Ah, the tritons. Imagine if the elves spent a few centuries far beneath the sea, where their arrogance and pretension could grow undisturbed. At least the tritons spent that time fighting sahuagin and worse, so you know you can count on them in a fight.
— Brego Stoneheart, sea captain
Tritons guard the ocean depths, building small settlements beside deep trenches, portals to the elemental planes, and other dangerous spots far from the eyes of land-bound folk. Long-established guardians of the deep ocean floor, in recent years the noble tritons have become increasingly active in the world above.
Centuries ago, tritons entered the world in response to the growing threat of evil elementals. Tritons waged many wars against their enemies on the Plane of Water, driving them into the Darkened Depths where they escaped into the crushing pressure and utter darkness. In time, the tritons noticed that their ancient elemental foes had grown quiet. Expeditions to the depths revealed that krakens, sahuagin, and far worse foes had fled the Plane of Water for the Material Plane.
The tritons, driven by a sense of duty and responsibility, would not allow their foes to escape so easily. A great conclave of tritons chose volunteers skilled in weapons and magic as part of an expeditionary force to enter the Material Plane and seek out their enemies.
Those tritons spread across the world’s oceans and established protectorates to watch over deep sea trenches, portals, undersea caves, and other locations where their enemies might lurk. They defeated their foes when they found them and drove the rest into hiding.
With their foes banished to the deepest reaches of the sea, tritons settled in to watch for any sign of their return. Over time, the tritons extended their stewardship over the sea floor from their initial settlements and built outposts to create trade with other races. Despite this expansion, few folk know of them. Their settlements are so remote even merfolk and sea elves rarely encounter them.
As a result of their isolation and limited understanding of the Material Plane, tritons can come across as haughty and arrogant. They see themselves as caretakers of the sea, and they expect other creatures to pay them deep respect, if not complete deference.
This attitude might grate on others, but it arises from a seed of truth. Few know of the tritons’ great victories over dreadful undersea threats. The tritons make little allowance for such ignorance and are delighted to expound upon the great debt others owe them.
Tritons also have a tendency to emerge from their isolation under the assumption that other folk will welcome them as respected allies and mentors. Again, distance drives much of this attitude. The tritons’ limited view of the world leaves them ignorant of the kingdoms, wars, and other struggles of the surface world. Tritons readily see such concerns as minor events, a sideshow to the tritons’ role as the world’s true protectors.
Despite their off-putting manners, tritons are benevolent creatures at heart, convinced that other civilized races deserve their protection. Their attitude might grate, but when pirate fleets prowl the waves or a kraken awakens from its slumber, they are among the first to take up arms to protect others.
Tritons readily sacrifice themselves for the common good. They will fight and die for humans, merfolk, and other creatures without question. Their self-absorbed nature makes them overlook the history of other creatures, but they also endure a sense of guilt over allowing the evils of the Plane of Water to enter the Material Plane and threaten its inhabitants. The tritons believe they owe a debt of honor to the world, and they will fight and die to pay it.
At times their fervor and ignorance of the world can lead them astray. Tritons encountering other creatures for the first time can underestimate them, leaving the tritons vulnerable to deception. With their strong martial tradition, tritons can sometimes be too eager to leap into a fight.
Strangers to the Surface
Given their isolation, most tritons have never been to the surface world. They struggle with the idea that they can’t easily move up and down out of water, and the changing of the seasons mystifies them.
Tritons also find the variety of social institutions, kingdoms, and other customs bewildering. For all their proud culture, they remain innocent of the surface world. The typical triton protectorate is tightly regimented, organized, and unified around a common cause. A triton on the surface becomes easily confused by the bewildering array of alliances, rivalries, and petty grievances that prevent the surface folk from truly unifying.
At its worst, a triton’s arrogance compounds the tendency for the triton not to understand the ways of the surface world. It’s easy for a triton to blame baffling social practices on what the triton perceives as the barbarism, weakness, or cowardice of surface folk. While tritons pay respects to many gods, they tend to revere Thassa, god of the sea, above all other deities. Her devotees see her as the primary god of the pantheon, believing she will bring their people to ascendancy over the monsters of the sea and the poleis of the land.
Depths of Curiosity
Many tritons are intrigued by surface culture. The curious among them venture into sunken ruins and shipwrecks, sifting through the debris for whatever grabs their attention. Often these tritons develop collections of a specific kind of object or lore, trading with one another as they develop a sort of expertise in their field. Some tritons approach investigations of the dryfolk with scientific rigor. Such scholars often hold theories to go along with their collections, hypotheses many are eager to test upon meeting new dryfolk.