In many campaigns, as we discussed last week, I would be giving the party experience equivalent to the value of the sphinx. There's a number of reasons why it would be impossible to define what that experience would be . . . but it doesn't matter. As I said last week, I give parties more than X.P.
Sorry I couldn't use this as an example for those discussions - but the party didn't know about it and I couldn't write about it here.
I gave the party this:
Back in March, I wrote a post that made reference to "a phenomenon such as has never been seen in the world since that day." This is it. It is an Air Ship. It has no sails, no rudder. It floats on four brass - yes, that's correct, brass metal - balloons that inflate or deflate by virtue of the will of the pilot. It moves indifferently to the wind or the air itself. The balloons, see, do not inflate with 'air' . . . they inflate with magic. The object is something on the order of 44 centuries old.
A pilot stands at the wheel, shown as a small blue circle on the upper deck, under a tarp (that in this case was added by some hapless astronomers 9 centuries before the party finds it (all the furniture shown was also added by these same fellows). Taking hold of the wheel, if the pilot wishes the Air Ship to move, the ship will drain the pilot of one energy level. This drain is not permanent . . . it will return. Unfortunately, I cannot tell the reader at this time, as the party does not know how long the drain lasts. Turns out it is at least 48 hours. That's as long as the party has had in game time to play with the thing.
Once the pilot has sacrificed the level - an operation that requires 30 combat rounds, or five minutes - then the pilot can cause the ship to move in any direction, vertically or horizontally, so long as it does not encounter an obstruction. The ship moves quickly in terms of combat and decently in terms of long distance travel, but it will not outrun a horse - the speed is 50 miles over 24 hours or 7 combat hexes per round (5 feet/hex). It will not outrun a hippogriff cavalry or a giant eagle.
The party has not attempted to change the ship from a level aspect, but it was designed to operate as a platform - low to the ground, high in the air, whatever was needed. It will float on water and can be made to sink below water, if the user wishes - though that has consequences for whatever is carried, obviously. The party has taken it to 3000 feet (with some discussion about medieval people being able to tell what that even is, much less having the willpower not to freak out once the thing climbs fifty feet above the ground), getting the feeling that the ship could be taken to the moon if they so wished (would take 10 years).
A single pilot can manage the craft for no more than 8 hours before becoming fatigued and needing sleep. Another pilot can take over, however, at any point, for the one level drained is good for 24 hours of continuous ship travel. Thus, three or four pilots can keep the ship going around the clock.
Sitting on the ground, the deck is approximately 25 feet above the ground. It is thus difficult to unload or load large objects when 'docked' on dry land. On water, it can be settled to a level where the deck is 9 feet above the surface, before water would begin to pour in the windows on the lower deck (not shown). There are shutters that can be closed in bad weather, that would seep water but which could be easily drained by simply lifting the ship. When sunk into the water to make the main deck accessible, a pilot must man the wheel . . . otherwise, the ship will 'bob' up to the surface.
I said that the ship is not affected by wind - this is not true of the occupants, who would experience wind across the deck of the ship as though they were standing on the ground. Thus there is a very real danger of being blown off in a high wind. The deck is very stable, however, so that animals can comfortably rest or walk upon the deck and there is no danger of motion sickness.
I'm sure there are other details I covered, but I cannot remember them now . . . please feel free to ask any questions and I will answer as needed.
Why am I worried that this might break the campaign? Because surely the players will be tempted to retreat from the world. Already it has been discussed how others will likely want to steal it. The party is already aware of the dangers of bringing it near a civilized area. At the moment, the party is 7th level and they feel distinctly weak to be in possession of such an object. I fear that they will feel a strong inclination not to leave it behind in order to investigate a dungeon or become involved in any local place. I worry that the ship will become the whole campaign.
Still, there are benefits. I expect much more of my world will become part of the regular campaign, as these players can now go anywhere. I am glad I have made so much of my world to this point. I remind the reader that these are the players who are returning holy relics to unknown parts of my world - so this is also a means to the end of their quest.
I've never created anything like this before. I conceived of it about six months ago and finally, after what felt like a long wait, I was able to present it.
The party is very excited.