The Djinn of Al-Qadim

Campaign Session Report #21

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

Notable NPCs:

  • Jayani Al-Jasir: Human council member of Corsair leaders, based in Hawa. Formerly used Torrigar as a “ship,” who willingly allowed her and her crew to board it.
  • Hans Toot: Dwarf Corsair leader; suspected to be mind-controlled by a watery entity
  • Leela al-Hiyali: Elf Corsair leader; brusque attitude toward the party and their plans to combat the djinn
  • Torrigar: Ancient Dragon Turtle
  • Malecada: Ancient Kraken, and presumably the force controlling Hans.

For full setting, campaign and character notes, please start from the beginning of the session report series.

Session #21

Previously, the party had returned to the Corsair (i.e. pirate) city of Hawa after liberating a dragon turtle from the control of a mummy lord. The turtle, in league with one Hawa’s leaders (Jayani) is concerned about the influence of a kraken in the area, whose forces appear to have infiltrated the city.

Casing the Compound

Earlier they’d learned that one of the Corsair leaders, Hans Toot, is being mind-controlled, and with the earlier exposition from Torrigar, their dragon turtle ally, they’re pretty sure it’s the kraken, Malecada, or its minions at work.

In attempting to both gain an ally in their fight against the djinn and strip Malecada of an influence pawn, they decide to case Hans’s compound for clues and ideas. On their way there, a talking crab in service of Kar’rr’ga, the crab demigod, speaks to them. The crabs erroneously believe the party is on their side, due to their involvement in the summoning of their deity. Dalia manipulates the crab into sharing some information about Kar’rr’ga’s plans and it agrees to act as an informant on Hans’s compound, which was recently moved to be built entirely above the shallow water of the bay, atop large wooden beams that hold up various dwellings and buildings. Tangentially, they learn that Kar’rr’ga has been in the area recently.

Once at the compound, they make Telchak invisible, and he’s accompanied underwater by Nezima, who’s swimming normally (albeit with the ability to hold her breath for long periods of time). Atar and Dalia are nearby in a rowboat. Atar catches a fish accidentally while pretending to fish.

The watery entrance is guarded, albeit by an invisible foe (a Water Weird, they learn later on), that attacks Nezima. Following a brief attack, it seems to leave, and they’re unsure why. Telchak sneaks up the scaffolding beneath the compound, yoinks a guard into the water via something that looked like an accident involving a rope and a crate, and picks the lock on the central building, in which he finds an office.

Searching the office, he finds a shiny lamp (later learned to be able to summon an obedient mephit), some gold, and several papers and letters of interest. Using the magical chalk the party had been given several months ago, he creates a doorway in the floor of the building and slips back into the bay beneath.

They then learn of why the Water Weird left as a large, dark creature approaches the boat beneath the water. It attempts to mentally dominate two of them, and briefly initiates a telepathic conversation with Telchak, trying to convince him to give his mind to the beast. Armed with Jayani’s Ring of Mind Shielding, Telchak is immune to compulsion. They have a weird conversation, though it’s brief. Silently following the boat, the creature seems to be taunting them by not attacking or appearing alarmed, and then simply allows the party to go ashore.

Liberating & Interrogating Hans

The letters speak of several items:

  • They learn that Hans has been tracking the movements of other Corsair leaders, in order to abduct them.
  • There’s an intercepted message from Leela al-Hiyali, another Corsair leader, intended for the Brotherhood of the True Flame, who are in league with Bakada and the djinn. It details her betrayal, in the form of information about the party’s visit to Hawa and the location of amassing forces of the northern Free Cities. It also references an earlier letter immediately after the party’s initial appeal to the Corsair council, at this point which was a couple weeks ago, so it’s likely the Brotherhood knows of their presence in Corsair territory.

They determine to confront Hans, abduct him, and try to break him of his mind control. They find him in a local tavern and, armed with a Dispel Magic spell and a couple others to confuse him and his allies, they magically disguise themselves as members of his crew and are able to get him out of the bar and incapacitate him, along with one other who stumbled out to help.

Back in Jayani’s compound, they slip Jayani’s ring on him, fully breaking the mental hold on him. He’s slightly confused and groggy, but is able to cough up some information on Malecada and his compound. He’s grateful, and Jayani promises to only take 20% of his total holdings by way of thanks, once this is all over.

They learn that Agadmator, the fourth and final Corsair leader, is being held at Han’s compound as another high-value target for Malecada to slowly spread his influence in the city. They also learn that an Aboleth is the creature they encountered the night before, and is working for Malecada. It will know that its hold is broken on Hans, and will likely be ready for any further attempts at infiltrating the compound.

Return to the Watery Compound

Despite this warning, the party returns to try to rescue Agadmator. The ruse works well on Hans’s similarly mind-controlled guards (Telchak is disguised as Hans himself and does a surprisingly good job impersonating him).

But the aboleth is waiting for them, and as they’re leaving with Agadmator (encased in the magical box of holding that can absorb and store humanoids in a time-locked state), the abolet strikes. It dominates Dalia’s mind, whispering to her to jump into the waters surrounding the compound. She does so, and the party realizes something’s amiss as she splashes into the water and they see a dark creature swimming toward her…

Dungeon Master’s Notes

Just off-camera, so to speak, are a number of forces that the party could end up interacting with as a result of their actions. I had to have a LOT of things prepped for this session as a result, and of course the party avoided most of it.

Or rather, they delayed it. I think the mind control via the Aboleth is going to expedite some things they’d previously avoided.

Creature Feature: Aboleths

I think it’s important to roleplay aboleths much differently than traditional creatures. They are eons old and their motivations are often unfathomable. So, for example, I think the party is expecting a combat encounter with the aboleth when we pick up in our next session. The aboleth has other plans, though, and no desire to encounter a party of powerful adventurers in open combat, even if it’s gotten the drop on them by mind-controlling Dalia.

This requires a different approach as a DM and, ideally, challenges players to think differently about how to scheme against a foe that will pick them apart slowly and obliquely rather than facing them head-on.

And don’t get me wrong; they’re going to fight it at some point. It will just be on the aboleth’s terms, if the aboleth has anything to say about it. But there are also curveballs in the campaign world that may surprise it as well…

Creatures Used:

  • Thug (CR 1/2)
  • Guard (CR ⅛)
  • Water Weird (CR3)
  • Aboleth (CR10)

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