Sea adventures in Dungeons and Dragons don’t have to be monotonous. Mix things up with 100 Dungeons and Dragons water encounters to make the time fly while on the high seas. You’ll be singing sea shanties before you know it!
You’ll note that few of these lead immediately to “roll initiative.” Instead, these are meant to add intrigue, introduce an important NPC, or perhaps serve as a red herring. And, you know, some actually will lead to the words “roll initiative,” so that’s nice.
You can read through them to work as inspiration for encounters you want to spring on your players, or you can roll 2d10 and take your campaign off the rails by letting chance dictate. Regardless, enjoy.
100 Dungeons and Dragons Water Encounters
1. The port of your town is suddenly filled coast to coast with floating gelatinous cubes! What do you do?!!?
2. A small rain cloud hangs over the party and follows the PCs wherever they go. Worse than being perpetually wet, it is making the PCs sad!
3. While traveling among a coast, an aquatic humanoid is tossed onto the beach with the words, “You are forbidden to ever enter the sea again. If you do, you die!”
4. A multitude of fish suddenly begin walking out from the sea on their fins.
5. A local village was situated just adjacent to a large waterfall, which suddenly and with no warning, just dried up. But you discover a sinkhole at the top of the waterfall and wonder where the water is being diverted to and why.
6. Water starts gushing from an ancient stone, creating a new river.
7. An aqueous form rise up out of the water until it collapses back into the waves.
8. A storm begins to roll in, and the dark clouds take the shape of a recognizable skull and crossbones.
9. A haphazardly-crafted raft lazily floats alongside the boat. Is anybody on it? Where did they come from?
10. As you pass a large body of water, a maiden rises from the depths with the offer of a mighty weapon.
11. As players row a tint boat to a nearby island, they are assaulted from above by Strix.
12. A creature rises up out of the water and snags a bird as it flies overhead. Flying animal companions beware!
13. A murder of crows appears and swarms the Crow’s Nest. They won’t seem to leave!
14. An earthquake triggers a tsunami which is now approaching the boat!
15. You wake up in the bottom of a sinking ship, with none of your gear and no memory on how you get there. But the water level seems to be rising.
16. Remnants of a shipwreck float in the water. As you pick through the wreckage, you see a survivor clinging to one of the broken boards. It’s revealed that they are a survivor of a wreck that happened hundreds of years ago.
17. While navigating during the night, the moon suddenly winks out. One by one the stars follow, leaving the ship in complete darkness.
18. A huge manta ray flies over the surface of the water. A goblin sorcerer laughs aboard its back, waving a magical staff in apparent glee.
19. A crewmate spots a colorful reef ahead. As you approach, the reef appears to be made of glowing crystal.
20. While you are working on a ship, you can’t but help but keep finding little adorable creatures stowing away. And as the full moon approaches they seem to be…growing!
21. A whale breaches nearby before a hulking shadow erupts from the surface, holding the whale in its clawed hand like a small toy. They could easily destroy your ship in a single swipe, but why don’t they?
22. Overnight, the ship’s flag has been transformed into that of another nation. Another ship approaches…
23. Ahead, it seems as though the ocean water has turned to ice. But the weather is so hot!
24. You’ve stumbled into an island that houses the hoard of an ancient black dragon. Will you attempt to steal it, or try and make friends with a wealthy ally?
25. The party walks near a lake only to find a Druid freaking out, yelling, “It’s wet, it’s wet! HOLY F@&$ING SH*T IT’S WET!”
26. After many weeks at sea, it seems like you’ve finally reached your destination as its spotted on the horizon. Unfortunately, it’s just a mirage created by a nefarious sea witch.
27. There’s an entire civilization living out on a sprawling flotilla made of other ships, boats, and detritus. They are absolutely thriving out here, with agriculture and everything they could ever need!
28. A mysterious obsidian pyramid pokes out of the water. It could be a burial site, a source of power, or even a wayfinding marker.
29. At night, sailors see a glowing light out on the water. It’s an ancient angler fish, luring ships with their light to feed their young.
30. As your boat is tossed to and fro on the angry waves at the height of the storm, you see an figure approaching ON the water. It bids you to step out of the boat and join it.
31. An island suddenly appears out of nowhere. STOP THE BOAT!
32. You come across a magical aquatic theater where the sea creatures use their brilliant colors and inherent luminescence to conduct a miraculous rendition of a famous play.
33. There’s an island up ahead that doesn’t appear on any recent nautical maps that you might have. It does, however, show up on much older maps.
34. Living fish start raining from the sky.
35. You encounter a famous shipwreck but discover the cleric captain of the ship is now honored as a god by the native people. And that power has gone to her crazed head!
36. A shimmering island isn’t actually an island at all, but a connected bloom of gigantic jellyfish!
37. While engaged with a terrible kraken, it suddenly gets sucked through the primary plane into a different one. Perhaps the Elemental Plane of Water?
38. A flock of seagulls descends on the ship, speaking the Common tongue. They are quite civilized and familiar with your customs. Things get even stranger when they request a knife and fork for the hospitable meal you provide them.
39. The ship runs into the sky, tearing a hole in what turns out to be a gigantic wall. A set of stairs is nearby, marked overhead with the word, “EXIT”.
40. Livestock have been going missing from a lakeside town for some time, but recently, people have joined the missing. After your first night in town, the square is soaked – although no rain – and an important figure is missing.
41. Is that boat WALKING across the water? Like, with legs and stuff?
42. A strong wind picks up, carrying the ship with unnatural speed! Behind you, a cloud of air elementals spurs you onwards, in the direction of their choosing.
43. A blizzard picks up, causing whiteout conditions.
44. Some of the cargo you’re transporting mysteriously disappears. It couldn’t have been thrown overboard, as you would have heard the splash. Where did it go?
45. Everyone on board is actually a smuggler, except the party. And you can see authorities waiting on the dock as the ship approaches.
46. A huge stone fortress rises out atop a small island. It seems to be completely deserted, except there is fresh food in the cellars, and the coals of the fire are still glowing.
47. You spot a non-native creature prowling through the island, like a polar bear in a tropical climate. And are those penguins?
48. A group of merfolk invite you to their underwater city.
49. Dragonriders approach from the north, flying the banner of an infamous dragon. When they reach the ship, they reveal themselves to be defectors, but the Dragon King can’t be far behind!
50. It’s been raining for over a month. As the river level has risen, one kooky old farmer has taken to building a boat and he has a vision to load two of every creature in the Monster Manual in it. He just needs adventurers to help him complete his mission.
51. A pod of a hundred dolphins tears by the boat, heading in the opposite direction with all haste. Are they running from something or towards something?
52. It’s a dragon turtle!
53. An intricate archway made of coral rises out of the water, towering a hundred feet overhead. You can see the ocean floor through it on the other side.
54. All of the ship’s instruments begin acting sporadically and any mechanical devices aboard malfunction and spin wildly. Even the spyglass can’t seem to be unfogged.
55. You approach an island that appears to be paradise. All manner of wild fruit, abundant wildlife, and plenty of natural resources where one could live comfortably for the rest of your days.
56. After hiring a boat to take you across the sea, you notice that the boat groans more than you would expect. And don’t those jagged timbers look a lot like teeth?
57. A ghostly apparition wearing a half-crescent necklace appears along the shore. If you look away from it and then back again, it changes position. The ghost refuses to acknowledge anyone until high tide.
58. A talking parrot swoops onto the scene, squawking a warning about pirates being turned into winged creatures. Calms down when given a cracker.
59. You find a swathe of abandoned fishing nets, with something trapped and glittering within.
60. A weird cadre of “followers” have come together. When the women folk all sing, it rains. Men. Hallelujah?
61. The island behind the boat seems to be getting closer and closer, despite the fact that you’re not even moving in that direction.
62. An angry deity is hurling massive stones and boulders into the ocean, slowing creating a new chain of islands. They should be stopped! Except the real estate might be worthwhile…
63. You encounter a group of traveling merfolk merchants, who have trained wildlife like whales and dolphins to carry their wares and conduct business on their behalf.
64. A ship approaches under a plague-ridden banner, warning others to stay away. But they’re running low on food and supplies.
65. A bright beam of golden light is being emitted from the sea floor all the way to the sky. Is it a quest marker? Is it treasure? Something else?
66. A sea mining operation goes horribly awry when a guttural roar erupts from the dig site. Now the workers refuse to continue under the fear of who or what they’ve angered.
67. I guess the sea just…ends? There’s a huge waterfall on the end of the world! Or is it just a bit of illusory magic?
68. There’s movement coming from the barrels and crates of a shipwreck. Most of them contain chickens,. but not all of them.
69. An exceptionally smart dolphin requests assistance with learning magic.
70. A fabled hero comes floating into harbor with only the top of the mast visible. His eclectic jewelry and heavy eyeliner only draw you into his captivating persona. And when he pulls out a weathered map? You’re in.
71. An army approaches on top of the water, riding majestic horses as if it were land. Their queen is among them, and she requires your help.
72. SHARK ATTACK!
73. During a particularly relaxing afternoon at the beach, the waves suddenly stop moving and the surface of the water goes completely smooth.
74. A riverboat captain plans on opening a river-borne casino, but the rivers are currently patrolled by bandits and n’er-do’wells. That’s not good for business.
75. Inside a clam is a magical weapon of great power, but the clam snaps shut whenever anybody gets too close and it’s shut too tight to open. Maybe a hungry giant would like a seafood night?
76. While fishing, all of the rods aboard get a bite at the exact same time. Is it a school of fish or one GIANT fish?
77. You wake up in the morning to find an exquisite sand castle on the beach. Hey, doesn’t it look exactly like the castle up the road? EXACTLY. I wonder what might happen if water gets to it…
78. Creeping seaweed is advancing along the beach towards the village at an alarming rate.
79. A treasure map ends in a large hole that contains only a single, rolled-up piece of parchment that says, “Beat you to it.”
80. You arrive beside a lake and see a large crate with a sign that says, “Visitors, take one if you please. And enter.” Inside the crate are helms, and you discover that you can breathe underwater while wearing one. Then, you notice a town underneath the surface.
81. Huge fish begin swimming alongside the ship. At first it seems like the fishing will be easy, but why are these fish so comically large?
82. You see a swirling whirlpool on the surface of the water. As you get closer, you see that it is surrounding a strange set of stairs leading down, below the depths.
83. A group of tortles challenges you to a friendly game of bowling in exchange for half of your larder. If you win, they’ll guide you back on course.
84. Perfectly spherical balls of water in various sizes are rolling across the tops of the waves. Every once in a while, one collapses back into the water and a faint giggle can be heard.
85. Every night the ghostly echoes of a sad sea shanty echoes throughout the ship’s hold. None of the sailors aboard seem to know the cause of it.
86. Apparently the previous “owner” of this ship didn’t actually own the ship, so it legally wasn’t theirs to sell. And now the real owners want their boat back!
87. A single woman sails by, the only apparent sailor on a large galleon. Rumor has it that a ghost crew helps her sail it.
88. There’s a square patch of water that doesn’t provide any reflection to the night sky above. If a mirror is thrown into the area, the location of a secret treasure is revealed.
89. You pass by a boat that has no sails, but has an impressive flock of birds instead. It seems strange that these birds could pull such a vessel.
90. You’re invited to attend a swordfish tournament, where the finest seafaring swashbucklers compete to see who has the finest swordsmanship.
91. Convinced their boat is haunted, the party gets this vessel at a steal of a price. Is it too good to be true?
92. Overnight, all of the ships in the dock become overladen with barnacles and sea detritus. None of the boats can leave because they’re essentially cemented to the dock!
93. An astrologer needs to be in the middle of the ocean to accurately read the stars and read your future. Once you get out there, however, the clouds don’t seem to cooperate.
94. You find a strange golden coin in the shallows of the docks. It is marked “37/100”, and now you need to find its currency companions.
95. There’s a hole in the middle of an island that goes right underneath to the ocean. If it gets plugged up, the ocean water begins to rise…
96. The water spirits are angry at the disregard for the sanctity of the seas. Between the debris left by shipwrecks, the squabbling and fighting on the high seas, and the general pollution people leave behind, they’re forming a blockade around a major port.
97. A bottle gets pulled up from the sea with a small note inside. It’s dated in the future and warns about terrifying sea monster that comes onto land and wreaks havoc. The date is in six days.
98. The lighthouse operator is out sick, but the shores still need tending.
99. A local seafood restaurant is finding that all of their fish tastes like beef. And the butcher can’t seem to get the stench of fish out of their shop!
100. A ghostly ship approaches, bringing terrible weather and frightening cold along with it.
Enjoy. Much thanks to the Nerds on Earth crew who teamed up to help compile this list. If you want more ideas, follow @origamigoblin on Twitter, check out the work of Johnn Four, or visit the nice little town of Sandpoint.