Saturday, April 6, 2019

F is for Flying Carpet

[over the course of the month of April, I shall be posting a topic for each letter of the alphabet, sequentially, for every day of the week except Sunday. Our topic for this year's #AtoZchallengeRevamping the Grand Duchy of Karameikos in a way that doesn't disregard its B/X roots]

F is for Flying Carpet, specifically Flying Carpet Airlines of Karameikos.

[okay, let's get this over with...I've got a very full schedule this weekend with baseball games, soccer jamborees, wedding anniversaries (mine), etc.]

Flying Carpet Airlines or (as it's actually called in the books) "Cardia's Carpet Service," like the Elvenguard, appears to be a wholly Mentzer-imagined invention. As far as I can tell, it's first mention is in Mentzer's expert book as part of the Travel from Karameikos section, in which he writes:

"Those in a hurry may wish to consider Cardia's Carpet Service. She is a well-known elf with a flying carpet (heavily armed and rumored to contain pockets of holding). She can take up to two passengers, but reservations are required. The cost is 2 gp/person/mile for 2 passengers, of 5 gp/person/mile for one. The journey from Threshold to Specularum can be flown in one day. She also makes regular trips to Kelven, Selenica, and even Kerendas, but rarely stops at Krakatos and never goes to Luln or Fort Doom..."

There's a little more to the description, but no hard stats are provided for Cardia. She appears again in module B10: Night's Dark Terror (part of the adventure occurs in and around Threshold), but again without seems Cardia is simply supposed to be part of the scenery, a necessary source of fast travel for footsore adventurers. I mean, certainly no PC would ever think of ambushing her and looting a flying carpet for their own use...good Heavens! That would be so Chaotic!

We'll leave the talk about BECMI's implied morality for another day; there's enough to chew on here with just a chartered flying carpet (available for a flat daily rate of 500 gp!). the kind of thing I absolutely hated about Glantri, and probably one of the reasons I find Harry Potter's "wizarding world" so annoying: the transformation of magic into something mundane and commonplace, taking away (certainly reducing) any sense of wonder and mystery.

[I'm sorry Potter fans, but if you're using magic to wash your dishes or dispose of your own feces that's the opposite of what I call "magical." Is a toilet magical? To a stone age human, perhaps...but we're not playing cavemen here]

Part of this comes from a simple issue present in most of Dungeons & Dragons: the original game was meant to be hard and challenging, and so many of its rewards (especially magic items) were left without consequences. You fought and dodged and braved untold dangers to get that carpet (or whatever) you're going to make me sacrifice a fist-sized ruby or some virgin babe just to activate the thing? Up yours, man! Unfortunately, without some consequences...largely left to the DM...there's no repercussions for pulling out your powerful magic item every time someone with 100 g.p. decides they'd rather fly Threshold to Kelvin nonstop.

There should be consequences, of course: not only flying monsters - like dragons - who should burn Cardia out of the sky (wandering monster chances in the wilderness are pretty common), but also thieves, unscrupulous nobles, and local money-men willing to hire thugs and mercenaries to kill this well-known "entrepreneur." Elves have to sleep sometime (and it should be a simple matter to find her residence when she advertises "Cardia's Carpet Service" on the sign outside). Elves have to eat (and if she's at the local tavern, how hard would it be to slip some poison into her meal?). How much is a flying carpet worth to a person? How much would it cost to hire the assassins needed to take Cardia out? I'm surprised the carpet hasn't already been confiscated by the Ducal Guard (at Stefan's orders) for "the good of the realm." Having a flying carpet in his personal treasury would be far more valuable than any taxes she might be paying.

And, you see, the fact that these kinds of things should have ALREADY HAPPENED long before the player characters ever decided to become adventurers, is what bugs the hell out of me. Mentzer just blithely says "oh, here it is, been operating forever." This is the kind of thing that a DM might throw into her campaign one day when the PCs have been adventuring for a while and have reached a point in their careers that maybe the inconvenience of overland travel to distant locations kind of sucks. But to make it a part of the local retail scene from the get go? Come on, dude. At least if you introduced such an NPC later you could justify her as having powerful friends (the PCs) who would take umbrage if she went mysteriously missing one day. The local baron of Threshold (Patriarch Sherlane) has more important things to worry about than one running his damn domain.

I can't find any reference to Cardia in Allston's GAZ1 (draw what conclusions you will) though she is back again in the 2nd Edition Karameikos: Kingdom of Adventure (as an 8th level "rogue"...jeez). As stated, there's no such individual mentioned in B/X (i.e. pre-BECMI) sources, so the easiest way to "revamp" this eyesore is simply to cut it from your B/X game...perhaps introducing the NPC Cardia sometime later as an adventure hook when a young, stupid elf decides to open up her "carpet business" and requires protection (or armed escort on her excursions!). That might not be too bad.

If you really want a flying service in your game there are better ways to go than something so mundane as an elf with a flying carpet running a local travel agency. D&D needs to be a little weird and gonzo with this kind of thing if it wants to retain/promote a feeling of wonder and the fantastical. Some possible ideas:

On a smaller scale.
Option #1: a mad hermit / wizard / inventor lives in the forest outside of town where he can tinker with his contraptions in peace (he's been warned off more than once by the locals). His prize possession is his airship: a monstrous conglomerations of whirling gears, pipes belching noxious fumes, and skins inflated with hot air or fantasy hydrogen/helium. Perhaps it was the opus of his now deceased inventor/wizard wife (and he's not quite clear on all its workings); perhaps it's still a "work-in-progress." Regardless, the thing is prone to breakdowns and malfunctions every time he takes to the air...though when it does work, it can make fast time AND tends to scare off most wandering flyers (not dragons, of course...they see it as a challenge to their territory). He can be persuaded to give the PCs a lift...for the right price.

"Just need a couple
of eggs, ma'am."
Option #2: animal trainers (500 g.p. per month; see page X21) that specialize in griffons can be hard to find, but one lives on the outskirts of Threshold, and griffons are known to roost in the mountains just north of the town. Finding eggs and bringing them back safely would certainly be a good adventure; though it might take years before the creature was grown well enough to train for riding. The beast master might already have a few trained adults on-hand that can be hired for (short) rides; however, griffons are notoriously difficult and feisty beasts; they cannot be purchased, housebroken, or kept as pets (and you certainly wouldn't bring them into town!). Even so, they are extremely valuable and any damage that occurs to the animals while "on loan" will need to be paid for before any further services are provided by the trainer.

Have bow, will travel.
Option #3: I kind of dig the witches of Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. Is there any way to get them in the mix? Maybe stashing their community in the western forests of Karameikos, making them a hard-to-find, hard-to-reach, dangerous (and aloof) faction?

Option #4: Stefan has decided he needs his own "ducal air guard" if he is going to be respected by the likes of Thyatia and Alphatia (or simply because he needs to protect his realm from flying menaces). Problem is, he has no real idea of how to put together a flying force. Any such squad is going to be a small and motley crew at best...the archduke does not have the resources to invest in a team of enchanters to make magical devices (let alone any pegasi trainers). It's a good hook to get player characters involved...even if they don't have the means to fly themselves, they can earn a "finders fee" for helping to bring in wizard airships, griffon eggs, and witch archers. And maybe in the process they'll discover (or enchant) their own flying devices and swear allegiance to the archduke. Hey there, flyboy!
; )


  1. It is a logical issue why wealthy cities in a vanilla D&D world isn't lit by Continual Light post. At least the "good parts of town".

    A flying carpets found permanent outside of the Ylaruam Emirates is just thematicly wrong.

    In the Fighting Fantasy book Creature of Havoc, Semi-SPOILER (I think it's in the novella lenght introduction, actually) the sorcerer that owns the airship also stole it as it landed for supplys. Thiese issues should be considered. A sailed ship at habor should be guarded too. I'm sure PC's could hire bucaneers (pirates are so chaotic, don't 'ya know) for less then an honest crew AND the price for a new ship. What price would a created item; flying ship not be?

    The ones mugging the the flying carpet business might have to relocate fast, though, as thieft must be illegal - as well the thief guild might take issue with unauthorized jobs.
    Hiding the carpet in an outgoing caravan doesn't work with "detect magic" being so low level both for MU's and C's, so we have more problems there. The Duke confiscating the opject is different, and would well happen.

    1. Hey, I think so. And I agree that “flying carpets outside fantasy Arabia” is kind of gauche...but it’s not like Gygax didn’t do it back in the day (see stories of Robilar).

      By the way, Janich: I checked out your blog post the other day, but when I tried to submit a comment, I got a “bad mail” reply. Just want you to know I DID read what you had to say.
      : )

    2. Apparently I have to approve comments, but don't get any ping about them pending...
      I need to figure out how to change that. The blessed day of fending off the troll hordes are far from now, I trust :D
      I've got it published now, JB.
      Thanks :)

      Read it in dept, asap.

    3. @ Janich:

      It appears your blog might be set up with an email account that no longer exists (“tranquil temple?”) which could explain why you’re not getting notifications of people commenting. Check it out.

  2. Wouldnt witches be glantrian given the circle of witchcraft?

    1. Oh,’re being facetious right? Don’t get me started down the road of analyzing Glantri...there aren’t enough hours in the day!

      In B/X, a “witch” is the title for a female magic-user of 6th level. BECMI does not have female level titles because [insert your own snide remark]. As a 6th level MU has access to the spell *fly* it’s fairly easy to model Pullman’s witch race...but I think it’s more interesting to create them as their own thing (either a new B/X class/race or a monster type).

      Either way, I would not use the circle mysteries of GAZ2 in any campaign that wasn’t specifically set in Glantri, as they tie directly to the political landscape of that country.

      *sigh* Maybe I will have to do a series on Glantri...but definitely not this month!