Is Spelljammer for D&D 5e a Waste of Space? (Review)

Spelljammer was one of the weirdest AD&D settings, so I wasn’t sure if it would ever be brought out of retirement. After all, D&D in space with different worlds held inside crystal spheres that float around in a sea of colorful, flammable gas called phlogiston isn’t the easiest mass-market sell.

Except that it is. With the release of Spelljammer: Adventures in Space, WotC has brought Dungeons & Dragons to the final frontier. But is it worth buying, or should this box set be sent through the airlock?

What is Spelljammer?

As I said, Spelljammer is D&D in Space. It’s definitely still fantasy and not even science-fantasy. It’s swords-and-sorcery among the stars. The only “science” you get in Spelljammer is what’s already in D&D to begin with — things like gravity, flammable gasses, gunpowder, laser pistols, and so on.

The ships are controlled by wizards and other spellcasters through magic. Players can encounter space dragons, space whales, even giant space hamsters.

The biggest selling point (outside of being able to travel through space on giant ships that look like turtles) is that Spelljammer is designed to link together the entire D&D multiverse. Players can travel on a Spelljamming vessel from the Forgotten Realms to Krynn to Greyhawk to…well, wherever you want, really.

What’s in the Box?

The Spelljammer: Adventures in Space box set retails for $69.99 (with the digital D&D Beyond version at $49.99), but most stores will discount the entire thing to around $40 USD. I bought both the Digital version and the alternate-art box set, and I feel like I am definitely getting my money’s worth out of both.

However, this is definitely a YMMV situation, and of course the ~$40 price is a much better deal.

Alt art box set for spelljammer - is spelljammer for d&d 5e a waste of space? (review)
The alternate-art covers for Spelljammer: Adventures in Space

The content itself is split into three separate volumes, each containing a core part of what DMs will need to run the campaign. Each one of the books is 64 pages long, which adds up to 192 pages of content — exactly how much is in single-volume sources like Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.

There’s also a really cool and sturdy DM Screen in the set, and it’s actually useful this time around. I love that it has various rules for space travel on it (such as suffocating and gravity, etc.) as well as some ship measurements and even a map of the Astral Sea for you to reference. I use this one stacked with the one from the alt-art box set that Monsters of the Multiverse came in.

Astral Adventurer’s Guide

Basically the DMG of Spelljammer, 6 new player races and 2 backgrounds, spelljamming rules for Wildspace and the Astral Sea, 16 different ships, and a gazetteer (and a big ole poster map!) for the hub of the setting, the Rock of Bral.

astral adventurer's guide toc

Boo’s Astral Menagerie

Spelljammer’s bestiary contains over 50 monsters with neat abilities and lore, and the art is just stunning. From Giant Space Hamsters to Space Clowns, Solar and Lunar Dragons, Vampirates, all the way to Murder Comets, it really is a menagerie. Heck, we even get some Dark Sun cameos with the Ssurrans and their Defile magic.

boo's astral menagerie toc

Light of Xaryxis

Light of Xaryxis is the adventure module of the set, designed to take characters from levels 5-8, through Realmspace, Doomspace, the Astral Sea, and the butterfly-shaped imperial capital of the Astral Elves. I’m not going to include the ToC for this one to avoid any potential spoilers for y’all, but have a look at this super pretty alt-art, would ya?

pretty alt art for spelljammer

While it may seem weird that LoX starts at 5 for an all-new setting, it’s not. WotC released a free series of 4 adventures on D&D Beyond called Spelljammer Academy that works really well as a prelude to Light of Xaryxis and takes your part from levels 1-5.

Sja leading into lox - is spelljammer for d&d 5e a waste of space? (review)
Pay no attention to the weird link colors D&D Beyond chose…

All that being said, the real question is this:

Is 5e Spelljammer A Waste of Space?

I don’t think so, no. Not at all.

However, I’ve waited to write this review for a couple of weeks because I wanted to play with the content myself. Other reviewers have been pretty harsh about the box set because it’s not very crunchy (especially in comparison to the stats and numbers included in the 2nd Edition version) and more of the creative burden has been left to the DM.

Admittedly, this is a valid complaint. For example, look at the image below of the newly mapped Astral Plane. 4 of the 6 Wildspace systems on the map are unnamed, generic locations instead of canonical settings. Neither are the ‘Astral Dominions’ tied to any sort of faction or group — nor are the ‘Dead Gods’ identified.

Map of The Astral Sea in Spelljammer 5e
map copyright Wizards of the Coast

The only two that have details are Realmspace (where the Forgotten Realms are located, of course) and Doomspace because it plays prominently in the Light of Xaryxis adventure from the box set. (These also have cool maps in the style of the one above inside the Light of Xarysis.)

Personally, I am fine with this because those are going to be marked as Krynnspace (Dragonlance) and maybe even Dreadspace (for the Domains of Dread like Ravenloft). Despite that, however, the lack of canonical content for a setting book is the one criticism I can agree with.

(Others, such as having easily traversible barriers between wildspace systems (instead of being locked inside Crystal Spheres) and removing phlogiston in lieu of the Astral Sea are also contentious. My groups are definitely going to be encountering phlogiston nebulae out there so…)

Actually Using Spelljammer 5e in Games is Great

As I said above, I wanted to wait to write about Spelljammer until I was able to play with it myself and not make any assumptions regarding it from just reading.

Now that I have, it’s a ton of fun. The way we’re handling this campaign (which is in-person) is for me to DM the parts from Spelljammer: Adventures in Space, while another DM tags in and uses Journeys Through The Radiant Citadel as a hub and serial narrative that ties together the more episodic stories of Spelljammer.

The Radiant Citadel in all its glory

Some of the best parts of using Spelljammer 5e have been giving the party a list of roles they can play on the ship and telling them to choose among themselves who does what and seeing their faces when they discover that Mirt the Moneylender from Waterdeep is now the founder of the Spelljammer Academy.

We’ve had ship-to-ship combat, and not having crunchy rules actually made it better to run and much more fun. We could more easily present cinematic combat where the characters were flying between boats and playing with gravity without having to worry about calculating meters-per-second, trajectory, and all that.

If those are your things, there are rules out there for it. You can grab the old version of Spelljammer for $9.99 for crunch or you can check out the free Wildjammer homebrew for 5e, which is pretty fantastic. Plus DMs Guild is always full of amazing supplements for this sort of thing.

Spelljammer Player Options

Honestly, y’all, the best part about Spelljammer 5e is the races. The Giff are hippo people, Plasmoids are playable oozes, and Thri-kreen are the insectoid race of your dreams (or nightmares, depending).

And that’s not even considering the Astral Elves, the robotic Autognomes, or the flying-monkey Hadozee. Our players are having so much fun roleplaying these things, and I am super excited to start playing my new Plasmoid Divine Soul Sorcerer this coming week in an entirely different campaign.

The set only comes with two backgrounds, but that’s okay. They’re pretty awesome, and they’re kind of leaning into the OneD&D (the new playtest for whatever the next edition of D&D will be) style of backgrounds granting genuine bonuses. For example, the Wildspacer background grants the character the Tough feat, while the Astral Drifter gives Magic Initiate (cleric).

Let’s Not Forget the Spelljamming Ships

It’s impossible to review and talk about D&D in Space without talking about the spaceships. And the ones included here are pretty amazing. 16 different ships are presented in the Astral Adventurer’s Guide, and regardless of which adventure you start with, the players gain access to decent ones pretty early on.

The Nautiloid in Spelljammer 5e

There are fan-favorites like the Mind Flayers’ Nautiloid (seen above), the standard Space Galleon that looks like a pirate ship (sails and all), and the b-e-a-utiful Damselfly (below).

Damselfly 5e versus Astral Dreadnau
ght

We decided to give our crew a Turtle ship because our group is actually pretty gigantic (9-12 players regularly), so we wanted a ship that could handle them all.

However, it’s a pile of junk right now, worth a bare fraction the 40,000 gp it’s valued at in the book. We’re going to make them work to upgrade it, repair it, and figure out its secrets and how it ties into our overarching story. (Personally, I can’t wait for them to take it underwater the first time so I can make a good two-thirds of the ship flood.)

All that said, each of the ships comes with a full map and cross-section, which helps immensely in getting the crew oriented to the craft they’re going to be spending a lot of time on.

There are also basic rules for installing Spelljamming Helms into anything weighing over 1 Ton so that you can convert it to a spelljamming ship (like a space whale skeleton, for example).

Is Spelljammer: Adventures in Space Worth Buying?

I think so, yes. It’s not perfect, and it does rely on the DM to flesh out parts that maybe should have been spelled out in the text. However, this is not the first time that’s happened with WotC’s 5e hardcovers (*cough Descent into Avernus *cough cough*).

The content that you do get in Adventures in Space is fantastic IMO, even if you don’t feel the content included is worth full retail price. All D&D books get discounted pretty heavily at different retailers, and even the sales already out there make Spelljammer 5e a pretty good deal.

If you’re a DM who only plays by what’s in the book (or an Adventurer’s League player), you may be disappointed by the lack of specifics included in parts of the set. Whether that’s phlogiston, crystal spheres, canonical systems, crunchy space combat, or whatever.

However, if you’re like me, though, and you focus on storytelling and immersion first and end up using rules you like and discarding those you don’t, then Spelljammer 5e is a solid, fun, useful, and oh-so-pretty addition to your shelf.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

Rating: 4 out of 5.

If you’re looking for even more Dungeons & Dragons adventures, check out what we consider the best D&D for beginners and some of the top free one-shots for 5e.

This post contains affiliate links, and the author may receive a commission if you use them.

All art in this post is copyright Wizards of the Coast.

B.J. Keeton

B.J. Keeton

B.J. is a geek, gamer, podcaster, and livestreamer. He has been the co-host of the Geek to Geek podcast since 2016, and he helped start the Geek to Geek Media Network. His biggest pet peeve is when someone spells Wookiee with only one E. One time, he told his friends he liked vegetables maybe more than he did Star Wars, and they made him put a dollar in the jar. That should tell you everything you need to know about him. Find him on Twitter as @professorbeej or on Discord as @professorbeej#1337.

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