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So, sahuagin can command sharks telepathically. However, even when they don't or can't command the sharks, the sharks still automatically know the Sahuagin are on their team and don't attack them. How can I differentiate to the players through combat tactics

  • Sahuagin working with sharks they've trained and don't need to command,
  • Sahuagin working with sharks they've not trained and have to command so as to fight in tandem, and
  • Sahuagin working with sharks they've not trained and yet also can't command because Reasons?

I expect to play Sahuagin with trained sharks differently than non-Sahuagin with trained sharks, if that matters.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Do you mean "Sahuagin with non-trained sharks" in the last part of the last sentence? All of your examples deal with Sahuagin, not non-Sahuagin. \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis Dec 1 '17 at 5:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ No, I mean non-Sahuagin. I'm just including that sentence in the hope it will forestall off-the-cuff answers that fail to take into account that Sahuagin -shark stuff needs to be special in general. Untested advice is the bane of me getting decent answers to my ocean-campaign-related-questions lately :( \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Dec 1 '17 at 5:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think I see. It modifies the three points above to give them more context. Well, I can think of all kinds of answers, but it's a pretty narrow case to have actually playtested. \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis Dec 1 '17 at 14:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Maybe its because I don't have said experience, but how does this differ from Beast Master Ranger/Person with an animal friend/Person helping defend an animal's cubs from enemies? I don't see how being aquatic affects working with trained animals. \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Dec 18 '17 at 19:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ifusaso Well, the last question I asked received the near-unanimous answer that the shark telepathy trait definitely doesn't suck the same way being a ranger does (i.e. it doesn't require your action to use), among other things. Being aquatic probably doesn't affect things, of course, but your example general situations are still wildly non-analogous, on account of their being Sahuagin (i.e. the shark telepathy trait, the Way of the Shark racial thingy, and the combination of reverence for sharks and complete lack of compassion). \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Dec 18 '17 at 21:13
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When looking at the direct quote that determines their power:

Shark Telepathy. The sauhuagin can magically command any shark within 120 feet within 120 feet of it, using a limited telepathy.

This is automatically assuming that the communication between the sauhuagin is indeed magical and can be detected via detect magic by one of the players in the party, alongside the word "command" being incredible subjective considering that from what can be seen within the Monster Manual, there is no detail describing a shark being forcefully compelled to follow the orders of a sauhuagin, especially if said shark is either bonded to a friendly player or is a random shark that just happened to pass by, due to the racial trait only specifically stating;

Way of the Shark. Sauhuagin worship the shark god Sekolah... As worshipers of Sekolah, they also have a special kinship with sharks, which they train as attack animals. Even untrained sharks recognize sauhagin as allies and don't prey on them.

Which when looking into the specifics, the shark does not inherently have to protect the under attack sauhuagin by putting itself within harm's way as well, only that the shark does not see the sahuagin as potential prey when coming across it's path.

Sauhuagin working with sharks they've trained and don't need to command

When attempting to telegraph this to the players you can attempt to describe the sharks as having clear markings or "armor" similar to the Sauhuagin next to it or that the shark is seemingly following a Sauhuagin with a noticeable obedience or sense of servitude behind it (if the party were to see the group from afar).

Alongside whether or not the Sauhagin is using telepathy, due to the wording dictating that the trait is magical, if a member of the party were to be able to detect magic they would quite quickly see that there is no magic being used.

Sahuagin working with sharks they've not trained and have to command so as to fight in tandem,

Due to the fact that there is no explicit direction that wild sharks have to recklessly follow the commands of a Sauhuagin nearby, I would say that this is merely up to the DM due to the subjectivity behind it (although within my personal opinion I would merely dictate that the shark under the notion that it would put it's self-preservation before the Sauhuagin that -depending on the scenario- the Shark either refuse to help or runs off after finding itself in a dangerous situation).

Sahuagin working with sharks they've not trained and yet also can't command because, reasons?

Under this third scenario it is safe to say that in any case the "reasons?" really matter. If the shark they are attempting to command is bonded to a PC then the chance of them following said commands are relatively low (and thus a possible DC save might come in order, up to the discretion of the DM for the "friendly" shark).

The severity of the bond between the shark and the PC also comes into play as well for roleplay reasons. If the shark is an animal companion for a ranger than it would stand to reason that an antagonizing Sauhuagin wouldn't suddenly displace years of companionship with a non-Sauhuagin character.

Hopefully this answer is clear enough, but with everything referring to rule 0 is never necessarily the worse choice.

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Sahuagin working with sharks they've trained and don't need to command

Have these Sahuagin at most just point and the shark respond. Little to no cues for the PCs. Make sure they use more advanced tactics. Cutting people off, flanking (specially if you play with the flanking grants advantage rule), things of this nature.

Sahuagin working with sharks they've not trained and have to command so as to fight in tandem

Make sure the Sahuagin yell out commands. Or at the very least touch their heads every time the shark's turn comes up. Have a cue to show that these sharks need help. Have them gang up on a target, but not flank, unless it's the shuagin moving for it.

Sahuagin working with sharks they've not trained and yet also can't command because Reasons?

I have a hard time seeing a reason why a shark under these circumstances would fight. Untrained sharks see the Sahuagin as allies, doesn't mean they have to put themselves in harms way. That said if you still feel the need to have this third category in a fight then have these sharks as fickle. If someone is bleeding, go for the most blood. Ignore tactics, the shark wants the fresh meat! If nobody is bleeding then aim for the nearest not Sahuagin. One of the biggest things you should do though, is make the sharks RUN! If they fall to half health, or maybe even just taking a single hit, have them run from battle.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Mind that the command ability is telepathic. See the entry in the MM for details. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Dec 25 '17 at 14:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Thus the "touch their heads" part. Visual cues for telepathy are hard, narrative ones are harder. Very very open to suggestions I could stick in that section. \$\endgroup\$ – Miatog Dec 25 '17 at 15:35
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Try adding an empathy level; Sahuagin with trained sharks are, most likely, sad to see bonded animals, possibly friends, be injured or killed by others. Sahuagin may also be more aggressive towards the PCs if their 'favourite' shark is killed. They could call off sharky friends if they are especially fond of them and the battle is heavily in the PC's favour. Non-trained sharks are probably just cannon fodder to all but the most caring Sahuagin (remember, 90% of the time, monster alignment is just a generic aspect of the race, not everyone(do not make this mistake for angels, devils and demons, though (unless a plot device), because these are born bad to the bone). Have-to-command sharks are probably not friends, so no crying over them.

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    \$\begingroup\$ how would that empathy level affect the combat? Is it playtested? \$\endgroup\$ – Trish Dec 1 '17 at 14:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is more of a play the Sahuagin more aggressively, or less. I am meaning a more narrate-the-Sahuagin to be acting strangely, and change their behaviour in combat, but nothing else. \$\endgroup\$ – Elesh Norn Dec 1 '17 at 22:11

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