The Dungeons & Dragons players of the world could soon be hanging a flag at the end of the mast and taking to the stars as explorers or pirates, as there is mounting evidence to suggest that the Spelljammer campaign setting is returning. Wizards of the Coast has slowly been updating the classic D&D campaign settings for use with the current edition of D&D, even though many groups still default to the Forgotten Realms for their games.
The most popular D&D campaign settings are the ones inspired by European folklore and The Lord of the Rings, but there were more released in the past that went in drastically different directions. The desert world of Athas from Dark Sun was controlled by the powerful Sorcerer-Kings, who ruled the small pockets of civilization with an iron fist, while the only dragon in the world was so powerful that it could decimate any opposition. Ravenloft was a gothic horror plane that trapped the unwary residents of other worlds, forcing them to reside in lands governed by the wicked Darklords, who were just as much a prisoner as their captives. The Ghostwalk campaign was set in the location where life ends and the afterlife begins, where players could use their deceased characters to explore the mysterious boundaries between the living and the dead. All of these campaigns offered different experiences to the standard adventures set in Faerun or Oerth.
One of the strangest D&D campaign settings was Spelljammer, which involved traditional sailing ships that had been empowered with magic so that they could fly through the void of space, and explore different worlds. Spelljammer debuted in the days of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, but it has yet to receive an official revival in a later edition. There’s a good chance that Spelljammer will be returning within the next few years, allowing the many new D&D players to sail the stars and carve their own destiny in the multiverse.
Wizards of the Coast has revealed that three classic settings are returning. Two of the classic settings will return in 2022, while a third classic campaign setting will return in 2023. In recent years, D&D has brought back Ravenloft in Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft, as well as Eberron in Eberron: Rising from the Last War. There are lots of potential candidates for these returning campaign slots, including Athas from Dark Sun, Krynn from Dragonlance, or Oerth from Greyhawk. It’s likely that Dragonlance will be one of the next two classic settings, as new Dragonlance novels are on the way. There is evidence to suggest that Spelljammer is on the way and it could be the third campaign setting that is coming back in 2023.
The news regarding the third classic setting was revealed during D&D Celebration 2021, where it was included as part of a discussion regarding the growing multiverse of D&D. It was also revealed that new settings will be introduced in the future. There’s a good chance that these settings will be planes from Magic: The Gathering, as several of these already have sourcebooks, with Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos adding another later this year. If Wizards of the Coast is fleshing out the D&D multiverse, then Spelljammer is the perfect setting to accompany the existing campaign settings. A big part of Spelljammer is controlling a magical spaceship, which has the ability to sail the stars and visit other D&D worlds. There has already been an example of Spelljamer content appearing within the lore of fifth edition, as a Mind Flayer ship appears in Baldur’s Gate 3, as well as in one of the campaigns published by Wizards of the Coast.
The smoking gun in the discussion of Spelljammer’s return is the recent Unearthed Arcana article that featured Spelljammer races. The Unearthed Arcana articles released by Wizards of the Coast contain playtest material for fans to use. The intention is for players to send in feedback, based on their experiences using the content, and this is used to refine it for publication. The recent “Travelers of the Multiverse” Unearthed Arcana article featured playable races that debuted in Spelljammer. These include the giff, which are a race of humanoid hippos that have no homeworld and act as mercenaries to those with gold or the promise of plunder. The hadozee were also featured, which are humanoid apes with skin flaps on their arms that resemble the “wings” of a flying squirrel, allowing them to glide through the air. The hadozee are skilled ship hands, who can use their gliding ability to quickly travel from mast to mast. The autognomes also appeared, which are a race of robotic gnomes that were created by the tinker gnomes of Krynn. The fact that so many Spelljammer races appeared in the latest Unearthed Arcana article suggests that it’s coming back unless Wizards of the Coast is trolling the fans.
It bears mentioning that not all of the material in Unearthed Arcana articles makes it into a D&D. An upcoming example of this is happening in Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos. Wizards of the Coast released an Unearthed Arcana article for the “Mages of Strixhaven” subclasses, which were unique, in that multiple classes could take them. Usually, the subclasses in D&D are restricted to a specific class, such as the Assassin for the Rogue. The feedback to this new type of Strixhaven mage subclass was so negative that it ended up being scrapped. In this case, it feels as if the decision to revive Spelljammer is set in stone. The “Travelers of the Multiverse” races will likely be tweaked in the future, but it’s unlikely that any of them will be scrapped completely.
The other contender for a multiverse-spanning campaign setting is Planescape. This was the setting that went in-depth regarding the different planes of existence, as well as challenging some of the notions about celestials, demons, and devils. The hub of Planescape was the city of Sigil, which was home to the incredibly powerful Lady of Pain. It’s said that any plane can be reached in Sigil, so long as the traveler knows the location of the correct portal. As it stands, the Planescape campaign setting is best known for being the setting for the incredible classic video game RPG Planescape: Torment. The setting has its fans, but there seem to be considerably more people clamoring for the return of Spelljammer to Dungeons & Dragons than Planescape. There’s still hope for Planescape to arrive in the future, but Spelljammer seems the more likely prospect at the moment.