Impressions of 50 Fathoms Explorer’s Edition

So I just finished reading my first book of 2017. I had picked it up early last year, but I held off reading it because I was playing in a 50 Fathoms game. We finished it up in the middle of December, and when I finished reading the Dresden Files Fate Accelerated, I started this one. I found that I enjoyed the setting a lot while playing in it, and now that I have finished reading it, my impression is just as positive.

50 Fathoms

This is the opening chapter. It covers the basic setting, including some of the information on what lead to the driving issue for the campaign. We also get some new races to play including the Atani (glider-folk), the Doreen (dolphin people), Grael, Kehana (fish men), the Kraken (squid men, and my personal favorite), the Masaquani (the dominate race), the Half-Ugak (savage half-orc like people), and the Scurillians (Crab people). There are also what are called Visitors which are plain humans. The difference between Masaquani and humans is that instead of a free edge, the Masaquani get a bonus attribute point.

There are a selection of new edges and hindrances to go with a seafaring setting, as well as gear and ships from the appropriate time frames. See humans are being brought to this world by a supernatural force, and they could be from any time period between 1400 and 1815. So while the natives didn’t know or have guns, some of the later arrivals from earth brought the knowledge of them, and so over the last thirteen years or so they have spread far and wide.

Setting Rules

There are a number of setting rules that are introduced or expanded upon for this setting. We get some expanded rules on armor and swimming, fighting below decks, heroism (which is a re-named version of Born a Hero, but you can only take an edge from the Seasoned rank). We also get expanded rules on Navigation, ship maintenance, and crew upkeep.

We finish this chapter with some expanded rules on ship battles, carrying cargo for trade between ports, and whaling. All of these things are important for a game that focuses on sailing to different ports and fighting pirates like this setting does. None of these rules are terribly complicated.

## Caribdus Gazeteer
This is as the name says a list of locations that you can travel to and basic information on what everyone knows can be found there. My only complaint about it is that the locations are alphabetized instead of grouped by island and alphabetized. It makes it somewhat more difficult to find what is know about the port when you are trying to decide where to sail next (you have to keep referring back to the map to see what is nearby).


Magic in Caribdus for players is all based around the four elements (earth, air, water, and fire). When you select an arcane background, you must pick one of the elements, and as you advance ranks you can pick additional elements with an edge. Each element gives you a specific selection of powers available, so a Water mage can cast heal, but an Earth mage can’t. Also each additional element gives you a -1 penalty to your spellcasting rolls (at least until you master them all and become an archmage). We also get a couple of extra spells for sailing ships (Becalm, Mend, Settle Storm, Storm, and Zephyr) and a couple of miscellaneous spells Water Walk and Quake.

The Thousand Isles

This is the first of the game master sections. It contains a detailed history of how the current trouble began as well as a more in-depth description of the locations that can be visited by your crew. Most if not all of these places have at least one savage tale that takes place there with the page reference. Each region also gets an encounter table filled with things that might be encountered while traveling through that region. We also in this section get the secret of the Octopons in this chapter.


This chapter starts with an adventure generator, and follows that with some tables that are used to generate magic items that could be found during any of the adventures generated previously, or one of Savage Tales or Plot Point Campaign adventures that are in the next chapter.

Savage Tales

This chapter contains all of the Savage Tales or Plot Points for the campaign. There are a number of really good adventures in this chapter. I particularly liked The Prince, Thieves in the Night, Fish Tale, The Dark Tower, and The Black Prince.


This chapter contains the various new creatures and a couple of important characters that your crew might encounter. For the most part I was not impressed by them. They just didn’t strike me as adding much to the setting or the game. The only one that I did like was the Octopons. The rest just seemed to lack any particular flavor.

All in all, I did like this book a lot, and now that I have read it, I see some of the places that our game diverged from the expected outcome. For example we kept Teresa the Red alive. In part by flying on Dragon back straight to Torquemada’s stronghold and breaking her out quickly. The other thing that ended up being a little anti-climactic was that the first of the Sea Hags died in the opening volley and none of them lasted more than about three rounds. The cannon dice were with us that night with multiple explosions on just about every damage roll. Still fun was had by all.


Author: Hours without Sleep

I am a professional software tester, who has an interest in programming, computers, role-playing games, history, and reading in general. This is my third attempt at keeping a blog, and I am going to try putting all of my thoughts in one place, and see how it goes.

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