Imagine the rush of wind against your face, the clouds a mere arm’s reach away, and the ground a distant patchwork below.
Here is what you need to know about DND airships:
DND airships are the embodiment of adventure, the promise of the horizon, and the freedom of the skies. On average, they carry 20+ people, move at 8 mph, and cost around 20,000-30,000 gold pieces. Use them for exploration, combat, and transport.
In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about airships in DND.
What Is a DND Airship?
An airship in DND is a marvel of magic and engineering, a vessel capable of traversing the skies.
Unlike their waterborne counterparts, these ships defy gravity, often powered by a combination of arcane propellers, elemental bindings, or even captured creatures like dragons.
They serve as the setting for high-flying adventures, providing a unique mode of travel that can turn a mundane journey into an epic tale.
A DND airship typically comprises a large gondola or hull, suspended beneath a massive balloon or held aloft by magical means.
The design can range from a classic dirigible to a fully outfitted flying galleon, complete with sails and rigging made of spell-woven cloth that catches the winds of magic rather than mundane breezes.
The airship is not just a means of transport.
It’s a mobile base, a strategic advantage in combat, and a symbol of prestige and power.
In gameplay, an airship opens up a new dimension of exploration.
It allows adventurers to cross vast distances, discover hidden locales, and engage in aerial combat, all while providing a home away from home.
The presence of an airship in a campaign can elevate the narrative, literally and figuratively, offering both DMs and players a canvas to paint their most memorable stories against the backdrop of the boundless sky.
When integrating airships into your D&D campaign, it’s crucial to understand their capabilities and limitations.
The stats of an airship not only inform its in-game functionality but also help to ground this fantastical mode of transport in the game’s reality.
Here’s a basic stat block that outlines the general attributes of a standard airship:
|Capacity||20 passengers and crew|
|Cargo Weight||Up to 10 tons|
|Size||150 feet in length; 30 feet at the widest point|
|Speed||8 miles per hour; 192 miles per day|
|Cost||20,000 gold pieces|
This table provides a baseline from which you can customize your airship to fit the needs of your campaign.
Whether it’s a nimble skiff for a party of adventurers or a hulking carrier for an entire army, the stats can be adjusted to reflect the design and purpose of your unique airship.
Types of DND Airships
In the fantastical world of D&D, airships come in various forms, each with its own quirks and features.
Here’s a glimpse into ten different types of airships you might encounter or employ in your aerial adventures:
- Elemental Galleons – These sturdy vessels are powered by bound elemental creatures, such as air elementals, which propel the ship through the skies with incredible speed.
- Spelljammers – A rare sight, these ships harness the power of spellcasting for propulsion and navigation, often requiring a skilled mage at the helm.
- Sky Skiffs – Small and agile, sky skiffs are perfect for quick trips or stealthy reconnaissance missions, favored by rogues and scouts.
- Levitating Longships – Infused with levitation spells, these Viking-inspired ships combine traditional rowing with magical flight, offering a blend of old and new.
- Drift Balloons – Simple yet effective, drift balloons use large, enchanted balloons to float, relying on the winds and minor steering mechanisms.
- Arcane Clippers – Sleek and fast, arcane clippers are built for speed, using enchanted sails to cut through the air currents like knives.
- Floating Fortresses – Massive and heavily armed, these airships serve as airborne battle stations, often bristling with weaponry and troops.
- Ethereal Schooners – These ships can phase in and out of the Ethereal Plane, making them nearly untouchable and perfect for covert operations or escapes.
- Celestial Caravels – With sails that shimmer like the night sky, these ships are said to navigate by the stars themselves, often used by astral travelers.
- Steam-Powered Dirigibles – A blend of magic and technology, these airships are powered by steam engines and are a testament to the ingenuity of artificers.
How DND Airships Work
DND airships are a blend of arcane artistry and mechanical prowess, each aspect working in harmony to create a seamless flying experience.
Let’s break down the mechanics behind these majestic vessels.
The heart of an airship’s mobility lies in its propulsion system.
Most commonly, this involves an elemental core—usually an air or fire elemental—bound within a magical containment unit.
The elemental’s raw energy is harnessed and directed to generate thrust, propelling the airship forward.
In some cases, propulsion might come from powerful spellwork.
For example, mages channeling energy to create gusts of wind or arcane currents that drive the ship.
Steering an airship is no small feat.
It requires a keen understanding of the vessel’s response to the helm, often managed by a wheel or lever system.
Enchanted rudders and ailerons adjust to the pilot’s commands, allowing the ship to bank, turn, and ascend or descend. The magic that lifts the ship also grants it a degree of agility that belies its size.
However, the skill of the pilot plays a crucial role in how nimbly it can navigate.
Altitude and Elevation Control
Controlling the altitude of an airship is vital, especially when dealing with mountain ranges or flying beasts.
This is often achieved through a combination of levitation spells and ballast management.
Reducing ballast makes the ship lighter and allows it to rise, while increasing it causes the ship to descend.
Some airships might also use adjustable bladders filled with lighter-than-air gases, which can be expanded or contracted to change elevation.
Airships are not defenseless. Many are equipped with a range of armaments, from ballistae and catapults to arcane turrets that can unleash devastating spells.
Shields, both physical and magical, can be deployed to protect against incoming attacks.
The ability to fly above conventional ground forces also provides a strategic advantage, allowing airships to strike from a position of relative safety.
Rules of the Air
Navigating the skies is not without its rules and challenges.
Airspace might be controlled by powerful factions, requiring clearances or the payment of tolls.
Weather patterns and magical storms present natural obstacles that must be carefully navigated to avoid disaster.
Moreover, the laws of physics still apply.
Momentum and inertia can be unforgiving, especially during combat or in the face of strong winds.
Maintenance and Upkeep
Keeping an airship in top condition is a continuous task.
Regular maintenance of both the magical and mechanical components is essential to ensure safe and efficient operation.
- Checking the integrity of the elemental core
- Patching up the hull
- Ensuring that all moving parts are well-oiled and functional
A skilled crew is the lifeblood of any airship
From the captain who commands the vessel to the engineers who maintain it and the mages who power it, each member plays a critical role.
A well-coordinated crew can mean the difference between a smooth voyage and a catastrophic failure.
Customization and Personalization
Airships are not just transport; they’re a reflection of their owner’s personality and status.
Customization can range from the aesthetic, such as flags and paint, to the functional, like adding extra cargo space or enhancing the ship’s speed.
Personalizing an airship makes it more than just a vehicle.
It becomes a home and a companion on the many adventures that await in the skies of D&D.
How to Get an Airship in DND
Securing an airship in D&D is a significant milestone for any adventuring party.
It opens up a realm of possibilities, both for travel and storytelling.
Here are some avenues a party might explore to acquire one:
- Commissioning a Build: If the party has amassed considerable wealth, they could commission a master craftsperson to construct an airship to their specifications. This process would likely be costly and time-consuming but allows for customization.
- Quest Reward: Completing a high-stakes quest could result in a grateful benefactor bestowing an airship upon the party. This could be the culmination of a campaign arc or a side quest with high risks and higher rewards.
- Salvage Rights: Discovering a derelict airship and restoring it to glory could be an adventure in itself. The party might need to clear out infestations, repair damage, and learn how to operate the vessel.
- Theft: For those parties with looser morals, stealing an airship presents a thrilling and dangerous option. Such an act would likely make powerful enemies, adding tension and conflict to the narrative.
- Inheritance: A character might inherit an airship from a long-lost relative or as part of a mysterious legacy, setting the stage for new adventures and possibly uncovering hidden pasts.
- Discovery: Unearthing ancient blueprints or a forgotten airship in a hidden location could lead to a unique airship with secrets of its own.
Each method carries its own set of challenges and adventures, ensuring the acquisition of an airship is a memorable part of the campaign.
DND Airship Ideas for DMs and Players
These ideas can serve as campaign hooks, side quests, or even the central theme of an entire D&D campaign.
Each concept can be fleshed out with details, NPCs, and plot twists to create memorable adventures that take full advantage of the unique setting an airship provides.
- Sky Pirates’ Lair: An airship acts as a mobile base for a notorious band of sky pirates, ripe for a daring raid or a tentative alliance.
- Floating Market: A neutral airship travels between realms, hosting a market with exotic goods and information from across the lands.
- Rescue Missions: Players must navigate treacherous weather to rescue a stranded noble from a crashed airship on a mountain peak.
- Aerial Siege: Use an airship to break a siege on a mountain fortress, providing a dynamic battlefield in the skies.
- Dragon Hunters: Modify an airship for hunting dragons, complete with harpoons and nets, for a high-stakes aerial chase.
- Magical Research Station: An airship serves as a wizard’s laboratory, where players can experiment with new spells or study rare phenomena.
- Celestial Observations: Astronomers use the airship to get closer to the stars, uncovering secrets of the cosmos or impending astrological events.
- Smugglers’ Run: Players must stealthily transport contraband goods across borders, avoiding aerial patrols and inspections.
- Diplomatic Embassy: An airship acts as neutral ground for peace talks between warring nations, with the players as mediators or guards.
- Epic Heist: The party plans a heist on a luxury airship casino, requiring intricate planning and split-second timing.
- Ghost Ship: Investigate a haunted airship adrift in the sky, uncovering its tragic past and putting restless spirits to rest.
- Time-Travel Vessel: The airship is capable of temporal navigation, leading to adventures across different eras.
- Racing Regatta: Participate in or bet on high-speed airship races, complete with dangerous courses and cutthroat competitors.
- Monster Migration: Follow a migration of flying creatures, studying them or protecting the flock from poachers.
- Sky Fishing: Fish for airborne leviathans, using the airship to track and capture these magnificent beasts.
- Infernal Bargain: An airship powered by a fiendish pact, offering great power but at a potentially terrible cost.
- Refugee Caravan: The airship is a haven for refugees fleeing disaster, and players must protect them from dangers en route to safety.
- Floating Festival: Host a festival in the sky, with aerial acrobats, skydiving competitions, and fireworks that dazzle from below.
- Cultist Conclave: A cult uses the airship to reach an ancient site aligned with the stars, and the players must stop their dark ritual.
- Expedition Vessel: The airship embarks on a grand expedition to uncharted lands, facing unknown dangers and discovering lost civilizations.
- Skyborne Academy: An airship serves as a roving school for mages, where players can learn unique spells and encounter magical mishaps.
- Prison Transport: The party must either break out a prisoner from a high-security airship or prevent a daring escape.
- Floating Library: Seek knowledge in a vast library that drifts among the clouds, guarded by ancient spells and sky serpents.
- Sky Burial Ground: Discover a sacred site where the honored dead are sent to rest on derelict airships adrift in the eternal winds.
- Cloud Farming: Help a community that cultivates rare airborne plants and creatures on a fleet of interconnected airships.
- Skybound Theatre: Attend or perform in a traveling play aboard an airship, where the drama offstage rivals that of the performance.
- Aerial Archaeology: Excavate the ruins of a floating city, navigating between crumbling spires and unstable platforms.
- Weather Control Station: An airship is equipped to control weather patterns, and players must stop it from causing ecological disaster.
- Pirate Trials: Prove yourself to join a guild of air pirates through a series of challenges aboard their flagship.
- Messenger Service: Deliver urgent messages or parcels across treacherous skies, where speed is of the essence and dangers abound.
- Sky-Harbor Siege: Defend a floating harbor from an onslaught of sky pirates or rival nations.
- Eco-Saboteurs: Join a group of druids who use their airship to dismantle environmentally harmful operations from above.
- Planar Gateway: The airship discovers a rift in the sky that leads to other planes of existence, prompting a multiverse adventure.
- Celestial Alignment Festival: A rare celestial event requires the airship to be in a specific place at a specific time for a ritual that could change the world.
- Invisible Transport: The airship has the ability to become invisible, perfect for covert operations or escaping unwanted attention.
- Recovery Mission: Salvage valuable cargo from a recently downed airship in a race against rival scavengers.
- Skyborne Tavern: A tavern in the sky offers a restful respite for weary travelers, with rumors of a secret treasure hidden by the enigmatic owner.
- Aerial Zoo: Transport and care for magical creatures in an airship converted into a flying menagerie.
- Sky Siege Engines: An airship is outfitted with siege engines for a battle, requiring precise coordination to operate effectively.
- Wandering Bazaar: A bazaar that appears in the sky at random, selling items that can’t be found anywhere else on the ground.
FAQ: Airships in DND
Let’s answer some common questions players have about DND airships.
Are Airships Common in DND?
No, airships are quite rare in most DND settings.
They require expensive materials and magic to construct and operate, so you won’t see airships flying around like carriages.
Only wealthy groups or nations can afford to build and maintain a fleet.
Airships are more likely to be the prized flagship of an army or a luxury yacht for the ultra-rich. For most people, airships are a wondrous oddity they may never see up close.
Why Are Airships so Rare in DND?
Three big reasons: cost, magic requirements, and vulnerability.
Building an airship frame alone costs a fortune in exotic light woods, buoyant gases, and quality metals. Airships need magical enhancements to their balloons and propulsion systems to fly smoothly and safely.
All that makes construction extremely expensive.
They’re also vulnerable to attacks, storms, and other hazards in the air, so operating costs are high too.
Only those with deep coffers can take on such expenses.
What Powers Do Airships Have in DND?
Airships rely on magical enhancements to their balloons, propellers, and control surfaces to grant them flight.
The most common is a Continual Flame spell on an elemental air core to create lifting gas.
Airships also typically have enchanted propellers for thrust and can gain extra abilities like cloud walking, shielding, weaponry, and more if further magic is invested.
A high-level wizard merged with an airship can make it downright terrifying.
How Much Do Airships Cost in DND?
At minimum, a modest 50-foot airship will run about 25,000 gp for the hull, gas bag, and basic enchantments.
For a 100-foot ship built for war with armor, weapons, and other enhancements, the cost can balloon up to 250,000 gp or more.
And that’s not factoring in the cost of hiring skilled crews to build, operate, and maintain it.
Airships are only for the wealthy.
What Are Some Fun Airship Weapons?
Airships unlock aerial combat options like ballistae, catapults, and drop boulders.
But don’t forget magic! Enchanted ballistae that shoot exploding bolts are great, as are cloud-piercing giant crossbows.
For wizard airships, direct fireballs, lightning, and Wall of Force projections at enemies.
Or teleport troops aboard hostile ships for old fashioned swashbuckling battles in the sky.
Should I Put DND Airships in my Campaign?
Here is a video to answer this very question:
Final Thoughts: DND Airships
Airships let your adventures rise to new heights, but your coin purse will sink to new lows.
Now let your imagination continue soaring – check out some of our other great articles below.
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