Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Sahuagin: Sea Devils from the Deep

Swimming with the Sharks

The sahuagin were an original creation by Steve Marsh for TSR-Era D&D. They first appeared in Supplement II: Blackmoor in 1975, and, luckily, were released as Open Gaming Content by OGL-era Wizards of the Coast. The result is that we have 1st and 2nd edition AD&D sahuagin, Pathfinder sahuagin, and the sahuagin of every WotC-era D&D to examine in defining the “iconic” sahuagin. They have even made the leap into screen-based games, such as Minecraft and Brave Frontier.

Cunning and savage fish-folk, the sahuagin hate everybody. Especially aquatic elves…perhaps by extension all elves. They attack ships. They work well with sharks, which they can command, so perhaps they don’t hate everything. The sahuagin are subject to mutation, sometimes having four arms. They are also, apparently, sometimes far more human-like and at other times far more fish- or shark-like in their skeletal structure.

Sahuagin differ from DCC’s Deep Ones in their inherent savagery, their relationship to sharks, and their tendency to mutate. So, let’s go from there are make them metal!

Scions of the Shark God

Elves have always gained their magical powers by making pacts with supernatural entities – powerful demons, nature spirits, fey lords, and eldritch beings from the dawn of time. Thousands of years ago, on the Isles of Sahua, there was a group of elves whose devotion to the shark-god, Kuawangu. They fed slaves to the sharks in His sacred pools, and in return they gained the bounty and protection of the seas.

Sahua is long gone, brought beneath the waves in a fiery volcanic cataclysm. Some say that there was a schism between the followers of jealous patrons, and that the followers of Kuawangu were transformed to carry their lord’s vengeance against all others. Some say that the elves of Sahua turned from the shark-god, and He wreaked the destruction of their islands, elevating the sharks from His sacred pools to rule the watery palaces where proud elven folk once strode. Whatever the truth may be, Sahua is gone, and the Sahuagin swarm where ancient charts once placed the island chain.

Sahuagin are tall, slender humanoids with green scaled skin, shark-like teeth, and sharp claws. They favour tridents as weapons, but, like elves, avoid the use of iron and steel. This may be an indication of their elven ancestry, or it may be because such metal rusts quickly in the salty brine of their ocean home. Their scales are darker toward their spines, fading to a green-white on their bellies. Only a careful examination can determine the gender of a non-pregnant female sahuagin, or an unaroused male.

Sahuagin Warrior: Init +2; Atk spear +3 melee (1d8+1) or claw +3 melee (1d3) or bite +1 melee (1d6); AC 12; HD 2d8+2; MV 25’ or swim 50’; Act 1d20; SP control sharks, grapple ships; SV Fort +2, Ref +3, Will +5; AL C.

Sahuagin warriors can control up to 2 Hit Dice of sharks each. They are capable of using strong lines of seaweed fibres and animal sinews to grapple ships from below. The sahuagin holding each line adds drag to the ship, slowing it until it is brought to a stop. The sahuagin then board the ship, slaughtering all aboard before sinking the hapless vessel.

Let’s Get Dangerous

Already we have a pretty serviceable fish-man monster, but the thing about sahuagin is that they are not all the same. Some sahuagin mutants have four arms, according to even the earliest sources. What if these mutations don’t stop with arms? What if they are caused by the same magic which transformed the sahuagin into what they are in the first place?

Sahuagin mutants call themselves “Scions of Kuawangu”, and claim that their mutations are the result of the Shark-God’s divine bloodline. When rolling up a small band of sahuagin, the judge may use 1d30 to see which are mutated. Alternately, roll 1d10 and use the numbers in parenthesis for whichever sahuagin you decide are mutated.

Die Roll
21-24 (1-4)
Additional pair of arms. +1 Action Die, and it is possible to wield a second trident.
25 (5)
Extended fish tail. +20’ to swim speed, -5’ to land speed.
26 (6)
Larger. Increase HD by 1d8+1. Increase melee attack rolls and damage by +1.
27 (7)
Shark-attuned. Can control double the normal HD of sharks.
28 (8)
Feral bite. Bite damage increases by +1d on the dice chain. Worse, wound continues bleeding for 1 damage each round until staunched (requires 1 minute) or magical healing is applied.
29 (9)
Psionic. Enlarged head and brain. Can make a psychic attack for 1d8 damage within 120’. Will save (DC 1d20 + sahuagin’s HD) for half. If this is rolled more than once, increase damage by +1d on the dice chain.
30 (10)
Multiple mutations. Roll 1d3. Ignore future instances of multiple mutations. Or don’t, and make a truly terrifying adversary.

For example:

Sahuagin Mutant: Init +2; Atk spear +3 melee (1d8+1) or claw +3 melee (1d3) or bite +1 melee (1d6); AC 12; HD 2d8+2; MV 25’ or swim 50’; Act 2d20; SP control sharks, grapple ships, four arms; SV Fort +2, Ref +3, Will +5; AL C. (Four arms.)

Sahuagin Mutant: Init +2; Atk spear +4 melee (1d8+2) or claw +4 melee (1d3+1) or bite +2 melee (1d6+1); AC 12; HD 3d8+3; MV 25’ or swim 50’; Act 1d20; SP control sharks (6 HD), grapple ships, psionic attack (120’ range, 1d8 dam, Will DC 13 half); SV Fort +2, Ref +3, Will +5; AL C. (Larger, shark-attuned, psionic.)

Sahuagin Mutant: Init +2; Atk spear +5 melee (1d8+3) or claw +5 melee (1d3+2) or bite +3 melee (1d10); AC 12; HD 4d8+4; MV 25’ or swim 50’; Act 1d20; SP control sharks, grapple ships; SV Fort +2, Ref +3, Will +5; AL C. (Larger twice, feral bite three times.)

Just Add Sharks

Really, what is the point of including shark-controlling adversaries without including some statistics for sharks? These are only base statistics; the judge can and should modify them to create specific species or creatures.

Shark (Small): Init +5; Atk bite +2 melee (1d5); AC 12; HD 1d8+4; MV Swim 50’; Act 1d20; SP critical hit on 19-20; SV Fort +2, Ref +5, Will +0; AL N.

Shark (Medium): Init +4; Atk bite +3 melee (1d7); AC 14; HD 2d8+6; MV Swim 50’; Act 1d20; SP critical hit on 19-20; SV Fort +4, Ref +4, Will +0; AL N.

Shark (Large): Init +2; Atk bite +5 melee (1d12); AC 14; HD 4d8+8; MV Swim 40’; Act 1d20; SP critical hit on 18-20; SV Fort +6, Ref +2, Will +0; AL N.

Shark (Very Large): Init +0; Atk bite +8 melee (1d16); AC 16; HD 8d8+16; MV Swim 40’; Act 1d24; SP critical hit on 20-24; SV Fort +10, Ref +2, Will +0; AL N.


  1. Sahuagin actually first appeared in 1975's Supplement II: BLACKMOOR. :)

  2. Me, i took some outre directions with the Sahuagin in my games, making the "Sea Devils" title into more literal fact, a civilization of exiles of the Nine Hell upon the material world.

    The Innsmouth-esque connection to elves i twisted with bits of fairy & witchcraft folklore: capturing the very young and unprotected to turn into their spawn or offering power and immortality through pacts - and transformation into Sahuagin.

    But essentially, they are the extraplanar invaders/runaways, the small fish (duh) of the 9 Hells power pyramid carving a niche of their own in the smaller pond (ouch) mortal world.

    1. That sounds cool!

      If I was going directly off "Sea Devils", though, I admit that I would be thinking Doctor Who..... :)