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  • Strife in the Skies, Part 2: The Skyscourge Pirates – Goblin Pirate Encounter for D&D 5E
Strife in the Skies, Part 2 - The Skyscourge Pirates - Banner

An aerial encounter with a goblin airship, its captain, and crew, with stat blocks for use with D&D 5E.

The Vagrant Nimbus’s journey, while direct, is not short. Days stretch on uneventfully, broken up by only conversations, card games, and occasional rough weather. That is until one overcast day, as the Nimbus’s path takes it through perilous mountain peaks, when a crewmember calls out a shadow moving within nearby clouds. Carthis and his crew scramble to the main deck and take positions, waiting to see what appears and whether it threatens the Nimbus.

When the clouds do break, they reveal a crude but well-equipped airship, surrounded by small wyverns. The ship is manned by goblins, who also ride atop many of their dragons. It is moving in the direction of the Nimbus. Rallying cries ring out from its decks and ballistae are aimed over the railing. Their intentions are clear. Captain Carthis confirms this as his crew mans their own weapons and he looks to the party, his expression requesting their aid before announcing with a mighty roar, “Pirates!”

Make sure to also read through part 1 to learn about the airship the party is traveling on, the Vagrant Nimbus, as well as its crew and passengers…

Strife in the Skies, Part 1 - The Vagrant Nimbus - Banner - Small

The Screaming Skyscourge

The clouds part to reveal jagged, mismatched metal plates covering the hull of an airship. It is a fearsome vessel; a facsimile of a ship assembled from the wreckage of others and lifted by sheer spite for the sky it now flies. Portholes on the side facing you open as it approaches. And from within and aboard, you hear a chatter that grows into clamorous shouts and howls. 

The goblin airship is a vessel constructed from pieces of other ships that the goblins have attacked in their quest for airborne supremacy. Their domination of the skies began when an airship crashed into their mountain home and revealed to their craftsmen the methods by which the ships can fly. Both inspired by the ship and infuriated by the damage it dealt, the goblins went about fashioning weapons that would strike other vessels from the skies. With these, they scavenged enough parts to assemble their own airship, dubbing it the ‘Screaming Skyscourge’ for the groans and screeches of the ship’s metal as it strains to fly, a sound that can resemble the combined shrieks of their tamed demiwyverns

The goblins of the Skyscourge now operate as sky pirates. They hide the Skyscourge within clouds to ambush other ships, appearing only to assail their victims with harpoons that hold the opposing airship in place. During the combat, the goblins keep the Skyscourge at a higher elevation than the enemy to minimize their opponents’ cover while attacking with their archers, demiwyvern riders, and vicious boarding parties that rappel onto the victims’ deck.

Harpoon ballistae. The Skyscourge is equipped with a pair of ballistae on either side, protected within the ports of the ship’s gun deck. These weapons are loaded with bolts that are attached to 200-foot lengths of thick hempen rope that anchor to the sturdiest sections of their own ship.

The harpoons themselves are designed to pierce into the hulls of opponent ships, tethering the two together and preventing their escape. When a harpoon strikes a ship, any creature within 5 feet of the impact must succeed on a DC 13 Dexterity saving throw or take 7 (2d6) piercing damage. A creature in the same space as the impact makes its throw with disadvantage. An attached harpoon can be removed by destroying whatever it is hooked to, or its rope can be destroyed (AC 11; 25 hit points; resistance to piercing damage, immunity to bludgeoning, poison, and psychic damage).

Crew positions. The Vagrant Nimbus’s objective is to escape the pirates. Its crew mans their regular positions on the deck, with a pair manning each ballista and two more with crossbows to protect against boarding parties or the goblins’ flying units. Captain Carthis mans the helm with Velle Lumivoix at his side, while Gil moves wherever he is needed. If goblins make it onto the Nimbus’s deck, Carthis leaves the wheel to Velle and joins the battle. Of the passengers, only Torryn Blackhorn assists the fighters, though the others can be convinced to aid in a way that suits their abilities.

If you want the encounter to feel more dynamic and varied, you may wish to include the mountain peaks as obstacles for the Nimbus and Skyscourge to avoid. This could come into play during combat or as the Nimbus escapes. The airships would need to avoid the spires, which can also provide cover and something for both the party and the goblins to interact with during combat. Be sure to remember how crashes, sudden turns, and other disruptions can affect characters, such as requiring skill or concentration checks.

Map & Asset Downloads

Our collection of sky assets is perfect for placing over whatever the Nimbus passes, and our different ship and airship assets can be used to create your own Nimbus and Skyscourge…

Goblin Sky Pirates

The Skyscourge pirates are a crew of raiders who attack any airships that stray over their mountaintops. They are made up of experienced hunters and fighters who have adapted to aerial combat, creating a terrifying force for establishing dominion over their skies. They do so with a combination of boarding parties and long-range archers, many mounted on the backs of demiwyverns, all led by their ruthless captain.

Captain Raxik Skyscourge

(NE male goblin ravager)

A ragged goblin man in a dark captain’s coat and feathered hat. He smiles widely, exposing discolored teeth with sharpened, golden canines.

Raxik was the warrior who first discovered the airship that fell in the goblins’ mountains and was the one to rally others to his cause of ruling the skies. He named himself captain when their own ship was completed, killing the two others who sought the title. Raxik also took the name ‘Skyscourge’ as his own as a means of cementing his command of the vessel.

Captain Skyscourge is a violent and ambitious leader set on total ownership of the sky. Once a loyal warrior for his people, his aspirations have begun to delude him and direct all of his attention to piracy. He sees aerial sovereignty as his earned right. Any who dares to trespass in Raxik Skyscourge’s airspace or question his rulership will meet the cold steel of the Skyscourge pirates.

Goblin Raider

A goblin wearing chain and furs unsheathes a scimitar. Its offhand reaches for a dagger, flourishing the blade and holding it in front of a growing smirk.

The Skyscourge’s crew are all trained for combat in addition to serving in their roles in operating and maintaining the ship. The density of battle-ready troops makes the Skyscourge more difficult to board than other ships while also allowing the goblins to send multiple boarding parties to enemy vessels without crippling the Skyscourge’s operation. The most proficient of these attackers are known as ‘raiders’. Raiders that are sent to attack may do so either by rappelling onto the ship’s deck or by having a trained demiwyvern carry them to it. Their objective is then to quickly kill or incapacitate the opposing crew and take control of the vessel.

Goblin Sky Pirate Sniper

A goblin, face covered in a scarf and goggles, loads a crossbow. It readies it first at its target before raising the weapon at an angle, adjusting against the rushing winds. 

The snipers of the Skyscourge are trained archers and spellcasters. They specialize in harrying enemy vessels from afar, pinning down, injuring, or even killing the ship’s crew, as well as preventing opportunities for counterattacks.

While several of the snipers may attack from the deck of the Skyscourge, others do so from the backs of their tamed demiwyverns. This allows them to remain elusive and to escape when necessary. Snipers that ride the demiwyverns are secured to their mount by straps that hold their legs in place, freeing both of their hands for attacking. Their spellcasting, particularly the feather fall spell, is learned to support their archery and communication in combat and to mitigate the dangers of fighting at such a height, for both themselves and other goblins who may be thrown in freefall.


A draconic beast, its body only slightly larger than a human, glides through the air and flits between clouds. Its pale grey and white scales help it camouflage as it vanishes and reappears, changing direction every time it hides.

Demiwyverns are, as their name would suggest, smaller dragons that resemble wyverns in all but their size. They share the latter’s aggressive temperament and poisonous tail stinger and are often found hunting in groups within cloudy mountain ranges. The demiwyverns that have been tamed by the Skyscourge pirates have been trained since they hatched. They were originally raised as companions for the goblins’ hunters but became the perfect accompaniment to the pirates, who encouraged the demiwyverns’ bloodthirst and directed it at their victims.

Balancing the Goblin Sky Pirates

The encounter with the Skyscourge pirates can be balanced to fit any party of approximately 3rd-level or above. Raxik is the only required enemy; the rest of the goblins can be balanced simply by adjusting how many of them attack the Vagrant Nimbus. Remember to consider that crewmen of the Nimbus will be fighting alongside the characters, increasing the effective power of their side and allowing you to include more goblins. Including more or fewer crewmen, and in turn pirates, also serves to control the overall scale of the fight. You can choose to make it a small skirmish or a terrifying aerial engagement.

If you are concerned with planning how many goblins to include, have them attack in waves during the encounter. Begin with an attack of a lower estimate of how many goblins the party can fight, then have Raxik deploy additional, smaller groups as the Nimbus forces succeed over the first. This allows you to gradually bolster their numbers in response to the party’s performance to dynamically tailor the encounter to them. It also makes sense as a possible strategy for the goblins to use. If you do use this approach, be sure to not get carried away in having the party barely survive the encounter, as bad luck can quickly turn the tides in the goblin’s favor and cost the characters their lives, the lives of others on the Nimbus, or even the Nimbus itself.

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About the author

Troy McConnell

Part-time DM and author of 2-Minute Tabletop's encounters, map lore, and characters. Basically, I write about all the campaign ideas that I don't have time to run. All with the assistance of my feline familiar, Wink.

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