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New (Unofficial) Zakhara campaign guide available 04/13/2021

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
Ahlan and well met, my friends!

Many of us have missed the storied lands of Zakhara, colloquially known as the Land of Fate. A land of genies, ghuls, mysteries, sultans, and sorcery, Zakhara draws inspiration in equal parts from 1,001 Nights (also known as The Arabian Nights) and 1960s Hollywood glamor.

Now, from the team who brought you the Electrum-bestselling Midnight in the City of Brass, with the invaluable assistance from Ahmed Aljabry of d20Arabia, comes

Campaign Guide: Zakhara - Adventures in the Land of Fate.

This 288 page tome contains the following:
  • an overview of the great peninsula's geography
  • details on Zakhara's great cities
  • details on Zakhara's great wastes and desert tribes
  • details on Zakhara's prominent power groups
  • almost 100 monster and NPC statblocks
  • new subclasses
  • an optional take on character kits for 5th Edition games
  • a starter adventure for 1st level characters
  • appendices full of valuable information such as the local calendar, local terminology, names, and six pregenerated characters
Lavishly illustrated and presented in a style reminiscent of the classic product line from the early 1990s but with an eye toward modern sensibilities, Campaign Guide: Zakhara - Adventures in the Land of Fate has everything you need to either begin your adventures in the distant south or pick up and continue with your old campaign.

Available 04/13/2021 on Dungeon Masters Guild, in PDF and Print on Demand.

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guachi

Explorer
Thumbs up!

Question: Does anyone know what actual Arabic word is supposed to be represented by "Zakhara"? Is it from the word for "teem" or "abound" or is it a slight mistransliteration of the Arabic for "flower" or maybe a bigger mistransliteration of "desert"?
 


Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
Thumbs up!

Question: Does anyone know what actual Arabic word is supposed to be represented by "Zakhara"? Is it from the word for "teem" or "abound" or is it a slight mistransliteration of the Arabic for "flower" or maybe a bigger mistransliteration of "desert"?
Thank you!

And the word "Zakhara" means nothing, just sounds cool. Ahmed actually reached out to Jeff Grubb about it, and Grubb confirmed that it was just a vaguely Arabic sounding nonsense word.

For the record, the same is true of the Zakharan names for the calendar months.
 


TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Supporter
1) Does the book have a spell list divided up by elements to allow for elemental wizards?

2) I don't need a ton of details, but what approach did you take to the sha'ir?
 

Ooooooh! I'll definitely be taking a look at this!

Glad they worked with Ahmad on this to ensure they get things culturally appropriate and avoid any faux pas. Granted, Zakhara was probably the best out of the three major continental expansions to the Forgotten Realms, but it still did have its rough edges and questionable takes, so presumably we'll see a more polished and nuanced version here!
 



Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
Are the monsters illustrated?
Yes.

We wanted to keep to the feel of the 2nd Edition stuff, so most illustrations are black and white, with the occasional full page color plate. Luckily for our budget, there is a TON of public domain Arabian Nights artwork, and that artwork comprises the vast majority of the pieces in the book.


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Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
1) Does the book have a spell list divided up by elements to allow for elemental wizards?

2) I don't need a ton of details, but what approach did you take to the sha'ir?
1. Yes. It includes all applicable spells from the Player's Handbook, Elemental Evil Player's Companion, with a few from Xanathar's Guide. We didn't want to require people to purchase or have resources outside the core three books, so we consciously decided not to include material from Tasha's Cauldron (for example). We will be releasing the spell lists as a web supplement, complete with spells from all official sources, soon after the book is released.

2. In our work the Sha'ir is an archetype, not a class, and a member of any class can become one (this is what we mean when we describe reintroducing character kits; more on that in a fuller answer below).

But to more directly answer the spirit of your question, regarding a spellcaster who relies on a genie familiar to gain and use spells, our take hasn't changed since we initially published it over two years ago. You can get it for free if you like: The Sha'ir at DMSGuild.

Our take is a Noble Genie patron Warlock, with a Pact of the Lamp. This version has a gen (mechanically derived from an imp or quasit) that can fetch spells like it did in 2e. We also provide methods of implementing the concept using a Sorcerer bloodline (Genie-Blooded) and Wizard arcane tradition (the School of Genie Lore). We worked on a Bard option too but it died on the vine during playtesting.

The Warlock and Wizard implementations are in the Sha'ir document I linked above; the Warlock is also in Midnight in the City of Brass along with the Sorcerer bloodline.
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
Ooooooh! I'll definitely be taking a look at this!

Glad they worked with Ahmad on this to ensure they get things culturally appropriate and avoid any faux pas. Granted, Zakhara was probably the best out of the three major continental expansions to the Forgotten Realms, but it still did have its rough edges and questionable takes, so presumably we'll see a more polished and nuanced version here!
Ahmed is an awesome guy, and I was very happy he came onboard. He was one of three native Arabic speakers we worked with for transliteration and language assistance, and he was by far the most involved. He had many great pointers on cultural and social matters, and very importantly he agreed with our overall approach.
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
... kits? Seriously?
Tell me about it. The 2e plague returns!

But we ran into an issue: making everything a subclass is extremely limiting, especially for broad concepts such as a mounted warrior, a holy slayer, or a preacher who belongs to an order that maintains temples and congregations. These archetypes and concepts are deeply ingrained in the Al-Qadim and Zakharan setting, however, and we couldn't just ignore them. It also seemed silly to have multiple subclasses for the same concept (covering different classes). Early ideas to make more generic subclasses that could be taken by ANY class died fast and hard, especially since not all classes get their subclasses at the same level.

In addition, others have published excellent collections of Zakharan subclasses and we didn't want to reinvent the wheel, flood the market, or just copy what they had done.

Our solution was a sort of enhanced background: a roleplaying concepts paired with a minor mechanical boost that a character can generally take at 5th level or so. Most give advantage or proficiency in a skill, in a specific application, and have minimal mechanical impact on the game overall (at least across the course of our playtesting). They're easy to implement, ignore, or just use as a roleplaying aid.

These kits have some of the same problems that kits of old used to: they're by nature not all of equal power level, not everyone uses them (obviously!), and some are very niche and/or specific in their application. But none are likely to break your game, whether or not you use them.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Supporter
Our solution was a sort of enhanced background: a roleplaying concepts paired with a minor mechanical boost that a character can generally take at 5th level or so. Most give advantage or proficiency in a skill, in a specific application, and have minimal mechanical impact on the game overall (at least across the course of our playtesting). They're easy to implement, ignore, or just use as a roleplaying aid.

These kits have some of the same problems that kits of old used to: they're by nature not all of equal power level, not everyone uses them (obviously!), and some are very niche and/or specific in their application. But none are likely to break your game, whether or not you use them.
I think that makes a lot of sense. 5e has plenty of room for mechanical or narrative widgets outside of the class/subclass/feat paradigm. I mean, magic items already exist as a DM tool to give power boosts outside of the normal level progression; any system that gives out other kinds of boons is merely a variation on that.
 

amethal

Adventurer
That I didn’t know. I thought it was only for IP they had released. Interesting.
It is only for settings they have released, but by releasing Forgotten Realms they also implicitly released Zakhara, Kara-Tur and Maztica, since they are all considered part of that setting.
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
I think that makes a lot of sense. 5e has plenty of room for mechanical or narrative widgets outside of the class/subclass/feat paradigm. I mean, magic items already exist as a DM tool to give power boosts outside of the normal level progression; any system that gives out other kinds of boons is merely a variation on that.
Thanks for your thoughts, and enthusiasm!

The kits have been enormously popular with our playtesters - it's just another little hook that might never even come into play, but helps direct how to develop a character and anchor it to a setting. So just like with prestige classes in 3.x (which were a direct inspiration for our approach), we've found that many players choose feats and other options in anticipation of eventually filling a role defined by a kit. And the great thing is, even if they never end up taking the kit, the idea still help them flesh out their character.
 

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