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What ways are there to go about building a safe, reliable system to allow the flying mounts in D&D 3.5e to "fly blind" (i.e. in clouds, fog, rain, and snow, day and night) between preset destinations? Outlanding support is nice, but not strictly necessary.

All 3.5e books can be used, and spell or magic item research is allowed.

This is built for a public-use system that will be used day-to-day for mail, parcels, and small numbers of passengers. Occasionally, it'll be used for higher-risk missions such as search-and-rescue or medical evacuation.

Requirements of the system:

  • The system needs to be safe and reliable enough for its regular operations.

  • The system should be relatively inexpensive and mostly self-sufficient:

    • Pilots should be able to perform any magic required with UMD or basic spellcasting; 20th-level wizards, druids and clerics shouldn't be required.

    • The cost of equipment used in-flight should be covered by the price of deliveries, so as to keep the system self-sustainable.

    • Ground equipment can be more expensive, but costs should be kept relatively low in the ballpark of inns or roads. Epic level spells should be avoided in the creation of infrastructure.

  • Multiple mounts should be able to use this system simultaneously, although one-time registration of mounts is acceptable.

  • There needs to be a communication channel (air-to-ground at a minimum, air-to-air is a plus) available to the mount-riders.

  • Weather: This system must be able to work in all reasonable mundane weather. Fliers will steer clear of hail and lightning storms, but this system should be able to handle rain, fog, and wind.

  • Terrain: This should support multiple types of terrain: island chains, forests, tundra, desert, mountains, etc.

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    \$\begingroup\$ One clarification: what is the air-to-ground comms for? With flying ballistic metal tubes, we need that because speeds are high, collisions are fatal, vehicles have massive take-off/landing footprints, and evasive maneuvering is nigh impossible; making air-traffic control necessary. Griffins et al. have none of these problems, hence the pressure to create and use air-traffic control protocols doesn't exist. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 4 '15 at 6:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Portals seem a much better way to go in my opinion. Why transport when you can teleport? \$\endgroup\$ – Ruut Feb 4 '15 at 7:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Shalvenay I broke up your enormous paragraphs into a list of requirements. I dropped the last two requirements, as I did not understand the first about magical weather (why is this a special case people need to specify anything about? please explain), and the second (about aviate, navigate, communicate tenets) sounds like it's going way off track for a question targeted at RPG experts - most of the people otherwise capable of answering this question won't be aviators, nor (I must remind you) are the people in your play group. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Feb 4 '15 at 8:03
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The mount should have some sort of blindsight potion (or other rare-use equivalent), have endure elements as a custom magical item, and have a good survival and knowledge(geography) score, and mount and rider should have a ring of feather falling. For really hazardous routes, use animated undead flyers (wearing pink, just for good PR).

The mount network's riders can all be under a permanent telepathic bond with a creature with a high enough intelligence to act as a switchboard, if necessary.

At the end of the day, this is not an appropriate system nor genre for this question.

Blindsight confers:

Some creatures have blindsight, the extraordinary ability to use a nonvisual sense (or a combination of such senses) to operate effectively without vision. Such sense may include sensitivity to vibrations, acute scent, keen hearing, or echolocation. This ability makes invisibility and concealment (even magical darkness) irrelevant to the creature (though it still can’t see ethereal creatures and must have line of effect to a creature or object to discern that creature or object). This ability operates out to a range specified in the creature description.

Endure Elements confers:

A creature protected by endure elements suffers no harm from being in a hot or cold environment. It can exist comfortably in conditions between -50 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit without having to make Fortitude saves (as described in the Dungeon Master's Guide). The creature's equipment is likewise protected.

Survival or Knowledge(Geography). Survival DC 15:

Keep from getting lost

... which does what it says on the tin.

A ring of feather falling is nice, since there's never any question of landing safely, regardless of conditions. The mount simply chooses to fall, and then reads a lovely book on the way down.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Yep. Instead of kludging system to approximate a sapient flier's ability to fly and navigate, leverage the beast's existing sapience. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 4 '15 at 6:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ Maybe I can add undead squirrel earrings, just for that je ne sais quoi of my nominal answers? \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Feb 4 '15 at 6:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ Undead a squirrel, enlarge object it, staple on some wings and a beak — there you go, a lovely griffin! And it makes a good conversation piece. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 4 '15 at 6:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ride demons. Telepathy for sensing other flyers around, DR for accidental collision, resist electric for lightning strikes, greater teleport for bypassing inclement weather. \$\endgroup\$ – gatherer818 Feb 4 '15 at 7:28
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If you use trained dire bats as mounts, they have blindsense 40ft, meaning they can echolocate objects up to 40ft away even during fog, etc.

(If you use dragons as mounts, the blindsense is 60ft. Also, dragons are much faster fliers.)

D&D doesn't really have good cheap communication. Here are the options:

Message: 0th-level spell, range 100ft, must point at the creature (requires sight), allows instantaneous two-way communication

Animal Messenger: 1st-level ranger spell, makes a bird carry your written message. Very long range, but not very fast.

Whispering Wind: 2nd-level spell, range is a few miles, one-way, the wind is no faster than your bat.

There are DM-only "custom magic item" rules: http://www.d20srd.org/srd/magicItems/creatingMagicItems.htm#magicItemGoldPieceValues which let you determine the price for creating a magic item that casts a given spell.

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