Something that has been left mostly a deep mystery (pun intended) up to this point in 1879 is the Aquatic Saurids. They’ve been described as vicious, fiercely territorial, and very tough opponents to deal with, but the specifics as to how have been left mostly up to the imagination. While we’re still leaving a lot of information about them hidden for now when it comes to their society and deeper motivations, we do have some information on their resources, equipment, and tactics that should help make it a bit clearer how much of a threat they are. So for today’s preview, I want to give you a little taste of what’s in store.
When we were writing this section of the book, we had a couple of themes we wanted to keep in mind and emphasize, as well as tie into one another. Number one, we wanted to keep the Aquatics enigmatic. Even though we were giving some additional information about them, for the most part we wanted that information to raise more questions than answers. The deepest parts of the ocean are mysterious to us even to this day, and that theme is very much present in the writing. Even though the British have been dealing with the Aquatics for a few years now, the Samsut for many generations, and the land-dwelling Saurids for thousands of years, none of them really have a solid grasp on what they’re truly capable of. There is only a surface level of knowledge about them (again, pun intended), and a large part of why they’re such a looming threat is precisely because so much about them is unknown.
Second theme is the weirdness factor. Have you ever looked at pictures of creatures that live in the deep areas of the ocean? There’s no other way to put it, they’re just plain weird. It is an environment so extremely different from our own, it’s only natural that life would adapt in very different ways as a result. And that’s just Earth’s oceans. Take into account that we’re dealing with oceanic creatures on an alien world that already has some strange critters running around, and you’re getting weird on top of weird, so that needed to be reflected in their nature.
Third is brutality. Not only does this fit the previous writing about them, but it just makes sense for the Aquatics tactically. They’re territorial and xenophobic, they come from an environment of extremes that is completely different from the surface, and as such have had to adapt in ways that are often considered frightening to the people they’re fighting, not to mention they have a distinct mobility advantage when moving in their natural environment. The smart thing to do is to lean into that, use your mobility to ambush, use psychological warfare to intimidate and shock your opponents whenever possible, and create an aura of fear about yourself to keep people away from your territory in the first place. After a fight, you want to leave some small amount of your opponents alive but in really bad shape so they’re both as terrified and terrifying as possible, so they can spread your influence inland without having to leave the water. Therefore, you want your appearance, techniques, tactics, equipment, and resources to be as brutal as possible.
So, what exactly does this result in? Well, let me give you a couple of quotes from the book to provide some highlights:
As with most Saurid, the Deep Aquatics do not make
use of any metals or materials that would produce pollutants, however they
have made exceptional use of bone and chitin. One particularly interesting
method they have come up with, dubbed “Ossurite” by the engineering
corps, is to break bone into small pieces and mix it with a kind of resin.
The resulting material is extremely versatile, as the amount of bone in
the mix changes the strength and flexibility, and the whole thing can be
cast into appropriate shapes. While versatile, Ossurite must be frequently
immersed in sea water, or the resin begins to degrade. Interestingly, and
somewhat disturbingly, it appears blood makes a suitable substitute.
“They use bone for every thing: spears, swords, armour, you name it. Lord knows where they get it all from; must be some huge beasties under the waves.”
– Sergeant Gordon Carlisle, 17th Lancers
Of the Salt Water Aquatic Warriors we have faced, none are as
dangerous, nor embody their way of war so much as the Stalker. Stalkers
tend to act alone, though occasionally in groups of no more than three.
Their objectives are assassination, terror, and slaughter. A single Stalker
is easily capable of annihilating an entire platoon, but they prefer not to
engage in direct combat, instead relying on stealth and terror tactics. They
will pick off their targets one by one to instill the maximum fear. They
will target villages, killing the entire population over a few nights and often
mutilating the corpses, leaving them hanging skinned and gutted, taking
The creatures referred to as tritons are not strictly the same as other
entities in this section, in that they were originally Saurid which have
been modified in some way, either by grafting parts onto them (potentially
replacing body parts that have been lost) or to “improve” the Saurid,
possibly by some form of forced mutation. The most common traits we
have seen so far include additional limbs, tentacle arms, claws and blades
made of bone, venom spit, the ability to breathe on land permanently,
enhanced attributes, and improved senses such as compound eyes. Many
theories abound as to the origin of the Saurids that become tritons, from
injured Saurid that require replacement limbs or eyes, to volunteers or
even criminals. Currently, the truth is unknown. It should be noted that
Salt Water Aquatic stalkers frequently have many triton modifications.
“Our people tell tales of the Deep Ones snatching up lone travelers
and lost children that have wandered too close to the water, pulling them
to the depths, warping their minds and inflicting these changes upon them
to serve as their mindless soldiers. While these are often simply used as
stories to scare disobedient children away from wandering off, it is true
that the more a triton has been modified, typically less of their mind
appears to be left. Whatever means they use to create these changes, while
they can bring great power, the cost seems to be extremely high.”
– Nyeych’o, Nicornudjavos of the Forest Tribes
There are plenty more goodies to find, including stats for the triton modifications mentioned above as well as other critters they make use of like the Cataphract Lobster and the Rifle Cephalopod, and several concoctions they make like an elixir that greatly enhances their combat ability at the expense of their minds and causing their bodies to degrade after a time, or a poison that slowly starts turning parts of the victim’s body to calcified stone. If you’ve been wanting some goodies to add some more strange, creepy, and sometimes downright horrifying elements to your game, the Aquatics may have what you’re looking for.
Have any of these in particular gotten your interest piqued? Any in particular you’re looking forward to (or dreading) having to deal with? Any story ideas coming to mind using these elements for a campaign? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below and on Discord, and we’ll catch you in the next one!