Vehicle Guide: Spelljammer Ships in 5e

What Are Spelljammer Ships in 5e?

Spelljamming itself is the act of flying a ship through the use of a spelljamming helm, which allows you to magically propel and steer the vessel. These spelljamming ships are used to navigate through wild space and the astral sea, allowing adventurers and those with means to travel the planes with ease.

You can check out our full guide on the spelljammer “setting” over here. In this article, we’re going to be looking specifically into how these ships work, which ships you can use, and how to go about designing your own ship.

Helming a Spelljamming Ship

There’s a very special piece of equipment that you’ll need if you want to engage in any spelljamming. It’s called a spelljamming helm, and it’s the magical item that differentiates a spelljamming vessel from any mundane ship. Once you’re in control, you just have to understand the basics of ship combat, repairs, and maintaining a crew, and you’re well on your way to being a certified spelljammer.

Spelljamming Helm

Let’s start with the basics though — the helm. Much like a normal ship, you control a spelljammer ship (I’m just going to call them jammers for the rest of this article) from the helm. The difference is that not just anyone can take charge of a spelljamming helm.

These special helms are rare wondrous items that must be attuned by a spellcaster. Often taking the shape of an ornate chair, a spelljamming helm allows its controller to propel a ship (that weighs at least 1 ton) through air, space, and any other mediums the ship is built for. In order to exert this control, the attuned spellcaster must maintain concentration, much like they would to continue using a spell.

Beyond simply propelling a jammer, a helm allows you to steer the vessel. This steering should be thought of much like steering a sea-faring vessel, i.e., you won’t be pulling off incredible maneuvers unless you’re incredibly skilled.

Then, the helm gives you an ability completely unlike anything you’d find on your average boat. At any time, you can see and hear what’s happening on and around the vessel as though you were standing at any location aboard it. This is really fantastic, allowing the captain of the ship full awareness of their bearings and providing a bit of credence to the idea that the captain and ship are one.

The last thing you need to know about this helm is that you can transfer the attunement to another willing spellcaster by simply using an action. The sudden necessity to swap places with an ally is always a potential reality, so it makes sense that you could allow someone else to helm your ship in such a situation.

If you’re playing in the right setting, it’s probably not hard to get your hands on a spelljamming helm. They go for, at the very least, 5,000 gp since that is how much it costs to cast the spell Create Spelljamming Helm, but you’ll probably end up spending upwards of 10,000 gp. 

A more realistic situation is that you end up buying a ship, which will run you between 20,000 and 40,000 gp, a cheaper alternative because the helm will already be built in.

One last thing I want to discuss is called a spelljamming duel — a concept that is entirely different from ship-based combat. 

Since only one spelljamming helm can be in control of a ship at a time, any additional spelljammers attempting to take control of a ship will result in a duel. To duel, each jammer makes a constitution check, rerolling ties. The winner gains or keeps control. 

The loser takes 1d4 levels of exhaustion, loses their attunement to their spelljamming helm, and can’t attune to any helms until all levels of exhaustion are removed. These are some rather nasty side effects, so a word to the wise: if you’re going to get into a duel, don’t lose.

© Wizards of the Coast

Flying a Spelljamming Ship

Once you have your ship and helm, you’ll want to get straight to flying this bad boy around. Doing so is rather straightforward since the helm allows you to control it as if it were a limb that had fallen asleep. 

Ships can typically move their speed, and while each jammer clearly defines whether it can be propelled through water or along the ground, all jammers can move through air and space. 

Since jammers are made for the express purpose of traveling through wild space and the astral sea, there is a special ability these ships have in those mediums. So long as they don’t come close enough to something that weighs more than 1 ton, a jammer can travel up to 100 million miles in 24 hours (about 42,000 mph).

This incredible speed allows for adventurers to get from one point to another with incredible efficiency, but there are hazards in wild space. When coming close to something that would prevent this expedited travel, a jammer drops out of this “warp speed” and resumes flight at its normal flying speed.

While 1 ton is a very reasonable metric for determining flight hazards, the Astral Adventurer’s Guide also states that ships drop down to their flight speed when approaching objects with their own gravity plane or air envelopes.

Air envelopes, which we’ll discuss more in the Anatomy of Spelljamming Ships section below, are a bit of a tricky basis by which to judge. Whenever a creature or object leaves a planet’s atmosphere and enters Wildspace, an air envelope develops around it. While breathing creatures typically exhaust their envelopes in a minute, all other envelopes last indefinitely or until they’re exhausted by being breathed.

Gravity planes are equally tricky to decipher since there seems to be no clear definition for what does and doesn’t have a gravity plane. Again, we will discuss the gravity planes of jammers when we discuss their anatomy.

One thing I want to note about this “crash-prevention slow down” is that the creature attuned to the helm can feel the stopping just before it happens. The AAG mentions that skilled pilots can even tell what is causing them to stop before they stop since different objects have different feelings to them.

This is incredibly interesting and gives us some important information about piloting a jammer. Mainly, it tells us that doing so is a skill. Now, there obviously isn’t a skill in 5e devoted to spelljamming, nor is the spelljamming helm a tool that we can gain proficiency in, but there is this indication that you can get better with it.

While introducing an entire mechanic around spelljamming proficiency might be a lot, it’s a nice option for DMs who want to give their players the feeling of being a skilled pilot. This could translate into a small bonus that you add to checks surrounding the jammer, or you could do it much less formally and allow them to do more exciting things as they gain more experience.

Anatomy of a Spelljamming Ship

While each ship is incredibly different, including everything from flying boats to giant metal scorpions, there are some components that each has, which we’ll go over before diving into the specifications of the various 5e spelljamming vessels.

Armor Class

A ship’s AC doesn’t differ from the standard concept of AC.

Hit Points

While hit points work the same for ships, it should be noted that you can repair a ship with relative ease. The Mending spell, cast on a ship or one of its weapons, repairs a number of hit points equal to 1d8 plus the spellcaster’s modifier. Hit points can be recovered in this way no more than once per hour.

There is a more timely way to repair a ship, which is by simply making nonmagical repairs. If a ship is berthed, one hit point can be repaired each day for a cost of 20 gp or 10 gp if repairing a weapon.

Damage Threshold

Since ships are large objects, they employ the damage threshold mechanic, which is often unused in 5e. The damage threshold is the amount of damage that must be dealt by a single source in order for the ship to take damage.

For clarity, let’s imagine we have a ship with a damage threshold of 15. This ship would take no damage if hit with a longsword for 9 points of damage, but it would take damage from an enemy ballista dishing out 18 points on a hit. 

This concept exists to prevent scenarios where ships are destroyed by an absurd amount of miniscule hits. Instead, it treats small blows as insignificant surface damage. To quote a wise man: “Tis’ but a scratch!”

Speed

Ships all have a general cruising speed that typically includes a flying speed but could include more depending on the ship’s specifications. This is what a ship can move at when traveling near large objects.

Cargo

Much like anything else, ships have a limit to how much they can carry. While there isn’t an explicit rule for ships that carry more than their cargo, I imagine an inability to travel at ludicrous speed is a good place to start.

Crew

Each ship lists how many crew it can comfortably accommodate. Beyond that, we begin to experience some adverse side effects for the air envelope.

Keel/Beam

These measurements simply describe how long and wide a ship is, respectively. 

Cost

The cost of a ship is set, but it can be higher if buying from a less-than-reliable source.

Gravity Plane

Ships and other large objects have a gravity plane, a flat plane that pulls objects toward them. This plane often stretches through the bottom most-inhabitable section of a ship and extends out throughout the air envelope.

Because of the nature of a ship’s gravity being focused on a plane and not a point, adventurers can walk along the ship without worrying about strange physics. However, if something falls off the side of a ship, it will simply fall to the plane and float alongside the ship until something changes. 

Anything not stationary on the ship will float out of the air envelope as a ship moves, however, so don’t be expecting to hold onto things with the weirdness of spelljammer gravity alone.

© Wizards of the Coast

Air Envelope

An air envelope is an envelope of breathable air that extends out from an object at a distance equal to its longest dimension. For most ships, this is going to be the keel.

The air within an envelope can be one of three qualities:

  • Fresh – Breathable air. A ship’s envelope will remain fresh for 120 days under normal circumstances before needing to be replenished.
  • Foul – Stale, partially depleted air. Breathing this air causes a creature to suffer the poisoned condition until it breathes fresh air again. Foul air will degrade even further after an additional 120 days if not replenished.
  • Deadly – Breathing this air causes a creature to suffocate, which will quickly cause most creatures to die unless a new air source can be created.

Air sources can be replenished by overlapping with or entering another air envelope that has fresh air. Typically, this will be done by landing on a planet since a planet’s atmosphere constantly refreshes its air envelope.

Ships will deplete air faster if they have more than the standard crew, although there are no specific guidelines on how to do so. It’s reasonable to assume that the opposite is also true, so with a little bit of math (forgive me), you could figure out how long a ship of any crew size would last. 

To do so, you just need to multiply 120 by the number of actual crew, and then divide that by the standard crew size. 

I know that not everyone wants the math explanation, so here’s your warning. If you don’t want math, skip ahead.

On a ship with a standard crew of five and an air envelope that will last 120 days, each crew member will breathe of the air each day for 120 days. We can write this as ⅕ * 5 * 120. If we solve this, we get 120 days, as expected.

If there is a different number of crew members aboard than the standard accounts for, each member will still breathe ⅕ of the air each day. We now have ⅕ * x * 120. This can be rewritten as 120x/5 or (120 * x)/5. If we plug in any actual crew size for x, we get the expected value.

Since the standard crew size varies from ship to ship, we can replace 5 in that equation with another variable s. (120 * x)/s or 120 multiplied by the number of actual crew, divided by the standard crew size.

Weaponry

Most ships have some form of ship weaponry attached when you purchase it. These weapons have a crew number, stating the number of creatures needed to make them function properly. They also have an AC and HP and costs in case you want to customize your own spelljamming ship.

Ship-to-Ship Combat

As you would expect with any sort of ships, be they flying, sea faring, or something else entirely, you can get into combat with spelljamming ships. There are some extremely basic rules for ship combat included in the AAG, but I should warn you that they pale in comparison to the sort of tactical rulings present in previous editions.

For an encounter such as this, we use side initiative instead of tracking each individual creature in a combat. During a side’s turn, the spelljammer may steer the ship, individual characters may act, and, if you’re close enough, you can try to board another vessel.

Steering is as simple as it is in any other engagement. A ship may simply move up to its speed each turn as directed by the spelljammer. Additionally, a ship can be turned and reoriented so that all its weapons can aim and fire at any target within range, regardless of where they’re situated on the deck. 

There’s a bit of contention on this ruling. Some believe that it’s lazy and loses the excitement of spaceship combat while others enjoy the simplicity.

I’m not sure exactly where I land. I do understand that 5e is intended to include simple, straightforward rulings so that anyone can pick up and play a game without much of a learning curve. However, it kind of stings when this is done at the cost of immersion and reality.

Fortunately, this is just a basis for ship-combat rulings, and it’s extremely easy to whip up a homebrew method that feels better for your table. 

Some groups will find that including a facing mechanic adds a huge level of immersion and isn’t much to keep track of at all. If you want to keep it really simple, there are only four sides of most ships that matter: bow, starboard, stem, and port (front, right, back, and left).

Once per turn, as part of your ship’s movement, the spelljammer can decide where the bow is facing, which in turn tells you where every other side is facing. This lets you hide certain parts of your ship and face certain weapons where you want them, accordingly.

Now, there are plenty more house rulings you can add in. You could track the HP of individual sections of a ship, count critical hits as critical damage that decimates a section of the ship, modify the ship AC based on how much is facing the attacking vessel or creature, allow the spelljammer to burn spell slots for extra speed, or just about anything else that feels appropriate and you’re willing to track.

As it stands, ship combat is fast paced and feels like a slightly modified version of a ranged combat encounter. The exciting part of this is boarding, which then turns it into a normal encounter but on really cool fantasy spaceships. 

With that, let’s briefly cover boarding. When ships are within 5 feet of each other, the pilot of a ship can maneuver it so that a boarding party can safely maneuver to the other ship. Given some creative rulings, you could board from much further differences, but you’d want to make sure your air envelopes were touching at the very least.

Crashing

The rules for crashing are extremely straightforward. You can elect to crash into another object by making a d20 attack roll and adding the spelljammer’s proficiency, or you can end up in a forced crash situation and take damage that way.

When two objects collide due to a crash, each object takes bludgeoning damage based on the object they struck as shown below:

  • Large – 4d10
  • Huge – 8d10
  • Gargantuan – 16d10

Hitting a gargantuan or larger object (such as a planet) also has the effect of stopping an object. 

Spelljammer Ships: Complete 5e List

Below is a list of each ship, their specifications, and the weapons they include.

Spelljammer Ships

Bombard

  • AC: 15 (wood)
  • HP: 300
  • Damage Threshold: 20
  • Speed: Fly 35 ft. (4 mph)
  • Cargo: 150 tons
  • Crew: 12
  • Keel/Beam: 140 ft./30 ft.
  • Cost: 50,000gp
  • Weapons: 2 Ballistae, 1 Giant Cannon

Damselfly Ship

  • AC: 19 (metal)
  • HP: 200
  • Damage Threshold: 15
  • Speed: Fly 70 ft. (8 mph)
  • Cargo: 5 tons
  • Crew: 9
  • Keel/Beam: 100 ft./20 ft.
  • Cost: 20,000 gp
  • Weapons: 1 Ballista, 1 Mangonel

Flying Fish Ship

  • AC: 15 (wood)
  • HP: 250
  • Damage Threshold: 15
  • Speed: Fly 40 ft. (4½ mph)
  • Cargo: 13 tons
  • Crew: 10
  • Keel/Beam: 120 ft./30 ft.
  • Cost: 20,000 gp
  • Weapons: 1 Ballista, 1 Mangonel

Hammerhead Ship

  • AC: 1
  • HP: 1
  • Damage Threshold: 1
  • Speed: 1
  • Cargo: 1
  • Crew: 1
  • Keel/Beam: 1
  • Cost: 1
  • Weapons: 1 Ballista, 1 Blunt Ram, 2 Mangonels

Lamprey Ship

  • AC: 1
  • HP: 1
  • Damage Threshold: 1
  • Speed: 1
  • Cargo: 1
  • Crew: 1
  • Keel/Beam: 1
  • Cost: 1
  • Weapons: 4 Ballistae, 1 Grappling Jaws

Living Ship

  • AC: 1
  • HP: 1
  • Damage Threshold: 1
  • Speed: 1
  • Cargo: 1
  • Crew: 1
  • Keel/Beam: 1
  • Cost: 1
  • Weapons: 1 Ballista

Nautiloid

  • AC: 1
  • HP: 1
  • Damage Threshold: 1
  • Speed: 1
  • Cargo: 1
  • Crew: 1
  • Keel/Beam: 1
  • Cost: 1
  • Weapons: 4 Ballistae, 1 Mangonel, 1 Tentacles

Nightspider

  • AC: 1
  • HP: 1
  • Damage Threshold: 1
  • Speed: 1
  • Cargo: 1
  • Crew: 1
  • Keel/Beam: 1
  • Cost: 1
  • Weapons: 4 Ballistae, 1 Mangonel

Scorpion Ship

  • AC: 1
  • HP: 1
  • Damage Threshold: 1
  • Speed: 1
  • Cargo: 1
  • Crew: 1
  • Keel/Beam: 1
  • Cost: 1
  • Weapons: 1 Ballista, 2 Claws, 1 Mangonel

Shrike Ship

  • AC: 1
  • HP: 1
  • Damage Threshold: 1
  • Speed: 1
  • Cargo: 1
  • Crew: 1
  • Keel/Beam: 1
  • Cost: 1
  • Weapons: 3 Ballistae, 1 Piercing Ram

Space Galleon

  • AC: 1
  • HP: 1
  • Damage Threshold: 1
  • Speed: 1
  • Cargo: 1
  • Crew: 1
  • Keel/Beam: 1
  • Cost: 1
  • Weapons: 2 Ballistae, 1 Mangonel

Squid Ship

  • AC: 1
  • HP: 1
  • Damage Threshold: 1
  • Speed: 1
  • Cargo: 1
  • Crew: 1
  • Keel/Beam: 1
  • Cost: 1
  • Weapons: 1 Ballistae, 1 Mangonel, 1 Piercing Ram

Star Moth

  • AC: 1
  • HP: 1
  • Damage Threshold: 1
  • Speed: 1
  • Cargo: 1
  • Crew: 1
  • Keel/Beam: 1
  • Cost: 1
  • Weapons: 2 Ballistae, 1 Mangonel

Turtle Ship

  • AC: 1
  • HP: 1
  • Damage Threshold: 1
  • Speed: 1
  • Cargo: 1
  • Crew: 1
  • Keel/Beam: 1
  • Cost: 1
  • Weapons: 3 Ballistae, 1 Mangonel

Tyrant Ship

  • AC: 1
  • HP: 1
  • Damage Threshold: 1
  • Speed: 1
  • Cargo: 3 Eyestalk Cannons
  • Crew: 1
  • Keel/Beam: 1
  • Cost: 1
  • Weapons: 1

Wasp Ship

  • AC: 1
  • HP: 1
  • Damage Threshold: 1
  • Speed: 1
  • Cargo: 1
  • Crew: 1
  • Keel/Beam: 1
  • Cost: 1
  • Weapons: 1 Ballista

Ship Weapons

Ballista

  • Crew: 3
  • Armor Class: 15
  • Hit Points: 50
  • Cost: 50 gp (ballista), 5 gp (bolt)

It takes 1 action to load a ballista, 1 action to aim it, and 1 action to fire it.

Bolt. Ranged Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, range 120/480 ft., one target. Hit: 16 (3d10) piercing damage.

Mangonel

  • Crew: 4
  • Armor Class: 15
  • Hit Points: 100
  • Cost: 100 gp (mangonel), – (stone)

It takes 2 actions to load the mangonel, 1 action to aim it, and 1 action to fire it.

Mangonel Stone. Ranged Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, range 200/800 ft. (can’t hit targets within 60 feet of it), one target. Hit: 27 (5d10) bludgeoning damage.

Giant Cannon

  • Crew: 4
  • Armor Class: 19
  • Hit Points: 250
  • Cost: – (cannon), 1,000 gp (cannonball)

It takes 3 actions to load the giant cannon and 1 action to fire it.

Cannon Ball. Ranged Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, range 600/2,400 ft., one target. Hit: 88 (16d10) bludgeoning damage.

Blunt Ram

  • Crew:
  • Armor Class:
  • Hit Points:
  • Cost: – (included in ship cost)

The spelljammer can make the following attack when it crashes into another object or a gargantuan creature.

Blunt Ram. Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, range 0 ft., one object or gargantuan creature. Hit: 88 (16d10) bludgeoning damage. The hammerhead ship takes half damage and comes to a stop. Miss: The attack deals no damage, the target moves into the nearest occupied space that isn’t in the ship’s path, and the ship can continue moving if it has any movement left.

Grappling Jaws

  • Crew: 1
  • Armor Class:
  • Hit Points:
  • Cost: – (included in the ship’s cost)

Grappling Jaws. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 10 ft., one ship or Gargantuan creature. Hit: 22 (4d10) piercing damage, and the speed of the lamprey ship and the target become 0 until the grapple ends. As an action, the crew can cause the jaws to release. Otherwise, the effect ends when the target or the ship drops to 0 hit points.

Tentacles

  • Crew:
  • Armor Class:
  • Hit Points:
  • Cost: – (included in ship cost)

As an action, the spelljammer may take one of the following attacks.

Grappling Tentacles. Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 30 ft., one Huge or Gargantuan target. Hit: 22 (4d10) bludgeoning damage, and the nautiloid’s speed becomes 0 until its spelljammer uses an action to release the target. If the target is a creature, it is grappled (escape DC 16). If the target is another ship, its speed becomes 0 until the nautiloid releases it or until either ship drops to 0 HP.

Teleport. Melee Spell Attack: +8 to hit, reach 30 ft., one creature. Hit: The target must succeed on a DC 15 Con save or be teleported to an unoccupied space aboard the nautiloid.

Claw

  • Crew: 1
  • Armor Class:
  • Hit Points:
  • Cost: – (included in ship cost)

Claw. Melee Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, reach 20 ft., one target. Hit: 11 (2d10) bludgeoning damage. If the target is a Huge or smaller creature, it is also grappled (escape DC 13). Until the grapple ends, the creature takes 11 (2d10) bludgeoning damage at the start of its turn.

Piercing Ram

  • Crew:
  • Armor Class:
  • Hit Points:
  • Cost: – (included in ship cost)

The spelljammer can make the following attack when it crashes into another object or a gargantuan creature.

PIercing Ram. Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, range 0 ft., one object or gargantuan creature. Hit: 88 (16d10) piercing damage. The hammerhead ship takes half damage and comes to a stop. Miss: The attack deals no damage, the target moves into the nearest occupied space that isn’t in the ship’s path, and the ship can continue moving if it has any movement left.

So throw on some pirate garb, hop in the helm, and look to the stars — it’s time to adventure through wild space. I hope you’ve enjoyed this article, and as always, happy adventuring.