The immeasurable number of different planes of existence in the Dungeons & Dragons The universe has presented players with incredible circumstances over the years. With the original introduction of Spelljammer: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Adventures in Space, players experienced the excitement of traveling through unique planes like the Astral Sea or wild space itself. The players of D&D 5e can’t wait to experience a setting that fuses the high fantasy the game is known for with space travel.
With the Spelljammer setting returning to D&D fifth edition this August, it’s important to understand what makes these incredible ships such a vital part of the campaign. Their existence raises many questions. Where do they come from, for example, and what propels these massive craft through the far reaches of space? More importantly, players are probably wondering who exactly can pilot a Spelljammer. Fortunately, the original spell scrambler and the published promos provide answers to these questions.
What are D&D Spelljammer ships?
Since the dawn of time itself, the creatures have claimed to have seen a massive, living ship navigating the depths of space between the worlds known as the Crystal Spheres. Called the Spelljammer, this sentient vessel had a mind of its own and required no crew or captain to pilot it. However, legends claim that the ship sometimes sought a captain, perhaps because it longed for companionship and social interaction. While piloted by an outside captain, the ship would spawn up to a hundred smaller versions of itself, called small scramblers, and send them into space in the hope that at least one of them would survive and mature. In the event that the captain brings ruin to the main ship, one of these small jammers will grow in size and take the place of the destroyed ship.
Many consider stories to be little more than myths and legends. A gigantic vessel shaped like a massive hybrid of manta rays and scorpions, the Spelljammer could allegedly support an entire city on its deck and easily house up to 5,000 residents at a time. While there are many sighting claims and plenty of lore to maintain the legend until the end of time itself, coming face to face with the Spelljammer is a rare occurrence that few can actually claim. .
Over time, space shipbuilders began to manufacture their own unique spell jammers. These ships often share traits with regular seagoing ships, but also tend to reflect the culture of the race that created them. While some are shaped like aquatic creatures, others may sport massive wings designed to propel the ship forward. One trait they all seem to have in common, however, is the massive fan-shaped sails designed to propel them through space.
How do D&D Spelljammers work?
Piloting a spelljammer may look easy on the outside, but it actually takes a lot of focus and mental acumen to successfully navigate the wild space. Spelljammers are powered by magic and usually require a skilled spellcaster to pilot the ship. In the original version spell scrambler setting, the ships would draw power from the Phlogiston. This energy, also known as phlogiston, was a chaotic, flammable fluid that harbored countless strange and exotic creatures. However, Phlogiston will not appear in the new setting and will be replaced by Astral Sea. Players will have to wait for the setting to release to learn more about how spelljammers and the Astral Sea interact.
Each spelljammer houses a helmet. Usually shaped like a captain’s chair, the rudder features indentations for the captain’s feet, arms, and head. Once magically connected to the ship, a pilot only has to visualize the direction and where they wish to go. In addition to the helmsman piloting the vessel, oars, fenders, water wheels, sails and fins are needed to assist in maneuvers. Gnomes and even genetically engineered giant space hamsters have been said to power their waterwheels. The latter is one of the most iconic creatures from the original setting and will certainly see a return in the next version, much to the excitement of fans.
Should another spelljammer approach them, the coxswains would recognize each other’s proximity and size and slow their ships to accurately navigate the course and avoid a potential collision. As a general rule, once a helmsman has sat down and devoted his magic to piloting the ship, he will not be able to perform any other magic until after a long rest. Although they can communicate normally while piloting, moving or casting any other spells will sever their connection to the ship. If the ship is attacked and suffers physical damage, the helmsman will also feel pain. If the helmsman were to die piloting the spelljammer, his connection would be lost and the ship would drift uncontrollably through space.
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