On May 21st, “Ghosts of Saltmarsh” was released by Wizards of the Coast, and I’m really excited about a very fortunate series of events: the most important one is that my roommate was enjoying a short vacation in New York that day, so he was able to get me one from The Compleat Strategist in Manhattan (kudos to them for keeping one for him to buy!). One sleepless night after, here I am, giving you my first ideas and impressions about this precious volume.
We’ll start saying that it seems “Tales of the Yawning Portal” started a new series of hardcover books. “Ghosts of Saltmarsh” follows the same idea and pattern, bringing us exciting events on the high seas in the form of seven previously published adventures reengineered for Fifth Edition. As it states in its cover, this book invites us to explore the waves above and the fathoms below in watery adventures.
The book is divided in eight chapters and three appendixes. The first chapter introduces the namesake village of Saltmarsh, which rests on the coast of the Azure Sea. This includes not only the setting locations, but also its factions and politics, providing life to run the village as the headquearters for a new campaign. It also brings random encounters and even customization for known backgrounds.
The following seven chapters give us each one a different adventure, scaling in level from 1 all the way up to 11th, encompassing genres from murder mystery to subterfuge, going through classic exploration and not-so-classic dungeon delving. Contained within these pages there is a trilogy originally published in the early 80s, as well as Dungeon Magazine originals dating from the mid-2000s Third Edition era. In order of appearance in the book, these adventures are:
- The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh (mystery for 1st level)
- Danger at Dunwater (exploration for 3rd level)
- Salvage Operation (exploration for 4th level)
- Isle of the Abbey (subterfuge for 5th level)
- The Final Enemy (investigation and dungeon delving for 7th level)
- Tammeraut’s Fate (classic stop-evil for 9th level)
- The Styes (murder mystery and dungeon delving for 11th level)
All adventures have been adapted to Fifth Edition, of course, and all of them include everything the DM needs to run them and have fun with their parties. Given their level, they can even be easily treated one after another as a full campaign.
Three appendixes bring new mechanics: I must say that I’m really excited about building ships and making them fight against each other or against a new aquatic creature. From naval combat and shipbuilding to travel and hazards at sea in the first one, the magic items featured in the adventures in the second and the 57 monsters and NPC entries in the third, these contents look like pure gold from a pirate treasure chest.
The details I noticed in our nightly reading and that I immediately love are: first, the alternative cover, by N.C. Winters, with an amazing sahuagin and an improved finishing (it looks better and more durable than the one in the alternate cover for “Xanathar’s Guide to Everything”). Second, the usual disclaimer that every hardcover book in Fifth Edition has had so far is still there, making me laugh. Third, the names of the artists in the corners of every page featuring art. I don’t know about you, but I’ll start looking for some of those names around the web and provide the corresponding “like” or “follow”, depending on the social network. Fourth, the cartography by Dyson Logos, which I already know from his super useful blog.
I must add that every adventure offers some ideas about how to adapt them to different settings, and Eberron is always included. I guess this comes as no surprise, considering that a new hardcover book for this amazing setting was just announced last Sunday during D&D Live 2019, but it is always appreciated, nonetheless.
Are you planning to get “Ghosts of Saltmarsh” soon? It is available everywhere, but do your best and buy the alternate edition from your local game store and support their business while getting a really beautiful and distinctive design. And while you’re at it, take a picture of you with it and post it in the comments below.