Skill Challenge #13: God of the Flaming Sea

Skill Challenge #13: God of the Flaming Sea

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The origins of Ishaarl are shrouded, but none dispute: he is god of the Flaming Sea. A titanic fire elemental who slumbers underneath the molten sea that seperates warring efreet kingdoms, Ishaarl awakens rarely, devouring with flame and lava unfortunates crossing his domain. The crews of crimson galleons pay fortunes for wardings and prayers for deep slumber. None pay tribute, for no gift survives the burning lord’s grasp.

Aware of the dangers, you foolishly seek entry into Ishaarl’s demense and expect to exit. Protected by the field of magical force that allows the galleons to traverse the volcanic sea, fortune for a time blows a gentle and quiet wind in the ship’s mast. In your second day of travel, fortune’s wind grows still.

The captain cries orders to his men that are half-lost in the hissing and battering of lava waves against the galleon’s wardings. You steady yourself, seeing where you can assist in the sudden chaos. For moments all sense is lost, the ship whirling and bucking through the tides. All anyone can do is clutch the railings, and pray as the captain had warned you previously for the swift coming of death.

The chaos ebbs. You look up and see a creature of flame in the distance, hip deep in lava. It wades through fire to cross the distance between it and your companions.

The burning lord rises.

Synopsis: The players are crossing the Flaming Sea and must face the gargantuan fire elemental Irshaal.  They must defeat or evade the burning lord!

Encounter level: PC Level+3 (This Skill challenge is designed for high paragon/epic tier characters)

See Goal, below.

Goal: Destroy the Fire Elemental before you ship is consumed in flames. You are attempting to get ten successes (or six escape successes) against the fire elemental before the fire elemental gets ten successes against your ship.

The Battle

In this skill challenge, all PCs will make their checks, and then Irshaal will make his attack.  Play will continue this way until the skill challenge is defeated.

The Ship “The Dead Forge”

Crimson galleons are ships specially prepared to cross the Flaming Sea. They are regular wood and sails galleons that possess a “heart”. A Crimson galleon’s heart generates a magical forcefield that encircles the ship and protects it from the sea’s destructive nature.

In this encounter the PCs will be aboard the ship attempting to evade or defeat Ishaarl. PCs can use their own powers to fight the elemental, but also have access to many features in the ship that can aid them.

Staging: Make sure that the PCs are aware of the various components of the ship, detailed below. The challenge isn’t for them to discover what the ship can do. The challenge is using the ship to the player’s advantage.

Skill Used:

The skills used will in part be based on where on the ship the characters are.  It is assumed that the PCs are on the upper deck.


To get from one place to another on the ships in this turbulent situation is difficult.  When moving from one portion of the ship to another, a PC must make an Acrobatics (moderate DC) or Athletics (moderate DC) check.  If the check is failed, the player gets tied up and is unable to make it to the desired location.

The Heart

Below deck, in the center of the ship is a small room where the heart of the Dead Forge lives. As the ship’s hull takes damage, the forcefield will gradually lose power, leaving the ship to quickly burn up in the sea.

A player can spend his turn to reach the heart (using the rules for movement below). He can refuel the heart by using his own life force or arcane/divine powers.

Feeding the Heart

Expending an arcane or divine daily power deprives Ishaarl of one success.
Expending three healing surges deprives Ishaarl of one success.

Skills Used:

Arcana (hard DC):  With magical sight you peer deep into the heart.  You divine its true nature, making your contribution to it more efficient.  When feeding the heart, you can deprive Ishaarl of one additional success. If this check fails you must lose a healing surge.

Religion (hard DC): You contact the heart’s essence and the divine simultaneously. The instant of connection generates a tremendous amount of energy from just a tiny, divine spark.  you may expend a Channel Divinity encounter power instead of a divine daily power when feeding the heart. If this check fails you lose a channel divinity power with no effect gained.

Ice Cannons

Another magical construct aboard the Dead Forge, the ship’s ice cannons are mounted on the port and starboard hulls, meant to deal with mephit hordes and other creatures known to waylay ships making the hazardous crossing.

Characters can make a shot with an ice cannon by moving under the deck (using the rules for movement) and manning the ice cannons.

Making a successful shot with an ice cannon requires making a basic ranged attack against AC (16 + average PC Level) and scores one success for the PCs. A critical hit counts as two successes.

Skills Used:

Distracting Shot (Insight, moderate DC, maximum two successes):  You shoot a burst of ice to get the burning lord’s attention somewhere else temporarily.  Ishaarl suffers a -4 to his next attack.

Vitals Shot (Perception, hard DC): Even a creature of flame has weak points.  You aim for Ishaarl’s ruby eyes.  Make a basic ranged attack against AC (16 + average PC Level).  If this attack succeeds, you score two successes against Ishaarl.

Calm the Tide (Nature, moderate DC): Instead of attacking Ishaarl, you shoot the the ice cannon at the lava below.  Temporarily cooling it, even for a fraction of a second, makes traversal a bit easier for a time.  +2 to the next Navigation check.

The Helm

The ship is normally navigated by the captain, but a successful Diplomacy (hard DC + 4) or Intimidate (hard DC +4) check can convince the captain to give up command of the helm temporarily (2 rounds) to a PC.  Moving to the helm require movement checks as normal. The PC at the helm can make Navigation checks, detailed below.

The Captain, Ritom Kiv

The duergar Ritom Kiv has encountered Irshaal before.  His body bears the burns and scars from that encounter.  Just barely managing to escape in an ash-skiff, he survived his crew and seeks revenge on Irshaal.  If PCs do not take control of navigation, Ritom will take direction from them on what navigation checks to make each turn.  He will ignore any orders to flee, choosing to take a pass action instead.  If Irshaal ever scores 7 or more successes against the ship, Ritom will steer the ship right at the elemental, on a suicide pass.

Staging:  As the battle escalates, you want to play up Ritom’s rising madness.  As the ship takes more damage, Ritom becomes more consumed with battle lust and becomes more and more unhinged.  If Ritom takes the ship on a suicide pass, you can also stage a combat with the captainand his crew versus the PCs.  The PCs will have eight combat turns to defeat or pacify them to have time to steer the ship on a new course.


All navigation checks are Dexterity checks.  The additional numbers on each check is what Ritom needs to roll if he is in control of the ship. Navigation successes do not count toward total successes against Irshaal.

Flee (hard DC) (N/A): you seek to do the impossible –escape from the grasp of the burning lord. With clever navigation, you might be the first.  If successful, you earn an escape success and raise the DC for the next flee check by one.  If the check is failed, Irshaal gets a +2 to his next attack.

Evasive Actions (moderate DC) (11): Escaping is not an option, but you buy yourself some time to come up with a suitable attack. Irshaal gets a -4 to his next attack.  If this check is failed, all checks for PCs on the ship suffer a -2 next round.

Far Pass (moderate DC) (11): The ship circles the fire elemental, setting up shots from the ice cannons.  PCs may use powers against the elemental with a range of 20 squares or more.  If this check is failed, Irshaal gets a +1 on his next attack against the PCs.

Close Pass (moderate DC) (11): you risk a bit more, but seek to gain more in your assaults against Irshaal.  PCs may use powers against Irshaal with a range of 10 squares or more.  +2 to ice cannon attacks.  If this check is failed, Irshaal gets +2 on his next attack.

Suicide Pass (automatic three successes) (NA): You drive the ship into the god of the flaming sea, hoping your end will bring his.  PCs can use any powers they have.  Make 1 round of attacks, and then the Dead Forge and everyone aboard is incinerated, whether the flame elemental is destroyed or not.  The forcefield is immediately overwhelmed and the ship is immediately burnt to nothing in the lava.

The Crow’s Nest

The crow’s nest allows a PC to get a clearer view of the battle. A character in the crow’s nest can, on his turn, make Perception (hard DC) to provide a bonus success to any other PC’s successful action taken.

The crow’s nest is also close to the shield’s borders , and precarious position in general. Any time the ship is hit by Ishaarl, a PC in the crow’s nest must make an Athletics check (hard DC) or be tossed out of the crow’s nest.  The PC takes 3d10 falling damage and suffers a -2 on his next movement check.

Upper Deck

The middle of the ship is where the crewmen are running around frantically trying to keep the ship in order.

PCs can use their powers most easily from this location.

Skills used:

Diplomacy (moderate DC): “Did you think this was a recreation in the Flaming Sea?  Fight men, fight for your lives and souls!” +2 to the next round of checks.

Thievery (hard DC, maximum two successes): Quick jury-rigging of the masts optimizes them to catch the rapidly changing thermal winds more easily.  Adds a permanent +1 to Navigation checks.


Players may wish to use powers to assault Irshaal.  The defenses for Irshaal are:

AC (16 + PC Level)
Fort (18 + PC Level)
Reflex (10 + PC Level)
Will (16 + PC Level)

Forced movement will result in a penalty to Irshaal’s next attack equal to half the number of squares moved, rounding down.
Any power with the cold or psychic keyword adds 10 to the damage rolled against the fire elemental.
Irshaal is immune to attacks with the fire keyword.

Damaging Irshaal

If a PC inflicts 40 damage in one attack (or one round of attacks) he scores one success against Irshaal.
If a PC deals 80 damage or more in one attack (or one round of attacks) he scores two success against Irshaal.


The burning Lord has several methods of attacking the ship. He can make one attack each round.  The number in parenthesis is what he needs to successfully land each attack.

Lava Tide (8): Irshaal pounds his fist into the sea, battering the Dead forge’s shield with lava.  Counts as one success. Each PC takes 2d6+8 damage on a successful attack.

Fire Breath (12): Irshaal exhales and releases a searing flame gout.  The force field sparks and crackles under the assault. Counts as two successes, and each PC takes 3d6+8 damage.

Fist of the Fire God (16): Irshaal rakes the ship fiery claws.  Counts as 1d6 successes. Each PC takes 3d6+8 damage and ongoing 20 damage (save ends).

Success (Escape): You can tell your descendants the epic tale of how you tricked and evaded the fire god Irshaal!  The captain does not seem happy, but you’ll accept keeping your life for one more day.

Success (Defeat): You have defeated Irshaal!  But is the burning lord ever defeated?  He will rest for a long time, that’s certain.

Failure: As the Dead Forge’s force field fades, you and your companions flee to the ash-skiffs.  Powered by miniature hearts, they allow you to sail away while Irshaal savors the burning of the crimson galleon you fled.  you arrive at the shores alive but fatigued from the fire and ash.  You begin your next encounter weakened (save ends).

(Special Thanks to Mike at Sly Flourish for getting me going on this. )

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