D&D’s new Spelljammer books don’t include a lot of new rules, and that’s OK

“Dungeons & Dragons in space” is a weird idea, and there’s no way to approach it without embracing that weirdness. When the Spelljammer setting was originally written in the late 1980s, it threw together gun-loving hippo people, space hamsters, and a set of interplanetary physics based on 18th century pseudoscience. The end result is a kind of Jules Verne fantasy sci-fi where ships from the Age of Sail take jaunts beyond the atmosphere of their homes and find stranger ports of call beyond. 

Does it get silly? When you’re riding a giant space hamster as you leap onto the deck of a nautiloid, I guess it does. But it’s the good kind of silly, somewhere between The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and Guardians of the Galaxy. Plus, space pirates are just inherently cool.

(Image credit: James Oorloff Photography)

The updated version of Spelljammer for D&D 5th edition (opens in new tab) comes as three slim hardcovers, 64 pages each, in a slipcase with a DM’s screen. There’s a bestiary, called Boo’s Astral Menagerie, with stats for everything from barnacles that feed off ship magic then shoot it back out, to hyper-fashionable humanoids evolved from cephalopods who believe war is artistic expression. (A couple of creatures from another old setting sneak in too, the thri-kreen bug people and surran lizardfolk from the extremely 1990s world of Dark Sun.) There’s also an adventure book, Light of Xaryxis, which presents a pulp mini-campaign designed to be run in 12 short sessions complete with cliffhanger endings. It’s explicitly inspired by the 1980 Flash Gordon movie, which it even suggests watching in the intro.

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