Author Topic: Eberron Airship Handbook  (Read 1806 times)

ksbsnowowl

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Eberron Airship Handbook
« on: June 21, 2017, 03:21:39 PM »
Eberron Airship Handbook


The published rules for airships and associated craft in the Eberron setting are scattered, and in many ways lacking clarity and consistency.  Most egregious is the fact that the Explorer's Handbook flat out contradicts the Eberron Campaign Setting with regards to methods of controlling the elemental bound to the ship, and whether or not soarwood floats on its own.  For this handbook, I will attempt to clarify the airship rules, and give precedence to the ECS, rather than the EH (because honestly, many of the rules in the Explorer's Handbook simply don't make sense).

There are three types of elemental-bound aircraft in the published Eberron rules:
1) Airships
2) Firesleds
3) Air-Skiffs

Airships have the most info published about them.  Firesleds only have a single magic item entry in Secrets of Xen'drik, and Air-skiffs are mentioned several times in a few published adventures, but no good stats are provided for them (and those provided are inconsistent with the rest of the rules/setting).

First, something important to understand about the airships and their speeds, as well as their carrying capacities:  the airships are treated as creatures.  I was not the first person to make this observation, but I'm sorry I can't recall where exactly I first read this, so I cannot give proper credit.  This will prove out when we later look at their listed speeds, which are given in two formats: as a speed in feet per round, and a miles per hour speed.  For these speeds to make any sense at all, the speed in feet is just like the speed a character has, but then the ship hustles every round, performing a double move.

Speed

The Explorer's Handbook provides a Stormwrack-style stat block for an elemental airship.  Since the excerpt publishes the stats on-line, I will reproduce them here:

Quote
Airship: Colossal vehicle; Airworthiness +6; Shiphandling -4; Speed Fly 100 ft. (poor), Overall AC -3; Hull sections 1,000 (crash 250 sections); Section hp 60 (hardness 5); Section AC 3; Ram 12d6; SA fire ring; SQ resistance to fire 10, hover; Space 90 ft. by 300 ft.; Height 50 ft. (fire ring has 110-ft. diameter); Watch 20; Complement 150; Cargo 30 tons; Cost 92,000 gp.

Hover: Despite its maneuverability rating, an airship can hover and has no minimum speed required to maintain air travel. It cannot turn in place, however.

Ring: An airship can use either a fire or an air elemental. A burning fire elemental bound into a ring deals 3d8 points of fire damage to any creature or object passing it touches. When an air elemental is used, the damage is bludgeoning.

Aura: Strong conjuration, CL 15th.
Construction: Bind Elemental, greater planar binding, 46,000 gp, 3,680 XP, 92 days.
Price: 92,000 gp.


From the Airship entry in the ECS (p. 267), we know that an airship has a fly speed of "roughly 20 miles per hour."  A speed of 100 ft., multiplied by 600 (the number of rounds in an hour) equals only 60,000 feet per hour.  Divided by 5,280, we see that is only 11.36 miles per hour.  But as I said, the airship is treated as a creature, and it can hustle each round, which increases that speed to 22.72 miles per hour.  That's sufficiently "roughly 20 miles per hour."

But wait, we also have stats for the Firesled (SoX p. 146 – 147), which tells us it "can travel through the air at a speed of 120 feet (24 mph)..."  If we work the same math as above with these numbers, we see that 120 feet works out to 13.63 mph, again short of the listed speed of 24 miles per hour.  But hustling we come to 27.27 mph.

Looking deeper into the math, we see that 27.27 divided by 24 = 1.136.  This ratio is the same for 22.72 divided by 20, which also equals 1.136.  We see this ratio other places in D&D.  A human with a speed of 30 feet should be able to walk 3.409 miles in an hour, yet the chart on PHB p. 162 says such a character can only walk 3 miles in an hour.  Guess what that ratio is: 1.136.  Travel in D&D assumes you lose out on some of your speed over a long distance.  It always limits you to 0.88 what the per-round speed says you should be able to do in an hour.  Put another way, they run the math based upon a 6,000-foot mile.  Just know that, and know that an elemental craft's listed speed in feet is just like a character's, and it can hustle each round, supposedly without ever tiring.

Carrying Capacity

Remember how I said elemental craft are treated as creatures?  This is also true for their carrying capacity.  The Firesled from SoX says "treat the sled as a Large quadruped with a Strength of 18 (light load 300 pounds or less, medium load 301–600 pounds, heavy load 601–900 pounds)."  The same thing can be extrapolated for the basic airship in the ECS, which can carry 30 tons of cargo.

The dimensions of the firesled are roughly equal to a rowboat, which according to Stormwrack is a Large vehicle.  As you can see above, an airship is a Colossal vehicle.  A Colossal quadruped with a strength score of 34 can carry 67,200 pounds, which is 33.6 tons (a Strength score of 33 would only be able to carry 28.8 tons).

Maneuverability

The Explorer's Handbook reproduces the ship maneuverability chart from Stormwrack, which is derivative of the Aerial Maneuverability rules from p. 20 of the DMG.  For the firesled, you need to look at the core Aerial Maneuverability rules from p. 20 of the DMG.

The firesled has good maneuverability so long as it is carrying a light or medium load, which allows it to hover.  But its maneuverability drops to average with a heavy load, which means it can no longer hover.

The Explorer's Handbook stats for an airship lists it as having poor maneuverability, but it is still able to hover, because of its Hover special quality.

Though there are no official stats for an air-skiff, I would generally give them a maneuverability of Average, but also give them the ability to hover.

Controlling the Elemental

According to the Eberron Campaign Setting (p. 267, sidebar), elemental vessels "are notoriously difficult to control."  A character with the correct dragonmark and the appropriate dragonshard item (House Lyrandar, Gust of Wind version of the Mark of Storm using a Wheel of Wind and Water) can control the vessel effectively.  An unmarked character must win an opposed Charisma check against the elemental (elementals have a Charisma modifier of +0).  If the character wins, the vessel obeys, but if the elemental wins, it will either continue on its previous course, or bring the vessel to an immediate halt, based on its whim.

The same sidebar allows for other effective means of controlling an elemental vessel.  In addition to the wheel of wind and water with a dragonmarked pilot at the helm, a charm monster or similar spell can allow an unmarked character to control the vessel effectively.  A cleric with the fire or air domains could even command an elemental of the appropriate type (for 10 rounds, but only while touching the dragonshard to which it is bound).  In my opinion, the best means of doing this without a dragonmark is to have a minor schema of charm monster, as it is reusable, and lasts for days at a time.

According to the Explorer's Handbook, to establish line of effect with a bound elemental, you must be touching the dragonshard to which the elemental is bound.  Once a magical means of control has been established, you can communicate with the elemental when touching the dragonshard, or when touching the helm.

The Explorer's Handbook and the adventure Whispers of the Vampire's Blade allow for controlling an airship or an air-skiff via a Profession (airship sailor) check.  This is flat out wrong, and contradictory with the ECS.  Basic control must be established each round you want to do something, via a Charisma check.  That said, Profession (Sailor) checks are still useful to an airship captain, as high winds can still require Profession (Sailor) checks.

Steering the Airship

Control of an elemental, such as that "granted to a Lyrandar pilot by his dragonmark allows him to command a bound elemental without difficulty."  A Lyrandar capatain can pilot an airship from port to port just fine, in calm weather, just by virtue of his dragonmark.  But skilled pilots with a full crew can execute amazing maneuvers with their airships.

Note, the Explorer's Handbook p. 25 states that guiding an elemental vessel through any complex maneuver requires a Profession (Sailor) check, just as sailing a regular ship requires (this is correct, IMO).  It also allows someone in command of the elemental (either via a Wheel of Wind and Water, or via magical compulsion) to add his Charisma bonus on any Profession (Sailor) checks made to control the vessel.  If the elemental is completely uncontrolled, any attempt to steer the vessel through complex maneuvers takes a –20 penalty on the Profession (Sailor) check.

Ship statistics list a "Watch" number; this is the minimum number of crew to properly pilot a ship.  You'll notice the Airship stat block lists a watch of 20.  Note, however that according to the ECS, an airship only requires a crew of 15, so I would suggest going with that number.

Stormwrack has rules for the Profession (Sailor) skill.  Steering a ship in good weather conditions with sufficient crew requires no skill checks.  Having less than a full watch section imposes a +5 modifier to the Profession (Sailor) DC for any given check.  Having less than half a full watch section increases such DC's by 10, and having less than a quarter of a watch section increases such DC's by 15.

The first obstacle for a standard airship is foundering (sinking).  Profession (Sailor) checks against foundering are modified by the airship's Airworthiness rating, which is +6.  Your ship can founder in strong winds (DC 5), severe winds (DC 10), windstorms and gales (DC 15), hurricane-force winds (DC 20), and dire gales (DC 28).  Granted, what foundering in mid-air really entails will differ from DM to DM, so check with yours.  Most likely, he'll ignore this, as there is no water to swamp your craft.

Traveling into high winds requires a similar check, again making use of the ship's airworthiness rating to modify your check.  Severe winds are a DC 20, and a windstorm or gale is a DC 30.  This is much more likely to come up, especially if you try flying into a storm.  But again, you aren't really sailing with sails, so your DM might well ignore this.

The check a DM is most likely to impose is for steering in fast currents.  This best reflects what an airship is actually doing, except in the most severe of wind conditions.  Unlike the previous checks, this one uses the ship's Shiphandling modifier, which for a typical airship is –4.  Steering is made round to round when in appropriately difficult conditions, with a DC 8 for a vigorous current, DC 18 for a dangerous current, and DC 28 for an irresistible current.

Airships, Firesleds, and Air-Skiffs, oh my!

As I said before, there are only three flying elemental vessels "published."  The airship, the firesled, and the air-skiff.

Airships are roughly the same size as a sailing ship, but they can only carry 30 tons of cargo.  I'll reproduce their stats once again here:

Quote
Airship: Colossal vehicle; Airworthiness +6; Shiphandling -4; Speed Fly 100 ft. (poor), Overall AC -3; Hull sections 1,000 (crash 250 sections); Section hp 60 (hardness 5); Section AC 3; Ram 12d6; SA fire ring; SQ resistance to fire 10, hover; Space 90 ft. by 300 ft.; Height 50 ft. (fire ring has 110-ft. diameter); Watch 20; Complement 150; Cargo 30 tons; Cost 92,000 gp.

Hover: Despite its maneuverability rating, an airship can hover and has no minimum speed required to maintain air travel. It cannot turn in place, however.

Ring: An airship can use either a fire or an air elemental. A burning fire elemental bound into a ring deals 3d8 points of fire damage to any creature or object passing it touches. When an air elemental is used, the damage is bludgeoning.

Aura: Strong conjuration, CL 15th.
Construction: Bind Elemental, greater planar binding, 46,000 gp, 3,680 XP, 92 days.
Price: 92,000 gp.


They are great for adventuring, but like most ships, they really aren't all that robust once you get to middle-level adventures.  They also aren't robust if someone else wants to ram you with their airship...  See that "Ram 12d6" listing in the stat block?  According to Stormwrack, the Ram damage listed is for each 10 feet of speed the vessel is moving at (Stormwrack p. 97).  Airships move at 100 feet per round before hustling; that's easily 120d6 damage from a ramming airship.

Firesleds are from Secrets of Xen'drik, and they are created by the Sulatar drow elves.  Much like a character with the Mark of Storm, any Sulatar can pilot a firesled without difficulty.  Others must make opposed charisma checks or magically control the elemental in some way.

Firesleds are basically attack fighter craft.  They can only hold two (a pilot and a gunner), are faster than an airship, and have a built-in scorching ray attack.  They also cost a smidge over 76,000 gp.

Air-Skiffs are mentioned in two published adventures, Whispers of the Vampire's Blade and The Voyage of the Golden DragonVoyage merely tells us that the skiffs are made of soarwood, and it implies that they can travel fairly far from the larger airship.  Whispers tells us that it can be piloted with a DC 15 Profession (sailor) check (which we know is wrong), it can turn up to 90 degrees per round (which equates to Average maneuverability per the DMG rules), it moves up to 150 feet straight ahead, or it can ascend or descend up to 50 feet in a round.  Later on, it tells us that a skiff is very slow, "capable of traveling only 2 miles per hour" (which is ridiculous, since in the adventure the skiffs are used to ferry people back and forth between two airships that are traveling about 10 miles per hour... and the previously listed speed of 150 feet, even if taken as a max of 150 feet per round, is 15 – 17 mph.)

Since Whispers predates the Explorer's Handbook by 11 months, it refers you to the core tactical aerial combat rules, DMG p. 20.  The air-skiffs are described as "eight-person vessels made of soarwood but don't have bound elementals to provide speed.  They are basically short-range craft."  Funny that they supposedly don't have elementals bound to them, since the art gallery for Whispers of the Vampire's Blade shows the craft with an elemental ring:



Also, outside of Sharn's manifest zone, internal consistency of the Eberron setting tells me that for anything to have anywhere approaching the fly speed that these air-skiffs have, they HAVE to have a bound elemental.

So, I'm proposing some stats for an air-skiff that takes the previous information into account, but makes sense given the setting and previous rules as it relates to flying craft outside of Sharn's manifest zone.  Given the size and crew listed in the air-skiff's description in WotVB, I'm basing its stats on the Launch stats from Stormwrack.  The stats are perhaps a bit verbose, but the flight speed thing just needed to incorporate them being short-range craft and having an elemental.  I also capped their top flight speed at 120 feet, just like the Firesled, but increasing the max speed to 150 feet wouldn't alter the flight times at all.  Not that it much matters, but I'm assuming the Firesled and the Air-skiff both use Medium elementals (fire or air).

Quote
Air-skiff: Huge vehicle; Airworthiness +0; Shiphandling +2; Speed Fly 120 ft. (average), Overall AC 3; Hull sections 1; Section hp 50 (hardness 5); Ram 2d6; SA air ring; SQ charged flight, elemental command, encumbered flight, hover; Space 10 ft. by 20 ft.; Height 5 ft. (air ring has 15-ft. diameter); Watch 1; Complement 8; Cargo 1600 lbs.; Cost 51,800 gp.

Hover: Despite its maneuverability rating, an air-skiff can hover and has no minimum speed required to maintain air travel. It cannot turn in place, however.
Ring: An air-skiff can use either a fire or an air elemental. A burning fire elemental bound into a ring deals 1d8 points of fire damage to any creature or object it touches. When an air elemental is used, the damage is bludgeoning.
Encumbered flight:  The flight speed listed above is if the air-skiff is only lightly encumbered.  Treat it as a Large quadruped with Strength 23 for encumbrance purposes (Light load: 0 – 600 lbs.; medium load: 601 – 1200 lbs.; heavy load: 1201 – 1800 lbs.).  An air-skiff can fly while carrying a medium or heavy load, but its speed is reduced to 2/3 normal, however the reduced speed still burns power as if it were flying at the relative non-reduced speed.  While carrying a heavy load, maneuverability is reduced to poor.
Charged Flight:  The Medium elemental that powers a air-skiff is too small to drive it at maximum power indefinitely.  When first disembarking from its dock, an air-skiff has 8 hours of power.  It can fly at a speed of 5 feet indefinitely, but flying at 10 feet cuts its power to 8 hours.  Flying at 20 feet cuts it to 4 hours, and flying at 40 feet cuts it to 2 hours.  Eighty feet cuts its powered flight time to 1 hour, and flying at its max speed of 120 feet cuts the fly time to 30 minutes.  All of this is proportional to time spent flying at any given speed, so throttling back slows the power consumption.
       If the skiff is being flown slowly (10 feet) when it runs out of powered flight time, it will maintain flight at 5 feet for another another hour, then descends 50 feet per round for 10 rounds.  At the end of that time, the elemental withdraws into the dragonshard located beneath the helm; if the skiff has not reached a landing spot by then, it falls out of the sky.  If the skiff is being flown faster than 10 feet when its flight time ends, its speed will slow at a rate of ten feet per round, until it is flying 5 feet per round, and can no longer hustle.  It maintains a true speed of 5 feet for ten rounds, then falls out of the sky.
Elemental Command:  Air-skiffs are not fitted with a wheel of wind and water.  As such, it must be controlled by less sure methods.  Commanding the elemental from the helm requires success at an opposed Charisma check (the elemental has a +0 Charisma modifier), or via magical methods (Charm Monster, Dominate Monster, or Rebuke Elemental [Rebuking lasts 10 rounds]).
Aura: Moderate conjuration, CL 11th.
Construction: Bind Elemental, greater planar binding, 25,900 gp, 2,072 XP, 52 days.
Price: 51,800 gp.


Again, keep in mind that all the listed speeds are movement speeds; the craft can hustle to double the listed speed as a double move in the same round.

Price

One of the most contentious parts of Eberron's airships is the price.  A mere 92,000 gp?  That's a STEAL!  Especially considering that a similar but inferior craft from Forgotten Realms costs 400,000 gp.  It also seems odd because just one page before the airship in the ECS are the elemental-bound armors, which cost +80,000 gp to +90,000 gp for any of the bound elemental properties.  Add in the fact that a soarwood sailing ship costs 40,000 gp (remember, a typical airship is similar in size to a sailing ship, and a soarwood vessel costs 4 times as its normal counterpart).  Also, keep in mind that the listed 92,000 gp for the ship doesn't include a Wheel of Wind and Water.

Although this is purely homebrew (the RAW is clear, an airship costs 92,000 gp), I would highly suggest that a DM treat the 92,000 gp as the cost of binding the elemental to the soarwood craft, which itself costs 40,000 gp.  Add in the cost of a Wheel of Wind and Water, and you get a much more reasonable cost of 140,000 gp for a House Lyrandar airship.

As I said before, Firesleds are 76,010 gp, and I based the cost of the air-skiff on that.  After backing out the cost of the darkwood and firebrass craft, I reduced the the binding cost to 2/3 that of the firesled, due to the reduced flight ability, and then added the 2,000 gp cost of a soarwood launch.

ksbsnowowl

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Re: Eberron Airship Handbook
« Reply #1 on: June 21, 2017, 04:27:59 PM »
Just because, here is a link to an archive of the original: http://archive.is/He2JS