First, I really wanted to find a cool underwater adventure picture or gif, but nothing worked. So, I got frustrated and went with Sebastian from ‘The Little Mermaid’. Okay . . . Moving on. This is a simple post about a subject that came to mind when I was thinking about adventure types. There are many times when water is involved in a story because characters need to travel. You have rivers, oceans, and lakes that can stand in the way of progress. The journey can be a grand adventure in itself, especially if you can’t stay on the surface. We don’t go under the waves as much as above, so what happens if the only way forward is to submerge?
- If your characters are underwater without a ship then you need to explain how they can function. This sounds like a duh, but it really isn’t. Not only breathing needs to be considered. It’s hard to move underwater and talking isn’t possible without special abilities or gear. Don’t just toss them in and expect the audience to be okay with there being no preparation for the inevitable problems.
- Magical gear for traveling without a ship is a good way to handle the issues that #1 went over. Do NOT have the equipment abruptly get pulled out by one of the heroes as if everyone carries it around. The only time this can work is if they are well aware of the crossing and one of them has a way to procure what is typically specialized gear. To have the bard suddenly hand out water-breathing rings that they picked up for ‘just such an occasion’ doesn’t work with most adults. Consider utilizing some foreshadowing here or even having them stumble onto those who attempted the adventure earlier, but died. It’s still a stretch with that last one, but easier to swallow.
- Communication underwater is a challenge for those that live on land. Magical gear and spells aside, there is an easier way to handle this. This would be sign language and facial expressions. Pointing, gesturing, frowning, head movements, and everything else that comes with verbal communication can still be used in the absence of words. It isn’t that difficult to do either if you keep it simple. There’s no need to research real sign language. Make your own signals or stick to universal ones. I’d recommend the second option more because everyone can translate those.
- Research what it’s like underwater to get a basic understanding of the mechanics. The pressure and resistance to movement are essential. Visibility isn’t the same as above and you need to get a sense of how far down the sun can go in your world. Go over a few ocean maps can give you a sense of how currents travel across the globe. This one might be the most important since it can dictate which way is easiest to travel for the heroes. Do they go with or against the tide?
- This one is fairly simple: Remember that things get wet and react to water. Pulling out anything made of paper underwater typically means it’ll get destroyed. Long hair will not stay in position unless bound in some fashion. Drinking from a flask means sucking in water and spoiling whatever is inside. Same goes for food because the character will inhale their surroundings. Projectile weapons will meet resistance if they aren’t propelled by enough force. Just keep all this in mind.
- If you are using an underwater craft then do some research on submarines or sea creatures to get a sense of how it can move. Magic can counter a lot, but you want to demonstrate some level of knowledge here. The ship needs to be airtight, handle pressure, give some visibility for steering, and being a home for the crew. Rapidly rising to the surface has negative effects too, so don’t think this allows heroes to escape quickly.
- Let’s get to the big one. SEA MONSTERS! Go wild, but remember that they’re underwater. Feathers and fur can be hindrances. It’s very cold, so blubber or some other form of temperature control may be needed at least in your head. Don’t be afraid to make an amalgamation of real creatures. Bioluminescence is a trick to consider when you want to go deep too. Finally, not every sea monster needs tentacles or shark parts.