Spelljammer Academy ADVENTURE REVIEW

Cover illustration by Max Dunbar for Spelljammer Academy, available for free on D&D Beyond.

Spelljammer Academy is a free adventure presented as an introductory adventure for multiple 1st level characters leading into the highly anticipated Spelljammer: Adventures in Space collection releasing soon. Spelljammer: Adventures in Space is a massive undertaking for Wizards of the Coast, bringing a popular setting from an older edition to fifth edition D&D. Spelljammer saw its height in AD&D (second edition), with only scattered references and minimal content in subsequent editions. Coming to fifth edition, it is an ambitious departure from “safer” settings in terms of lore and complexity, but has the potential to be a great move. Spelljammer: Adventures in Space will be available for purchase August 16th, 2022 (and is currently available for pre-order), and in the weeks leading up to the official release, Wizards of the Coast has multiple pieces of content available for free through D&D Beyond.

In addition to content such as the Monstrous Compendium: Volume One (free on D&D Beyond), Spelljammer Academy is a four part adventure that contains handouts, stat blocks, accompanying graphics and images, and more all to help support DMs and their players looking for an introduction to a Spelljammer adventure. 

Part 1: Orientation

The overview of Orientation is simple, containing three parts that can be run in about two hours. Small hints and suggestions are provided for character creation, particularly giving them  backstories that don’t provide them many long-term bonds to their homeland. Spelljammer takes adventurers to space and beyond, so players should understand they might not be back for a while, or ever. 

Spelljammer Academy is built into a rocky spire off the coast of Chultan peninsula on the Sword Coast.

The characters are thrown right into the action as the adventure starts, which is one of my favorite ways to start a short adventure. It sets the tone, doesn’t allow for ambiguity that can slow down initial adventure starts, and lets the players instantly feel out their characters and the party. The rest of Orientation is exploring Spelljammer Academy and understanding their role(s) within the larger scope of the academy. They will meet multiple NPCs and personalities that populate Spelljammer Academy, including pilots, instructors, and other cadets. Orientation concludes with an introduction to Mirt the Merciless, one of the academy heads and founder of Spelljammer Academy. After discovering an attempted attack on the Old Wolf, and news of a thief in the academy halls, the party is dismissed with their expectations raised for Part 2. 

At the end of Part 1: Orientation, characters advance to 2nd level. 

Part 2: Trial by Fire

Similar to Part 1: Orientation, Part 2 of Spelljammer Academy takes approximately two hours to play and is broken into three parts. 

Trial by Fire will see the players interact with additional NPCs, ranging from residents, officers, and faculty of Spelljammer Academy, as well as other cadets in the program. The characters will return to the training simulations they first experienced upon arriving at the academy. This simulation is overseen by Boatswain Tarto, a battle-hardened hadozee rarely seen without her cigar, and the mysterious and witty Saerthe Abizjn, a nonbinary spelljammer and training officer, as well as Master Blip, the academy’s autognome quartermaster. Players will have to fill roles on a spelljammer during the simulation, where they must navigate through wildspace, respond to an electrical storm caused by giant space eels, and safely carve a route through asteroids. After they successfully retrieve key salvage from a wrecked spelljammer, they are attacked by githyanki pirates and have to engage in ship-to-ship combat. 

Githyanki pirates are only some of the dangers that lurk in wildspace and beyond.

The simulation comes to an end prematurely when magical backlash erupts, caused by sabotage, that injures everyone in the training rooms. As details emerge from investigations the party helps with, the players are given little information, though opportunities to learn more will come in subsequent adventures. The characters are told they will have a chance to repeat the exercise soon, since they never reached its conclusion, and they advance to 3rd level.

Part 3: Realmspace Sortie!

Before they have a chance to repeat their training exercise, the characters are sent on their first mission aboard a spelljammer as their basic training is concluded at Spelljammer Academy. A staff member from the academy accompanies the party aboard the spelljammer to assure their success, as the revelation of a spy has the faculty on high alert. They are dispatched to retrieve a valuable meteorite that crashed on the distant Spire of H’Catha, a disk world at the edge of Realmspace. As with previous parts, Realmspace Sortie! takes approximately two hours to play and consists of three parts. 

Characters are taken and subsequently dumped aboard a tyrant ship, a massive stone vessel shaped like a giant beholder. They must finagle their spelljamming helm from the cargo bay up to the command deck, then contest with traps before they are able to set out, as well as a collection of clockwork horrors cannibalizing autognomes previously belonging to the tyrant ships’s previous owners. Once on their way, fire erupts in the galley and danger is revealed to be aboard their ship. Even after removing the immediate threat, the players are forced to contend with difficult choices on how to proceed. 

Realmspace Sortie! gives adventurers a look at Realmspace, the sphere of wildspace that contains Toril, home of the Forgotten Realms setting, as well as their first experience actually traveling through wildspace.

Part 4: Behold… H’Catha 

The beholder world of H’Catha with its distinct spire.

Following the reveal that a saboteur was aboard their tyrant ship, the characters sent word and are reinforced by Spelljammer Academy. Upon a hammerhead ship meeting them, the other cadets are sent back to Toril with the prisoner, while Tarto and Saerthe accompany the party on their original mission. They sail to the far planet of H’Catha, a disk world with a massive spire-like mountain, where the characters are tasked with finding and retrieving an adamantine meteorite. Once it is in their possession, the characters return to the tyrant ship and begin their journey back to Toril.

Many types of spelljamming ships sail Wildspace, such as the Hammerhead Ship.

The return journey is uneventful for several days until a run-in with githyanki pirates disrupts their plans. Sent to intercept the ship and retrieve the saboteur, the pirates are in the employ of a mysterious figure who also dispatched the saboteur to disrupt aspects of Spelljammer Academy. Even upon returning to Toril, safety is an illusion as more pirates sent by the mercane attack the academy in a last ditch effort to retrieve their target. This part of the series marks a turn where the consequences become somewhat more dire and circumstances are more brutal. It sets up a wider journey into Wildspace and the Astral Sea with the characters’ graduation from Spelljammer Academy, as well as receiving more information about the circumstances of the attacks.

The adventure concludes with the characters advancing to 5th level, receiving loot, and standing upon the cusp of Light of Xaryxis, the adventure portion of Spelljammer: Adventures in Space.

Spelljammer Academy is available for free to anyone with a D&D Beyond account. Click this link to download for free now.

Dungeons and Dragons is property of Wizards of the Coast.

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