I am cross-posting this here and in a handful of other D&D boards, across the web.
I have been running undersea D&D campaigns since 1998; first with “Beneath the Pinnacles of Azor’alq” (play-by-post) followed by “Heirs of Turucambi” (chat-based). The campaigns draw from my interests in marine biology and my hobby of keeping saltwater aquariums, coupled with my fascination with various mythological creatures such as hags, dragons, and demons. I started my current game 3 years ago. While I have a stable following of devoted players (thank you, folks!), I occasionally get the urge to step back, look at my game from a distance, and reinvent my approach as Master Storyteller for my players.
If your current DM approached you with the idea of starting a new campaign set primarily beneath the surface of the sea, what would be your first reaction? Suppose the “core races” were replaced with the likes of sea elves, locathah, and merfolk (or any race that that has a swim speed and the aquatic subtype). Would that be enough to alienate you?
I set my games on Oerth, the world of Greyhawk. Prior knowledge of the campaign setting is not required. I also tend to scale back on the use of dragons, while overpopulating the world with hags. Again, this is simply my personal signature in my games. Is that the killing blow that distances potential players?
My games tend to be role-play heavy and combat light. Rolling lots of dice tends to break my “willing suspension of disbelief”. Spending hours speaking in character as a room full of NPCs is my bread and butter. Again, I know this does not appeal to everyone.
I am aware that life underwater has its limitations; typical potions are all but impossible to imbibe, paper scrolls will quickly disintegrate, and typical metal items are subject to corrosion. Many typical spells may not suitable for underwater casting. Treasure may be similarly altered, as many undersea races value rare corals, pearls, and shells far more than coins and gemstones. This is one of my most enjoyable aspects of the game - creation.
Some of the best inspiration for an underwater campaign can come from the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet, visiting a local aquarium or fish store, and perusing ocean-related materials in a bookstore. Discovery’s “Blue Planet” series and Penguin Book’s “OCEAN” are as invaluable to me as “Stormwrack”.
With that in mind, what are your preferences, for such an adventure? What would you expect to see, in an undersea game? What would make the campaign memorable, enjoyable, and enduring? What would make you want to spend years exploring the realm of liquid space?