The Djinn of Al-Qadim
Campaign Session Report #16
By MARK WILSON
Setting: Al-Qadim (aka the continent of Zakhara)
System: D&D 5e
Dalia, the Mother – Rune Knight Fighter
Nezima, the Aunt – Hexblade Warlock
Atareeza (Atar), the Daughter – Divine Soul Sorcerer
Telchak, the Son – Soulknife Rogue
For full setting, campaign and character notes, please start from the beginning of the session report series.
Previously, the party had successfully made their way to the top of the highest tower in Krak al-Niraan, from which the leader of the The Everlasting (assassin’s guild) and father of their NPC ally, Nisma, was directing the fight against an attempt coup, spurred on by his daughter and her allies within the fortress.
Battle Against the Grandfather
While a large battle rages throughout the compound of Krak al-Niraan, the Grandfather and his allies fight Nisma and the party. She barks a few orders in Thieves’ Cant, and one of the Grandfather’s guards turns and begins attacking the other guards.
Assassins hit like trucks due to powerfully poisoned weapons, but don’t have tons of hit points. So it became a race to death, and Nisma was as low as 2 hit points in the fight. Atar also went down from a single hit, and Nezima was nearly knocked unconscious as well. After some time, though, the battle swung in favor of the party. Nisma’s allies in the fight both died, but she remained alive, though only barely.
The party leave one alive and ask if he wants to stand down. He does, and solemnly walks to Nisma following the fight, bowing slightly. “I obey,” he says. She sends him to send word that the Grandfather is dead, and that all should fall in line or share his fate.
It takes some time for the fighting to die down, but the assassins are more practical than political, so most stand down and pledge fealty to Nisma, and a few begin calling her “Grandmother” to denote her new position.
Leaving Krak al-Niraan and Planning
The Brotherhood of the True Flame will still want the castle, though, and they don’t have the resources to openly fight against the djinn. Nisma immediately begins making plans for the order to vacate the fortress and return to its roots as a nebulous, shadowy organization.
In the coming ten-day or so, all leave the fortress and Nisma’s organization begins spreading out, fading from the party’s awareness as they travel so that soon they’re only with Nisma and a few others.
She receives some ravens bearing information, and unpacks the situation in the North with the party, who plan on returning to Umara to speak with her uncle. Umara will soon be under siege, she says, so he’ll want to retreat his forces and regroup with others. She also offers the name of a contact outside Qudra who may be of some assistance, should they need to enter or assault the city. The Everlasting aren’t warriors, but they have powerful contacts in key positions to undermine various forces.
She then informs them of the nature of Qudra’s dominance in the north. A nearly impregnable fortress, sheer metal walls ring the city itself, and the harbor has a large chain just underneath the water at its entrance. Strung between two massive towers on either side of the harbor’s entrance, it requires both might and magic to lower deeper into the water to allow ships to enter. The combined forces of the north could overtake Qudra if they got into the city, but besieging it from the outside, either on land or in the water, is suicide. To end the menace of the djinn in the north, this will be the task, as they’d simply retreat into Qudra if a force met them in the open that was able to match them.
As they exit the mountains to the north and head toward the coast, Nisma breaks west while the party head toward Umara.
The Educational Software, Disney Crab War Mausoleum
As they near the coast and Umara itself, a voice calls out to them, and it’s one they recognize.
Some backstory here, because even if you’ve read the previous session reports, this next section is going to seem a bit crazy.
A few sessions ago there was a random encounter where they discovered an impending war between red crabs and white crabs along the northern shores of Zakhara, and the crabs could inexplicably talk.
There was also an out-of-game discussion of the movie Encanto, which I erroneously called Encarta, which was 90s-era geographic educational software. Ridiculously enough, there’s an Encarta dungeon, of sorts, from that era called the Encarta Mind Maze, and it was intended to teach children geographic facts in a pseudo-fantasy dungeon. We had some good fun recalling this nonsensical bit of trivia.
So the leader of the white crabs, whom they’d previously helped, sees them and calls out. He needs their help again against the growing menace of the red crabs, who have gained allies in the foothills of the area and taken up residence in a nearby mausoleum. Somehow, their power has grown to the point where they’ve kidnapped various humanoids in the area, and abominations have come forth from the mausoleum to terrorize the area.
The party agree to investigate, and they’re led by the surprisingly charismatic crab to the mausoleum, where they learn it’s for the Encarta Family. Now, hopefully, you start to see the tie-in.
They descend into the tomb, and end up in a labyrinthine structure where progress through various rooms requires that they answer basic trivia and math questions. With only a little bit of trouble, they answer them and make steady progress, amidst a few subtle (and not-so-subtle) references to both the Encarta Mind Maze and the movie Encanto.
There’s also some ribbing of Telchak that leads to him thinking he’s a crab, and running straight into a trap. As a nimble rogue, however, he manages to avoid the damage.
Deeper into the dungeon, things start getting more serious, as they see blood smears along the walls and encounter dead humans whose body parts have been grafted with gigantic crab appendages.
In the final room they encounter before we cut for the week, they find a summoning circle and wall paintings depicting the Crab God who resides in an island far to the south, who Telchak actually saw briefly in a vision previously while he was dead. Fearing that something ominous is taking place, the party move forward…
Dungeon Master Notes
So the Crab God is a canonical part of this setting, and I didn’t actually plant it in Telchak’s vision earlier with any intent on using it. He had heard about the island in passing and asked his deity to show it to him (this was on his journey to the afterlife, before he was resurrected by Atar). It was just a little Easter Egg, not something I thought would become a long-term plot beat.
The dungeon is, of course, pretty ridiculous, but may actually end up tying into larger events depending on how the rest of it plays out. They’re more-or-less through the puzzle portion of it, so now they actually get to see what’s going on with the white crabs and experimentation. Overall, though, I was pleased to be able to bring it to life, with a bunch of different influences both in-game and out-of-game affecting its makeup. Everyone seemed to have a good time encountering it. And while I don’t want to lean into ridiculous stuff too often, it also seems to resonate well with my group. So I’ll cater the campaign to their interests.
- Assassin (CR8)
Continue Reading: Session #17