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Thread: Undersea Adventures: Comments, Concerns, & Concepts

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    Undersea Adventures: Comments, Concerns, & Concepts

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    I am cross-posting this here and in a handful of other D&D boards, across the web.

    I have been running undersea D&D campaigns since 1998; first with “Beneath the Pinnacles of Azor’alq” (play-by-post) followed by “Heirs of Turucambi” (chat-based). The campaigns draw from my interests in marine biology and my hobby of keeping saltwater aquariums, coupled with my fascination with various mythological creatures such as hags, dragons, and demons. I started my current game 3 years ago. While I have a stable following of devoted players (thank you, folks!), I occasionally get the urge to step back, look at my game from a distance, and reinvent my approach as Master Storyteller for my players.

    If your current DM approached you with the idea of starting a new campaign set primarily beneath the surface of the sea, what would be your first reaction? Suppose the “core races” were replaced with the likes of sea elves, locathah, and merfolk (or any race that that has a swim speed and the aquatic subtype). Would that be enough to alienate you?

    I set my games on Oerth, the world of Greyhawk. Prior knowledge of the campaign setting is not required. I also tend to scale back on the use of dragons, while overpopulating the world with hags. Again, this is simply my personal signature in my games. Is that the killing blow that distances potential players?

    My games tend to be role-play heavy and combat light. Rolling lots of dice tends to break my “willing suspension of disbelief”. Spending hours speaking in character as a room full of NPCs is my bread and butter. Again, I know this does not appeal to everyone.

    I am aware that life underwater has its limitations; typical potions are all but impossible to imbibe, paper scrolls will quickly disintegrate, and typical metal items are subject to corrosion. Many typical spells may not suitable for underwater casting. Treasure may be similarly altered, as many undersea races value rare corals, pearls, and shells far more than coins and gemstones. This is one of my most enjoyable aspects of the game - creation.

    Some of the best inspiration for an underwater campaign can come from the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet, visiting a local aquarium or fish store, and perusing ocean-related materials in a bookstore. Discovery’s “Blue Planet” series and Penguin Book’s “OCEAN” are as invaluable to me as “Stormwrack”.

    With that in mind, what are your preferences, for such an adventure? What would you expect to see, in an undersea game? What would make the campaign memorable, enjoyable, and enduring? What would make you want to spend years exploring the realm of liquid space?

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    Arch Lich Thoth-Amon is offline Cursed by the Gods
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    I've only played a handful of games underwater in my 30+ years of gaming, having found them all to be interesting. I also like your take on the world... especially the use of Greyhawk. Since i can only promise to lurk this thread, having no real input due to a lack of experience in underwater gaming, although interested just the same, i am forwarding this to a serious gaming friend who will find this thread of extreme interest.
    Last edited by Arch Lich Thoth-Amon; 07-01-2010 at 08:59 PM.
    Thoth-Amon, Lord of the Underworld and the Undead
    Once you know what the magician knows, it's not magick. It's a 'tool of Creation'. -Archmagus H.H.
    The first step to expanding your reality is to discard the tendency to exclude things from possibility. - Meridjet

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    Quote Originally Posted by Arch Lich Thoth-Amon View Post
    i am forwarding this to a serious gaming friend who will find this thread of extreme interest.
    I am looking forward to their reply.

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    (Again this is cross-posted at EN World, wizards.com, Giants in the Playground, Pen and Paper Games, RPG.net., PhoenixLore, and Canonfire)

    Apathy.

    I suppose that’s what it boils down to. In a few weeks, this thread might be 6 or 7 pages back; buried beyond discovery, save for those searching for keywords. So, how do we prevent that? How do we keep a topical and current thread available, for those of us interested in either creating underwater encounters, running undersea games, devising an entire milieu in the realm of liquid space, or all of the above?

    Some time ago, I started underwater-themed groups at EN World and wizards.com , both entitled “Under the Sea”. Click on the links, to explore them. Yes, they seem to have fallen victim to apathy.

    So, what would be the best course of action? Should I establish a message-board on a different site altogether, to prevent playing favorites with more established boards? Do we set up a Facebook group (alas, that requires using “real” names) or a Google Wave? Do we set up a weekly chat via IRC or mibbit? How about a merfolk Sim on Second Life? As an experiment, I set up an iWeb domain for my current game. Should I bite the bullet and work on one with Dreamweaver, for future endeavors? I’m open to a weekly offline chat, of course, though I cannot assume everyone is within driving distance of Greensboro, NC.

    I have been running undersea D&D games since 1998. I have a passion for the sea. I keep saltwater aquariums as a hobby. This isn’t simply about my desire to find a new batch of players. I do not wish to see this topic get forgotten, buried, and die.

    Yes, I always have my list of music, websites, books, and DVDs that I recommend, for inspirational purposes. How do we take it a step further? Mind you, some of my players seem to have technological barriers to the likes of MapTools, Second Life, and other CPU and Bandwidth-intensive activities. I would like the means to keep an open dialog, 24/7, for whatever subaqueous thoughts tickle our fancies. How shall we accomplish this?

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    I just posted this on a different forum. The underwater environment is VERY different. It will require a re-thinking of many things we hold as SOP.

    High level 2nd ed D&D. Knowing that the Koa-to live in semi-underwater lairs the party planned accordingly. The mage even brought extra Water Breathing scrolls (not sure how the papyrus would hold up under water) and the cleric cast Continual Light on different pieces of gear. All went well until they faced the Kraken.
    The mage unleashed a Lightning Bolt.
    Which detonated/discharged/grounded at the end of his finger, killing most of the party...
    Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army.
    - Edward Everett

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    Animal Planet is showing "Blue Planet" episodes from 8pm-2am (Eastern), tonight. Enjoy!

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    Alluria Publishing has a 290 page undersea sourcebook (and aquatic campaign setting) that covers everything from aquatic PC races, aquatic classes, weapons, combat rules, spells, feats, 90 new monsters, ...everything you need for an undersea campaign. It is for the 3.5 d20 and Pathfinder RPG.

    You can find it here: http://www.rpgnow.com/product_info.p...ducts_id=86538

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    And now for something completely different:

    Christmas Tree Worm:
    http://www.liveaquaria.com/product/p...541&pcatid=541

    Christmas Wrasse:
    http://www.liveaquaria.com/product/p...75&pcatid=2675

    Christmas Tree Coral:
    http://www.liveaquaria.com/product/p...639&pcatid=639

    (searches for Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Festivus, and Kwanzaa had 0 results)

    Deep-Sea News Holiday Gift Giving Guide:
    http://deepseanews.com/2010/12/dsn-h...-giving-guide/

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    undersea... are they starting from the surface, and delving into the deeps? or is the whole thing starting underwater?

    and i don't think a lightning bolt would ground and detonate at the tip of a finger. it's a line effect, unless the spell stipulates, or there are some undersea rules that say otherwise, if still functions underwater just fine. magic, and all. after all, a fireball underwater still works, it just turns into a steamball. still heat damage, same amount of damage, range, everything. if anything, a lightning attack would be enlarged and widened automatically underwater. considering the conductive nature of water.

    stormwrack comes to mind as the official 3.x source for underwater rules. also the around the world series of articles from wotc website.

    sounds pretty much the same as an astral campaign, except for movement is not free and easy, pressure becomes a concern, and a number of other things.

    may i suggest diane duane's so you want to be a wizard series... in the second(?) book (iirc) there is a large underwater adventure.

    i think that the setting can be attractive if it is described well, and the players are either exploratory types, or know the rules in advance so that they can plan, and feel successful instead of frustrated as the adventure.

    and don't be too literal with the rules, then it stops being d&d. after all, electric eels wouldn't have developed such a defense if they themselves got zapped by it. ^^
    nijineko the gm: AG16, CoS. nijineko the player: AtG, RttToH; . The Journal of Tala'elowar Kiyiik! .
    CrystalBallLite: the best dice roller on the planet! . nijineko the archivist: the 3.x archive

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    Quote Originally Posted by nijineko View Post
    ...after all, electric eels wouldn't have developed such a defense if they themselves got zapped by it.
    I've been wanting to use an electric eel, or perhaps electric ixitxachitl, since I saw this:
    Eel-ectric Tree

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    give it the horrid and titanic template. then sic it on the players. ^^
    nijineko the gm: AG16, CoS. nijineko the player: AtG, RttToH; . The Journal of Tala'elowar Kiyiik! .
    CrystalBallLite: the best dice roller on the planet! . nijineko the archivist: the 3.x archive

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    or perhaps a technology based upon harnessing the power of the eels.... Eelpunk?

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    First reaction: primarily underwater? Sounds...suffocating.

    I picked up Stormwrack with the idea of making a high-seas game. It's a great book, but I keep coming to the conclusion that water-adventures should be the exception instead of the rule. It's probably due to the fact that humans never bothered to evolve gills.

    Here are some things I'd like to see in an all-underwater game:
    Underwater (UW) civilization - to make things less barren.
    UW weaponry and armor that don't require calculating penalties all the time.
    UW magic - a new system with a different feel than land-lubber magic. Less emphasis on motions and paper.
    Land alienation - the reason no one goes above water is because the airy-world is alien, unknown, or hazardous.

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    New review of Cerulean Seas is up on YouTube:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N07BLXWJ_l4

    Note: There will be a revised copy of Cerulean Seas available in mid-January that will:

    1) Incorporate Pathfinder Bestiary 2
    2) Fix minor errata that popped up since its release
    3) Address some of the concerns raised in the review above (and future reviews). So keep up the feedback! It will make this book even better.

    The revised copy (as well as future revisions) will be available for free for all who downloaded the original product.

    ---------- Post added at 08:37 AM ---------- Previous post was at 08:34 AM ----------

    Quote Originally Posted by DMMike View Post
    First reaction: primarily underwater? Sounds...suffocating.

    I picked up Stormwrack with the idea of making a high-seas game. It's a great book, but I keep coming to the conclusion that water-adventures should be the exception instead of the rule. It's probably due to the fact that humans never bothered to evolve gills.

    Here are some things I'd like to see in an all-underwater game:
    Underwater (UW) civilization - to make things less barren.
    UW weaponry and armor that don't require calculating penalties all the time.
    UW magic - a new system with a different feel than land-lubber magic. Less emphasis on motions and paper.
    Land alienation - the reason no one goes above water is because the airy-world is alien, unknown, or hazardous.
    Cerulean Seas has all of the things that you mentioned and more!

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    A recap of last Sunday's game session, just to set the mood:

    In the last session (12/26), the party arrived at the site known as the Chamber of Dissolution. Charged with the task of inspecting and preparing the ancient clockwork mechanisms within four sites, they recalled freeing the hivemind witch Guri from the Grail of Impurities but leaving the site without attending to the musical machine within. At the second site, known only as the Orb of Purification, the party encountered the spectral kraken Mikrokosmus. One site, the Deadwater Fountain, remained undiscovered.

    It was the undead kraken that shared the means of destroying the enclave of mermaid witches which now wore his tentacles, grafted in place of their tails. The four sites must be prepared with care and a sacrifice must be placed upon the altar hidden beneath the isle, causing the Sinking Isle to rise once more. Then ancient gears would spring into motion, acting in unison to forge a weapon of the mysterious metal known as Oerthblood.

    The tsantsa Meir, once a shellycoat of great power but now an unliving shrunken head slain by her own daughter, reflected upon the party’s predicament. Having visited Turucambi Reef, the party collected the first of three tomes which outlined the means by which her mother Xaetra might be restored to life. With the knowledge gleaned from the first tome, they collected Xaetra’s soul within an artifact known as the Lazarus.

    Transported from Turucambi to the waters near the Sinking Isle, in the realm of the Sea Barons, the party recovered the second tome which trapped the hag’s soul within a magical construct, an eidolon, fashioned from ambergris. The third tome, which would restore the hag to life, was supposedly lost within a region known as the Jungle of Lost Ships.

    Upon Xaetra’s resurrection, the evils of the blackwater hag Diadema would be undone, for her unliving form incorporated the mortal remains of Xaetra herself, as well as Xaetra’s sea hag granddaughter Tempest and daughter Salkt, a salt hag. Xaetra had learned that, upon her return to life she would embrace the path of the Chronomancer. She would travel to far future to witness the destruction of Oerth, before being trapped in the distant past. Upon her temporal travels, she would leave clues to her future self, in the form of the three tomes.

    The viletooth lizardman Dorman was the first to see that, standing atop the remains of the tower walls which held the Chamber of Dissolution, were six skeletal forms. NeeKaa, the oceanid, spied gears turning beneath the bony ribcages of the strange creatures and plates of opalescent pearlsteel bolted to their bones. The sea elf Sakura watched as the skeletons ascended the tower walls to throw the bones they had collected into its hollow interior.

    Wielding spears seemingly fashioned from the spines of dolphins, the clockwork skeletons closed upon the party. The diminutive anemoid known as Knot, member of a race of intelligent anemones, divined that their opponents were not creatures of the undead. Dorman was the first to discover that the bony spears held electrical magics.

    As Sakura’s young ward Reiko watched two of the skeletons fighting one another, the party’s locathah companion Canthus used his magical cuttlefish quill to coat the gears of one skeleton with viscous ink. The skeleton turned upon the unwary artisan and unleashed the fury of its spear upon him. Canthus noted the spears were actually the skeletons of eels, coated similarly with pearlsteel.

    Sakura felt her own powers of stealth and darkness grow, in part due to her growing attraction to the unusual blackwater currents within a shallow trench upon the isle. Her ward Reiko, however, had been dealt a crippling blow during her recent abduction by the mermaid witches and their benefactor, a sea hag fleshwarper known only as Purl. Purl removed Reiko’s legs and grafted in their place the body of a water naga, while simultaneously grafting two tentacles from a giant squid and an eye from a powerful beast known as the eye of the deep.

    Reiko’s fragile sanity had been saved, in party due to her timely bonding with Shadow, a ghostly visage. Dorman had previously bonded with the living tattoo Echo, another of the soul shards cast off by Xaetra before her murder at the hands of a covey of hags led by Tempest. The third shard, known simply as Me, remains undiscovered.

    During the ensuing battle, NeeKaa, Canthus, and Dorman were injured by the magical spears. One of the skeletal assailants was destroyed in a cloud of bubbles spewing from the base of the tower, while another was destroyed by one of its own. The part noted that each skeleton seemed to have one component which was made entirely of metal and enshrouded in eldritch fire of azure hue.

    In due time, the battle was won, in part due to the aid of the party’s many companions, including the amphisbaena eel Jur, hatchling coral dragon Gobble, and Hasu the half-dragon sea cat. The locathah Canthus, struck twice by the electrical spears, was slain in the course of the combat. Removed from the innate abilities she once held in life, Xaetra relied upon the components held within her mystic apothecary. Using an arcane infusion, she transformed the corpse of Canthus into a statue of stone.

    Examining the base of the tower in closer detail, the party noted it was ringed by a circle of statues, each of an unknown humanoid that seemed both reptilian and fish-like. One statue stood out from the rest, however, as it appeared as a concave depression instead of a sculpture.


    DM’S NOTES: To be honest, I wasn’t sure if anyone was going to show up on the day after Christmas. We gamed an extra hour, so I was more than pleased. The players of Ryllis the shoal halfling, Junae the mermaid, and Sir Boral the aventi did not attend tonight’s game.

    The four sites of ancient clockwork mechanisms were inspired by equipment used to keep saltwater reef aquariums. The Grail of Impurities, Orb of Purification, Chamber of Dissolution, and Deadwater Fountain were simply a protein skimmer, ultraviolet sterilizer, calcium reactor, and reverse osmosis/deionization filter, albeit in a grand scale with some magics thrown in.

    The clockwork skeletons, inspired by the Antikythera Mechanism, were actually gold clockwork horrors.

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