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For my own contribution, I want to talk about subsea travels, because it looks like a bit of a gap and seems like something fun to try.
This starts with the question of who is travelling around beneath the ocean? Lots of things down there move around a lot - fish shoals, nomadic aquatic peoples, etc - with relatively fewer fixed groups - reefs, laired monsters, undersea cities - compared to the surface. Being highly mobile - a flyer equivalent - is much easier, where one can allow currents to carry you around, or just sleep 'on the fin' as you float about.
So we have a large group of nomads and wandering folk and we can add trade between fixed locations, hunting parties and others coming and going from those places. What of the voyagers in the deep? What are the beasts of burden, the wagons and other means for travellers in the ocean depths?
First - beast of burden in classic fashion - big fish, other mighty creatures can serve. You will have a big split here between turtles, whales, dolphins etc that need to surface to breath and things that can stay down in the depths
Second - neutral bouyancy wagons - cargo floated along - just needs to be bouyant enough to stay off the sea floor then you can drag it along. That could be through captured air, harvested swim bladders, blocks of floating wood like cork or some manner of rock. Light enough to be bouyant in the deeps can still be surprisingly heavy. Drag in water is going to be much higher so long-haul volume trade is more difficult. Bulky things get processed down to small, valuable before being moved in the currents or they are walked along the bottom
Third - big things can be marched along the bottom by giant crabs or other such critters - either pulling them on sleds or floating them along just above the bottom.
Fourth - trade routes will tie to the currents, some routes will be ring-routes, where it is easier to return to your start by following a current the whole way around a sea than to try and fight it all the way home. It may well be possible to follow shallow currents one way and deep currents back. Alternatives will be surfacing, using sails to counter a current, or marching along the bottom.
We have an awful lot of seabed in a typical campaign map
I think this can be brought to table in two ways
- the dive - a short trip with a clock ticking until protective magics run out; very similar to real-world diving or deepsea work
- the long leagues beneath the sea - here is where things get trickier, where we assume that our party has the means to be underwater for long periods and the challenge is then reacting to all the other strangeness.
For a dive, the mechanics you get from other places work well - air, currents, light, cold and pressure are all things you need to be concerned with. To run this kind of session you just need the water traverse from ship or shore and the site people are going to.
For the long leagues with multiple sessions beneath the sea the pressure, cold and dark of the depths are most likely dealt with so your session is more like an underdark traverse with a lot more of a wandering monster problem. You might be able to fence off a cave but out in the ocean things can come after you from far away.
So we end up with d30 Things you might Encounter as you Travel Beneath the Waves
1. A caravan of crabs - either a swarm of very large crabs or some giant ones bearing cargo and being herded along. Likely to be guided by a family or clan enterprise, multigenerational group with their own household economy brought along. Excellent for small trade, repairs and advice, problematic in a fight due to the variety of things coming at you.
2. Floating caravan - fish panniers or fish-towed - with swimming escorts or people riding other beasts of burden. Pursuits in 3D get interesting; scattering vs keeping together for strength in numbers.
3. Turtle riders - skimming along beneath the surface, popping up to breathe.
4. Undead towed sled - slow but steady, grinding along the sea-floor, potentially leaving a trail of devastation behind it or maybe just following old, worn in routes. The undead could be all sorts - from beasts to drowned surface folk. It may be directed by the necromancer that created it, ridden by thralls or old and defunct, operating empty
5. Crevasse winches & deep gliders - the more crafty sea dwellers might use sea gliders in places where that is favourable. Only for the cunning as getting the weights and bouyancy right is tricky with a big cargo glider.
6. Giant-monster howdah - travelling with a beast large enough to have everything on its back at once - the goods, the people, everything. Sometimes can be very elaborate where the beast is large enough that the drag of something impractical is negligible to it
7. Current sails - where a neutral-bouyancy craft catches currents and uses those to move along. Suitable only for those places with strong enough currents, has a risk of getting stuck if knocked out of its currents.
8. Arcane contraption - turtleship, mechanical walker or other magically propelled device.
9. Mining expedition; miners, sleds - may include undead, constructs as harvesters.
10. Surface folk venturing - roll d8 for type of travelling party but people accompanying are surface dwellers in diving gear
11. Underdarkers abroad - roll d8 but the people accompanying are underdark aquatics with sunshades, wrappings against the light and big dark goggles
12. Maintenance patrol - thralls of an abberant nation, mindflayers, aboleth - doing a circuit of their defenses, scraping barnacles off golems, sacrificing to eldritch monoliths, etc. May seize the opportunity to grab some raw materials (you).
13. Raiders - hunting for goods or sacrifices - these are lightly equipped warriors seeking plunder. These could be deep-dwellers in their own territory or shallow-dwelling raiders diving down. Shallow-divers may be repulsed by out-lasting them, deep-dwellers might be dodged by escaping toward the surface.
14. Monster - perhaps swimming by, perhaps hunting - could be a dragon turtle or other dragon diving who may be bought off with tribute or the likes of a megalodon that will just be hungry
15. Wizard about their business - (d6 - 1,2 surface dweller, 3-6 aquatic) - doing strange wizardy business - may be harmless, they may be angered by being observed, they may be about to unleash some effect that you will unfortunately get swept up in
16. Migration underway - perhaps gathering to a nomadic seasonal gathering, perhaps venturing from an underdark hold to another deepsea hold - most likely focussed on their own business
17. Settlers of a sunken realm - this place known as abandoned is being settled by some new group, they are currently setting up defenses, scouring the region for useful things and may be keen to talk and trade.
18. Giant gleaning - storm or sea giant combing for fallen surface treasures. Depending on their mood and what you have they may be hostile or not
19. Great reef - (1 in 6 chance of being awakened) - a new spur of a reef blocks your path, terrain is difficult and requires dealing with the reed inhabitants
20. Seafloor ghouls and trolls - leaping from hidden ambush
21. Beholder territory - markers declare that all behond this belongs to a beholder, proceed at own risk. It will be a singular monster and may potentially be dodged with good scouting
22. Aboleth obelisks - a great disquieting ruin, light bends disturbingly, the water smells, whispers fill your mind.
23. Deep fey realm - you come upon a weakness in the veil, perhaps a shortcut, perhaps a lost decade may lie beyond
24. Outsiders - you come upon an incongruous structure where fiends, celestials or marids of the deep have installed themselves. They have their own concerns but mortals are always interesting and infrequently come by.
25. Drowned lands - either split open underdark or submerged surface lands. The greatest hazard is collapses of buildings, either underfoot or to dump a roof upon your head.
26. Extreme topography - towering cliff faces, scourged by currents causing either a hazardous traverse or a long diversion
27. Searing currents - from subsea lava flows - potentially a short lived current in your favour if you can catch the right distance - too close and it will scald.
28. Dead water - de-oxygenated, may pose a lethal threat if using water breathers or maybe a boon of quiet travelling if not
29. Turbiditic flow - subsea landslide - ruins visibility, like a mud avalance, bowls things over and crushes them beneath, sucks things along behind it also.
30. Bubbling waters - could be an airleak from the underdark, gas welling up, a dropped pipe of inifinite wind - whatever the source, this water fizzes with bubbles and nothing can float here. Not a problem if you are already walking, everything else plummets to the seafloor, taking standard fall damage