D&D Ideas — Depths
Welcome once again to the weekly newsletter. This week’s topic is depths, which we discussed in our weekly live chat. We hangout every Monday evening at 8 p.m. EST on Nerdarchy Live to talk about D&D, RPGs, gaming, life and whatever nerdy stuff comes up. Speaking of depths in Deep Breaths a group of lizardfolk and their chief ambush heroes deep in the oppressive jungle and demand a price be paid for intrusion. Political and spiritual pressure create a powderkeg of tension among lizardfolk on a pilgrimage along with 54 other dynamic scenarios in Out of the Box. Find out more about it here. You can get the Nerdarchy Newsletter delivered to your inbox each week, along with updates and info on how to game with Nerdarchy plus snag a FREE GIFT by signing up here.
Catch up with the week and explore tons of new character options, reimagine classic fantasy folk and break all the speed barriers plus new live chats with creative folks and industry pros and live play #TTRPGs round out this week’s Nerdy News. Check it out here.
Delving Dave’s Dungeon
The depths is another one of those vague and fun topics. I thought it was funny when Nerditor Doug brought this topic up. It was one of the last pitches I threw out for the fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons game I am currently running. It wasn’t chosen but I think it would have been a fun game.
Here is the pitch:
Under the Sea
Beneath the waves lie civilizations and worlds unknown to the land dwellers. A massive coral reef has grown around the city of Ky’une.
- Play aquatic races and other races that can live in an aquatic environment — sea elf, water genasi, triton, warforged, Simic hybrid, locathah, grung, merfolk or pitch me something
- Ky’une was founded on the site of the original battle to deny Olhydra the Princess of Evil Water entry into the world of Ulthe-Ganya
- Ky’une is ruled by the triton King Gervalious the Banisher
- The royal guard is made up of a triton host
- The ruling class is made up of the merfolk
- There is a senate operating beneath King Gervalious
- Cults of Olhydra on the rise. Who and why?
- The dome is made of coral and encompasses the city around and above and it is dying
- Pitch me
A place to adventure or even run campaigns is just one way we could take the depths in D&D. I also like the idea of things coming from the depths. It gives me classic horror movie vibes that could be fun to run in a D&D session. You could use a concept like a murder mystery where people start to go missing on a shore or lake village and it turns out to be a creature or creatures from the depths.
The depths could also be the Underdark as well. Instead of a mystery taking place near the ocean or a lake it’s a fissure or crevice. A mine can function the same way. Dwarves always dig too deep into the depths and boom! Bad stuff happens.
I also love the idea of the depths of the void. A spaceship either crashes and becomes a dungeon to be explored or unearthed from a previous crash. Either way it’s a means to introduce extraterrestrial or construct creatures basically injecting aliens and robots into your D&D games.
But there is another way D&D intersects with the depths and that is through subclasses from the druid, sorcerer and warlock character classes. By having these character options in your game it gives you an excuse to explore the depths no matter what this means to you in your D&D game.
- Circle of the Stars
- Aberrant Mind
- The Fathomless
- The Great Old One
Magic Items are yet another way to bring the depths into your game. The ring of Hork is a Nerdarchy magic item tweaked from the Dungeon Master’s Guide until it became a new magic item. I took the ring of spell storing and then looked at Chapter 7 in the DMG Special Features. After you run a magic item through the process it can become a brand new item.
I’ll run through the process right now.
Who made it or who is intended to use it?
Two choices from this list works well: Aberrations and Elemental Water.
I’m gonna go with Elemental Water. The suggestion here is fish scales replace leather and cloth of the item. While recommending metal portions use seashells and coral instead.
What is a detail from it’s history?
I’m liking prophecy from this list. The emergence of this item will be the herald of a great darkness from the depths of the seas.
What minor property does it have?
I am gonna go with roll twice. I’ll pick temperate. The bearer suffers no harm in temperatures as cold as −20 degrees Fahrenheit or as warm as 120 degrees Fahrenheit. And Waterborne for the second property so this item floats on water and other liquids. Its bearer has advantage on Strength (Athletics) checks to swim.
What quirk does it have?
Muttering is a good choice here. When used it mutters a warning of things coming from the depths.
Now we just need a magic item to attach these properties to. The tentacle rod would be a fun selection for this. A rod of coral with a conch shell affixed to the end with three squid like tentacles slithering out from the conch shell. Remove all the drow lore and insert new lore about this item being wielded by a triton champion from the elemental plane of water. This champion stood against dark being from the depths of the plane of water. Legend has it the Rod of Ky’une appears if ever this threat arises to threaten the world again.
From Ted’s Head
The depths of the ocean can be full of monstrous nightmares. The great part about ocean monsters is that they swim and can appear out of nowhere because they are literally coming from the depths below. Since we cannot see through the water they are just always a surprise attack on the ship.
But I know what you are thinking if I am not playing a session on the open waters how can I use monsters from below the waves? The great thing about playing role playing games is that literally anything is possible.
Let’s first look at the easy pickings. Coastal villages can easily be attacked by these type of beings. This even happens in books.I know in one of the Drizzt books he is fighting sahaguin as they emerge from the waters to threaten the town.
If that is not sufficient for you how about them appearing out of nowhere like above. With things like portals, teleportation magic and the like we can put sahaguin in the swamp and even dragon turtles in the forest or wherever you like. Even if you do not have proper justification when you do it, you can still do as you like and figure out the important details.
Now comes my favorite part. Reskinning monsters is a great way to use monsters that you use often, that your players know without them having a clue what it is. So you can keep the mechanics of abilities but alter what they are. If you look at Star Wars you could easily make the Sarlaac or a Krayt Dragon as a Kraken reskinned and burrowing instead of swimming. The thing is massive, feared and powerful. To me that qualifies.
If you are choosing to explore the depths, be aware of the swimming rules and how hard combat can be without the ability to breath under water and if you do not have a swim speed. If you are exploring cultures make sure you explore the full 3D environments and the natural creatures that would exist. The underwater world should be alien to humanoids who have spent their whole life above the waves.
From the Nerditor’s desk
As Nerdarchist Dave mentioned I proposed the depths as our topic for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons live chat and newsletter because I sure do love when stories whisk adventurers to unexpected destinations from the depths of the seas to the depths of space and maybe even the depths of their hearts and minds.
It doesn’t take long for a campaign of any stripe to jump right from a party’s first quest into the fantastic. Most recently a campaign I run for my brother nearly plunged beneath the waves during the collaborative storytelling introduction to the new game we started. The way they navigated Fish Food resulted in a boisterous good time making friends with merfolk who extended an invitation to visit the kingdom beneath the waves.
You can get pretty deep with your depths and start layering them into your D&D games too. In my first 5E D&D campaign the adventure led heroes deep beneath giant ruins to a series of tunnels beneath the sea. After defeating their first big bad (Explictica Defilus!) in her underground and undersea lair they found a crystal beacon. The artifact activated and one of the characters failed like four or five saving throws in a row as the energy from the beacon pulled them towards it and this one character experienced a cosmic connection in the depths of his soul. This new awareness led them to find her derelict spelljammer submerged in the depths of an underwater crevasse. And from there they took off to the depths of space and never came back.
Too bad really. At least for the folks on the island where there first big story took place. About 1d6 days after they GTFO those islanders had one ticked off spirit naga to worry about. But I’m sure some other heroes came along…
“If you destroy me, I will return, and everyone you care about will suffer for it.” — Explictica Defilus, spirit naga as quoted in the fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual
The takeaway I hope for is a vigorous enthusiasm to plunge right in and see where adventure takes you. Life as a 5E D&D character means peril confronts you wherever you go, so get wild with it. Explore the deepest depths and don’t be afraid to turn inward for this either. Characters can take on a life of their own and who knows, maybe you’ll discover a fantastic story down in those depths.