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D&D 5E [Let's Read] Seas of Vodari

Libertad

Adventurer
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Tribality is part self-publisher, part online community of Dungeons & Dragons enthusiasts. The company’s products focused mostly on small splatbooks one could grab for a few bucks, although in mid-2019 they set their sights higher with a KickStarter for a 270 page setting. Seas of Vodari began as one of the authors’ homebrew settings, with strong seafaring influences. Influenced by media ranging from Pirates of the Caribbean to Star Trek and Indiana Jones, the setting places adventuring parties as a ship’s crew. All the typical fantasy setups would be preset albeit with a nautical theme, where traveling bands of adventures would sail to various islands in search of treasure, get involved in local problems, and fight vicious monsters and pirates among other threats.

The book opens up with Six Things You Should Know About Vodari, highlighting aspects of the world the authors deem important: One, if it can be found in a typical fantasy world, it can be found in Vodari. Two, it is a dangerous world, where voyages between otherwise placid islands can be fouled by pirates, weather, and other mishaps, and even major ports are home to crime, politicking, and the more ‘civilized’ kinds of dangers. Third, it is a broken world, one that is such due to the once-great continent of Varanu being torn asunder into many smaller islands from a divinely-fueled conflict known as the Godwar. Now a divine storm is still raging in what was once the landmass’ epicenter. Four, it is a world where the gods are proactive, and make heavy use of mortal pawns to gain power and influence given that the destruction of the continent was the result of the last time they waged war openly. Fifth, it is a world where magic is rare and accessible only to a gifted few. Sixth, it is a world more technologically advanced than the typical medieval setting: steam power, gunpowder, alchemy, and other technological devices are more common, developed to make up for the lack of widespread magic.

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Chapter I: Welcome to Vodari

The History of Vodari is fractured and incomplete, with countless texts and knowledge lost from Varanu’s destruction 700 years ago. Different cultures interpreted and safeguarded various tales and recollections, with the closest unified approximations by scholars sussing out the truth among them. This section presents various in-character treatises explaining the origin of the world and procession of events which take a variety of styles. One entry is written in a literary fashion of the gods working together in creating life, while another is the reenactment of a divine war via dragonborn theater. I’ll paraphrase things in a more objective tone, but still wanted to point this out on account of it being an interesting way of explaining a setting’s history.

What is commonly known is that the gods are the oldest known entities, the twin siblings Taeva the Just and Vesi the Enigmatic the very first among them. They and other gods brought light to the world, created the moon, and worked other wonders, but Vesi soon grew unreasonable. Hating the light borne from the sun and moon, she retreated to the deepest depths of the oceans. The oldest races, the now-extinct Varu and the Dakri were born out of two gods’ desire to learn the joys of dance and joined their divine parents in this rhythmatic display, their performance creating a marvellous palace. The demigods known as the Varuva were made by Taeva to shape the world of Vodari from the chaos of nothingness that still predominated.

Soon Vesi sought to bring down what was built out of spite, so she taught her children to be warriors, and in turn Taeva followed suit. Their creations soon warred upon each other, and Vesi tempted one of Taeva’s demigod-generals with power to have him join her side, promising him a lofty position as the conqueror of the world.

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The sisters’ wars would soon cause the other gods to get involved. Some in spite of it, such as the fire god Volkan who burst from a giant egg with a loud roar when both goddess’ forces threatened his peace and quiet. Volkan’s roars caused the world to rain with heated soil, solidifying into the first land mass, the continent of Varanu.

On said land the first great mortal civilizations arose. There were the mysterious Ancients, whose only legacy are mysterious ruins brimming with magical artifacts and wonder. Then came the dragonborn, elves, dwarves, and other typical fantasy races who established their own communities. The Draga (the dragonborn term for themselves) forged a mighty empire that conquered many lands, and soon their reign fell to slave rebellions. The human veterans of this conflict became the new rulers of many provinces and thus the new political power of the continent and had not one, but three empires: Zuroth, Avera, and Verdaan. These civilizations would eventually fall too, but for unknown reasons. What is known is that many stories and texts speak of a woman spreading chaos known as “Lady Storm,” “Queen Ruin,” and many other epithets believed to be the goddess Vesi in disguise. Eventually this led to war, and then a cataclysm that destroyed Varanu. Seas and mountains fell, the ground itself split apart, and a storm known as Vesi’s Rage dominated the ocean with merely a ring of scattered islands holding the last true bastions of civilization.

It was a time where everyone suffered, but the survivors adapted to their new world. The lack of any large landmasses meant that seafaring ships and navies became the primary expressions of military and economic might, and ports grew to link various communities and nations together. The former empire of Verdaan were now harsh frozen wastes in the northern ring of islands, while the southern landmasses were more prosperous by comparison. Fifty years ago a series of technological and magical innovations changed society in what is known as the Great Leap. In addition to alchemy and metallurgy, new designs in shipbuilding and navigation allowed vessels to sail farther and longer, and the rediscovery of black powder reshaped the face of war. More and more islands were discovered and claimed by the various nations, colonized, annexed, and fought over for their resources. It wasn’t long until full-scale war arose, taking a heavy toll on the common folk who bore the brunt of such ventures. When all sides grew tired they signed treaties and rebuilt, but instead devoted efforts to spies, privateers, and other deniable assets which gave rise to an age of piracy. The theocracy of Taevara declared war on all pirates, including ‘legitimate’ privateers, and other nations began to rescind their writ of marques and try pirates for their crimes due to political pressure. This left many of these seabound raiders without work or the backing of the state...but they still had their own weapons and fleets of ships.

I bet you can see where this is going.

A Pirate Queen by the name of Esmerelda decided to found her own pirate nation, and for a time she came quite close to this when they seized an entire archipelago of colonies. But an assassination attempt and politicial infighting ground those dreams to pieces like a ship upon rocky shoals, with the surviving communities being a loose mutual defense pact at best. As of today, the nations of Vodari are in a tense pseudo-peace: Zavros’ monarchy is a power in name only, now dominated by organized crime. Arushi is close to experiencing peasant revolt as the nobility holes up in their own sanctums as famine and disease rage across the land. Taevara is an authoritarian theocracy, and the Pirate Isles are too busy fighting each other to mount a serious offense like they did in the past yet still a dire threat to ship-bound trade. Although overt war has been abandoned, Vodari is far from a peaceful land.

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Religion in Vodari is one that will be familiar to many fantasy RPG fans. The world has a unified pantheon of 16 deities who are favored differently in various cultures, but are more or less universally known and acknowledged. Although the gods are split up alignment-wise, even evil-aligned deities still receive offerings if only to avoid their wrath. There are a few philosophers who believe that the gods don’t exist, but Istoro the God of Wisdom and Knowledge surreptitiously places them under his protection because he finds the irony incredibly amusing. The gods are much more involved in the affairs of the world, and while they often disguise themselves as mortals many Vodarians have encountered the gods at least once in their life even if they don’t know it.

The gods of Vodari are split into three broad groups: the five Creators are the classic good-aligned divinities who safeguard mortals, bless crops, and are responsible for all the nice things in life. Aerako is a mischievous god of wind of unknown origin (conflicting creation myths) who doesn’t take life seriously. Aubori is the gentle side of nature, also presiding over beauty, and is conflicted as while she aligns morally with Taeva she still bears love for the Destroyers. Taeva is the goddess of civilization and war, a warrior queen who has a “mother knows best” sense of an orderly society and whose worshipers are the most willing to strike out against those they believe threaten such ideals. Tero is the god of light, love, and healing, and is the most popular of the gods for such domains of influence. Toamna is the goddess of agriculture and fertility, favored by farmers who reshape the land into sustaining life. She along with Aubori does not much care for the wars between the gods and sits out the conflicts, as the first casualties of war are the common folk no matter the cause or reason why it’s waged. And after Varanu’s destruction, who can blame them?

The six Preservers are the neutral caretakers who view good and evil as being equally destructive and side against whoever has the upper hand...oh great, we’re using the worst Neutral Stupid tropes again. Fortana is the classic chaotic trickster and lover of freedom who people pray to for good fortune. Istoro is the god of wisdom and knowledge whose priesthood maintains libraries and other storehouses of knowledge in lieu of temples as a means of honoring him. Mirta presides over birth and death, who wove a never-ending tapestry with her brother Morto representing the progression of life into death, although Morto perverted it out of jealousy and caused the first undead to rise. Kalder was a former mortal hero who upon his death decided to forge a kingdom of the dead and built a grand Nordic-style meadhall after seeing the poor “living” conditions of the once colorless and forlorn afterlife. Okeano is the god of the sea and all the life within, residing in a Palace Under the Sea which serves as neutral ground between the three divine factions. He can be wrathful against those who abuse or pollute the ocean, often manifesting in floods and storms, but can also be merciful, as he is fond of taking pearls and other treasure from deep depths to give to poor children so that they can turn their lives around. Sindri is the goddess of creativity and invention, favored by artisans and artists in equal measure, and was responsible for shaping Varunu’s intricate wilderness out of Volkan’s powerful quakes. She is notable for creating some of the most famous magical artifacts in history, or providing inspiration for their creation at the hands of mortals.

The five Destroyers are the classic villainous gods and goddesses, holding dominion over monsters, necromancy, conquest, and other things that make the world a worse place. Dokahi is a more insidious and subtle evil; she lairs in the Benthic Deep and feeds on people’s negative emotions, often promising power and safety to the vengeful and fearful in exchange for service. She also grants favors and spells to abusive parents, knowing that their actions further abusive cycles and whose children are easier to manipulate and recruit into her cults. She instills self-loathing in such worshipers, teaching them that they are nothing without her and she has given them everything. Morto is the stereotypical necromantic death god who sabotaged his sister’s tapestry and stopped guiding souls to the afterlife, forcing Mirta and Fortuna to take up said mantle. By undoing Mirta’s tapestry he causes living souls to be trapped as undead, and he teaches necromancers how to do this as well just to spite his sister in unmaking her beautiful world. Scatho, the god of conquest and tyranny, was once one of Taeva’s demigod generals whose own bloodthirstiness was taken advantage of by Vesi. There are some who posit Vesi as the quintessential “evil temptress luring men to evil with sex,” but whatever the truth of their relationship what is undeniable is that Scatho was tempted most by a desire to be a ruler and a true god more than any greater sense of justice or higher-minded ideals. Vesi is the classic Chaotic Evil “destroy everything” goddess who presides over storms, darkness, and chaos. She was the first entity of evil, and seeks to destroy mortal civilization under a sea of blood and ruin. Finally we have Volkan, a god of fire and destruction (seems a bit redundant in a pantheon known as the Destroyers) who burst from an egg and ironically created the continent of Varanu. He is associated with volcanoes whose lava often mimics his origin story, and is a popular deity among the dragonborn.

The gods as a whole have a balanced array of alignments and domains, the latter of which are suggestions rather than the only options. However, there is an exception in the new Spirit domain, which represents practitioners of syncretic faiths who revere multiple deities based on circumstance and need. We also have a brief overview of the afterlife, known as the Seas Beyond. Mortals are escorted to a shore by Mirta, and three ships help guide these souls to the true afterlives. First there is lush Alcyon, whose wilderness is closest to that of the mortal world and ruled over by Kalder. Then there is dark and gloomy Bathyal where Morto holds court over evildoers of all stripes. This fearful land is home to the jungle-strewn mausoleum-city of Mortopolis and a “swamp prophet” known as Polder whose own predictions have made their way into the heads of mortal scholars and spellcasters. Finally we have the Benthic Deep, Dokahi’s realm, where all of her subjects are turned into flat, boneless, and pale things from the intense pressure. Dokahi has often attempted to use her narcissistic mind games on Vesi and turn her into yet another tool, but the hot-headed goddess is too proud to be affected beyond being pissed off enough to strike out against Dokahi’s forces.

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Life in Vodari is the final section of this chapter. It covers the major “common knowledge” elements as opposed to daily living, which itself varies wildly depending on where one lives. Vodari is a spherical planet with a sun and moon (known as Luna), with four seasons and a lunar calendar of 364 days split into 12 months. Weather is more tropical in the south and cold in the north, with the western and eastern islands of a more temperate disposition. The dominance of the eternal storm of Vesi’s Rage shrinks and expands at random times, causing oceanic courses to differ in time and route based on what sections of sea are safe to travel.

We get a list of common and popular holidays, such as the Carnival of Masks whose parades honor masked heroes who overthrew an ancient tyrant of Vereci, Midsummer which is celebrated on the summer solstice and a popular time to get married, Cataclysmus which celebrates Volkan’s creation of the first continent with fireworks (and religious dances in the case of dragonborn), and Rum Festival which is so named after a time when pirates obtained an epic haul of rum during a raid.

Languages and currency are similar to standard D&D. Common languages include the various fantasy races, with no languages based on human ethnicity or nationality as some other settings have. The major exception is Shantyspeak, which is like Thieves’ Cant but for smugglers and pirates. Exotic languages include the typical planar ones as well as Deep Speech (spoken by aboleths), Giant, and Sylvan. The specifics of coinage differ wildly based upon nation and mint, but just about every notable country splits currency based on metal (copper, silver, gold, platinum) although almost as common are paper money used and issued by banks.

For education, formal schooling tends to be of three kinds: home-schooled in the case of rural communities, private schools and tutors for the wealthy, and public schooling for most children in cities. Public schools are heavily funded and managed by Istori’s priesthood, which means that Vodari has a very high literacy rate for a pre-industrial population (well over 50%).

Finally we cover magic, although we don’t learn much new that wasn’t covered in the Six Things at the beginning. We do learn that the Arcane Council is the predominant body of arcane spellcasters. Arising out of a mutual defense pact among mages during anti-magic purges, the Council is governed by eight archmages who manage towers of their own specializing in a different school of magic. We get a paragraph on each archmage, their goals, and the foundations of their tower. The Council as a whole manages magic schools in the largest cities, but due to the time and resources needed in training apprentices such places cater almost exclusively to the wealthy.

Thoughts So Far: Seas of Vodari has a surprisingly ‘standard’ fantasy backdrop in spite of its Age of Sail style setting. The history and gods follow a lot of common tropes, although there are some novel differences: I’m particularly fond of the god Keldar, who effectively created a pseudo-Valhalla upon finding the actual afterlife not to his liking. And I also like that there are good-aligned gods who sit out the good-evil conflict not of a non-interventionist “both sides are bad” argument but due to the misery that war and conflict causes. Which makes sense in a way, but feels odd when juxtaposed against the Preservers who really do argue Both Sidesism. Dokahi is a rather unexpected entry, covering an aspect of evil that is often overlooked in fantasy fiction. Given her themes of gaslighting and child abuse, she is uncomfortable in a way that more typical evil overlords/world destroyers like Vesi and Scatho aren’t, which may require more care than usual in incorporation of her themes in games.

I’m a bit more iffy on the Arcane Council; they feel way too close to Dragonlance’s Orders of High Sorcery, and while they may have a more sensible division than color-coded morality robes I would have preferred something more novel. At first I was a bit underwhelmed by the lack of new languages, but upon reflection felt that the highly-mobile nature of seafaring games wouldn’t be ideal for this. When PCs may very well journey to a new island every adventure, tongues based upon geographical boundaries aren’t going to be as important. I do feel that Shantyspeak is a bit superfluous when Thieves’ Cant is a thing, although it may be to serve pirate-type PCs who don’t necessarily want to be Rogues.

Join us next time as we cover the first part of Chapter II, a World to Explore!
 

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CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
I'm Backer #682 for the "Seas of Vodari" kickstarter, and I love it so much that I became Backer #27 for the "Under the Seas of Vodari" kickstarter. This is a quality piece of work, and a credit to the folks at Tribality. Seriously, it's incredibly well done.

Before the pandemic ended our campaign, the players had only just met Esmerelda, the Pirate Queen. And since our story began 20 years after the events of the Pirate Wars, and because I wanted to utterly and completely avoid the tired "sexy lady-pirate" trope, I tailored her after the artwork for a Magic: the Gathering card ("Admiral Beckett Brass," by Jason Rainville):

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The party was just about to meet one of the infamous pirates who betrayed her (a warlock called "Ill-Rigger") and it was going to turn into a Whole Big Thing where they would get swept up in the politics of the region and would have to choose sides. And then, alas, Covid-19 lockdowns struck and our group was forced to disband. We tried to keep it going via Roll20, but bandwidth, busy servers, and other technology issues were a big problem. We ended up shelving it, and this piece of beautiful scenery now languishes unused on my bookshelf.

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Ah, good memories of better days. Covid-19 can kiss the fattest part of my...
...foot.
 

Libertad

Adventurer
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Chapter II: A World to Explore (Part I)

This chapter is by far the largest one in the book, at 72 pages out of a 270 page book. For the purposes of brevity this is going to be split into two parts.

It’s too big to fit here without stretching the pages on some sites, but here’s a link to the setting map

Southern Nations: This southwestern island chain is made up of five countries. Throughout their post-cataclysm history they’ve been allies as much as they’ve been enemies, and are commonly made up of the more typical standard fantasy races.

Arushi is a land of contrasts. Made up primarily of two cities, their urban landscape is a beautiful, art-filled series of buildings and structures. But it is home to some of the poorest people in Vodari, and those living in its slums face famine and plague as a daily struggle. Arushi’s monarchy is absolute, concerned more with earning the favor of wealthy foreigners than caring for their own subjects. In the wilderness beyond the urban confines and within the sewers below lurk monsters kept in check by the Hunter’s Guild. There is an underground rebellion brewing, and not just from the commoners. There exists tension among the ranks of the Musketeers, Arushi’s elite guards, some of whom are not blind to the peoples’ suffering. Adventure opportunities focus on the class divide, forbidden romances between monarchists and rebels, and hunting monsters within and beyond the cities’ dark corners.

Taevara was once a monarchy like so many other nations, but within the last one hundred years the priesthood of Taeva took control of every branch of government and turned the nation into a theocracy. It is the most powerful of the southern nations, both for being at the geographic center of various trade networks as well as its heavy military spending. The theocracy is insistent on rooting out corruption of the more non-violent and mundane kinds, and banned dancing, drinking, and non-divine magic as well as more dangerous crimes such as dueling. The population is faithful to various degrees; there’s a huge underground network of bars and dance halls, and the city of Westara’s inhabitants developed a “knocking code” to transmit hidden messages along the pipes and walls of buildings in order to conceal illegal activities. Archpriest Fierros, the leader of the nation, isn’t even Lawful Good; rather he is Lawful Neutral, and he ignores the poor sections of the capital city in the belief that poverty and immorality go hand in hand. Even so, there are genuine good-aligned members of the Taevaran Theocracy, often having to deal with pushback and politicking from factions of their own government when trying to get things done. Adventure opportunities focus on dealing with the black market, corruption among the priesthood, fighting the Taevaran Navy just about anywhere if the PCs happen to be pirates, and stopping a rampaging dragon turtle from attacking a festival on a series of linked flotillas.

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Veraci is a nation where private enterprise and government go hand in hand. Or rather, the former supplanted the latter as the true power. Over twenty merchant houses control aspects of daily life, with the four largest ones being the de facto rulers. Each of the big four have all the benefits of a centralized government’s armed forces, albeit privatized to be loyal solely to them. House Tealeaf presides over all kinds of beverages and has the largest amount of spellcasters among the houses. House Kawani specializes in textiles and artisanal crafts, and has the largest and most powerful navy of the houses. House Hemlock specializes in food and alchemy, and counts proficient poisoners among its ranks as well as fast ships for transporting perishable goods. House Lagunn specializes in the trade of rare and supernatural creatures, a few of which serve as soldiers and flying mounts. We have a write-up on two of their largest cities as well as their most interesting inhabitants. The metropolis of Vardi is home to beautiful private estates, palm trees, rooftop gardens, gondola networks, and marble statues, making it prime real estate for Vodari’s wealthy. Much of the city’s wealth isn’t physical, being made up of loans and shares for businesses, and its counting houses are unique in Vodari for having a centralized governing body for such liquid funds. The city of Valedo is more rural and low-key in comparison, although it too has more than a few “country houses” of well-to-do merchants. Adventure opportunities involve corporate sabotage and espionage between merchant houses, and one where the PCs end up framed for murder during a festival.

Xolen is a multicultural mix of gnomes, humans, and dwarves with a smattering of other races. Like Veraci it is also governed by private businesses, albeit in the form of guilds with representatives who vote to elect a governor every year rather than being completely separate entities. Heavily industrialized, the cities of the island are covered in smog and smoke from the many factories and machines, and much of its food supply is imported from outside islands. A group of druidic defenders of nature known as the Thorns carry out attacks on factories and other centers of industry to stem the tide of pollution. One common problem is a series of isolationist laws preventing smaller towns from being able to sell their goods to foreign groups, which has harmed local farming and fishing industries. We have write-ups on the capital city which shares the same name as the nation as well as five smaller towns. One of the more interesting towns, Orca, is not part of Xolen proper, but is a self-sufficient community of wereorcas who refuse any form of alliance or trade due to the guilds’ pollution. Due to this, eventual violence may be inevitable. There’s also the isolated community of Naft, a pseudo-religious group who advocates balance in all things, ranging from “do unto others” mutual respect as well as “eye for an eye” system of punishments. Adventure opportunities in Xolen center around conflict between the Guilds and the Thorns and more rural communities, and inter-Guild politicking.

Zavros is a muddy, barren realm whose communities seem to be in an eternal state of disrepair. A series of wars have contributed to Zavros’ decline, and the current king rules in name only. A group of four organized crime groups known as the Syndicates have carved up Zavros into respective ‘turfs,’ contributing to rebuilding as well as more illegal enterprises in hopes of securing themselves as the new government of the nation. The capital of Port Zavo is crime-ridden but not totally chaotic as there is order of a sort among the Syndicates. At least half of said crime groups’ leaders made pacts with fiendish figures to obtain magical power, and even King Feber Proszt is not immune to infernal temptation. Said king is actually a horned devil in disguise who replaced the original monarch and supplied the infernal pact to the leader of the Ash Hands (one of the syndicates) although they don’t know it yet. The smaller island of Razan is part of Zavros, albeit instead of fiends and gangsters the realm is ruled over by Baron Lucian Rau, a reclusive man who is actually a vampire. Adventures in Zavros dealing with the crime syndicates and their demonic/devilish backers, and Baron Rau who is turning the subjects of his island into vampires far beyond their ability to sustain themselves.

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The Pirate Isles: Occupying the far south of Vodari, the Pirate Isles are less populated and centralized than the Southern Nations, and the pirates, smugglers, monsters, and various anti-establishment figures are more than happy to keep it that way. Once banded together out of a shared enemy of the nations that formerly employed them as privateers, the closest equivalent to a “pirate nation” is a mutual defense pact known as the League of Captains. They coordinate efforts in electing a King/Queen of Pirates to a five-year term in the event of a unified threat, which is almost always Taevara. The current Pirate Queen is Esmeralda, although other powerful groups include the Four Aces fleet known for their crew of powerful spellcasters, the fleet of Scales who are mostly made up of dragonborn and amphibious races, the Black Guard who recruit from the most desperate and make up for lack of quality with humanoid wave tactics, and the Rum Runners who are eccentric and beloved for targeting ships carrying alcohol which they share with locals in various ports.

The more notable population centers (and even those average populations of a few thousand) include the trio of islands known as Coral, Dagger, & Reef, whose populations are mostly minotaurs, goblins, and orcs. They are not well-liked even by other pirates in that they don’t even abide by the Code of the Sea, the informal set of social laws and obligations followed by privateers.

The island of Fortana is named after the goddess of luck and follows a strange set of rules: instead of a set of former laws, any form of conflict resolution between inhabitants is settled via a game of chance or skill, and they use a currency known as “challenge coins” which can be used to issue challenges to other citizens to wager just about anything. New citizens are given 3 coins upon arrival, and the system was put in place in the belief that it can temper the chaos from a society without any real laws. One with a lot of challenge coins would theoretically be perceived as incredibly lucky and thus be less tempting of a target.

Of course, such a system is open to abuse. The ex-governor of Fortana, a halfling pirate by the name of Durban Flickwick, is building up a secret stash of coins to upset the island as part of a revenge plot after losing his former seat.

The island of Ghost is believed to be haunted and thus has no real permanent inhabitants. Such rumors have an element of truth, as the island is home to the cursed soul of the Black Guard’s former captain, and the ruins of a castle are home to a lich and mummy lord. The former patriarch and matriarch of the now-dead Pitcarin noble family who once presided over the island, they command a horde of zombies as their new generation of subjects.

Mirta & Morto are also rumored to have a foul reputation, but their curses are of another kind. Mirta is a lush island, while Morto’s bountiful fruits cause anyone to eat them to become severely ill. Mirta was claimed by a pirate crew known as the Ghosts who disguise themselves as undead and litter the island with various traps and devices to simulate the presence of undead. That way, combined with the island of Morto’s deadly fruit, they discourage outsiders from setting up shop nearby due to belief in malign supernatural influences.

Sharkfin is home not just to sharks, but also to the pirate gang of Threshers whose senior membership consists of weresharks. In spite of their dangerous reputation they live a rather quiet life on the island, being a calm and serene series of settlements home to gardens and fisheries.

Skull Island is the most populated of the Pirate Isles, sitting at 45,000 permanent residents. Its capital city of Sceptre houses the seat of the Pirate Queen, and is a common meeting area for various captains seeking alliances for joint raids. Sceptre’s port and surrounding environs are riddled with hidden cannons and defenses in the event of invasion. We get brief write-ups on Queen Esmerelda and seven other pirate captains: the more notable entries include the Ace of Diamonds, a non-binary half-elf who has a network of contacts across Vodari, Captain Black Belixa Dolunae of the Black Guards whose own ship figurehead is a mimic that can bite into rammed vessels,* and the good-natured Fáolan Shae of the Rum Rummers secretly bears fey heritage and may be next in line as Pirate King of Vodari. For those who aren’t pirate captains but hold great power there’s Old Cobra, a shadowy witch who is part of a sea hag coven who lives in a lair in the nearby jungles. Her coven is willing to grant visitors supernatural services in exchange for prices of eccentric objects and favors.

*This isn’t solely unique to her vessel; it’s a magical ship upgrade PCs can purchase, detailed in Chapter VI.

Tabulu is famous for its gambling houses and thus sees a lot of traffic from the Southern Nations for a Pirate Isle. But its casinos aren’t its only attraction, with beautiful beach resorts and nightclubs providing entertainment. Due to this, it is able to operate more independently from the League of Captains for its reputation as a “safe haven” for foreign wealth. Two adventure hooks include various high-stakes gambling tournaments and casino heists, as well as a popular annual ship race known as the Governor’s Regatta that crosses over dangerous monster-filled territory and sharp reefs.

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The Colonies: Claiming a portion of Vodari’s southeastern chain, the Colonies are the result of generations’ worth of settlement by the Southern Nations. They gained greater degrees of independence from their client states due to the prior decades worth of wars, and with said independence came danger. Some ended up virtually abandoned and forced to fend for themselves, and others fell to martial law and civil war.

Faraway Chain sits at a crossroads between the Marradi Archipelago and the Southern Nations, colonized by Veraci merchant houses. Glassworks are a popular industry and is also home to the unique dragon pear fruit that only grows on this island. The colonies are home to a bronze dragon who adopted a human disguise, working as a humble glassblower, as well as the niece of the King of Zavros who knows that her “father” has been replaced by a devil. Besides this being an adventure hook along with said dragon falling in love with her as a protector, another potential quest involves the PCs investigating a lost expedition into a cavern system inhabited by dinosaurs.

Liberty Chain is a gathering of autonomous enclaves so-named for the island of Liberty who sought to break away from Taevaran dominance. Although favored by criminals and other enemies of the Theocracy, Liberty is not like the Pirate Isles and in fact installed its own democratic council system which Taevara is attempting to overthrow via sabotage and assassination. Liberty’s own symbols have been adopted by other anti-establishment groups throughout Vodari. There’s also the island of Aru whose merchant class rules over indentured laborers. The criminal dumping ground of Ethri who hosts rebels in exile from Arushi and whose major industry is harvesting an intoxicating plant species known as jaja bush, while the barren island of Nanti whose few souls are those who wish to live isolated from others. Prosperi which is harshly ruled over by Taevara’s navy, and the nearby Xolenian colony of Tempest is building up a secret army planning on invading Prosperi. Tero which is a religious community dedicated to the god of the same name and hosts both a grand library and a recently unearthed jungle temple dungeon brimming with dark magic.

Vulcani is home to the Xolenian colony of Inferno that mines the volcano’s natural resources. Indigenous fire giants don’t take too kindly to the encroachment of their territory and have struck back violently. Xolen responded by sending even more workers and mercenaries to Inferno, promising high-pay for high-risk work.

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The Forest Realm: The islands of the west are home to the majority of the elven race and forest gnomes. Before the destruction of Varanu (which they call Túraterhat, or the Great Parting) the elves lived in relative peace among the western forests. But during the Great Parting they split into different scattered and isolated societies. It was only until the last hundred years that their woodland islands opened up to the rest of Vodari, trading and warring with the other nations in equal measure. The major elven peoples include the Silvari, or high elves, the Naduri, or wood elves, the Lunori, or dark elves, and the Quessari, or sea elves.

Arachni is the homeland of the Lunori elves, who are pretty much drow. Although they still have a preference for darkness and giant spiders who they treat as holy animals, they aren’t necessarily evil or live underground. They live mostly in forest, and their lands are protected by an invisible magical barrier that causes the sky above to be an eternal night. Their islands are closest to the plane of existence known as the Shadowlands, where many monsters of shadow and death come into Vodari via portals

Aubori is full of tropical rainforests, and the Naduri elves live as hunter-gatherer tribes who are led by a Council of Elders composed of the oldest and wisest members of their people. They do have a city of 30,000 whose dwellings are exclusive among the treetops, and there’s growing discontent between the older and younger generations, the latter of whom wish to incorporate foreign ideas and traditions. The Wild Ones are the most radical of said youths, and given that speaking out against the Elders is punishable by exile such conflict may rise to violence in due time.

Fernwa is notable for a small yet significant number of inhabitants from the realms of Faerie due to the island overlapping planar boundaries. Fernwa is a wondrous land full of things that seem possible only in dreams, and time seems to flow differently here.

Leafi has a mixed population of outsider cultures ranging from Naduri elves, Silvari elves, and gnomes who sought to live solitary self-governing lives. Local communities are autonomous that never grow larger than a village due to a common agreement,* and government structures differ but share in common non-interventionist and individualist values. The island is home to many dangerous monsters, and the inhabitants are incapable (and unwilling) to mount a unified assault against them, so for now villagers opt to avoid the more dangerous areas. There is an order of pegasus-riding paladins known as the Sky Knights who travel between the communities, saving people from dangers when the time comes but otherwise serving as a sort of pseudo-military in reserve.

*when a population grows too large a portion splits off to found a new village.

Luna is home to Naduri elves and forest gnomes whose island is home to soultrees, plants with magical properties. Soultrees grow nowhere else and are regarded as sacred by the natives, although the nation of Xolen covets them for their properties. The people of Luna are thus engaged in a low-scale war with Xolen, and have developed a magitech navy. The Order of Gear & Branch, meanwhile, researches conventional technology blended with nature magic. Both groups turned Luna into a veritable fighting force, but there’s also a green dragon by the name of Emeraldclaw who seeks to hasten the war for personal enrichment.

Silvari is the largest and most populated of the elven nations, and is governed by a hereditary class system. Although the ruling aristocracy is supported by the merchant and soldier classes, there exist groups among them who aren’t content with their lot in life after seeing how outside countries operate. This is doubly so among the peasantry, and an extremist group of Silvaran mages known as Tabula Rasa seeking to “wipe the slate clean” and transform their nation into a classless meritocracy. The capital city of Silvertree is a beautiful arboreal realm of ivory and silver towers, where even the crudest buildings are clean. The smaller port city of Esari is Silvari’s major source of trade with the outside world, and this degree of influence allows the local Port Authority to more or less be de facto rulers who don’t have to worry about Silvertree’s marching orders too much.

Thoughts So Far: The first four major regions of Vodari are an interesting blend of countries, all with ample opportunities for conflict and venture. I have noticed that a lot of islands, particularly the smaller ones, often have a primary problem instead of several, which gives the impression of a campaign where PCs sail from isle to isle solving troubles in a relatively quick manner before moving on. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing,* although it’s more particular to the seafaring traveler style of campaign that Seas of Vodari encourages. Just about every entry has a strong and easy theme to follow that can be easily communicated to newcomer PCs, which I like.

*Hey, it works for One Piece!

As for particular realms, I cannot help but notice a few cliches and commonalities. Taevara hews closely to the “Lawful Good but not really Good” style of holy government that actually makes things miserable for innocent people. While many religious institutions in real life and fiction fall prey to doing atrocities in the name of good, it does rankle me a bit in seeing this in settings where priests have direct pipelines to their divine patrons. What’s preventing Taevara from regifting her spells to individuals who care about the poor, for instance?

Join us next time as we cover the rest of the chapter, from the dwarven and dragonborn nations to the frozen north!
 

Libertad

Adventurer
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Chapter II: A World to Explore (Part II)

Marradi Archipelago: This chain of islands dominates Vodari’s eastern ring. Out of the various regions and nations that survived the Godwar this region came out the best, and mountains and forests provide for ample natural resources.

Draga is the same name as the fallen dragonborn empire, and the largest enclave of said race in the setting. Although far from its glory days, it is ruled by an Emperor of its own who for a change in fictional tropes is actually Lawful Good. Emperor Krivar II is not without his flaws: many ancient scrolls and tablets of his ancestors have been interpreted as such where he posits himself as a messiah-like figure who is the last best hope against some unknown evil. To that purpose he has been building up Draga’s military, and he also is in contact with a golden dragon advisor by the name of Solaris that is helping him interpret the prophetic scrolls. She’s unsure as to whether or not said prophecies are accurate. There is an evil dragonborn mage by the name of Kalliss’a’Shara who seeks to overthrow the empire because she is proudly evil, worships entropy, and believes that goodness and mercy are shackles of the weak. How’s that for three-dimensional motivation? The sole adventure hook suggests that the PCs befriend Krivar II or have him become their patron for an ill-defined “classic epic fantasy” campaign series.

Istori is named after the god of knowledge, and its Grand Archives are the largest known library in all of Vodari. The College of Istoro is also second-to-none in teaching language and history. The island overall is a placid realm, although its leaders are very aware of the valuables within their institutions and made an alliance with the island nation of Sanctuary (detailed under The Map’s Edge) to have warrior-monks guard its storehouses of knowledge. The major adventure hook here involves the PCs needing to research something for a quest, and end up crossing paths with a thief posing as a respected clerk seeking the Archives’ forbidden knowledge.

Morndirn is the homeland of the majority of Vodari’s surviving dwarves, a kingdom carved from the mountains that managed to survive the flooding. They are much like typical fantasy dwarves, making use of underground industry albeit preferring to avoid the lava tubes of dormant volcanoes rather than take advantage of their heat. The risk-to-reward is deemed too great. However, they are a democracy rather than an aristocracy, its parliament system made up of representative officials on a Board of Clans as well as a High Thane. We get a writeup of the capital city of Marradihr, which houses a grand guarded elevator-hole on which a Barrier platform opens up to the front lines in the Night War. Said War has gone on since ancient times, pitting the dwarves against all manner of underground horrors, although the book sadly doesn’t go into much detail as to what kind of monsters and their wicked factions are involved. Presumably just generic Underdark-style baddies. We also get a shorter writeup of the city of Taggthirn, a port city of hill dwarves, the above ground farming community of Varrdhal, and the Red Axe pirate colony that menace eastern Vodari with nigh impunity on account that the dwarves devote most of their military resources to the Night War.

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The North & Untamed Wilds: Cold and foreboding in contrast to the southern realms, Vodari’s northern ring is nonetheless densely populated by various kingdoms. This region has a bit more of a Nordic influence in cultures, as well as a higher proportion of monstrous races such as orcs and giants.

Ghak is an island home to the largest goblinoid population of Vodari. Instead of being a violent society of social Darwinists like in other settings, the goblinoids of Ghak organized into mutual societies where the various subraces shore up each other’s weaknesses. They have a long-term goal of building up their nation into a major economic power, even though the rest of Vodari still looks down on them as a “not real nation.” Its capital city of Lor’Thak is a chaotic mess of haphazard urban planning where rooms, bridges, and streets are forged and renovated on a near-daily basis. Industrial hazards are a sad fact of life, and the famed Bobbleball Stadium’s sinkhole merely caused players to rewrite the rules of the game rather than fix it. Sample adventure hooks play off of this rough and tumble boom town of a city, along with the Goblin King petitioning the PCs to help open up diplomatic relations with other Vodari nations...and thwarting an assassination attempt in the process.

Nordaa Is a multicultural kingdom of humans, dwarves, elves, halflings, and small numbers of other races who have a common lineage of people who could only escape to the north during the Godwar. It has a long history of infighting between clans, although the current king has managed to somewhat unite the people...against the orcish and giant kingdom of Stonetusk to the north. They are a dearly religious society, giving the gods (especially Kalder) many forms of physical offerings and honoring their deeds in song and prayers. It is very much the medieval Scandinavia of Vodarian kingdoms, with the capital city of Daan home to many warriors and craftsmen, while the smaller town of Aldinn trains its scholars and priests. The town of Njord is having trouble with wereorcas who’ve made a habit of selling “Nordaaskin products” to Xolen the way Nordaani sell “whaleskin products,” more out of spite than to make a profit. The seemingly uneventful and boring village of Vindaa is home to Nordaa’s criminal underworld, and the island of Kolga is a seemingly cursed land where any attempts at settling on it end in a series of disastrous ‘accidents’ and unreasonable bouts of amnesia and murderous fury that pop up among the inhabitants.

Iselaad Is the northernmost nation of Vodari, a small realm home to mostly frost giants. Their large forms are unsuitable for the typical seabound vessel, so they build long oar-driven boats made of pine, breaking down the foundations of captured ships into repairs for said vessels and personal armor. Their sole city is a series of dug-out rock and ice formations among a frozen tundra, lacking many amenities of other cities and whose major industries center around survival. As for local troubles they have an active volcano and an ancient white dragon by the name of Fornvitur who has yet to be defeated by any of their number, accumulating generations’ worth of armory and treasure from doomed frost giant dragonslayers. There is also the island of Blafjell, mostly untouched by the giants due to meteorological anomalies that occur when people sail too close, and the few giants who live there know of a mysterious castle home to a “Glass Menagerie.” It is home to a Glass Knight that kidnapped a child of human royalty to hold hostage in the fortress, or so the local legends go. Finally the islands of Drölarr & Atorr house giant communities more technologically advanced than their kin, but face regular skirmishes from the reptilians of Khar who seek their land and resources.

Khar is a wild land of swamps and forest home to bullywugs, lizardfolk, kobold, sahuagin, and other scalykind races. They are a decentralized self-governing people whose various communities keep to themselves, with every race having a defined territory of their own and the few buffer zones home to deadly beasts none of them can easily eradicate. A subrace of winged kobolds known as urds make use of their talents to enable a reliable communication network among the islands of Khar, particularly in the event of a frost giant invasion. The bullywugs reign over the territory of Orabahr, who found themselves lacking any trade partners after killing merchants they promised to sell valuables to and pocketing the loot for themselves. Their High King Alburp has a bigger ego than brain, and their attempts at expanding into piracy have had their share of ups and downs. But mostly downs.

Stonetusk is a mostly-orc nation but with a sizable human and giant minority. Much of their land is wild, given over to dangerous beasts which their people hunt. Orcish society is very much like that of other fantasy settings, being violent social Darwinists, and their high birth rate is kept in check by a high death rate. Their capital of Scathag is home to the Maw, a pit where orcs convicted of major crimes, as well as babies born with deformities and those whose injuries rendered them unable to work and fight, are tossed to their deaths. Those who manage to survive and climb out are deemed worthy and reintegrated into orcish society. The other major population centers include the stone giant town of Lortog who is notable for taking in orcs who’d otherwise be sentenced to the Maw, and over time the rest of orcish society has accepted this as a viable alternative for those who desire this option. This has worked out to the stone giant’s advantage, as said orcs found other vocations to improve their resident home, making their culture more intellectual than the rest of Stonetusk. The other major town is Rhukug, which acts as a sort of tourist spot for hunters seeking to fight, capture, and harvest the various monsters after paying for a hunting license.

Zeth’Kur is a remote island cluster home to a set of mysterious ruins that were merely observed, never explored, by the Wanderers Guild. Said ruins were built by an ancient civilization older than recorded history, but is now ruled over by the black dragon D’him’ashada Ma’dow. He holds dominion over a group of kobolds who worship him as a living god, and has plans on taking over the lizardfolk tribes of Khar and after that an invasion of the frost giant island of Atorr. The sample adventure hook suggests that the ruins of Zeth’Kur should hold a great secret that could “potentially change all of Vodari.” Said secret is the Exodus Portal, built by a coalition of the world’s long-dead civilizations (Ancients, Varu, Dakri) that can open up to worlds beyond Vodari. But not only that, activating said portal will break up Vesi’s Rage, revealing the goddess’ kingdom within the center. The gods won’t necessarily be happy with such a momentous event, for if enough of their worshipers leave for different worlds then they fear they will be left without purpose and power. The book also makes mention of other “mysterious places” hinted at earlier in the chapter to combine elements together for this proposed campaign in an archeologist fashion for PCs in search of forgotten knowledge.

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The Map’s Edge: This section details the more remote island and regions of Vodari as opposed to any one geographical region. With the exception of Vesi’s Rage, they are places that are physically distant from the earlier regions or sufficiently uncharted that they are ill-explored.

Jameson is a newly-discovered island whose first explorer appeared as a raving madman in a port weeks later, talking of intelligent killer apes. This is indeed the truth, for a gorilla found a magical artifact among the island ruins that gifted him sapience, which he used to awaken his brethren. Wearing the Crown of Mental Might* he can communicate telepathically, and has no intention of his island being colonized by outsiders...although a mutual trade agreement that leaves Jameson with a degree of autonomy may open him up to negotiations.

*an artifact detailed in the Magic Items & Spells chapter.

Isle of Whispers is a mist-shrouded island home to an archmage that rejected the rules of the Arcane Council. She made her home in an ancient building known as the Pernicious Citadel which has granted her knowledge of a unique form of magic known as mistwalking. She is teaching the discipline to other renegade mages, and the Citadel itself is only partially-explored by her community. Containing an innumerable array of levels, hallways, and rooms that seemingly rearrange themselves when nobody’s looking, the true size of the Pernicious Citadel is unknown.

Kraken is home to the Order of the Kraken, a 500 year old secret society that has contacts among every significant organization and civilization of note in Vodari. They derive magical power from a temple on this island, and their true purpose and motivation is for the GM to fill in for the purposes of their own campaign. Otherwise they’re not ever mentioned again in the rest of the book.

Sanador is an island home to a jungle with flora capable of amazing medicinal purposes, and the sole tall mountain at its center is home to ruins. The only intelligent inhabitant is a crazed druidic hermit by the name of Yash who managed to discover the ruins’ secret. A series of incredibly advanced technomagic machinery hold the souls of this civilization trapped in precious gems that summon hordes of ghouls and ghosts to attack anyone taking them. A couatl will thank the PCs if they manage to free the souls from the gems, giving them an appropriate and unspecified reward for the GM to figure out.

Sanctuary is a community made up of genasi and a minority of other races. It is the headquarters of the Order of Four Elements, a tradition of monks who learned the power of elemental magic to protect Vodari’s weak and disenfranchised. They are mostly lone wanderers who target powerful people that financially exploit others. Sanctuary is the only place on Vodari where such monks gather in any great number, and are led by four Oracles representative of each element who train students in their own ways and philosophy.

Stormwind Chain is a mid-sized independent colony home to rich veins of gold discovered by a married adventuring couple. It is a virtually anarchic island, with no real set of laws beyond an agreement not to cause trouble and a form of justice that encourages an eye for an eye.

Taur is the sparsely-populated minotaur homeland, home to a gladiator arena and a vast labyrinth of unknown origin home to monsters, traps, puzzles, and potential treasure. The minotaurs have no idea what exactly lurks at the center of said maze, but are much more talkative about the arena which is mostly non-lethal save when executions are carried out for the most unforgivable of crimes.

The Teeth is an ill-described place whose exact location is unknown but rumored to contain priceless treasure. The Teeth are actually a phenomenon that causes thick fog banks to rise from the ocean along with an utter lack of airborne or sea life in the area. Strong currents and rock formations threaten to pull a ship to its doom, and those who manage to make it out in one piece end up being transported to the Seas Beyond.

Vesi’s Rage is a gigantic, never-ending storm around a thousand miles in diameter. It sits at where the continent of Varanu once was after the Godwar, and prevents straight north-south, east-west travel between Vodari’s island chains. Nobody is sure of what caused or is fueling the Rage, although what is known is that nobody who has gone far in has ever made it out alive, and only a precious few (and now legendary) vessels survived passing through an outer tendril. Anyone unlucky or foolish enough to be pulled into it faces 100+ mph winds, violent waves, massive lightning strikes, malfunctioning compasses, celestial bodies arranged in impossible formations, and thick omnipresent mists from which screaming can be heard. The only creatures that live within are evil beings pledged in service to Vesi, although storm giants are the only known non-evil creatures that appear capable of survival in such hellish waters.

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Under the Seas: The shortest section of this chapter, Vodari’s subterranean kingdoms and regions are surprisingly undeveloped. The book acknowledges this, saying in a sidebar that a future supplement for undersea campaigns proper is in the works. The only content is a list of the major sea-dwelling races beyond the PC ones: merfolk are simple farmers and hunter-gatherers, merrow are fallen remnants of a warlike kingdom, and sirens came from the Feylands and isolated themselves from other civilizations. And those are the ones in the highest sunlit reaches.

Further below in the twilight depths, we have Cecaelias (like merfolk but lower halves are octopus) who are little-known magical people that live in undersea caves of small family units, Grindylows are goblinish Small-sized sharkpeople raiders, Kallidu are psionic fish who build telekinetic constructs to conduct surface raids,* storm giants live by themselves in the deepest ocean trenches near Vesi’s Rage to find spiritual meaning in observed omens, and tritons came from the Elemental Plane of Water and act as a sort of “wandering knight” culture in defending other civilizations from monsters in the ocean’s darkest depths.

*They’re given stats and background in the Allies & Adversaries chapter later in this book.

And what of those civilizations that lair in the midnight depths, over 3,300 feet below sea level? Here be dragons...or rather aboleths and their cities, the divine children of the Destroyer gods, and titanic monstrosities that escaped from the Elemental Plane of Water.

Thoughts So Far: The second half of Seas of Vodari’s “setting” chapter is remarkably different from the first half, with much more of a final frontier feel. I felt that the dragonborn kingdom could have used some more development; the dwarven nation of Morndirn had a much larger page count in comparison, which isn’t necessarily bad in and of itself. But as they don’t really do anything “new” in regards to what we’ve seen of dwarves in fantasy, I felt that such space may have been better spent on the other areas in the Marradi Archipelago.

The North was a high point, as while it could be easy to make it a uniform “barbaric wildland,” the societies within had quite a bit of development and ample conflicts and adventure hooks between them. I did find it interesting how most of the monster nations were more or less made more three-dimensional beyond always evil antagonists, with even the more warlike frost giants and orcs counting non-evil members among their entries. Granted, the orcs of Stonetusk and the giants of Iselaad seemed rather close to their typical portrayals in Dungeons & Dragons, which kind of stood out in comparison to the other nations.

The Map’s Edge islands seemed interesting adventure hooks for one-shot sessions, although I was a bit disappointed at the lack of content for actual undersea locations. The campaign idea of ending Vesi’s Rage and a portal to other worlds felt a bit out of nowhere. While I am not opposed to the idea itself, it feels like too much is left hanging; there’s mention made of Vesi’s revealed kingdom, but more text is expounded on in favor of the gods panicking about the thought of their followers ‘leaving’ them, which begs the question of just how appealing these otherworldly realms beyond the portal are. I imagine that the vast majority of the setting’s inhabitants are still simple folk with homes and families to attend to and may not mass migrate unless things get really bad. The Kraken society is a wasted opportunity, especially given the fact that the only other time they’re mentioned in the book is the possible reason for why platinum pieces are minted with a kraken symbol.

Join us next time as we cover new and existing races in Chapter III, the People of Vodari!
 

Sorry, you are disappointed by the lack of undersea content. I just wanted to mention there is a 200+ page book coming out later this year called Under the Seas of Vodari. There was no way we could do justice to the undersea world in the seafaring focused The Seas of Vodari book, so we provided a quick 2-page look at the undersea world.... holding back content for the next book.

We're really excited that our 2nd Kickstarter was successful and we're able to provide an entire book that looks at the people, places, and monsters under the sea, while also providing rules, advice, and options for players and DMs playing in undersea campaigns.
 

Libertad

Adventurer
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Chapter III: the People of Vodari

This chapter provides new races and subraces for the campaign setting. Before getting into that, we have a very brief rundown of the default races. Seas of Vodari is not a humanocentric setting: they only make up 30% of the total population, and there are many islands made up predominantly of one race (particularly the smaller islands). After humans, dwarves are 20%, halflings 15%, elves 10%, with gnomes, orcs, and goblinoids 5% each. The remaining 10% are made up of the other races, ranging from dragonborn to tieflings as well as the new ones provided here.

The races, both new and old, are present in alphabetical order. For the sake of our review we’ll cover the new ones first, then after that Vodari’s interpretation of the Player’s Handbook ones.

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Cursed Souls: Not exactly a true race of their own, cursed souls are people who for various supernatural reasons are unable to pass on to the afterlife. They exist in an undead state that is usually the result of a violent and tragic death or forbidden magic. Cursed Souls are a complete race (no subraces) but due to their diverse backgrounds they retain some racial traits of their living selves provided in a table below:

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Beyond these options, Cursed Souls have the same size and speeds as their original race, increase 2 different ability scores of their choice by 1, have no need to eat or drink, are resistant to necrotic damage, and as a reaction once per rest can take on a ghostly form to halve damage from a bludgeoning/piercing/slashing attack. They can reroll a death saving throw once per long rest, and only need to ‘sleep/rest’ for 4 hours a day.

Overall Cursed Souls are a pretty strong race if only due to the fact that they often take some of the better traits from their original race. But as for their unique abilities, most are defensive and reactive in nature, geared towards keeping them alive as opposed to more active abilities such as new proficiencies and special actions and attacks.

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Minotaurs: Also called taurus for short, minotaurs are a rare race who were once a vicious and warlike society created by the god Scatho. But eventually they transitioned into a more peaceful meritocracy, and virtually every member of their race is driven by a deep obsession to master a trade or significant goal. Their culture encourages personal self-improvement in all manner of ways, and many go out and explore the world in order to learn as much as they can about their chosen vocation.

Rules-wise minotaurs are a complete race, gaining +2 Strength and +1 Constitution with 30 foot speed. They are treated as one size larger for carrying capacity, and gain proficiency in one skill of their choice and either water vehicles or one set of artisan’s tools. They have a biological compass which grants them advantage on checks against becoming lost, and in addition to horns as a natural weapon they are proficient with greataxes, greatswords, and mauls.

They’re most suitable towards melee builds, but their bonus proficiencies grant them a sense of versatility. If we were to compare them to the official minotaur race in Ravnica/Theros, they lack the special Goring Rush/Hammering Horns attacks and trade out Intimidation/Persuasion for proficiency in any one skill. Their proficiencies with heavier weapons may be seen as a worthy tradeoff depending on the build in question, more damaged with two-handed weapons vs being more mobile in attacks and pushing targets around.

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Sirens: Amphibious descendants of fey exiled to the Material Plane, sirens live among coastlines in hidden settlements, and their culture places a great emphasis on beauty, art, and music. Most of them live carefree lives among the waves, and are fond of collecting trinkets from shipwrecks as well as the ocean’s natural bounties to fasten into clothes and jewelry. They live in communal societies and don’t have last names, instead deriving titles from common aspects found in nature (names aren’t gendered either). Their subraces aren’t true ethnic groups, but represent a personal preference that manifests in their transition to adulthood.

Rules-wise sirens have a base race and two subraces. The base race gains +1 Wisdom, can breath air and water, has a land and swimming speed of 30 feet, and has Fey Ancestry like elves (advantage on saves vs charmed condition and can’t fall asleep from magic). The Seasinger sirens gain +2 Charisma, are proficient in Persuasion, add twice their proficiency bonus to Performance checks when singing (even if they’re not proficient in said skill), and once per rest can sing a special Siren Song that can charm a creature capable of hearing the siren within 60 feet. Wavedancer sirens gain +2 Dexterity, are proficient in Acrobatics and have advantage on said checks while underwater, and are considered proficient in Performance when dancing even if they lack said skill. They also have 60 foot Darkvision and can transform the lower half of their body into a tail and back again as a bonus action (lower land speed, faster swimming speed).

Sirens make for good bards and roguish/athletic types. Perhaps a bit too much, as unlike some other races the majority of their race and subrace traits pushes them strongly in such directions.

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Voda: Amphibious shapeshifters, the Voda are good-natured people who enjoy walking among other races in disguise. They are naturally empathetic as a result of their head-tresses which allow them to sense emotions to a limited degree, which means that most Voda are good-aligned. Their own communities are typically coral reefs.

Rules-wise they are a complete race, gaining +2 Charisma and +1 Dexterity, a land and swimming speed of 30 feet, are amphibious, and at will can shapeshift into a humanoid-shaped Medium size creature they have seen before (which grants them advantage on Deception checks for disguise but don’t gain any of said individual’s special traits). Their empathy manifests as proficiency in Insight, and have advantage on such checks while in their true form and not shapeshifting.

Much like Sirens, Voda hew closely towards roguish and social pursuits.

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Traditional Races

Dwarves: Dwarves believe themselves to have been forged by Sindri, and thus pursue artisanship as a holy profession They forged a kingdom in the Morndirn mountain range, and much of their holdings sunk from the destruction of Varanu. The Thirn clan of hill dwarves have closer contact with the surface world but are fewer in number than the Morndir, or mountain dwarf, clan. Hill dwarves can trade in traditional dwarf weapon proficiencies for more swashbuckling options, and the Aurirn are a new subrace of dwarves whose homelands sunk beneath the waves but survived by adapting to evolve gills and webbed digits while in the process of using more traditional technology to live in such hostile environs. Aurirn dwarves make use of molten rock veins on the seafloor for mining and industry. As a subrace they gain +1 Dexterity, have a swim speed of 30 feet, can breathe both air and water, and are resistant to fire damage.

Elves: There’s really not much to add here, as the majority of fluff text about Vodari’s elves more or less maps onto every D&D elf trope you’ve read by now. The only notable differences are that the Silvari, or High Elves, were the rebellious elves that broke off from their original society’s hidebound ways, and the Lunori, or Dark Elves, are not a mostly-evil race and barring a love of darkness and spiders are like other elves culturally. Lunori have an alternate racial trait, Daywalker, where they reduce their darkvision to 60 feet and are immune to sunlight sensitivity for up to 8 hours a day.

Draga (Dragonborn): The term Draga is the same for the dragonborn race, their empire of old, and their new nation located in the Marradi Archipelago. Legends say that they are descended from dragons, arising from a society of magically-proficient hunters into a great empire. They passed down knowledge via war dances, and while it’s not the sole means of teaching, dancing of many kinds is an important and popular aspect of their culture today. They organize themselves into clans, a broad concept that can apply to extended family units as well as groups they join.

Gnomes: It is said in gnomish mythology that their people emerged out of a spark of life that fell from Sindri’s anvil. They are divided into two groups: the rock gnomes and forest gnomes, and both groups in general despise each other. The rock gnomes live mostly in Xolen, while Forest gnomes live in the great forests of Vodari’s western islands. The industrial pollution and expansion of Xolen has put them into conflict with forest gnome settlements, causing no amount of small-scale conflicts between the two groups.

Goblinkin: Before the Godwar the goblinoids of Vodari were much like their kind in other D&D settings: best at pissing everyone off by raiding and attacking other civilizations. But the destruction wrought by the sinking of Varanu caused people of otherwise disparate cultures and backgrounds to band together for survival, and the goblinkin were among them. The majority of survivors settled in the north, and from this pact the civilization that would later become the kingdom of Ghak arose. Nowadays goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears can be found all across Vodari, especially in Xolen, Zavros, and the Pirate Isles. They are accepted in some communities and shunned by others,* although they’re more likely to be accepted in the northern islands than elsewhere. Most elves still remember the pre-Godwar times and find it hard to move on, distrusting goblinkin in general.

*This kind of goes against Chapter 2’s statement that Ghak is universally disliked. If there’s a point to be made about being distrustful of the nation vs. the race as a whole, it hasn’t really been illustrated in the book.

Half-elves: Half-elves are closer to Eberron’s take on the race than the “one human, one elf parent” that predominates D&D. “Half-elves” are anyone who has a mixture of human and elven blood to a notable degree, and while they are more or less accepted in elven society their shorter lifespan often makes them feel different than their elven peers.

Half-orcs: Most common in the northern lands, half-orcs have a history dating back from alliances between human and orcish communities of the Verdaan Empire, raised to be ambassadors between the two groups. They aren’t the despised outcasts as they are in other settings: among the humans and orcs of the north they are judged by their ability to contribute to communities more than anything, while in the Southern Nations they helped found new societies and rebuilt surviving ones after the Godwar.

Halflings: Halflings have no true nation to call their own and are found across southern Vodari in all manner of trades. Those who make their living on land tend to be farmers, and those on the sea are notable for building “floating villages” of interconnected boats and vessels. Unlike the other traditional races in this chapter, we have a list of new Halfling family names for those who make their living off the sea, such as Highwave and Rumbarrel.

Humans: Nothing much new here either, checking off most fantasy tropes of being numerous and diverse. The only major difference is that their civilizations were most dominant before the Godwar, but now their lands and realms are just one of many as opposed to an overwhelming presence or majority. Nowadays most humans identify culturally by their island home, and only a few families of means care to trace back their lineage to pre-Godwar days.

Tieflings: The tiefling race are the descendants of human nobles of the empire of Zuroth that made infernal pacts for power. The tiefling descendents of such unions were viewed as the spawn of evil to be killed, and even after the Godwar such prejudices still linger. Tieflings mostly live as disenfranchised people in the slums of the Southern Nations’ cities, and many end up pushed into criminal activity and piracy to earn a living.

Additional Racial Options: This small section gives small one-paragraph descriptions of other official races and their place in the Seas of Vodari. Some have been renamed to more copyright-friendly titles, with Tabaxi becoming Felines and Tortles becoming Turtlefolk. We don’t really have much to go on besides where they’re from. Aasimar are believed to be a sign of blessings from the gods, Genasi are humans changed by exposure to planar elements and originally came from the island of Sanctuary, Kobolds served great dragons in the past but now live in ruins and slums, Lizardfolk mostly live in swamps but some became notorious pirates and valuable crewmates in the ships of other races, and orcs are found all over the north.

Thoughts So Far: I feel that the Sirens and Voda are too close in concept as “idyllic and carefree aquatic people.” I liked the minotaurs, although the Aurirn dwarven subrace felt a bit lackluster. Then again, the core dwarven subraces don’t have much either, given that the base dwarven race has a lot going for it already, so I suppose I can’t complain too much.

The existing races didn’t really cover new territory, with the most interesting things being the new aspects of the setting. The fact that said elements were covered quite well in previous chapters makes things feel a bit superfluous in places. The things I liked were having the gnomish subraces being on antagonistic footing, the removal of “usually evil” status of a few of the monstrous races such as goblinoids and drow, and the brief history lesson on dragonborn culture.

Join us next time as we check out the new Gunslinger class and 20 new subclasses in Chapter IV, Character Options!
 
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Libertad

Adventurer
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Chapter IV: Character Options (Part I)

Note: much like Chapter 2 this is split into 2 parts.

The bulk of this section hosts class-centric options, but new backgrounds and feats are also included. And in fitting with the setting’s maritime theme, quite a few grant one or more of the following: proficiency with water vehicles (5), a swimming speed (6), and/or the ability to breathe underwater (2). Many existing PHB classes allow the option of alternative starting Equipment reflecting Vodari’s technology level, notably exchanging default ranged weapons and accompanying ammunition for firearms.

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Gunslinger is a new core class with four archetypes, reflecting a specialized type of warrior who relies on the innovative new black powder weapons to gain an edge in battle. They are more of a mobile warrior type, with a d8 Hit Die, proficiency in light armor, simple weapons and firearms, and martial firearms. They are proficient in Dexterity and Charisma saves, tinker’s tools, and choose two skills from a selection of mobile, quick-witted options (Acrobatics, Athletics, Deception, Insight, etc). For their core 1st level features they choose from a list of Fighting Styles, with Archery and modified versions of Duelist and Two-Weapon Fighting that apply to pistols, can expend money to create ammunition as a Gunsmith, and can gain and spend Bravado Points to perform special actions in combat which are restored on a short or long rest. At later levels they get more martial options, such as not suffering disadvantage on ranged attack rolls within 5 feet of an enemy, ignoring the loading property on firearms, add Charisma to initiative, an Extra Attack at 5th level, can halve an attack’s damage as a reaction, spending Bravado Points to better guarantee critical hits, and so on.

A base Gunslinger has three types of Bravado Deeds they can perform, but their Archetype subclasses can grant them unique Deeds. The base deeds include adding proficiency bonus to AC as a reaction vs a single attack, gaining advantage on an attack roll with a firearm, and an all-purpose “utility shot” where a firearm shot can open a lock, push a light unattended object, and other such open-ended effects.

At their core Gunslingers feel very much like a Fighter/Rogue hybrid. Their skills are broadly useful ones, and unlike some settings with sucky firearms rules (critical fumble misfires, useless when wet, etc) such rules are optional rather than inherent in the system. They also reload faster than the ones in the Dungeon Master’s Guide and a few of the range increments are farther albeit their damage is closer to crossbows. What this means is that Gunslingers aren’t necessarily relying upon suboptimal gear like they would in Pathfinder and other settings with selective realism for firearm rules. The class is a bit more fragile than the typical heavily-armored d10/d12 warrior, and their more defensive class features kick in at middle-to-higher levels.

Arcane Gunmaster is our first archetype, representing gunslingers who learned magic to enhance their fighting prowess. They gain proficiency in the Arcana skill, smith’s tools, and gain partial casting akin to an Eldritch Knight or Arcane Trickster. But unlike said subclasses they aren’t limited by schools of magic and choose from the list of and spontaneously cast as sorcerers. At 6th level they gain Deeds where they apply magical touches to their shots, such as changing the damage type to an elemental one, making their shot silenced, or a silvered shot that can deal bonus radiant damage. At 10th level they can simultaneously shoot and cast a cantrip (or 1st level or higher spell via Bravado) as an action and bonus action, at 15th they can restore spell slots via Bravado and vice versa, and at 18th level they learn new Deeds (3d8 bonus elemental damage, reroll damage dice and choose the new or old results, ignore shield spell and magically-created barriers).

Musketeer is our second subclass, representing gunslingers who mix things up with some swordplay. At 3rd level they gain proficiency in Persuasion, all martial weapons and medium armor, can choose a bonus Fighting Style from the Fighter class (Dueling, Protection, Two-Weapon Fighting), and enjoy +1 AC when wearing light or medium armor. At 6th level they gain new Deeds which include adding 1d6 to an ally’s saving throw result as a reaction, making a firearm attack in addition to a melee one as a bonus action with +1d8 damage, and can make an immediate firearm attack when initiative is rolled and they’re not surprised. At 10th level they can spend Bravado to reroll a non-Performance related Charisma skill check, using the higher result, at 15th level they gain new and improved deeds (Dodge as a bonus action, +2d8 and push opponent 10 feet away with a firearm attack, and can grant two allies firearm attacks as a reaction), and at 18th level they automatically regain Bravado points equal to their Charisma modifier whenever they roll initiative.

Pistolero are trick shooters who focus on quick, showy gunplay. At 3rd level they gain proficiency in Performance and double proficiency bonus when using said skill for gunplay. Their new Deeds include shots that can disarm, deal half damage on a miss, and gain advantage on Intimidation and Persuasion checks vs nearby targets after firing a shot into the air (specifies you cannot choose a target to hit when doing this). At 6th level they add their proficiency bonus on top of Dexterity and Charisma to initiative rolls and can never be taken by surprise as long as they’re conscious. At 10th level their new deeds grant 2d8 bonus damage of a certain type along with a debuff condition on a failed saving throw (piercing, thunder, and and thunder for prone, frighten, deafened respectively). At 15th level they learn how to build a special Experimental Weapon which reflects some technological innovation. By default said weapons are magic +1 guns that jam on a natural 1 and can be replaced via 100 gold and 3 days of work, and up to 2 can be maintained at a time. There’s only two selections: a Revolving Pistol that can fire all 6 of its bullets at once for +1d4 damage per bonus shot beyond the initial attack (1d10), and a Double-Barrel Musket that deals +2d10 piercing on top of the base damage value (2d6). The 18th level legendary Deeds include a successful shot made with disadvantage robbing the target of opportunity attack attempts, a shot that deals +1d8 damage and stuns on a failed Constitution save, and a shot that deals +3d8 damage and causes all further firearm attacks made against the target that round deal +1d8 piercing until the end of the gunslinger’s next turn.

Snipers are long-range specialists. They initially gain proficiency in either Perception, Stealth, or Survival and their bonus Deeds include doubling the weapon range, Hide as a bonus action with +1d8 to the Stealth roll, and granting +2d6 to +6d6 damage on a shot dependent on their level in which they have advantage. At 6th level they gain advantage on musket attacks vs surprised targets and automatically crit on hits if hidden or invisible from said targets. At 10th level they can learn information from observing an individual or a group of up to 10 creatures: who is the greatest threat, who is in charge, are any under the effects of enchantment or illusion magic, etc. Said information is nearly impossible to trick or conceal from the Sniper, even with magic. At 15th level they gain their best Deeds instead of the usual 18th, including options such as Stunning a creature on a failed Constitution save (seen that already), an AoE shot that deals +1d10 piercing to every creature in a line, and can make a reaction-based attack on a creature that recovers from the Prone condition. At 18th level they can move at full speed while hidden and can remain hidden even when leaving cover/concealment as long as they obtain new cover/concealment before their turn ends.

Of the four archetypes, the Arcane Gunmaster seems the most appealing. They are a partial caster but have a wide degree in versatility from a selection of sorcerer spells. While their spell slots are restored during a long rest, the fact that Bravado refreshes on a short rest means that they can cast spells far more often than it would initially seem, and their ability to change their damage types to elemental and even silver helps overcome common resistance and immunities to physical attacks. The Musketeer gets a good survivability upgrade with medium armor and +1 AC and has a nice ability to play with action economy via Deeds. The Pistolero feels a bit more situational in terms of initial low-level choices, and their 10th level Deeds felt a bit too samey. I would’ve preferred more Experimental Weapons, but I also understand the need for concise and short archetypes. The Sniper is great at doing a lot of damage from a fair distance, although its 18th-level ability is rather underwhelming.

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Barbarian Path of the Buccaneer represents your typical reaving pirate. At 3rd level they add double their proficiency to Athletics when climbing and swimming, have climb and swim speeds equal to their walking speed, and advantage on Stealth checks when engaging in said alternative movements. At 3rd level they can shove enemies as a reaction when entering a rage or as a bonus action while raging, dealing Strength modifier in damage and can move along with shoved enemies at no movement cost. At 6th level they can do the same reaction/bonus actions for Dash in regards to rage and also attack enemies hit by allies within 5 feet as a reaction. At 10th level they gain advantage on grappling checks when they have a rope in hand and can impose the blind condition on targets grappled in such a way. At 14th level they can attack targets while raging as a reaction if said targets ever suffer disadvantage on attack rolls for any reason, and can attack in such a manner even if they already used a reaction that turn (but only 1 + STR modifier times per long rest).

When stacked up against the official Barbarian Paths, the Buccaneer focuses heavily on mobility and some debuffs at the expense of staying power. They don’t have much in the way of utility like an Ancestral Guardian or Totem Warrior, and the need for a handful of rope for their Blinding debuff prevents them from easily using two-handed weapons barring some creative workarounds. They may be good for characters who want to ensure that their Barbarian can move quickly and at great distance in a variety of terrain, but beyond that I don’t know how much I can recommend this over something like Storm Herald.

Bardic College of Nature are those magical musicians devoted to Aubori, some other nature deity, or even just the natural world itself. They initially gain proficiency in two skills (Animal Handling, Nature, or Survival), herbalism kits, and a druid cantrip of their choice which they cast as a bard cantrip. Additionally, they can select a natural environment from which they gain constant boons: this commonly manifests as resistance to a certain damage type (fire for desert, lightning for mountain, etc), better maneuvering in said terrain type (climbing speed, swimming speed, ignoring difficult terrain/speed bonus when not wearing heavy armor), and in some cases general utility (advantage on Stealth in grasslands, requiring only half a gallon of water, etc). At 6th level they can choose new spells from the druid and ranger lists when learning new bard spells, and automatically gain 2 spells from their favored environment which tend to be a mixture of utility and offense. At 14th level they can create pleasant sensations associated with nature in their works (smell of flowers, a gentle breeze, etc), meaning that any roll an ally performs with a Bardic Inspiration die ignores any disadvantage imposed on said roll.

Overall the College of Nature doesn’t have anything truly original, instead deriving most of its powers from other classes and concepts. But gaining 2 entire classes’ worth of spell lists is great for all the potential options. The focused environment is much more situational, and while some have some nice boons I feel that the Coast option is going to be a favorite (swimming speed, breathe air and water) given Vodari’s emphasis on seafaring.

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Bardic College of Shanties contains virtuosos who use their skills to improve efficiency and morale among a ship’s crew. At 3rd level they gain proficiency in any two skills of choice plus one choice of land vehicles, water vehicles, or one type of artisan’s tools. Additionally they can use their own singing voice as a focus for bard spells, no longer requiring a musical instrument. Their final 3rd level feature is a Song of Work that grants a number of targets equal to their Charisma modifier advantage on ability checks for up to 1 hour. provided the Bard concentrates on the song. As this song refreshes every short and long rest, it can effectively grant advantage for hours. At 6th level they can expend a Bardic Inspiration to sing a Duet whenever they cast a non-Cantrip bard spell, granting a target that sings along with them a bonus on an attack roll equal to the Bardic Inspiration die result (said attack is performed as a reaction). Finally at 14th level they can lead a song of Camaraderie, affecting a number of targets equal to their Charisma modifier, granting them temporary hit points and advantage on the next attack/save/ability check if they’re within 5 feet of the bard.

This College is very obviously geared towards a Skill Monkey build, both on the part of the Bard and allies via their Song of Work. The extent of its utility is providing advantage on rolls vs more magical flair such as Glamour’s charming presence or Creation’s item-summoning features. I’d rank it better than a Whisper or Valor Bard if only because it more effectively plays to the Bard class’ strengths, as opposed to turning the class into something it’s not or cannot do as well as another class.

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Spirit Domain Clerics are those who pray to whatever deity suits their needs at the moment as well as honoring various lesser spirits, resulting in a syncretic faith. Their Domain Spells include heavy use on making use of summoned unseen forces, such as Unseen Servant, Faithful Hound, Spiritual Weapon, Animate Dead, Animate Objects and the like, with some unrelated spells like False Life, Confusion, and Dream. At 1st level they gain proficiency with herbalism kits, their choice of History/Nature/Survival as a bonus skill, and learn a unique Spirit Slash cantrip only Clerics of this domain possess. Said cantrip is a 60 foot ranged attack that takes an action to cast, allowing a spirit companion to deal 1d6 slashing damage (+1d6 every proficiency bonus increase like most cantrips) and targets subtract d4 from their next saving throw result even if the attack missed.

Speaking of spirit companions, that is the other major feature gained at 1st level. Said Companion is a Tiny-to-Medium sized creature that has a wide selection of default forms that can be called from the Ethereal Plane as a bonus action. It has the same movement modes as the Cleric so it can’t ‘ghost around’ as a scout by default. The spirit can attack enemies by itself if the Cleric doesn’t perform offensive actions on their turn, and it is immune to all damage save force damage (which can disperse it on a failed Constitution save). At 2nd and 6th level the Spirit Domain Cleric gains Channel Divinity options based on the general ‘type’ of spirit companion summoned at the time. For example, Warrior spirits grant resistance to a single damage source as a reaction for a normal Channel and adds temporary HP as Greater, while Messengers can lift and move allies without provoking opportunity attacks for a normal channel and grants darkvision/+5 passive Perception/advantage on Perception as a Greater. At 8th level the Spirit Companion can make an attack even if the Cleric performs an offensive action (both have to attack the same enemy), and at 17th level they can choose any one feature from another Cleric domain of 6th level or below. Domain Spells have to replace the Spirit Domain spells during such a switch, but the Cleric can pick and choose on an individual level. Said feature can be swapped for another appropriate domain feature on a long rest.

The Spirit Domain Cleric has a pretty good spell list, and the Spirit Companion makes for a rather good ‘animal companion’ style ally. The capstone feature is very versatile in representing the syncretic faith, although it feels a bit lackluster in that like the Nature Bard it’s more borrowing from other content rather than presenting a unique new thing for players.

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Druid Circle of the Deeps are those devotees who honor the oceans’ dark depths. At 2nd level they gain resistance to cold damage, gain a swimming speed and the ability to breathe underwater, and can safely exist in environments of high pressure of 1,000 feet below sea level per Druid level. Their Wild Shape is expanded, where they can change into Beasts that have a swimming speed and at 8th level into such Beast of up to CR 2, and can communicate simple concepts to aquatic creatures in any form. Their last 2nd level boon lets them spend a bonus action to knock a target prone and halve their speed for 1 turn when using a hostile spell attack, and can do this a number of times equal to their Wisdom modifier per long rest (or short rest at 14th level). At 6th level they gain Water Breathing as an additional prepared spell that also grants targets cold resistance, swim speed, and pressure immunity like the druid. At 10th level they gain 60 feet of blindsight, can communicate telepathically up to 120 feet, and at 14th level creatures that are knocked prone via the 2nd level feature can suffer +5d10 cold damage and the restrained condition. Their last 14th level feature makes their special Water Breathing spell unable to be dispelled by any means besides the Druid dispelling it themselves.

Circle of the Deeps gets a nice mixture of offense and utility, with the utility very useful in Vodari’s aquatic campaign emphasis. Blindsight and telepathy are great to have even out of water, and prone/halving speeds of struck opponents is overall pretty nice. Their ability to Wild Shape into aquatic creatures is a bit underwhelming, as the CR 2 cap gates off some of the cooler and larger monsters of the depths such as the Giant Crocodile (CR 5), Killer Whale (CR 3), and such. As a result any player thinking “I wanna be an orca” is still going to pick a Moon Druid. Bummer.

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Cannoneer Fighters love big balls and they cannot lie. They initially gain proficiency with handcannons* as well as smith’s tools or another artisan’s tools if already proficient. They can also build a culverin, a specialized type of handcannon that applies a variety of bonus features, ranging from the Cannoneer applying their Strength modifier to attack and damage rolls with the weapon’s ranged attacks, can fire different types of ammunition besides the handcannon’s cannonball default, can use it as a 1d10 bludgeoning melee weapon, ignore its heavy and loading properties, and can build a greatculverin at 10th level. They can build new culverins and ammunition types (cannonballs, grenados, stinkpots) with gold and time. At 7th, 10th, 15, and 18th level they can apply a Heavy Modification (start with 2 at 7th) to their culverin, with a diversity of choices such as scoring a critical on 19-20, rolling damage die twice and keeping the better result when using cannonballs, doubling the weapon range, and ignoring the natural 1 misfire property of their own culverins** among other options. At 10th level they can use black powder for more non-offensive uses, such as destroying locks and traps via smith’s tools check with advantage, creating blinding fireworks, a timed noisemaker for distractions, and a 20 foot radius of harmless but opaque smoke. At 15th level they can use gold and smith’s tools to create canisters that can fire more specialized ammunition from handcannons: explosive fire damage, blind/deafening flashbangs, AoE scattershot balls, and silver cannonballs. At 18th level they can use 2 pounds of gunpowder loaded into their handcannon to do a 6d6 30 foot cone attack that keeps on rolling 1d6 bonus damage until a 1 is rolled on the dice, but 40 or more damage causes a backfire that deals 3d6 damage to the culverin wielder.

*Detailed here as their own special table. Culverins deal 2d6 bludgeoning and have a range of 150/300 feet, while greatculverins deal 2d8 and have a range of 250/750. They have other typical firearm properties, such as Loud and Loading along with Heavy and Two-Handed.

**Handcannons misfire on a natural 1 even if not using the optional misfire rules. Detailed in the next chapter, misfire basically fouls/jams the weapon and renders it inoperable until fixed via an Action.

The concept of making a specialized BIG GUN wielder is a cool one, although it feels a bit of a one-trick-pony for an otherwise low-utility class. Handcannons have a damage die unmatched by any other ranged weapons and allow for versatile attacks, but the later-level utility features can be easily replicated by lower-level spells. The AoE damage capstone seems cool, but dealing damage to the user makes it rather unappealing.

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Corsair Fighters are those who pledge allegiance to Fortana and rely upon luck to enhance, rather than guide, their fates. They are akin to Battlemaster Fighters in that they gain Fortana Dice which can be spent to add to and activate rolls and features that require the use of such a die. Said die is a d6, but if they roll a 6 they can roll the dice again and again until they no longer roll a 6. But if they roll a 1 after rolling a 6 they add nothing to the result instead. Instead of maneuvers they learn a Tradewind at 3rd, 7th, 10th, and 15th level (there are only 4, one for each compass direction). North automatically reduces all unwanted movement imposed by 5 feet, turns all versatile weapons into finesse weapons, said weapons deal bonus damage equal to the lower STR/DEX modifier when used two-handed, and Fortana dice can be spent to add to damage rolls with said weapons. South increases damage die of loading and reach weapons by one size, the first 15 feet of difficult terrain is treated as normal terrain when moving during their turn, and Fortana dice can add to the damage rolls of loading/reach weapons. East adds the Fighter’s lower STR/DEX mod to the attack rolls of light and thrown weapons on top of the higher modifier, increases speed by 5 feet, and adds Fortana dice to AC when Disengaging. West lets the Corsair use Help as a bonus action after using the Attack action, and they can grant an ally Helped in such a way a Fortana die on their next attack/damage roll.

Beyond the Tradewinds Corsairs, can spend Fortana dice to Dash or Disengage as a bonus action, add to their AC as a reaction against an attack, and move 15 feet when unarmoured or lightly armored, or if wearing Medium armor can spend Fortana to reduce damage and move 5 feet. At 7th level they gain proficiency in one gaming set and advantage on Insight rolls when playing dice or card games. They can reroll any natural 1 on an Acrobatics, Athletics, or Stealth roll when unarmoured or lightly armored, and can reroll natural 2s and 3s if in water or while standing on something that’s floating in water. At 10th level for 1 round after using Second Wind they impose disadvantage on attack rolls that would normally have advantage against them, and gain advantage on saving throws if they’d roll with disadvantage. At 15th level they gain temporary HP after using their Indomitable class feature, and at 18th level treat the first result of 1 on a Fortana die as a 6.

Overall I like the Corsair as a concept, but feel that it can be better. While the d6 Fortana are lower than a Battlemaster’s d8 (and later d10 and d12), their ability to effectively add their Strength and Dexterity together for certain types of weapons can be a good damage boost depending on the build. They aren’t as versatile as the Battlemaster either in that they have just a few Tradewinds, and their focus is more on dodging and weaving than straight offense which I feel the core Rogue can do better. Their utility feature for games of chance is rather limited, only applying to one skill.
 

Libertad

Adventurer
Sorry, you are disappointed by the lack of undersea content. I just wanted to mention there is a 200+ page book coming out later this year called Under the Seas of Vodari. There was no way we could do justice to the undersea world in the seafaring focused The Seas of Vodari book, so we provided a quick 2-page look at the undersea world.... holding back content for the next book.

We're really excited that our 2nd Kickstarter was successful and we're able to provide an entire book that looks at the people, places, and monsters under the sea, while also providing rules, advice, and options for players and DMs playing in undersea campaigns.

I'm looking forward to its release. I was a fan of Cerulean Seas when it came out for Pathfinder, and 5th Edition could certainly use more undersea adventure locations and settings.
 

Libertad

Adventurer
Chapter IV: Character Options (Part II)

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Way of the Wild Monk focuses on instinct and ferocity by observing how animals fight in the natural world. They learn stances named after animals, emblematic of said beasts’ most notorious attacks. At 3rd level they choose two stances to learn (there are 10 total), and can enter a stance by spending 1 ki point and lasts for a minute* or until another stance is entered. The options have names like Crane Stance and Mantis Stance, and include options such as sending a bonus action to gain resistance to one non-bludgeoning/piercing/slashing damage type until the end of their next turn (Dragon), moving a creature to any other unoccupied adjacent space or moving half their own speed without provoking opportunity attacks as a reaction if said creature misses with a melee attack (Crane), advantage on Dexterity saving throws and Acrobatics check and can use Patient Defense without expending ki points (Stingray), gain swimming speed equal to base speed +10 feet and advantage on melee attacks when attacking underwater (Crocodile), or can make an unarmed attack as a reaction vs a melee attack when using Patient Defense or Dodge (Mantis). Most of them are predictably reactive against a foe’s offensive actions as opposed to something the monk initiates.

*10 minutes for Crocodile Stance.

Also at 3rd level the Monk gains proficiency in Animal Handling and can cast Speak with Animals as a ritual. At 6th level they can spend 1 ki point to apply additional boons to a stance in the form of a Strike that deals additional damage equal to the Monk’s Wisdom modifier or Martial Arts die along with another effect. For example Stingray Strike applies to when a target casts a spell, forcing a Constitution save in order to successfully cast the spell as though the target was concentrating on the magic. Mantis Strike can blind a creature for 1 minute (they make a Constitution save every round to end it early), while Dragon Strike applies only against a prone opponent but can reduce their speed to 0 until the beginning of the Monk’s next turn.

At 11th level their maximum ki points equal their Monk level + Wisdom modifier, while at 15th level they learn a third stance and accompanying strike of their choice.

The Way of the Wild has some nice choices, although some Stances are more broadly applicable than others. The Mantis’ Blinding Strike is great for just about any kind of opponent given how common visual senses are for monsters in general, while Dragon has a better Stance than its later Strike in versatility. In terms of utility only the Crocodile stance is good for general out of combat use (lasts 10 minutes and grants a swimming speed and ability to hold breath for far longer), and speaking to animals is useful albeit more situational than something like the Way of Shadow’s teleportation.

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Oath of Discovery Paladins are those who hold knowledge as the best ideal and often worship Istori. They seek out new lands and hidden truths, often taking up roles as archeologists, teachers, and other such occupations. Their bonus spells revolve around mobility and information-gathering, such as Expeditious Retreat, See Invisibility, Arcane Eye, and Dimension Door. Their channel divinity option grants a nearby ally temporary hit points and proficiency with a variety of tools (cartographer’s, navigator’s, & thieves’) or advantage on rolls with them if already proficient. Alternatively they can polarize themselves when channeling, gaining charges they can expend to add 1d6 to their AC or attack/damage in regards to being attacked by or attacking metal weapons and armored creatures. Additionally they can cast cleric and druid spells with the ritual tag, being able to learn and copy them down with a ritual book.

At 7th level allied creatures within 30 feet don’t have to roll Constitution saves to maintain concentration on spells the first time they take damage, and if the paladin themselves loses concentration in such a way the spell persists for 1 round. At 18th level this aura improves in granting +1d4 to the result of a Constitution save made to maintain concentration on a spell.

At 15th level the paladin can inscribe sigils of power onto flat surfaces, which can trigger based on certain conditions and have no limits on uses beyond the 10 minutes it takes to inscribe them. Sigils of Prophecy let a creature cast Augury as an action, Sigils of Truth allow the paladin to learn the surface thoughts and one hidden secret of someone that comes into contact with it on a failed save, and a Sigil of Correspondence is on two surfaces that can be up to paladin level in miles away from each other. When both sigils are activated they allow for telepathic communication.

The 20th level ultimate ability inscribes the paladin’s skin in runes as a bonus action, granting them a flying speed, can Dash as a bonus action and make one weapon attack with advantage as part of said action, their weapon attacks deal +1d8 psychic damage, and hostile creatures within 10 feet have disadvantage on INT/WIS ability checks and saves.

The Oath of Discovery Paladin is a great team player. The 7th level aura is excellent for any party with spellcasters, and cleric/druid ritual spells open up some nice versatility. The rest of the class features are less impressive, particularly the metal-based Channel Divinity which is very situational. The Sigils are cool, but only come into play at a very late level in campaigns.

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Stormcloak Rangers derive their powers from the tumultuous weather that plague the Seas of Vodari. While not all choose to wear it, their name comes from their specialized cloaks which visibly channel electricity whenever they use their powers. Their bonus spells revolve around wind and mobility (thunderwave, gust of wind, haste, freedom of movement, passwall), and at 3rd level they can expend ranger spell slots to deal bonus lightning or thunder damage akin to a paladin (1d6 + 1d6 per spell level, +1d6 if metal creature or metal-armored creature). They can also spend slots as an action to deal said bonus damage automatically against a target that is grappling or swallowing them, but the damage can be avoided if said creature releases them.

At 7th level the Stormcloak gains resistance against lightning and thunder damage, and can spend a reaction to absorb energy when taking damage from such types to empower their weapon with +2d6 lightning/thunder damage on their next strike. They also gain advantage whenever they’d gain disadvantage on Perception checks due to stormy weather. At 11th level they deal +3d6 thunder damage with an attack whenever they hit with 2 weapon attacks in a single turn, and at 15th level as an action they can grant themselves one of two benefits for 1 minute and which refreshes on the next short or long rest: they either gain a fly speed or negate lightning damage taken by themselves or an ally within 10 feet.

The Stormcloak Ranger is first and foremost a damage-dealer, with little in the way of utility beyond their bonus spells and their 15th level capstone. They have the potential to do a lot of damage, but that kind of makes them feel lacking in comparison to some other Ranger Conclaves. The fact that one of said damage boosts is only when hit by a noncommon pair of energy types makes such a feature even more limited.

Mask Roguish Archetype embodies disguised crusaders fighting against injustice, or just taking advantage of said disguise for mischievous pursuits. At 3rd level they can maintain a secret identity via a costumed disguise, and said identity is impossible to connect to their real identity unless disclosed to someone or being witnessed changing into or out of said costume. They also choose a finesse or ranged weapon type that becomes their signature weapon, gaining a +1 on attack and damage rolls with such instruments of war. They also gain advantage on all Deception checks when in their ‘normal’ persona, and can also apply Sneak Attack against a creature as long as they’re within 5 feet of 2 or more hostile creatures and not suffering disadvantage on the attack roll.

At 9th level they gain the services of a Sidekick who is a CR ½ humanoid who also has a secret identity of their own. They can grant advantage to an ally’s attack roll as a reaction but otherwise aren’t really remarkable in terms of game stats. Sidekicks can be employed for surveillance and scouting, automatically learning certain information after 4 hours: guard patrol routes, areas of heavy criminal activity, locations for hideouts and secret meetings, etc. At 13th level they gain advantage on Intimidation checks while in their costumed identity, and can impose the Frightened condition on struck targets that fail a Wisdom save if hit with a signature weapon. At 17th level the Rogue can use the bonus action granted via Cunning Action to score critical hits on 19-20 against a selected target, and also can learn a limited amount of game stats (AC, type, current HP, lowest or highest save) on a successful Insight vs Deception check.

I love me some masked vigilantes, although a lot of this subclass’ noncombat features are the kinds of things that can be simulated via role-play and the PCs just being notable people or the right Features for Backgrounds. The 17th level capstone is rather unimpressive given that such abilities can be more easily sussed out in the process of combat. The ironclad secret identity and signature weapon are nice, but those 2 features cannot hold up the whole class.

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Scoundrel Roguish Archetype represents people with connections in unsavory circles such as the black market and organized crime. They initially gain proficiency in one type of gaming set and improvised weapons (which they can also Sneak Attack with). They also gain a bonus use of Sneak Attack by Fast Talking a creature via Cunning Action: if the target fails a Wisdom save the Rogue only needs to not have disadvantage and be within 30 feet in order to apply Sneak Attack against the creature. Also at 3rd level they can automatically learn things about a community’s criminal activity by spending 4 hours gathering information.

At 9th level they can toss improvised objects at a creature whenever they take the Disengage action, causing the target to suffer disadvantage on their next attack roll on a failed Dexterity save. At 13th level the Rogue can apply Smooth Talk to gain advantage on a Deception or Persuasion check; said feature has no limits to use and can be used even against hostile targets, but can only apply to a creature once per hour. At 17th level the Rogue can spend a reaction to make an attack against a creature that missed them, adding Charisma modifier to the roll and can move half their movement speed without provoking opportunity attacks.

Much like the Mastermind, I feel that this archetype is more for campaigns heavy on social interactions. It’s not as mobile as the Scout, and the bonus sneak attack capability can only be triggered on a failed save rather than automatically like the Swashbuckler or Mask.

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Tidal Sorcerers have a special connection to the tides of the ocean, or perhaps the moons that control them. They feel a deep connection to the sea, and their moods often change with the tides. At 1st level they gain a swim speed and proficiency in water vehicles, and once per long rest can regain 1d4-1 sorcery points when completing a short rest within or in sight of a large body of water (as well as within a seaborne ship). At 3rd level they can spend sorcery points on new metamagic options: High Tide pushes a creature 10 feet, Flood Tide grants temporary hit points based on the level of the expended spell slot, Ebb Tide applies bonus acid damage based on the spell slot’s level, and Low Tide causes targets to be unable to take reactions until the beginning of the sorcerer’s next turn. At 6th level the sorcerer learns water breathing and wind walk as bonus spells, can cast them as a reaction, and can’t be dispelled by anyone besides the sorcerer. At 14th level when they roll a natural 2-5 on an attack/save/ability check they can add 10 to the result, but only once per long rest or the next time they roll a natural 1 on said check (but must be the final result). And finally once per long rest whenever they’d roll a d100 they roll twice, learn the results of both rolls, and keep whichever they prefer.

Tidal Sorcerer feels like it’s trying to do a bit of everything rather than focusing on any one role. Still, I can’t say that any specific subclass features are truly bad, with the exception of rolling d100 twice is a bit situational given how rarely such things pop up when rolled by the players. The tide-based metamagic is clearly the subclass’ strong point, with a nice variety of options.

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The Council Otherworldly Patron represents warlocks who made a pact with a group of powerful beings that share the same goal as opposed to just one entity. The expanded spell list is a mixture of utility without any dominant theme, from Sanctuary to Find Traps to Protection from Energy. At 1st level the warlock can construct a magical ward as part of a short or long rest, and can be activated as a bonus action to grant resistance against a damage type predetermined during its construction (but can be changed via expending a Hit Die that won’t restore Hit Points when used in this matter). They also deal 1d4 + 1d4 per expended pact magic slot on damage dealt with the same type that was resisted for 1 turn. The Warlock also gains proficiency in Survival (or if already proficient rolls a d6 to add to every such skill check), and can cast Identity and Locate Object once per long rest each without using a spell slot.

At 6th level the Warlock gains temporary hit points when they cast a spell of 1st level or higher with a spell slot or critically hit. They can also grant said temporary hit points to an allied target within 30 feet. At 10th level their resisting ward grows stronger, being able to affect a nearby ally instead and rolling d8s instead of d4s for bonus damage. At 14th level as a reaction when falling to 0 HP or as a normal action they can be fully restored hit pointwise, teleport up to 30 feet, and roll a d6 every round for a minute, regaining a warlock spell slot if a 6 is ever rolled. This capstone ability can only be used once per long rest.

I find it a bit hard to grade this class. The d6 to skill rolls is something I haven’t seen in this book or elsewhere, and the broad resistance ward is pretty useful. Most of the abilities are reactive and defensive in nature, being things that help the warlock’s survivability rather than being things they do directly. It’s better than the laughably bad Undying patron, although it doesn’t have the broad utility as other patrons such as the Great Old One or Genie.

We do have a new Pact Boon and 3 Eldritch Invocations which play off of it. The Pact of Ink allows the Warlock to create a tattoo on their skin holding a warlock spell with a casting time of 1 action; it can later be cast from the tattoo as a bonus action. For the Invocations, Sigil of Protection grants resistance to one type of damage when an abjuration spell is stored in it. Flashing Sigil allows reaction time spells to be stored and grants the Warlock the ability to Dash as a bonus action and advantage on initiative checks when stored. Twin Sigils allows two tattoos to store one spell each of their own.

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Wizard School of Mistwalking is an esoteric tradition from the Pernicious Citadel and followers of its renegade archmage. At 2nd level the Wizard can draw a cloak of mists around themselves granting advantage on Stealth checks for 1 minute, able to do this a number of times per long rest equal to their Intelligence modifier. They can also draw such a cloak around themselves automatically when casting certain spells (conjuration/enchantment/illusion), and also at 2nd level they become proficient in Stealth, add Fog Cloud to their spellbook and can cast it once without a spell slot, and can see normally in fog, mist, and smoke. At 6th level in such areas of poor visibility they can drop their cloak of mists to teleport up to 60 feet and also add Gaseous Form as a bonus spell which they always have prepared (doesn’t push up against preparation limits). At 10th level they can disperse their mist cloak as a reaction to add their proficiency bonus to AC, and at 14th level they can cast Confusion or Phantasmal Killer against a foe as part of said reaction (said spells aren’t learned automatically).

This class is pretty heavy on stealth and situational in regards to when some of its abilities can be used. The nicer abilities occur at later levels, and the reaction-based spell counterattack as the 14th level capstone is a bit of an odd choice in that they’re only 2 spells as opposed to a broader variety of offensive ones.

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New Backgrounds: We have 4 new backgrounds and 4 variants on the Sailor background, effectively making 8 new choices. Cartographers gain proficiency in Nature and Perception along with Navigator’s Tools and Cartographer’s Tools. Their Feature lets them never get lost in any area they mapped and can recall general layout of terrain, settlements, and similar features. Castaways gain proficiency in Athletics Survival, Herbalism Kits and Water Vehicles, and they can survive on half the normal amount of rations and water. Enforcers gain proficiency in Investigation, Intimidation, one gaming set type, land vehicles, and their Feature lets them better bend the regulations of the legal system due to knowledge and contacts. Revolutionaries gain Persuasion, Survival, one musical instrument proficiency, and one bonus language of their choice. They can survive indefinitely on half rations, can go for 3 days without food before risking starvation, and can go for an additional 4 hours of forced marching without needing to make a saving throw.

The four variant sailors include Explorer (Feature grants them knowledge of a secret land and how to get there), Navigator (Cartographer's skills, tools, and equipment and Feature is never get lost when they can see the sky), Privateer (Feature is treated like a hero in communities friendly to the flag they sail under), and Ship’s Surgeon (proficient in Investigation, Medicine, Herbalism Kit, water vehicles, and Feature is gain free lodging/meals/minor assistance in exchange for medical advice and assistance).

New Feats: There are 4 new feats, short but sweet. Deck Brawler grants +1 STR or DEX, +2 to initiative when standing on anything floating on water, they move at regular speed while climbing, and add proficiency to any check that involves boarding another sea vessel. Deep Diver grants +1 STR, a swimming speed equal to “your movement,”* can hold breath for minutes equal to 1 + Con modifier + proficiency bonus, and can survive for CON mod + proficiency bonus in rounds when drowning. Firearms Expert ignores the loading property of firearms, doesn't suffer disadvantage when shooting hostile creatures within 5 feet, and when Attacking with a one-handed weapon in one hand and a pistol with the light property in the other can attack with said pistol as a bonus action. Finally, Nimble grants +1 DEX and +1 to AC when wearing light or no armor and not wielding a shield.

*don’t they mean walking speed? That’s what the other swim speed granters specified.

So while some of these feats are nice in isolation, other aspects in this book can overrule them. Deep Diver isn’t so hot when you gain easy access to water breathing, while several of the Firearms Expert properties are things that the Gunslinger can gain automatically. Nimble is nice for those with the Dueling Fighting Style. Granted, these feats seem a way to gain such features without having to be the class, which is what I feel is the intent.

Thoughts So Far: Well this was a doozy of a chapter! Overall I have mixed feelings. A lot of the subclasses vary in quality. They all key off of setting elements of Seas of Vodari which helps connect players to the setting, but some are not so hot when juxtaposed against official subclasses. The Gunslinger seems fine as a class, but if the GM incorporates the optional misfire rules then its quality takes a nosedive as nobody likes critical fumbles. But a few subclasses manage to be good and flavorful, such as the Oath of Discovery Paladin being a clear favorite of mine.

Join us next time as we see what kinds of loot and booty PCs can get their hands on in Chapter V: Equipment and Chapter VI: Ships & Cannons!
 

This setting shouldn't fall in the oblivion. The books should be bought at least to speculate for collectors. If Entertainment-One paid the rights for a cartoon adaptation in streaming media, it would be a hit. If you liked Red Steel/Savage Coast then you will be happy with this.
 

Libertad

Adventurer
This setting shouldn't fall in the oblivion. The books should be bought at least to speculate for collectors. If Entertainment-One paid the rights for a cartoon adaptation in streaming media, it would be a hit. If you liked Red Steel/Savage Coast then you will be happy with this.

Seas of Vodari is currently a Best Electrum Seller on Drive-Thru RPG, which while not among the top-selling products is quite significant for a 3rd-party setting. Its future supplement, Under the Seas of Vodari, raised 85k Canadian dollars (about 70k USD) on KickStarter, so it definitely has an appreciable fanbase.

You do bring up a good point regarding the obscure nature of 3rd party settings. I've been doing my part to shed light on some of the lesser-known ones out there via my High 5e review series. After this one I plan on touching other books that haven't got as much attention and/or discussion. I'm currently working on the Koryo Hall of Adventures, and may do Brancalonia and Grim Hollow sometime in the future. I'm aware that Grim Hollow got a massively successful monster manual KickStarter, but the franchise itself doesn't even have a DTRPG page and doesn't spawn much discussion on most TTRPG spaces I've seen.
 

Libertad

Adventurer
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Chapter V: Equipment

This brief chapter covers gear old, new, and reimagined for Seas of Vodari. For armor we have 3 new options: Heavy Leather Coats have the same bonus as Studded Leather but cost a tad more and weigh less, same case in regards to the new Uniform armor juxtaposed against regular Leather. Bucklers are shields that give +1 AC but can be dropped rather than taking an action to remove.

For weapons, we have a bunch of new ones. The boarding axe is a simple light melee weapon that grants advantage on Athletics checks to scale penetrable surfaces, hooks are akin to daggers but deal slashing damage and can be attached as a prosthetic, and bayonets can be attached to a musket to allow for making non-improvised melee attacks dealing 1d6 damage with said weapon in hand.

But that’s not what you’re most likely interested in; let’s talk guns and explosives! Firearms in Vodari are at the flintlock stage of innovation, plus or minus some magical innovations. Firearms fall into simple and martial categories, but classes are differently-proficient. All the classes that are proficient in all martial weapons are proficient in simple and martial firearms, but Druids are not proficient in any firearms. The sole simple firearm is a light pistol that deals 1d8 damage and has a 50/200 range increment. There are four martial firearms: the blunderbuss which deals 1d10 damage and has the same range as a light pistol but can also be filled with shot to do a 1d6 15-foot cone AoE; the 2d6 musket that has the best range at 100/400; dragon pistols which are 1d6 and with a shorter 30/120 range but can use shot like a musket that deals 1d4 damage; and finally the heavy pistol which deals 1d10 damage at a 60/240 range. Interestingly none of the two-handed firearms have the heavy property, meaning that Small races can make use of them. And as for handheld explosives, we have grenados and stinkpots that deal 2d4 fire damage/impose the poisoned condition for 1 round in 5 foot radii respectively. Both are very affordable, with 2 gp per grenado and 1 gp per stinkpot.

Four optional house rules are provided for firearms: ammunition cannot be retrieved intact post-battle, firearms can be audibly heard and thus impose disadvantage on Stealth for 1 round after using, natural 1s foul up the weapon and take an action to clean, and firearms soaked by a significant amount of water jam the weapon in a similar manner that also takes an action to dry out. Those with gunslinger class levels are never subject to the natural 1 misfire rule if in place.

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These rules more or less make sense save for the natural 1 misfire. Critical fumbles rarely add anything to the game besides disproportionately harming players, and make such items less appealing to take. In comparison to traditional ranged weapons firearms have some trade-offs: bows and crossbows overall have a superior range and can be more easily used when sneaking and in wet environs. But heavy crossbows and longbows cannot be wielded by Small races, and while of shorter range muskets deal more damage. Furthermore, the pistols can be used in two-weapon fighting and deal a lot more damage than a hand crossbow and have a greater range. When it comes to price only the firearms that have fancy shots (Blunderbuss and dragon pistols) are more expensive than their non-firearm ranged weapons at 100 and 150 gp each, while light pistols are 40 and muskets and heavy pistols at 50. This puts the latter two in line with heavy crossbows and longbows, and hand crossbows are a pricy 75 gp.

In short, Seas of Vodari makes firearms more appealing for player use than some other D&D settings and system clones do, making them more a reasonable default choice than something best used for specialized builds.

We also get a broad list of various kinds of adventuring gear, ranging from aesthetic stuff like bandanas and tri-cone hats as well as more affordable versions of spy glasses (100 instead of 1,000 gp) given the higher technology level and some new tools such as a compass (advantage on checks in determining location/direction) and swimming goggles (double distance you can see in non-dark, non-murky water). We also have prices for firearm ammunition and gunpowder in general: a 10 pound keg costs 20 gp, while a full powderhorn costs 2gp and holds 2 pounds of gunpowder, and specialized canisters for culverins cost 5 to 10 gp. There’s also new musical instruments and gaming sets such as fiddles, guitars, hornpipes, hurdy-gurdy, and cheating devices such as loaded dice and marked playing cards! Finally our chapter rounds out with a list of common trade goods commonly found on merchant vessels: rum, sugar, tobacco, fruit, tea, and even aged whisky and fine wine are presented for that Age of Sail feel! We get a d100 Trinkets table for PCs to roll on to begin play with some interesting knick-knacks that may or may not have a backstory hook.

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Chapter VI: Ships & Cannons

What is a pirate or explorer without a ship and loyal crew? Stranded, that’s what! This chapter provides templates for ships and sample crews, along with cannons and other Age of Sail siege weapons. There’s also Ship Upgrades with sample prices to give some expensive things for PCs to spend their gold on, and finally four sample Ships & Crews to be used for on-the-fly inspiration. There’s no in-depth rules for naval combat, but relevant stats are provided for pertinent aspects, such as how many miles per hour/feet per round a ship can move and the AC, HP, and Damage Threshold of ship hulls, helms, and sails. The hull is more or less the main ‘health measure’ that prevents a ship from sinking, but damage to the helm and sails impairs a ship’s mobility the more damage is taken. Ships in general are statted out like creatures, but they have 0 in all mental ability scores, are immune to poison and psychic damage, and are immune to just about every condition. Some larger ships such as brigantines and galleons can take 3 actions per round a la Legendary Actions provided that they have the requisite crew, most often to move or fire cannons.

We have prices, stats, and sample maps for 9 ships, ranging from more conventional types (brigantine, canoe, galleon, etc) and more exotic options such as an Elven Warship outfitted with magical upgrades, Xolenian submersibles, and Waveskippers which are basically surfboards with sails. While I won’t go over the nitty-gritty, from a casual reader’s view it looks like ship combat can suffer the rocket-launcher tag problem. While the larger vessels have a ton of Hit Points, it’s not uncommon for larger vessels to have sets of cannons. While they do have some downsides, a barrage of a half-dozen to dozen cannonballs can inflict a ton of damage even if half of them miss. In the later monster chapter the book acknowledges the possibility that a PC with such a ship can gain a big advantage when fighting otherwise typical encounters (a giant sea monster is but one creature), and the advice more or less amounts to scaling up strength and numbers than any in-depth improvements.

Speaking of which, cannons range from medium-size swivel guns (2d6) to 8 to 3-pounders which designate the weight of the cannonball. Even the humble swivel gun costs 25 gold, while the cannons proper range from 750 to 3,000 gold and the 32-pounder is too big to support on ships and thus tends to be in coastal fortresses. 8 pounders deal 4d10 and the 12 and 16 pounders +1d10 for each grade up. At 24 pounds the cannonballs deal 8d10 damage, and 32 pounders a mighty 10d10. Ammunition gets expensive, as cannonballs can cost anywhere from 5 silver (1 pound swivel guns) to 8 gold (32 pound), and that’s not counting the gunpowder which can range from 2-6 pounds per shot for the non-swivel guns. Cannons also require one action to reload, one to aim, and one to fire, meaning that a crew of at least 3 per cannon is required to fire them once per round. There’s also special types of ammunition such as a chain and bar shot which is used to destroy sails, grapeshot that acts as AoE shrapnel, and explosive cannonballs that deal AoE fire damage.

In comparison to spells, cannons are expensive and slow, but unlike spells they aren’t limited by Vancian per-day use and can effectively be fired as long as the ammo is there. And given that sailors are far more plentiful than actual spellcasters in the setting, they’re easier to procure and operate.

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Ship Upgrades are magical and mastercrafted items that require a set amount of gold (usually a four or five figure sum) and one to four weeks (2d4 for the most involved) to be installed on a ship. Upgrades are divided into categories depending on their function and what part of the ship they occupy. For example, we have hull upgrades that include a shapeshifting hull allowing the vessel to sail upon virtually any surface of water, one that can summon up mists to impose disadvantage on attacks against the vessel, and one that can shift the ship and its crew to the Ethereal Plane. Movement upgrades include mithril sails that grant better AC and less movement losses for damage taken to said sails, while weapon upgrades include arcane cannons that deal magical force damage and thunderstone mangonels* that deal thunder damage instead of the base bludgeoning. Miscellaneous upgrades include a little bit of everything, such as a living mast that grows vines upon its rigging that self-heal the entire ship and lets the ship’s cook cast the Goodberry spell once per day. Another interesting choice is a Ghost-Lantern Bowspirit that has an antique lantern whose light can reveal the forms of undead creatures at night. It can also grant the ship resistance to nonmagical bludgeoning/piercing/slashing damage as a reaction once per day.

*mangonels are catapults detailed in the DMG.

Random Ships & Crews give us a sample d12 table of personalized ship names (the Sparrow Hawk, Luna’s Blessing, etc) accompanied by the ship template type and the NPC type (bandit captain, gladiator, werewolf, etc) of its captain. We have four more involved entries: the Ship of the Damned is a Brigantine ghost ship inhabited by undead and best used as a creepy random encounter. The Arrogant Sage is a Sloop home to wizards and intellectuals turned into Cursed Souls by the Preserver gods for delving into dark knowledge. The Vile Servant is a Sloop full of mercenaries made up of outcasts and criminals on the run, lead by a former Arushi musketeer and an assortment of other crewmates with varying backstories such as a priest who got ousted after finding corruption in the church of Taevara and a chef whose life was ruined by a criminal syndicate in Port Zavros.* Finally there’s the Crimson Hand, a Galleon whose crew miraculously found a safe port in the storm that was a temple of Fortana. They thus dedicated their lives to battling tyranny, spreading freedom and wealth, and honoring the goddess.

*This is a bit of an editing error: the country is called Zavros, but its capital city is Port Zavo.

Thoughts So Far: Overall I find the new gear additions satisfactory. The firearm rules pleasantly surprised me in actually being functional weapons not saddled with downsides, and I really enjoyed the addition of Ship Upgrades. The addition of sample ships and crews along with maps for sample common ship types will be of great use in seafaring campaigns in general. My only real concern is that we don’t really have an in-depth system for ship-to-ship (or ship-to-sea-monster) combat, and it doesn’t solve the common problem of PCs who aren’t pilots or artillerists having nothing substantial to do beyond boarding actions.

Join us next time as we learn eldritch secrets in Chapter VII: Magic Items & Spells!
 

Libertad

Adventurer
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Chapter VII: Magic Items & Spells

The bulk of magical understanding and development was lost during the Godwar, so legendary items from that era are highly prized and the contents of more than a few sunken treasure hoards.

We have 27 new ‘standard’ magic items and 8 Relics of the Ancients, legendary items and artifacts made by said civilization and only ever found in lost treasuries or in the possession of Vodari’s power players. I won’t list them all for the sake of brevity, but some of the more interesting ones include: Aurirn Armor and Weapons which are made by said dwarven clan and can function normally underwater regardless of type; a Bag of the Four Winds whose various winds each have their own special abilities that trigger when they move 3 creatures of the user’s choice and have specific names tied in to the setting: Rage wind blows anywhere from Vesi’s Rage and causes confusion, White wind blows from the north and deals cold damage, etc; Cloak of the Cichild grants the ability to breath underwater and a swim speed as well as the ability to fool targets into making the user appear weak, forcing disadvantage on their attacks; Goggles of Daywalking cancel out Sunlight Sensitivity; Necklace of the Shimmering Sea blinds attackers who deal radiant damage to the wearer, making it very situational; Ring of Water Breathing casts the spell on the wearer at will; Sash of Graceful Steps grants +2 to Dexterity saves, Acrobatics, and allows any solid object the wearer can stand on to bear their weight; Second-light Lantern emits a light viewable only in darkvision but can allow the viewing of a full spectrum of colors; Ship in a Bottle is exactly what it sounds like, but when uncorked can summon a full-sized ship of the model’s likeness nearby; Smiling Goddess Coins depict the goddess of luck smiling on one side, scowling on another. The item expends a charge when flipped, adding or subtracting 1d4 to the next attack, save, or ability check depending on whether it lands on the smiling or scowling side. A drop of blood on the scowling side causes that side to smile as well and casts the Bless spell on 2 creatures the next time combat is entered, but the coin’s owner ends up mysteriously losing the item afterwards; the Staff of Tides grants a swim speed and breathing underwater, and can transform into an oar, paddle, or rudder and can expend charges to cast various water-related spells; and the Underwater Firearm, which deals force damage instead of piercing, doesn’t require ammunition or reloading, and can work underwater.

The Trinkets of Dohaki are placed under Relics of the Ancients, but as they’re merely “very rare” and connected to the goddess proper I feel they’re misplaced so I’m including them as their own entry. Basically they are small handheld pieces of iron shaped into the form of a tentacle or tentacled sea-creature. A random 1d10 table has a list of beneficial effects granted to the wielder, invariably related to darkness and deep sea creatures (pseudopod attack, bonus poison damage, see in all forms of darkness, etc). But every time they’re used, the user’s soul is at risk of ending up indebted to Dokahi. This is represented as an increasing score: at the lower levels the influence is subtle, preventing benefits of a long rest when not within 60 feet of the ocean, and at worst the goddess can target the user with a Geas or Dominate Monster at any time they’re anywhere on the Material Plane or Elemental Plane of Water.

For Relics of the Ancients, all but one of them are magical orbs. The Crown of Mental Might grants a massive Intelligence boost (becomes 18 INT or 22 if 18 or higher), along with various ‘know things’ boons: proficiency in all Intelligence skills, can speak/read all languages, cast various psychic-style spells 1/day each. The other Relics are orbs that either can hold up to 7 charges which can be used to cast themed spells (Orb of the Scorching Flame for fire, Orb of the Storm’s Eye for Lightning, etc), or grant the wielder limited control over a particular element for an hour which they can telekinetically move and manipulate (Orb of the Howling Wind for air, Orb of the Swirling Current for Water, etc)

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For spells proper we have 20 new ones, including the Spirit Slash cantrip which was detailed proper in the Character Options chapter. We also get a table of spells by class and level, too. The primary caster classes get a relatively even number of 7-8 or so, with the Druid a mere 5 and the Wizard gaining access to 12. Rangers get access to 3, and the poor Paladin can’t learn any of these new spells. 3 are cantrips, and 10 of the non-cantrip ones have increased effects when cast with higher-level slots.

Bone Lock can damage and paralyze targets that have bones; Cat o’ Nine Tails creates an AoE cone of lashing red strands dealing force damage with a concentration duration; Conch Call can awaken targets from slumber and end various mental maladies (Charm, Frightened, Confusion, etc); Coral Grasp summons grasping poisonous coral that can restrain a target and deal poison damage; Crushing Waves summon ice-cold waves that can make targets vulnerable to damage from the spell and deal subsequent bludgeoning damage on further rounds; Ghost Cloak binds the soul of a recently-dead corpse to protect a creature of the caster’s choosing; Grave Pistol conjures a smoky pistol that has infinite ammo and deals necrotic damage bullets or poisonous miasma clouds when fired; Heart’s Desire reveals one of a target’s deeply held desires; Major Mending grants an object or construct touched the lesser of 20 hit points or half of its total hit points (more healed with higher-level slots); Misty Warding imposes disadvantage on the first weapon attack made against a creature benefitting from this spell, and said creature can teleport and melee attack as a reaction; Morto’s Vengeful Eye conjures a movable crystalline eye that deals cold damage on creatures it touches and can alternatively shoot out a blast of necrotic energy; Protection from Water prevents a solid object up to 3 cubic feet from being damaged/extinguished/etc from water for 1 day (becomes permanent if cast every day on the same object for 1 month); Siren’s Lament is a damaging cantrip that deals 1d4-5d4 (level-based) damage in a 15 foot cone on a failed Constitution save and imposes disadvantage on the next INT/WIS saving throw for said creatures; Song of Battle is a cantrip that deals 1d6-4d6 psychic damage and simultaneously grants +1d6 radiant damage on the next attack made by another creature; Soul Shackle binds the caster’s soul to a target, transferring damage and other negative effects to said target for a duration based on the expended spell slot level; Spirit Wind summons a deadly spirit that will attack one creature type, dealing 8d10 force damage and granting one out of a list of boons to the caster or an ally for every creature that dies from such damage; Tero’s Lighthouse causes the caster to emit an aura of bright light that grants allied creatures temporary hit points and imposes disadvantage on foe’s attacks; Tides of Doom allows the caster to emit 60 foot cones that deals 8d6 acid damage every round for up to a minute, with each subsequent cone dealing +1d6 bonus damage for each time it’s used; and True North, a cantrip that when cast on a metal knife or dagger points it in the direction of magnetic north and grants advantage on the next Survival check made for navigation purposes.

Thoughts So Far: The new magical items are neat, and a lot of them have rather broad uses for common character types as opposed to being highly situational. The Relics of the Ancients have an implied psychic elementalist flavor, which give hints as to what kind of power said civilization possessed. The Trinkets of Dokahi are more likely to be treated as cursed items but provide for good adventure hooks for those cursed with power at the expense of self-autonomy under a cruel goddess. The new spells have a mixture of offense and utility, with some of the more utility ones having a more clear use in punishing hostile creatures in some manner. I’m quite fond of Ghost Cloak and Spirit Wind, being pseudo-summoning spells but with a more unique flavor.

Join us next time as we get a bunch of new optional rules and inspirational material in Chapter VIII: Gamemaster Tools!
 

Libertad

Adventurer
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Chapter VIII: Gamemaster Tools

This chapter has a little bit of everything on the GM’s side that doesn’t fit anywhere else.

Duels is a new set of rules and advice for those fancy one on one swashbuckling fights you see in things like Pirates of the Caribbean and the Three Musketeers. Dueling is legal in many places in Vodari and can be done for all manner of reasons. A Code Duello that is popular in Arushi sets precedent for the tradition in many other places (in public during daylight hours, use of witnesses to ensure obeying of rules, fighting with the same or similar styles of weapons, etc). While duels can be run as “reduce the enemy to 0 HP,” the book realizes this can drag on so alternatives are provided: Three Touches is for the first person who can successfully connect against the target 3 times,* while To the Blood is where the loser is the first person reduced to half their max HP.

*the book notes that at higher levels with Extra Attack, this can be unsatisfactory.

Furthermore, Duel Points are provided as an optional addition, where they can be spent to impose advantage/disadvantage on attacks and action and can be added pre-battle via an intimidating performance and are lost when hit. Participants don’t start to lose HP until they’re at 0 Duel Points.

These are by no means detailed rules and aren’t really meant to be used for proper combat or in an otherwise traditionally hostile scenario. Duel Points seem more like padding to me in that they can’t be gained during mid-combat and the most they’re spent on is altering die rolls rather than doing new actions and maneuvers which I feel would be best for simulating duels. The outlines on proper dueling etiquette are useful as it helps set the tone for what is considered proper and reasonable in the setting.

New Actions for Combat cover additional things characters can do while fighting. Some of them are attacks, and can replace a single attack in the case of Extra Attacks. Bind Weapon is an Attack, resolved as an attack roll vs a target’s Acrobatics or Athletics, binding an opponent and preventing them from attacking with said weapon or moving unless they drop it or succeed on the opposed roll again. Give Ground is a reaction where you move 5 feet onto non-difficult terrain when struck in melee, reducing the damage by 1d6 albeit the attacker can move into the space you left for free. Tackle is an Athletics or Acrobatics Attack opposed by one of those two rolls by the target. On a success the target is knocked prone (failure knocks the tackler prone) and deals 1 + STR/DEX modifier in bludgeoning damage. Tag is a fancy yet harmless display that demonstrates one’s martial acumen via an Attack with a finesse or ranged weapon. It is resolved as either a Dexterity (Performance) or attack roll contested by Athletics or Acrobatics, imposing disadvantage on saving throws vs the frightened condition if the target fails. Finally, Toss Debris is an improvised ranged weapon attack (can’t be used to replace an Extra Attack) that imposes disadvantage on a struck target’s next attack roll and can blind them on a failed CON save. Tag only affects a target once every 24 hours, while Toss Debris can only be used once per rest.

Overall I like these new actions, although I feel that Tag is a bit weak in that it doesn’t impose damage or a condition so much as makes a target weak towards a specific future condition.

Gambling provides rules for 4 new games of chance and skill. Fortana’s Wheel is a casino game similar to roulette where people place wagers on where a ship’s wheel will land based on 20 colored spokes. Sea Horse Racing is exactly what it sounds like save for the fact that it involves literal aquatic horses swimming around a massive pool. The odds of a certain sea horse winning apply relevant bonuses on a d8 roll that is rolled four times over the course of the race for each participating sea horse. Skulls is played with dice made of bones where the 1 value represents a skull, and players place a wager and win back their amount based on how many ‘skulls’ are rolled in a 3d6. Pirate’s Dice is pretty much Liar’s Dice. The gambling games make use of chance-based rules rather than the use of ability checks, so barring GM fiat or some other kind of manipulation there’s no clear advantage for what happens for a participating PC who is proficient with an appropriate gaming set.

Code of the Sea is an informal set of rules abided by privateers and pirates of all stripes to ensure harmony among crews out at sea. There are some variations and the Code is malleable based on particular circumstances, but people are expected to adhere to the spirit of it nonetheless. There are 12 rules and they include culture-specific variations of Wil Wheaton’s Law (don’t cheat at gambling, don’t break a promise or agreement, don’t fight with crewmates, don’t drink or sleep on the job, etc), but also includes things such as not engaging in 1 on 1 combat with an unarmed foe,* not interfering in duels between honorable people, honor an honorable enemy’s surrender or offer for parley, and so on. Violations of the Code vary depending on circumstance, although keelhauling, marooning, and executions are common forms of punishment

*I kind of wonder how this works in a setting with monks and fantasy races with natural weapons, but I take it that every pirate makes a judgment to their own advantage in such cases.

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Visiting Ports is a series of random tables for inns, shops, harbormaster’s offices, adventure hook notices on the harbormaster’s board, sights and sounds on the docks, and other nautical locations to make various port towns feel more alive. I can’t really surmise them without reading out every entry, but there’s a lot of good stuff here. Every inn/shp comes with a name (The Pit, Melindi’s Tearoom, etc) along with the proprietor’s name and race. Every entry that involves a person or people also has a bolded NPC stat block title found in the Monster Manual or this very book if stats are needed.

Seafaring Adventures contains brief rules for weather, random encounters at sea, loot and monsters to be found in the hold of a ship or Captain’s Quarters, and Sea Chases. For the more rulesy entries Weather can alter the speed of a ship as well as visibility, and there are sidebars for various skill and water vehicle tool checks for common actions taken on a ship along with relevant ability scores. For example, sudden evasive maneuvers are water vehicles + Dexterity, while recognizing sea life and natural features is Arcana or Nature + Intelligence. Water Vehicles proficiency is very all-encompassing, and can apply to things beyond just piloting, but it can also add the pilot’s proficiency bonus to the ship’s AC and saving throws. This makes said vehicle tool nigh-essential in naval combat. This isn’t a bad thing mind you; said vehicle proficiency is very common among the new player options in Seas of Vodari, and an entire party lacking such a proficiency is at a clear disadvantage.

Sea Chases are simple: the GM determines how many rounds it takes the pursuer to catch up with the pursued, utilizing the Chase rules found in the DMG. A 1d20 Complication table is provided to add random hazards during the chase, such as hard currents that can slow a ship’s speed, coral reefs which deal a lot of slashing damage if the pilot cannot find an alternate route, a gust of wind that can blow a ship off course, and so on.

Sailing Encounters is a d100 table of 50 encounters, drawn exclusively from the Monster Manual and existing ships in this sourcebook. The scale of said encounters varies wildly. Some are low-level such as a swarm of seagulls with glowing red eyes that use a Swarm of Raven stats or an animated skeleton on a deserted island, while some of the most dangerous encounters can involve a mighty kraken or a mummy lord!

Thoughts So Far: I like the new combat actions and tables for common sights at port. Dueling is a bit simplistic and could use a bit more pizzazz, and the lack of PC skill integration in gambling games is a bit of a letdown. The sample actions for water vehicles and appropriate ability scores is an appreciated addition, and adding one’s proficiency bonus to AC and saving throws helps give a sense of progression on top of Ship Upgrades which I also like.

Join us next time as we check out a rogues’ gallery and bestiary in Chapter IX: Allies & Adversaries!
 

Libertad

Adventurer
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Chapter IX: Allies & Adversaries

This chapter is the bestiary of Seas of Vodari, containing 16 new monster entries and 17 new NPC types. Every monster has its own artwork, albeit only 7 NPCs have illustrations. Still, it’s quite a bit of content.

Monsters

Carnivorous Plant (CR 2) is a species of camouflaged flora that uses tendrils to pull prey into its thorn-filled maw and eventually its acid-filled stomach. For a CR 2 Beast it’s pretty tough, with 82 Hit Points and Multiattack with 3 natural weapons, and can grapple and swallow whole creatures. Its major weakness is its slow speed of 10 feet.

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Coral Golem (CR 8) is a construct made from the living foundations of coral reefs. They have a swimming speed and have typical golem traits (berserk, immutable form, etc). For its more offensive traits it can generate acid sprays and an underwater-only cloud that obscures sight and deals poison damage.

Deep Terror Shark (CR 10) is the largest species of shark that dwells in the deepest depths, created as guardians by the Ancients. They are more or less built for melee, having Multiattack and Swallow as well as treating its bite attack as magical, and deals double damage to objects and structures.

Eels (CR 1 to 4) have some more notable species in Vodari. The Rainbow Eel is a magical animal that can shoot a pair of prismatic rays akin to a lower-powered Prismatic Spray spell, while Vampire Eels have toxic sucker-maws it can use to attach to a target, dealing automatic damage as well as giving the target the poisoned condition if detached against its will. A swarm of vampire eel hatchlings are in fact more dangerous statwise than an individual adult, acting as a swarm but lacking the adult’s toxic attack.

The Glass Menagerie (CR ½ & 6) are the creations of the mysterious Glass Knight. The Knight and its transparent entourage wage a war against the Mistwalkers of the Pernicious Citadel for unknown reasons. Glass Bears are strong bruisers, being much like a mundane bear save that it can emit a roar of razor-sharp blinding glass, can heal if exposed to cold attacks, and deals more damage as its hp decreases due to its form fracturing. Glass Foxes are more fragile hunters, capable of teleporting between mirrors it can summon.

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Kallidus (CR 0 to 7) are a variety of intelligent psychic fish with enlarged craniums. Although nearly defenseless physically, they can issue psychic commands to non-intelligent sea life and perform minor telekinesis, which they use to scavenge and build technologically advanced devices. Kallidu Walkers are Large-sized bipedal constructs equipped with a hook and morningstar it can Multiattack with, while Kallidu Crawlers look like mechanical crabs that can shoot a variety of beams: eldritch beams deal force damage, fear beams cause the Frightened condition, and paralyzing beams paralyze.

Mist Otters (CR 2 & 6) are fey enhanced by the ambient energies of the nearby Pernicious Citadel, originally serving the original master but now pledged in service to the tower’s new archmage. Misty River Otters can summon shrouds which force disadvantage on attacks against them as well as attack with a poisonous mist tendril in addition to its natural bite attack. Misty Sea Otters are far larger, possessed of an insatiable hunger where they deal maximum results on their damage dice if they haven’t consumed ¼th their body weight in food within 24 hours. In addition to a Fey Pelt that grants them advantage on saves vs magic, they are otherwise bigger and badder versions of River Otters.

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Sea Dragons (CR 2 to 21) originally hail from the Elemental Plane of Water, being territorial and greedy creatures fond of attacking merchant vessels. They are true dragons who have stat blocks for the four major age groups. In addition to typical dragon capabilities and attacks they have a swim speed and their breath weapon can either be a cone of scalding steam or blinding brine that can push targets away.

The names of Sea Monsters (CR 1 & 5) is actually a term for a specific Loch Ness-style creature rather than a broad variety of species. They are solitary good-natured, good-aligned creatures who won’t attack unless provoked. Due to their low numbers they are overprotective of their children, sometimes even kidnapping children of the humanoid races if unable to find a mate. Both the Baby and adult versions are primarily sea-based (slow land speed, good swim speed) and possess a bite attack and limited telepathy that can transmit simple messages and images. Adults can Multiattack with their bite to attack twice, a third time if a creature harms or comes within 60 feet of its children.

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Skeletons (CR ¼ to 3) cover the types of undead found among a ghost ship’s crew, often cursed by some aquatic civilization or treasure not meant to be unearthed. Pirate Captain Skeletons have typical skeleton traits but more Hit Die, wear actual armor, can Multiattack and Parry as well as launch a necrotic death bolt as a ranged attack. Pirate Skeletons attack with cutlasses and light pistols, while Two-Headed Pirate Skeletons can Multiattack twice with cutlasses and once with a heavy pistol. All 3 skeleton types have Undead Fortitude where they can avoid dropping to 0 HP by succeeding at a Constitution save vs a non-critical, non-radiant attack.

Wereorca (CR 8) or Orcana as they call themselves mostly live on the imaginatively-named island of Orca. They are split into three major tribes, and are unique among lycanthropes in that they retain their free will and alignment. One becomes a wereorca either by having two wereorca parents or completing a series of sacred trials. They are very tough creatures, being outright immune to non-magical, non-silvered physical attacks and can shapechange into a large killer whale form in addition to a hybrid one. They can Multiattack in said forms and gain Pack Tactics like a wolf (advantage on attacks when in 5 feet of an ally).

Weresharks (CR 7) are more typical Chaotic Evil cursed lycanthropes who are solitary predators. Sharkfin Island is their only known permanent colony, and they favor ambush and guerilla attacks. They can shapechange into a Large shark or hybrid form, and have advantage on melee attacks vs creatures with less than maximum HP like a real shark. They also deal 4d6 damage when they surprise a creature when combat begins, and can Multiattack with a bite and spear; or scimitar, the text makes reference to the latter but there’s only stats for the former in the stat block.

Both lycanthrope types have rules for PCs who become wereorcas/sharks. Both raise their STR to 18 unless it’s higher and gain +1 AC when in animal or hybrid forms. Wereorcas can hold their breath for far longer than usual (as can the monster type), while weresharks are amphibious.

White Whale (CR 16) is a 300 foot long albino whale that can swallow whole ships which quickly digest in its acidic gullet, and the legend of the creature inspires many foolish people to try and hunt it. It is pretty much a gigantic melee-based creature which can swallow enemies whole, but also has Legendary actions to make additional attack and swallow attempts or generate a damaging AoE Tsunami by slapping its tail against the surface of water.

There’s a sidebar for “Battling Gargantuan Aquatic Monsters,” discussing how to handle ship-to-monster combat. Well, guidelines more like. First is that given many larger ships have a lot of cannons, the GM should throw monsters of higher CR than they otherwise would. Second, decide during combat whether it will attack the creatures on deck or the ship itself, adjusting its CR for when it ‘wastes’ turns not attacking the PCs. Finally, monsters should dive at the end of their turns to avoid above-water attacks. More guidelines and suggestions than a holistic rebalancing of things.

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Beasts (CR 0 to 1) covers a trio of mundane animals. Huge Crabs are the only real threatening entry, hard-shelled creatures with a pair of claws that can grapple a target. Monkeys and Parrots are CR 0 creatures which are common pets among pirates and sailors.

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Non-Player Characters

The majority of these stat blocks are NPC’d versions of the new subclasses in Chapter IV. NPCs are uniformly low-CR, ranging from fractional values up to 6, with 11 out of 17 being CR ⅛th to 3, and most have Multiattack even when their inspired class do not. There’s a stat block for every new subclass barring the Sniper Gunslinger, Nature Bard, Spirit Domain Cleric, Deep Druid, Way of the Wild Monk, and Oath of Discovery Paladin. They’ve been shorn of much of their class features, often given a few simplified traits of most immediate use in combat and encounters with the PCs. I do have to call out one particular stat block, and that is the Warlock of the Council (CR 5).

They are 9th-level warlocks who also have Innate Spellcasting, giving them a wide variety of utility magic while relying upon their Eldritch Blast as their major damaging attack. They also have a limited version of the subclass’ protective Ward granting them resistance and +1d4 bonus damage of that type...although as their only real damaging attack is an Eldritch Blast is kind of useless given they cannot resist force damage. They can attack three times in melee with a Multiattack cutlass for some reason, too, despite being an inferior option. Not exactly the best-designed NPC, this one.

Interestingly we do have some entirely new entries. Elemental Masters (CR 6) are monks in tune with the four elements. They are nimble fighters who Multiattack with unarmed strikes and darts, and once per turn can do an Elemental Strike that deals bonus damage of a specific type and a potential secondary effect: earth grants the master resistance to nonmagical physical attacks, wind pushes struck targets away, fire deals a bunch of bonus fire damage, and water can knock a target prone. Pirates (CR ½) are the expendable “bandit hordes” of Seas of Vodari; they don’t have much in the way of special abilities besides Sea Legs that grant them advantage on checks and saves to avoid being knocked prone. Sailors (CR ⅛) are like Pirates but weaker in every way. Sea Captains (CR 3) represent all manner of officers and leaders aboard a ship. They can Multiattack with a combination of melee and ranged weapons, have Sea Legs like Pirates and Sailors, and once per day can bark out Captain’s Orders to allow an ally to make an attack as a reaction.

Thoughts So Far: There’s a good list of monsters and NPCs that can be helpful in giving some local flavor to the setting. Most options trend heavily to the lower-level, with precious few options for Tier 3 (11+ level) campaigns. Then again, the vast majority of campaigns are low-level so this isn’t as big of a downside. I’m quite fond of the Kallidus, as they can be alternatively silly or scary depending on whether the GM is more inspired by Junji Ito’s Gyo or Bob the Killer Goldfish from Earthworm Jim.

Join us next time as we wrap up this review with a Starter Adventure in Chapter X!
 

Libertad

Adventurer
eFQH3r4.png

Chapter X: Starter Adventure: The Island with No Name

This adventure is meant to introduce players to the Seas of Vodari, suitable for 4 1st level PCs. A classic treasure hunt with a dangerous island temple, the backstory is that fifty years ago a pirate captain known as Blackheart decided to hide his ill-gotten wealth on a deserted island. As said land was home to a set of ancient ruins in the middle of a jungle, it was deemed a suitable spot. Unfortunately the ruins were once a temple dedicated to Morto, god of necromancy and secrets. The deity’s dread influence wormed its way into Captain Blackheart’s mind which caused the crew to fall to betrayal and infighting. Voyce Fayette, the sole survivor, sailed away on a longboat, his former companions now animated skeletons forced to guard the island for eternity.

Voyce Fayette comes into contact with the PCs via some other appropriate adventure hook (he’s part of the PC’s crew, the PCs find him in a tavern looking to put together a group, etc) and learn about the island’s location and its treasure via his map and journal. The only captain of note willing to sail to such a location is Magnolia “Mags” Montrésor, who accepts the job for either 500 GP* or a share of recovered treasure. She has a crew of nine who all have referenced stat blocks (Scout, Sailor, Pirate, etc), including an Awakened parrot by the name of Polly, and the captain herself is a CR 1 character with low-level Rogue abilities (Sneak Attack, Uncanny Dodge, Cunning Action). Unfortunately there are others who caught on to Fayette’s knowledge, a disreputable pirate-turned-local-gangster known as Theoban Taggart who sends a group of five thugs to ambush the PCs at the docks. Regardless of how the party handles the encounter (and may even learn about Taggart’s plans as a result) the wily scoundrel will show up later in the adventure.

*It’s unlikely 1st level PCs have this kind of money.

Once it comes time to leave port (and said port has a small selection of sample shops and NPCs with brief lines of personality for pre-adventure shopping), the party’s next major encounter is a violent storm at sea. It is resolved as a communal skill challenge where for two rounds every PC has to perform a DC 13 task, with the skill/tool/spell attack roll based on what they can justify in keeping the crew and ship safe. Failures cause 4d10 damage to the ship on average rather than the PCs and crew proper, and getting more failures than successes imposes a further 8d10 damage. As Mags’ ship (the Albatross) is a Sloop whose Hull has 250 hit points, it’s unlikely to be completely demolished, but even if it is, the PCs will arrive shipwrecked on the Island with No Name but in need of finding another way off once the adventure’s done.

Mags’ crew will set up a camp on the beach while the PCs scout out the jungle, but not before a giant crab attacks; said monster will be trivial to handle, as while the PCs are fragile 1st levelers they have the action economy of allies on their side. The jungle itself has an automatic quicksand hazard and the possibility of a random encounter if the party is unable to make a DC 10 Survival check to avoid getting lost. Said encounters mostly consist of fractional CR animals, although a Carnivorous Plant is a potential option (12 on a d12) and is certainly going to kill at least one PC unless the party runs away.

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The adventure at this point offers the opportunity for rest at a stream and that the PCs should have enough XP for 2nd level, or level them up automatically if using the milestone rules. The next bit of the adventure is a proper dungeon crawl in the Temple of Morto! After dealing with a patrol of pirate skeletons outside, the Temple proper is a 5-6 room dungeon. The entrance is trapped with poisoned spike darts and more pirate skeletons, while the doors further past the entrance are Arcane Locked. A key that can disable said locks is found in a room with a magical fountain that can compel the party to drink from it on a failed Wisdom saving throw. The water bestows a variety of conditions ranging from the positive (heal HP, gain advantage on the next attack/ability/save roll, etc) to the negative (take damage, have a swarm of insects fly out of your mouth, etc). The key to this room is found after at least half the party has drunk from the fountain and five minutes have passed; the first person to take a drink vomits up the key.

This is bad design. There’s no other indication of obtaining the key, and a party may very well have made their saves or restrained their fellows to not drink the water. And given that 2nd-level PCs don’t really have adequate ways of getting past an Arcane Locked door made of stone, this can very well cause a softlock without GM Fiat.

One other room in the dungeon contains an animated bearskin rug with the stats of a Brown Bear, and the final room contains the skeleton of Captain Blackheart (Pirate Captain Skeleton stats) who fights the PCs after briefly telling them about the curse and treasure. The fight’s difficulty alternates based on how well the party is doing: Persuasion checks can be made to confuse Blackheart and force him to take the Dodge action instead of more offensive options for 1 round. If a party manages to deal 32 or more damage in a single round to him (half his HP) then 2 Pirate Skeletons join the battle.

The treasure hoard consists of ~1,400 GP worth of coins and fancy objects: a pouch full of small gems indicates that they’re worth 50 GP each, but the exact number is not given. There’s also a spyglass and compass, 2 Potions of Healing, and a Ship in a Bottle. I like the magical item placement; they’re clearly meant to help a party who suffered a bad run earlier on. Not only can they heal themselves up, they also get either a new ship to escape or a cool magical back-up one to use in emergencies.

Unfortunately Captain Blackheart’s a load-bearing boss: Morto’s displeased at the loss of his guardians and begins to collapse the temple, forcing a Dexterity save each minute as rocks fall from tremors. Beyond that, the adventure suggests the possibility of more pirate skeletons and/or Taggart’s crew waylaying the party as they get back to the beach depending on their overall strength and resources.

The adventure ends with a set of open-ended suggestions: the PCs take to the seas to wherever the winds of Aerako blow them, mounting a rescue attempt of Mags’ crew taken hostage by Taggart, or even Mags betraying the party and teaming up with Taggart to take the treasure for themselves!

Our book ends with two Appendices, the first organizing the new monsters and NPCs by type, challenge rating, and location, while the second is a list of common nautical terms.

Thoughts So Far: The adventure hits many thematic notes for Seas of Vodari by mixing them up with typical D&D tropes. The pre-jungle parts of the adventure are ‘low-lethality’ while still having some stakes: Taggart’s thugs on the docks won’t kill the PCs but squeeze information out of them on a loss, while the storm at sea robs the PCs of a ship rather than a TPK if there are too many bad die rolls. Things don’t get real dangerous until the jungle trek and temple, which is good for first-time players getting a feel for the system.

Concluding Thoughts: I feel conflicted-to-positive on Seas of Vodari, and it is a stellar book for a company’s first big project. A lot of the material can be adapted towards other campaigns of a nautical nature, and much of its mechanical options do a great job in supporting character concepts and adventures centering around a traveling ship’s crew. The art style is an acquired taste but it makes the book stand out more, the sample setting has plenty of adventure opportunities, and I’m pleasantly surprised at seeing Renaissance firearm rules that I’d actually want to use in D&D.

That being said, there are many smaller concerns I have with the book. While individually none of them are enough to make the product a nonsell, they add up to the point that gaming groups would need to change and/or add things to make certain aspects workable. Most notably the lack of a dedicated naval combat system and the varying degree of quality in the new PC options, as well as some half-measures which make things feel incomplete. The threadbare rules on dueling and handling ship combat vs sea monsters as particular standouts. At 270 pages I by no means feel cheated, as the book has a little bit of everything, but I still would have liked more in certain areas.

As usual I thank everyone who read this far. I am currently debating whether to review Sprawlrunners, a Shadowrun with the serial numbers filed off for Savage Worlds, or Koryo Hall of Adventures, a 5e/PF/OSR setting based on Korean fantasy and history.
 
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