5E Enhancing "Ghosts of Saltmarsh"

jayoungr

Adventurer
Since Ghosts of Saltmarsh is potentially a campaign of its own, it's time for the traditional "Enhancing" wiki thread! [ETA: No longer a wiki thread, sadly.]

This post contains shortcuts to particular posts* that offer suggestions and answer questions raised by the adventure.

Table of Contents/Index of posts

Introduction
Ch 1. Saltmarsh
Ch 2. The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh
Ch 3. Danger at Dunwater
Ch 4. Salvage Operation
Ch 5. Isle of the Abbey
Ch 6. The Final Enemy
Ch 7. Tammeraut's Fate
Ch 8. The Styes
App A: Of Ships and the Sea
App B: Magic Items
App C: Monsters & NPCS


*These posts typically start discussions so don't forget to read relevant following posts!

Other threads related to Ghosts of Saltmarsh


DMs Guild related Products

Guild Adept Content

  • Saltmarsh Encounters

    Bring your campaign to life with this companion supplement for Ghosts of Saltmarsh! Saltmarsh Encounters presents 60 short encounters for the town, coast, and sea. Over 150 variations are included, making the encounters highly replayable and allowing you to customise them to fit YOUR game. The supplement is great for Ghosts of Saltmarsh or any coastal or high seas campaign!
 
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Galendril

Explorer
When 5e came out I kit bashed Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh with Cult of the Reptile God. We had a lot of fun with that!
 

jayoungr

Adventurer
When 5e came out I kit bashed Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh with Cult of the Reptile God. We had a lot of fun with that!
Sounds awesome! Can you give us some details on how you mashed them together? Also, how did you do the conversions for "Cult of the Reptile God"?
 

Galendril

Explorer
It wasn’t a lot of work to do conversions. Pretty much all the creatures in N1 are in the 5e MM now.

I made my own map of a new town called Ravenport since i had no map for Saltmarsh (also, my players would recognize the name Saltmarsh immediately). I used all the locations in N1 and assigned various townspeople to the council.

I added a Benjin Wolfe as a prominent shopkeeper who was secretly working with the smugglers.

The priest of the temple went super crazy after his conversion and murdered his own daughter and threw her into the ocean. She returns as a zombie and becomes a plot hook to the N1 investigation.

It was really fun to play around with elements from both. And have different plots advance simultaneously.
 

GlassJaw

Adventurer
I haven't run Ghosts of Saltmarsh but I've done some brainstorming on a possible campaign.

While I like "Sinister Secret", I don't really like "Danger" or "Final Enemy". The entire Danger module can basically be a single role-playing encounter, and The Final Enemy is a huge dungeon stocked with enemies that the players are supposed to avoid entirely. Stealth-based missions don't play very well in D&D, at least ones at this scale.

So while I like the lizardfolk-sahuagin conflict storyline, I would circumvent those two modules almost entirely. I really like incorporating Cult of the Reptile God though! Lots of potential for intrigue and rooting out the cult.

The big idea I have was using Saltmarsh as a homebase for expeditions to the Isle of Dread. I would also use The Shadow Over Innsmouth for inspiration. There is a cult in Saltmarsh that wants to retrieve an artifact from the Isle of Dread. The module Torrents of Dread from Dungeon #114 would also be really good to incorporate.
 
I'm currently running The Styles, and there are a few things I have found:

* My players wanted to know a lot more details about the string of murders than was provided in the module, and I had to wing it. It would have been useful to have dates, MO, location of bodies, identities of all known victims, etc. I would recomend having it all tabulated before hand if you suspect players might be into police procedurals.

* There are a few issues with the suspended ship map. On the map, the crane does not look strong enough to support a ship full of water. The illustration tries to address that with a very robust looking structure, which doesn't align with the map. Also, the ship in the picture is a mirror image of the ship on the map. The area under the crane is shown with windows on the illustration, but this area is not represented on the map. The space inside Mr Dory's cabin is not large enough for him to use Cloudkill as described in the tactics section.

* Mr Dory's stat block seems a bit arbitrary. I might be inclined to remake him as a Great Old One warlock if I run this again, especially if I wanted to adjust the difficulty up or down.

* Fights with skum can drag a bit - there are several of them, and they have quite high hp for mooks. Although the party didn't have optimised DPS.
 

Dark_T_Zeratul

Explorer
Does anyone have any advice for scaling this up? My players are level 8 right now but I feel like this'd be a great thing to slot into their current campaign.
 
Does anyone have any advice for scaling this up? My players are level 8 right now but I feel like this'd be a great thing to slot into their current campaign.
The adventures are mostly stand-alone, so I would simply pick it up at chapter 7 (Tammeraut's Fate).

Sinister Secret (Ch1) and Danger at Dunswater (Ch 2) pretty much require the party to be low level because of the nature of the threat, and The Final Enemy (Ch 6) loses most of it's significance without those earlier instalments, although a level 8 party of murder hobos might enjoy taking on a sahaugan army without the scripted backup.

The Isle of Abbey (Ch 5) could have the number and difficulty of it's encounters inflated.
 

uzirath

Adventurer
Does anyone have any advice for scaling this up? My players are level 8 right now but I feel like this'd be a great thing to slot into their current campaign.
I've used Sinister Secret over the years with a variety of parties, including one that was much more powerful than expected. I just scaled things up with broad strokes. Sanbalet became a powerful illusionist with a pile of spells and magic items. He had apprentices, too, with magical capabilities. The smugglers were more elite and numerous. The alchemist was a high-level undead encounter. There was some sort of sea serpent or octopus guarding the smuggler's launch and its parents were defending the ship. It was good fun.
 

Prakriti

Hi, I'm a Mindflayer, but don't let that worry you
Any advice on how to handle the Lizardfolk aboard the Sea Ghost in The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh? We have a Draconic-speaking Sorcerer in the party, and I don't want to spoil the next part of the adventure by having the Lizardfolk explain their intentions to the party, which seems all the more likely considering they're non-hostile and don't join in the fighting.
 

Prakriti

Hi, I'm a Mindflayer, but don't let that worry you
A mistake I just noticed: The compass in the insert to map 3.1 (Danger at Dunwater, p. 71) incorrectly points toward the left side of the page, when it should point up, just like the larger map (north = up, basically.) In other words, C corresponds to Area 22, D to Area 1, and E to area 49.
 
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Any advice on how to handle the Lizardfolk aboard the Sea Ghost in The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh? We have a Draconic-speaking Sorcerer in the party, and I don't want to spoil the next part of the adventure by having the Lizardfolk explain their intentions to the party, which seems all the more likely considering they're non-hostile and don't join in the fighting.
Just make them angry and ill disposed towards humans. One of them might be particularly hot-headed and attack just before it's compatriot explains. Or maybe their elders haven't told them what the weapons are for.

If you have a lizardfolk or similar species (e.g. dragonborn, tortle) in the party, or they are Starfleet, then Danger at Dunwater is likely to just be a negotiation anyway.

One way to make Dunwater more challenging is have the party accompanied by a representative of the town who is secretly a sahaugan spy physically altered to appear human (they do that).
 
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Nikosandros

Golden Procrastinator
Any advice on how to handle the Lizardfolk aboard the Sea Ghost in The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh? We have a Draconic-speaking Sorcerer in the party, and I don't want to spoil the next part of the adventure by having the Lizardfolk explain their intentions to the party, which seems all the more likely considering they're non-hostile and don't join in the fighting.
When I ran the adventure, the lizardfolks fled by jumping into the water from their cabin, once they realized that a full-scale attack was going on.

I also made tre pseudodragon a prisoner if the smugglers. For me it didn't make much sense that it would bond with someone who had slayed its former master.
 

uzirath

Adventurer
Any advice on how to handle the Lizardfolk aboard the Sea Ghost in The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh?
Good question. I was puzzling over this too, in my current game, because we have a dragonborn PC. I was imagining that from the Lizardfolk perspective, humans may be a potential enemy even more terrifying than the sahuagin. They may be loath to let the humans know that they are threatened from another direction because this makes them vulnerable to human depredations. ("It would be just like those savage mammals to strike us from behind!") These couriers may be under strict orders to keep silent about the true nature of the threat.

Just make them angry and ill disposed towards humans. One of them might be particularly hot-headed and attack just before it's compatriot explains. Or maybe their elders haven't told them what the weapons are for.
I like this too. They may mistake the PCs for rival smugglers or some other faction.

One way to make Dunwater more challenging is have the party accompanied by a representative of the town who is secretly a sahaugan spy physically altered to appear human (they do that).
This could be a lot of fun.

When I ran the adventure, the lizardfolks fled by jumping into the water from their cabin, once they realized that a full-scale attack was going on.
I would also have them jump ship fairly early to prevent too much conversation. Just enough to create confusion and misunderstandings.

I also made the pseudodragon a prisoner if the smugglers. For me it didn't make much sense that it would bond with someone who had slayed its former master.
This bothered me too, though I could see it working in a certain system of martial honor that might make sense for draconic/reptilian cultures. This would make for an interesting personality for the pseudodragon: loyal as long as its master is courageous and victorious in battle.
 

Prakriti

Hi, I'm a Mindflayer, but don't let that worry you
I ran “The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh” recently and noticed more than a few editing and design issues, most of which were cleared up by reading the original module. Not only does the reprint make a few editing mistakes but, for whatever reason, it also leaves out useful or vital information on occasion. For example:

1. I had a hard time understanding the house’s position in relation to the sea and the height of the cliffs on which it stood. The original module includes a sentence that is apparently missing from the reprint: “The Haunted House stands on the cliff top 70 feet above sea level and about 80 feet from the cliff edge.” This is useful information that IMO should have been included in the reprint.

2. Ned Shakeshaft and his merchant benefactor’s actions make no sense, as I detailed in this thread. It would make much more sense for Ned to warn the smugglers that the party is coming and set up an ambush. As it turns out, however, the original module includes a paragraph explaining why this is not possible:

Unfortunately for the merchant, he does not know how to contact the smugglers at short notice -- Sanbalet (the smugglers' leader) always initiates their infrequent meetings and never arranges for them to take place in the House. Thus the merchant knows the smugglers' base is somewhere in the House but has never been able to find it. Planting [Ned] in one of the upstairs rooms was the best plan he could conceive at short notice.”

Even so, I find the merchant’s plan so ridiculous that I decided to remove Ned from the adventure (you can find my reasoning at the other thread).

3. This isn't the fault of the adventure, but I wasn’t sure how to run the two encounters with spider swarms, so I asked ENWorld posters for some help. Out of curiosity, I checked the original module and discovered that it doesn't even include swarms: It makes use of giant rats and giant spiders instead, which seem like viable alternatives for anyone who has similar problems with running spider swarm encounters. (Note: I ended up using the swarms and was happy with how the encounters turned out.)

4. The alchemist’s “philosopher’s stone” is pretty lame. No one in their right mind would attune to it without identifying it first (how would anyone even know that attuning to it was an option in the first place?). Not surprisingly, the original module handles this situation much better than the reprint: The cursed stone automatically attunes to whoever touches it first.

Also, I took this curse one step further in my own game. Not only could the attuned character not get rid of the stone, they couldn’t even let go of it. They could only swap it between their hands or pass it off onto someone else.

5. Ghosts of Saltmarsh lists the Sea Ghost as having a crew of 7 bandits, but mentions 9 in the adventure text. According to the original module, there should be 8. This means that the Ghosts version of the Sea Ghost has 1 more bandit than it should. The mistake occurs in Area 11, which Ghosts of Saltmarsh incorrectly lists as having 4 bandits when there should only be 3 (according to the original module).

That's it. I hope this helps anyone running the Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh in the future. Overall, I think it’s a very good adventure, but I do wish WotC had taken a little more care in porting it over to 5E.
 
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Prakriti

Hi, I'm a Mindflayer, but don't let that worry you
What do you all think of the Open Waters encounter tables? I'm thinking of replacing some of the more boring encounters, such as sharks and sea horses, with something more interesting. Or maybe someone can tell me how to make these encounters interesting to a party traveling by sea? Because I'm not sure what to do with, say, killer whales beyond telling the party that they spot some fins in the water. If I'm going to roll an encounter, I'd rather it were a little more momentous (such as a pirate ship, a sahuagin boarding party, or a disease-carrying merchant ship).
 
Because I'm not sure what to do with, say, killer whales beyond telling the party that they spot some fins in the water.
There is nothing wrong with having the occasional sightseeing encounter. Not everything has to be a fight.

Killer whales? They are quite intelligent, and might have useful information if someone uses Speak With Animals.

Plus, they are awesome.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
Killer Whale AC 13 HP 25 +15 perception +10 to deception. Treasure 1,000 GP. Killer Whale is a professional gambler and will gamble on anything. They are well know about crazy bets. Like Which pc would drop in a bar fight. How many flies you can feed a sleeping dwarf. If a fly will land on which foaming beer.
Reason he is floating in the ocean?
He bet he be picked up before he died!
 

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