Spelljammer 5E Conversion Introduction


One of my constant worries over writing on this RPG blog is that I don’t usually have anything to say about running games that someone else isn’t already saying more eloquently or louder than I ever could. However, one thing that no one else (that I know of at least) is writing about is converting 2e Spelljammer rules and adventures over to 5e. I finally found my niche! To that end I have decided to document my conversion of a Spelljammer campaign over to fifth edition. Hopefully, riches and worldwide fame will follow.

Why Spelljammer?

The simple answer is that it was my favorite system for 2e. It took all of the fantasy adventuring elements of traditional Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and sprinkled in just enough weird new elements to tickle my space fancy. What’s not to love about a system that introduces a race of space-faring, anthropomorphic hippos? I also enjoyed how Spelljammer provided a means to tie all of the other systems together. Through the magic of space travel a party could eat breakfast at the Inn of the Last Home then eat dinner in Neverwinter.
Unfortunately, I never got to play as much Spelljammer as I would have liked to. My group in high school started a campaign in the system that we weren’t able to finish before we all graduated and moved away. I joined the military and pushed RPG’s aside in a vain effort to “grow up.” A few years later I started a new group with players that I was introducing to D&D for the first time. Spelljammer was still in the back of my mind, but it seemed a little too out there for first time players. So we played through a bunch of other systems, but just never got around to traveling through the phlogiston. Eventually I left 2e behind and Spelljammer with it.
When I convinced my current group to play 5e I never had any real intention of dragging Spelljammer back into the mix. This was a new group with a few new players and everyone seemed content to run a traditional fantasy world. I have immensely enjoyed crafting a world for them to adventure their way through, but Spelljammer was always there scratching at the walls of my imagination. I think it’s finally time to let it out.

What is Spelljammer?

Some of you may already know about Spelljammer, but for those that don’t here’s a quick primer. Spelljammer was designed by Jeff Grubb and first published in 1989. It contained all of the mechanics from the core Second Edition AD&D rules, but introduced new space fantasy elements that placed all of the existing systems together in a shared universe. Individual systems such as Forgotten Realms or Dragonlance are actually planetary systems within gigantic shells called Crystal Spheres. For example, Krynn, its sun, and all of its moons are located in the sphere known as Krynnspace. The rest of the sphere is just an empty void referred to as Wildspace. The universe beyond the spheres is filled with a new element called the Phlogiston.

Spelljammer: Visitors From Above

Travel through Wildspace or the Phlogiston is accomplished by sailing through space on specially designed Spelljamming ships. These vessels are powered with magic items known as Spelljamming helms. There are different types of helms that could be powered by a magic user exhausting spells or by burning magic items. The type of helm equipped determines the speed of travel for the Spelljamming ship. Ships vary in design from converted galleons to the imposing Nautiloids like the one pictured above operated by space-faring mind flayers.

The Campaign

At first I considered creating a Spelljammer adventure out of whole cloth, but I decided to just convert already published material. This is partly so I can focus more on the conversion and running the game, and partly because creating our last campaign aged my about ten years.

There was actually quite a bit of published material for the Spelljammer setting for 2e including six adventure modules, two Monstrous Compendiums and seven adventures published in Dungeon Magazine. The awesome Spelljammer: Beyond the Moons website has a complete bibliography of published Spelljammer materials as well as some new fan-made items. The original TSR materials are all available on DriveThruRPG.com, but you may have to do some digging for the Dungeon Magazine adventures. I actually purchased digital copies of the Spelljammer boxed set as well as Wildspace and Skulls & Crossbows, the first two adventure modules for the system, several years ago.

I looked through everything I had and settled on “Visitors from Above” by Shonn Everett. This adventure was originally published in Dungeon Magazine Issue #28 in the Spring of 1991. I gravitated towards this adventure for a very good reason; although the story introduces the PC’s to the world of Spelljammer it takes place entirely on the ground in the area around Neverwinter. This approach will allow the players and their characters to learn all about this new world at the same time.

So I’ve chosen a starting point and I have all of the materials in hand that I need.  In the next installment I will start converting the campaign over to 5e!


Header image and story image by Jennell Jaquays

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