A Review of Spelljammer Academy: Realmspace Sortie
Spoiler alert! This article discusses the new Spelljammer adventure from WotC in detail, so any player cadets reading this may want to turn their ships now before we head into the depths of Wildspace spoiler territory.
Following the release of the third Spelljammer Academy adventure, "Realmspace Sortie", we playtested it and have come up with some tips for DMs running the module. If you are looking for one of the other adventures in this series please use the links below:
- Adventure 1: Orientation
- Adventure 2: Trial by Fire
- Adventure 3: Realmspace Sortie
- Adventure 4: Behold H’Catha
TL;DR; In a rush? The latest installment of Spelljamming fun is a nice follow-on from the previous two adventures, and really gives a feel for starting to travel in space. The encounters are quite tough and could be deadly without some tweaking for smaller parties. Check out my tips below for how to handle this. Also, if you are looking for a sweet map of the Tyrant Ship then look no further, you can access it using the link below:
- Link to D&D Beyond module here: https://www.dndbeyond.com/sources/sja
- Download my free 🗺️maps here: take me to the maps
“Realmspace Sortie” is the penultimate adventure in the freebie series on D&D Beyond, and is designed for three to seven 3rd-level characters. This adventure runs on directly from the preceding one, and so if you have not played that it is recommended you go back and start there.
Play time: it took us around 3 hours (it is advertised as 2 hours)
DM Prep time: 30-60 minutes
This adventure is the most fun so far in my view and sees our cadets take their first step into Realmspace. Similar to the previous adventure, from behind the screen this one feels a little railroady, but not so much that it hampers the fun. The party is dropped straight into the action, boarding an abandoned Beholder Tyrant ship (check out my free map at the bottom for your personal use!). What follows is a mix of roleplay, skills-based scenarios, and two combat encounters. For smaller parties, the trap and both combats have the potential for TPK without some intervention which I have covered in the tips below. This adventure develops the story arc nicely and has a fun variety of challenges for the players and we are all looking forward to the finale!
Is it any good?
My players reported that this was the best so far of the three adventures. It has a nice set of encounters and as long as the DM applies some judgment to balance them relative to the party, there is a sufficient level of jeopardy to create a real sense of accomplishment for the players. I also really liked the art and the Realmspace (aka Solar System) material which bring the space travel aspects to life well.
There were a few areas I would tweak or where some additional prep will pay dividends:
- Be ready to show the cool art and handouts: the Tyrant ship art is awesome! Don’t forget to show this to your players as they approach the ship. The Realmspace map is also very cool and really helps to build on that sense of space travel, so another one to show your players, perhaps during some RP on the ship before they get to the Tyrant ship. Finally their new travelling companions Pffred and Krik’Lit are super interesting if the players have not met these races before and the art helps to bring this to life.
- Don’t miss the roleplay: It is easy to step over the roleplay in the first part of this adventure. If you have a table that likes their RP, then bring Pffred and Krik’Lit into the fore so that you can have some fun on the travel to the Tyrant ship and also, once there working together on a plan to get the Helm up to the bridge. It will probably be the first time your players have RP’d with an ooze - that alone was enough to make me want to do this! Remember plasmoids can alter their form and may appear as vaguely humanoid or a quivering blob! Pffred may squeeze through gaps rather than take the conventional routes.
- Consider toning down the deadly trap: for a smaller party, a bad run on the dice for the saving throws can down a party. Even with fair dice, with unavoidable damage each round regardless of saves, this encounter can quickly wear down a level 3 party. You really want the trap stopped after two or three rounds, so do not hesitate to remind players about the Help action (PHB p.192) that will give advantage to whoever is trying to decipher the arcane control panel. Also a nudge on casting Guidance or using bardic inspiration (or full-fat inspiration since they will likely have a few points between them from the previous two adventures). Finally, if despite all of this they are starting to drop, then either reduce the Arcana check DC or bring Miken or Ryeback up to stop the trap.
- Heal before fighting the Clockwork Horrors: consider giving the players some healing potions from the supplies before this fight if they were badly injured during the trap encounter. Either way, given that there is another tough fight straight after this one, I recommend starting with just two of these and bringing another one in (from the wreckage strewn around) if needed to up the challenge. Side note: if you are using a VTT then the (scaled down) picture of these critters from the D&D Beyond module works well as a token!
- Throw a little water on the fiery fight: it is highly likely that by the time your group gets to this fight they have boshed a good portion of their spell slots and healing, and may even be going in on low HP. For this reason, as before it is worth making sure the PCs are offered healing potions from the supplies to give them a good chance in the final combat encounter. The Mephits are fairly squishy, but they have flight and a powerful ranged AoE breath weapon that can hit multiple players at once. They also have a massive advantage in the fiery environment compared to the players who are gradually worn down by exhaustion. For my player's party of three, this was a tough fight and I had to tone it down. If you have 3-4 players, consider putting in one less Mephit and hold back on the breath weapon (perhaps they used this to start the fire) at least until you are sure the players are nearly home and dry. Also, on the smoke, don’t forget to give the players the damp cloths early on as the guide tells you Miken will do (“Miken passes out water-soaked cloths that everyone can wrap around their noses and mouths, giving them advantage on saving throws to resist the effect of smoke inhalation”)
- Sleuthing: at the end of the adventure, the party must do some detective work. It is a bit of an anticlimax if they miss out on the explanation, so you really want your players to find out that it was Miken. If not they miss a pretty fundamental part of the plot and story arc. So if it does not happen naturally, I recommend gently guiding the players to a point where Miken confesses or is found out, even if some NPC support is needed to make this happen.
The penultimate adventure in Spelljammer Academy was great fun but required some tweaking to make it survivable for a smaller party. There are plenty of opportunities to bring out some roleplay with the new race NPCs (Giff, Plasmoid, and a Thri-Kreen) and the module’s art and handouts are excellent to really give your players the Spelljammer experience. All in all, a nice adventure!
If you haven’t already, check out the battle map below for this adventure (as usual, free for personal use 😊) and please hit subscribe if you liked this article!
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Maps for Adventure 3: Realmspace Sortie
Tyrant Ship map with grid (I run this 43x57 grid squares on Roll20):
Tyrant ship map - no grid:
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