Hooray! Now uh . . . what’s The Sunken Pyramid?
Well, to answer that, we must go back to 1981. (No, seriously!)
That was the year one of my absolute favorite original AD&D modules came out (and, in my humble opinion, one of the best adventures ever produced): U1 The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh. I LOVED that adventure! I ran it for my gaming group, followed by its two sequels, U2 Danger at Dunwater and U3 The Final Enemy. We had an absolute blast!
Many, many years later, I discovered a National Geographic article about the Yonaguni Monument, a submerged rock formation that looks like stepped, pyramid-like monoliths off the coast of the Ryukyu Islands in Japan. What’s more, according to the article, scientists and researchers can’t agree on whether these were natural formations or something at least partially made by human hands. The article absolutely fascinated me.
What does this all have to do with The Sunken Pyramid?
Stay with me! As you might imagine, I started to think about how such an interesting and unique underwater structure could be used in an adventure. My mind went back to The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, and the two follow ups. In that great trilogy of modules, the main adversary turns out to be (spoiler alert!) a tribe of sahuagin. Bingo, I had my connection!
I really dove in (sorry!) and began researching everything I could find about sahuagin. I compiled copious notes about their earliest appearances in D&D, the origins of their creation, even the probable meaning of the name itself. From this initial research, I then began to concoct an entire sahuagin culture, customs, religion, history…suffice it to say I got VERY into it!
When writing The Sunken Pyramid, I also made sure to work in a bunch of little homages to The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh into the adventure, including White Moon Cove, the small sea-side town that opens the adventure (and can serve as a base of operations for the PCs for many adventures to come…
One critical aspect of sahuagin culture I created was the cal’mecac (“sayings of the old”), an elaborate amalgam of sacred religious teachings, cultural knowledge, and important historical lessons, all distilled into cryptic religious verse which the sahuagin pass on from generation to generation. Here are a few snippets from the cal’mecac to whet (wet!) your appetite:
Where is your heart?
You give your blood to each thing in turn
Carrying, you do not carry it…
To give your blood is to give your soul
To spill blood from your enemy is to know strength
There is much blood to spill—everyone is your enemy
Blinding light and flowing dark,
Life, death, strength, weakness, blood and stone
From the Time of the Seven Caves,
to the Time of the End and all is for us!
No one comes into the world to stay
Not stone, not gods, not bone or sea
Yet blood is eternal,
Soul and forever, flowing like fire in the deep.
Battle is the song of a thousand cries
Let yours sound loudest
Your beating heart the most sought-after prize
To give it, the most sacred gift
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