Last school year I ran some Hero Kids games for my youngest son and some of his mates. We used the Space Heroes set and it went really well. We discussed it and they said they wanted to try 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons this school year so I’ve been designing a campaign for them. I decided that I wanted to set it in Zakhara as I run an Al-Qadim campaign for adults and am really enjoying that world. I’ve also bought a load of material which I need to justify to myself. There is a great version of the Zakhara map online.
With a game aimed at ten year olds I am aware that I need to give them a certain amount of structure and keep the action coming where with my adult Al-Qadim campaign things often happen at a far more leisurely pace. The real advantage of running a campaign for kids is that I can blog about the process of creating the world and adventure without any of them reading it.
So this is what I’ve got so far, it’s rough and ready and it’s as much stuff that I need to get straight in my mind as it is written for someone else to read and use. If I end up with something that I think is usable I might end up putting out a pdf but for the moment these are just my notes that I thought I’d share.
The greatest mosque in the whole of Zakhara to the goddess Selan the Beautiful Moon is not in great shining Huzuz where the Grand Caliph Khalil al-Assad al-Zahir holds court among the shimmering spires and golden domes. Instead it is far to the South East on the Isle of Afyal (the Isle of the Elephant) that the Great Mosque of the Moon was built, nestling among the polished marble and gleaming carved hardwood buildings of that fabled island.
Long had the priests of Selan longed to own the legendary carving of the likeness of The Loregiver by the great sculptor Essafah ibn-Rashad al-Nulhat, carved at the behest of the first Grand Caliph at his ascension before the Golden Mosque had been built. The carving though was kept by the priests of Zann The Learned at their mosque in Dihiliz. As the priesthood of Zann cared for knowledge rather than beauty the priesthood of Selan could find nothing of significant value to trade and the statue’s legendary beauty remained seen only by those who did not appreciate it.
Immam Karim ibn-Zann was invited to visit the Mosque of Selan in Tajar (eastern most of the western Cities of the Pearl) by Immam Khadiga bint-Selan min-Tajar who advised Karim that she had information of an ancient secret library. Khadiga hoped that the information that had been unearthed in a forgotten tome in Afyal would be worth trading for the sculpture (significantly increasing her status in Afyal into the bargain).
The party start the adventure in Tajar (the City of Trade) where they have signed on as caravan guards for a woman named Najiba. Najiba runs large caravans regularly between Tajar and Magrib with goods bound to and from the Golden City of Huzuz. The money isn’t bad but it isn’t good either and the inhabitants of Tajar are fabled for their shrewdness in business and in parting people from their coin. While the route they take is generally trouble free nobody is going to get rich working for Najiba.
On this morning Najiba has agreed to take an Immam with the caravan (Karim) however he is late and several of the merchants are keen to get underway before the day gets too hot. Najiba asks the party to stay behind with two other guards (Mahmood and Ahmed) to wait for the Immam and catch up with the caravan at the Jamal Oasis. If the priest hasn’t shown up in two hours (nine in the morning) they’re to advise old Jafar, who minds the business while Najiba is away, and catch up with the caravan.
Karim has concluded his business with Khadiga but she has kept him waiting this morning and thus he arrives at around eight forty-five, quarter of an hour before the deadline. While the opportunity to relax a little early in the morning was pleasant by the time the guards escort Karim, riding a camel bedecked in beautifully colourful riding gear and towing a mule, from the city gates the temperature, as well as the sun, has risen.
Although the group have been in the desert many times with caravans, being out with such a small group feels unnatural. As the fields outside Tajar and its valley drop back out of site and the landscape becomes sandy rock all seems eerily quiet. The footsteps of the guards and the animals are muffled by the sand and little lives out here between the city and the mountains.
The caravan route climbs the foothills of the local mountain range becoming ever more stony before it turns to the northeast running along the face of some steep cliffs toward the pass through the mountains to the Jamal Oasis. It will take several hours to reach the start of the pass.
With a Sense Motive check (DC10) characters will realise that Karim seems very pleased with himself and they find that while not talkative he’s far more open to conversation than they would expect him to be normally.
Around an hour after the route turns alongside the cliffs the party will spot (DC12 Perception check) movement alongside the cliffs both in front and behind them. Not long after this three large scorpions (each the size of a medium sized dog) come scuttling out from the cliffs, one in front and two behind. They do not advance too fast, testing the way (no surprise round). Twenty feet to the group’s right the edge of an escarpment drops steeply away leaving the group with nowhere to go.
Initially Karim will not aid the party as he is busy trying to control the camel and the mule who are spooked by the scorpions.
Small Beast, Unaligned
AC 13 (Natural Armour)
HP 12 (2d10+2)
STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
11(0) 13(+1) 13(+1) 1(-5) 9(-1) 3(-4)
Senses: Blindsight 20’, Passive Perception 12
Challenge: ½? (50XP)
Multiattack: 3 attacks per round, two claws and one sting, one creature only
Claw: +2 Melee, reach 5’, target one creature only – Hit 2 (1d4) bludgeoning
Sting: +2 Melee, reach 5, target one creature only – Hit 3 (1d6) piercing and poison.
Poison – DC10 Con save or shaken for 1 round
In the mountain pass, nearly to the northern side, the party are attacked by several gnoll bandits. They have been left behind to keep watch but decide to attack due to the size of this group (six guards on foot leading a camel and an old man). Their pack had been keeping watch for Najiba’s caravan and is now heading to the east waiting to ambush the caravan on the next day when they have left the Jamal Oasis (and the protection of the Fajirik Military Camp nearby). They throw javelins as Mahmood and Ahmed (Mahmood and Ahmed are not expected to survive, at least they’re unlikely to be combatants after the first round or two) before swooping down on the group.
Karim is not a fighter but he calls on Zann to protect his guards casting Aid, Bless and several other spells. The gnolls boast laughingly that the guards aren’t missing out on much life as by tomorrow evening they’d be slaves to their tribe anyway.
Once the gnolls have been defeated the group will make it to the Oasis and Karim (if the party haven’t already suggested it) will suggest to Najiba that she sends to the Fajirik Military Camp and get reinforcements to defeat the gnoll bandits.
Karim is impressed with the party and (possibly charitably) is convinced that the party have saved his life, saved the caravan and are just the people he is looking for. He has already agreed with Khadiga that if the information about the ancient library is accurate Immam Al-Murib Mutamin Wasat at the Mosque of Zann in Dihliz will deliver the sculpture to Afyal. He now needs a group who can follow the instructions he has and verify that the library exists. He’s convinced that the party are just the people for the job.
Karim takes the party to Huzuz and arranges a sea voyage for them to Dihliz where Al-Murib will outfit them. From Dihliz the party will head out in search of the Shrine of Yuantra, buried beneath the ancient ruins of Djadoth where the unenlightened heathen Kadari ruled a thousand years ago. They will need to head up the Abda River, through the Grey Jungle to the al-Sayaj Mountains without allowing the residents of Mahabba to find out what they go in search of and for whom.
If they return to Al-Murib with confirmation that the library exists intact (especially if they return with a legendary tome bound in the skin of medusa hair) then they will most likely lead a full expedition of clerics to catalogue and pack the wonders discovered. Then who knows what wonders these books will hint at and what treasures the party will be sent in search of.