The Djinn of Al-Qadim
Campaign Session Report #5
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 left the city of Huzzuz as fugitives, headed toward the northern city of Hiyal on a tip from a contact.
On the Road
Atar and Shtanka, their teenage goblin friend, sun themselves on the roof of one of the caravans. Shtanka uses Telchak’s infatuation with her to make him get things for her, including stealing dates for her to eat. She then sends him to find pretty rocks, and he sets off doing that.
The Sand Wyrm
Dalia speaks with the caravan leader (who goes by “Turmeric”) about the craziest thing he’s ever seen on the road. A sand wyrm, he says.
Moments later, fate hilariously intervenes and Dalia rolls a sand wyrm on the large random table I made. It’s a “baby” but still towers over them, bursting out of the sand and devouring a camel in a caravan traveling in the opposite direction. Chaos ensues, and the caravan huddles up against a rocky outcropping. The wyrm pursues members of the other caravan, until it’s close enough for the party to attack it at range. Which they do, getting its attention, but saving one of the riders from the other caravan in the process.
A fight follows, with the wyrm doing sizable damage to both Dalia and Nezima, before taking enough damage that it flees into the ground. Relatively unscathed, the party recoups and continues on.
Swimming in Wasat
They arrive at Wasat a couple weeks later, a midway trade city between the larger hubs of Huzzuz and Hiyal. They spend only a night, but in the nearby bay find a place to go diving and swimming.
Hijinks ensue as Telchak pretends to be a shark, Atar “steams” as she enters the water, prompting insults from Telchak about how he can see her stink lines. Dalia makes water creatures with magic and they all play a bit.
Shtank, the goblin father of Shtanka, meanwhile has a quieter conversation with Nezima near the beachfront, stating that they’d be parting ways the next day and heading to somewhere safer for his daughter.
The following day, Shtanka thanks everyone and takes her leave. Telchak gives her a rock, and she gives him a peck on the cheek, paralyzing him. She then hugs Atar and tells her to take note of how easily she manipulated Telchak, and that if Atar did the same, many boys would be hers to command.
The Psychic Scam
Heading north out of Wasat, the party encounter a haggard man stumbling toward them, begging for help. He claims to be taken over by someone, and moments later his entire demeanor changes, he stands up straighter, and addresses the party formally.
He’s a psionic telepath and has dominated this man’s mind. If not paid off, he’ll kill the man, he says. For a small fee, he’ll mentally release the man, and he does so momentarily, whereupon the original voice pleads with them to help him, saying he has a family and being taken over like this is maddening torture. The psionist persona returns, and asks if they have a deal, asking them to leave some gold behind a nearby rock so that he may collect it later.
Nezima is wise to this nonsense, spotting a scam. Atar distracts him for a bit while the others have a telepathic conversation (courtesy of Telchak’s abilities). They pay the gold and hide out, making Telchak invisible, allowing him to sit near the gold. The same man returns nearly an hour later, and the party corral him easily, exposing and humiliating him a bit before stealing his gold and letting him run off.
Arrival in Hiyal & Information Gathering
Hiyal is a smoky region, owing to its industry, and is also known as the City of Intrigue. Lots of people go there if they want information or to disappear from the authorities. The city is under the rule of the Djinn, but is comparatively lawless next to other cities in their empire.
The caravan takes their leave, and the party sets up shop in the city’s primary caravansery. With a full day before the full moon that presages their ability to access the Shadow Market, the party investigate the bazaar and try to gain information on the whereabouts of Zazzle, their Azer ally who tipped them off to this city in the first place.
The bazaar is largely covered, in an interconnected series of narrow buildings that utilize skylights for natural light throughout the day (there is a famous real-world equivalent to this in Istanbul, upon which I based the Hiyalian market). Lots of opulent-looking jewelry (much of it fake, they learn), along with more reputable wares.
They identify what they believe to be the “highest point” in the market, from which their journey to the Shadow Market will commence the next night. They also do some light shopping.
Nezima attempts to unearth an information network to find Zazzle, and spends the better part of a day turning up nothing of importance. However, her efforts attract the attention of others, and she’s approached by a street urchin who says he was tasked with looking out for the party (who sort of stand out as a family of adventuring genasi). He gives her a lead: Villa Qadira, just outside the city’s walls.
Arrival in the Shadow Market
But the Shadow Market beckons, and the party arrive at the appointed place at dusk, and go through a series of obscure steps (nebulous steps like “follow the most exotic creature” or “head north until the crow’s signal” are in the instructions). Arriving at alleyway eventually that they believe to be the correct entrance, they walk in and see a light that gets rapidly brighter, and they are transported to another land entirely…
They are treated to a fantastical, magical market filled with numerous shops and buildings. A cadre of hippo-men (Giff) wander past. Above, a pale-skinned man in a dark cape flies past. Dinosaurs wander and roar in the distance. A group of rahkshasas talk quietly as they enter a building, the entrance to which has a shifting illusion that displays “The Council of Rahkshasas” in various languages. High above, a swirling sky of black and grey seems to ooze around in a massive, dome-like bubble encasing the entirety of the market. Off to another side, creatures of all types place bets on competitions being viewed through scrying portals on the wall.
A flying, miniature caravan trundles past them, with the words “The Trinket Train” above it. Slots for coins exist in the train/caravan, each corresponding to a box that has a brief description written on it (of the item inside) along with a cost. They all purchase some odd trinkets, including:
- Nezima: The Loud Coin – This grimy copper coin, when thrown on the ground, loudly comments on everything within 60 feet of it in Common, giving an accurate (if unflattering) description of the room and all its occupants.
- Dalia: A compass that points to the person who has the most money on them in a room. Doesn’t work outside.
- Dalia: A scroll titled: The Rules and Regulations for Properly Attacking, Subduing, and Dispatching a Dragon
- Telchak: Stuffed Tabaxi head (“Tabaxidermy”)
- Telchak: A wide cap made from the preserved remains of a Flumph.
- Atar: TwitterBot: A blue , bird shaped device that remembers a single sentence spoken to it, up to 14 words: The trigger phrase is ‘tweet’.
- Atar: Ring of Light: A copper ring that feels abnormally light.
The magical choo-choo leaves and they set off into the market to try to find the buyer of the item they were sent here to deliver.
The Shadow Market is an idea I hatched years ago, but didn’t get the chance to unleash in a campaign until now. It’s a hyper-magical market that also acts as a nexus for creatures from various planes of existence.
I’ve also made it a time-nexus, though the players don’t know that at this point. No time travel shenanigans; when you leave, you always return to your own time and place. But in the market, there are creatures from many different times and eras.
This is me creating some potential Easter Egg connective tissue between the various campaigns our group runs. They’ll be running into at least one former PC from our campaigns, though that PC won’t be the age at which they knew her.
Is it a bit too much of a metagaming wink to the players? Possibly. But I think it also matches with Al-Qadim’s high magic setting, so it’s not out of place. We also enjoy creating a sense of a shared universe in our group’s campaign, so linking it to others that we’ve run should be a welcome addition for the group.
Purple Wyrm (stats modified, no specific calculated CR)
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