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Designed by: Wizards of the Coast
Spelljammer confirmed, and released! After years of fan outcry, we finally have our hands on an official Spelljammer product for Fifth Edition.
Although I’m a fan of 5e, I have zero nostalgia or connection to Spelljammer. If not for the vocal fans begging for it, I’d have no clue what it was.
Is it D&D in space? Sort of!
Spelljammer has more in common with nautical adventures than space odysseys, but the included tier 2 adventure, Light of Xaryxis, is dripping with delightfully pulpy science-fantasy action-adventure.
In a first for 5e, Spelljamer: Adventures in Space is neither a complete sourcebook, nor a complete adventure. For better and for worse, it’s a little bit of everything.
The following is included in the Spelljammer: Adventures in Space Roll20 bundle ($49.95):
- Astral Adventurer’s Guide + Boo’s Astral Menagerie
- 2 new player backgrounds
- 5 new races
- 16 spelljamming ships, with tokens, art and statblocks.
- Over 60 new space-faring creatures
- Spelljammer Art Pack
- Over 120 tokens and handouts.
- Light of Xaryxis, level 5-8 adventure
- Organized into four parts and 12 chapters
- 16 5-ft maps (maps of ships from the Astral Adventurer’s Guide, only a handful are actually used in the campaign)
- 1 10-ft map
- 1 20-ft map
- 1 25-ft Galaxy Map
- 4 non-gridded region maps
- Over 100 monster sheets (and 14 named NPCs)
- 20 player art handouts (not including monster and NPC handouts).
- 16 magic item handouts.
- Astral Adventurer’s Guide + Boo’s Astral Menagerie
Adventures in Space consists of three books. The Astral Adventurer’s Guide is the sourcebook, with new player races and spelljamming ships.
Boo’s Astral Menagerie is the Spelljammer monster manual, with dozens of space-based civilizations and creatures.
Light of Xaryxis is a Lost Mine of Phandelver-size mini-campaign, taking players from levels 5-8 as they journey into the Astral Sea to protect their home planet from a dangerous enemy.
The first chapter of the Astral Adventurer’s Guide is entirely player-focused, adding two new Backgrounds (were you more of an explorer or a space-pirate?) and five new races.
The new races are especially interesting, an eclectic mix of uplifted simians, robotic gnomes, ooze-humanoids, and, well, space-elves. And the awesome telekinetic, insectoid Thri-Kreen. Yes!
I could see where the Plasmoids’ amorphous trait could cause headaches for DMs similar to the Aarakorca’s flight capabilities. Being able to squeeze through 1-in wide cracks without spells is a hell of a perk!
Chapter two covers spelljamming ships, and how traversal in the Astral Sea operates. It’s not at all a vacuum, at least at first. People and objects traveling through the Astral Sea produce their own air bubble and gravity relative to their size, for several months.
You can easily fly through space on thought alone, but most folks travel on ships equipped with spelljamming helms (Helm as in the driving apparatus of a ship, not like a helmet!). The book features 16 different spelljamming ships. Most of them are the signature vessels of certain races and creatures, such as the Nautiloid (Mind Flayers), Nightspider, (Neogi) and Tyrant (Beholders).
Each ship has an awesome piece of artwork, which Roll20 has transformed into great-looking, big-ass tokens. Statblocks are unique for vehicles, and include damage thresholds and checkboxes for the multiple actions it takes to fire onboard weapons.
The ships look awesome. I love the exotic variety displayed many different races. But folks looking for crunchier ship battle rules will come away largely disappointed. Ship-to-ship battles are kept disappointingly light and vague, with the spelljamming pilot able to do whatever they want, whenever they want.
The final chapter covers the sole new location from the sourcebook. The Rock of Bral is a satisfyingly detailed adventure hub, a small, mostly lawless city on an asteroid. Founded by pirates, ruled by monarchs and underbarons, and featuring palaces, slums, guildhalls, markets, and a tavern called the Happy Beholder run by Large Luigi, an actual damn beholder.
The Rock of Bral is great, but it’s a bummer that we don’t get any other adventure ideas or locations set in the Astral Sea. As a DM, I’m given nothing to work with or build upon in order to craft an entire Spelljammer campaign of my own.
To whet our space-adventuring appetite, we turn to the included adventure, Light of Xaryxis.
Far bigger than the tiny level 1 adventures found in Van Richten’s and Xanathar’s, but smaller than full campaign books such as Tomb of Annihilation, Light of Xaryxis lands in that rare middle area alongside The Lost Mine of Phandelver, the Dragon of Icespire Peak, and Waterdeep: Dragon Heist.
Designed for level 5 and ending at level 8, the adventure begins on the players’ home planet. Humongous astral vines appear from space and shoot into the ground to begin harvesting its life essence.
The PCs scramble aboard a fleeing ship which happens to be a spelljamming ship.
Then it’s off on a wonderfully exciting, cinematically-paced adventure romp.
Meet friends and enemies at the Rock of Bral, explore derelict space ships, and ally with griffs, vampirates, and a semi-crazy bird-lady.
Lasso space whales to hitch a ride. Survive an arena battle against waves of monstrous creatures to appease a psionic space-giant. Ally with various factions and races to invade an empire to save your planet.
I absolutely adore this adventure — it may be in my top ten of 5e adventures!
The cinematic pacing is exactly how I try to run my campaigns. The adventure is split into four parts of three chapters each, keeping the action swift and fun, and making the overall plot easy to follow for players and DMs.
What it lacks in open-world (open-space?) exploration it makes up for in tight pacing, great characters, and fun moments.
I only have two real criticisms: the map art, and the ending.
The fourth and final part of the adventure feels underdeveloped, going from a full-on galactic assault with an armada, into chatting with the main antagonist, followed by an unsatisfying boss fight with a built-in cheat code to auto-heal the party.
If I were to run the adventure I would keep 90% of it, with all my changes fixing the finale.
The other problem are the maps: there’s no color on any maps save for the regional map of The Rock of Bral. Roll20 does provide blank parchment-colored maps as random battle maps. as well as a lovely, colored space battle map that looks great with the awesome ship tokens.
But the interior maps for spaceships and the few other locations in Light of Xaryxsis, such as the arena and final temple, look terrible without any detail or color (and are often way oversized).
C’mon, WotC, VTTs are pretty common now, we need better maps!
Finally there’s Boo’s Astral Menagerie, which features over 50 new creature statblocks, tokens, and creature art.
It’s important to note that half the new creatures are NPC variants of the new races and space-based civilizations. Astral Elves, for example, have five different statblocks, while Giff, Githyanki, Psurlons, and Neogi have three each.
Those NPC statblocks are still nice to have, and the new sentient creatures are used in fun ways in Light of Xaryxis, even if only in passing.
That still leaves plenty of new monsters, such as the brain-devouring Neh-thalggu, the space shark scavvers, the monstrous (yet psionically defensive) Braxat, and my personal favorite, the part-asteroid, part beholder Eye Monger.
The Eye Monger disguises itself as a harmless asteroid. Instead of an anti-magic cone, it has an anti-magic gullet, meaning pesky spellcasters can’t simply teleport out of its stomach after it eats them. Ha!
Given the 3-in-1 release, It’s easy to call Spelljammer: Adventures in Space a disappointment. All three books are way shorter than if they were each a full release, and the Astral Adventurer’s Guide feels especially truncated.
But I found a lot to love, from the myriad of ships, to the fun new creatures and races, to the fast-paced adventure that provides more than an appetizer to all the new content. I’m not sure if it’s enough to satisfy Spelljammer fans, but it does make this neophyte interested in venturing into the Astral Sea.
- Fun and exotic new races.
- Over a dozen spelljamming ships, with token art and statblocks.
- Rock of Bral is an excellent adventure hub.
- Light of Xaryxis is an excellent, action-packed mini-campaign full of memorable characters and exciting cliffhangers.
- Light of Xaryxis features many gnarly creatures from Boo’s Astral Menagerie
- Missing adventure ideas and locations (beyond Light of Xaryxis).
- Lacks ship-to-ship combat rules.
- Light of Xaryxis maps (including ship maps) lack color.
The Verdict: While the 5e Spelljammer sourcebook is woefully undercooked in several ways, the spelljamming ships are cool, the new monsters are interesting, and the included adventure hits all the right notes for an exciting sci-fi romp across the Astral Sea.
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