Dungeons & Dragons has been a go-to storytelling game for many fantasy fans around the world. D&D made traveling to mystical elven forests and facing demon lords in outlandish realms possible from the comfort of your home, but what about space travel?
Spelljammer is a science fiction D&D setting that makes space travel possible. Technically speaking, the setting is still a fantasy setting. The setting is named after spelljammers, space-traveling vessels that use magic for traveling between the planets. Classic D&D classes like rangers, barbarians, and warlocks are still part of the setting, but now they are adventuring in outer space. With a powerful mage as a pilot, the sky is no longer the limit for your adventure.
It doesn’t matter if you are a D&D veteran or if you are just learning how to play Dungeons and Dragons, Spelljammer is a great setting for experimenting with space traveling campaigns. Strap on and enjoy the rebirth of the first D&D SF campaign setting!
History of Spelljammer
The original Dungeons & Dragons outer space adventure started in 1989 when Spelljammer was first published for AD&D 2nd edition. Spelljammer soared in popularity as it introduced new technology that had never been seen in D&D before.
Spelljammer line of products was discontinued before TSR (the original publisher of D&D) was acquired by Wizards of the Coast. During the era of D&D 3rd edition, the only available rules for Spelljammer came from Paizo’s article Spelljammer: Shadows of the Spider Moon. The article provided rules for firearms and spelljamming in addition to some new prestige classes, skills, and feats.
D&D 4th edition only mentioned Spelljammer ships, but never created a ruleset for playing in the Spelljammer setting. Finally, in August this year, Wizards of the Coast published Spelljammer: Adventures in Space, making intergalactic travel in Dungeons & Dragons possible once again.
Spelljammer Races Overview
New playable races are always a welcome addition to Dungeons & Dragons. With new D&D races, you can enjoy freshly published content even if you prefer playing in another setting. Luckily, with Spelljammer: Adventures in Space we can now combine six new amazing races with the most interesting D&D classes.
D&D Spelljammer races are: space traveling elves, robot gnomes, rifle-wielding hippos, flying monkeys, oozes from outer space, and telepathic four-armed bugs. All new races are flavorful and can be used to create characters unlike any others you have played before. Let’s check out each of them individually.
From Dungeons & Dragons astral plane comes a new addition to the elf races - the Astral Elf. They are an extraplanar race of elves who share many traits with their cousins from other elf races. They are medium-sized humanoids with darkvision and an advantage on saving throws against becoming charmed.
Elves use trance instead of sleep to get proficiencies with one tool and one weapon. Astral Elves have Astro trance that replaces regular elven Trance. Their Astro Trance lets them choose proficiencies with one tool and one skill. This version of Trance limits weapon options at their disposal, but gives Astral Elves versatility in skills.
Starlight Step is an ability that allows Astral Elves to teleport to an unoccupied space they can see within 30ft, making them similar to Eladrin and Shandar-Kai. Lastly, Astral Elfs can choose one cantrip from Dancing Light, Light, or Sacred Flame.
Astral Elves shine as artificers, paladins, and bards, but their versatility lets them do well in any D&D class.
Autognome is a new race that joins the Warforged as a playable construct race. These small constructs are excellent at using tools, but they are also surprisingly durable. If you ever wondered how to make a D&D character reminiscent of R2D2, Autognome is where you start.
Autognomes have darkvision, which is always a valuable asset. When you pair it with their ability to take a long rest in 6 hours of inactivity while being conscious, you get an excellent character for night watch duty.
As expected of a construct, Autognomes are immune to disease, resist poison damage, and have an advantage on saves against poison and paralysis conditions. Their durability is bolstered by Armored Casing, an ability that makes their base AC 13 + dexterity modifier. They also have the ability to regenerate health with mending ability.
The best ability of Autognomes is Built for Success. Built for Success lets an Autognome add 1d4 to any ability check, attack roll, or saving throw. The best thing is that you can use it after you have seen the results of the roll.
Autognomes have a skillset that makes them excel in all D&D classes, but due to their Armored Casing, the best use of an Autognome is in classes with high dexterity scores.
If you ever wanted to be a rifle-wielding hippo, Giff is a race for you. Giff are medium-sized Humanoid hippos that move through water at the same speed they would move on the ground. Their strong hippo build gives them an advantage on strength ability checks and saving throws. Although they are medium-sized, they count as one size larger when calculating carry weight, lift or push.
Giff love firearms and explosions. Their affection for gunpowder devices is reflected in their trademark ability - Firearms Mastery. Giff have firearm proficiency, ignore loading property on all firearms, and can fire at the maximum range at no disadvantage as long as they are using firearms. Giff is the best D&D race for you if you want to play with firearms.
Their Astral Spark allows them to deal extra damage equal to their proficiency bonus when they hit an enemy with a weapon attack. Giff get a daily number of uses of this ability equal to their proficiency.
Firearm-wielding rangers, bards, and fighters are good class options for the Giff. Monks are another class you shouldn’t disregard; an advantage on strength ability checks comes in handy for grappling.
Hadozee are small to medium humanoids with wings. They excel at climbing – their climbing speed is the same as if they were moving on the ground. Although they can’t use their wings to fly, they can glide when they jump from high altitudes.
When gliding, Hadozee move 5ft horizontally for every 1ft they descend. This all happens at no movement cost. When Hadozee land, they can use their reaction to nullify any falling damage. Due to glide ability and their great climbing skill, Hadozee players will enjoy settings in jungles or big cities with lots of tall buildings.
Hadozee limbs are not great only for climbing; they also have Dexterous Feet. This ability lets Hadozee use a bonus action to manipulate an object, open and close a door or container, or pick up a tiny object with their feet.
When a Hadozee takes damage, they can use their Hadozee Resilience. They roll 1d6, add a proficiency bonus to the result and reduce damage by that number. This ability stacks with barbarian rage, so Hadozee are great nimble barbarians.
Plasmoids are an amorphous race that varies in size from small to medium. Their amorphous body lets them change shape to look like humanoids or to squeeze through cracks in the walls. Since they can change shape, they get an advantage on grapple checks.
Darkvision and the ability to hold their breath for an hour make them great at underwater scouting. Since they are space oozes, they are resistant to poison and acid damage and have a bonus on saving throws against poison conditions.
Plasmoids are a flavorful race, but they don’t have mechanics that make them stand out. The only other ability they get is the ability to extrude part of their body and manipulate an object 10ft away. Besides being oozy, there isn’t much to work with. The best choices for Plasmoid classes are monks and fighters, as they get the most out of grappling benefits.
Based on how many interesting and powerful abilities they got, Thri-kreen are opposite to Plasmoids. To start, these four-armed space bugs are monstrosities. This makes them immune to many spells like hold person and charm person.
An extra set of arms isn’t just for show. Thri-kreen can wield a light weapon in their extra set of arms in addition to any weapon they are wielding in their primary arms. This gives them a mighty damage bonus from character creation to end levels.
They are as powerful defensively as offensively. Like Autognomes, they have a base armor class of 13 + dexterity modifier. This makes their defenses as good as if they were constantly under the effect of Mage Armor.
In addition to these abilities, they have a few other tricks up their appendage. Darkvision combined with no need to sleep makes them great at keeping watch. They can also change color at will to blend with their surroundings and get an advantage on stealth checks.
These monstrous bugs are telepaths. Thri-kreen can transmit their thoughts mentally to any willing creature they can see within 120ft. The creatures affected by the ability don’t need to understand their language, and they can communicate back.
All these abilities make Thri-kreen the best new race in D&D. They are great as any melee fighting class. Still, with a skill set that consists of improved stealth, telepathy, and dexterity-based natural armor, it would be a waste not to play them as rogues.
How to use Spelljammer in your existing adventures
Spelljammer is a great setting, but Dungeons & Dragons campaigns sometimes last for years, so it might be unreasonable to expect a playgroup to switch from their old setting to Spelljammer. The good thing is you don’t have to stop playing your old setting to introduce Spelljammer to your group.
One of the best DM tips for Spelljammer introduction into your existing setting is to take it slow. You can have your players slowly discover artifacts and records that lead them to the discovery of technology that allows space travel. They could find records of long-lost space-traveling civilizations or meet a group of space pirates who will introduce them to spelljammers and sailing through the Sea of Night.
Even if you don’t want to use space travel, there are races, monsters, and equipment you could use in your campaign. Whatever you decide, always remember that D&D is about imagination. There are countless ways how you could introduce Spelljammer to your existing adventure. The most important thing when doing so is to keep the transition natural by adding the elements slowly.
Author – Ante Radoš