Home > Games, Geek, Reviews, Writing > Space Hamsters To Return

Space Hamsters To Return

So it looks like Spelljammer is coming back.

In case you missed it, Spelljammer  was a setting for second edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons1 which introduced wooden space-ships and let players ‘set sail’ to other worlds (other D&D settings). 

Now you may wonder how that works. Most D&D worlds are pseudo-medieval after all, how does all the space stuff work? The answer is magic. Powerful devices called spelljamming helms ‘power’ the wooden ships and gravity works in a way convenient to the plot. They also borrowed ideas for 2nd Century AD astrophysics2 to add phlogiston and crystal spheres; basically oceans and mountains but ‘in space’. Because fantasy.

The setting blends 1950’s era pulp sci-fi with age of sail style fantasy. So we get pirates, buccaneers, mysterious ports and so on. The setting came out in 1989, a messy time for D&D. The company owned the rights to Amazing Stories3and Buck Rogers4at the time and this informed the game. They’d taken the things that had inspired Star Wars such as John Carter of Mars and added swashbuckling pirates and high fantasy magic.  It was an amazing idea.

Of course, the initial boxed set was a mess. Not enough setting and too many rules, lots of cardboard. The supplements where better and it’s big move was to give the brain-eating squid monsters known as Mind Flayers their own evil space-ships, that looked like horrific sea beasties. On the other hand, it had Giant Space Hamsters. Which worked exactly the way you think they would, big tubes to crawl in and everything.

It did well enough. It also almost became it’s own ‘Video Interactive Boardgame’ – TSR had produced one for vanilla D&D called DragonStrike and Spelljammer: Wildspace would have been next, had the company not headed into financial difficulties. Instead all we have is this:

Spelljammer sort of went away as the game moved on, but was not forgotten. Later editions couldn’t resist dropping it in as an Easter Egg here and there and Third Edition did get a mini-supplement in an issue of Dungeon Magazine. Spelljammer ships have appeared in a couple of the adventure supplements for D&D Fifth Edition as well (I won’t say which ones because of spoilers). The new Baldur’s Gate video game also features something very familar to fans of Spelljammer. 

So why am I saying it’s back? Well there’s two massive clues. One is that Wizards of the Coast recently released an article on their ‘Unearthed Arcana’ blog heavily features beasties from the old Spell Jammer game, as well as a few things from elsewhere. (You can find it here if you fancy a quick look.) These articles tend to ‘test the waters’ before a book comes out.

The other massive clue is a lovely sneak peak we got recently in a “Future of D&D” panel. It seems that one of the books features Boo on the cover. Now Boo is the hamster companion to Minsc, one of D&D’s iconic heroes. But he’s not just any hamster. He’s a miniature giant space hamster.

BOO!


It also doesn’t hurt that lead designer Chris Perkins admitted to having written screen plays based on another old property, Star Frontiers. Which is Spelljammer adjacent, sharing a lot of the feel and mood of the setting. So it really looks like D&D Fifth Edition is about to boldly go into some sort of wild space like setting. It’ll be fascinating to see how this effects more up-to-date D&D settings like Eberron and Ravnica. Will we see the Vox Machina crew take on Space Pirates? We’ll have to wait and see.



1: Nothing terribly advanced about AD&D – the ‘advanced’ was added so Gygax didn’t have to share royalties.  Confused the heck out of me when I was 11 and put loads of kids off. Nice one Gary.

2: The word astrophysics is doing a lot of heavy lifting here.

3: Amazing was a big deal when it came to science fiction back in the day. Deserves it’s own post
.

4: TSR produced a Buck Rogers RPG. It was much better than it had any right to be.

Categories: Games, Geek, Reviews, Writing
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: