What happens when four adventurers hop on board a flying ship for its maiden voyage across the uncharted desert? (Spoilers: A lot!)
Play time: 4 hours
- Sole the dwarf fighter (Level 3)
- Bek the human sorcerer (Level 3)
- Jim the human warlock (Level 3)
- Falvor the centaur monk (Level 3)
Set sail for adventure!
Having agreed to work as the security detail for the maiden voyage of the Desert Angel, the party boarded the flying ship at the outskirts of the beautiful desert city of Sahar. On board they found the crew and passengers ready to leave. The crew cast off the lines, and the Desert Angel glided gracefully out over the dunes heading west.
Sole went to explore the ship, finding the Cabin and the cook, and then the Hold and the cargo. He saw that the ribs of the ship were partially made of bone and bone marrow, covered in runes. So naturally, he scraped some of the marrow off and went to ask the captain about it. The captain reacted in “shock, horror, and rage” as she explained that the arcane runes on the Titan bones and marrow were the very things that made the ship fly. So no, Sole could not “eat them”.
They then passed their first Sailing Check to help the captain set a safe course. They deftly maneuvered around a high dune covered in Giant Sand Fleas, which failed to leaped onto the ship. Huzzah!
Halfway through the morning, they spotted a small pool of sparkling water surrounded by green vegetation. They advised the captain that they should investigate this oasis, so the ship dropped anchor. Sole, Bek, and Jim shimmied down a rope ladder.
Sole went straight to the water where he saw some dark lumps under the sand. He bopped one with his hammer. The lumps turned out to be a Giant Oasis Scorpion, which reared up out of the water and attacked! Bek hurled fire and Jim dashed forward with his rapier, and the scorpion quickly lost a claw, and scuttled away. Falvor tried to fire the ship’s ballista, but missed by quite a bit.
Sole took the claw and had Bek roast it so he could eat it (along with a little magic bone marrow). They returned to the ship and continued sailing west.
The party then discovered an area of the desert covered in spiraling vortexes of sand, and in the center of them, an ancient shipwreck. On board, a person was waving to them. The party immediately dropped a line down and helped this person to climb up. She turned out to be a dusty, raggedy young woman named Damaris wearing a wooden mask. Damaris was very friendly and curious about the flying boat. She also said she was a hermit who did not eat food, and did anyone want to hear the good news about “Sholleth the Writhing Dream”?
The party did not. So they sailed on!
As the afternoon waned, they spotted a tall rock spire and sailed closer to take a look. The cook Naveed came on deck and reminded the captain that some of their cargo was fragile glasswares and maybe they should not fly so close to a giant rock? Everyone agreed this made sense, so they steered clear of the spire.
A quiet night
That night, everyone went to sleep in the Cabin, except for the quartermaster who took the wheel, and the cook who relaxed on deck. The party also decided to sleep on deck without posting a watch.
In the morning, there was quite a stir. The cook was gone, a chest was missing, and the young sailor Eskander had been murdered! The captain raged! What kind of security detail doesn’t stand watch??? Sole was surprised to learn that they were supposed to be working security.
A quick investigation revealed signs that Eskander had been sleeping in the Hold when he was stabbed and his body stashed, and then someone dragged the missing chest overboard. It appeared the cook was to blame. The hermit woman Damaris, meanwhile, discovered a stone jar in the cargo and said it was whispering to her. Everyone thought she was crazy.
As the second day began, the captain took the wheel and spotted the red cliff walls of the Dead Sun Massif ahead. They needed to find a safe passage through the narrow canyons if they were going to continue west.
The party passed their first Sailing Check, pointing out the dangerous acid geysers in the first canyon. The captain nimbly raced ahead of the acid mist and the ship was unharmed.
But the party failed the second Sailing Check as they entered a canyon with glittering walls. The ship slammed into the rocks, crunching the hull. Fortunately, a shower of glitter rained down on the deck, including several small diamonds.
The party also failed the third Sailing Check as a black rift tore open the sky above them and tiny white worms rained down on the deck. The worms screamed, causing psychic damage to everyone above deck. Sole started stomping them, and Bek started burning them. But Jim was able to sweep them all away using a blast of wind.
The Desert Angel glided clear of the Dead Sun Massif over a massive blue crater full of blue stone ruins. And among the ruins, black Solar Zombies staggered under the burning sun, their bodies flickering with blue flame.
Here again, the party failed their Sailing Check and the ship ground against a ruined building, allowing three Solar Zombies to leap onto the deck. A short but fierce battle broke out, and the heroes reduced the zombies to smoldering charcoal.
In the center of the crater, atop a black marble pillar, stood a gleaming gold pyramid. The captain strongly insisted on going there to try to recoup some of the ship’s losses from the stolen chest, the dead sailor, and the damaged hull. Pulling up to the black pillar, the party easily hopped ashore and Sole began chipping chunks of gold off the pyramid walls.
Jim approached the entrance and found it was a crystal corridor glaring with a lattice of white-hot laser beams. His first acrobatics check slipped him past the beams, but he failed the next two checks and only his charred corpse landed inside the pyramid.
Using Bek’s mirror, Falvor was able to burn out two-thirds of the beams, but on the last try he melted the mirror instead. Sole then stepped forward and used the polished head of his warhammer to burn out the last of the beams. Falvor hurried into the pyramid and tended to Jim, bringing him back from the brink of death with a hideous burn scar across his face.
Inside the pyramid, they discovered a massive treasure trove of golden items all covered in cat designs. And in the center, a mummified queen: Varrani Hagar. She was reading a book (her own autobiography) and asked, “What is a word for the smell of rain on earth?” No one knew the answer, but Falvor ran back to the ship and got the answer from one of the merchants. Varrani Hagar rewarded him with a magical cat statue.
The group then tried to negotiate for her treasure, but failed, and decided it was better to leave her in peace. Falvor did not share his magic cat statue.
As the ship sailed clear of the blue crater, the pilgrim Lev Meyer came on deck to report that he had found a small ticking device in the Cabin. Bek recognized it as a bomb and had Falvor hurl it out in the desert. They then searched the ship for more, and found a second one in the Hold, which Falvor also hurled into the desert. A moment later two explosions hurled the sand high into the air… and a third explosion destroyed the bow of the ship.
Cargo spilled out into the desert, the ship leaned dangerously to one side, and the team began searching for the saboteur. With a little effort, they discovered that the elderly merchant Ira Jaron had set the bombs. He wanted to destroy the ship to protect his daughters’ camel caravan business. This got him beaten and bound to the ship’s mast.
What’s in the jar?
Meanwhile, Jim found that Damaris was still whispering and petting the stone jar in the Hold. Fed up with her strange behavior, he helped her tear the wax seal off the lid and opened the jar.
A tiny many-armed creature tumbled out and began eating a bag of spice nearby.
As the moments passed, the creature began to grow. One foot, three feet, five feet. It kept eating and kept growing, its tentacles lashing out for anything it could consume.
Damaris was delighted.
Jim lassoed the beast and began dragging it toward the hole in the bow of the ship. Sole kicked and shoved from the other side. Together they managed to get its bulk wedged tight into the hole in the ship. Sole then made one last attack with his psychic powers, which shattered the boards around the beast. The monster fell to the desert below.
After a long day of disasters, the party was sure to post a watch this night. A sandstorm appeared on the southern horizon, and Falvor tried to help the quartermaster navigate around it. But they failed their Sailing Check and the flying sand shredded the sails.
One last fiasco
As the sun rose on the third morning, the young merchant Soraya Gol came up on deck with a black rod and began chanting a spell. Instantly, everyone on board except for the party fell asleep. Soraya announced she was taking the ship for herself and was willing to hire the party as her crew.
Sole decided he was too loyal to the ship’s actual owner, and the team attacked! Soraya tried to fend them off by summoning wooden skeletons and casting magic missiles! But the party simply blasted her off the deck with a gust of wind.
Soon after they woke the crew, they spotted the grassy plains of Velnya on the western horizon. As they coasted into the town of Khervik, with the hull exploded and the sails shredded, there was no way to control the ship. The Desert Angel gently crashed into a small stone cottage. They had made it! Huzzah!
This one-shot was a ton of fun to play, and easy to run too! It’s just a series of unrelated disasters that the players get to deal with or investigate. And it was really easy to add more or discard events to keep the fun rolling but also to end on time. Everyone said it was a lot of fun, with so many random crazy things happening, and the Sailing Checks added a neat new element too. Maybe I’ll write up some other fun disaster adventures soon!