The Swamp Is Calling: d12 Swampy Tips

The Swamp Is Calling: d12 Swampy Tips

Do you have any upcoming swamp encounters or adventures? To celebrate my newest GM Cheat Sheet for swamps that I released on the weekend ($3 on DTRPG, free to Wizards of Adventure), here are a dozen swampy tips to enhance your campaign.

Play Up the Atmosphere

Swamps are often associated with mystery, danger, and unpredictability. To create an immersive experience, focus on the swampy atmosphere. Describe the thick mist, eerie sounds of water creatures in the water, and the smell of decay.

Feature its Unique Terrain

Swamps are difficult terrain in both a rules and fictional sense. Add deep mud, murky water, and tangled roots. Use terrain to increase the challenge of skill checks, movement, communication, and navigation.

Flesh Out Your CombatScapes

Scale up combat difficulty with hazards such as quicksand, poisonous plants, explosive gas, and dangerous beasts. Block line of site with mist. Make ambushing the party easier with noises and smells.

Add Local Lore

Swamps often have a rich history and local lore, with stories of witches, ghosts, and lost treasure. For example, the Skunk ape, the Rougarou, and the Bell Witch. Incorporate Legends & Lore to add depth and intrigue to your adventures. Use swamps for interesting side quests and encounters such as monster hunts, treasure hunts, rescues, and information gathering missions.

Use Conditions

Swamps are often hot, humid, and full of insects. Incorporating environmental effects like heat exhaustion, dehydration, and insect bites can add a level of realism and challenge to your game. In addition, poison, disease, curses, and weird magic can add temporary conditions to increase the danger.

Play the Resource Depletion Game

Swamps can be inhospitable places, with limited resources like clean water and food, lack of dry wood for cooking and purifying water, and even depriving the party of dry land to make camp on. Track party resources and use this to create additional challenges.

Remove the Safety Net of Civilization

Swamps are often isolated, with few people or settlements nearby. This can make it harder for players to get help if they run into trouble, and can create a sense of isolation and vulnerability.

Sailor’s Warning

If your swamp has larger bodies of water, you can incorporate nautical elements into your adventure, such as boats, rafts, or canoes. These provide additional challenges and opportunities for exploration. Brush up on your drowning and swimming rules, and feel free to scale the difficulty up with unclean, debris-laden waters.

Make Them Magical

Swamps in our world are sometimes associated with voodoo and witchcraft. Incorporate such magical elements into your game to add even more mystique and intrigue, design cool monsters, and serve up supernatural hazards and obstacles.

Add Swamp Dwellers

Swamps are often home to reclusive, isolated, or unusual communities and NPCs. They might offer a place to resupply and get a good night’s rest, or they could be Room III style tricks and dangers. Think about how your swamp might affect architecture, such as stilt houses or structures made from strange swamp materials like peat, sawgrass, bamboo, and tule. Also noodle on what swampfolk might eat, use for tools, and do for recreation.

Make Every Swamp Unique

I used to have a simplistic notion of what a swamp was. But it turns out there are different types of swamps including tropical, mangrove, freshwater, and saltwater. Every time you drop a swamp onto the game table, make it different from previous ones. Change up the environment, flora, fauna, and sentient denizens.

Add Hidden Secrets

Saving my favorite tip for last, swamps are often full of hidden secrets, such as ancient ruins, fallen adventuring parties, lost technology, and buried treasure. Swamps emerge, shift, and recede, so you can top almost any dungeon with a soupy bog just waiting to be discovered. I think watching Thundaar the Barbarian growing up is what’s made swamps always a special adventure place for me.

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If you’re interested in getting a 5 Room Dungeon generator for rapid swamp adventure creation, check out this 3-minute video walkthrough of my template.