Call from the Deep is a campaign for 4 to 6 characters that takes them from level 1 to level 12.
This is a monster of a book, reaching 270 pages and I consider it to be on par with the official adventures for 5th Edition that have been published by Wizards of the Coast. The adventure’s theme is a delicate combination of high seas adventure and Lovecraftian Horror, with a touch of psionic fun and urban adventure.
In the first chapter, the characters are tasked with investigating a crashed ship on Gundarlun, an island nation located off the Sword Coast. The journey begins from Neverwinter, meaning the characters will have to enjoy a few days of sea travel and all that it entails. I’m talking about encounters. This is covered in one of the appendixes that features random encounters. However, they are well thought and each one has its own 2 paragraph entry.
Once in Gundarlun, the characters have the choice to experience some social interaction with the locals. This is quite easy, since the majority of the chapter covers various places in the island, as well as some interesting NPCs. This is easily a reusable part of the book and that’s not the only one to be found.
Once the characters reach the crashed site and deal with what’s going on there, they acquire a map that hints possible pirate attacks on major cities of the Sword Coast.
And that is the focus of chapter two. The possible locations are Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter, Waterdeep, or any combination of them that you prefer. Each city entry is divided in three parts. The first part contains general information about the city in the form of various locations. These, again, can be used outside of the campaign.
The second part contains the attack sequence on the city. The pirate attacks have different goals so the pirates take a different approach each time. The crews themselves are different as well, adding to the variety. The characters will have to figure out what is the real goal of the attacks and try to thwart them.
The third part is all about the aftermath of the attacks, in the form of quests. Relevant NPCs that the characters have met may request their help in the aftermath of the pirate attacks. They are relevant to the story and allow the players to explore and learn more about the Sword Coast, as well as the factions they are up against.
Chapter three gives a lot of choice to the players. It is kind of a sandbox chapter that is combined with the quests at the end of chapter two, to help the DM shape the world around the characters. While the end of chapter is set, how the characters reach it is all up to them. This chapter is almost 50 pages long and contains information about areas around the Sword Coast, the Island Kingdoms, and more, such as Icewind Dale and even Gauntlgrym. It’s obvious this whole chapter can easily be used outside of the adventure.
By the end of chapter three the characters will know who organized the attacks so, chapter four is all about confronting the culprit. This is, of course, the Sea King Tentrix. To get to Tentrix, however, they will have gain access to his stronghold, the Driftwood Docks, which is a feat on its own, as well as face the formidable Pirate Lords.
The first part of the chapter ends with the characters finding out that Tentrix is actually working for the kraken Slarkrethel. They also find out they have to travel to Purple Rocks, another island kingdom, to find out more about the kraken.
The second part of the chapter begins from there. I make this distinction because the flavor swifts from a pirate theme to a more Lovecraftian one. Disturbing encounters take place all over the island and an optional score called Sanity is introduced. With this optional rule, unlucky characters can pretty quickly end up with permanent flaws that only a Wish spell can cure.
The fifth, and last chapter, contains the final confrontation in Slakrethel’s lair. By this point, there’s a high chance the characters will have figured out what’s going on. An Illithid Elder Brain has taken control of the kraken, by putting itself in its skull, and is controlling the Kraken Society, making even more dangerous. What is breathtaking about this chapter is Ascarle, the kraken’s lair which is a massive, 89 room dungeon. It is the ruins of a sunken elven city, that has received a few touches of Illithid architecture, and is filled with all sorts of dangers, including some really well designed traps. If you like dungeon delving, this campaign is worth it just for Ascarle.
And that’s pretty much the story. It is a lot for both the DM and the players to take in but the writing is superb, making it very easy to follow. I like that there are summaries reminding the DM (and player) what took place in the chapter they just went through, as well as notes on what they will have learned story wise and their possible next moves.
I think I’ve already talked a bit about the encounters in the campaign, but I want to take the time here to make some notes. The encounters are very carefully thought out. I’m not only talking about the balance, but also about the timing, the frequency of the combat encounters, as well as their variety. As I mentioned before, even random encounters have gotten a better treatment than just a roll table.
From front to back, the artwork is amazing and there’s a lot of it. There is art of all the important NPCs, as well some really beautiful artwork depicting areas and various scenes. Of course, there are maps too. It would be a crime if maps weren’t included, especially since there is an 89 room dungeon. Apart from the maps of the Sword Coast, Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter, and Waterdeep, the rest are black and white. In my opinion, they serve well the purpose of providing all the necessary details of the areas they are depicting. I have found out, however, that people can get quite picky with map styles so I had to mention that here.
The campaign part of the book ends on page 183. This means there are about 90 pages worth of appendices. Appendix A contains the random encounters I mentioned before. Appendix B is a bestiary containing over 50 entries. Some of them are NPCs, such as the Pirate Lords, but there are some very unique new monsters featured. Appendix C contains 18 magic items. They are there mostly to help the DM, since some of them are already existing items.
Appendix D provides rules on running a ship. It contains various options in the form of different ships, types of weaponry and even upgrades. There are also roll tables to generate ships and some ready to use examples. Appendix E contains all the player handouts. However, they also come as separate files for ease of use. Finally, appendix F contains character options. There you will find four races and 11 feats.
Call of the Deep is an outstanding campaign. It can easily rival the official campaigns by Wizards of the Coast. In fact, I could consider it better than some of them because of the way the content is organized, something the first WotC adventures were lacking at. So if you are looking for a good pirate campaign that turns all Lovecraftian at the end, I highly recommend checking Call of the Deep out. And once you’re done. You will have a good supplement to draw ideas from.
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