20 Things to Find in a Shipwreck

Hidden below the waves, shipwrecks are often a rich source of loot for wandering adventurers. Shipwrecks are not your typical dungeon, but often they receive very little design time—instead the GM focusing on the cool monsters lurking therein and the unique challenges associated with adventuring underwater.

By Maciej Zagorski (The Forge Studios)

By Maciej Zagorski (The Forge Studios)


That’s a shame, as shipwrecks can be interesting in their own right. Use the table below, to generate minor items of interest the party might find in a shipwreck.

  1. Long fronds of seaweed grow over a large swath of the hull and waft gently in the current.
  2. Splintered wood lies about the shipwreck for some distance in all directions. The ship’s sail—tangled about the sunken vessel’s mast—hangs over the ship like a burial shroud.
  3. Schools of small fish swim about the wreck. At the party’s approach, they dart away leaving the surrounding waters suspiciously empty.
  4. The bloated, decomposing body of a crewman lies trapped behind a partially closed door. Investigation reveals a sea chest has fallen over the unfortunate’s legs pinning him in place.
  5. Several articles of clothing float about the chamber, moving gently in the subtle current. A nearby chest stands open and empty against one wall.
  6. The ocean currents have washed a lot of sand into this area, covering the floor.
  7. The wood of the hull is splintered and battered in several spots as if something had tried to smash its way through.
  8. Before the shipwreck, this area was used as an ad-hoc storage area. The shipwreck has scattered the boxes and barrels about the floor creating a field of debris. Explorers must clamber or swim over the resultant obstruction.
  9. This door is shut. Something has fallen behind it, wedging it firmly closed. Consequently, it is harder to open than normal. Once it is forced open the explorers discover an overturned barrel.
  10. The stark white bones of some large fish—perhaps a whale or gigantic shark—lie draped across the wreck.
  11. A barrel of red wine is leaking almost imperceptibly into the water. The escaping wine has formed a faint red-hued cloud in the surrounding water—paranoid adventurers may suspect it of having a sinister origin or purpose.
  12. The bloated corpse of a crewman floats against the ceiling of this area. A multitude of small fish nibbles at its extremities.
  13. Here, someone—or something—has smashed an axe into a wooden wall splintering it badly. The axe is deeply embedded in the wood and is difficult to remove. The axe head is rusty; if someone tries to pull it out, its haft suddenly comes loose.
  14. When the ship sunk, its red and white sail floated away and snagged on a nearby outcrop of rock.  Caught there it oscillates gently in the current.
  15. When the ship sunk it went down bow first. Consequently, the bow is smashed and half buried in the sand. Splintered wood and other debris thrown clear of the wreck covers the surrounding area.
  16. The ship’s mast yet stands proud. Although the sail has long since been lost much of the rigging is still intact. A motionless dolphin is entangled in the rigging near the top of the mast.
  17. A fishing net lies draped over the vessel. In places the large net is torn, enabling explorers to pass through it to reach the sunken ship within.
  18. Parts of the vessel’s hull are scorched and burnt, although this damage was not enough to sink the ship. Investigations reveal the fire seems to have started in the galley.
  19. Several barrels chained up against the ship’s hull remain upright and watertight. Breaking the chain holding them in place is simple; getting the heavy barrels (each containing wine) to the surface is much harder.
  20. The vessel has come to rest on the side of a steep hill. Currently, the suction of the sand holds it in place. However, the sand’s hold on the vessel is precarious. If the ship pulls free—perhaps because powerful magic is used within or if a lot of damage is dealt to the hull—the wreck begins to slide down hill and further underwater.

Related Articles

GM’s Miscellany: Dungeon Dressing

If you enjoy the table above and like dungeon dressing, check out GM’s Miscellany: Dungeon Dressing—Endzeitgeist’s choice as the number one book of 2014! Crammed with over 300 pages of information and charts designed to bring your dungeon alive, GM’s Miscellany: Dungeon Dressing is an essential part of any GM’s arsenal.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

One thought on “20 Things to Find in a Shipwreck