Sample Lightning Rail: The Five Nations Express
Departing daily from Sharn through Aundair and Thrane, the Five Nations Express is House Orien's premier lightning rail route, allowing travelers to cover much of the continent in comfort. Despite its name, the route has not truly reached Karrnath or the remains of Cyre since the end of the Last War (though Karrnath at least can still be reached by way of connecting routes). The Five Nations Express bypasses all but a handful of Khorvaire's largest cities, stopping only at Sharn and Wroat in Breland, Passage and Fairhaven in Aundair, and Thaliost in Thrane. House Orien strives to keep the Express on a tight schedule, which means that the coach rarely pulls more than a single cargo cart.
All the cart types used by the Five Nations Express are also commonly found on other lightning rail routes, though often in different ratios. Trains bound for small villages often pull more cargo carts and no first-class carts, for example.
1. Helm Chamber: From here, a dragonmark heir can grasp the lightning reins and control the speed of the lightning rail coach. To either side of the helm, crew members control the vanes that keep the coach cruising along its path even through sharp turns. On the Five Nations Express, the helm chamber is restricted to House Orien personnel only.
2. Crew Chamber: This compartment contains the living quarters for the ten crew members of the lightning rail coach, including the dragonmark heir needed to command the air elemental. Owing to limited space in the crew cart, each cabin is somewhat sparse. None of the crew lives permanently on any given coach, however, and the four-day trip to Thaliost does not require a great deal of comfort.
3. Crew Cargo: This small hold carries repair supplies for the lightning rail, as well as any baggage carried by the crew. The Five Nations Express usually carries eight replacement conductor stones as well, in case any are damaged or missing from the path.
4. First-Class Cart: A first-class cart is nothing if not elegant. Divided equally among three small groups of passengers, the cart boasts amenities on a par with the finest inns. Travelers relax on plush couches by day and in feather beds located across the aisle at night. Waiters serve meals to each compartment individually, and can provide books or other entertainment upon request.
Each first-class compartment can hold four passengers, but since passengers are not required to share compartments with travelers not in their group, a first-class cart might have considerably fewer at any given time, with a minimum of two (Orien will exchange a first-class cart for a cart of another type if it is not at least two-thirds occupied). The Five Nations Express carries two first-class carts.
5. Galley Cart: This cart provides food service for the entire coach. Half the cart is given over to an impressive kitchen with a staff of six chefs, while the remaining space contains living quarters for the dining crew and a large pantry. Because the same kitchen serves both the standard and first-class passengers, the Five Nations Express employs some of the finest ingredients and culinary artisans available on Khorvaire.
6. Dining Cart: With six long wooden tables and matching benches, the dining cart can seat all seventy-two passengers riding in a standard cart. Seating is scarce during favored meal times, however, and the five-person dining cart crew tries to encourage passengers to eat as quickly as possible in order to make room for others to be served.
7. Standard Passenger Cart: Most adventurers prefer to ride standard class for its mixture of convenience and affordability. Standard passenger carts are divided into three compartments, each with four subsections and a center aisle. Comfortable cushioned benches line each subsection, each seating up to six passengers for a maximum seating capacity of seventy-two travelers. The Five Nations Express pulls two standard passenger carts.
8. Sleeper Cart: Even at the tremendous speeds attainable by the lightning rail, a trip from Sharn to Fairhaven takes over three days. A sleeper cart is built to provide enough bunks for all the passengers in a standard passenger cart, so a coach carries one sleeper cart for every passenger cart. The cart is divided into eighteen closed compartments, each with four bunks. It also contains two washrooms, one each for male and female passengers. The Five Nations Express carries two sleeper carts.
9. Steerage Cart: This cart is filled with simple wooden benches and nothing else. Those paying steerage fare (see page 18) ride here, and such carts are often packed with up to two hundred travelers. Steerage passengers must sleep where they sit, often spreading out bedrolls on the floor if space permits. The steerage cart usually retains the distinctive odor of its throngs of passengers long after they have disembarked.
House Orien contracts three armed guards (human fighter 1) from House Deneith's Defenders Guild to watch over each steerage cart on the Five Nations Express. Even with such protection, pickpockets run rampant on the crowded carts, and bouts of violence erupt from time to time. Travelers riding the Five Nations Express on steerage fare are advised to keep one eye open at all times. The Five Nations Express pulls two steerage carts, which are usually filled to capacity when the coach leaves Sharn.
10. Cargo Cart: A cargo cart is a large, empty cart used to haul bulky objects. While carts on other trains might be filled with harvested crops or ore, the cargo cart on the Five Nations Express is used only for excess baggage brought by standard or first-class passengers as well as time-sensitive courier deliveries. Unlike passenger carts, cargo carts do not have aisles through them. Instead, a narrow walkway allows the crew to get around the cart as needed. Each cargo cart can be securely locked (Open Lock DC 25). Six more members of the Defenders Guild guard the cargo cart on the Five Nations Express.