Spelljammer is basically FANTASY PIRATES IN SPACE with shitloads of strange stuff, like elves that have symbiotic weapons, mechanical gnomes and anthropoid hippos obsessed with dakka.
Unique creatures include space whales, space squid, space dragons, and, of course, giant space hamsters. However, in terms of sapient races, the setting also features the first playable lizardfolk, who get smarter when their eggs are warmed up by the sun in space, the dracon, a race of Lawful Good dragon-centaurs with European-esque dignity culture and hilarious racism, the Arcane, a race of magically-advanced, mysterious space Jews who created the spelljammer and sell its secrets to anyone who'll pay, the Giff, a race of explosion-loving hippo-men and consummate mercenaries, the scro, a lawful-evil orc sub-species that are the brutal, disciplined Nazis to the regular orcs' barbarian horde, and the Neogi, a loathed race of eel-spider men who're despised across the cosmos for their inability to stop enslaving everything for five seconds.
And also some weirdly-chill Beholders and Mind flayers, though the former still try to exterminate all beholders not like themselves and the latter are still evil, just more business-predatory and less actual-predatory about it.
Why are There Ships in Space?
Spelljammer was originally conceived as another setting for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, but instead of making yet another stand-alone setting, Spelljammer was designed to link together all of the settings of the time into a single universe. Or perhaps multiple unified universes, because each setting has its own Ptolemaic universe, called a Sphere. All of the various Spheres float within a space called The Flow, filled entirely with a substance known as Philostigon. Philostigon is gaseous, highly flammable, cannot exist within a Sphere, and not soluble in water.
As the magical arts within one of the spheres became sophisticated enough in the long past, someone took to the stars in a magical spaceship. Literally a space ship, because the first Spelljammer was probably a sailing ship with a Spelljammer's Helm strapped on. They got lucky because Spelljamming physics is just messed up enough to permit this kind of travel, and the rest was history.
What IS a spelljammer, though?
|Dungeons & Dragons Campaign Settings|
|Basic D&D:||Mystara (Blackmoor - Hollow World) - Pelinore|
|AD&D:||Birthright - Council of Wyrms - Dark Sun - Dragonlance |
Forgotten Realms (Al-Qadim - The Horde - Kara-Tur - Maztica)
Greyhawk - Mystara (Red Steel) - Planescape - Ravenloft - Spelljammer
|3rd/3.5 Edition:||Blackmoor - Dragonlance - Eberron - Forgotten Realms - Ghostwalk - Greyhawk - Ravenloft|
|4th Edition:||Blackmoor - Dark Sun - Eberron - Forgotten Realms - Nentir Vale|
|5th Edition:||Dragonlance - Eberron - Forgotten Realms - Greyhawk - Nentir Vale - Ravenloft|