The Djinn of Al-Qadim
Campaign Session Report #44
By MARK WILSON
Setting: Al-Qadim (aka the continent of Zakhara)
System: D&D 5e
Dahlia, the Mother – Rune Knight Fighter
Nezima, the Aunt – Hexblade Warlock
Atareeza (Atar), the Daughter – Divine Soul Sorcerer
Telchak, the Son – Soulknife Rogue
Previously, the party killed the would-be ruler-god Bakada, and saw the spirit of Kossuth, the elemental god of fire, banished from this plane of existence. Their lives returning to normal and rebuilding, the weakened and beleaguered city of Huzuz is attacked by Kar’rr’ga, the 50-foot-tall crab god, and his monstrous crab army.
Tricking a God
The party gather and are willingly led toward the harbor where the crab invasion is taking place. At some point they hop on their magic carpets and fly overhead a bit, surveying the city, which is being actively attacked by crab forces.
Meanwhile, Telchak reaches out to Torrigar, their dragon turtle ally, through telepathic communication. Torrigar responds, but is in the bay some ways outside Huzzuz. He begins to head their direction, but informs Telchak it will be several minutes before he’s nearby. The party use these minutes to hash out a rough plan.
Once at the harbor, Kar’rr’ga is overseeing the carnage, but calls a temporary halt to it when he spies the party.
A negotiation ensues between him and Dahlia, who is mostly stalling for time. Kar’rr’ga wants her to undergo cosmetic surgery to become a crab creature and lead his forces in glorious conquest. Dahlia agrees, but says she wants to conquer an even greater realm, one that the party has access to. Intrigued, Kar’rr’ga inquires, and also casts a Zone of Truth around Dahlia via one of his “priests.” She keeps her answers cagey enough that they pass the spell’s mandate of truthfulness.
Dahlia describes the City of Brass, a plane of existence that Atar can now create a teleportation circle into. Several follow-up questions happen, each of which is robed in truth. The party offer to show this plane to Kar’rr’ga, who still remains skeptical. Refusing to step through the teleportation circle without a hostage, he winds up grabbing Atar to avoid a double-cross as they pass into the magnificent city on the Plane of Fire.
The problem is that for all his attempts to prevent a double-cross, Atar has too many tricky spells at her disposal, and can cast them sneakily with the use of metamagic points. She teleports away from Kar’rr’ga eventually, during a moment of distraction, then again, then again. The inside a building recasts a teleportation circle to take her back to Huzuz.
The party (rightly) assume that this won’t hold Kar’rr’ga forever, but it allows them time to deal with Kar’rr’ga’s confused minions in Huzuz, robbing him of his armies.
Arrival of Torrigar and the Pacman Line
Torrigar arrives from the waters of the river outside Huzuz with a roar, melting and swallowing whole swaths of them at once. In a confused stupor, they begin running about.
Dahlia, claiming that she can lead them to safety and glory until Kar’rr’ga’s return, begins leading them into the city via flying carpet. The crabs follow in a scattered line, running as fast as possible.
Near the back of the line, Torrigar continues wreaking havoc on their numbers, chomping at the back of the line Pacman-style as they’re led through the city.
Heading to the gladiatorial arena where they’d fought Bakada, which still had some vestiges of lava flows in a pit in its center, they lead the crab line into the arena. Some are duped into believing the lava pit is a portal, though most realize the betrayal. However, they’re stuck between the pit and a rampaging dragon turtle, and many choose death-by-pit.
And as the line of crabs rolls through the city, it forms an odd parade line, with onlookers cheering on the party (at least until they see Torrigar charging in their direction). Having returned via teleportation circle, Atar finds them along the way as well.
The remainder of the crab forces are cleaned up easily after this, and the shocked city returns to normal, such as it is following all of the recent conflict.
Aftermath & End
We officially pulled the curtains on the campaign as they exited the arena to the cheers of the city, but the remaining time in the session was spent detailing what happens in the world following the campaign. The family (perhaps without their father, with whom they seemed to grow more distant during the campaign) plan to travel, adventure and potentially open a coffee trading business specializing in cherry coffee.
And the continent is far from secured but has a lasting peace for at least a while past the reign of Bakada and his forces.
Dungeon Master Notes
I did want a full battle with Kar’rr’ga, which wouldn’t have been easy even for level 12 characters. His stats were somewhat homebrew, but he would have been a roughly CR23 creature, and with minions around him to aid if necessary. And since he had Truesight, any illusion magicks would have instantly broken the trust that allowed them to dupe him, which they considered at a few points. But I wanted to reward their plan, which was backed with several fortuitous rolls. Forcing combat can be bad, instead of leaving non-combat options a possibility, the latter of which heightens the tension when combat does occur in such situations.
I may do a separate writeup with campaign-wide thoughts, but this was an excellent campaign all around. A campaign is only as good as the players in it, so I was fortunate to have such excellent ones, who also kept me on my toes at numerous points.
I had the skeleton of the campaign plotted out before it began, but a ton was altered, added, removed or otherwise adjusted to account for player actions. I don’t like being on rails or knowing exactly where the story is headed as a Dungeon Master, so this is a good thing for me. Prepping material helps, but I also want to leave room to be surprised just like the players.
This was also the most ambitious and sprawling campaign I’ve ever run as a dungeon master. Perhaps it wasn’t the most intimidating, since I have more DMing experience under my belt than in my early DMing days and am comfortable behind the DM’s screen. But it also stretched my game-running skills beyond previous limits, which was cool.
I was admittedly somewhat burned out by the end of the campaign, which lasted about 14 months of real-life time. I can’t imagine planning a campaign to last much longer than this, but I also had loads of fun bringing it to life.
If you’re reading this, I hope you enjoyed it even a fraction as much as I did experiencing it!