General world building information is easy to come by, but I have trouble finding information about underwater environments in AD&D 2e. While I am open to non-AD&D resources, I would prefer ones that are built around the edition I will be using.

I'm looking for information specifically oriented around building adventures underwater, and that discuss the different ways dungeons and cities might be built in a much more three dimensional world. Pregen cities are okay, but I need help designing my own.

EDITED FOR CLARITY: The characters are aquatic, and the cities exist in the water. I plan to have the characters exploring an underwater world after their home city is destroyed. They will be nomadic, going on random one-shot adventures until they discover that the destruction of their home city was intentional; at that point various small clues from the random adventures should come together to point towards Big Bad Guy.

I am having trouble building up cities that take into account the fact that the inhabitants will swim most places. What effect would water currents have on farming? Would walled-in cities have doors on the ground, on the top, or at random places in the sides? Also, what would aquatic creatures use as building materials?

  • \$\begingroup\$ This question may be too broad as-is. We'd need more details about the campaign setting. Are the players sea creatures? Are the cities protected underwater, or do they exist in the water? And about a hundred other questions; what other information do you have which could help narrow what you're looking for? \$\endgroup\$
    – user8248
    Commented Aug 8, 2013 at 0:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ Awesome improvements! While I don't have much advice, I eagerly await the answers. \$\endgroup\$
    – user8248
    Commented Aug 8, 2013 at 0:51

4 Answers 4


Based upon the old Dragonlance series, they did indeed have a race of sea elves that had some information about them. There might be some old modules in the Dragon and Dungeon magazines that might cover an underwater society. If not, here are some ideas.

Building may not be the way we think; what good is a hammer underwater. Perhaps growing corral for buildings would make more sense, since corral does grow quite fast. As for a means of defense, walls would be useful, as few aquatic species are big enough or strong enough to go through a barrier. And everyone needs some protection for predators, such as sharks, octopus, and eels.

Farming may not have a use, as a more hunter/gatherer society would make much more sense. With fish and plants abundant, why would you need to crop seaweed or sea cucumbers? There could be some agriculture, but the environment is teeming with life. A more Native American approach would probably suffice well here.

Assuming your race isn't Mermaids, perhaps a mode of travel or a companion species? Perhaps they are friendly with seals, penguins, dolphins, or a particular fish. Perhaps a dogfish can be, well, their dogs. Could you imagine shark cavalry? Or using a mantaray?

The above world... if your race is aquatic, what do they think of things above the ceiling? Perhaps they hunt birds like we fish for fish (sigh, there's no better term for that), or have some religious connotations about it. Are they aware of sentient creatures on land, and what do they think of them?

Government. If you're going for hunter/gatherers, then it will most likely be clannish, tribal, nomadic, solitary, with barter and trade. Think like the movie Waterworld, and maybe The Little Mermaid. Perhaps a Mad Max world under the sea?

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is all good, but I question the hunter/gatherer society concept. If you want a large city, you will be quite likely to wind up with some form of agriculture (aquaculture). We already have things like salmon farms in the real world. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 8, 2013 at 17:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you want an underwater city, you could always make Atlantis real, or several aquatic species, one which is more technologically prevelant. Just don't make them Gungans; save yourself the embarrassment. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jersey
    Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 16:41

There are two games I know of speaking of underwater worlds. However, both are sci-fi and may not be easily adapted to an ad&d setting. You may want to check them out however, and try to replace the sci-fi parts with equivalent magic parts.

The first one is Blue Planet : http://blueplanet.fasagames.com/

The second one is Polaris (french only I'm affraid) : http://www.black-book-editions.fr/?site_id=40

In both settings, earth has been mostly destroyed by war. In Blue Planet, a new planet is beeing colonized, while in Polaris, people have taken refuge in the oceans.

Blue Planet is heavily realistic and environmentalist.

Polaris is a more classic rpg, with magic, strange races and powers, etc.

These two settings probably have everything you want about growing things underwater and such.

I sadly don't know of any d&d underwater setting, but maybe someone else will !

For your cities, I would create several different city styles :

  • Built in stone, like an underwater castle. Obviously not really made for defense as the purpose of walls is kind of defeated underwater. Food and stuff would be bought from outside, and this could be some kind of merchant or artistic city.

  • Built with some kind of transparent seaweed. The city would be some kind of organic underwater tree with bubbles of transparent seaweed used as houses. Maybe each bubble could float in water and be moved away with some kind of animals ? Some kind of nomadic tree city, following currents and animal herds.

  • Built with heavy magic. This city would be made with magical domes protecting the inside. Everything would work with portals or created from magic.

These are just random thoughts at the moment, I'm sure you'll find some inspiration.

Good luck with your search and world building.


You will perhaps have trouble finding them after all these years but White Dwarf #68, 69, and 70 had a series of very good articles on this subject. Any rules would be for AD&D1 but should be easy enough to convert to AD&D2.

One key point in the articles was that metal items would be rare as metalwork requires fire and fires are somewhat difficult to start under water! So your underwater societies would have to find other ways to fashion their tools -- magic fire, perhaps, or softer tools -- or would have trade links with the surface world.


You may have to generalize, but for AD&D 2e there was the excellent Monstrous Arcana: The Sea Devils product by Skip Williams, a 96-page in depth on the Sahuagin and their culture, and the "Evil Tide" adventure trilogy that used it. Not really a how-to, but a good example of in depth underwater culture and adventure building.


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