they become significantly less effective.

An interesting and useful tidbit that they included here that was omitted from Saltmarsh is the cost of each ship. Obviously, the first thing any party is going to want to do in a Spelljammer adventure is to buy their own ship. Now, with a defined gp amount, DMs don’t have to find some roundabout way to gift their party a ship or come up with an arbitrary cost.

Unfortunately, as mentioned in the cons above, there are little to no details on how to actually run ship-to-ship combat. Yes, each ship has a stat block, but their suggestion is essentially to use the variant “Side Initiative” and to “figure it out yourself.” When compared to other games and even previous editions of D&D that take players to space, this is a huge hole in what this book offers.

The Adventure

Light of Xaryxis the easy-to-run, if a bit shallow, adventure included in Spelljammer: Adventures in Space. The story starts off with the players on the world of {insert your world here}, when suddenly a catastrophe causes them to have to evacuate the planet on a spelljamming vessel.

The players then search the cosmos—first stopping at the Rock of Bral, then traveling beyond their universe via the Astral Plane—for allies to help them combat the astral elves who are behind the attack on their homeworld.

The adventure is campy, lighthearted, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. These traits are acknowledged upfront when the authors note the inspiration for this adventure, 1980’s Flash Gordon. The adventure certainly feels like a space opera where everything is a bit over the top and self-aware.

I liked the ease with which the adventure can be run. It’s far from complex and has gone out of its way to help the DM dictate the session length with obvious cliffhangers. Unfortunately, the authors rely on fakeouts too heavily during these cliffhangers, which could get tiresome once the party has experienced four or five.

Those looking for a serious space adventure (a la Alien) will likely have to look elsewhere to be satisfied. Light of Xaryxis is a good time, but it’s far from a complex, satisfying adventure.

Highlights

The combo of short campaign setting primer, easy-to-run adventure, and player options make this an appealing product for tables that are looking to launch into the Spelljammer setting. Compared to similar products that try to be “all-in-one”, like Strixhaven, the adventure has some decent story beats and not only stands on its own but is useful as a springboard into grander adventures.

Lowlights

Honestly, my main complaint with this product is I just want more. I was disappointed to see that the product would only contain 183 pages, rather than the typical 224. Why Wizards decided to cut their most anticipated product short is baffling to me. Luckily, there is a wealth of second edition Spelljammer content available on DMs Guild that enterprising DMs can use for inspiration:

What’s the verdict on Spelljammer: Adventures in Space?

Spelljammer: Adventures in Space feels like eating at one of those fancy restaurants where you get a tiny amount of really tasty food on your plate. You feel like you should be getting more for your money, but the scrumptious meal makes the experience worth it.

Spelljammer truly is a setting like no other and, for tables looking for a raucous, space-themed swashbuckling good time, they’ll find it in Adventures in Space.

You will love this book if:

  • You tend to avoid full-sized prewritten campaigns due to the lengthy time commitment
  • You want a new setting to play in that oozes “Rule of Cool”
  • You want to break out of traditional fantasy while staying in the fifth edition ruleset

You won’t love this book if:

  • You want prewritten content that will last more than a dozen sessions
  • You want in-depth location descriptions in which to run homebrew games
  • You’re looking for traditional sci-fi concepts

You can buy Spelljammer: Adventures in Space at your local game store, Amazon, or digitally on D&D Beyond

What are your thoughts about Spelljammer: Adventures in Space? Are you excited to blast off into Wildspace, or are you fine if it walks the plank? Let us know in the comments below!

3/5
Okay

Spelljammer: Adventures in Space features unique content that is oozing with an intergalactic good time but leaves you wanting more.

Mike Bernier

Mike Bernier is the lead content writer and founder of Arcane Eye. Outside of writing for Arcane Eye, Mike spends most of his time playing games, hiking with his girlfriend, and tending the veritable jungle of houseplants that have invaded his house. He is the author of Escape from Mt. Balefor and The Heroes of Karatheon. Mike specializes in character creation guides for players, homebrewed mechanics and tips for DMs, and one-shots with unique settings and scenarios. Follow Mike on Twitter.

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