Spelljammer in D&D 5e is going to be a little different from the previous versions. That is why we are covering what Spelljammer is, what is changing, and what to expect when you come to this glorious setting.
Spelljammer in 5e is essentially D&D in space. We are not talking about spaceships as you know them, but nautical ships floating in the vast openness of space at high speeds. You will be sailing through wild space where crazy monsters, civilizations, and (DM willing) new worlds to explore!
What is Spelljammer?
Spelljamming is the act of flying a ship through space. In order to make a ship into a spelljammer, you will need a spelljammer helm. These cool items come in many different shapes and sizes. Previously there have been:
Standard Helms: A spellcaster was needed to operate these helms, but it is likely that anyone will be able to use a standard helm.
Lifejammers: This spelljammer functions by using the life force of the crew, or sacrifices for evil races.
Forges: Dwarves made their spelljammers fly by creating magical items and either feeding them to the helm, or using the energy that comes off said items to keep the fortress going.
Gnomish Jammers: These things shouldn’t work, but are held together by love, spit, and heavy amounts of glue.
These are just some examples of spelljamming helms, but there are many more out there. Almost all of the spelljamming helms were created by race called the ‘Arcane.’ Not much is known about them. What is known, is that if one Arcane dies the others know who killed them. This deters rampant murder hobos from killing them, or getting on the Arcane’s bad side.
Beyond the power of spelljamming helms, you are going to travel from planet to planet, or system to system if you will. This is how all the worlds in DnD are connected. If you wish to go from the Forgotten Realms to Dragonlance settings (Aber-Toril to Kryn) you can! There might be the problems of gods getting in the way, but we will address that later! First, you want to know what to expect and how to travel in wildspace.
Traveling in Wildspace
In 5e Spelljammer, traveling from planet to planet is an adventure in and of itself. You can encounter fantastic beasts of many different types. From races of sentient oozes to sentient planets, you will find it all. Of course, there are non-sentient creatures that just want to replace all life in the multiverse, but these are to be expected. Right?
The best way to describe what adventure you are in for, is to think of a sea campaign. You are after all, in a ship. You are sailing through the vast cosmos. The only change is that the creatures can come at you from 360 degrees.
Since this is D&D, there are many different whacky adventures that you can partake in. Space is the excuse that many creative individuals needed to go wild, and an asteroid might hold riches beyond any forgotten city in your homeworld.
Traveling in wildspace is extremely dangerous and unpredictable. If you are a worldbuilding DM, this is the perfect place to flex that creative mind and make something extraordinary.
Ships travel best in a straight line with nothing in the way, or around them. Once you leave the proximity of a gravity source, your speed shoots to near lightspeed. If you come into proximity of a gravity source while at this speed, you just revert to your normal speed. There is no jolting, because physics is a lie and D&D is in a completely different universe.
Speaking of physics, you wont need to worry about suffocating or freezing in space as we do. Space is usually mild temperature, but it can be colder or hotter depending where you are. You will not suffocate as quickly in wildspace since you are surrounded by an air bubble. The problem is with air going stale.
If you do not have enough air, or enough plants/ways to replenish it, the air around you becomes sickening and eventually toxic. This way you cannot suffocate, but you can poison yourself to death. This may bypass immunities for poison, but we will see in the upcoming Spelljammer 5e supplements.
In 2e Spelljammer, you traveled the phlogiston to get from sphere to sphere. A sphere is a crystal spherical figure made of impenetrable material that protects the solar system from the outside. In this sphere, gods have power. Outside the sphere, gods don’t have any power. This kept gods separate from each other, and stopped divine conflict.
How one traveled from sphere to sphere was by the phlogiston. This is a rainbow river of particles that shot a ship past light speed towards another crystal sphere. This was the only way to travel from sphere to sphere, but that is changing in 5e.
WoTC is getting rid of the phlogiston and replacing it with the astral sea. Not too much is known about how the astral sea functions, but we can make some educated guesses.
The astral sea will at the very least replace the Phlogiston. This is the main way that we will be traveling from world to world, or sphere to sphere.
Crystal spheres will change, but their functions will remain the same. We know that the concept of separate systems will exist, but the barrier known as crystal spheres are being removed. We just don’t know if they will contain the gods as before, be impenetrable, or create separate solar systems. These spheres were only openable by random areas opening up, or through spells. This may also stay the same, or be different.
In each crystal sphere, you used to have strange and different universes. Some might have a black hole at the center or even flat worlds primarily made of air. It looks like the creators are intending to keep the wackiness of Spelljammer in 5e, and will likely create templates for fantastic systems with these unique traits.
But what of the inhabitants?
Creatures of the Cosmos
There already have, and will be many changes to the creatures of spelljammer. While WoTC has created some interesting new options, such as space clowns and vampirates, they are changing some other races.
WoTC has already stated that they are getting rid of alignment and past views of certain races. This has already been seen with the Giff. Before, they were a mercenary group that loved firearms, even if they didn’t work half the time. Now, they are just unsure of where they were from or where they are going. This is a VERY different tone from the original Giff, and we can expect this to happen to a lot of different races out there.
It seems that the creatures that will exist in Spelljammer 5eare going to be more whimsical, ferocious, and shallower than before. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it will be more dependent on the DMs to create depth for races and future stories. This is what WoTC has been aiming for a while now.
If there are creatures out there that use firearms, what about the technology level in space?
Technology in Space
The level of technology is completely up to the DM, but it is heavily pushed towards fantasy instead of sci-fi.
Compare these scenarios. You have the opportunity to create an engine for a car. In order to do so, it will take centuries of work, processing, and discovery to create something so grand. Alternatively, you can just try to make teleportation easier. If you can already teleport, which scenario would you rather work on?
Since magic exists and is far more advanced than technology, it only makes sense that magic is pervasive through the galaxy, not high levels of technology. Why create something new when you already have something that works, and is possibly better? This is the thought process that keeps technology from evolving on a grand scale, but you can still implement your own creations.
We always push forth the boundaries of science, so why not push forth the boundaries of magic? Think of magical alternatives to things we have today. Creating a fire with electricity could be made through magic powered crystals. These crystals could store fireballs, lightning bolts, and more! This is just one path you can take with pushing the boundaries of what already exists, but always remember that we are in a fantasy universe, not a sci-fi one.
While not too much is known about the state of Spelljammer in 5e just yet, we have enough knowledge to give you an idea of what to expect. There will be some major changes from what Spelljammer was in 2e. I hope that we have helped get you ready for what may change, and what is to come.
Even with the changes, I am excited to see what will Spelljammer will be like in 5e just as I hope you are.
This has been Wizo, and keep rolling!
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