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Illithid Nautiloid side view

The Nautiloid is a spelljamming ship built and used by illithids.[1][2][3][4]


The Nautiloid is the standard ship of the line of the various illithid nations, and reflects the nature of the race. Its coiled shell provides the comfort of enclosed spaces while protecting the mind flayers from the irritating rays of the sun.


A standard mind flayer crew numbers 10 illithids, plus 2-5 additional mind flayers, depending on the number of series helms in use. The number of helms determines the SR of the ship. A mind flayer ship has a single captain and first officer, with the remainder of the illithids on board being crew. A Nautiloid will also typically carry between 12 and 20 slaves, which will usually be humans, dwarves, elves, or other demihumans. The illithids prefer to use expendable slaves to man the weapons, while the mind flayers remain safely within the ship's armoured shell. The slaves are also used as boarders in combat (backed up by illithid mind blasts), and as rations on long voyages, so the rate of attrition amongst them is high. The captain oversees the ship from the command station, while the first officer is usually stationed near the catapult on the battle deck. Since the battle deck is the most likely place for any enemy boarders to attack the ship, it is a dangerous location, so the first officer's position is not envied. As a result, the first officer is usually conspiring to take the place of the captain. No position is completely safe on a mind flayer ship, however, since assassination is a relatively common form of illithid advancement.

Ship Uses[]

Piracy: Nautiloid pirates are relatively common, and use the configuration and crewing given above. Nautiloid pirates are always looking to replenish their stock of slaves, as well as take anything that isn't nailed down from other ships. Typical tactics involve firing off a salvo from the weapons before ramming and boarding, using mind blasts and other mental powers to incapacitate as many enemy crew as possible, while the slaves fight those enemies who are still able to fight back. Since it is not obvious at first glance if a given Nautiloid is a pirate or a trader, most other races attempt to avoid Nautiloids wherever possible, although in some areas of space they are attacked on sight (most organizations put up with them, however, since illithid traders often form a significant part of the economy).

Trader: As the workhorse of the illithid fleets, many Nautiloids are used as trade ships. Nautiloid traders appear identical to Nautiloid pirates or military ships, but will typically carry a skeleton crew of 2-5 mind flyers to man the helms, the captain and first officer, along with 6-10 slaves to help with handling the ship. Nautiloid traders will attempt to avoid a fight where possible.

Military: Nautiloids also form the backbone of illithid navies, and, for their size, are one of the best combat vessels in space. Nautiloids serve equally well as pure combat ships, patrol vessels, and as light troop transports. Light combat duty is usually handled by the smaller illithid Lance. Since the introduction of the pool helm, the larger Dreadnought has begun to replace the Nautiloid as a heavy warship, but the Nautiloid is sure to remain the most common illithid military ship for years.

Other Configurations[]

Added Armour: Some illithid captains, obsessed with staying well-protected within their Nautiloid shells, further armour their craft. This will typically take the form of armour plating (often bone or ivory, although metal is not uncommon), as well as thickening the hull and adding extra internal bracing. The result is a ship with AR 2, but with MC E and only 13 tons of cargo space. These ships are often used primarily for combat rather than as traders, and it is not uncommon for them to carry extra weaponry, usually a fourth ballista and a second catapult, further reducing cargo space to 9 tons. These ships are clumsy, but deadly, and should be avoided where possible.

Added Speed: A common option for Nauiloid traders, this stripped-down version sacrifices armour for extra maneuverability. The MC of the ship is C, but the AR is reduced to 6. These ships will always either have a series helm with 5 mind flayers, or, where possible, will have a pool helm. In either case, the SR is an impressive 5 which, combined with the relatively good maneuverability, usually allows the ship to evade any enemies. Since these ships will typically operate with a skeleton crew, leaving no spare crew to serve as weaponeers, the weapons are often stripped, with the exception of the jettison, giving the trader extra cargo capacity.

Named Ships[]




  1. Jeff Grubb, Concordance of Arcane Space, 1989, (TSR Inc.), chapter 3: Ships of Wildspace, page 29
  2. Jeff Grubb, Lorebook of the Void, 1989, (TSR Inc.), chapter 2 Spelljammers, pages 29-31
  3. Jeff Grubb, AD&D Adventures in Space, 1989, (TSR Inc.), ISBN: 0-88038-762-9, Nautiloid card
  4. Dale "Slade" Henson, Ship Recognition Manual, 1992, (TSR Inc.), Ships of the Spelljammer Universe, page 36
  5. Nigel D. Findley, SJA2 Skull & Crossbows, 1990, (TSR Inc.), Forgotten But Not Gone, pages 24-27
  6. Nigel D. Findley, SJA2 Skull & Crossbows, 1990, (TSR Inc.), ISBN: 0-88038-845-5, Deck plans poster map