Another Dungeons and Dragons review today, folks. This one’s coming from my laptop, since the monitor on my desktop computer’s incapacitated, but hey, if it works it works.
The first chapter of this book deals with the basics of oceanic campaigns. In addition to detailing damage from water pressure at deep regions, light issues in the ocean, hypothermia, and other oceanic hazards, Stormwrack provides a list of planar oceans (such as the Plane of Water and the celestial planar ocean known as the Silver Sea), new poisons such as sea urchin spine toxins, and supernatural hazards. The big draw, however, are the marine wilderness terrains. These are new terrains that give more aquatic examples of terrain than those in the core rulebooks. The terrain types presented are beach, tidal marsh, coral reef, ice floes, open water, sargasso, kelp bed, and ship’s deck, each with various types of terrain that can be found within. Marine “dungeons” such as the insides of a ship, ocean floors, and submerged caves are presented as well. The other big draw of the chapter is a combined naval voyage and combat guide and a suggestions guide for spells cast on ships. My favorite is the idea of casting animate object to create a living ship. Overall, very solid.
Chapter 2 deals with races of the seas. The first of these is the aventi. I’ll admit….I don’t like the aventi. They’re essentially the human version of aquatic elves, and have little going for them. They’re religious Lawful sea-men from an empire that sank under the sea. *Cough*Atlantis*cough*. That’s it. Nothing really special beyond a natural inclinations to water spells. The darfellans are more interesting. The equivalent of magical Native Americans, the darfellans are orca-men with a deep enmity for the sahuagin. I can see an interesting experience coming out of these unique beings. There’s a reprint of the aquatic elves…let’s skip that, shall we? Anyway, then we get the hadozee. The hadozee are…weird. They’re jovial ape-men pirates…that can glide like flying squirrels. Seriously. There’s also a look at how all the core races adapt the ocean, including some new subspecies: aquatic-half-elves, seacliff dwarves, shoal halflings, and wavecrest gnomes. They’re alright, but nothing too spectacular.
This chapter looks at the base classes and gives alternate options for their utilization in oceanic campaigns. These include tracking in the water for Rangers, advanced swim speeds for Barbarians and Monks, oceanic animals from this book for Druids, and aquatic familiars such as octopi and parrots for Wizards and Sorcerers. I like these, they’re nice to have present for some new flavor. The deities presented in the Cleric entry I’m lukewarm on, though; Whale-Mother, the patron goddess of the darfellans, is the only one that really jumps out at me. I’m also disappointed that Panzuriel the Writhing One isn’t in the list…hell, even Bliboobapalloo or however you spell the kuo-toa deity got in, how could the elder god of krakens not make it? After that come the prestige classes.
- Knight of the Pearl: Five levels of an underwater Paladin prestige class, specifically favoring the aventi. Wee, I’m so excited! [/Sarcasm]
- Legendary Captain: For all your ship-buffing needs. The Legendary Captain specializes in weather and wind prediction and getting the most out of their ships.
- Leviathan Hunter: A 5-level prestige class that grants both attack and defense boons against giant monsters. This is a class I can see actually getting use outside of aquatic campaigns, since monster hunters can come from any habitat.
- Scarlet Corsair: More or less the sneak attack-focused Rogue-spawned version of the Legendary Captain.
- Sea Witch: Totally Davy Jones from Pirates of the Caribbean. Curses, deep sea monster summoning, and the ability to call forth a phantom ship…yeah, it fits.
- Stormcaster: If you’ve ever wanted to take one or two types of magic to the extreme, the Stormcaster’s the prestige class for you. He heavily focuses on wind- and lightning-based powers.
- Wavekeeper: Pretty much an oceanic Druid.
Skills and feats, skills and feats… The skills here are mostly what you’d expect, such as sailing-based skill uses and using Balance on watery decks. There are some odd-balls, such as uses of Handle Animal to train animals specialized in fishing, message sending, or water rescue, and using Ride for aquatic animals or pushing a horse into swimming. Most of the feats involve either sailor work or moving and breathing underwater, but again there are some odd-balls that are worth looking into. Steam Magic, for instance, lets you cast fire spells underwater without penalty. There are also two Bardic magic feats; one that lets you cast Bard songs underwater, the other that lets you use Bard songs to change the winds. My favorite, however, is Sanctify Water. It is a feat that allows a Cleric (or anyone that can channel positive energy) transform all water in a 20-foot radius into holy water.
Equipment goes here. Most of the ships in the vehicles section as what you’d expect, from barges and junks to rafts and rowboats, with longboats and triremes bringing the muscles. The big ones for a more fantastic flavor are the sleek and graceful elf wingships and the magic-powered theurgeme. Ship accessories include cannons and firespouts, diving bells (yes, seriously, diving bells), and netting. Armor made from sharkskin and monstrous crab shells, classic cutlasses, harpoons, and whips ending in stingray barbs are highlights of the weapons and armor section. Oh, and tricorn hats are in the equipment section. Tricorn hats! ^_^
The spells chapter begins with four new Cleric domains: Blackwater, Ocean, Seafolk, and Storm. The spells themselves are great. You have usefull spells such as fins to feet (which allows sea creatures to gain legs and move on land), Bardic-flavored spells like jig of the sea (dance puppets, dnace!), and vicious spells such as thalassemia (which turns blood in a person into seawater). There are also three epic level spells: part the waters (self-explanatory), river dragon (which transforms part of a river into a dragon), and seas of blood (which is again self-explanatory…and again Biblically typed). There are also some sailor-flavored psionics and magical items such as a living ship’s figurehead.
Monsters! I won’t go into too much detail beyond listing some of my personal favorites. Scylla (or at least a spawn-creature called a Scyllan) of the Odyssey is present, which could be cool to use in a higher-level seafarer’s campaign. The anguillans, lampreys with arms, are nasty intelligent aberrations of the blackwater that might oppose the heroes, the coral golem might be a sahuagin Wizard’s door guard, jellyfish and leech swarms can be just plain nasty, and who doesn’t want a seagull or eel around as a familiar? 😛 The final portion is an adventure hook set, so moving right along to the final results…
It’s typical Wizards of the Coast stuff, flashy and well-made.
Now, while seafarer campaigns aren’t for everybody, this is a great book to have around if you have one. Heck, even if you don’t, there are still things for you. There are problems (mostly related to editing errors), but they can be fixed with some errata-hunting. 9/10.