The Djinn of Al-Qadim

Campaign Session Report #18

By MARK WILSON

GM: Me
Setting: Al-Qadim (aka the continent of Zakhara)
System: D&D 5e
Level: 7

Players:
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.

Session #18

When we last left off, the party had boarded a ship from Umara, bound for Hawa, the City of Chaos in the heart of the Corsair territory.

The Birdcage

We start at sea, and there’s some RP related to goings-on on the ship. They meet the captain, take up jobs, and then roll an incomprehensibly large flock of seagulls on my random encounter chart, who roost on the ship and begin pooping everywhere.

The birds quickly become a problem, and the group tries to help. Atar uses illusions to lure many to their deaths. Telchak, sneaks into the lower decks, gets Atar to use one of her illusions to lure many of them to a particular spot on the water, loads a net into a cannon, and fires it! Shockingly, it works, and he traps many of the birds, then leaps and latches on to the net, hoping to make a flying contraption. Again to his shock, it works, and the birds’ terror causes them to try to flee. It begins flying upward, Telchak clinging to it.

Several beats later, only his sister’s flight spell saves him from a falling death. Telchak tries to swim away and avoid detection, but Nezima levitates him onto the ship as his “swims” ineffectually in the air aside the ship.

Dalia and the captain then team up to scare the hell out of Telchak after this, putting him in the brig and threatening to make him walk the plank unless he learns his lesson from the encounter. Dalia makes daily visits to see him, to see if he’s learned his lesson. Eventually he does, or at least says the right things to allow his mother to release him.

After that, an uneventful few days and they arrive at the outskirts of Hawa.

City of Chaos

The ship docks some ways out, and they take a rowboat into the city itself. The group learns that this is because a coral reef and undulating sea of red flowers that grow on top of the water encircle the city in the immediate waters, so large ships can’t actually get all the way to shore. They navigate this maze and enter.

Hawa, City of Chaos, is a haphazard town, about half of which is built atop the water (or the marshy middle ground between the water and dry land), with large beams supporting an interconnected series of houses, shops, docks and other buildings. It acts as the “capital” city for the Corsairs, who are captained by four leaders, each of whom controls a powerful faction among the pirates.

They find lodging and Telchak takes part in a burping contest at a tavern (and loses, sadly), then they gather some intel, and find the local haunt of one of the Corsair lords, a dwarf named Hans Toot. The others – Leela al-Hiyali, Jayani al-Jasir and Agadmator – are harder to find among the riff-raff of the populace.

Along their way to see if they can talk to Hans, they unearth an apparent under-sea war between the suddenly-sentient crabs (owing to the recent release of a crab demigod) and octopi. The crab seems to recognize them, and hails them as friends of the crab god, having been witness to his summoning and aiding in that process. It claims they’ll be the last to die when his god takes over the land of mortals. They play along and make friends, and the crab hops on Atar’s shoulder.

They then track down Hans, have a drink with him (and his few dozen men & women surrounding him and eyeing them skeptically), and Atar uncovers that he’s being mind-controlled with a sweeping Detect Thoughts spell that reveals something below them in the waters that is speaking through Hans. Atar nearly gets mentally dominated herself (which would have sent the session in a very different direction), and this puts them on high alert. They beat a hasty retreat, not having enough information to do much else.

The meeting the following day with three of the four Corsair leaders (as emissaries of Umara, one of the cities of the North) goes about as expected…not well, though they have one potential ally among them (Jayani), who seems to be sympathetic to their pleas. Dalia speaks passionately about the need to band against the Djinn for mutual survival, claiming not to be a fan of Umaran leader, Shazam Botswani, but merely using him to achieve a greater end.

The other two, Hans and Leela, whether through mind control or more mundane reasons, are not receptive to their pleas for help against the djinn forces. Atar again sweeps the room, and Hans’s thought patterns seem strange, but she detects no presence beneath them as before.

She also learns of a gross foot ailment of one of the guards surrounding the hall in which they’re in.

Leaving, they see a crab killing a turtle. Dalia talks to it for a bit, and it offers her some turtle to eat. She declines, and doesn’t learn much else, but the crab mentions a “leviathan” when pressed that lurks the waters. She investigates in the town to see what this thing might be. Rumors swirl of several things; the only that seems to have merit is mention of a Kraken that several sailors have mentioned seeing or knowing of. But much of that is hearsay, and unconfirmable.

Following this, they resolve to find Jayani alone to appeal to her for help, as she seems the only viable lead among the Corsair lords.

Dungeon Master Notes

One of the most satisfying sessions in recent memory, and I’m not entirely sure why. Zero combat (though one encounter was narrowly avoided when Atar made her save against mental domination), and when the roleplaying is flowing well and everyone’s involved, it’s pretty great.

Since these don’t get posted until several weeks after they happen, I can mention that the mind-controlling creature is an Aboleth, though it’s in service of a Kraken, which they heard rumors about in this session. One member of the Corsair council (Hans) is obviously being mind-controlled, though the group hasn’t uncovered the entirety of the backroom dealings and allegiances of council members…and may not ever, depending on what they investigate.

A crab vs. octopus and crab god vs. Kraken war is brewing in the background, and I have plans to involve a Dragon Turtle and turtle faction soon too…which was ironically the only entity of the three I had prepped pre-campaign. I wasn’t sure if they’d continue to bite at the crab plot hooks I’m giving them, but they seem interested. The war mentioned above would’ve been in the campaign’s background, but I may bring it to the forefront now.

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