The Djinn of Al-Qadim

Campaign Session Report #25

By MARK WILSON

GM: Me
Setting: Al-Qadim (aka the continent of Zakhara)
System: D&D 5e
Level: 8

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.
  • Shazam Botswani: Ruler of Umara, which has now fallen to djinn forces.
  • Hamed Bobolonius II: assistant to Botswani.
  • Calipha Aswiyah al-Muftahir: Ruler of the Free City of Muluk
  • Torrigar: Ancient Dragon Turtle
  • Kar’rr’ga: 50-foot-tall crab demigod

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

Session #25

Previously, the party had survived an epic encounter with forces from various factions in the bay outside Hawa, the chief city of the Corsairs. They killed a Kraken along with their allies (which included a ship-based naval battle in addition to individual combat), but Kar’rr’ga, the crab deity, was still rampaging when they fled the battle to regroup.

Learning that Hawa is lost to the crab god, they turn their attention to the djinn that are racing across the North, conquering the Free Cities as they go. With losses incurred outside Hawa and less heat from the Corsairs and Everlasting (assassins) on the Free Cities, a resistance can form. As the session begins, they’re entering Muluk, the easternmost city not conquered by Dhuza, an earth genie leading the djinn forces out of the fortress city of Qudra.

Enemy of my Enemy?

A crab approaches Dalia and calls her Dark Mistress of the Crabs. Everyone except Dalia herself is concerned by this. It asks her for their next target, to bring further glory to “their master,” Kar’rr’ga, the crab deity previously loosed on the region.

Dali points them toward Qudra, the fortress city out of which one of their djinn enemies – Dhuza, the Rock – is based. The crab thanks her and scuttles off. Telchak tries to kill it but is stopped by his aunt Nezima. Once in the city of Muluk, she also get a crab tattoo.

Both in and out of character, the PCs begin to openly wonder if there’s an element of mind control at play between the crab god and Dalia. Telchak is concerned.

Mulukian Days

The party enter the city of Muluk, which is awash in purple, the unofficial color of the city, owing to its trade of purple dyes in 100s of subtle variants. They find a crier for some news, and confirm that Umara has already fallen to Djinn forces, and that refugees from Umara are in and around the city. In the nearby harbor, clear preparations are being made.

The flier they get from the town crier has a hidden object puzzle. Telchak completes it with ease and wants to turn it into the newspaper’s headquarters for a prize it says he’ll get. His mother refuses.

They bump into Hamed Bobolonius II, assistant to Shazam Botswani (leader of Umara). Bobolonius is a portly older man who had helped them in Umara. He’s sweatier now from recent work, but pleased to see them. He leads them to a nearby tent city just outside city limits, where most Umarans are currently sheltered. He also agrees to turn in Telchak’s hidden object puzzle to claim his prize.

The Grand Scheme

They enter the tent of Bostwani, who is pleased to see them. They catch up on recent events, and unpack the plan to fight back against the djinn. As a clearly self-serving man who is also none too pleased as the party reveals their Corsair allies, there’s clear tension between him and the party. This is partially buffeted by the arrival of the ruler of Muluk, Calipha Aswiyah al-Muftahir. A mere 15-year-old girl, she is poised and matter-of-fact, but clearly hiding some fear.

With the assassins off their backs, the Corsairs similarly dispersed, and with the djinn forces having suffered some losses in the battle of Hawa, they believe they have the ships to be able to push Dhuza’s army back.

The problem is that once they’re back in Qudra, there will be no way to breach the city, and a call to Zakhara’s other djinn forces will eventually produce an army capable of pushing them back again and perhaps even wiping them out entirely. Time is not on their side, given Dhuza’s extended allies in the continent.

Bobolonius returns with Telchak’s prize. Curiously, it’s a framed sketch of Telchak as a younger boy, and looks remarkably lifelike. As a concerned mother, Dalia wants to investigate this suddenly-creepy local newspaper, but more pressing matters keep her attention on the larger issues at hand.

Mulukian Nights

After chatting a bit in Bostwani’s tent, Aswiyah visits Atar late that evening, after everyone is retired for bed. She invites Atar out to swim in a local hot spring, one that’s hidden in some nearby rocky hills.

Atar is led up to a high cliff, below which is a circular basin with so much steam it’s impossible to see the bottom. Aswiyah grabs Atar’s hand and bids her to run and jump, which she does, subtly casting a Fly spell so as to slow the descent a bit.

Still, they hit the water beneath the steam with some force, traveling a few dozen feet down before resurfacing. Around them, other Mulukian nobles who had snuck out with them jump after them, crashing into the water with screams and yelps. What follows is a night of teenage dalliance.

Atar’s travels and adventures make her a center of attention for the evening, and Aswiyah gifts her with a pearl earring capable of casting the Message spell at night’s end.

Infiltrating Qudra

The group determines to infiltrate Qudra themselves, hoping to gain information and undermine djinn efforts however they can.

To do this, they borrow a Muluk vessel, strip it of identifiable markings, and a seamstress is tasked with creating a new flag for them. They will travel into Qudra with stores of coffee, along with various fruits, and act as coffee tradesfolk who deal in exotic, fruit-infused coffees.

Aswiyah gifts the party a Bag of Holding to mask some of their magic items. The magical prison box can’t enter it, so that has to stay out, but other magic items go into the bag, and several days journey later, they find themselves outside Qudra.

Prior to Qudra, they stopped briefly out to see their pirate ally Jayani. Jayani and Torrigar, the dragon turtle, follow at some distance and agree to act as lookouts some ways outside Qudra, but far enough as not to arouse the suspicions or attention of any lookouts along the city’s walls. Torrigar remains submerged, silently lurking. Torrigar can make quick work of individual ships, even though he alone would be incapable of assaulting the city.

Traveling downriver toward the bay, their ship is boarded and magically inspected. There is some skepticism at the Bag, but it’s left alone. The ruse mostly works, but the prison box is confiscated, as they suspect it could be used to smuggle someone out of the city.

The inspector-wizard assigns them a dock in the bay, and tells them an armed guard will escort them into the city to deliver their goods and tender payment for them.

The bay of Qudra is flanked by two massive, stone and metal towers. At the base of them are large doors with a gargantuan metal chain running between them. The chain sits just under the water, preventing the passage of any ship larger than a rowboat. Upon being approved for entry, the chain lurches into action through unknown means, loosening at the tower doors and sinking deeper into the bay.

Their ship enters as the chain is raised again, and at their appointed dock, a large contingent of armed humanoid guards, Galeb Duhr and Earth Elementals awaits them to escort them and their goods to the appropriate warehouse and pay them for their goods.

cherry coffee flag
The coffee business flag they created during the session, using some slapdash design elements.

Dungeon Master Notes

No combat this session, but following what was literally the largest combat encounter I’ve ever been a part of as GM or player (The Battle of Hawa the previous two sessions), I’m ok with that.

I’d half expected them to enter the city stealthily and try to lower the chains for their allies to be able to assault the city with naval forces. I had an encounter chain set up for that, but it’s likely to go unused.

The crab stuff is amusing, because Dalia’s player is leaning hard into her role as a trusted advisor to the crab god. Whether through subtle mind control or simply because she wishes to use the crab forces toward their own ends, the rest of the party doesn’t know at the moment, which lends some lovely paranoia to the proceedings.

The Calipha and some setting notes I used for Muluk are ripped right from the 2e Al-Qadim setting books. Same with Qudra, though I’m taking more artistic license there. Despite this being a wildly homebrew campaign overall, I think my players would be surprised at how much is based on established lore of the setting. It definitely helps me flesh out the world, and I think makes it feel more believable.

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