Mini Module: Sky Pirates

The party becomes caravan guards for a fleet of airships carrying valuable, flammable cargo.

Airship Dock

An Enticing Offer

The party learns of a high-paying job for guarding a caravan, but it turns out the caravan in question is a small fleet of airships transporting valuable, secret cargo. The job is high paying enough that several other groups have taken interest and the party needs to prove they're the best ones for the job. This may involve proving they're the best or convincing the other parties to let them have it.

Your players may have many “creative” ideas on how to solve this, and they should generally work. If your players are unable to come up with anything, the captain of the fleet can propose a test of skill or friendly duel.

Working Aboard the Airships

At this point your players have hopefully proven themselves the worthiest. Or they simply moved on and you can retry and re-use this in a similar fashion later. Either way, they'll be led to the airships.

You are brought to where the airships are moored to the ground. There are 3 ships in all, each slightly smaller than a Brig, a typical merchant boat. Their design is slightly sleeker, and features a large air bag instead of the two main sails. A rope bridge is lowered for the crew to climb up onto the main deck.

The party can then be briefed on their tasks as the ships take off and the voyage gets underway. Since space is even more limited on a ship intended to fly, the party needs to double as crew and help with the airship's function. Tasks can include rigging, repairing damage with pitch, helping with cooking/cleaning, communicating with the other ships in the fleet, or keeping the crew motivated and organized.

If players fail in their duties / skill checks, things can go wrong. Rigging can come loose, lunch can be burned, poor communications can lead to the fleet disorganized, or the crew can become sloppy or angry at bad singing. Players should be encouraged to move around as needed to help solve some of the new challenges that can crop up while running a ship.

Pitch Causes A Hitch

A pitch barrel explodes, engulfing one of the ships in flames. Ideally party members should be separated on different ships, so part of the problem for some of them could simply be reaching the burning ship or helping their friends that happen to be on the ship. The fire spreads rapidly (resin is very flammable) and can possibly reach more barrels. It's important to get the fire out quickly, as it's revealed the valuable cargo is VERY flammable and explosive.

Again you should be encouraging creative ideas, as the party will need to deal with this again later (under worse circumstances). The fire should be rapid and threatening enough that multiple players will need to contribute to get it under control, you don't want everyone completely relying on the Sorcerer to put it out alone. Feel free to run it under an initiative and turn constraint so that everyone gets a turn and needs to spend it helping to put out the fire, which can grow and spread each turn.

Sky Pirates Attack

After the fire is put out, if the crew is questioned the party can discover a saboteur among them who set the barrel on fire. This will trigger an attack by sky pirates, who placed the saboteur in the crew to weaken and disorganize the fleet prior to an attack. If the party doesn't discover the saboteur the fleet attacks shortly after the fire is put out.

The sky pirates use huge harpoons to anchor the ships together which also function as a way to move between the ships. The pirates will quickly move along these bridges to board and assault the crew and party. Some of the pirates have fire bombs (DMG 267) which they will use if they start losing. The fire bombs will spread, requiring the party to put them out like before, just with the added problem of combat.

Encounter Details

Have the pirates board in small groups every couple turns. The stat block provided here is CR 2, which should be a good challenge for level 4 or 5 players. Any sort of CR or stat block can be used here, and you can create your own version at https://www.kassoon.com/dnd/5e/generate-encounter/. Ideally you should set the type of enemy to humanoid, but you can tweak the encounter however you like.

Combat can end once enough pirates have been defeated, the airships become too damaged and crash, or the cargo is stolen (after which the pirates will retreat).

Also remember: this is in the sky. Getting pushed overboard is a quick way to remove people from combat.

Sky Pirate
Medium Humanoid, Chaotic Neutral (CR 2)
Armor Class 16 (chain)
Hit Points 52
Speed 30 ft.
14 (+2)14 (+2)14 (+2)11 (+0)11 (+0)15 (+2)
Saving Throws Con +4, Wis +2
Senses Passive Perception 10
Languages Common
Challenge 2 (450 XP)
Multiattack. The Sky Pirate makes two melee attacks.
Scimitar. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit 5 (1d6 + 2) slashing damage.
Heavy Crossbow. Ranged Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, range 100/400 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d10+2) piercing damage.
Camaraderie (Recharges after a Short or Long Rest). Inspires a fellow Sky Pirate that it can see within 30 feet whenever it makes an attack roll or saving throw. The creature can add d4 to its roll provided it can hear and understand the Sky Pirate. A creature can only benefit from one Camaraderie die at a time.
Parry. The Sky Pirate adds 2 to its AC against one melee attack that would hit it. To do so, the Sky Pirate must see the attacker and be wielding a melee weapon.


Airship Combat Map
(Credit to drblam)

Political Intrigue Revealed

If things go well and the cargo is safely delivered (or they go bad and they crash or lose the cargo) the party can learn that the “pirates” are actually soldiers for another kingdom. The cargo being delivered is a powerful weapon of war, a magical ballista that fires explosive rounds that can make quick work of city walls. This was being delivered as a gift to a third nation, and could have powerful political ramifications regardless of where it ends up.

This could then lead to an ongoing campaign of political intrigue where depending on the outcome of the cargo the 3 nations will all have their own opinions of the party and may have further business (or revenge) with them. Or just treat it as a one-shot! It's up to you.

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