The heroes looked out from the entrance of the Ogres’ mine. “There’s at least five wyverns I can see,” Ox said slightly worried. Darion patiently let his eyes adjust to the light outside and grimaced slightly. “The Red Dragon circling further back is our bigger problem.”
They both turned to Diego, settling himself onto the carpet, looking as cool and collected as that day in Chult when he asked for directions to the local pleasuredome…
“Don’t you worry boys,” he said smiling, “This carpet can do the Saradush run in under 2 days. I’ve out-run Ogre flyers, not the local Wyverns mind you. I’m talking the big dragons now. She’s fast enough for you, bodyguards.”
(These ‘rules’ were developed for Episode 13 of the Titles and Troubles campaign which featured an aerial chase between the PCs on a Carpet of Flying and Ogres riding Wyverns and a Young Red Dragon.
They adapt the chase rules presented in the DMG, introduce a way to model piloting a Carpet of Flying and a set of hazards that may be used in a chase of this nature).
Back when I was running Tomb of Annihilation with the larger group of PCs, they obtained a Carpet of Flying as part of an attack on the Pirate Cove. Kahliel, their patron at the Thundering Lizard (the inn of few-rules fame), gifted it to them as he no longer had need of it and his wife was suffering from the Death Curse.
(Out of character, we had done our share of slogging through the Jungle and I wanted to give the party the ability to move onto other parts of the adventure).
At the time I wasn’t that concerned with granting such a game-changing item partly because I never envisioned the party carrying on past that hardback and as the culmination of the campaign is set in a dungeon I reasoned the carpet wouldn’t be a great impact on the main climax.
But now they have it and it continues to fulfil its game purpose (wizzing about the country is easier) whilst simultaneously introducing a tool I need to consider as part of encounter design.
This tool was foremost in my mind, when I was considering how the players would escape from the aforementioned Ogre Mine. In my version of Tethyr, there resides an established community of Ogres that use Wyverns as mounts (and it turns out) Dragons too. I knew the complex the PCs were in only had two exits, one of which led deeper into Ogre lands. Clearly the PCs were going to have to cross enemy territory; an enemy that very much knew exactly where they were.
A flying chase, inspired by the Millenium Falcon dodging and twisting in every episode of Star Wars, was on the cards, but I had some problems I needed to resolve:
1. The Carpet of Flying would need piloting; how could I keep the player doing this involved in the game?
2. Related to point 1, how could I have the pilot’s actions influence the game as well as the narrative?
3. What mechanic do you even use to pilot a Carpet of Flying?
The rules below attempt to address the three points above,and seemed to work well in the session though they are not playtested extensively.
Piloting a Carpet of Flying
I wanted to have a skill check for piloting the carpet and the least-worst skill I could think of was Dexterity (Acrobatics). Characters with a high score in this are at least used to moving through three dimensions reacting quickly to changing situations.
On reflection, I could use Intelligence (Acrobatics), which would be where you use your Intelligence modifier and any Acrobatics proficiency. Even Wisdom (Acrobatics) could be made to fit in this circumstances. However, as that thought has only occurred as I type right now, we went with Dex.
The “pilot” of the carpet needs to maintain their Concentration (which in this case does preclude combat as they need to see where they’re directing the carpet) on flying, making contested Acrobatics rolls against the pursuers each round at the top of the round irrespective of their initiative order. If the player wins the contested roll they get to choose:
- Advantage on a Stealth rolls to hide that turn (assuming terrain etc allows), or
- Advantage on Attack rolls against a single creature / rider as they manoeuvre into a good position, or
- Apply disadvantage on all the attacker’s rolls as they basically take the “carpet dodge” action
If the player loses then they simply don’t get to choose from these effects.
The carpet can’t take the Dash action, but neither does it suffer from exhaustion.
I also had the pilot roll a “flat d20” (a d20 with no modifiers) each round. If it came up as a result on the complication table then they had that happen as well. If a duplicate number came up my intention was to ignore it.
The complication table I developed for this chase (it’s presented below), though it’s based entirely on the ones in the DMG.
AoE Saving Throws
One situation that came up in game, was dodging the dragon’s breath. The pilot PC is a rogue, and his player suggested that if he succeeded on his Dex save that the whole carpet should get the benefit (including from the no dmg on a save ability). Seemed cool, so we went with that. It saved the PCs taking 61 fire damage and probably losing the carpet in the process!
And that’s pretty much it. Opposed Acrobatics roll vs the lead pursuer at the top of the round; success means you get to choose between hiding better, flying aggressively against an enemy, flying defensively against all the enemies.
Then a roll on the complications table to help give us some narrative and uncertain elements. In practice it worked really well, flowed quite naturally and the players commented that a type of scene that can be disappointing was fantastic… The pilot even took to social media to express their giddy excitement!
Example Complication Table
This was the complication table I used in the episode. As described above roll a d20 each round and see what you get. The terrain that they were travelling through was undulating and lightly woodied.
(Darion, one of the PCs is a leader in the Order of the Gauntlet and some of his men were already in the region; Ox has ‘hired’ Kobolds to ferret about throughout the County as well. I added these complications in as part of the general fiction and also to represent the part that the characters’ downtime actions had played).
Roll a d20, ignore duplicates already rolled:
1 – a narrow ravine is ahead. A successful Acrobatics check will allow the PCs to pilot the carpet through it, potentially causing one of the pursuers to hit the ravine entry and giving the players advantage on the Dex check to escape pursuit.
2 – a lightly wooded area is ahead. A successful Acrobatics check will allow the nimble carpet to navigate through it, giving the PCs a round where they can attack but not be attacked by the enemies.
3 – There is a sharp ridge that drops away quite quickly. It requires a successful Acrobatics check to avoid spinning the carpet in the turbulent air that spills from it. Failure means that the PCs actions are all with disadvantage as they barely hang onto the carpet.
4 – A flock of birds is gathered in a field ahead. A successful Acrobatics check allows the pilot to scatter the birds giving their pursuers disadvantage on their rolls. Failing the save causes d4 bludgeoning and d4 piercing damage to everyone on the carpet.
5 – The pursuit attracts the attention of a small patrol of Wyvern riders who join the enemy pursuit.
6 – The pursuit attracts the attention of a small patrol of Ox’s Kobolds who have spread this far north. This includes a couple of Urd’s who fly up to join the fray for a round before the speed of the combat passes them by.
7 – A river plunges through a limestone escarpment into the rock. A successful Acrobatics check can take the carpet into the underground river and then out and through a waterfall. This grants advantage to any Stealth check to evade pursuit.
8 – The ruins of an old keep or fort are spied below. The PCs can reach there and take the fight to land. The ruins grant at least half-cover to defenders and bring the chase to an end.
9 – The PCs spot a patrol of the Order of the Gauntlet (5 Guards, led by 1 Knight) who will aid them if they land and take on the Wyverns and Dragon. Depending upon the strength of the battle the creatures may well decide that the chase isn’t worth it.
10 – The carpet darts down a canyon but it ends in a steep wall. A successful Acrobatics check pilots the carpet safely over it; a failure causes all riding the carpet to suffer from disadvantage on their rolls.
11 – 20 Nothing happens