Aquatic Adventures V: Monsters, Part One

Aquatic Adventures V: Monsters, Part One

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Spears cut through the water, barely missing as the group hastily swam away.  Greiff laughed and triumphantly raised the pearl sceptre, taunting the irate merfolk with their vanishing treasure. He felt a little bad about the betrayal, but the sceptre was the key to the dead primordial’s undersea tomb.

The fish-tailed guard hurled his final spear and shook his fist angrily, crying “Greiff Jener!” at the escaping adventurers. This was the Chief’s fault, this is what comes from trusting air-breathers.

This is the fifth blog in a series that seeks to make underwater adventuring a little more accessible.

Previous blogs have focused on advice, rules, and encounters. This blog is the first of several that will add enemies to challenge the party in an undersea world.

Elves, Aquatic

Sea elves are distantly related to their landbound kin. They are built for swimming and have webbed fingers and toes. Their skin rangers from silvery greens to yellows and their hair is the colour of seaweed: shades of green, brown, and yellow.

Legend says they once lived on land, on an oceanic chain of island in the fey realms. During the divine war that separated elf-kind into elves, drow, and eladrin the entire island chain sunk beneath the waves, forcing the elves turned to magic to survive underwater. Over several generations, the aquatic elves spread out of the fey oceans into the mortal realm, but they are still farm more common in those extra-planar magical waters than the more mundane seas.

Independent by nature, sea elves have few dealings with other races, especially those above the waves. They occasionally have reluctant dealings with nearby tritons or clans of lacotha, but seldom initiate the interaction. They primarily interact with the cnidari, with whom they share an affinity for magic. Sea elves prefer animals to other intelligent races. Dolphins and porpoises are frequently trained by sea elves, and used as both pets and beasts of burden. Large dolphins are sometimes even used as mounts.

Sea elves can now be found on both the mortal world and the fey world, living in temperate waters. They prefer shallow stretches of salt water, and bands of sea elves are typically found in seas or along ocean coasts, living among the forests of seaweed and kelp. Sea elves are nomadic and seldom construct permanent homes. When they do make permanent homes they construct them out of living coral, growing the buildings as much as building them.

Magical talents are common among sea elves, suggesting a stronger tie to eladrin than actual elves – although many are skilled with crossbows. Many sea elves practice the specialized school of magic known as “aquamancy”, which is most potent when used underwater.

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Merfolk

The savage merfolk resemble humans from the waist up, but their lower torso is that of a giant fish. There are a number of different breeds of merfolk. Northern merfolk of semi-temperate waters are pale with light coloured hair and scaled fish torso with a horizontal fluke that resembles the tails of dolphins and whales more than a true fish. Southern merfolk of tropical waters have the dusky skin and dark fair with lower bodies that resemble the tails of sharks.

The origins of merfolk have been forgotten. The oral legends of the merfolk schools tell how they have swum the oceans since their race was created. Most merfolk themselves trace their origins to the primal spirits of the world, occasionally claiming to be the primal equivalent of angels and archons. However, some schools dismiss that origin and instead claim to have been moulded by the gods, while still others claim they were sculpted cooperatively by a god and aquatic primordial. Surface humans are more dismissive, either attributing merfolk to magical experiments or making extremely obscene and crude inferences to their parentage.

Merfolk are tribal, territorial, and xenophobic. They seldom have non-violent interactions with other aquatic races. They are suspicious and untrusting of other aquatic races, and even more hesitant when dealing with air-breathers. The surface world is an alien world to the merfolk; other aquatic races can survive short periods on land but merfolk can never exit the waves. Many sailors misinterpret this caution as shyness and mermaids have been the death of more than one seaman attempting to be friendly.

Coastal waters are the most common home of merfolk schools. They prefer reefs and the base of cliffs, where they are most likely to find underwater caves. Lava tubes and the like are also used as the foundation of shelter. Merfolk are hunters by nature, but many herd fish for reliable food. Their society is often semi-permanent, migrating and moving with the seasons and following the schools of large fish and whales. They are also patriarchal, with the mermen hunters dominating the mermaids.

Merfolk rely on simple weapons, often made from whalebone, stone, or coral. Spears are a common weapon of choice, as are simple reed blowguns. They often make use of natural weapons, using toxins made from poisonous fish and sea urchin spines as darts.

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Tritons

Tritons resemble scaled humans with webbed hands and large flipper-like feet. Their skin is a vibrant light blue that becomes azure scales along their feet, forearms, and along their back. Their hair comes in shades of blue and green and is frequently kept long in both males and females.

Originally from the elemental plane, tritons were a primordial experiment copying the myriad humanoid creations of the gods, just as the archons were imitations of angels. Finding the chaos of the elemental realm inhospitable (and frequently lethal) the tritons fled to the mortal world. However, some speculate that the tritons did not escape unaided and the entire race incurred a debt for their escape. Others worry that they did not truly escape and were sent to the mortal word by their primordial masters for purposes unknown.

While friendly than other undersea races, tritons are still cautions of air-breathers, and limit their dealings with those from the surface. Even when surface folk are encountered, tritons rarely kill preferring to disable, leaving their opponents drifting in open water. They are more cordial with other undersea races, engaging in trade when possible. Tritons have an affinity with other sea life, and regularly train large sea animals as mounts or guards. Most triton communities are filled with partially domesticated sea lions, hippocampi, and giant sea horses.

Living in dark depths, tritons can be found in deep seas or in oceans far from shore. Tritons farm algae in brighter waters above their home and enjoy shellfish and crustaceans, having small farms of preferred animals. They build stone castles known for their unique architecture that takes advantage of the ease of three-dimensional movement. Most triton castles have long vertical corridors and high chambers with exits on multiple levels. Tritons have a feudal society, with a king ruling over small undersea kingdom divided into duchies and baronies that have sworn fealty.

Tritons are skilled at mounted combat, and have skilled aquatic cavalry, riding hippocampi and giant sea horses into battle. Tritons also rely on enchanted conch shells to generate a number of magical effects, such as bewitching the minds of opponents, deafening them with thunderous blasts, or calling sea animals for assistance.

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Next time there will be the mysterious jellyfish peoplem, the cnidari, as well as the fish people. the lacotha.And maybe a few others like giant eels and sea lions.

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About the Author

David aka Jester has contributed to the Powersource Podcast, Goodman Game's "Book of Rituals", "Dragon" magazine, and has been a longtime member of the Ravenloft fan-community the "Fraternity of Shadows". His semi-regular blog can be read on the Wizards of the Coast community site. Follow him on Twitter at: twitter.com/DnDJester