The Djinn of Al-Qadim
Campaign Session Report #3
By MARK WILSON
Setting: Al-Qadim (aka the continent of Zakhara)
System: D&D 5e
Levels: 3-?? (probably 12)
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 escaped from the gladiatorial pens beneath the arena in the city of Huzuz. They met with some informants from a small resistance with ties throughout Zakhara, and agreed to complete some minor quests at the city’s Bazaar. Going somewhat incognito (half the party magically disguised, the other half obscuring themselves with clothing), they dropped off an item with a vendor, got some information on the Bazaar, and stopped in at a trinket stand.
The Dream Hut
Following the trinket stand, the party follows up on another recommendation from Choni, the birdlike creature and merchant of exotic goods they met last session. He mentioned a “Dream Hut” as being of interest.
Dalia (mom) wants to go straight to their other contact for information, but loses out to the group. Meeting a pleasant woman at the hut, which is far down a somewhat-obscure alley, Nezima (aunt) takes first crack at it (for a small fee)
The woman prepares an aromatic concoction with Dreambliss, a substance that heightens a person’s connection to the dream world. While under its effects, the world of dreams comes closer to the material world.
Nezima awakens at a pool with a city in the distance. In the pool are fish of every color, making it seem as though the water itself is made of flowing colors. One of the fish cries out “It is you who will save us.” In the distance, Nezima hears moaning and crying from two different sources in the city, and senses that both bring danger. She chooses to explore the crying instead of the moaning or staying away from either. Peering into a window from which the crying is coming, she sees a little girl.
The little girl sees Nezima and asks which god she is, stating that she talks to all kinds of gods, and that it would be weird if Nezima didn’t know which one she was. Eventually piecing something together, the girl has an epiphany, stating she knows what this is. “Can you find me?” the girl asks Nezima. The dream begins to fade, and Nezima takes in her surroundings to help her identify the city.
Atar is up next (Telchak, the younger sibling, apes his mother’s response of disdain for this dream-stuff). She awakens in an Elephant Graveyard in a forested jungle area. Below in a ravine, many hundreds of feet down, is the graveyard. A thought occurs to Atar that the ivory of the tusks could be very valuable, and buy her a lot of clothes (as a teen, this is an obsession of hers).
She falls while climbing down, but is saved by an elephant spirit who asks why she’s here. After a stammered answer, the spirit asks if she knows its name. She does not. He asks her to try to remember, and bids her to tread carefully among his kin and followers (presumably, the dead elephants). Before the dream fades, Atar takes a tusk. It does not accompany her to the waking world, but clutched in her hand is an ivory necklace. The proprietor of the Dream Hut warns her that items taken, but not given, in dreams can be dangerous.
The group thanks the woman and takes their leave.
Moving on from the Dream Hut, they find the barbershop of the famous Gorar al-Askar, through whose doors every tale and rumor in the city has passed at one point. Disguising herself as a yak-woman, Dalia attracts the attention of Gorar as a particular grooming challenge.
Once in the barber’s chair, though, he sees through the illusion and the two begin to speak in earnest while going through the motions of the yak-woman getting a haircut and styling.
Dalia learns that people are being taken from the city along two trade routes, but at a certain point along either route, they move into the inland desert and aren’t seen again. Dalia thanks him and tips him for his silence.
Telchak and Atar also get ridiculous haircuts.
Reconvening With Zazzle
Back to the safehouse, where their Azer contact (Zazzle) eventually meets them. His secret post in the gladiatorial pens isn’t as useful as it once was, and he needs to gain information about larger movements in Zakhara that have been happening recently, so he’s leaving the city the next day. But there are still loose ends to tie up.
Nezima and Atar also get some info on their respective dreams. There’s an island of elephants (Afyal) with an ancient city in it that is still inhabited by somewhat legendary elephant riders. And Nezima tentatively identifies the city she saw as Qudra, a militaristic city on the northern banks of the Zakharan continent.
After this, the party agrees to address one of the loose ends, a rescue mission of a goblin teenager (Shtanka), the daughter of a goblin merchant (Shtank) they helped to rescue in the pens. The hideout they’ve been using belongs to Shtank and his (mostly missing) crew, who were raided and arrested previously, after refusing to work with the Djinn forces in the city.
The only lead they have is Shtank’s former associates who betrayed them to the djinn forces and took over their mercantile business. They operate out of a warehouse near the city’s docks.
Investigating Shtanka’s Kindnapping
The warehouse is easy enough to case, and Telchak is made invisible to do some snooping. He ends up inside, and does some investigating, though as a child he is ill-prepared to glean much information relevant to their search.
They end up trying a more direct approach and enter the building, posing as city officials. But they name Shtanka, albeit to a charmed goblin, who goes to talk to his boss about her whereabouts. The goblin boss – Jafar – rallies his crew at this, knowing that anyone asking after Shtanka is no friend or city official.
A fight ensues, albeit an anticlimactic one as they make quick work of a few goblins, before intimidating Jafar (with a Natural 20 roll) into involuntarily wetting himself. He and the others who remain alive surrender.
Jafar pleads his case, saying he had no choice or he’d end up arrested and taken away like Shtank. But he gives them the location of hobgoblin minions of the djinn who bargained with Jafar for Shtanka. The party gets the name and location of the place she was taken: a temple to Kossuth, the elemental god of fire, and one that the Djinn leaders of the city encourage worship of.
There are also some exposition worldbuilding bits involving a far-off city and a famous painter in the ledger and notes of the goblin crew, but these are not investigated at length.
The party heads to the temple immediately thereafter, aiming to free Shtanka.
I’m amused at the dreams they rolled (I have a big list, and I’m choosing to have them roll instead of picking the dream) because it gives them plot hooks in disparate corners of the world. It should provide some lovely tension, and interesting choices, later on. This is a world-hopping campaign within the continent of Zakhara, but they won’t have a chance to follow every plot hook they’ll receive. Tough choices may need to be made at some point.
The dreams were solitary, with the rest of the group simply spectating, but they went well, and didn’t last long enough that it became boring for everyone. Dalia had the aside with Gorar as a solo scene, and Telchak’s player generally provides his own fun. The dreams will be a recurring thing, but I also don’t want to lean on them too heavily. However, they’re wonderfully thematic within Al-Qadim.
I’m using the Book of Tales from the board game Tales of the Arabian Nights as the template for the dreams. I’ve pre-selected many individual entries in the book, and subtly adjusted them to work with the campaign. The book is basically the world’s largest random encounter table, so it’s fertile ground for plot hooks and evocative moments.
- Goblin (CR 1/4)
- Goblin Boss (CR1)