Avast, adventurers! Wizard's of the Coast announced this past Monday that a new nautical-themed Dungeons & Dragons supplement is on the horizon. Entitled Ghosts of Saltmarsh, players and DM's can expect to receive the supplement in May of this year. Taking players on an adventure from levels 1-12, the port town of Saltmarsh will be the base location players find themselves in. We already know a fair bit about the supplement, but speculation is still running as to what else might be included with it given how much content Wizards of the Coast has been releasing lately.
Let's examine what we already know about Ghosts of Saltmarsh, and what we hope this high seas adventure might include.
10 What We Know: Retold And Revamped Stories
Ghosts of Saltmarsh is not a new story per se. Rather, it combines elements from previous D&D stories and modifies them for the fifth edition ruleset. Old stories that are confirmed to be included are The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, Danger at Dunwater, The Final Enemy, Salvage Operation, Isle of the Abbey, Tammeraut’s Fate, and The Styes. Given that fifth edition D&D has been lacking any sort of nautical adventures, it will be refreshing for players and DM's to finally have the opportunity to play some.
9 What We Hope: At Least One High-Level Adventure
Because of the nature of most D&D campaigns, very few adventures published go beyond 11th level. The recent Dungeon of the Mad Mage module is the first time players are finally presented with the opportunity to take their characters all the way to 20th level in the fifth edition.
Given that similar fifth edition supplement Tales from the Yawning Portal included the infamously deadly Tomb of Horrors as a high-level adventure, it would be great for Ghosts to also have one high-level adventure included as well. Having the opportunity to be a D&D pirate is fun enough; a pirate in the epic adventuring tier of D&D is even better.
8 What We Know: Anthology Or Campaign, You Decide
While the story of Ghosts of Saltmarsh can be played as one cohesive story, Dungeon Masters are also encouraged to pick out individual stories should they want to. This makes the supplement similar to the Tales from the Yawning Portal anthology book released in 2017. Both supplements will be anthology-focused, with a thruline present should DM's want to run it as a campaign. Because of this, there's more DM freedom to pick and choose elements as opposed to running a by-the-book campaign.
7 What We Hope: The Campaign Makes Sense
Since Ghosts can be run as a campaign or pulled out as individual adventures, there's a fear that they will focus on the retold stories instead of finding a way to tie them all together.
Given how similar Ghosts is to Yawning Portal, many fans fear that might be the case. Yawning Portal gave DMs the option of running the supplement as a campaign, but presented no clear way to do so story-wise. Since this is fifth edition's first chance to show off a nautical campaign, a strong connecting storyline would make the supplement even better for players and DMs to play with.
6 What We Know: Non-Specific Setting
When Ghosts was announced, there was some buzz that the setting would be in Greyhawk. Saltmarsh was based in that campaign setting, as is the Azure Sea mentioned in the description of the supplement. However, game designer Kate Welch announced yesterday on D&D Beyond that Ghosts is a non-setting specific supplement. This matches with Yawning Portal, which despite being located in the Forgotten Realms, was listed as non-setting specific. This allows DMs to use any of the adventures in their own homebrew and custom games.
5 What We Hope: Maps Are Included
Given that sailing is the crux of this supplement, having a tear-out map of the Azure Sea and nearby island chains would be invaluable.
Similar to Tomb of Annihilation's map of Chult, having a player exploration side that can be marked up would make for a fun and memorable adventure. Given that no mention of a map was made in the press announcement however, it doesn't seem likely the supplement will include one.
4 What We Know: Ship Travel And Combat Rules Included
Several months earlier, Wizards of the Coast released for playtest rules for ship combat and ship travel rules. These rules were most likely finalized and featured in Ghosts, as the supplement claims to include official rules on ship travel and ship-to-ship combat. Considering DMs over the years have had to homebrew and improvise rulings on naval travel and combat, this is a relief for any nautical-themed campaigns going forward.
3 What We Hope: Chance To Build Your Own Crew
It's uncertain how much of an option players will have in terms of what kind of ship they sail on, or if there are pre-selected crews for each ship.
While having those pre-selected options will be useful, it would also be amazing to completely build your own crew. This would give players meaningful character interactions and build bonds with NPCs. Hopefully, the front section of the supplement includes a large list of potential ships and crew members for each one.
2 What We Know: New And Restyled Monsters
One of the things Ghosts is set to include is a set of new and restyled monsters. This could be anything from ocean-variants of classic monsters to restyled villains like the Lizardmen of Danger at Dunwater and Tharzax from Salvage Operation. Yawning Portal offered both beefed up and nerfed versions of classic D&D monsters for DMs to play with. It will be interesting to see what exactly Ghosts can bring to the table and what sort of new creatures it will introduce to D&D.
1 What We Hope: Nautical Based Character Options
There are only a small handful of player options currently that fit a nautical setting. While there's the Sailor background and the options of playing a Water Genasi or a Triton, there are few water-based races or character options inherently optimized for this kind of supplement.
Hopefully, Ghosts will give us additional player backgrounds, subraces and abilities that can be used in the adventures. This way, there will be a more diverse portfolio of characters that can be played in Ghosts. Even having ship rankings affect abilities during ship travel and combat could go a long way towards diversifying the otherwise small pool of options players have currently.