Encounter Distance

Maximum spotting distance in the DMG goes up to 6d6x40ft on the plains, for creatures up to Colossal size. However, some Spelljammer ships are even bigger than that. Also, unless you are in an asteroid field or close to a planet, there is nothing to obscure vision. You don't even have the usual limit of the distance to the horizon, which is an important factor in naval combat.

In real life, the main difficulties are the contrast/lighting conditions (wooden ships wouldn't reflect much light, but the white sails of some vessels would) and the angular size of the object.

A medium-size creature (say, 6ft in height) between 240ft and 1440ft away would have an angular size of between 14 and 86 arc minutes. It is a DC 20 Spot check to notice the creature at that distance.

A Drow/Neogi Deathspider with 175ft beam length would appear to be the same size if it was between 7,000ft and 43,000ft (8 miles) away. So if the lookout succeeds at a DC 20 Spot check, then he or she would notice the enemy ship at a distance of 6d6x1000ft. Even an SR10 ship would take at least 4 rounds to cover that distance at tactical speed.

This raises another issue: judging range to target when you have no visual reference to compare against. "That's no moon ... it's a space station!"

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