Dungeons & Dragons sets a new course for adventures.
The latest Dungeons & Dragons hardcover from Wizards of the Coast takes players and dungeon masters alike on a journey that’s part high-seas adventure, part campaign setting. Ghosts of Saltmarsh is everything it’s advertised to be and more.
The approach for the book is a little bit different than previous volumes, but works to the advantage of the Dungeon Master in providing fun and interesting adventure for the entire party.
Like Tales From the Yawning Portal before it, Ghosts of Saltmarsh isn’t a single adventure or campaign but rather a collection of revised adventures from past editions of D&D that can form one.
The adventure compendium details the small fishing village of Saltmarsh. Nestled, here, on the coast of Forgotten Realms’ Faerun rather than the original World of Greyhawk setting, the village is now under direct threat by pirates and other nasty creatures of the sea.
Taking its cue from classic D&D’s Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, the overall story is based on a series of adventure modules written by Dave J. Brown and Don Turnball. Each one is given a small “time capsule” when its content is outlined in the current book. The modules in question are Danger at Dunwater and The Final Enemy.
It also draws upon “Salvage Operation,” a Mike Mearls penned adventure from Dungeon magazine issue No. 123, Randy Maxwell’s “Isle of the Abbey” from Dungeon No. 34 (1992).
The story sort of arcs and weaves between battle on the high seas and more refined dungeon crawling. We won’t go into too many specifics, but Ghosts of Saltmarsh offers the whole package: It’s got intrigue, politics, high adventure and a ton of monsters (if you’re party is into that sort of thing). Who doesn’t love battling sahuagin and the undead in the same adventure?
My favorite part of the book has to be the maps. The cartography in this book is simply fantastic. Each map is detailed; some of them are hex maps, and there appear to be few contour maps. Overall, I would love to see these blown up on the table with richer detail. Many of them are black and white.
The ship maps are also highly detailed. The map for The Sea Ghost (a smuggler’s ship found on Page 52) is expertly drawn, right down to the contents of the hold.
The art direction in the book is some of the best I’ve seen from the current edition. There are the full-color, photorealistic paintings and monster depictions throughout, but the addition of the vintage art style for the ships and maps really makes the book shine.
The text is also written much more tightly here compared to previous releases. It’s meticulously structured in a way that is conducive to easy navigation during play. The narrative offers so much to do here that it can probably be integrated into multiple campaigns.
The appendices are incredibly useful with the addition of different types of ships — and rules for their use in the game — along with some excellent new magic items and monsters.
Ghosts of Saltmarsh is a refreshing new direction for D&D and well worth playing in your next campaign. Alternately, you can simply read it for fun. It’s worth it either way.