Tuesday 28 March 2023

The Terrible Salt

For a generation, the tides at Vincha stopped completely. What was once an enormous tidal flat was lost under bitter waters. Now they have returned, and the brave and curious are gathering to see what was hidden under the terrible salt.

This adventure features an enormous tidal flat, miles and miles wide. Adventurers who set out from Vincha have a strange and dangerous land to explore, and will need to learn its rhythms to return with anything valuable.

The Terrible Salt is something of an experiment in tangibility. Unlike many of my adventures, there's no wandering monster table. Instead, the tides and the crab swarm move in defined ways from their starting points.

The crab swarm is extremely dangerous. It will outnumber most parties, and unless they have good magic (or horses), it will overrun them and eat them. Avoiding notice is better than trying to flee (since the crabs never stop), but this will require that the players stay aware of their environment.

Being spotted by crabs or trapped by the tides doesn't mean certain death, but players may have to ride out an uncomfortable few days being baked by the sun and freezing at night, all without any drinkable water or means of lighting a fire.

The greatest danger in this scenario is facing both crabs and tides at once, either:

  • the crab swarm comes in at the same time as the tide, and you're fighting waist-high crabs in chest-deep water
  • the party is fleeing the crabs, but is then forced by the tide to shelter on a rocky island before they can shake the pursuit

Fortunately, the map is littered with high spots that should allow the party lots of opportunity to scout out their surroundings and avoid danger. (This scenario contains a compressed version of my take on how far you can see on a hex map.)

As I finished the writing, the coral consorts became my favorite part. The implications of these srange marriages transformed the Salt Lords into something more interesting: an ethically neutral but alien presence in the scenario, inviting the party (or whomever) to take a terrifying step into a different world.

The coral consorts themselves make very interesting maguffins: imagine having to go and talk to a knowledgeable NPC somewhere, but learning that they married the sea and need to be found on the slopes of the Salt Lords' citadel. Good luck!

As always, thank you to my patrons on Patreon, who graciously support this project! Because of your generosity, the text and art pieces are released under CC-BY-NC 4.0, for your own non-commercial use.

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EDIT: Some additional hooks!

Wealthy relatives of the doomed expedition members want their bodies (or heirlooms) reclaimed from wherever they wound up

The players need to contact an NPC to learn something, last known to have retired to Vincha. However, she 'married the sea' and is now somewhere on the slopes of the citadel

The other end of the inland sea (beyond the citadel) is a prosperous area. If a reliable way to cross the sea (possibly with the blessing of the Salt Lords) can be found, an important trade route could open up

Crabs have been attacking Vincha; myths say that they serve the Salt Lords' will, and that when they are happy the crabs are kept at bay

From the top of the citadel, when the clouds part, you can see anywhere in the world (or so say the songs)

Every river for a thousand leagues drains into the flats. The Salt Lords know everything that happens along their lengths; they have the answers you seek.

Too long have the Salt Lords stolen the vulnerable, taking them away to marry the sea. Put an end to it.

On the south shore of the inland sea is a tower. Well, more of a ruin than a tower. It stood watch at the mouth of a pass that reaches all the way to Urchlund.

News of the tides restarting has reached Fair Riot, and it's said a Duke is coming to survey lands that he claims are his. Now, maybe they are and maybe they aren't, but a map of the flats would surely be worth good coin and a Duke's favor besides.

In my nan's time, people used to go out on the flats looking for oysters. She said there was an old well on one of the rocks with water you can drink. That would be an incredibly useful staging area for further exploration.

Oysters out on the flats would be an incredible boon to Vincha, if only it were safe. The baron has a sack of silver for whomever can lure those crabs away and deal with them for good.


  1. brilliant as usual :). It has a poetic vibe. If i bring it to my table, i'll create some group of lowlands adventurer and thieves, to ambush the PC or be ambushed. Or to just befriend around a sea wreck fire, on a island refuge during the tide...Thanks for this inspiration.

  2. When I run this I'm adding a "rescue a consort" mission. Long ago, lost to the records of history, the local lord's family made a 'deal' (or just figured out how to make the situation profit them) such that they provide a selection of consorts, and then once a consort is taken the Salt Lords bring the tide in for so long as the consorts they've taken last. (The local lords known colloquially as the 'Salt Lords' harvest the caustic salts and that is what has made them rich and powerful.)

    At the last wedding the Lord himself was "married"... now the lost Lord's Grandson is sending the adventures in to find him, bring him back (in whatever state he's in) for a reward. The Lord's family honour/power/whatever is at stake, Grandfather must be either returned to the living or interred in the family crypt...

  3. Unless I'm mistaken, this is a new adventure that wasn't in the printed book, right?
    Would you have plans to compile your new creations in a similar volume?
    Thank you for these fantastic places; I've used some of them over the past months, and players love them.

    1. One day, when there are enough, there may be another compilation. Things are much slower now than they were before, so it may he a while yet. :)

      Glad to hear you're having fun with them!

  4. Unless I'm mistaken, this is a new adventure that wasn't in the printed book, right?
    Would you have plans to compile your new creations in a similar volume?
    Thank you for these fantastic places; I've used some of them over the past months, and players love them.

    1. Thank you, Fabien! Yes, you are correct: the compendium has adventures up to #51, the newer ones aren't in there. One day I would love to make a second book! But that will take me a while. :)

  5. I just ran this using OSE. The players were making their last stand, facing the tide and the crabs. A couple very lucky rolls slayed a crab, peircing it through it at the eyes and shattering the morale of the group! This meant it's meagre 30 xp was times by 50 and the fighter could level up. After this they found the clam boat and rather than waiting til morn, they used the tides withdraw to propel themselves past the castle unseen! They turned the problems of the adventure into tools of empowerment and escape!