One of the most memorable events at a gaming table was the time I brought an airship to a Pathfinder Society Interactive Special. We were playing 8–99a The Solstice Scar in the 10-11 level subtier and only a few of us knew what I was up to… the GM certainly didn’t. (Spoilers for 8–99 to follow)
I knew I was bringing this monstrosity. I had a 10th level kineticist who had been accumulating gold for several levels and had nothing to spend it on but more boring belts to bump up my stats. Armor wasn’t going to help much as I pretty much stay in the back, a weapon isn’t needed, and that 18,000 gp tiara that increases your damage by a whopping +1d6 just seemed… lack luster. So what do I do with all of this cash? Drop it on an airship.
In truth, I knew what I was doing from level 1, as this kineticist was basically a tribute character to Setzer from Final Fantasy VI. He’s famous for three things: 1) being a gambler, 2) throwing coins at people to deal damage, and 3) owning that world’s only airship that is also a casino. The aether based telekineticist was perfect for the concept, and the fact that I literally threw away about 100 gp as ammunition was a speed bump compared to the cost of my flying gambling hall. By level 10 I was ready for my big purchase and my big debut…
When you bring an airship to a game, it’s not enough to just say it exists and leave it at that. Even a nice printed and laminated 2D airship is nice… but not quite the big statement I wanted to make. So where do you go? 3D models.
Using my foam cutting tools, I crafted the airship from several pieces of extruded polystyrene, slathered it in a mixture of foam coat and paint, added some chain rails with jewelry making tools, and stuck a big double base on the thing. I even kept it to the 20 ft. by 60 ft. size listed in it’s stat block, taking no chances that this thing wouldn’t be PFS legal. I packed it up for GenCon in a big cardboard box, held in place by some soft packing foam.
Only a couple of local players knew about the airship, Quinn Shannon and Patrick Brennan. They made sure to have solutions for flying all worked out. I give a bit of a hint to the other players as well, “Have a way to fly.” I wouldn’t tell them why, just that it was important. But there was one hitch… I knew that there was a teleportation that happened as part of the scenario, having written the scenario myself. How was I going to get this colossal air vehicle through a teleportation spell? Quinn had an answer in his pirate barbarian named Captain Barbar Barbarbar and a fun new piece of loot. Perfect.
So there we were, GenCon 2017 at the big Interactive Special on Thursday night. The table: myself, Quinn, Patrick, Sam King, Lucas Servideo, and Seth Brummond. PFS author and friend Nathan King was the GM, and he had no clue what he had gotten himself into.
He asked, “What’s in that big box?”
“Oh, don’t worry about it,” I replied.
The first act takes place entirely indoors, so no airship yet. We clear encounters with relative ease, Quinn’s barbarian “Barbar” smashing things to the right while Patrick’s eidolon does the same to the left. The occasional enemy is snowball blasted by Sam’s wizard. Seth’s magus pulls out the shocking grasp novas for really large targets and Lucas’s “shaman not-shaman” keeps the heals flowing with an occasional misfortune hex. Setzer only plinks a creature with a gold coin occasionally, powerful but certainly not the stand-out character. I let everyone else have Act 1 to do what they designed their characters for. The chaos started in Act 2…
There’s a brief interlude where we talk to some orcs in Urgir, roll some skill checks, make some new green-skinned friends. Then we travel north…
Nathan (GM), “Ok, so you’re walking along side this caravan—”
“Oh no, we’re traveling in style,” I interject. “Setzer rips his shirt open to reveal a tattoo of an airship just before it springs to life from his chest, floating in an open field. ‘All aboard!’ he calls.”
Nathan stammers, “You—How—What?!”
I tell the table that I’ve got an airship that I’ve purchased for us to fly in. No tromping around in the dust for us. We get to soar over Belkzen in style.
“But… you couldn’t have brought it here, you teleported.”
“Oh, we got that covered; it was a tattoo. Captain Barbar tattoo’d it on Setzer’s chest with needles of fleshgraving. The rules say, ‘once per day they can be used to transform an object…’ There’s no size limitation.”
“But how can you afford an airship?” Nathan asks.
“I saved up. Besides, I’m a kineticist; I don’t really need equipment.”
“Do you have a cut-out or something to use for the airship; they’re pretty big aren’t they?”
“Oh,” I reply, “I have better than that…” I go pull the airship model from the large box and set it on the table. Everyone continues to roar with laughter and now we’re getting people from nearby tables coming over to see what the disruption is.
Nathan desperately tries to regain his composure and get the table going again. “Ok, ok… so you’re FLYING over Belkzen when… um…” He stares at his monster stat-blocks for a moment. “—THEY’RE ALL MELEE.”
Me, sheepishly, “…not all…”
“Ok, there’s like… a couple of casters with no big spells.” He raises his hand to flag a marshal, “SUCCESS.” The table looses it. We’ve just completed the opening encounter without rolling initiative! Nathan continues to flip through the encounters, “This next one is a bunch of ground creatures and a caster… SUCCESS!”
After we pick ourselves up off the floor I suggest, “Nathan, how about the one with the giants?”
“Yeah, ok. That one looks good. Roll initiative.”
We have a fairly fair fight as the airship flies up the side of a mountain where there were giants raining boulders down on the caravan we’re supposed to be protecting. Instead of the climb up to them as we pelt them, we have a fun ranged attack battle where the giants toss boulders AT THE AIRSHIP! Barbar activates his winged boots and charges the giants. The eidolon is dimension doored into their midst and we wreck them. Fun had by all!
At this point the act is basically over and it’s time for a 5 minute break before we start act 3. I walk up to the HQ booth and tell John Compton what I’ve done. He just mutters, “Oh Hoskins—Wait! Are airships even legal?”
“Sure they are, they’re in the vehicle section of Ultimate Combat.” (and they are still legal)
He gives me a dubious look. “What? They’re only 50,000 gp,” I say with a clever grin.
After a gulp and a bit of nervous laughter, I rejoin my table. Nathan has been pouring over the act 3 encounters during the entire break trying to find something to challenge us. He actually succeeds! We fight a group of flying undead that manage to put some hurt on us before we vanquish them.
About the time the fight is drawing to a close, John Compton has arrived and is observing the table, his usual serious visage studying the battlefield carefully. As the next fight begins, John makes his way to a nearby table and starts to write…
As we mop up another group of flying undead, John Compton comes back to the table with a sheet of paper. He hands it to Nathan as he takes him aside for a moment; the two of them speak in hushed tones we cannot hope to hear over the din of the gaming hall. After a moment, Nathan returns to the table, gleaming with confidence. He was smiling so broadly, you’d think he just won the lottery. It made the rest of us nervous.
The final encounter is announced, we need to move on to the final area. We maneuver the airship into a wooded valley where a circle of standing stones sits by a rushing river. There’s a portal to the negative energy plane opened in the center of the stones and we need to find a way to close it. While we get the map ready and prepare ourselves, Nathan digs through a box of minis and pulls out a huge glabrezu mini and puts it on the board. “Roll for initiative.” My mind starts racing. That’s not my creature. This isn’t my encounter! COMPTON!
None of us are quite sure what to expect… we tentatively fire attacks at it. Miss. Miss. Miss. Sam’s witch blasts it with a spell. No damage. Seth’s magus rolls to identify it: natural 20. Nathan tells us that it’s called “Compton’s Monster” and that it’s immune to all elemental attacks. That’s all we get.
It’s the creature’s turn.
It greater teleports directly next to the airship, easily in striking distance of all of us.
Patrick steps in, “Ok, Lets test this thing out. I send my eidolon to attack it.”
Nathan rolls the attack of opportunity, “Does a 56 hit?” Yes. Yes it does. He pulls out 5 20-sided dice and rolls them, and again, and again, and again. “238 damage. Is your eidolon dead?” Yes. Yes he is.
Quinn is feeling luckier as he’s only a 5 foot step from the edge of the airship, he has Barbar 5-foot-step and start swinging. As he looks down at his pile of dice from a full attack he starts, “Ok, natural 19; does a 39 hit?”
“Well… I guess I don’t need the rest of these,” he says as he scoops up the pile of dice. “Everything misses then.”
Lucas’s turn. He says, “Um… misfortune hex is supernatural, so it doesn’t provoke! I’ll misfortune it.”
Nathan rolls its save out in the open: natural 1.
The table erupts in cheers! It’s misfortuned!! Seth stands up and waves down a marshal, “SUCCESS!”
On my turn, I’m to frightened that it has Combat Reflexes and chose to go full defense and 5-foot-step away from it.
We were essentially speechless. What can you say after all of that? After a round of nervous laughter, we managed to compose ourselves and start to clean up the table. About that time John Compton wanders his way back over to our table and prompts, “Did I see this table report a success?”
Nathan turns to John merrily states, “They DID manage to land a misfortune hex on it. I had to give them something.”
John simply raised an eyebrow and walked away.