Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Airship Skill Challenge

So I'm a huge fan of skill challenges right now. I hadn't had much of a chance to use them previous to the D&D Encounters mini-campaign, and having seen them work there, I'm pretty much all about them now. I want to use them for everything. In my Eberron campaign, I'm the captain of the Mourning Glory, a fantastic little airship. The DM hasn't really focused on this aspect of my character at all, which is a bloody shame, because I think airships are one of the best things about the Eberron setting. So I wrote up a huge note to my DM about the kick-ass things that could possibly happen between Breland and Karnath on an airship, which I will share with you here:

We're going to be travelling back to Karnath, I assume, in the course of the next couple of sessions. After all, we have a king to kill. Getting to Karnath by airship seems like it would be pretty easy, but having easy things in a session of D&D is never as much fun as having HARD things to fight against while playing. So I figured I'd offer some suggestions for making the whole airship thing a little more crazy.

There are two "safe" passages to Karnath from Sharn. Both go around the Mournland, because the Mournland is fucking terrifying. The first is to fly over Thrane and through Aundair, the second is to fly through Darguun, over Valenar, stop to restock in the Talenta plains and move up through the south-east. Another option is to swing _around_ Darguun, over Zilargo, out in to the sea, up through Valenar and then through the Talenta plains. Each of these routes has it's own dangers, dangers that Aeral knows about. They also probably house things Aeral has never seen before, which is also for the good.

For the sake of ease, I'll be calling these Route 1, Route 2 and Detour.

Going through Thrane is not something Aeral is going to be thrilled about. As a paladin of the Sovereign Host, the Silver Flame and its followers make him pretty uncomfortable. The biggest bonus to travel through Thrane is that the Houses don't have much sway there, meaning they have a pretty piss-poor air force. We'd be unlikely to run into any of the Silver Flame's groupies, and the worst we'd run into would be rejects from the Eldeen Reaches flying over.

Aundair is exactly the opposite. House Lyrandar keeps their headquarters on a small island just north of the country, there are flying islands everywhere, and air traffic is a daily occurance. It's impossible to get through Aundair without notice, and given that we came through the airborne nation right before King Boranel's children reappeared in Breland, and given that I'm now Sir Aeral d'Lyrandar, Knight of Breland, I have to assume Esravash knows what's going on. It would be a safe bet, says my 14 Wisdom, that _everyone_ knows, and that we are currently a target for the entire nation of Karnath and her allies.

The threats in Aundair run the gamut from air pirates to flying whales to dragons to anything else that would enjoy the nation-wide manifest zone. Aundair also knows about these threats and is armed to the teeth with the most impressive air force in the world. There are balistae on every floating island, a well-established port-authority, an airborne "coast guard," the whole nine yards. One does not fly into Aundair in secret, and it would be silly to think we could get through there unscathed.

Route 2 has us flying over Darguun. Mountains are tough to navigate by air, and flying over them would be terribly uncomfortable in a non-pressurized, non-climate controlled airship. Even flying _through_ the mountains is going to be cold and uncomfortable most of the time, and the Goblin empire here knows the terrain far better than Aeral does. They aren't friendly and they know how to take down an airship if they want to. Balistae, catapults, nets, arrow launchers, bows and arrows with rope attached for boarding; these guys are fucking terrifying. Add to that spiked-chain-weilding psychos, and we have ourselves a rough day.

Valenar houses the second-largest Lyrandar population in the world, having been granted large parcels of land for raincalling services and agricultural assistance. This means crazy Arab-themed elves on airships, air pirates, flying carpets, flying monkeys and all sorts of crazy air traffic. Also, religious tension between the Keepers of the Past, my own Sovereign Host worship and Tyson's worship of the Blood of Vol could be interesting.

The biggest thing to worry about in the Talenta Plains is dinosaurs. And pterodactyl-riding halflings of doom. And boomerangs. And halfling barbarians, and the fact that halflings have the Mark of Healing, making them damned near impossible to kill. Also, flying jelly swarms, dust storms, giant bats, giant birds, huge prehistoric insects and whatever other untamed goodness you can think up.

The Detour is a lot like going through Darguun, but with more civilized antagonists. The gnomes of Zilargo make for the crazy, and I'm sure it would be more fun for you to come up with how they'd fuck with our world than for me to offer suggestions. ^_^

Hope this helps a bit. I know running a campaign with a form of travel that circumvents land-based encounters can be a huge pain in the ass.

He didn't use any of it, which is totally justified because he is the DM and there are things he wants to focus on that are not, necessarilly, flying. Looking at the above, though, I'm thinking "Well shit. Let's make this a Skill Challenge."

So flying. There are a few things that go into flying a giant fucking airship. Most of those things are the same things that go into sailing an old sailing ship. This skill challenge assumes that your characters are 7th - 9th level and in a position of authority over the crew.

The airship slides into the air with a low whoosh of flame, climbing steadilly in altitude as the crew scrambles to finish last-minute preparations. As the docking tower shrinks against the horizon, the ship reaches a cruising altitude hundreds of feet above the ground. The journey is under way.

Flying an Airship
Level: 7
Complexity: 5 (12 successes before 6 failures)
Primary Skills:
Athletics, Diplomacy, Endurance, Intimidate, Perception
Secondary Skills: Acrobatics, Nature, Thievery

Athletics DC 19 (limit 4 successes)You haul on riggings and set booms, ensuring the airship stays well on course. Failure on this check counts against the skill challenge, and the lead player suffers damage equal to twice his or her level as the booms crash into, or the rigging lashes out at, him or her.

Diplomacy DC 19 (limit 3 successes)You speak to various members of the crew, building synergy and helping them work together as a cohesive unit. Failure on this check counts against the skill challenge, and each member of the party suffers a -2 penalty to their next roll.

Endurance DC 17 (limit 2 successes) The rigors of daily life upon an airship wear at you, but you find reserves of strength and willpower that help you suffer through. Failure on this check counts against the skill challenge, and the lead character loses a number of healing surges equal to half his or her level. If healing surges are reduced to zero, that character takes damage equal to three times his or her level as well.

Intimidate DC 17 (limit 4 successes)You push the crew beyond their normal limits, barking orders and throwing your weight around. Though you may have earned the crew's ire, you also have their respect. Failure on this check counts against the skill challenge, and the lead character takes damage equal twice his or her level and loses healing surges equal to half his or her level. All other characters involved in the skill challenge take a -3 penalty on their next roll, as the crew is resistant to help them.

Perception DC 23 (limit 2 successes) In the distance, you see a landmark you instantly recognize, and notice that your course is a few degrees off. With a whispered word to the captain, you set the course aright. Failure on this check does not count against the skill challenge.

Acrobatics DC 23 (limit 1 success)You scamper up the riggings like a monkey, fixing a block that's come loose, saving hours of work. Success at this check grants a +2 bonus to the adventurer's next skill check. Fialure means the participants each lose one healing surge.

Nature DC 23 (limit 1 success)The country slips underneath you, and your intimate knowledge of the lands below help you avoid a next of gryphons. A few hours of detour save the lives of half the crew. Success on this check grants a +2 bonus to each of the participant's next skill check. Failure means that each participant loses one healing surge.

Thievery DC 23 (limit 1 success)Your knowledge of ropes and knots comes in handy onboard the ship, as new rigging is needed to replace the old, shabby ropes above. Success on this check grants you a +2 bonus to your next Diplomacy, Athletics or Endurance check. Failure means you lose a healing surge.

No matter whether the players succeed or fail, they will eventually reach their destination. However, failure carries with it a terrible price.

Success:After the adventurers have twelve successes, they reach their destination unmolested, and well ahead of schedule.
Failure: If the adventurers fail the skill challenge, they run afoul one of the world's many flying terrors. In this case, a huge swarm of flying jellyfish! They have no chance for a short rest before the encounter begins.

Flying Jellyfish Swarm
Level 9 Skirmisher (400xp)
Gargantuan natural beast (swarm)
Senses: Perception +12, low-light vision
Swarm Attack aura 5; the Flying Jellyfish Swarm makes a basic attack as a free action against each enemy that begins its turn in the aura.
HP96; Bloodied 48
AC 22; Fortitude 20; Reflex 17; Will 21
Resist half damage from melee and ranged attacks; Vulnerable 5 against close and area attacks.
Speed 0; Fly 12 (hover) overland flight 15
Swarm of Tentacles (standard; at will; melee)
+14 vs. Ref; 1d6+7 damage and the target is immobilized.
Alignment Unaligned
Languages -
Str 9, Dex 24, Wis 17, Con 16, Int 8, Cha 10
Equipment None

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Top work! thanks for posting :)))