Since the dawn of time, mankind has known a yearning for the open waters of the sea. It is, after all, where life on Earth began, eons ago. The tabletop rpg hobby is no stranger to nautical mayhem, aquatic behemoths, pirate plunder, and sunken treasure. Yes, adventure on the high seas has a place at the Dungeons & Dragons table, for the forever young (and those who dare set sail for gold and glory.)
Behold! The Eastern Waterways doth beckon you to explore their ins, their outs, their swirls, their eddys, their dangerous harbors, their safe harbors, their safe-for-now harbors, their safe-for-now-and-soon-to-be-dangerous harbors, and their secrets.
This expansion map for our 1st edition AD&D sandbox was born of a love for the sea. It answered the question “What happens when a fantastic foursome of hobbyists collaborate on the illustrating of a fantasy map together?”
The creation of our Eastern Waterways expansion map began somewhat methodically, as these things do. Soon thereafter, it developed into a sort of free jazz art jam, with co-creators Mary Natale, Stacy Young, and Shannon Lee; each doing their part, to deepen our hues of the blues, to layer our shades of the islands, to vex onlookers with abstract art, puns aplenty, giant starfish, baby Cthulhu, and…sweet chili pepper pie…are those lightning trees at Longbridge?
Let’s all enjoy a closer look at this map together now, shall we?
Bonebroth is as frightening a castle that you’re likely to find in our sandbox, measuring 13-stories tall, convex-shaped curvature at its sides, concave-shaped curvature at its top, resembling a gargantuan cauldron, from which puffs of acrid sulfuric smoke occasionally waft upwards from. This foul place is home to Malithandria, the bitter witch queen. She unlocked one of the hidden secrets to unnaturally-long life, but she’s done so at great cost, and her sanity was compromised. In addition to recently announcing that she’s the one true biological mother of King Asiago (much to everyone’s dismay,) Malithandria has also been meticulously harvesting flesh from the surrounding countryside for the construction of her grisly 100-foot tall flesh golem named Madamimadam (“Flesh for the flesh golem!”)
Bluebottle Bight is a glorified “retirement home” for elderly sea captains and the high-ranking naval officers who served them. Maps for the finding of uncharted islands are stored and preserved here, under the watchful eyes of Periwinkle Mousebender (the caretaker of Bluebottle Bight, and a famous cartographer/curator, with no fewer than 1,970 maps in his private collection.) Visitors are welcome here (during visiting hours, of course.) If it’s a chin-wag with old Keelhaul Carptongue that you’re looking for, or a palaver with old Graham Hucklebuck III, or a shooting-of-the-breeze with any of the dozen-or-so other old-timers here, you’re certainly welcome to make your presence known and have at it. But, whatever you do, don’t let Mousebender catch you smuggling any nonsense in for the old captains. They’re on a strict regimen over there.
This is a long-since abandoned cave system, once the home of a titan long-since gone, currently occupied by Zsazoopi (the ogre king) and his minions. Unwilling to set his sights on nautical conquests, Zsazoopi is more concerned with seeing the lands of men tremble at his feet. With bounties placed on Zsazoopi’s head (by King Asiago of Benchleydale and King Rhames of Ving Island) it’s a wonder Zsazoopi gets any sleep at night. Well aware of the bounties himself, Zsazoopi has taken the fight to his “oppressors” – hunting the hunters, if you will. The best defense is a good offense, some would say. In Zsazoopi’s case, this strategy has borne fruit. Time will tell if that’s the case here. Steady alliances with marsh trolls and swamp giants to the west (nearer to Branamor’s Bog) have bolstered Zsazoopi’s kingship, but it remains to be seen how much longer he’ll remain in a seat of power.
Melf’s Grotto is where you’ll see the largest variety of indigenous flora in all the Eastern Waterways. From unusual roots and tubers, to purple knuckleberry ferns, to snooflowers, The island’s name is somewhat of a misnomer, since everyone knows the difference between an island and a grotto. This land mass is more island than grotto, and yet its name is still its name. That’s just the way Melf likes it. Yes, everyone’s favorite semi-retired male elf adventurer dwells here, atop the island’s highest point (1978 feet above sea level, to be exact.)
Ripplehaven is home to a plethora of popular vineyards and wineries. The Booze Brothers are there, with 50 acres (makers of Bobzkun Treebunka, Shecaught Thekaty and Amile Foracamel.) Scidley Rott is there too, with 75 acres (maker of Nostro Mo, The Bonus Situation, Skin Job and Commodus Maximus.) Kanley Stubrick is also there, with 100 sprawling acres (maker of Knockwurst Orange, Hedge Maze and Podbay Door.) Grapes aren’t the only fruit being grown and fermented here. Apples from the orchards are fermented as well, and it is their “electrum delicious” apples which are used to make Royal Apple Delight (once known as Apple Delight, later rebranded as Royal Apple Delight when King Asiago made it known that Apple Delight was a favorite wine of his.) There isn’t a Ripplehaven wine that King Asiago’s tried which he hasn’t enjoyed, come to think of it.
Port Inastorm is famous for smoked meats. Celebrity sausage chef Nack Jicholson has a restaurant there, called Five Easy Electrum Pieces (where banquets are often held for entire crews of seagoing vessels.) Celebrity butcher Shill Watner maintains a butcher shop there, known as Captain’s Hog (where colored bacon can be found – red, blue and yellow.) Port Inastorm has more than its fair share of secrets though. Seafarers travel here to forget about their cares for a while, as they indulge in morally-questionable behavior. This being Taboo Island, of course, it’s expected. All can forget their cares here for a while, for a price. Usage of aliases is commonplace here, as one might imagine. Wanted criminals can be found here. Gambling dens can be found here. Bounty hunters are frowned upon. When visiting Port Inastorm, have a care! Don’t back into a knife, accidentally or otherwise.
Port Ugal is the minotaur-fighting jewel of the Emergent Sea, with three minotaur-fighting arenas of varying sizes (Zomph’s Minogerie, Constanti Volcano and Scars Aplenty.) Wet your whistle at rowdy taverns such as The Paint & Screws, Watson’s Down The Hatch and No More Thirst Ever. Browse the bargain racks at magic shops including Fizban’s Discount Dweomers, Nobsil Nocturnes, Miniature Carp and Components Galore. Sea captains who know a thing or two about a thing or two all know to bring their vessels here for the exemplary drydock services of Snackfinger. No one tars the hull of a ship better than Snackfinger does, and that’s saying something. His trick is to mix snoofish scales in with every handmade batch of tar. No one’s caught on to his trick yet, and that’s good news for Snackfinger. Business would almost certainly nosedive if others learned Snackfinger’s trick.
Ving Island is home to King Rhames, one of the more benevolent rulers in all the Eastern Waterways. His stout enforcer Warcellus Malice is feared by pirates and smugglers both (keeping the peace, vigilante-style.) King Rhames and Warcellus Malice have never been seen at the same time, in public or otherwise. Curious, that. Much of the superior dragonglass in our sandbox (also known as obsidian IRL) comes from Ving Island, where it is harvested from its Molten Slopes, and fashioned into jewelry or weaponry. This island’s close proximity to both the Djoosi Jungle and Nihilrage make it a popular destination for seafarers looking to trade goods (see Broad Bent or Spoils Port) and those looking to lay low for a little while (see Fugitive Harbor.) Visitors never stay long enough to wear out their welcome, and the locals don’t seem to mind that at all. It’s just better that way, for everyone involved.
With so much adventure to be had in the Eastern Waterways, it’s no wonder that our players haven’t set foot on any other of our sandbox maps in a quite a while. As of today (May 22, 2017) it’s been nearly a year of real time since the PCs last appeared in Benchleydale, electing to go and investigate the unopenable doors beneath the surface ruins of Maure Castle instead. This led to a running of the classic WG5 adventure module, with the Original Bottle City thrown in for good measure. This also led to the reappearance of Falx Templamut (silver dragon, nephew of the great Bahamut,) and what a treat that’s been for our players. Here’s lookin’ at you, Frank Mentzer.
Adventurers have yet to visit many places-of-interest in the Eastern Waterways, including the Isle of Dread (where dinosaurs dwell,) the Isle of the Ape (where Oonga dwells,) the Isle of Ill Omens (where the Greenrazor sword was last seen,) the hidden lair of the Rukoh (our D&D version of Godzilla, and yet not exactly a tarrasque,) and the Gabor Lux Isles from the pages of Knockspell. Who knows? With so much adventure to had in the Eastern Waterways, our adventurers may never set foot in Benchleydale proper again [insert sinister laughter here.]