Spelljammer it is one of those settings that you do not expect, or rather, from which you can expect everything! After all, aerospace aircraft with a magical rudder capable of taking you around the Multiverse, it's not really something you see every day in Dungeons & Dragons.
He is not even prepared for the fact that Boo, dear companion in adventure, of one of the most iconic characters of Baldur's Gate, Minsk, has his roots in exactly this setting.
But how much do we know Spelljammer, in truth? We have to go back in time and, as always, we are here to pull the strings, tell stories and collect testimonies of a very distant time.
Spelljammer. A bit of history
The setting of Spelljammer was born from an idea of Jeff Grubb (1988) during an interview with TSR to decide what the next year's Boxed Set would be. According to the legends the concept was born from the image of a book by Daniel J. Boorstin called The Adventure of Discovery: A History of Human Research to Know the World. I personally see instead in the short story entitled The Crystal Spheres (1984) by David Brin, winner of the Hugo Prize for that category, a much stronger spiritual father. In this story, in fact, the author tries to give his own personal explanation to Fermi paradox.
Jeff Grubb theorized that every plane of the Dungeons & Dragons Multiverse was enclosed within a sphere that contained all cosmology, moons and every constellation linked to deities, as in the case of Dragonlance. This allowed the author to explain the reasons why each setting system had its own specific cosmogony, even though at times, the deities were present in other forms on various planes of the Multiverse.
Ships a rudder spelljamming therefore allowed their crews to navigate through the spheres without suffering damage during the voyage, obviously not considering any collisions with other crews.
Spelljammer therefore it presented itself as settings suitable for uniting the different places of the Multiverse, exactly like Planescape, without however bothering evoked magical portals and the like, but only plowing the skies in search of openings in the spheres.
The plans that came together in the first edition of Spelljammer were Greyhawk, Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms and later, in 1992, Ravenloft and Dark Sun were also connected via spaceships. In this way, perhaps a way had been sought to escape from the Ruinous Powers of Ravenloft so as to allow the travelers lost in the Mist to return to their place of origin.
What do we know about Spelljammer today
Spelljammer it is a ship in the shape of a manta ray, large enough to hold a city. This ship is now part of the legend of the setting and, after reading its origin, I have always thought about the Disco World by Terry Pratchett, and more "recently" to the episode of the Doctor Who television series The Beast Below.
But the setting is not just the ship that "originated" it all, it is a complex union of particular species, alien monsters beyond the understanding of the mind, all seasoned with science fiction, asteroids and planetary exploration.
This setting is, in effect, the journey of Jules Verne, mixed with steampunk and space opera.
In summary: Mindflayers, Gnomes, Lizardmen, Giant Hamsters, Elves, Humans, Dwarves and all the other species present in the manuals of Dungeons & Dragons. So be careful when you board one of these ships. You may find yourself facing Beholder and the terrible Thri-Kreen, the latter straight from the world of Dark Sun.
What will the manual look like?
Inside the box of Spelljammer it will be possible to find:
- The Astral Adventurer's Guide. This 64-page hardcover manual for players and DMs provides a possible setting for a campaign, the Astral Sea. There will be rules for creating "space" characters, magic items, spells and descriptions of spelljamming ships
- Boo's Astral Menagerie. This volume, also hardcover of 64 pages, will be a resource for Dungeon Masters. Inside we will find over 60 creatures that can be encountered in the Astral Sea or in Wild Space. Among them how not to remember space elves, cosmic horrors, killer comets and ... space clowns (in my opinion the most terrible ed)
- Light of Xaryxis. another hardcover volume of 64 pages, presents an adventure for characters between the 5th and 8th levels, built specifically for the exploration of the Astral Sea
- A double-sided map of the Rock of Bral, an asteroid city that will be the seat of many adventures and the hub of the countryside in the Astral Sea. Could this city replace Jeff Grubb's mind-born creature?
- And finally the Dungeon Master screen specially created for this setting
I personally recommend using Mordekainen's Tome of Foes to integrate some monsters that could be very useful in your adventures.
Conclusions and thoughts on the future of the setting
As per the Dragonlance manual, which will see the light in 5E, too Spelljammer it will not have its original creator among its creative directors. This choice of Wizards of the Coast had already been made also with regard to the setting of Ravenloft.
Maybe the Seattle company doesn't feel that the direction of the setting should go towards the past, but towards the future? Did you then choose another pen as creative director, precisely for this reason?
It's right? It's wrong? Who are we to define what is best for a company of the caliber of WotC?
Personally, I was very attached to the old man Spelljammer, but more than thirty years have also passed, maybe we can hope that something will evolve.
But I could be disappointed if they were to completely disappear "the Flying Dutchman" of the setting.
However, we should wait until August to have the opportunity to read what has been done and, despite a little bitterness, I can't wait to be able to return to sail the skies of the planes and navigate the Astral Sea!