I have no idea what is in store for us when SoN is finally cooked, so don't take this story as an indication, or a preview. In a thread called "Elements" I have offered some ideas about how the devs might make the three elements of Land, Water and Air into three very different environments needing specialisation in skills, spells, weapons etc to be carefully selected. I offer this story to help illustrate how I see this specialisation being implemented.
Three players have heard about a quest to gain an item. It's not going to be straight forward though, as the quest ranges across the three elements. Knowing there will be a portion under the water and another up on to a cloud, they leave their dungeon raiding, heavily armoured, land based toons and swap to the following:
Squidge, a thief. Being a Narshe, he's good on both land and water, but has no flying abilities. He has specialised in dagger and spear which are weapons effective in all three environments, and has trained in water specialist armour and combat.
Waffle, a Dwarven mage who has specialised in air based magics. Her magics are useful in most places, but she really shines when roaming the sky.
Berp, a Dwarven fighter/mage that has trained in air based combat and water based magics. His weapon specialisations are the universal spear, and a bow which will be useful on land and air but unusable in water. His choice of feathered armour and specialisation in airial fighting make him very useful in the air, but he relies on his magic when he has to get wet.
Their quest will take them overland to find a Grakl that guards a key to a chamber at the bottom of a nearby lake. In there they will hopefully find the magic carpet that will take them to the clouds.
They have the skills, weapons and spells to get them through the water and air parts, but the first stage over land is where they will be weakest...
After a few skirmishes with roaming goblins they find the Grakl in his cave, but how to best tackle the Grakl? . It will be a formidable opponent as long as it keeps it's feet on solid ground where it is most at home and strongest. Unfortunately, this is where our three players' toons are weakest, so a frontal assault is out of the question. They need a plan. A cunning plan.....
Squidge goes for a swim and finds a portion of the lake's bank that is steep and leads straight to deep water. This will do nicely. Out of the water, he sets a simple trip trap at the top of the bank. The two Dwarves stand ready, hidden in the bushes not far away. Sneaking alone into the Grakl's cave Squidge is wishing he'd specialised in land based combat. That would have given that little bit of bonus that would have iincreased his chances of a succesful approach and backstab. Never mind, his silent swimming abilities make up for it at other times.
He's lucky, the Grakl doesn't notice his approach and the backstab does some nice damage, but not nearly enough. Time to get those little legs pumping! The race is on. Again, with land based combat specialisation he'd run that little bit faster, but his light armour and weapons (and a big dose of fear) mean he's making good time. Having an enraged Grakl close behind is adding a bit of incentive too! There's the lake, looks like he's going to make it! As he passes the bush hiding the Dwarves he can hear the creak of Berp's bow and the muttering of Waffle's spell. As the Grakl passes them the bow twangs and an arrow hits the Grakl in the back making him lurch forward. But where is that spell? C'mon, c'mon.....
With a crackling of ice crystals, Waffle's Freeze spell makes the ground under Squidge's feet freeze into a smooth sheet of ice. Ah! Too soon! With no footing now, Squidge is sliding helplessly towards the lake with no hope now of the planned leap over the trip wire. Still, it may not be needed as close behind him the Grakl is also sliding out of control towards the lake. The trip wire takes Squidge's feet out from under him and he tumbles though the air, but he hits the lake like he's done it a thousand times. Not quite so often has he done it with a sprawling, angry, and now terrified Grakl about to hit the water with him! As soon as they hit the water Squidge feels a lot more comfortable. Here his water combat specialisation, combined with the Grakl's penalties in water, mean he now has the upper hand. There's a good chance he could take the Grakl on his own now, but there's no need. The water will do it all for him. Grakl's feeble mind is torn between trying to save himself and trying to kill this pesky Narshe. Unfortunately he's unlikely to do either. The Narshe swims gracefully out of range, and the water is way too deep. As the Grakl sinks quickly Sqidge follows him at a safe distance just to make sure. And when the stuggling stops, he swims down and retieves the key they are after. Step one complete.
Time for Berp to earn his keep. His water based spells give them the ability to swim down, down into the gloom and high pressure in the lake's depths. Squidge's natural aquatic abilities and specialisations mean he has no trouble dealing with the few denizens that approach, until they spy the locked door of the chamber they are after. Unfortunately, the giant electric eel guarding it may prove unpleasant. Not only is it big, fast and powerful, with a fang lined mouth just made for swallowing Narshe, it also has a nasty electric jolt that has been known to stun a whole party. Squidge swims off to the side to lure it away from the Dwarves in the hope it will give them time to hit is with some useful spells.
Berp starts with the obvious: a Freeze spell again. It hits the eel and they see it writhe as it's front half (the nasty half with the teeth) is encased in a block of ice. A good start, but it won't hold it long. They can already see it start to writhe it's way out. As soon as it's head is free Waffle hits it with a float spell. This won't do any damage, but may send it to the surface for a bit. A good plan, but Waffle's magic specialisation is air based, and being cast in water against a water based creature it isn't quite as effective as it might be. The eel starts to head to the surface, but it is just too large and strong and is able to swim against the effects of the spell. However, it has slowed it down sufficiently to allow Squidge to keep harrassing it with his spear without being eaten. This gives Berp time to try the same spell. His water based specialisation with magic makes all the difference, and the confused eel shoots upwards despite it's struggles. A shame in some ways. That eel skin has properties that mean it can be made into excellent water specialist's armour.
The Grakl's key unlocks the door and they are inside the chamber. Magics keep the water out so this is now considered a land based environment. Well, it would if there was something to stand on. Just inside the door they are on a small ledge, looking out over a vast open space that drops away into blackness. In the centre of the chamber a single pillar rises up out of the blackness to the same height as their ledge. And there, on the pillar is the magic carpet they need. But how to get to it?
This time Waffle's Float spell is best, and when cast upon the party it allows them to float gently through the air across to the pillar, propelled by Berp with his Air combat ability allowing him to swim through the air in a way that Squidge just can't seem to get the hang of. Berp's feather armour adds significantly to his movement rate and maneuverability. They unroll the carpet and find a price tag hanging off one corner. One side shows a price, and the other a quote: "to the cloud, please carpet" - presumably the "go" command. It is common knowledge that magic carpets will not carry metal clad riders, but none of these three wear metal armour, for this reason. The command is spoken and the carpet rises, carrying them up through the darkness above them towards a small circle of light. The chimney-like chamber rises all the way to the surface of the water and they emerge in the centre of the lake and continue upwards into the sky.
As they rise past a small fluffy cloud, they notice on top of it a strange half bird, half humanoid type creature sitting serenely on its own carpet. At it's waist hangs two curved swords, but when it spots our three adventurers it ignores these swords and picks up a long lance. It's carpet gathers speed rapidly and it flies straight at them with the lance aimed at Waffle. Squidge peeks nervously over the edge at the ground still receeding far below. "Its alright for Berp, he's got his feathered armour to slow his fall, and Waffle his flying spells, but if that lance hits me, I'm done for. Better do what I can to put his aim off" He kneels up (standing on this carpet didn't seem like a good idea) and whisked two throwing daggers out. But the others have acted faster. Berp was on his feet (how did he manage to keep his footing on this thing?) already loosing arrows with great effect, while Waffle was casting a spell. Berp's arrows were finding their mark, and when Squidge gauged the range had closed sufficiently he threw his daggers. One went wide ("How can anyone aim straight when you are bobbing around on an wretched carpet?") and the other was fended off. With no time to ready more daggers he grabbed his spear that lay beside him. If he survived the stab of the lance as it rushed in, he'd have a range advantage against the shorter swords.
No sooner had he readied his spear, than Waffle finished casting the Float spell on Berp that would allow him the freedom to melee without the fear of falling off the carpet. The bird creature closed the remaining distance in the blink of an eye, but in one nicely timed movement Berp dropped his bow and stepped forward to deflected the lance away from Waffle. It's momentum drove the lance into the carpet with a jolt the threw Squidge off his feet, but gave him something to clutch at for stability. The bird like creature then dropped its lance and drew it's swords at the same time Berp had grabbed his spear. They then flew at each other to melee around the carpet in a graceful twisting airial battle with many blows sliding harmlessly off the feather clad combatants. They were an even match and the few thrusts that Squidge managed to get in with his spear from the relative safety of the carpet were helping, but not enough. Waffle was a different matter though. With a loud "Whop!" Waffle's Vaccuum spell encased the creature in a low pressure sphere that had it writhing in agony at the sudden change in pressure, and allowed Berp to make the killing blow.
Berp dragged the corpse onto their carpet and they continued upwards. "We'll just keep this corpse for the moment" said Berp. "The hide of this thing is where my armour comes from and will fetch a good price."
When the lake below had receded to the point it looked like a mere puddle, they bobbed up beside a very large white cloud. On top of the cloud they see a flattened path that winds between fluffy white hills. They step from the carpet onto the cloud and notice the wierd texture of the path. For some reason it is substantial enough to prevent them falling through the cloud, but at the same time is so insubstantial that they cannot get a decent footing, and when Squidge tries to walk he merely churns the air with his feet and goes nowhere. "This bloody air realm gives me the heeby-geebies" he mutters. The others, having specialised in air combat have no trouble propelling themselves along the path and tow Squidge along with his spear.
What is waiting for them among these insubstantial cloud hills, and do they get the item they are after? Well, that will have to wait for another time.
Wallabies: we are only pretending to be nice.