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skill challenge: spelljamming

After defeating the brain golems guarding the mind flayer leviathan class transport ship Moya the PCs board and take off towards Penumbra – the capital of the Illithid Empire. This is the transition between “Masters of Eternal Night” and “Dawn of the Overmind“. 

As the hurtle away from the earth and pass the moon a mind flayer dreadnaught called “Black Sun” intercepts them. I set up the pursuit as a skill challenge, and though Moya is more advanced then the flying galleon of the mind flayers – basically a real spaceship vs a spelljammer – the mind flayers had a lot more guns and Moya is not built for combat. The rules of the skill challenge are below but I ended up playing it by ear so below is the modified version.  

When they boarded Moya asked for the captain to identify himself and one of my PCs leapt at the chance … let the Star Trek memes begin.

I actually used 4e stats for the ships to make them seem different to the PCs who all but 1 had never played 4e.


The mind flayer dreadnaught Black Sun intercepts you as you pass the moon – do you run or fight?

Setup: The Black Sun is a mind flayer spelljamming dreadnaught trying to cut the PCs off as they flee in Moya, an ancient mind flayer vessel. Each success increases the speed of Moya eventually allowing escape. Failure means the party has been boarded (or destroyed).

Complexity: 3 (requires 4 successes before 8 failures)

Primary Skills: Acrobatics, Arcana, Athletics, Tool Proficiency, Perception plus others as determined by PCs. DC of other skills is 25. Each skill can only be used once by each PC. This represents the best attempt with this particular skill. PCs need to describe which skill and how they are using it. Only PCs proficient in the skill can make a related check.

Special – Crew: PCs not crewing the ship or making checks in the skill challenge can make attacks against Black Sun in an attempt to cripple the dreadnaught. Damage dealt to Black Sun counts toward success in the skill challenge (per 50 points). Damage dealt to Moya does not count toward failure in the skill challenge but can hinder the ship’s speed as every 50 points of damage reduces either craft’s speed by 2.

Special – Boarding Party: Each failure in the skill challenge allows the Black Sun to launch a boreworm boarding ship or allow the ship to move closer.  The following happens each time there is a failure if possible. The order of movement per failure:

  1. Black sun launches a boreworm.
  2. A boreworm moves closer to the Moya.
  3. If a boreworm shares the same space as Moya it boards.

Each boreworm has a boarding party made up of 5 giff mercenaries supported by a loxodon elite. The giff will ask the PCs to surrender before attacking.

The boreworms can be targeted by Moya and have AC 50 and 100 hit points. If Moya is boarded she will deploy the six marines/antibodies – a squad of lumanari.

Crew: Moya needs 3 crew. For each missing crew member increase the DCs of the skill challenge by +5. Crew members may make skill checks with disadvantage unless it is a free check or specific to the crew member (for example, pilot).

Acrobatics. DC 13 (0 successes or failures). With a successful check (a free action), the PC gains a +2 bonus to his or her next primary skill check in the challenge or a +2 bonus to damage on his or her next attack made against Black Sun. On a failed check, the PC takes a –2 penalty to his or her next primary check or damage roll. Taking control of Moya is made more difficult by the ship’s chaotic movement as the PCs try to avoid attack while trying to get away.

Acrobatics. DC 20 (1 success or failure, maximum 3 successes). Only the PC piloting Moya can make this check. In addition, to earning a success in the skill challenge, a successful check grants Moyaa +10 bonus to AC and Reflex until the beginning of the pilot’s next turn. By constantly changing up the smaller strike ship’s course as it moves, the PC makes Moyaa more difficult target for the boreships and the gunners on Black Sun.

Arcana. DC 25 (1 success or failure, maximum 3 successes). Drawing on his or her understanding of magical and technological devices, the PC works out the complex operation of the strike ship’s controls.

Athletics. DC 20 (1 success or failure, maximum 3 successes). Getting control of Moyarelies on traditional sailing skill as much as magical aptitude. With a successful check, the PC properly sets the strike ship’s solar sails to help control its erratic course upward.

Perception. DC 13 (0 successes or failures). With a successful Perception check (a free action), the PC gains a +2 bonus to his or her next check in the challenge or a +2 bonus to damage on his or her next attack made against Black Sun (see the “Fight in the Skies” and “Roll Out the Guns” sidebars). On a failed check, the PC takes a –2 penalty to his or her next primary check or damage roll. The shifting maelstrom of wild space makes it hard to accurately judge distance and direction as the ships close.

“Thievery”. DC 25 (1 success or failure, maximum 3 successes). The complex controls of Moya can be subtly coerced into responding to the PC’s direction.

Success: Every two successes allows Moya to move one area away from Black Sun. When she achieves 4 successes she has gained enough speed to outrun the dreadnaught.

Failure: PCs are boarded by Gif marines or outright destroyed.


Movement was abstracted using index cards. So any rule that says “shares the same area” or “range of 1 or 2” refers to these index cards. Here was the setup:

  • Normandy represents the Black Sun
  • The Deslar’s Ship represents Moya
  • The Klingon bird of prey represent the boerworm boarding vessels.
Skill Challenge Start Position. While sharing the same area Moya takes damage every time a PC takes a turn from “hissing corona”
After 2 successes – two boerworms have been launched and are chasing.
Four successes.  One boerworm has attached itself and boarded. The other boerworm was destroyed by Moya.


Ancient Mind Flayer Transport

Gargantuan natural animate (construct, creature)
Initiative+24 Senses Perception +19
HP 500; Bloodied 250
AC 40; CON 40, DEX 42, WIS 38
Resist all

Speed fly 6 (hover) 12 max with skill challenge + pilot.

Force Guns (Needs 1 gunner) Force
Ranged same area; +35 vs AC; 3d10+10 force damage.

Force Guns (Needs 1 gunner) Force
Ranged same area; +35 vs AC; 3d10+10 force damage.

Force Guns (Needs 1 gunner) Force
Ranged same area; +35 vs AC; 3d10+10 force damage.

Alignment unaligned        Languages All languages via telepathy
Str 27 (+22)      Dex 30 (+24)      Wis 20 (+19)
Con 23 (+20)      Int 14 (+16)      Cha 22 (+20)

Black Sun

“Modern” Mind Flayer Dreadnaught

Gargantuan vehicle (construct)
Initiative +24 Senses Perception +19
HP 800; Bloodied 400
AC 30; CON 40, DEX 42, WIS 38
Immune thunder; immune poison, disease, psychic, charm, fear (melee and ranged only; see Collective Operation)

Speed fly 8 (hover)
Action Points 1

Hissing Corona (Lightning) aura same area; any creature that enters the aura or starts its turn there takes 10 lightning damage.

Mind Flayer Marines on Deck (minor 1/round, at-will)  Weapon
+33 vs AC; 3d8+6 damage.

Thunder-Echo Projectors (standard, at-will)  Thunder.
10 guns each on starboard and port and three front and rear facing guns.
Ranged two areas; +20 vs AC; 1d6+10 thunder damage.
Effect: The thunder projector attacks all enemy crew members doing 10 thunder damage to each crew.  

Collective Operation
The mind flayer ship is operated by multiple mind flayers crew and attacking or controlling them individually doesn’t hamper the ship. The ship is subject to close and area attacks normally, but ranged and melee attacks with the poison, disease, psychic, charm, or fear keywords don’t harm the dominion ship.

Crew Suppression
A creature adjacent to the mind flayer ship can spend a standard action to attack the visible crew members. They don’t fight back; such an “attack” automatically succeeds. It does no damage but leaves the dominion ship unable to make its melee attack (save ends). If the same creature performs the crew suppression attack three rounds in a row, the thunder-echo projectors are likewise unable to attack (save ends). 

Alignment Evil        Languages Deep Speech (crew)
Str 27 (+22)      Dex 30 (+24)      Wis 20 (+19)
Con 23 (+20)      Int 14 (+16)      Cha 22 (+20)

Posted in 5e, Dawn of the Overmind, Dungeons & Dragons, Thoughts of Darkness

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