If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.
There are two things I want to say about aquatic adventures, one bad and one good. First, I’m going to whine.
During the 4th Edition days, we had the Living Forgotten Realms living campaign, and a handful of those adventures were underwater. How do humans, elves, etc. deal with water breathing? They buy potions of water breathing. Duh. What if they can’t afford it because they’re low level? Does no one get to play and we send everyone home? Nope. Their employer buys the potions for them.
Wait, what? Doesn’t that trivialize aquatic adventures? Why would anyone pay for the potions? Just say, “Well, my character just bought a ton of gear and has no coins on hand.” Either way, it just feels cheap to me (though no different than potions of flying for aerial battles). You should always get to play, but you should always have to pay a cost. You could have varying strengths of water breathing potions, but what would that mean? You can either breathe water or not. If the duration of a potion were shorter, you’d have to buy more, which again would be cost-prohibitive for lower-level adventurers. Moreover, if you don’t have to pay a cost, why not write the adventure for land and stick the characters on difficult terrain?
I don’t know how to solve this problem, though I have a theoretical approach. The brilliance of healing surges (for 5e players, hit dice, but a bit more brilliant than that) is that they introduced a different economy to the game. While there was some connection between healing surges and currency (healing potions cost 50 gp and let you trigger healing surges), they were kind of their own thing, being innate to the character rather than something bought. In other words, somehow your Constitution score needs to come into play for underwater combat, but failure shouldn’t necessarily be fatal, as that would bring the adventure to a halt for the most unheroic of reasons.
In 1st Edition, players have bought in to something like this being the cost of doing business as an adventurer, so in 1e, aquatic adventures were probably unavailable until higher levels when water breathing potions were affordable. There’s a logic to that, as higher-level characters are always going to be able to do cooler things than lower-level characters, and every edition from 1e to 5e has some really cool aquatic creatures. However, modern gamers tend to be turned off by that, so maybe aquatic adventures will always be cheap in newer editions. I wish I had an answer, because . . .
I can use my air combat mapping idea for underwater combat. I bought some acrylic squares (Home Depot), drew grids on them (Sharpie), and superglued Legos to them. The effect: A flexible method of stacking layers representing different heights (or depths), all transparent so that you can see what’s going on from any angle, and relatively small in size, so you can easily reach your minis.
This is my first attempt at this. I goofed up one of the lines (bottom tier, fourth from the left), but that can be fixed on the next ones. As you can see, I drew the squares with a straightedge (close enough for government work) and super-glued a single 2×2 Lego to each corner (on top and underneath). I can then vary the number of Legos between them to my preference. Five Legos are exactly 2″ in height, so that means a stack of 8 between the glued pieces makes the height 2 squares. You can call that 5′ but have plenty of room to move around the minis.
If this were done professionally, it’d be better if the gridlines were more subtle (i.e., thinner and lighter). So, next up I added a level using red ink on every other level so that the lines aren’t quite as confusing. It made things a little better, but it’s hard to see that because the quality of the lines are poor, and they were even worse because my red Sharpie smudged too much.
One bit of warning: The device requires far more precision than an impatient dude with a straightedge and Sharpie can provide. As a result of that (and perhaps the nature of Legos), the Lego connections are very sensitive to pressure. If you apply too much downward pressure, they separate. If you provide too much lateral pressure, they separate. If all your minis are human-sized, smaller columns will be more stable, but you could also tape (not superglue) the columns for some added structural integrity, which can be easily undone when you want to change the height. Or you could buy a bunch more Legos so that you can pre-make permanent stacks of varying height. Telling a nerd to buy more Legos isn’t exactly unreasonable. It’s like telling you you’re just going to have to buy more dice. Everyone’s willing to do that. . . depending on the die. Of course, none of this is an issue if you’re playing a game (e.g., Dragon Age RPG) that uses zones instead of precise measurements.
One way or the other, I’m going to use this map.
Follow me on Twitter @gsllc
Dungeons & Dragons is a trademark of Wizards of the Coast, LLC, who neither contributed to nor endorsed the contents of this post. (Okay, jackasses?)