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Aquatic Campaigns

Aeolius

Villager
I am now compiling my notes for "Heirs of Turucambi", an undersea campaign that will begin in the near future.

As the majority of the campaign will be set underwater, the game will draw heavily from supplements such as Stormwrack. Player characters must be able to swim (have a swim speed) and breathe underwater (aquatic or amphibious) without the use of magic. The campaign will begin at level 1-3, to account for characters with templates, monster races, and similar instances.

"Heirs of Turucambi" is set in the Oljatt Sea of Oerth, the World of Greyhawk. Originally detailed in "Greyhawk Adventures" and later featured at wizards.com, Turucambi is one of the "Mysterious Places" of the region. Knowledge of the World of Greyhawk is not required, for participation in the campaign.

Given my preferences, the campaign will draw from my interests in marine biology and my hobby of keeping saltwater aquariums, coupled with my fascination with various mythological creatures such as hags, dragons, and demons.

Be aware that life underwater has its limitations; typical potions are all but impossible to imbibe, paper scrolls will quickly disintegrate, and typical metal items are subject to corrosion. Many typical spells may not suitable for underwater casting. Treasure may be similarly altered, as many undersea races value rare corals, pearls, and shells far more than coins and gemstones.

Keep in mind that some of the best inspiration for an underwater campaign can come from the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet, visiting your local aquarium or fish store, and perusing ocean-related materials in a bookstore.

With that in mind, what are your preferences, for such an adventure? What would you expect to see, in an undersea game? What would make the campaign memorable, enjoyable, and enduring?

( edited to include links to Greyhawk Adventures ($4 PDF download at paizo.com) and Greyhawk Mysterious Places (02/2003 archive at wizards.com) )
 
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Crothian

Villager
I see it as a high adventure under the sea: Lots of great 3-D places to explore. Savage currents, schools of fish, and plenty of coral reefs. I would want adventures around old wrecks, and ship graveyards. I think any game with interesting adventures and fun characters will be memorable, enjoyable, and enduring.
 

DMH

Villager
Places- aboleth cities on the abyssal plains, massive sea serpents that have villages on them, floating islands that are colonized on both sides, broken ruins near surface cities (the aquatics were driven away by the surface dwellers over shallow water mines).

Things- a dump of the gods, sahuagin invasion platforms (mobile bases), floating reefs used to farm alchemically important slugs and shellfish, merrows with magitech.
 

RichGreen

Villager
Hi,

Sounds like a great idea for a campaign! There are lots of undersea races that don't get used much: locathah, mermen, tritons et al. Also, aboleth, ixitxachitl, morkoths.... plus wrecked ships, coral cities, deep trenches full of weird ruins.

There was a big d20 book called The Deep that might help although it had mixed reviews I think.

Cheers


Richard
 

Slife

Villager
Giant shrimp are a must.

Maybe there'd be some alternate item types to compensate for the lack of scrolls (glass tablets?). I imagine you'd also need to look at the available spells to see if they can be rebalanced. Fly is going to be less useful, and water-breathing should prolly be replaced with air-breathing
 

Whimsical

Villager
Change the Swim skill so it works more like the 3.5 Jump skill. What you roll for your Swim skill check is how far you swim in feet as a move action (if you don't already have a swim speed.) -5 if your speed is 20' or lower.

Also check the complete arcane for alternatives to potions and scrolls. For example, psionics has tatoos that works like potions, and stones that work like scrolls.

I normally have fly propel you through water as it does through air, but at half speed.
 
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Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
Slife beat me here! Dire or otherwise oversized natural creatures- or as you must well know, even some of the normal ones- could definitely prove challenging. Sharks, octopi, mantis shrimp...even certain medusans and cone snails can threaten human life.

Don't be afraid to use some of the sea's ambush predators...

You might also want to check out these 2 threads: http://www.enworld.org/showthread.php?t=179402 and http://www.enworld.org/showthread.php?t=179508 .

Scrolls & tomes would be replaced by carved stone or rune-covered seashells or coral chunks. Tattoos, as suggested above, would also be effective.

Potions are harder to replace, but aquatic mages could prepare "dry rooms*" for mixing ingredients, but opt for more solid forms rather than potions that would disperse- cakes, gels, etc. OTOH, crafty alchemists and spellcasters could use the effects of brownian motion to their advantage. Instead of smoke bombs, squid-ink bombs would be the item for concealment. A potion, oil, or similar liquid could be reduced to a tarry state (using volcanic heat) that becomes an area effect attack when released into the water...and really smart races would figure out ways to deliver those at range- perhaps high-pressure water jets or chemical "rockets."

Alchemists of the sea, if they discover the principles of electroplating (known in the RW for @ 4 thousand of years), could have a great time getting metals out of solution from the seawater.

* in fact, dry rooms could be made to for the creation and use of all kinds of surface items, like ceramics, artificial glasses or smelted metals & alloys.
 

GreatLemur

Villager
It's easy to rework magic items so that they function underwater. Remember that there's no reason a single-use spell-delivery item needs to be a fluid in a bottle that's drank by the user. It could just as easily by a box full of magical energy that's opened, or a tiny carved symbol that's snapped in half, or, hell, a bottle of fluid that's released into the water.

"Scrolls" might actually make more sense if they were something that didn't even have writing on them (because I've never thought the whole business of them turning blank when used made a lot sense). They can just be small trinkets made of shell or bone or stone with a single spell suspended inside, ready to be released--or analyzed, decoded, and learned--by a spellcaster.

...Which brings up the topic of spell books. Maybe big kelp scrolls with text scratched into them? A book made out of shell would get pretty heavy at a one-page-per-spell-level rate, but maybe that's not so bad: Underwater, encumbrance rates might very logically be relaxed a bit.

Weapons and armor and such are pretty simple. Where metal isn't available, there's still stone, fish and whale bone, crustacean carapace, mollusk shell, coral, and "scale mail" of the most literal kind. Whether or not these metal-substitutes are as good as steel mechanically is up to you. Personally, I wouldn't worry about it.

Also: Believe it or not, you might want to go read Aquaman for inspiration. I am serious. Lately, the comic has had an odd, swords-and-sorcery-flavored reboot, and it actually looks a lot like an aquatic D&D campaign, these days.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
Actually, you could even store potions in bladders...if they're made from edible creatures, you'd just eat the bladder whole to deliver the potion.

The trick isn't so much potion delivery as potion creation.

Another way around that (besides the dry rooms I mentioned above) is the good old wizard-created abomination! Imagine...mutant seaslugs or sea cucumbers bred to create potions...delivered by squeezing the critters so they jet the solution into your mouth...
 

GreatLemur

Villager
Dannyalcatraz said:
Another way around that (besides the dry rooms I mentioned above) is the good old wizard-created abomination! Imagine...mutant seaslugs or sea cucumbers bred to create potions...delivered by squeezing the critters so they jet the solution into your mouth...
That is a completely beautiful idea. And, hell, the "potion" doesn't even have to be a fluid. It could just be the creature itself, to be eaten whole. But really any inclusion of sea slugs or sea cucumbers would be a great idea, because they are awesome. There's more stuff--and more interesting stuff--in the ocean than fish.
 

Whimsical

Villager
Ooh! I third the motion for magically altered aquatic plants/animals that are actually potions and are small enough to swallow in one gulp. That is very thematically apporpriate.

I would also allow regular potions to work if they are "breathed" in by water-breathing beings.

Also, I have a house clarafication in my games that scrolls and spellbooks are normally waterproof. After all, if they cost so much gp for the best inks and papers, why not have those inks and papers be the best that they can possibly be?
 
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Brimshack

Villager
I've been looking a lot at Reefs as a kind of Sylvan setting. Made up a few things for that kind of location, but I do think it would be a nice equivalent to the really special wood with Feys and Druids protecting it. It might also be an interesting sort of middle ground where the aquatic races can meet and deal with land-lubbers (lots of potential for interesting tension there). Protection of the coral reefs could also be an interesting theme in the campaign.

Don't know if you use them, but if you're looking for undersea type miniatures, you might check out Eastern Front Studios. They have the largest selection of such minis that I can think of, at least for a smaller company. Might also give you some ideas for creatures, and I believe Mick was working on game rules for the undersea stuff too. Don't know how far he got. We've got a few of sea creatures on our own agenda, but nothing quite in metal form yet.
 
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GreatLemur

Villager
Speaking of miniatures, I'd love to know how people handle three-dimensional movement on a battle mat. Stacking Legos undeneath flying/swimming miniatures?
 

Brimshack

Villager
We usually just put a dice beside it with the number on the dice representing the number of 5' increments up in the air, off the sea floor, etc.
 

Aeolius

Villager
Crothian said:
...Lots of great 3-D places to explore. Savage currents, schools of fish, and plenty of coral reefs. I would want adventures around old wrecks, and ship graveyards.
Shipwrecks are about the only source of metal coinage and weapons undersea races can rely upon, without resorting to barter. As for reefs, they are a constant source of inspiration. Take a gander at http://www.cnn.com/2006/TRAVEL/11/25/midway.tourism.ap/index.html

DMH said:
...floating reefs used to farm alchemically important slugs and shellfish....
I did something similar with locathah in a floatweed (sargasso) "jungle".

RichGreen said:
There are lots of undersea races that don't get used much: locathah, mermen, tritons et al. Also, aboleth, ixitxachitl, morkoths.... plus wrecked ships, coral cities, deep trenches full of weird ruins. There was a big d20 book called The Deep that might help although it had mixed reviews I think...
Sounds like you have a yearning for undersea adventuring. ;) I have 3 copies of "The Deep"... okay, two... just gave one away, awhile back, as a player incentive. The content was great, but the editing left a lot to be desired.

Slife said:
Giant shrimp are a must...Maybe there'd be some alternate item types to compensate for the lack of scrolls (glass tablets)...
I have small humanoid shrimp, known as shrimpies, inspired by Pepe the prawn. ;) As for scrolls, some undersea races use a "Sand to Stone" spell to make tablets and unusual architecture (drip castles...)

Whimsical said:
I normally have fly propel you through water as it does through air, but at half speed.
I have a psionic ability involving a biocurrent, that has a similar effect.

Dannyalcatraz said:
...Instead of smoke bombs, squid-ink bombs would be the item for concealment. ... really smart races would figure out ways to deliver those at range- perhaps high-pressure water jets or chemical "rockets."

GreatLemur said:
..."Scrolls" might actually make more sense if they were something that didn't even have writing on them... small trinkets made of shell or bone or stone... Maybe big kelp scrolls with text scratched into them?
Unearthed Arcana detailed a few alternate spellbook ideas which would work, underwater. the "small trinkets" idea works, for me.

Dannyalcatraz said:
Imagine...mutant seaslugs or sea cucumbers bred to create potions...delivered by squeezing the critters so they jet the solution into your mouth...
Hrmm... sea squirts!! http://www.liveaquaria.com/product/prod_display.cfm?pcatid=1150&N=0

GreatLemur said:
...any inclusion of sea slugs or sea cucumbers would be a great idea, because they are awesome.
To qualify for the envenomed PrC I devised, one must eat various sorts of poisonous/venomour sea creatures. The sea cucumber came to mind, as that was references in "The Sea Devils", but a sea apple would be much nastier. ;)

Whimsical said:
Ooh! I third the motion for magically altered aquatic plants/animals that are actually potions and are small enough to swallow in one gulp.
Gilliweed, eh? ;) "Masters of the Wild" detailed infusions, which work quite well in an undersea setting. A bit of kelp, algae, or perhaps a soft coral/polyp and there you go.

Brimshack said:
I've been looking a lot at Reefs as a kind of Sylvan setting... a nice equivalent to the really special wood with Feys and Druids protecting it.
Agreed. I even developed a few lesser fey to help with such protection.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
How about a race built along the lines of one of the poisonous fish species, like lionfish? It could be a variant of one of the extant races, like Sahaugin or Locathah.

Again with the aquamining, alchemy, and wizards...

Imagine another wizard who creates corals that leech metals (as opposed to calcium carbonates) from the sea to create their reefs- gold that he then harvests for currency, or iron that he "plants" around his stronghold as a barrier to intruders...especially of the supernatural variety! These could even be intermixed with other mutated (templated) corals that may have elemental heritage. IOW, a coral that uses electrical charges to kill its prey instead of nematocysts.

And, of course...Babelfish!
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
Some other things I had considered for an as-yet-unrealized future campaign was a PrCl for aquatic races that was a variant unarmed combatant.

The PrCl concept was based upon the nudibranchs that feed upon hydroids and harvest their nematocysts for their own bodies. This martial artist would thus be able to deliver painful, even paralytic touch attacks.

Another concept was marine Thri-Kreen based upon the mantis shrimps- two species, one each for stabbers and smashers- constantly at war.

Something I had tossed around until I saw it on Farscape was massive bioengeneered (or arcanoengineered) creatures that serve as cities or warships for some race. (I may still use it, but I hate being accused of unoriginality.) Imagine colossal "whales" or "kraken" that live in symbiosis for an aggressive, nomadic race...they could even be big enough to have adventures within their bodies.

You could have a race of Cnidarians (jellyfish) that are intelligent. Unlike regular Cnidarians, the intelligent ones could be an emergent consciousness...that is, having a hive mind distributed among its various individuals, but only actively conscious when the group reaches a certain critical mass. Perhaps they would have 1/2 an Int point per individual in the swarm (apart from their own animal intelligence) over a certain radius...

Of course, Coral could fill this role as well- a brain coral that was actually brainy, hmmmm?

Actually, coral and their relatives could fill any number of roles of D&D surface critters- a coral in its mobile stage could create a form of zombie, like the yellow musk mold does on land, for instance.

One thing that occurs to me is that in a predominantly aquatic campaign, psionics and incarnum would be the easiest "magic systems" to use, followed by core divine and arcane. Psionics definitely fits in with certain archetypes, like Aquaman. The above-mentioned Cnidarians or Brain Coral would especially benefit from an emphasis on psionics.
 
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GreatLemur said:
It's easy to rework magic items so that they function underwater. Remember that there's no reason a single-use spell-delivery item needs to be a fluid in a bottle that's drank by the user. It could just as easily by a box full of magical energy that's opened, or a tiny carved symbol that's snapped in half, or, hell, a bottle of fluid that's released into the water.
One of the DCCs has wax balls full of potions that users bite to release the magical fluid.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
Another way to get around problems with potions or scrolls is to slightly alter the magic item creation feats.

Brew Potion or Scribe Scroll could become Craft Minor Single Use Item and Craft Minor Multiple Use Item. The potion becomes a bit of enruned seashell, perhaps, snapped in two to release the spell's energies. The scroll is a variant on the same idea, but instead of breaking the shell in two, it is scored in such a way as to be broken in increments, each part releasing its power when broken.
 

Kahuna Burger

Villager
when I was considering an aquatic campaign, I went with the idea that undersea "writing" would be more three dimensional to begin with - different shapes and substances beaded in strings for instance. So a spellbook would be a bunch of strings you ran your fingers over to study, while a scroll would be activated by snapping the "thread" and running all the beads out through your fingers.
 

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