Articles - Getting Over the Fear of Flying

Discussion and Expanded Rules for Flying PCs.

The World of Ere Campaign Setting offers new options to players in the way of flying mounts and player characters, including two races that have the option of a constant fly speed by the end of Paragon tier.

Understandably, many Dungeon Masters are hesitant to include such options due to concerns over the increased complexity created by using a three dimensional encounter area or of the capabilities of flying PCs. But this need not be the case. Page 47 of the DMG provides and excellent starting point on the road to understanding and utilizing flight. This article attempts to provide further insight, commentary and rules to aid DMs in incorporating PC flight in their Dungeons and Dragons game.

Building Encounters
The primary problem with flying PCs comes from poor encounter design. Against enemies with no ranged attacks or flight capability, arrayed on a featureless plane or any area where the only terrain features exist in two dimensional space, flight, even clumsy flight (which is the kind most PCs will if they have constant flight) is a powerful advantage.

The solution is, of course, not to use this type of encounter, and indeed, it is not recommended to use such an encounter at all, as if doesn’t make for an exciting combat even with all grounded PCs.

The simplest solution is to include monsters with ranged attacks an/or fly speeds into the encounter. While controller and artillery monsters are the most obvious choices for this, minions with ranged attacks work especially well to this effect as they add to the bulk of the encounter without making it too difficult. Likewise, monsters with pull effects prove especially useful and interesting in this capacity. Even monsters without any of these options can still pick up and throw rocks or debris as a basic attack.

Another answer is encounter location. The game is called Dungeons and Dragons after all. It is a simple thing to stage many encounters in an enclosed space such as underground, or inside structures. As a rule of thumb, humanoid creatures of medium size or larger lair in places that are one square taller than their typical member. Temples, guildhouses and other structures meant to convey grant effect, may be two or three squares taller than the creatures that make use of them. This allows fliers to still make use of the extra dimensions afforded by their fly speed, while keeping them within reasonable striking distance of ground based melee opponents and opportunity attacks form them. Remember: the nine squares above and the nine squares below and opponent are still adjacent to them.

Finally, one should always make use of terrain for all characters. DMG pp. 48 offers some discussion on this, but this article provides more and as always, your own imagination is key in developing new and creative terrains.

Of course, not all encounters should be built this way. Like all abilities, you should provide the occasional encounter that showcases flight and it’s advantages.

Aerial Terrain
Flying creatures are often able to avoid ground based terrain, but are subject to terrain effects that extend into three dimensions. Common sources of this terrain are trees, stalactites, ceiling adornments and airborne clouds.

Sample Mundane Aerial Terrain

Chandeliers: Hanging ornamentation can create blocking terrain in the air with difficult terrain in the squares occupied by the chains and ropes connecting it to the ceiling. Creatures may also climb up to fight on chandeliers that are sufficiently large. In those cases, the ironwork of the chandelier itself is difficult terrain.

Fire and Smoke: Fires typically extend upward into the same space they occupy on the ground and create all sort of complications for flying creatures. In addition to the danger of the fire itself, a bloom of smoke extends above fires, creating obscuring terrain (the extent of which depends on the size of the fire) and leaping sparks that, while less dangerous than the fire, still create hindering terrain.

Pillars: Pillars are blocking terrain that typically extends from floor to ceiling. Sometimes, they are broken somewhere along their length, providing a space a flying creature can squeeze though.

Stalactites: Stalactites are blocking terrain, extending their height. Clusters of thin stalactites can also create challenging terrain for flying creatures as they must make Acrobatics checks to avoid them.

Steam: Clouds of sulfurous or just scalding steam jet from the ground in some places and collect in the air above, creating hindering and obscuring terrain while leaving lower levels relatively clear.

Trees: Trees provide blocking terrain up to their height and difficult and covering terrain in a burst (usually 1, but some trees have a larger crown) starting 1 or 2 squares from the ground.

Wind: Wind works like current (DMG pp.45), sliding flying characters if it is strong enough. But even light updrafts or downdrafts can create difficult terrain

Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition © Wizards of the Coast
World of Ere and related original content © Landon Porter