D&D 5e Aquatic Campaign – Monster & Hero Race Options

I run a weekly game D&D 5e game in a seafaring setting called Vodari. For this week’s Nautical Nonsense column I wanted to gather up all the aquatic monster races and hero races in one handy list that I draw on for my campaign. My groups spends most of their time above the surface of the sea, but there is plenty of fun to be had down below too (and we’ll get there soon). If you are looking to run some aquatic fun, hopefully these notes will be helpful.

Aquatic Monster Races

Back in October I wrote an article on 10 Awesome Monsters for a D&D 5e Aquatic Encounter that appear in the D&D 5e Monster Manual. These monsters include everything from Kuo-Toa to the mighty Kraken and ideas on how to use them. The entries in the Monster Manual for some of the monsters are so detailed that you can build a session or mini campaign around just a set of them like the Koa-Toa and Sahuagin.

If you are looking for some aquatic humanoid races to deploy as PC killing monsters, you might want to check out this list below.

  • Aquatic Goblin – see D&D 3.5 Unearthed Arcana (why? I’m looking for alternatives to these guys)
  • Aquatic Kobold – see D&D 3.5 Unearthed Arcana (why? I’m looking for alternatives to these guys)
  • Aquatic Trolls (Scrags) stats for D&D 3.5
  • Bullywug (Monster Manual p. 35) – Frog people are usually found in swamps.
  • Cecaelias – Merfolk-like, but with a lower body made up of eight octopus-like tentacles. See PC race option below.
  • Grindylow (d20 stats) – Aberration with a large head and numerous teeth, resembles a goblin from the waist up and an octopus below.
  • Koa-Toa (Monster Manual p. 198-200)  – These fishlike humanoids are usually found underground and are crazy. I put them in a cave and used then as replacement for your typical Goblin/Kobold low level baddies – with a finale against their archpriestess.
  • Lizardfolk (Monster Manual p. 2014-205) – These reptilian humanoids are usually found in swamps and jungles and I don’t use them as coastal threats.
  • Merfolk (Monster Manual p. 212) – Aquatic humanoids with upper body of a human and the lower body of a fish.
  • Merrow (Monster Manual p. 213) – Coastal bullies are corrupted Merfolk.
  • Sahuaghin (Monster Manual p. 263-264) – This piscine, predatory race are known as the “Devils of the Deep”.
  • Scum (Pathfinder) – Green skinned aquatic humanoids created from human stock to server as a slave race for aboleths.
  • Siren (3.5e stats) –  Afflicted with a terrible curse of the sea, their beautiful voices draws in sailors to become preys.
  • Wereshark (Pathfinder stats) – This lycanthrope has a human body and head of a shark with all its razor-like teeth.

In a future article, we’ll look at all the aquatic monsters out there.

Aquatic Hero Classes & Races

PC CLASS OPTIONS

Rich Howard (one of our authors) has created some D&D 5th edition class builds on his personal blog. I have also included some quick ways to get an aquatic flavor right out of the Player’s Handbook for classes Rich has not covered. Don’t forget about the Sailor background.

  • Barbarian – choose the path of the aquatic hunter
  • Bards – add the College of Sea Singers
  • Cleric – Try the Tempest Domain (see page 62 of the Player’s Handbook)
  • Druids  – Coastal Druid Circle and Circle of the Moon can be used, but try out Rich’s Circle of the Ocean
  • Fighter – Create a swashbuckling fighter. Human variant will give you some feats for extra flavor (I created a feat called Deck Brawler for my campaign).
      • Ability Scores. Your Dexterity should be your highest ability score and you should have good Constitution and Charisma scores
      • Saving Throws. Dexterity and Constitution
      • Select two skills from Acrobatics, Deception and Persuasion
      • Fighting Style. Select Duelist
      • Martial Archetype. Select Battle Master
        • With this archetype you get lots of fancy maneuvers to choose from such as Disarming Attack, Riposte, Parry, Evasive Footwork and more.
        • At 3rd level, replace Student of War with Vicious Mockery “cantrip” (see page 285 of the Player’s Handbook)  – really just your salty mouth distracting an enemy versus magic. Creature must understand the language you are using.
  • Monk – Way of the Four Elements – Focus on water based elemental disciplines.
  • Paladin – Oath of the Waves
  • Rangers  – Aquatic rangers may follow either of the established archetypes with no changes. Both hunters and beastmasters can apply their considerable abilities to marine creatures.
  • Sorcerer 
    • You could get a pirate flavor for a sorcerer by having your sorcerer’s source of magical power and way of channeling wild magic being intricate tattoos. Your sorcerer could have been born with her tattoos or gained them with magic ink and ritual.
    • Rich says: “Sorcerers who manifest powers from an oceanic origin may have had their bloodline affected by a powerful creature such as an aboleth, bronze dragon, elemental, hag, or kraken, or may have learned to tap into the primal energy inherent to the most fundamental element of life.”
  • Warlock – Try a Sea Witch theme for your warlock selecting The Archfey for your Otherworldly Patron.

PC RACE OPTIONS

There is no limit to what races can be converted to aquatic. Rich also does a great job converting aquatic races to be played in 5th edition. In my current campaign I have players with PCs who are an aquatic elf and an aquatic dwarf. Here are some links to specific builds for 5th edition.

  • Aquatic Elves – I started to like this race after reading all the Dragonlance books.
  • Aquatic Human (Atlantean, Aventi), Aquatic Gnomes, Aquatic Halfling, Aquatic Half-Elf, Aquatic Half-Orc, etc.
  • Cecaelias – Merfolk-like, but with a lower body made up of eight octopus-like tentacles.
  • Lizardfolk – Reptilian humanoids are usually found in swamps and jungle
  • Merfolk – Aquatic humanoids with upper body of a human and the lower body of a fish.
  • Selkie – Shapeshifter, whose normal form is that of a unique seal species who can shed their skin to become human.

Aquatic Dwarf Subrace

Here is the Aquatic Dwarf Subrace that I use in my game. I’d love to give credit for the stats, but I can’t remember if I built this one from scratch or if I borrowed it. Either way, it is pretty lightweight and simple. Please let me know in the comments below if it looks familiar. My favorite bit about sea dwarves in Vodari is they make a prized alloy that is rust proof like brass, but much stronger.


AQUATIC/SEA DWARF SUBRACE TRAITS

  • Ability Score Increase. Your strength score increases by 1.
  • Gills. You can breathe underwater
  • Webbed Fingers. You are able to swim 40 feet and you have proficiency on all swim checks.
  • Playing an Aquatic Elf in Vodari
    • Sea dwarves have greenish-blue skin and hair and beards that are red or green.
    • Aurirn are called sea dwarves by surface dwellers, but they are rarely seen.
    • Aurirn can be found in a few communities along a large undersea mountain range. They dwell in a small towns above or inside undersea mines.
    • Lighter and taller than other dwarves, they are strong with thickly webbed digits. The most unusual feature is the gills visible in their necks and over their ribs.
    • Sea dwarves clothing and armor are formed from underwater organic materials and metals that do not rust.
    • Aurirn are isolationist and have been able to avoid prolonged warfare with distant neighbors.
    • Sailors prize rare weapons and armor created by Aurirn, due to their durability and resistance to rust.
    • Sea dwarves can survive out of water for days or even weeks, but they will feel like they are “drying-out” without regular access to the sea.

I missed a few for this round, but I’m sure I can update this in the near future.
That’s it for this week. See you next week ya lubbers.

Shares

More Tribality Articles You Might Enjoy

Shawn Ellsworth

Shawn is an author and co-founder of Tribality.com. He first got into tabletop RPGs through ninjas and then by playing a Kender in Dragonlance. Years later, he can be found running games in the Nentir Vale and his own Seas of Vodari campaign setting.