The "Thank You" series was inspired by my post to the late Aaron Allston, as well as the passing of industry greats Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. There were many things I needed to say to these men and never got the chance. I don't intend to let that happen again.
"Learn a little bit about everything, and a lot about what you love."--my father, James F. Howard, Ph.D.
It's a truism that writers are interested in everything. Whether writers become writers because they are born with a need to collect as much knowledge as they can and they need to get it out, or writers learn to appreciate things because they're compelled to write, I don't know.
I was a junior in high school when I first read an article about a marine biologist named Ken Norris, a professor in the far-off land of UC Santa Cruz. I was still figuring out what I wanted to do with my life, but working with animals had always been top on the list. Something about that article made me realize that marine biology offered something that no other branch of biology did; the opportunity to study aliens.
It might not have occurred to you how utterly alien our oceans are, and though everyone loves dolphins, it took that article for me to understand how bizarre these creatures really were. By being mammals, cetaceans and pinnipeds are like us, yet thrive in an environment that would kill us. They have all the advantages and disadvantages we have--warm blooded, air breathing, live births, high intelligence--yet we cannot live in their world without technology. When we talk about an alien species living in a threatening environment like open space, a methane atmosphere, or crushing gravity, it's easy to grasp the, well, alienness of them. What is so utterly fascinating and so incredibly alien about marine mammals is their familiarity.
By a string of wonderful events, I ended up moving from my small Kentucky town, was accepted into UCSC and had the opportunity to study marine mammal bioacoustics, sleep physiology and cognition with some of the top people in the field (unfortunately, Ken had retired the quarter before I started school, so I never took a class from him*). Marine sciences are notoriously difficult to find work in so my degree and experience in wildlife rehabilitation took me in a different direction, but my passion for marine sciences, and marine mammals specifically, has never waned.
This is the reason that, as both a gamer and a writer, underwater adventures have always fascinated me, from books like Startide Rising and Cachelot to RPGs like Blue Planet. But even in the age of the Open Gaming License, Dungeons and Dragons has all but ignored the potential of fully-aquatic campaigns. That is, until Emily Kubisz and the Cerulean Seas Campaign Setting.
Other supplements have attempted what Emily and Alluria Publishing accomplished and are worth checking out (including The Deep, from Mystic Eye Games). The love, quality and professionalism of Cerulean Seas makes it what I can only describe as the definitive work on the subject. The core campaign book offers beautifully developed versions of what you might expect: class variants, a dozen new races (plus half-breed variations), new classes, weapons, spells, feats, monsters, etc, but the new and innovative rules for buoyancy and reproducing 3D interactions in a 2D space are what showed me that Emily wanted you to enjoy this setting in a way that makes it the truly unique experience it should be. And the love didn't stop with the core rules. Alluria has four supplements just as impressive; Azure Abyss, Cerulean Seas' version of the Underdark; Waves of Thought, delvoping psionics in the underwater realm; Indigo Ice, detailing a fascinating arctic setting; and Beasts of the Boundless Blue, their recent 250 creature tome. Of course, each supplement adds even more races (making somewhere around 30 total), classes, spells, variants, etc. Waves of Thought itself was like a love-letter to two of my favorite things in gaming: aquatic settings and psionics.
I've never had the chance to meet Emily, but the passion she put into Cerulean Seas tells me that I'm not the only one who sees the oceans for the brilliant gaming opportunity they are. So, thank you, Emily, for your love, skill and dedication to this vastly under-appreciated part of our gaming world, and for helping me feel that the road to opening gamers to the wonders of the ocean is not a lonely one.
* = I was lucky enough to meet Ken during my time at UCSC and can honestly say he was one of the most thoughtful and encouraging people I've ever met. Unfortunately, he passed away in 1998. If you're interested in his groundbreaking work in marine mammal natural history, check out Dolphin Societies, Dolphin Days: The Life & Times of the Spinner Dolphin, and The Hawaiian Spinner Dolphin.