Ahoy there, landlubber! Does the call of adventure on the high seas excite you? Do you yearn to helm a ship of your own? Would you risk it all in the search of treasure? Then Ghosts of Saltmarsh, d&d’s newest adventure book, may be for you! With a detailed look into the setting of Saltmarsh, seven adventures revived for fifth edition, and expanded rules for sailing, this book promises a wealth of content to anyone who wants to run a nautical campaign. So how well does it live up to that promise? Is it an ocean of content, or a shallow pool of ideas? Let’s dive in and find out. The first chapter of this book covers the fishing village of Saltmarsh. It gives you an in depth look at the town, in GREAT detail. The book runs you through the history of the town, the main influencers at play, the locations in town, and the surrounding points of interest. They even go so far as to include an insight into how the town’s mood works! They also cover downtime activities and backgrounds, so your players can fully immerse themselves. I left this chapter feeling like I could run any adventure I came up with in it. It’s a very well done layout that I hope they use from now on.
From there we move on to the meat of the book: the adventures. These are all old adventures that have been revitalized in the fifth edition format. I won’t go too much into the details of the adventures, for fear of spoiler territory, but I will say that each one looks great. They all form together to make one overarching campaign, though you’ll have to do some legwork to shoehorn some of the adventures in. But four of the adventures fit perfectly together to the point that you won’t need to change a thing. Some of the adventures do tread in the same territory a bit in the enemies, but that may just be a thematic thing. Overall a great selection of adventures that could use a bit of tweaking to fit together neatly.
The next section details the rules of ships, crews, and naval combat. This is what drew me to the book in the first place, and it blew me out of the water. There are stats for boats, rules for crew morale, options for ship upgrades, and a ton of sea encounters. I was hoping for some clarity on how to sail a ship, what I got was just about every rule for naval navigation I could ask for. Now if only I had a way to not have ships messed up by players using the control water spell, I’d be set. Along with the rules for ships, the book also suggests some detailed locations and adventure ideas for your players to enjoy.
The last section of the book is full of stats for monsters. Pretty much all of them are either aquatic or undead, and some of them are taken from other books for sake of ease, but there are quite a few new monsters in there. There are monsters new to 5e, brought back along with the adventures. One example is the Skum, a horrifying abomination that would fit right into a Call of Cthulhu game. There are also variants of existing monsters that pose larger threats than their base form. My favorite is the skeletal juggernaut, which slowly loses its large form over time but explodes into a dozen skeletons on defeat. There are also some nautical npc blocks. Deck wizards, bosuns, and other pirates are now at your disposal. This book adds a considerable chunk to your dm arsenal, even if you don’t touch the adventures.
So now that we’ve looked at all the pieces of the book, how well does it fare as a whole? Well that depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a setting guide for your own nautical campaign, look no further. The rules, stats, and lore set up in this book make for a great reference for any adventure at sea. Score: 9/10. So then what about the adventures? Even though they came from a while back they don’t feel antiquated. In fact they hold up just as well as Tomb of Annihilation, Dragon Heist, or any other 5e adventure. A few of them feel a bit separated from the others, but it’s not too hard to get it all lined up. If you’re debating about running this adventure versus another, then I’d say the quality matches up and it’s down to personal taste. Score: 8/10. Overall, Ghosts of Saltmarsh is a wonderful collection of ideas and adventures, one that anyone with a desire to set sail should look into. Overall score: 9/10.
So what do you think? Have you picked up Ghost of Saltmarsh yet? What’s your favorite adventure? What will you name your ship? Let me know down below! And as always, keep those dice rolling high!