The Grinning Widow: A Ship for the Seas of the Underdark

The Grinning Widow is a ship designed for the Black Loch. In an underground sea, sails aren’t going to accomplish much, so the Widow doesn’t have any. She’s a galley, powered exclusively by rowing, with a crew of 20 oarsmen who all look like they walked out of a “skipped leg day” meme.

For defense, the Widow is armed with a ram on the bow, as well as two ballistas, one of which is a little scarier than the other. You see, I’ve been drawing the “big crossbow” ballista in my maps for a while now, but I wanted to change things up a bit, so I started searching for different ballista designs. I found a few I liked, but then– out of nowhere– this thing struts into the room. Yes please.

I don’t know if it’s real and I don’t care. It’s awesome and I decided it was definitely going in the map. I made a token of it, too, by the way, as well as the other one. You can get them both here. Personally, I’d give it around double the range and damage of a regular ballista in the DM’s Guide, but require a 2-person crew to fire it every round. And give it +1 to damage if the party names it.

So, here’s a funny story from my game. A few years ago, my players spent some time on a ship like this one, down in the underdark. The orog crew ended up teaching them Orcish, which my wife’s elven wizard got quite good at.

Several months later, she’s with a different party, being confronted by orc bandits, and she uses her knowledge of Orcish to speak with them.  The bandits look at each other and burst out laughing, which leaves the party confused. Finally, the orc leader stops laughing and tells her he’s never heard an elf in a fancy dress speaking Orcish. And he never imagined that, if he did, she’d be speaking the filthiest Orcish he’s ever heard.

They end up eating with the orcs, who tell her that everything she says is heavily laced with curse words. She hadn’t realized it, but the orog sailors taught her to speak like they do, which is very crudely, even by Orcish standards. So she knows the language, but she can’t speak it without cursing. Fortunately, orcs don’t tend to be prudish about that kind of thing, but no one expects it from someone like her.

Anyway, next up, I’ll be drawing a mountainous island settlement. And after that, I’ll be coming back to draw something else from the Black Loch. Maybe the illithid ruins? We’ll see.

Well, I’m gonna grab some coffee and start sketching some islands. Let me know what you think of the Widow!

There’s an annotated version of this map and DM notes available to patrons.

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