Pleasure Cruise, or Sea Sickness?
Well how are you doing? Not so good myself. But, I digress with a failed Diplomacy check.
First off let's take a quick look at what we are up for:
Chapter One deals with a real nuts and bolts discussion on water environments and the game.
Chapter Two deals with the races that can be found around the seas and oceans.
Chapter Three states that it has classes and prestige classes!
Chapter Four maintains that it carries the skills and feats.
Chapter Five pleads the fifth. No, wait... It doesn't know this, but Chapter Four snitched and says that it has ships and equipment. Oh man, I can't wait to see this.
Chapter Six is calm and collected and is proud of the fact that it has spells and magic items.
Chapter Seven has monsters. Hopefully in a box or something...
Chapter Eight is about adventure locales.
Chapter Nine is simple. It's an appendix. And this is what every GM wants. Encounter tables!
Chapter One: what it means to get wet.
First off, if it was legal they would rip this chapter out and send it to all GMs that have to deal with water in any way shape or form. It handles the discussion of freshwater versus saltwater nice and easy. "There is no distinction in D&D about the two." I like that. The rules deal with almost every condition from hypothermia to WHAT EXACTLY HAPPENS WHEN A BIG SHIP SINKS. Trust me, it has the rules and they make sense. Even better, it talks about highly venemous animals and their poisons. Assassins and rogues take note. Blue anemone oil is freakin WICKED! Contact, 1d4 Str +1d4 Dex with secondary as blindness!!! Costs 400 gp and the trap modifier is +4!!! Oh man my assassin is in love...
And then to seal the deal comes supernatural sea hazards! Dead Calm (imagine a calm sea with desecrate cast upon it!), Maelstroms, and of course Stormfire. Which is nasty (yet pretty emerald) lightning. It also details types of terrain from beach surfs to tidal marsh. Oh yes it has all the rules you need on movement through, how many penalties to stealth and hide, and other fun rules for the terrain! Best of all are the rules for ships' deck! Yes I know not many adventures take place underwater, but man I would buy the book merely for the rules on fighting in boats so far.
Even better are rules that are written to mesh with the rules found in the Arms and Equipment book for vehicle fighting. Elegant and somewhat easy. My god it's full of stars!
The sheer amount of rules on just fighting on a boat make this so worth the cost. Even lists of spells and what horrible effects they can wreak like rusting grasp and warp wood!
Chapter Two doesn't even begin until page 33!
Chapter Two: what is the deal with the winged deck ape race?
I am not kidding. That is the description for the hadozee. Baboons on boats with flying squirrel like wings! (Patagial flaps for those science minded). You got aventi. Human aquatics. They get a bonus with water magic, but pretty much count as humans. You also have the darfalin which are at war with the sahuaguin. They have orca like black and white skin(cool), and count as killer whale humanoids like sahuaguin count as fish humanoids. They look way more human than a sahuagin though. Their natural bite is still a fearsome surprise. And their webbed feet means faster in water, slower on land. They also are strong and clumsy. Yep, that means Str bonus and Dex penalty.
Aquatic elves are next. No need to run over those as they are in other books. However they look a wee bit more fishy here than I remember!
The hadozee as mentioned before are gliding monkeys. Their Balance and Climb checks of course receive a hefty bonus. What is interesting about them is their culture. Ship borne mainly. They even incorporate the name of their ship into their names. A servant on a ship called Dawn's Desire might call itself Bansh Desire'sChild. If the name of a ship has a female name in it they reflect that status by changing their name to the status of a child. That whole mother of the clan thing and all that I guess. Pretty interesting though. Then the rest of the chapter is taken with the main races and how their cultures adapt to living on the sea. Included are common cultures with a cool name like the shoal halflings.
Chapter Three: head of the class
Mainly this chapter is more interesting for the gods of the sea. They even add in the core classes added in the Complete Warrior and the Complete Divine. However you can tell the other two books were being worked on with this one. Sadly the warlock and other classes are missing. The discussion on each class is ok. Not my most fav chapter in the book though.
Prestige classes like Knight of the Pearl (good fighters in water), Legendary Captain (figure that out on your own!), Leviathan Hunters (whoo doggy. These guys are like dragon hunters! As a fact it mentions that their abilities work with dragons too!), Scarlet Corsairs (PIRATES!), Sea Witches (oh so stylish too), Stormcaster (wind and lightning oh my!), and the Wavekeeper (think protector of nature in a water setting. Anything with an animal companion that is aquatic! So rangers wake up!).
Chapter Four: feats and those skills.
No new skills, just loads of good uses for the ones we already got. I like the Balance checks for storm tossed decks and so on.
The feats are interesting. There are 24 of them.
Everything from fighting to singing under the water are covered. Highlights include the feat Sanctify Water, a divine caster can convert all the water around him into holy water! Oh man. A one punch kill to almost all enemy undead nearby. Now you know why undead zombie sharks are not all that common. Even mnks get some like the Curling Wave Strike that allows for tip attempts on more than one foe nearby!
The boats are good and come with deckplans. Even down to the elven winged ship. The weapons are neat. Stingray whips, and skipping blades! Another great weapon for a halfling. If there is water between you and the enemy, the range increases! The armor and gear is flavorful. Who doesn't want a sharkskin leather suit. Or a chitin suit that looks like watermade full plate?
My beef with the chapter, too short. They could have had a few new things for weapons. However, what they have is good and makes sense.
Chapter Six: magic
Four new domains. Blackwater, Ocean, Seafolk, and Storm. The deeps, the tops, the people, and the weather.
The spells are ripe for play and god help you if a druid able to cast 9th level spells is on a boat near you and pissed. The spell doom of the seas is horrible. Pretty much he just calls up a fiendish kraken!!!!!!!!!!!
Mordenkainen must have known this because his capable caravel is a pretty fast conjured ship! And a wizard with depthsurge pretty much just destroys your boat under you without needing to ask a creature to do it! By far though the planar navigation spell can lead to awesome adventure ideas alone.
Even nicer is there is a good section for Epic spells and even new Psionics! All in all this section is the funnest and the biggest I think. Other than the rules section at the beginning.
The pearlsteel and riverine new materials are nice. Pearlsteel is light and has less penalties when used to fight with underwater. Remember, even monks take penalties with their fists in the water!
The weapon and armor abilities make sense, and for once they came up with gilled armor to let water breathers walk on land!
The wondrous items are varied, and quite a few deal with boats. Everfull sails and the dragonhead prows are neat!
Chapter Seven: monster!!!! run!!!!
The monsters are treated like in MM III. With little notes on uses in Eberron and Faerun. Nice touch there. They also have the amphibious template so picture an amphibious medusa! Hah! Sounds nasty huh?
By far the most disturbing is either the leech with hands, or the coral golem which looks like a giant spider! The ramfish are cool also. Picture a fish with the horns of a huge dire bull. A scyllan (said to be a child of a demon known as Scylla) looks like the creature in Lord of the Rings outside of Moria.
Chapter Eight: locales and bars (god I need a good drink now)
They show things like the pirate ship the "Sable Drake". They discuss boarding tactics, the EL 6 encounter of it, attacking it, defending it, accidentally falling between it and another boat (I'm not kidding, the section is called 'caught between hulls), and other fun things like goblin mariner tactics.
The Shatterhull Isle is a place of sea witches. Picture a sharp coral reef, a huge stone to smash boats on, and a few sea hags out for kicks...
The lost temple of Sekolah is the mandatory sahuaguin setting (Murlocs, god I hate those fishy bastards in WoW!)
The Tamorrean Vast is a ship graveyard with a storm giant ruling it. Watch out for dragon turtles!
Each one is an adventure and a complete setting! Very useful and seem mainly set for around 4-6 level parties.
The Appendix of encounters!
What can I say? You roll the dice and the fun begins!
All in all this is stamped as a WotC book.
Fine quality. Good sense, and good art.
I like it.
If in any way you plan on naval stuff, get this.
Otherwise it completes the set nicely lol.