View Full Version : Thoughts on Whirlpools

06-09-2008, 11:40 AM
So...I've seen a lot of maps that have Whirlpools thrown in...two recently here on the site...

And of course, most mapping programs have a whirlpool symbol built in...and Most graphics apps can do a whirlpool effect...so there's an attraction to them.

So I'm wondering...how many of you mappers have not only implemented Whirlpools in your maps, but actually featured them in some way during play?

I kind of imagine (because I'm guilty of it too) that its one of those things thats cool to put in during the mapping phase, but never becomes a practical function of a game setting or encounter progression. Are we using whirlpools as "hey neat there's a whirlpool on the map" or is there an actual game function in plan?

Discuss ;)

06-09-2008, 12:36 PM
The only whirlpool I have ever seen, at least that I remember, being used was in the last 'Pirates' movie which isn't an RPG which should tell you my answer. ;)

06-09-2008, 01:19 PM
I tend to think of whirlpools as temporary so they don't get into my maps.

Even an area prone to whirlpools might just receive a hazard symbol or something.


06-09-2008, 01:29 PM
Scylla and Charybdis were two monsters in Greek mythology guarding the strait of Messina between Italy and Sicily. Charybdis was a monster with a big mouth that would create a large whirlpool that would drag ships to their doom. There are nasty currents in the area and a recurring whirlpool of varying size that can be dangerous. For the most part, though, whirlpools are transient if dangerous phenomena and I don't normally feel the urge to include them on a map unless it's to scare the players.

06-09-2008, 01:35 PM
Ditto what everyone else said. About the ONLY time I would think of putting a whirlpool on a map was if it was meant to be a stylistic map in a hand drawn style. Kind of like middle ages mappers who might put dragons or sea serpents to denote dangerious areas. To my mind, most styles of maps just don't lend themselves to using such a symbol.


06-09-2008, 01:48 PM
I think I've been guilty of putting in the odd whirlpool, just because the symbol was there!

06-09-2008, 02:27 PM
Whirlpools will form where two tidal surges compete. I've put a few in on maps I've done on occasion. It's usually to add a little excitement in on a tedious sea voyage.

06-09-2008, 08:11 PM
they take up space :) but on a serious note, great environment hazards I guess.

06-09-2008, 08:20 PM
I don't use them on maps unless it would be to indicate... treacherous waters, dangerous water related areas... I have on occasion implemented whirlpools in play but the PC's were usually in a fantastic area like a demiplane or other such planes....

06-10-2008, 06:54 AM
My PCs are about to go up against an awakened kraken in a big sea battle (for those who are interested they played the Dungeon adventure with the Tharizdun worshipping aboleth that had a pet kraken ... and got their asses kicked. They are now heading back for the rematch, but the kraken has grown as it has been fed the fears of a city). I plan to include an encounter with a couple of ships and a whirlpool. The idea is to have a repeating sea texture to provide a large sea playing area. Then use 2 ship stamps and a whirlpool stamp as well as rocks and suchlike to give the terrain. The ships will be racing to get to or past the whirlpool and be fighting a running battle as they go. I just hope I can construct it all in a way that plays smoothly.

06-11-2008, 12:02 PM
Torstan, Sounds fun but challenging to DM. I wish you well.

I'm curious how you do things. Boat to creature battles are easier to run than fully underwater encounters in 3 dimensions but aren't easy.

Give us a report on challenges overcome :).


09-16-2008, 11:29 AM
In all honesty, I have only once used a whirlpool in a gaming session over the last 35 years of RPGing. I have never put one on a map.


09-16-2008, 11:46 AM
Are you going to TPK them if they fail the skill challenge?

09-16-2008, 11:51 AM
Got one on my September challenge map :D

09-16-2008, 12:18 PM
I am all for whirlpools, especially in a fantasy setting.

In the real world, Whirlpools form often in the oceans, but are just not the big threats people feel they are.

Once again, WIKIPEDIA to the rescue ;)


A whirlpool is a swirling body of water usually produced by ocean tides. The vast majority of whirlpools are not very powerful. More powerful ones are more properly termed maelstroms. Vortex is the proper term for any whirlpool that has a downdraft. (Technically, these approximate to a 'free vortex', in which the tangential velocity (v) increases as the centre line is approached, so that the angular momentum (rv) is constant). Very small whirlpools can easily be seen when a bath or a sink is draining, but these are produced in a very different manner from those in nature. Smaller whirlpools also appear at the base of many waterfalls. In the case of powerful waterfalls, like Niagara Falls, these whirlpools can be quite strong. The most powerful whirlpools are created in narrow shallow straits with fast flowing water.

The five strongest whirlpools in the world are the Saltstraumen outside Bodø in Norway, which reaches speeds of 37 km/h; the Moskstraumen off the Lofoten islands in Norway (the original maelstrom), which reaches speeds of 27.8 km/h; the Old Sow in New Brunswick, Canada, which has been measured with a speed of up to 27.6 km/h; the Naruto whirlpool in Japan, which has a speed of 20 km/h; and the Corryvreckan in Scotland, which reaches speeds of 16 km/h.

Powerful whirlpools have killed unlucky seafarers, but their power tends to be exaggerated by laymen. There are virtually no stories of large ships ever being sucked into a whirlpool. Tales like those by Paul the Deacon, Jules Verne and Edgar Allan Poe are entirely fictional. The closest equivalent might have been the short-lived whirlpool that sucked in a portion of Lake Peigneur in New Iberia, Louisiana, USA after a drilling mishap in 1980. This was not a naturally-occurring whirlpool, but a man-made disaster caused by breaking through the roof of a salt mine. The lake then behaved like a gigantic bathtub being drained, until the mine filled and the water levels equalized. Although some boats and semi trailers were pulled into it in the classic whirlpool stereotype, no human lives were lost.

In popular imagination, but only rarely in reality, whirlpools can have the dangerous effect of destroying boats. In the 8th century, Paul the Deacon, who had lived among the Belgii, described tidal bores and the maelstrom for a Mediterranean audience unused to such violent tidal surges:

Not very far from this shore... toward the western side, on which the ocean main lies open without end, is that very deep whirlpool of waters which we call by its familiar name "the navel of the sea." This is said to suck in the waves and spew them forth again twice every day...

They say there is another whirlpool of this kind between the island of Britain and the province of Galicia, and with this fact the coasts of the Seine region and of Aquitaine agree, for they are filled twice a day with such sudden inundations that any one who may by chance be found only a little inward from the shore can hardly get away.

I have heard a certain high nobleman of the Gauls relating that a number of ships, shattered at first by a tempest, were afterwards devoured by this same Charybdis. And when one only out of all the men who had been in these ships, still breathing, swam over the waves, while the rest were dying, he came, swept by the force of the receding waters, up to the edge of that most frightful abyss. And when now he beheld yawning before him the deep chaos whose end he could not see s bumhalf dead from very fear, expected to be hurled into it, suddenly in a way that he could not have hoped he was cast upon a certain rock and sat him down. — Paul the Deacon, History of the Lombards, i

So, in a fantasy setting, whirlpools are just plain fun. Maybe they are conduits to the Elemental Plane of Water, whereas Geysers are conduits from the elemental plane of water (sort of a return of water so the volume of water exiting equals the volume of water leaving....hmmm I can already see D&D plots revolving around various nefarious groups plotting to block one of these conduits ;))

09-17-2008, 01:53 PM
Today I got a chain-mail from someone at work... and it had this image:

It empties some of the dam's water.

Kinda cool.

09-17-2008, 02:16 PM
That's dam cool! ;)

09-17-2008, 08:36 PM
Today I got a chain-mail from someone at work... and it had this image: WOW thats scary ! I had to see if this was a photoshop but no its real...



Just cant believe that they have this without some kind of safety net over it.

09-17-2008, 09:31 PM
Just cant believe that they have this without some kind of safety net over it.

Think of it as evolution in action!

09-17-2008, 09:36 PM
Think of it as evolution in action!
Hmm perhaps I am more psychopathic than you then... I was not thinking that somebody might accidentally fall / swim into it as opposed to somebody throwing or chucking people into it.

09-17-2008, 10:47 PM
I suppose it would likely depend on the era of the map for me. Especially in the case of Charybdis, I think the symbol would likely appear to warn of that area's particular frequency of whirlpools. Given the speeds of sailing vessels and danger of running aground back then, it could be considered a danger enough to mark with a whirl pool. Modern maps would more likely have some sort of line indicating a hazard area with the label "WHIRLPOOL ZONE" or some such. With more ancient maps, it may well have been penned by a culture - or just even just the explorer - who mistakenly thought the whirl pools were common because they saw 3 of them in the 4 days they were in the area.

And in looking on Wikipedia, I found this 16th Century map depicting the Moskstraumen (Maelstrom) in Norway. It shows a ship caught in a whirlpool.

09-18-2008, 03:31 AM
Hmm perhaps I am more psychopathic than you then... I was not thinking that somebody might accidentally fall / swim into it as opposed to somebody throwing or chucking people into it.
Hmmm .... it does seem to be close enough to the road to use to dispose of a body. Bit far to throw unless you're extremely strong. Now, maybe if you chopped the body up a bit. Or is that too much information? :P

09-18-2008, 09:51 AM
When I dispose of my bodies, I want them *gone*. Not just wet...


09-18-2008, 11:53 AM
When I dispose of my bodies, I want them *gone*. Not just wet...

So volcanoes then? :twisted:

09-18-2008, 03:29 PM
This thread is getting strangely disturbing :D

09-21-2008, 03:28 AM
So volcanoes then? :twisted:

I recommend pig farms. Simple, effective and saves on feed for the day.

09-21-2008, 04:31 AM
Yeah, feed 'em te the piggies Turkish.


09-21-2008, 04:39 AM
Yeah, just like local boy, Robert Pickton:


09-21-2008, 02:28 PM
Speaking of whirlpools, here is a large (up to 20m in diametre) whirlpool in Naruto, Japan:

http://paratime.ca/images/nihon/19359877_3835c2acf3.jpg (http://flickr.com/photos/98587246@N00/19359877)

More about the Naruto Whirlpool:

I haven't used them in my maps or games... yet.