Tag Archives: roleplaying

Undersea Adventures in D&D, Part 2

The Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual all provide great resources for undersea or ocean-based D&D campaigns. Last week we offered an Undersea Guide to the Player’s Handbook. Today I’ll run through the Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master’s Guide to help you dive into your undersea adventures.

undersea adventures
Photo credit: Sagar

Undersea Fantasy

The Flavors of Fantasy section in chapter 1 includes a short coverage on swashbuckling fantasy, which offers some inspiration. An undersea campaign might just as likely contain elements of dark fantasy, sword and sorcery, or epic fantasy too.

Undersea fantasy might focus on the otherworldly aspect of the ocean, giving special attention to the wonders of this new world, or emphasizing the alienness of the sights and creatures found there. The sea has a clearly defined border, and crossing this threshold for the first time is almost always a significant event. On top of that, many things we take for granted are not readily available or don’t work in the deep, such as fire, paper, ink, drinkable water, or air. Gravity is less pronounced, and capable swimmers can move in three dimensions, much like flying creatures can do above the waves. Take these aspects into account when building your own undersea campaign.

Planes

The Plane of Water section in chapter 2 describes the elemental plane of the same name, which offers an excellent setting for your campaign as well as inspiration for one set on the Material Plane.

undersea adventures
Photo credit: Nsey Benajah

Adventure Environments

Chapter 5 contains a wealth of information that can be applied to undersea adventures with a little work. The Underwater section is particularly noteworthy and includes a table of random undersea encounters, expanded swimming rules, and rules for underwater visibility. The Sea section includes rules for navigation, weather at sea, visibility, and owning a ship, along with a table of random encounters at sea and statistics for airborne and waterborne vehicles.



Magical Items

Notable magical items include the apparatus of Kwalish, cap of water breathing, cloak of the manta ray, folding boat, gloves of swimming and climbing, mariner’s armor, necklace of adaptation, potion of water breathing, swan boat feather token, ring of swimming, ring of warmth, ring of water walking, and trident of fish command.

The sentient weapon, Wave, makes a great template for a similar trident in your campaign.

undersea adventures
Photo credits: Irina Kostenich

Monster Lists

Appendix B provides a coastal monsters list and one for underwater monsters.

Maps

Appendix C has a map of a ship including the deck and a level below.

Next week we’ll look at the Monster Manual as we continue to build our ocean campaign for undersea adventures.

 

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

Check out our store, subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates, and visit us on our blog, our Facebook page and on Twitter.

Underwater Adventures in Dungeons & Dragons

The Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual all provide great resources for underwater or ocean-based D&D campaigns. Today I’ll run through the Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook to help you dive into your underwater adventures.

underwater adventures
Photo credit: Ryan Loughlin

Classes

Many of the classes presented in the Player’s Handbook can be customized to suit an ocean campaign. Druids can choose creatures with a swimming speed for their wild shape ability from 4th level, while rangers can choose appropriate animal companions to suit to underwater adventures.

Backgrounds

The following backgrounds work well for an ocean campaign:

Acolyte. Many of the deities of the Forgotten Realms are worshiped in their ocean aspect by seafarers and fisherfolk or given offerings in hopes of a safe sea voyage. A character with the acolyte background may have served in a seaside temple or as a ship’s chaplain. Amphibious characters might tend to the needs of an underwater community or maintain sunken temples and shrines to ocean deities.

Criminal. A character with the criminal background might be a pirate or an escapee from a prison ship. Many criminals find their way into shipping ports, in the hopes of finding a ship to take them to wealthy cities. Amphibious characters are much like their land going counterparts.

Guild Artisan. A character with the guild artisan background might be a cartographer, a shipwright, or a traveling artisan from a port city or island town. Guild merchants are particularly common in port cities and aboard ships. Amphibious guild artisans might be jewelers working in pearl and shell, coral carvers, leatherworkers, skinners, or scrimshaw carvers, besides a host of other occupations.

Hermit. Hermits can be found inhabiting ocean caves, beachcombing along coastlines, and on remote islands. Some hermits are castaways who’ve come to enjoy their life away from the stresses of society.

Outlander. A character with the outlander background might be a fisherman, a pearl diver, a seafarer, or even a pirate with a love of adventure.

Sailor. Both the sailor and the pirate variant backgrounds are excellent options for an ocean campaign.

Equipment

The Mounts and Vehicles section of the Equipment chapter includes a list of waterborne vehicles. The Services section lists a ship’s passage as costing 1 sp per mile.

Abilities

Strength (Athletics) checks are used for swimming in stormy seas or raging rivers, or if you’re struggling with a creature while in the water.

Adventuring

The Special Types of Movement section covers swimming, while The Environment section covers suffocating, vision and light, and food and water. The sun’s light only penetrates so deep below the water, and ocean water is undrinkable, meaning that characters must find a source of fresh water or rely on magical means for survival.



Spells

Alter self, create or destroy water, any spells that create light (light and daylight), water breathing, and water walk are particularly useful spells for underwater adventures.

Many spells have uses that might not be obviously apparent at first, such as using forcecage to create an air bubble. Rope trick, because of the opening it creates being at the bottom of the space, creates a very functional refuge that won’t flood.

Spells that often see use in a land-based campaign might be less useful in a water-based campaign, while spells like fireball might have little effect underwater, but can be devastating if hurled at a wooden ship.

Creatures

Appendix D contains a number of fitting creatures for your sea campaign:

Consider the constrictor snake (which could double as an eel with a faster swimming speed), crocodile (saltwater crocodiles can use the same statistics), poisonous snake (with water breathing for sea snakes), and the reef shark.

Skeletons and zombies might be drowned sailors, cursed pirates, or undead merfolk (with the addition of a swim speed).

Next week we’ll look at the Dungeon Master’s Guide as we continue to build our ocean campaign for underwater adventures.

underwater adventures
Photo credit: Sagar

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

Check out our store, subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates, and visit us on our blog, our Facebook page and on Twitter.

Rolling Dice is for Nerds!

Rolling dice is for nerds! Drop your dice down the hungry maw of a gargoyle-guarded Lego dice tower instead — that’s geek chic!Lego Dice Tower and GM Screen

My Lego dice tower and GM screen combo took an afternoon to build, which is pretty fast considering the number of tiny, grasping hands in my household.

Plop the dice into the top of the tower and it tumbles down, smacking hidden “randomizers” — commonly referred to as Lego Technic poles — before rolling down a ramp, through the double doors, and onto the “Patio of Fate”.

Lego Dice Tower and GM Screen

A “GMs-eye-view” of the tower and shelves. Nothing says “your character is mine” like a stern-faced GM peering over the top of this bad boy!

Lego Dice Tower and GM Screen

It even comes with a lightsabre and polearm, in case the players decide to mount their own Lego-based siege on your fortifications.

Lego Dice Tower and GM Screen

The walls are detachable, so you don’t need to break them down to cram them into a bag when traveling. It also makes it easier to extend the screen — all thanks to a well-placed Lego Technics pin.

Lego Dice Tower and GM Screen

Assemble the horde! Here’s what the setup might look like in-game. A medium-sized mini fits on the shelves perfectly, and dice won’t move around too much because of the Lego studs.

Build Your Own Lego Dice Tower

The core of the tower contains a number of Lego Technic bars, which are enough to make dice tumble randomly down. Making sure there is enough space between the walls and the bars so that dice don’t get caught is the only major thing to consider, otherwise building the tower is simple enough. A ramp at the bottom and a space to catch the dice are the only other structural components. I tiled the “patio” with smooth Lego tiles so that the dice would land perfectly flat, and not tip on top of Lego studs.

Future Mods

There are three things I want to add to the GM screen to make it more useful. L-bend sections would hide more from the player’s view, and dice cages would make it easier to store dice. There are some small Lego rope ladders from a pirate set I have that would work perfectly for this. For keeping notes handy, I’ll add some 2-stud flat Lego pieces with L-shaped hooks, which can then hold punched Post-it notes.

A Lego Love Affair

This was my second Lego GMing tool, and I hope it will inspire you to create your own. Please share your creations with us on Facebook, here, or through our other social media channels. I’d love to see what you come up with.

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

Check out our store, subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates, and visit us on our blog, our Facebook page and on Twitter.

 

5 Tricks for Perfect Portals

This months blog carnival is about gates and portals, the jam to fantasy roleplay’s bread and butter. Let’s throw it open and jump right in!

1. Build Drama

Gates and portals build drama because they have potential. Something behind the lock is forbidden, and by putting a door in the PCs way you’ve wrapped a big pink bow around it. Make sure that whatever is behind the door doesn’t waste that built up tension. When a door is unlocked, the plot should advance.

2. A Level-Up Reward

In the same way, a door can be a prize. If the DC to open a door is too high for the party now, or they need a key, it lets them know that they’ll be coming back later. Give them a hint of what’s behind it to really wet their appetites.

3. A Gate to a New World

Did you ever watch Stargate? I love the idea of stepping into another world. Portals give you limitless options, so use that to really shake things up. Don’t just send the party off to a hotter climate, send them to a different planet where they can truly discover the meaning of the word “alien”.

4. Change it Up

Forget iron-bound doors around every corner. Change it up!
What would a door to the fey realm look like? Would it have wings? Would an earth elemental even bother with doors, or just shape the earth around itself?
What if a door was the reanimated skull of a long dead monster, all too happy to open up wide?

5. The Door is the Journey

Everything comes together when you make the door as much a part of your story as the main NPC or boss monster. Stargate did it well, so here’s a clip.

Remember, every door is a chance to tell a story, so tell thrilling tales.

Fantasy is full of memorable doors and portals. Do you have a favorite? Or one from a campaign? Please tell us about it in the comments.

Flaming Centipedes of Doom!

Adventure, adventure and more adventure. That’s what we have for you today. Fight a flaming centipede on behalf of the Dragon King, challenge the forces of the Abyss on behalf of humanity or build your own epic encounters. All this and more in today’s epic post.

Inspired in Japan
Last week we met with a nasty goblin, and the week before that we fought an oni. This week we have Dragon Kings, singing gold fish and flaming giant centipedes.

My Lord Bag of Rice is a story about a brave samurai who faces off with a giant centipede to save the kingdom of the Dragon King. As a reward, he gets an ever–full bag of rice and earns the title “My Lord Bag of Rice”.

Scene 1, a bridge over a narrow lake, much like Lake Biwa, the original setting for the story. Across the bridge lies an imperial sea dragon, who is looking for a way to rid his kingdom of a giant centipede that invades his lands nightly, killing his children. If the party attacks the dragon, he fights them for a few rounds before extoling them for their great bravery and asking them to join him.

Worm! I shall step over thee!

Scene 2, under the waters of the lake. The dragon invites the party to his underwater palace. As they follow him down, the waters part magically for them, keeping them nice and dry (and saving them from Swim checks). If you need some mechanics for this, you could have the dragon give them a pearl to swallow that surrounds them in a bubble and acts as if he had cast Water Breathing on them for 24 hours.

While in his palace, the Dragon King throws a banquet for the party, with all kinds of fishy creatures serving magnificent dishes or providing entertainment. This needs some thought, because you want to paint the right picture and create a sense of awe and mystery. It’s also going to be a very different game if you have a druid in your party; if you do, this is their chance to really shine.

By the way, if you need some water tiles for this scene, check out our Sea Tiles on Drive Thru RPG.

Scene 3, evening in the underwater palace. The Dragon King alerts the party about the coming centipede, which can be clearly seen coming down the mountain because of its flaming eyes and glowing legs. To keep things simple, use a CR appropriate centipede and keep the fire aspect of it purely cosmetic—this is fantasy, after all.
Pick a map that gives the party some time to rain down missiles on the monster, while it uses its 40 foot speed to come on like a freight train of flailing legs.

For treasure, an appropriately themed and scaled Cornucopia of Plenty could work well at the right level. Otherwise, you could easily make up the treasure quota with bags of rice, a nice bell and bolts of silk.

Treasure!

This adventure has two big monsters, so make sure that the CR of the centipede is the higher of the two. Also, how is this centipede making his way to the Dragon Kings palace? Centipedes don’t swim or breathe underwater right? This is a good opportunity to set up a recurring villain, someone who can cast a few spells to make things happen. This villain doesn’t even need to show themselves yet, giving you a seed for your next big, Japan themed adventure.

Avernos Unearthed
Humans—that self-serving race who do more damage in their short lives than all the minions of the Abyss could in a lifetime of elves. Yet there is some hope, however slim, that this chosen race may realize their place at the head of the coming battle. Pray they do, before it is too late.

Avernos Wiki

Rising Phoenix News
Last week’s post mysteriously disappeared into the netherwebs. We’re blaming it on a kobito ninja server invasion, although it probably has something to do with the auto post not running properly (or that’s what the kobito ninjas want us to think). As a result, you get two posts from me this week, happy reading!

Campaign Journal
Since I’ve been writing a bunch of Pathfinder encounters—four this month—I thought I’d share a little about my creative process. Encounters make up the heart of an adventure, so building great encounters is worth the effort.

First I get a concept. This usually comes from a map or monster that I really like. Specially, I look for an interesting twist that will make for a fun and memorable encounter. Maybe the party has to fight off some orcs, but the orcs are actually fleeing from an owl bear. Maybe that owl bear is a druid trapped in that form because of a failed spell. Maybe the party all get turned into owl bears and get to rampage through the orc camp! Whatever happens, it’ll be better than just fighting a bunch of orcs.

I’ll then calculate APL and set up the encounter. At this stage the concept may change a little. I might find that an owl bear is too challenging for my 1st level solo player, or that I need an orc chieftain to fill out the ranks. Maybe I’ll even have a little wiggle room for a small trap or another monster that will spice up the mix. Maybe that owl bear has a goblin “rider” hanging on for dear life.

Next I’ll set out the encounter in point form, something like this:

  • Orc party (6x orcs) appear up ahead on the forest path. They rush the PCs.
  • Orcs try to get past party, fighting if they must.
  • Five minute breather for party to recoup. If not hit hard, scrap this.
  • Raging owl bear storms down forest path. Screaming goblin (Knuckle ‘Ed, lvl 1 warrior) clutches at its back.
  • Perception checks to notice medallion around owl bears neck.
  • Fight with owl bear. More perception checks to notice medallion.
  • If defeated, PCs find medallion (transmogrifies to an owl bear). Owl bear is actually Gunther Firth (level 4 druid).

The last thing is just to flesh things out. Build NPCs, stat out the traps, decide what treasure will be up for grabs and so on. Rinse and repeat for all the encounters that make up your adventure.

Have fun.

That’s all from me until next week.
Tell Thrilling Tales

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Names without the Stupid

Making fantasy names is a bit of an art and something that GM’s need to do regularly. I have three methods for creating names that I want to share with you. These I call the History / Attribute Method, the Fermented Method and the Foreign Languages Method.

Memorial Panel by Labattblueboy.

The History / Attribute Method of Name Creation

Places:
Many places get their names from either a prominent feature of the area or from the area’s history. New York was the “new” York and Cape Town was the “town in the Cape”. I like to name my towns in the same way, hence Willowton would be a town with many willow trees, South Fort would be a fort in the south and so on. You might feel that names are too basic when created like this, but you effectively achieve two things: you have an easy to remember name and it’s linked to a fact that adds colour to the location. Hobbiton, from JRR Tolkiens Lord of the Rings, is a good example of this type of name.

In a recent session, my players were passing an area of unmapped land so I had to create something on the fly. I came up with “Gold Bridge”, a pirate port city ruled by the pirate king Duke One Eye. The players never actually entered the town but later I went to my notes and added in some details, including how it got its name. This is an easy way to flesh out your own world one step at a time.

People:
The same can be applied to people, and old Duke One Eye is a good example. Do yourself a favour and watch Hot Fuzz and take note of some of the villagers’ surnames. Names like Thatcher, Cartwright, Cooper and Skinner are all occupations, but can be great links to what the NPC is all about too. Why not have a villain called John Butcher, or an NPC called Mr Slain? This kind of name can say something about the NPC or about the history of the character’s family.

Things:
A magical item can always be named after what it is. The Ring of Speed, the Bow of Death, the Sword of Flame and so on. If we get a little more creative we can take it a step further and call the same items The Quicksilver, The Widowmaker and The Inferno. Add in a little history about the item and we get Quicksilver of the Ancients, The Fallen Widowmaker and Inferno of the Spitting Sands.

The Fermented Method of Name Creation

This method uses several steps. First, take something from your surroundings as inspiration. I have the air conditioning remote near me so I’ll start with Air Con Remote. Now I want to change that to come up with a person’s name, so I’ll change it slightly to become Aaircon Renmot. It’s still too similar, so my next iteration is Aair Renton. Voilà, a person’s name is synthesised from the humble air conditioning remote. This method does take more time and I’d advise  letting your list of names sit for a day or two, just so you can have another go at them when you are in a different frame of mind.

Places:
Try and use changes that will in some way reflect the place you are naming. You might, for example, want something that sounds dwarvish for your dwarven city.

People:
Like in the example of the air conditioning remote, you’ll probably want two parts to the name. You can use different sources of inspiration to create the name. Keep at it until you find a name that fits nicely with the NPC, as it will inspire good role play and help players remember the character. You don’t want “Captain Bunny Slippers” to be the name of your big bad NPC at the end of the quest.

Things:
Things should be pretty easy to name, we could have the Ring of Asusuma (Asthma Inhaler), Sanshasses’ Bow (Sun Glasses) and the Blade of Cruthix (Chopsticks). The point is that you can use anything to create anything, just go with something you feel works for you and your players.

Foreign Languages

Having foreign sounding names may seem important to you, but if you need a name quickly then remember that you could always say something like: “Her name means ‘Silverleaf’ in the elven tongue”. If you have more time to devote to creating names I suggest drawing up a list of names to have handy for when you need them. Don’t forget Google too, there are loads of lists out there for you to scavenge from. Google Translate is particularly helpful for getting names from other languages such as Latin.

Have any great names to share? Leave a comment and let us know.