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

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Supporter
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.
Thanks! I had actually been planning on starting up a Ravenloft campaign for my group, but this has me excited enough that I'm thinking of making a Zakhara campaign.
 

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Davies

Adventurer
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.
... I can't say that I'm fully persuaded, but I do understand your reasoning, appreciate your taking the time to address this, and look forward to seeing the published work.
 

guachi

Explorer
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.

It's a good nonsense word, then, as it had me fooled. Many of the terms used really are Arabic (Al-Qadim, Sahir). And Zakhara deriving from the Arabic verb "to teem or abound" at least made some sense to me as the name for a fantasy land.
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
... I can't say that I'm fully persuaded, but I do understand your reasoning, appreciate your taking the time to address this, and look forward to seeing the published work.
I appreciate the vote of confidence!

If you haven't done so yet, I recommend downloading the Sha'ir document I linked above; you can find it here: The Sha'ir (Warlock and Wizard options) - Dungeon Masters Guild | Dungeon Masters Guild

It has our Sha'ir kit, our reasoning behind the idea (mostly reiterated in this thread anyway), our Noble Genie and Pact of the Lamp option, and the wizard Genie Lore subclass.

It also might not convince you, but it will at least provide a more concrete example of our approach.
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
It's a good nonsense word, then, as it had me fooled. Many of the terms used really are Arabic (Al-Qadim, Sahir). And Zakhara deriving from the Arabic verb "to teem or abound" at least made some sense to me as the name for a fantasy land.
This was Jeff Grubb's actual answer when asked:

"Zakhara does not mean plentiful or bountiful from this volume, and I either may used a different word as its base, or did a complete keyboard-mash to find something that sounded as good as Faerun. (It may be the latter, only because it gives me the A to Z encompassing of al-Qadim, set in Zakhara (zah -KARR-ah)."

So there's a chance it had something to do with an Arabic word, but even Grubb doubts that.
 


Stormonu

Legend
!!!!!

Are you planning any supplements or adventure conversions to go along with the base book?

@jayoungr - yes, this is Al-Qadim. Zakhara is the name of the continent, like the Forgotten Realms is set on Abber-Toril, and Greyhawk is set on the Flanness of Oerth.
 

dave2008

Legend
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.
Probably too late for this, but you might look at the supernatural gifts and piety system that was developed for Theros. That seems like a framework that might work for you.
 

dave2008

Legend
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.


View attachment 134982
Just wanted to point out the Flyby is a trait in standard WotC statbocks, not an action.
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
Just wanted to point out the Flyby is a trait in standard WotC statbocks, not an action.
Wow. We literally had like 8 different people review the statblocks before the book was finalized (possibly more; sections of this book were written upwards of 5 years ago), not to mention everyone who's seen this same image where I've posted it in various places, and you seem to be the first to notice that Flyby should be above the Actions heading, not below it. Oops!

It's a bit embarrassing as an oversight, but I feel safe in my belief that most people won't notice it.
 

dave2008

Legend
Wow. We literally had like 8 different people review the statblocks before the book was finalized (possibly more; sections of this book were written upwards of 5 years ago), not to mention everyone who's seen this same image where I've posted it in various places, and you seem to be the first to notice that Flyby should be above the Actions heading, not below it. Oops!

It's a bit embarrassing as an oversight, but I feel safe in my belief that most people won't notice it.
Well, I have always have spent a lot of time reviewing stat blocks and since Covid that is my primary method of D&D consumption!
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
Probably too late for this, but you might look at the supernatural gifts and piety system that was developed for Theros. That seems like a framework that might work for you.
I've been a big fan of supernatural gifts for ages; one of my first published pieces was an expansion of the Supernatural Gifts section form the Dungeon Master's Guide. And the system in Theros is pretty solid.

But we steered away from focusing too much on specific religious tropes in the book, even moreso once Ahmed Aljabry was involved. We had a fine line to walk with representation, Orientalism, and other stereotypes, while remaining true to the AD&D design of the world and its society. The piety system from Theros seems like it might be a pretty good fit for Zakharans, but I don't really think the Supernatural Gifts are - such gifts imply the heavy involvement of gods in everyday life, and a distinctive feature of the 2nd Edition Al-Qadim material was its lack of divine presence. Zakhara was about the people's take on their gods, not a catalog of deities as high-level monsters to be challenged and hobnobbed with by PCs; a remarkably refreshing take for the early '90s, and one the Eberron setting also ran with in the mid 200s.

Also, the last thing we needed to do was play up the people of a fantasy cultural mishmash, derived from European takes on Middle Eastern traditions and stories, as a bunch of religious wingnuts. And at the end of the day, we couldn't fit everything we wanted anyway. Some bits will appear soon in other books, but some stuff people will just need to add to campaigns on their own if they want it.
 
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dave2008

Legend
I've been a big fan of supernatural gifts for ages; one of my first published pieces was an expansion of the Supernatural Gifts section form the Dungeon Master's Guide. And the system in Theros is pretty solid.

But we steered away from focusing too much on specific religious tropes in the book, even moreso once Ahmed Aljabry was involved. We had a fine line to walk with representation, Orientalism, and other stereotypes, while remaining true to the AD&D design of the world and its society. The piety system from Theros seems like it might be a pretty good fit for Zakharans, but I don't really think the Supernatural Gifts are - such gifts imply the heavy involvement of gods in everyday life, and a distinctive feature of the 2nd Edition Al-Qadim material was its lack of divine presence. Zakhara was about the people's take on their gods, not a catalog of deities as high-level monsters to be challenged and hobnobbed with by PCs; a remarkably refreshing take for the early '90s, and one the Eberron setting also ran with in the mid 200s.

Also, the last thing we needed to do was play up a the people of a fantasy cultural mishmash, derived from European takes on Middle Eastern traditions and stories, as a bunch of religious wingnuts. And at the end of the day, we couldn't fit everything we wanted anyway. Some bits will appear soon in other books, but some stuff people will just need to add to campaigns on their own if they want it.
I wasn't suggesting you use the supernatural gifts and piety system, just that conceptual frame work:
  1. A benefit a character creation
  2. More benefits at particular intervals or accomplishments.
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
I wasn't suggesting you use the supernatural gifts and piety system, just that conceptual frame work:
  1. A benefit a character creation
  2. More benefits at particular intervals or accomplishments.
Ahh. I misunderstood.

Yeah, it could have been a good system to utilize, but I don't think the book hurts for not having it. And people can always use it if they want anyway.
 

Kodiak3D

Explorer
Ignorant question, so forgive me, but I thought Al-Qadim was the Land of Fate? Is this related?
I can understand the confusion. Al-Qadim is the name of the campaign setting, but not really a location of any sort. Zakhara is the name of the continent the setting takes place in, also referred to as The Land of Fate (also the name of the original boxed set).

So yes, this is VERY related :)
 

Ogre Mage

Adventurer
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.
That's awewsome. Genies are one of my favorite monsters and the sha'ir was my favorite thing in Zakhara.
 

see

Adventurer
That I didn’t know. I thought it was only for IP they had released. Interesting.
To quote from the DM's Guild FAQ:
When you create your own title for the Dungeon Masters Guild, you get access to a hoard of resources. Your work can use any of the 5th Edition D&D rules published by Wizards of the Coast, plus decades of published material for the Forgotten Realms, Ravenloft, Eberron, Ravnica, and Theros settings.
Questions were asked early on to make sure that "Forgotten Realms" included Kara-Tur, Maztica, and Zakhara, and the answer came back a definitive "yes".
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
To quote from the DM's Guild FAQ:

Questions were asked early on to make sure that "Forgotten Realms" included Kara-Tur, Maztica, and Zakhara, and the answer came back a definitive "yes".
And it's an important distinction. That's why the book is titled as a campaign guide to Zakhara, not a reinvention of Al-Qadim (though the two are functionally identical).

There are already a few Zakhara themed products available on DMSGuild, and some have been there for years. And that's not even counting the ones I was involved with!
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
!!!!!

Are you planning any supplements or adventure conversions to go along with the base book?
Absolutely. There's an introductory adventure in the book (which will also be available separately), and we have three additional adventure planned at the moment, following up on events and characters from the the starter but able to be run independently from it and none requiring the others to understand or work.

Each adventure focuses on a different type of hostile terrain, though the terrain itself isn't the core of the adventure. Taken as an arc, the four adventures (prelude/starter + the additional three) should take characters from 1st level to 10th or so; maybe higher. The last chapter is super hard to balance due to what it involves, so in a way your 1st level characters could handle it too - though I wouldn't recommend trying that!

In addition to that, we have three more supplements planned and an Adventurer's Guide. That last one basically walks though creating a Zakharan character using the same process as the Player's Handbook but allowing for more setting-specific material and options from our work. It will be PWYW.

Others include a book of magic items and a book on Elemental Monoliths. I'll have more details on those as we get closer to releasing them.
 


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