The Explorer's Handbook showcases the multi-continental aspect of the Eberron setting. The chapter on travel discusses instantaneous and played-out travel and provides deck plans for airships, the lightning rail, and galleons, plus other methods of conveyance. A chapter on Explorer's Essentials offers information on travel papers, preassembled equipment kits, how to join the Wayfarers' Foundation, and more. This handbook will encourage you to explore the entire world rather than remain fixed in one region. The excerpts below include information about the book itself, travel, the airship, the windwright captain prestige class, and the Khyber dragonshard cavern.
"Of course I can fly between the trees at this speed. They're at least 20 feet apart. Trust me."
-- Deerian Black, veteran windwright captain
The self-proclaimed masters of sky and sea, the windwright captains are the finest pilots of airships and wind galleons on Eberron. While many heirs of House Lyrandar are competent enough to helm airships on cargo trips or simple passenger runs, windwright captains takes piloting to another level. Explorers, daredevils, and innovators, windwright captains are hotshot pilots always looking for an excuse to show off what they can do.
Becoming a Windwright Captain
The bard class is typically the easiest route by which to pursue a career as a windwright captain, with multiclass rogue spellcasters another good choice. An artificer with the necessary cross-class skills is also an option, with that class's infusions giving a windwright captain an edge in improving his ship's performance.
Skills: Balance 4 ranks, Profession (sailor) 10 ranks, Use Magic Device 6 ranks.
Feats: Lesser Dragonmark (Mark of Storm; must have selected the wind's favor ability).
Special: Ability to cast 1st-level arcane spells or imbue 1st-level infusions. Must have piloted an airship or wind galleon at least once while in the service of House Lyrandar.
Windwright captains slowly bond with a single elemental-powered vessel, becoming its absolute master. This bond gives them an increased understanding of elementals in general as well as an improved ability to use more traditional forms of magic. They are still sailors at heart, though, and never stop improving their traditional skills and instincts.
Weapon and Armor Proficiency: You gain proficiency with the short sword and the rapier, but not with any armor or shield.
Spellcasting/Infusions: At each odd-numbered level, you gain new spells per day and an increase in caster level (and spells known, if applicable) as if you had also gained a level in an arcane spellcasting class to which you belonged before adding the prestige class level. You do not, however, gain any other benefit a character of that class would have gained.
Alternatively, you gain new infusions per day as if you had gained a level in an infusion-imbuing class to which you belonged before adding the prestige class level. You do not, however, gain any other benefit a character of that class would have gained. If you are capable of both casting arcane spells and imbuing infusions, or if you had more than one arcane spellcasting or infusion-imbuing class before becoming a windwright captain, you must decide to which class to add each level for the purpose of determining spells per day, caster level, and spells known, or for determining infusions per day.
Dragonmark Control (Ex): Levels in the windwright captain prestige class count as levels in the dragonmark heir prestige class when determining the caster level for the spell-like abilities of your dragonmarks.
Master Pilot (Ex): You are the undisputed master of controlling vehicles powered by bound elementals. While piloting such vessels, you can add your windwright captain class level to your Profession (sailor) checks.
Shipboard Fighter (Ex): At 1st level and beyond, you can take 10 on Balance and Climb checks even if threatened and distracted. You also do not lose your Dexterity bonus to Armor Class when balancing or climbing.
Acquire Ship: The elders of House Lyrandar know that a truly skilled pilot can earn more gold taking private commissions than ferrying cargo and passengers back and forth along established fare routes. Starting at 2nd level, the house agrees to lend you a standard airship or wind galleon (your choice) for your indefinite use. Enough House Lyrandar crew members to properly operate the chosen vessel are also provided, each a half-elf expert 1 with maximum ranks in Profession (sailor).
As long as you remain in good standing with House Lyrandar, you can use this vessel as you see fit with one notable condition: one-fifth of your gross income from the use of the ship must be tithed back to Lyrandar, including any treasure retrieved during explorations for which the ship was utilized. If the house has reason to believe this tithe is not being paid, they are within their rights to ask that the ship be returned to them -- perhaps even going so far as to send an armed retrieval squad to repossess the vessel (and any tithes owed) in the middle of the night.
At any time after acquiring the ship, you can purchase it outright for the standard airship cost of 92,000 gp. Doing so voids your need to tithe further to Lyrandar's coffers, but also causes the house to begin charging fees for the use of the crew.
Uncanny Dodge (Ex): Starting at 2nd level, you cannot be caught flat-footed and react to danger before your senses would normally allow you to do so. See the barbarian class feature, Player's Handbook page 26.
Rebuke Elementals (Su): Choose one type of elemental bound by House Lyrandar ships (either air or fire). At 3rd level, you gain the ability to rebuke, command, or bolster elementals of that type, as an evil cleric rebukes undead. Use your character level in place of your cleric level when determining how many Hit Dice of elementals you can affect with this ability. See Turn or Rebuke Undead, page 159 of the Player's Handbook.
Bound elementals under your command through a wheel of wind and water, lesser shipbond, or greater shipbond abilities do not count toward the total Hit Dice of elementals commanded.
Lesser Shipbond (Su): At 4th level, you can forge a magical bond with a single vessel powered by a bound elemental. This process requires raw materials with a cost equal to 1/25 of the vessel's value (3,680 gp for a standard airship, 2,560 gp for a wind galleon). You must also expend experience points equal to 1/10 of the vessel's value (9,200 XP for an airship, 6,400 XP for a wind galleon), and spend a full day of uninterrupted meditation to complete the bonding process.
Once the lesser shipbond is established, it grants you several benefits with regard to that specific vessel.
You no longer require a wheel of wind and water to use your dragonmark to control the bound elemental. You can telepathically communicate with it without standing at the helm, allowing you to give it orders from anywhere aboard the ship as a move action.
The vessel's top speed increases by +20 feet while you are at the helm, giving a standard airship or wind galleon a speed of 24 miles per hour overland (or 576 miles per day). This increase is an enhancement bonus.
The elemental acknowledges and accepts your dominance of it, becoming a trusted ally and friend to you. As long as you are on board the ship, it can initiate telepathic contact with you should it desire. It also offers advice when it can and warns you of any approaching danger, even if you are not at the helm.
At the same time, the elemental becomes even more resistant to accepting orders from others. Anyone other than you or your cohort (if you have one) who attempts to control the elemental without benefit of a dragonmark takes a -8 penalty on their Charisma check. Even a dragonmark heir using a wheel of wind and water must succeed on a Charisma check to control the ship. The elemental also gains a +4 circumstance bonus on its saving throw to resist any spell or infusion that would grant control over it to anyone other than you (see Controlling a Bound Elemental, page 25).
You can have a lesser shipbond with only one vessel at a time. If the vessel is destroyed (or if you wish to revoke the shipbond so that you might bond with a different vessel), you must make a DC 15 Fortitude save. Failure means you lose 200 XP per windwright captain level; success reduces the loss to one-half that amount.
Greater Shipbond (Su): At 5th level, your bond to your chosen ship increases in power. You can now telepathically communicate with your vessel's bound elemental at any range, up to 1 mile per point of your Charisma bonus. You can even order the elemental to begin moving the ship while you are not aboard, though the elemental's piloting skills are inferior to your own. Use the elemental's Profession (sailor) check (usually +0) instead of yours if you are not aboard. If you are aboard the vessel, you and it act almost as one, allowing you to command it as a free action instead of a move action.
Table 2-6: The Windwright Captain
Hit Die: d6
|| Dragonmark control, master pilot, shipboard fighter
|| +1 level of existing arcane spellcasting or infusion-imbuing class
|| Acquire ship, uncanny dodge
|| Rebuke elementals
|| +1 level of existing arcane spellcasting or infusion-imbuing class
|| Lesser shipbond
|| Greater shipbond
|| +1 level of existing arcane spellcasting or infusion-imbuing class
Class Skills (6 + Int modifier per level): Balance, Bluff, Climb, Concentration, Craft, Diplomacy, Escape Artist, Hide, Jump, Knowledge (geography), Listen, Move Silently, Profession, Spot, Swim, Tumble, Use Magic Device, Use Rope.
Playing a Windwright Captain
Let the lesser pilots haul crates and fare passengers from place to place; you and your ship have better things to do. You are the cream of the crop when it comes to piloting these vessels, so it only seems fair that you should get the best assignments -- and the best treatment.
Sure, Lyrandar thinks they have you under their thumb, but you know the truth. They make more gold from a handful of your daring exploits than a year of other pilots' cargo running, and they had better keep you happy and well treated or you might up and go solo. Certainly, others have tried (with mixed results), but you're better than any of them. For now, you'll let Lyrandar continue to take advantage of you and your amazing skills, but someday you'll be the one running the show.
As a windwright captain, you're at your best when you can bring your ship into the fray. Your vessel can provide cover and increased mobility to you and your allies. You control the range of engagement when aboard your ship, so specializing in ranged attacks and long-range spells can maximize that advantage. Keep your ship moving and away from the enemy, and you should have little trouble emerging victorious.
Battle is a little less certain when you are forced to leave your beloved ship behind, but you are not without your tricks. Find higher ground when possible for the normal +1 bonus on attack rolls, and remember that you never have to worry about losing your Dexterity bonus to Armor Class while climbing. Your position as captain means you'll almost always have an ally if you need one (be it your cohort, a crew member, or even a familiar or homunculus), so take advantage and flank. In a pinch, don't be afraid to lure your foes out into the open, where your ship and crew are ready and waiting.
Once you gain the ability at 5th level to control your ship from afar, your range of tactics increases. You can trap foes in a crossfire by moving your ship to a position opposite you and your adventuring comrades, or use it to block off avenues of escape. Your ship can also come pick you up out of a sticky situation, allowing you to escape from a crumbling ruin or rampaging mob.
House Lyrandar only trains windwright captains from within the ranks of their own extended family, for one obvious reason -- the Lesser Mark of Storm is the only consistent means to effectively control an elemental-powered airship or wind galleon. The house leadership all but demands that those bearing the mark try piloting a few times to see if they like it. Potential windwright captains will thus already have ties to House Lyrandar and will have served as a pilot on several mundane flights.
Those with some magic training and a natural gift for sailing will likely find themselves approached by their house superiors about becoming a windwright captain. A sense of adventure and a willingness to take risks are preferred; Lyrandar would rather find an adventurer with only token piloting experience than invite an experienced pilot with a reputation for caution to join the ranks.
Early on, house superiors keep you on a fairly short leash as they assess your honesty and loyalty; the loan of an airship or wind galleon is a major financial risk on their part, after all. They make sure you receive enough training to not crash your vessel into the side of a mountain or sink it as you leave the dock. They also want to be sure that you won't try to stiff them out of their rightful tithe, so expect small tests of loyalty during your initial time as captain.
Once you have your ship, you are free to travel as you please; Lyrandar obviously hopes that you won't spend all your time hauling mundane cargo. Instead, you use their ship to explore ancient ruins and bring back bountiful treasures of gold, magic, and dragonshards -- of which they take their cut. Perhaps you hire out to some clandestine organization for a secret rendezvous, or to a wealthy merchant looking for protection as he travels. As long as money continues to flow into Lyrandar's coffers, the house generally leaves you alone.
As you advance, it is a good idea to continue to concentrate on whatever skills you mastered before entering the class. If you were a rogue, continue to invest in Hide and Move Silently; if you were a bard, add ranks to Bluff and Diplomacy. Keeping your Profession (sailor) skill high allows you to pilot your ship under even the most adverse conditions.
Windwright captains occasionally meet to swap tales and tactics, but House Lyrandar elders are a more reliable source of training and equipment. Once a ship is acquired from Lyrandar, you are certainly going to want to customize it, most often by adding weaponry and additional magical enhancements to toughen it up for combat. Any items that aid in a hasty escape from an airship or wind galleon (such as life rings or a ring of swimming) will show their value sooner or later.