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D&D 3.

5e Airship And Flying City Creation Guide

This is a guide on how to make Airships using D&D rules, and I will be adding some bits on
Flying Cities later... its mostly a comparison of the various ways of using D&D rules to make an
Airship! Note that this does NOT talk about doing things like making advanced engines with
Animate Object (only the simplest method of that is mentioned, due to precedent in the
rulebooks), or using real world physics and engineering in airships. While this can be done, and
can be a way to even surpass the low cost of the airships here, it is beyond the scope of this
particular guide.

First, I will be comparing the airships presented in the various 3.5e and 3.0e books, both on
their own merits as complete ships, and as the basis for further enhancement.

Note: there is another airship handbook, here:

Which focuses on options somewhat different than this one.

By the book airships:

By The Book Airship # 1:

Halruaan Skyship. From the book Forgotten Realms Shining South, pg 56
Pros: Traditional to FR. Looks like a ship -- A Wondrous Item, so doesnt require difficult to
obtain feats to make!
Cons: Needs a Huge Crew. Wooden, and normal wood even. Really expensive. Slow. Looks
like a ship... uses Wind Power to move. Utterly vulnerable to natural antimagic area. Also
vulnerable to attack. Not generally for sale; mostly prestige things that Halruaa makes. Costs
400,000 gp; most expensive option in general. If you are in FR, you cant simply get it by taking
craft wondrous item; you generally need to use lost techniques from Halruaa.
Conclusion: Generally the worst option of all the presented options. Dont go for this unless you
can steal one and get away with it.

By The Book Airship # 2:

House Lyrander Airship. From the book Eberron Campaign Setting, pg 267
Pros: Arguably, can stay aloft in a null magic zone. The Eberron books disagree on, if the
elemental is ever released or rendered nonfunctional, if the ship crashes or not. However, they
do not disagree that the alchemically treated Soarwood is what provides the lift, making the
whole thing lighter than air, and the bound elemental merely provides the motive force. This
airship is in the core eberron book, and is easy to find. It is relatively common in the setting. It
is relatively inexpensive, costing only 92,000 gp (though see the other handbook for discussion
on this price). It is fast. Making wood ship lighter than air doesnt require a powerful
spellcaster; just an alchemist.
Cons: Doing this sort of elemental binding also needs a specific feat and a very high caster
level. In Eberron, one house has a monopoly on the technique. Soarwood isn't too terribly
durable. Locomotion doesn't work in a natural antimagic area, just the floating. Needs a crew
too, though the crew is relatively small, being only 15 people.
Conclusion: A solid choice, especially at the price. If you are crafting one yourself, you might
want to use other options, though integrating alchemically treated Soarwood into whatever
construction you use is a solid idea.

By The Book Airship # 3:

Gate Zeppelin, from the book Planar Handbook, pg 73
Pros: mundane flight and propulsion, can hover, can Gate to another plane 1/day.
Cons: Slow. A big target. The actual space is a small gondola. Not too durable. Getting a good
place to set down is difficult. Expensive: costs 160,000 gp
Conclusion: Dont go for this

By The Book Airship # 4:

Dragonfly Longship, from Dragon Magazine #331, pg 38
Pros: Doesn't need a big crew (implies two or three in the description), fast (winged) flying
speed, with relatively good maneuverability. Has a very, very useful weapon. Wondrous Item,
so doesnt require obscure feats to make. Is actually somewhat like a fighter airplane. Since it
is a Wondrous item, is exceptionally simple to simply make it an i ntelligent Wondrous Item...
Cons: Expensive (175,000), doesn't work in antimagic area, not being a construct and instead
being a Wondrous Item. Cant hover.
Conclusion: A solid sports car / fighter airplane option.

By the Book Airship #5 & #6:

Dirigible and Zeppelin, from Arms & Equipment Guide, pg 55
Pros: Crew is small, 10 or 6. Lighter than air, doesnt fall if in a nonmagic area. Specifically
mentions that the propellers are animated, implying that you can cast Animate Object on
propellers in a permanent way (Permanency?), thus letting other airship types use this as a
means of locomotion. Can Hover. Cheap: Dirigible is 35,000 gp, and Zeppelin is 60,000 gp.
Cons: Slow, all the problems with real-world zeppelins. The guide doesnt say what kind of gas
is put in them, or how it is obtained, or if there is a cheaper gas which happens to be flammable
(like real life). Easy to damage.
Conclusion: Some of the cheapest options for a pre-statted ship. Not bad, for that.

Too add: Firesleds from Secrets of Xendrik. Air-Skiffs from Whispers of the Vampires Blade
and The Voyage of the Golden Dragon
Ships that were left out on purpose:

*The planar ships described in the planar handbook do not outright say that they can fly at the
gravity of a full planet. Their ability to move lowers in gravity wells on the astral plane, and they
are implied to be astral-only ships

*Spelljammer Nautiloids, as far as I know, are not given a write-up anywhere in D&D 3.5e or
3.0e rules. Also they need a spellcaster as a full time helmsman. They were quite similar to the
planar handbook ships in theme, though.

Airships that use rules in books, but arent costed out completely:

Option 1: Enchanting a Stronghold Space using the Stronghold Builder's Guide rules
Pros: Wondrous Item! Doesnt require obscure feats to make. Can be made of lots of
interesting materials--not necessarily wood! Gives movement for interplanar options. Can be
quite fast. Gives swimming/earthgliding/etc options, great! If you want to do the iron man thing
with walls of iron and shape metal and such, this is how you want to do it.
Cons: If you use these rules for the main way of doing locomotion, then the price starts adding
up real quick. Very vulnerable to a natural antimagic area.
Conclusion: Use this set of rules to swank up an existing, other methods. Especially get it aloft,
or provide locomotion, with other ways. Its still good if you want larger airships, though.

Option 2: Making the ship an Effigy (From Complete Arcane)

Pros: Self Locomotion! Can follow orders! Can look like an animal or wyvern with added hit dice
(and thus size) or whatever! Can fly on it's own power! It can fly and move about in antimagic
Cons: Requires Craft Construct to make. Has a low number of hit points, so it can be 'killed' with
direct hit point damage. Arguably not a con -- most of the rules for vehicles (stormwrack, arms
and equipment guide, etc.) have them with low hit points anyway for some reason, and it might
manage to get a hardness from those. It's not necessarily a 'smart' ship at this point. Will need
to flap its wings to stay aloft. Might need some house rules to get the right form of an effigy --
making it so much bigger than say, a normal sized Wyvern, might require DM intervention. Will
need silly template stacking (like in that classic mr roboto thread) to not be too vulnerable.
Might be targeted by intimidated people (AHH ITS A WYVERN AHHH KILL IT!!).

Option 3: Using the actual spell (Suspension) in Shining South that is the basis of their ships,
maybe in a Spell Clock or a Repeating Boon Trap (a la Dungeonscape, but not exactly using the
Dungeonscape rules, since those are dungeon-defense specific designs), or just someone
casting this as a spell.
Pros: Really, Really cheap. I mean, a Spell Clock or repeating trap or whatever of this would be
RIDICULOUSLY cheap. Can get very large amounts of weight aloft. Did I mention cheap? Also,
Wondrous Item, so it isnt hard to get a feat which can make this.
Cons: Suppressed in an area of natural antimagic. It requires spells to be actively cast, either by
a person activating a wondrous item, or casting the spell from their list, or pulling a lever for the
trap, or a Spell Clock automatically casting it. Doesn't provide locomotion.

Option 4: Animated Object + Permanency

Pros: Immediately can get the item flight, wheeled mobility, etc. Cheap! Just requires mundane
building, casting of spells, and some XP, doesn't require item creation feats. The Arms &
Equipment Guide options imply that the speed can be improved beyond that of just the
Animated Object spell description itself, by adding propellers.
Cons: Requires either a spellcaster to keep on casting the spell, or a spell clock or a repeating
trap... or Permanency. Can be dispelled (!). Arguably nullified in an area of antimagic:
constructs work fine in an area of antimagic, but spells dont (consult your DM). Requires a few
creative shenanigans to get it to actually work. Flight is 25 and clumsy, unless you can get the
propellers thing allowed. Can only work on items that fit within a 30 foot square box.

Option 5: Use a Soarwhale from Arms and Equipment Guide

Pro: Paralyzing Gas Breath Weapon! Two options in how to use the creature: A creature you
can train, and place a howdah on top or a gondola on bottom (what the book suggests, or you
could do both)... Ooorrrrrr you could make one into a giant undead zombie whale which you
hollow out to make much more living space (presumably you leave the air bladders intact). Is a
creature you find and train (or...breed? domesticate?), so doesn't require feats to make. Doesn't
require much crew. Really, really, really strong. Really tough. Huge number hit dice.
Con: Both options have problems. The creature one doesnt give much space. The hollow
zombie one, well... You are flying in a giant undead zombie whale blimp. And you probably
have to make sure the air bladders --and whatever makes the gas-- dont rot (reinforce them
alchemically maybe?). Also the massive amount of HD means that you need to use something
obscure and without a HD cap to make it a zombie, like a variant of the Elixir of the Unfailing
Servant (Drow of the Underdark) or something. And those are relatively hard to find, and you
would need to make a non-drow version. Also, you have to kill this 467-hit point monstrosity
after pouring that elixir down its gullet.

Option 6: Skyberg from Frostburn

Pro: Tons of living space. Big, easy to dig out rooms in this flying iceberg. Doesnt require a feat
to make!
Con: It's a flying iceberg. You will need to both add a significant amount of propulsion and keep
it from melting somehow, probably from some Frostburn spell.

Some thoughts on Locomotion

Option 1: Get some tireless flying creature to pull it

Pro: You get a few flying effigies or flying mindless undead to pull your swank flying boat!
Awesome! They can keep it moving in an antimagic fields, too!
Con: They can be targeted, and are vulnerable. Also the cables or ropes connecting them to the
ship can be targeted. Also, having separate creatures from the ship providing movement to it
gives miscellaneous problems of their own (controlling them, directing them, etc.). Also, undead
need to be controlled somehow, which generally requires a Dread Necromancer or a Cleric or
something, which is tedious. Also, constructs tend to be more expensive to make than Undead.

Option 2: Decanter of Endless Water + Riverine [Stormwrack] Nozzle + Permanency-ed Wall of

Fire (or a shaped, Permanencied Wall of Magma to provide both the heat and the chamber and
Pro: THRUST. LOTS AND LOTS of thrust. Like, if you do things right, Jet engine thrust level!
You can even call it a PLASMA DRIVE!
Con: You are spewing lots of water (or steam, or maybe plasma, Im not sure what happens to
the water when it is put under ridiculous amounts of pressure that this device would generate,
even with only the limited heat of a wall of Fire...) behind you. This might upset people / the
weather / the Druid / certain creatures. Suppressed in Antimagic area, unless the Magma
version breaks Line of Effect. Also, someone generally has to interact with this item to get it to
do stuff. Also, problems with aiming the thrust, you'll need a fancy rudder (or, uhm, whatever
setup F-22s use for vectored thrust...) setup of some sort. Also problems with huge amounts of
heat generation in your ship! This is one of the setups for any of the physics based options, of
varying designs. Unfortunately, these can cause huge arguments for exactly how much thrust
the various methods provide... and the particulars of the boiler design. Price, amount of thrust,
the number of decanters needed, the exact construction, the spells needed, etc. etc. will likely
need to be hand-waved. Do be aware that WotC didnt do the math with the Geyser version of
the decanter, so the water pressure isnt actually Geyser-level. You might have to talk to your
GM about this
Conclusion: This is something you should reaaallly talk to your DM if you plan on doing this.

Option 3: Sails
Pro: Already in most settings. Cheap. Work in antimagic area.
Con: Can't generally go faster than the wind directly downwind, and not sturdy. Might require
Stormwrack and Arms & Equipment Guide rules, which are cumbersome and dont work that
well (notably, those rules let you go downwind faster than the wind... without using a propeller
setup). If you want to get realistic, you cant really do most of the neat sailing maneuvers that
can be done with a keel in water, so this might be incredibly useless if your DM thinks about it
for more than a second or two.
Conclusion: Eh. Cheap, and an okay backup, if the rules will be handwaved. Youll generally
have more lift than you need, so why not carry some sails or something?

Option 4: Using some perpetual motion machine on the inside of the ship, connected with gears,
(there are a bunch that can be made with D&D spells) to move a propeller or something
Pros: Can improve speed, maybe even greatly.
Cons: Easily damaged. Might need the heat metal / cool metal thing, or any of the other D&D
perpetual motion machines options (animate object is a classic!). Or you could just animate
object the propellers themselves, but that is more subject to being dispelled. No real rules cover
exactly how much it can improve the speed of various options...
Conclusion: It works alright. But this shouldnt be the main way of providing thrust -- animated
propellers should be a backup method, perhaps

Option 5:
Coldfire Engine from Frostburn. Lightning Turbine or Cloud Keel from Arms & Equipment Guide
Pros: Uhm, the Lightning Turbine can double existing move speeds. The Coldfire Engine is
relatively fast too.
Cons: Expensive as all heck. I mean REALLY. Who the heck priced these things?? Also, the
Lightning Turbine needs a source of lightning to be hitting it regularly, which shouldnt be too
hard to provide with a magic trap or something
Conclusion: These are good ways of adding speed if you have extra money to burn. However,
if you have money to burn, why are you reading this particular guide? If you have a million GP to
spend, read this guide instead:

Some thoughts on intelligent ships:

Option 1: Haunt Shift spell, from Libris Mortis

Pro: An easy way to get it intelligence.
Con: Evil, uses negative energy. Makes it, you know, haunted by Undead. Might not always let
the inhabiting spirit have full control over everything. Requires some intelligent undead to start
with. To bypass these issues (ie, get a Deathless / positive energy version), will need LOTS of
DM Fiat / Custom spell research / questing. Probably suppressed in antimagic. From a fairly
obscure source book, too.
Conclusion: I dont particularly like this method... its great for a GM to make one of these and
have the player characters find it, but it isnt ideal to start with.

Option 2: Embedding a Sentient Magic Item in the structure/workings somewhere

Pro: Fairly easy to accomplish. Gives it Sentience.
Con: Will probably only work well with the Effigy version, and only if there's some way to link the
commands of the magic item to what the Effigy does. Would work with the Dragonfly Longship,
though. Maybe even the Halruuan Airship (though why would you?) Might not give it control
over all the ancillary aspects of the ship, unless it has access to lots of unseen servants / mage
hand / etc. sorts of things. Possibly needs GM adjudication to get this to work fully
Conclusion: I actually prefer this, since I like effigy ships in general

Option 3: For the constructs, use Rudimentary Intelligence from Dragon Magazine #327.
Pro. Fairly easy to accomplish. Animal intelligence. Doesn't require humanoid constructs, unlike
the feat alternative (yay!). Also gives skill points!
Con: Somewhat expensive! Needs access to Circle Magic (ie, extreme caster level buffs, though
you can get those elsewhere at high level if you want) to get it to normal human level
intelligence or higher than that.
Conclusion: Pretty good. Theres nothing wrong with having a ship with animal intelligence (or
higher, if you get enough caster level buffs), really. Plus doesnt require GM intervention.

Option 4: Make it a Guardian Ship, from Dragon Magazine #333, provided the DM will allow
those enchantments to be used on other ship-like constructs (like the eberron soarwood ships)
Pro: gives some useful abilities
Con: Way, way, wayyyyyyyy too expensive...

One of my favorite ways of making a cheap, small ship that is high performance:

My personal favorite way of doing this is something a level 8 Artificer (with, say, Apprentice
Craftsman and Extraordinary Artisan) can make, as follows (of course a bigger version would be
needed to be more than just personal transport...). Basically, its a hollow effigy with some
add-ons. Ideally, you will have access to a Rod of Invisible Spell or the Invisible Spell feat and
be able to make certain bits of it out of Invisible Iron from Walls of Iron or something. It also has
some suggested cost reduction feats for the Artificer, too. Anyway, here goes:

Checking D20 Modern, things like Helicopters and Cessnas are at least Gargantuan in size.
Thus, a flying machine to hold multiple people will have to also be Gargantuan to be useful.
Thus, a template to enlarge a low hit dice creature is needed. Unfortunately, the only one that
exists in 3.5e is Titanic. While that would work for, say, a high wealth game, that's not what we
want. What we need to do, for effigies, is maximize size while minimizing hit dice. Also, the
creature being a bit pudgy around the middle will help greatly. Looking around, the
Dragonhawk, from Eberron Five Nations, and a web excerpt describing that book, fits the bill.
Alas, there is no template for increasing size... However, Pathfinder has the Giant template to
do just that, without increasing Hit Dice... And that template is functionally identical to the 3.5
chart that simply describes what changes you make to a creature whose size you arbitrarily
increase, or when their hit dice increase enough to make their size bigger.

With Effigies, you generally want to stack templates for purposes of adding natural armor, basic
stats, and movement modes.

Thus, we ultimately want to make a:

-Half Dragon Li Lung
-Half Scrag

Here are what the templates add, when applied to a creature that will ultimately be an effigy:

Magebred (Eberron Campaign Setting) adds: +4 to natural armor, +4 str, +2 dex, improved
natural attack: claw

Woodling (Monster Manual III) adds +7 natural armor

Wild (dragon magazine 306) adds +2 str, +5 to all speeds

Half-Scrag (Fiend Folio) adds +4 to natural armor, +6 str, +2 dex, -5 land speed, 20' swim
speed. Minimum Bite damage for Gargantuan is 2d8. Minimum Claw damage for Gargantuan is
2d6. Gargantuan Rend is 4d6

Giant (see and ) +8 str, +4 natural armor,
increases size of attacks, new size improves base stats for effigy

Half-Dragon Li Lung (dragon magazine #356) adds 4 natural armor, str+8, burrow speed 10'.
For Bite and claw at gargantuan, set minimum to claw 2d6, bite 3d6

Chameleon: 10 Climb Speed, Damageless Tongue attack with Reach.

Effigy (Complete Arcane) adds +4 str, -2 to dex, adds 2 to natural armor, removes con and int,
removes most special abilities, removes most feats, adds dr 5/adamantine, sets wisdom to 11
and charisma to 1.

Dragonhawk: STR 26, dex 12, Huge, 8 HD, 9 pt natural armor, 10 Land speed, 120 fly
average, attacks: 2 claws size d8, bite size 2d6, 2 wings size 1d6

Stats after all of this:

Magebred, Giant, Wild, Woodling, Half-Scrag, Half Dragon Li-Lung, Chameleon, Effigy,

8d10+60 hp (106 hp)

10 ft Move, 25 swim, 15 Climb, 15 Burrow, 125 Fly (Average)
Gargantuan, Mindless Construct
DR 5/Adamantine
str 58, dex 14, Wisdom 11, Constitution -- Intelligence -- Charisma 1
34 points of natural armor
2 Claws 2d6, bite 3d6, 2 wings 1d6, Reach Tongue no damage (touch attacks only), rend 4d6

You will likely want to ask the GM to make this a bit more reasonable, and not more badass
than a roc, so something like:
8d10+60 hp (106 hp)
10 move, 20 swim, 10 climb, 10 burrow, 120 fly (average)
Gargantuan, Mindless Construct
DR 5/Adamantine
Str 26, Dex 14, Wisdom 11, Constitution -- Intelligence -- Charisma 1
9 points of natural armor
2 talons primary 2d6+str, one bite secondary 3d6+half str
Should likely be reasonable. You mostly want it for the movement capabilities anyway! After
all, you will have to remove most of those super-powerful capabilities to make it an airship that
you are in from the inside. You dont want to be left on the outside of the thing when it burrows,
do you? Even if there is supposedly a saddle for burrowing creatures in Races of Stone, I
believe... Hence the invisible Iron.

Gargantuan Body: 25,000
8 Hit Die: 16,000
Blueshine/Everbright (mic) ad-hoc anti-rust and anti acid (perhaps gives resist acid 10?, and
immune to mundane rust and rusting effects?) treatment cost: 2,000
Cost of making it an airship and making controls: Assumed part of cost of body
Total: 43,000

Cost reducers:
Make it yourself: *.5
Apprentice Craftsman * .9
Extraordinary Artisan: * .75
Total cost for this character to make this aspect: 14512.5 gp

Embedded Item (in workings):

Collar of Perpetual Attendance (from fabulous cats web article, see here: ) Base price 2000
Speaking Sentient Item: 4000
Lesser Powers Ad-Hoc removed, instead it can use the construct's senses and pilot the
construct directly, or direct it to move using its own capabilities, and also keeps the interior clean
and tidy, and may even be able to perform minor repairs. Two mental abilities are set to 10, the
other is set to 14

Base Price: 6000

Cost reducers:
Make it yourself: *.5
Apprentice Craftsman * .9
Extraordinary Artisan: * .75
Total cost for this character to make this aspect: 2025

Suspension VTOL and Emergency Landing Repeating 'Trap' system (if the construct is
rendered inert, this should enable the airship to land safely. it also allows it to hover and take off
and land vertically. Should also help with surfacing from underwater.)
500 gp x spell level 4 x Caster Level 7 = 14000
cost given is NOT sale price, it is making it yourself price, so no .5 for making it yourself
Apprentice Craftsman * .9
Extraordinary Artisan: * .75
Total cost for this character to make this aspect: 9450

Total cost for an Artificer with a few relevant feats to make a kick-ass Huge Dragonhawk airship
that can fight and has some awesome features: 14512.5+2025+9450 = 25987.5 gp

Which is between buying a +3 and a +4 weapon on the open market! Not bad!

Off topic digression: Using some Mr Roboto stuff for solid Construct shock troops

Another good thing to do is to apply Magebred, Wild, Woodling, Half-Scrag, Half Dragon Li-Lung
(no need for Chameleon) and Effigy to a Girallon (SRD/MM) for shock troops. If you dont want
to apply it to a Girallon, look for creatures that have lots of strength and useful attacks for their
hit dice -- various Wild Shape or Polymorph handbooks are useful, and talk about high value
creatures like Dire Lions. But well use Girallons in this case:

This would create a cost 19,000 gp MARKET VALUE (!)

7D10+30 hp (68 hp)

Large, Mindless Construct
44 str
19 dex
con -
int -
wis 11
cha 1
45' land speed
10' burrow speed
40' climb speed
20' swim speed
90' fly speed (average)
dr 5/adamantine
25 points of natural armor (!)
4 1d10 claw attacks (primary)
1 1d8 bite attack (secondary)
1 1d6 slam attack (secondary)
+ 2d6 Girallon Rend
Improved Natural Attack Claw

Of course, that might be too hardcore for some DM's, especially since you can make this at like
level eight. So comparing it to other golems makeable around the ~7-9 hd range, some
modifications might be in order. After comparing it to a Flesh golem (srd/mm), serpentflesh
golem (sk), a full improved homunculus iron defender (ebcs, moe), and a fang golem (mmiv),
some more sane stats might be something like:

+10 natural armor

40 ft move, 40' climb, 40' fly (average), 20' swim, 10' burrow
dr 5/adamantine
7 HD + 30 hp (68 hp)
4 claws at 1d6, 1 bite at 1d8, girallon rend 2d6
str 22
dex 17
Improved Natural Attack Claw

Nowhere near as good as a fully kitted out Shadesteel Golem (Monster Manual III), which works
best if you do the things mentioned here in this thread (read tippys posts all through this
-golem&p=16637717&viewfull=1#post16637717 to one. But they are passable until you can get
the necessary spell and magic item support and caster level to make Shadesteel Golems the
best melee brute minion in the game, which they are if you invest enough in one.

End off topic discussion about melee bruisers

Methods of making a floating city stay up:

-Walls of Force, per stronghold builders guidebook

-Suspension spell, shining south (+repeating traps or spell clocks)
-Find a Skyberg, or similar (earthmote? that is a bit 4e-ish, but many settings might have
naturally flying landmasses)
-Soarwood components of the city, Ironwooded permanently (presuming this is possible, of
course), or alchemically hardened if possible, as a megastructure
-Reverse Gravity spell, strategically placed (+repeating traps or spell clocks)
-Wondrous Architecture in general (per Stronghold Builder's Guide)
-Stone Trap spell, shining south (with impossible trigger conditions for the trap to go off and fall,
and building off of those stones, and glueing or bonding or stone shaping them together)
-There is an epic spell and associated mythallar that makes floating cities in either Lost Empires
of Faerun or Players Guide to Faerun which shaves the top of a mountain, makes it fly up, and
inverts it

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