Spelljammer is, at times, referred to as D&D in Space. That’s pretty much exactly what it is, but here’s what you can expect to see in a Spelljammer kind of setting in 5th Edition.
Spelljammer is one of my favorite settings because adding the phrase “in Space” to anything makes it about fifty times better than it is. Even something ordinary, everyday, and utterly mundane like, say, buying a yacht becomes buying a yacht…in SPACE. It’s beyond droll, it’s simply the most. But what does that mean for Dungeons and Dragons? Well a few things. For one, it’s a place where all manner of monsters from. Volo’s Guide to Monsters was a great book for slipping in subtle Spelljammer favorites–monsters like the Neogi or the straight up mention of the Nautiloid ships of the Mind Flayers. There are a few more Spelljammer friends scattered throughout 5th Edition, so we’ve gathered them here to help extrapolate what Spelljammer has to offer 5e.
First up, everyone’s favorite race of starfaring mental predators/colonists, the Illithid. Known in 5th Edition to have once had an empire that spanned multiple planes of existence, these are an ancient, alien species that meddled in the makeup of a number of races. They’re responsible for psionically uplifting species like the Gith and the Duergar, though they enslaved them and only tinkered with them to generate new special thralls to do their labor, etc.
You can find the influence of the Mind Flayers in just about every major D&D book out there. They’re monsters themselves in the Monster Manual, and we see some terrifying variant Illithids in Volo’s Guide to Monsters, and get an in-depth look into their meddling in Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes. They’re an iconic part of the D&D experience, so there’s really no getting away from them.
Pronounced “jith” these psionically empowered humanoids are famous for rebelling against the Mind Flayers and each other. They have long since cast off the shackles of their cerebrophilic oppressors, instead choosing to hunt them at every turn (which you can do in a very special adventure: Rrakkma). And more specifically they wander the planes doing this kind of thing. Githyanki raiding parties are pretty spectacular.
And they’re one of the featured encounters in Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes. You can encounter Astral Skiffs loaded for bear with Githyanki piled high atop them, ready to dole out justice and crits with their silver swords cutting the astral cords of any who stand in their way.
The Gith, both -yanki and -zerai owe a lot of who they are to the Illithids. If not for their tinkiering, they would never have developed as powerful psionics as they have. And now the Gith are player races as well, with everything that entails.
Pronounced like it’s spelled, the Giff are one of my all-time favorite monsters. They’re just straight up a race of space-faring hippomen.
They use advanced technology, and are specifically called out as a race of spacefaring mercenaries who love to use guns, pistols, arquebuseses, and who, above all else, come with rules that detail specifically what to do if an adventurer should happen to get their hands on a keg of a Giff’s explosive powder.
The best part is, of course, the chain reaction rules. One keg leads to another and another, and before you know it everyone’s taking 21d6.
Straight from the pages of the 2nd Edition Monstrous Compendium, the Neogi are another big spelljammer race. Literal wolf-spiders, they psionically bombard their targets before taking them captive. They are renowned slavers, capturing humanoids of all kind to take across the planes in their insectoid ships.
They’re powerful arcanists in their own right, but combine that with the ability to hop from plane to plane, and you have everything you’d want from a Spelljammer villain.
And that’s sort of the core of it–that’s what’s been in D&D 5e so far. Spelljammer has always been this cool sword & planet style genre. Space is represented as this vaguely atmospheric thing–the dangers in Spelljammer aren’t suffocating in the cold void of space where everyone dies like miserable swine. No they’re asteroids full of monsters, they’re other adventurers in Spelljammers.
Keep all that in mind, because we’re hearing a big setting announcement in 11 days, so get ready for the Spelljam.
Come on and Slam.