House Orien runs a regular schedule, departing from most stations once per day and from major stations more frequently. Almost all passengers on the lightning rail are fare passengers, paying a set amount for their trip. Three classes of travel are available, depending on your budget.
By booking standard passage on the lightning rail, you are entitled to a seat in any standard passenger cart. Seating is not assigned, and can be switched en route should the spirit move you. Modest meals are provided in the galley cart and fancier fare is available for additional cost. At night, you are assigned a bunk in one of the sleeper carts. While not terribly comfortable, traveling standard class is generally a good way to relax while getting to your destination. Each day of standard fare travel counts as one day of full bed rest for the purposeof natural healing (assuming no stressful activity takes place to interrupt your relaxation).
First-class lightning rail passengers enjoy the most luxurious ground travel available, and are treated to plush couches in their passenger carts and feather beds in their sleeper carts. The most exquisite foods and wines are available upon request, as are a selection of books to read and a healer from House Jorasco to provide long-term care. Security in first-class carts is tight, and unticketed passengers are simply not permitted to ruin the atmosphere of luxury with their presence.
The less fortunate (or those simply looking to save a few coins) can travel steerage class. A steerage cart has bench seating for as many passengers as can cram into it—up to two hundred per cart. They do not have access to either sleeper bunks or meal service; passengers are expected to sleep in their seats and bring their own rations. Still, the price is difficult to beat.
House Orien also maintains a number of lightning rail carts available to be chartered. These unused carts are stored at major stations across the Five Nations, and can be linked up to the next lightning rail coach on only a few hours’ notice. The carts are fairly configurable and can carry passengers, cargo, or a mix of both. Meal service is not provided to chartered carts as part of the charter fee, but can be purchased separately.
While standard carts are designed to carry either passengers or cargo (but not both), a privately owned cart can be configured however the owner wishes. Most are built so that one-third of the cart carries cargo, while the rest of the cart is maintained with passengers in mind. The given price for owning a lightning rail cart is for a standard cart.
Different layouts are possible, but might increase the price.
Lightning Rail Crew Cart: A lightning rail crew cart houses the coach’s crew and the primary elemental chamber that powers the coach. Crew carts are usually only chartered when a destination is not one often serviced by House Orien. Customers chartering a crew
cart also get one additional cart (passenger, cargo, or custom) for the given fee; chartering additional carts costs extra.
Purchasing your own lightning rail crew cart is very expensive, but it can be done. The lines of conductor stones needed to run the crew cart are maintained by House Orien and you must obtain their permission before your cart can make use of them. Keeping your cart stored at an Orien facility also requires a rental fee.
The crew cart does not include a set of lightning reins, which must be purchased separately if needed. Most people fi nd it far more convenient (and less expensive) to leave the crew carts to House Orien and simply purchase a private cart (see above). However, for certain lightning rail destinations—including the Mournland—owning your own crew cart is the only option.
Construction:This engine is the lead of any lightning rail, being a large, blocky contraption with a bound air elemental inside a massive Khyber dragonshard. Like other elemental vessels, controlling the elemental inside is a challenge, although certain items from House Orien do make this job easier. However, unlike other vessels, this is bound to follow the path laid out by a string of Conductor Stones, so the only real measure of control the pilot has is the speed and direction the rail travels in along this path and the choice between two branches when one is available on the track. Each car is usually 125’ long by 35’ wide. While the cars are only 15’ tall, they are suspended 5’ off the ground by the Conductor Stones. A Lightning Rail can carry up to 20 cars.
Attaching / Detaching A Car:
Attaching or detaching a car from the Lightning Rail requires 3 full-round actions. The first two are to attach or remove two heavy chains. The third action requires a Strength check, DC 20, to put in or remove the connecting pin. Attaching a car can only be done while stationary or with a Profession (driver) check, DC 40. Failing this check is an immediate crash. Detaching a car from the engine means that at the end of each round, the detached cars begin to slow down by its acceleration rate until it is stopped.
The roof of a Lightning Rail is 20 feet above the ground. The windows along the side are 10 feet above the ground. The outside of a Lightning Rail can be climbed with a DC 5 Climb check. Grabbing a railing to prevent falling over requires a DC 20 Climb check. If you are thrown from, leap off of or otherwise are no longer on the lightning rail, you can attempt to get back on. You need to be standing in an adjacent square to the lightning rail and spend a move action on a successful Climb DC 20 check. For ease of calculation, if the lightning rail is running at full speed and you are standing still, assume that you need three full cars between you and the end to land, stand up and get one chance to get back on, plus one car per additional chance.
Hitting a Tunnel:
There are tunnels, particularly on the northern lines, that allow the Lightning Rail through to the other side. When approaching a tunnel, determine the current speed of the Lightning Rail. For each increment of 50 feet per round, a single car enters the tunnel at the start of the turn for the first, on Initiative modifier +10 for the second and at the end of the round for the third. Any creature on the outside of a Lightning Rail when it enters a tunnel must make a Reflex save or they suffer damage as they hit the mouth of the tunnel and are pushed off the Lightning Rail. A successful save means that the character is prone against the edge of the Lightning Rail, but takes no damage.
The amount of damage dealt by such an impact is 1d6 for each 10 feet per round the Lightning Rail is currently moving. The Reflex DC is equal to 20 + 1 for each 10 feet per round the Lightning Rail is currently moving.
Crashing a Lightning Rail:
If the lightning rail engine crashes, the damage dealt to it is also dealt to each rail car it is carrying. If this damage is enough to cause the lightning rail to stop, each car becomes separated and is thrown forwarded at its current speed, causing each rail car to suffer another crash separately. Lightning Rails cannot leave the path of the Conductor Stones. Any attempt to do so will automatically result in a crash, although deliberately crashing a Lightning Rail in this method is very difficult, requiring a Transport Skill check, DC 40.