I’ve finally had some time to go through the latest offering from Dungeons & Dragons, Ghosts of Saltmarsh and thought I would let folks know about a few of the things that I really enjoyed and found useful from the book. I imagine that some others will find these to be useful, as well, and it might help them in their buying decisions. So, let’s take a look at five things that I love about this supplement.
Thing the First: The Town of Saltmarsh
All seven of the adventures in the book take place in and around the area of Saltmarsh, which really could be placed in just about any campaign world with very little tweaking. The town itself has quite a bit of background information provided, and it might be fun to have characters from the town or a nearby settlement. There are even some new backgrounds, along with tips on how to use backgrounds from the Player’s Handbook in the setting. New backgrounds include Fisher, Marine, Shipwright, and Smuggler.
The town and the region are well-detailed with plenty of places to go, factions, NPCs to interact with, locales for adventure, and more. Geographic features of interested include The Dreadwood, Drowned Forest, and Hool Marshes.
There is plenty to mine from in the book even if you don’t use the adventures as they are written. I usually pick and choose with these sorts of books, and there is a lot here, as you will see. Actually, this is one that I might try to run some of the adventures closer to how they are written rather than just mining from them.
Thing the Second: The Ships, Crew, and Upgrades
There are several stat blocks and maps for different types of ships including:
There’s some brief information on crew members and officers that a ship would need, there are hull and movement upgrades that can be added to ships, weapon upgrades, figurehead upgrades, and more. One of my favorites, because it is weird, is the Death Vessel hull upgrade, which uses materials harvested from the Shadowfell to provide the ship with an aura of dread… that just sounds neato.
Thing the Third: Combat, Travel, and Hazards on the Seas
The rules for ship combat and travel on the seas are straightforward and simple, which I like. Everything is streamlined in combat and the travel portions. DMs can learn how to add various types of hazards to the travel, and to the combat, such as having a fire erupt on a ship while it is in combat. There are simple tables to help deal with a range of issues that could crop up, and best of all, it really helps to ignite my imagination.
Thing the Fourth: Ocean Environs and Ship Encounters
This section of the book deals with all of the strangeness and awesomeness of the sea. You will find information on blue holes, sandbars, coral reefs, learn how currents can affect travel, and learn more about the dangers of the depths. Some of the other fun environs detailed include kelp forests, Kraken graves, eldritch mist, magical storms, and… you get the idea. There is a lot, and they all have DCs or tables with them to make them easy to use.
The Ship Encounters section is great too, making it easy to come up with random encounters quickly. The ship name generator is a lot of fun, as is the crew name generator.
Thing the Fifth: Mysterious Islands
This is a great feature and a simple way to set up some wild and fun encounters for your players. You roll to determine the theme of the island, the leader of the island, and story hooks. Very simple, but great for getting the imagination going. Let’s take a look at a random result that I will roll right now (mainly because I want to roll some dice). And for the fun of it, I rolled up a crew member name.
Our crew member, Drizzly Mast (I swear that’s a possible combo in the book), finds a mysterious island that is about two miles long and five miles wide. Since good ol’ Drizzly has been in the tropics, he will come across a tropical island. It has an “alien” theme and the island leader is a beholder. Some of the inhabitants on the island are cult fanatics who refuse to interact with the characters, seeing them as lesser beings. The story hook rolled for the island is that the leader has a spell scroll of true resurrection in its belongings.
It is a quick and easy encounter that could be a lot of fun and quite a challenge.
These are just five of the things that I love about the book. There are more, but I am already getting dangerously close to 1,000 words.
Do You Need to Buy Ghosts of Saltmarsh?
As with most of the Dungeons & Dragons books that are not a part of the core three (Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and the Monster Manual), you don’t need them. However, there are some fun adventures in the book, along with the other elements that I discussed above.
It has a lot going for it in my opinion, and if you like nautical adventures and you plan to have some seafaring in your campaign, this is a great way to get some new backgrounds, additional rules, and new creatures that you can use. If you are on the fence and you have the money for it, I’d say go for it. For me, it was well worth the money.