Spelljammer: Adventures in Space by Jeff Grubb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Way back in the early 1990s, I stumbled upon a used copy of Spelljammer in the local bookstore. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons in space? How could I lose?
My fourteen year old brain had no idea of the Pandora's Box I was about to open in our gaming group. In addition to the usual humans, gnomes, halfings, and such, Spelljammer threw a lot of new races and concepts into the vanilla fantasy mix. Wooden ships sailing in space? Planetary systems housed in crystal spheres? The Phlogiston? Lizard men as a PC race? Hippo-like mercenaries? Giant Space Hamsters?
It was a hard sell for my players but we eventually placed a six month campaign after a few false stars. As teenagers, we had some problems with it, noteably in the vast travel times between crystal spheres and the length of time it took to play out a battle between ships. It wouldn't have been so bad if we wouldn't have Thunderdomed every battle.
The ship designs ranged from ordinary sailing ships to butterfly-like Elven vessels to the spider-themed ships of the Neogi. Also, one can't forget the Mind Flayer Nautiloid, the most iconic ship in the game. Gaze upon it's majesty!
As an adult, I see that the setting had some strikes against it right out of the gate. For most of the product line's life, it was used as a transitional setting, a way to get characters from one of TSR's campaign worlds to another and didn't have a setting of its own until the Astromundi Cluster, the final Spelljammer product, was released. It also was a little too strange for gamers used to the vanilla Tolkien-inspired fantasy of the day, what with air envelopes, insectile PC races, and the odd tone. It's hard to take a setting seriously once you discover the Giant Space Hamsters.
I think the setting had/has great untapped potential, though. I still catch myself thinking about it in odd moments. If time and location weren't obstacles, I'd love to get the old gang together for one last campaign. 4 out of 5 stars.
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