Fortunes & Fates
This five-chapter Dungeon Master’s booklet is far shorter than the Adventurer’s Guide, sitting at around just 60 pages.One of those chapters, Secrets of Zakhara, we folded into the review regarding the various cities. Due to that, we’ll be mostly covering organizations and magical items in this post.
Our introduction covers movement rates for terrain to be used in conjunction with the map of Zakhara, including unique types mentioned in Chapter 1 of the Adventurer’s Guide. I’ll admit that I never really used travel times in D&D games myself, save when time was of the essence.
Chapter 1: High-Level Characters
In pre-3rd Edition D&D, attaining at least 9th level set you with various perks of temporal power. The Land of Fate is no different, although the specifics for certain classes differ a bit.
Fighters don’t need to form a stronghold or castle, but must have a regular place of contact for men-at-arms to come under his banner who can be disbanded and reformed in reasonable timeframes. The latter case is meant to help PCs of a more transitory nature, and there’s even separate tables based on terrain type (Desert, Sea, and City/Village) for this: Class kits are askar (village warrior), desert rider, or corsair depending upon the PC’s preferred area of operations.
Paladins do not gain followers, but can hold land in the name of the Grand Caliph. Rangers can attract followers from animals of both the mundane and supernatural variety in addition to human/demihuman/humanoid types.
Mages often use highly personalized titles such as “Zibaru the Wolf” as opposed to the more generic “archmage,” and can gain apprentices even without a base of operations. However, should a mage choose to set up such a domicile they often gain status as a magical advisor to a local lord in exchange for supplies for spell research.
Priests gain fighter followers who are extra-devoted with high Morale scores in addition to more normal followers of their class kit. Clerics of Order who belong to one of the three philosophies carry their own perks and responsibilities: pragmatists are encouraged to travel the land and carry their teachings to places far and wide. Ethoists gain orders from higher-ups to settle down in an existing church or build up a new one with leaves of absence allowed if the need is great. There’s no mention of any unique duties for moralist priests, but I presume they’re similar to ethoists. “Free” priests (hakimas, kahins, and mystics) can build churches, but do not have funding from a hierarchical organization and must raise the money themselves or from the local community.
Thieves can attract followers, although it is possible to recruit ones from other thief class kits, such as a holy slayer who needs some merchant-rogues to launder money for a business front. Bards of 8th level are asked to join a local ruler’s court as an entertainer and advisor, and can receive free room and board should they accept. This is rarely a permanent occupation. At 9th level, bards can attract followers of their own and can even treat a ruler’s court as a base of operations/recruitment area. Followers are still low-level, so no gaining the 12th-level sha’ir advisor as a minion! Bards can even gain special followers such as talking animals as icing on the cake.
Chapter 2: the Law
This chapter goes into a bit more detail regarding the Law of the Loregiver, and more importantly the aspects most relevant to typical PC groups. In pre-Enlightenment times, the land of Zakhara was politically divided between many warring factions. There were priests of gods, but they were selfish and withheld vital magic unless it benefited them. Monsters, plagues, and famine were widespread, and all seemed lost before a young man found the Law of the Loregiver in a cavern. The beliefs of tolerance and unity helped people set aside long-held grudges, and the gods who accepted the Law worked together to set up universal rules and mosques open to the public. The original scrolls were copied onto lacquered wood in the Golden Mosque of Huzuz, and copies of said blocks are installed in the creation of new mosques.
The Law has several well-known commonalities: the previously-discussed aspects in this and prior sections of the review, but also proper means of religious worship, veneration, and the nature of all things divine. The second part gives a “Mandate of Heaven” style rule for leaders, from the Grand Caliph down to local administrators: a leader rules by the permission of the led, and a leader who fails to perform in a wise and just manner can be replaced by a worthier candidate. Finally, the Law codifies various moral fables, rules of conduct, and existing laws and traditions into a legal codex. In regards to this last part, actions are split up into five tiers:That Which Is Forbidden:
The most heinous of crimes, which most often result in capital punishment. Eating sapient flesh,* murdering innocents,* treason, theft to the point that it’s life-ruining to the injured party, enslaving the Enlightened,** and spreading claims that no gods exist.
*Murdering slaves counts as property damage.
**as an individual; the government can enslave criminals and debtors, and mamluks are by default Enlightened slaves.That Which Is Discouraged:
Crimes which some degree of restitution can be made. Small-time theft, assault, justifiable homicide, fraud, slander, and making the jobs of government officials more difficult but not on a treasonous scale.That Which Is Tolerated:
Basic activities expected of Enlightened society. Earning a living, partaking of holidays, and free speech that isn’t pro-atheist, slandering others, or threatening government officials. Interestingly, one can take out loans and even drink alcohol unlike the real-world Islamic Caliphates, although getting drunk to an excessive degree in public is a Discouraged act.That Which Is Encouraged:
Things which mark someone as a good citizen and can get preferential treatment by the system. Said actions are not necessarily mandated. They include acts such as worshiping Enlightened gods, bringing Enlightened values to the Unenlightened, charitable works, and paying one’s taxes.
Wait, paying taxes isn’t a requirement in the Caliphate? I can see a bunch of merchants from Faerûn and Kara-Tur setting up shop in Zakhara as a tax-free haven!That Which Is Required:
These actions are mandatory for all citizens to perform; refusal to perform them is often a high crime. Required acts include obedience to the Grand Caliph, pilgrimage at least once to the city of Huzuz, and belief in a higher force, “be it a common or Enlightened god.”
The quoted part confuses me. In Chapter 5 the term ‘common god’ also covered Enlightened gods, and worshiping Enlightened gods being merely Encouraged. It makes me wonder as to the legal status of Unenlightened people in Zakhara; while there are foreign traders who can ply their trade like those priests of Gond in the aforementioned Chapter, I presume that this example is done more out of convenience for the farther-north cities. Most of the time the setting presents hostile relations with Unenlightened civilizations, not to mention the commonality of their enslavement. I suppose it’s meant to be a ‘lead by example,’ given the mention of tolerance, open mosques, and “bringing Enlightenment to the Unenlightened” presupposes honest attempts at conversion initially. Or it could be an aspect of Zakharan law which is often bent based on the convenience of local rulers.
We end this chapter with discussion of Justice and the Law
when PCs run afoul of it, along with penalties for common crimes. There’s a sample table for a base chance of conviction, with modifiers based on various aspects of individuals’ social standings, the strength of pieces of evidence, and the amount and credibility of witnesses. There’s some interesting peculiarities in Zakharan law I’ll outline below:
1. The concept of a ‘diyya,’ or blood-price, is a monetary amount paid to the wronged party or their next-of-kin as part of or in addition to existing criminal penalties. It’s commonly employed in the event of death from murder or negligence. Communities with access to resurrection magic often use the proceedings from a diyya to pay for the material components of said spells.
2. Crimes committed by a slave must be covered by a master, and slaves themselves can be used as payment in the event of the penalty being a fine. This causes many slave-masters to either keep a very close eye on the day-to-day lives of their slaves.
3. Magical evidence must first be verified by an expert spellcaster to test its validity. This is done as a countermeasure against enchantment, illusion, and other such spells that present a skewed reality.
4. Genies have their own courts and legal systems which are more harsh for mortals. Genies of any clan cannot be used as a witness to a crime in mortal courts. A genie who commits a crime against Caliphate citizens must be tried in a genie court, but a mortal who commits a crime against a genie will be tried in genie court. This doesn’t explain how this affects sha’ir and other spellcasters who use a genie to commit crimes; this sounds like a big loophole. It’s also not mentioned if this is part of some deal or pact on the part of the Caliphate, given prior examples of genie soldiers, laborers and advisors in the more prosperous courts and cities.
5. Mamluks and holy slayers have their own special courts to judge wrongdoing by their own members. Mamluk military tribunals are already part of the Caliphate’s legal system, but it’s possible for a mamluk who is declared innocent in a civilian court to be tried guilty in a military court.
6. Dismemberment is a common punishment for major crimes. Regenerating lost limbs of a convicted criminal is itself punishable by an equal dismembering of the appropriate limbs.
The text does mention that being convicted of a crime worthy of capital punishment can be a real bummer and should only be done for PCs who have demonstrated particular foolishness in their actions. Otherwise, it can be used as a springboard for the other PCs to help clear their unlucky fellow’s name, or said PC escaping from prison by chance of Fate to do the same.
Chapter 3: Power Groups
This chapter’s name is a bit of a misnomer. It does cover important organizations in Zakhara, but ones which aren’t necessarily bound to any one area, city, or tribe. They detail organizations strongly correlated to various classes and class kits: Mamluk societies, Holy Slayer fellowships, Mystic groups, and the Brotherhood of the True Flame. Each section not only details notable organizations, it contains advice for gaming groups on how to make their own, either as DM or a PC forming a new movement.
Mamluk organizations are an omnipresent sight across Zakharan civilization. They are most numerous in the northern borders where Unenlightened raids are the most common, but can be found in appreciable numbers as far as the Ruined Kingdoms. They have the least power in the Pearl Cities, whose rich lords and ladies prefer private guards and well-funded local militias for protection. Also importantly, mamluk units are owned by the Grand Caliph and answer to him. As such they act as a political counterbalance against the ambitions of local rulers: the presence of mamluks supplies security of highly-trained soldiers, but ones who do not ultimately answer to the regional sultan or sheikh.
The duties of mamluks vary; while they can and do answer the call as soldiers of war, in times of peace they serve as guards for public facilities, bodyguards for important people, and patrolmen for trade routes. Mamluk societies are hierarchical military affairs where units are organized into typical formations (a platoon has 10 soldiers and 1 sergeant, 3 platoons make a company, etc). They all bear facial tattoos designating the society in which they serve, and barring a rare few exceptions they do not accept adults into service: Unenlightened children captured as slaves are raised into the role from a young age, and their surnames reflect their society. For example, members of the Dutiful, Wajib, add “Abd al-Wajib” meaning “slaves of the Dutiful” in front of their personal names.
We have 14 major mamluk organizations listed: the Dauntless and Faithful (guard the Grand Caliph in Huzuz); the Defenders (rule Qudra), the Devoted and Exalted (rival societies in the League of the Pantheon); the Devout (Ruined Kingdom society who replaced a detachment of Devoted when the latter pledged their allegiance to Kadarasto’s prince for protecting pre-Enlightenment ruins), the Dutiful (the most numerous and powerful mamluk society with members in all major cities), the Honored (male eunuchs and female guards of the Grand Caliph’s harim), the Parched (watch over Talab’s water supply, have been subverted by wererats), the Respected (old and respected organization in the Free City of Muluk), the Studious (Qudra-based, are skilled in communication and espionage), the Valiant (fast, mobile Qudran soldiers), the Wanderers (mostly naval soldiers in Qudra), the Wondrous (palace guards of Afyal, whose Padisha prefers to use them for aesthetic military parades to the consternation of said society’s commander).
Holy Slayer Fellowships
Holy slayers are individuals whose duties emphasize the dominion of one of the Enlightened gods, using roguish skill and martial steel to eliminate threats to the faith. They are a controversial aspect of Zakharan society, and their relationship with the orthodox faith and lay worshipers of their patron deity differs widely. In some lands they are viewed as dangerous fanatics and outlawed, making the assassins a hidden estate who accept social ostracism as the price to pay for vigilance. In some places they may be tolerated as a necessary evil, provided they keep out of sight and mind. Regardless, holy slayer organizations are known as Fellowships, and one does not go seeking them out for membership. The slayers come to you, with a dagger either for your hand or your heart.
Notable fellowships include the Everlasting, whose “Caliph of Shadows” rules from a mountain fortress and dispenses punishment to the Caliphate’s movers and shakers should their moral standards come up short; the Final Chord, Unenlightened followers of Bala who lead insurgent groups against the League of the Pantheon; the Flamedeath Fellowship, who while venerating Najm have a schism among their number who secretly wish to convert to the fire god Kossuth and thus seek an alliance with the Brotherhood of the True Flame*; the Friendly Word, Zannite devotees who ruin reputations and economies in lieu of violence and have a cool calling card of a pen-shaped dagger they leave in the beds of their targets; the Gilded Palm, worshipers of Jisan who are little better than mercenaries who act against anyone that may stymie free trade**; the Grey Fire, worshipers of Najm in the Pearl Cities who devote their talents to acting as typical adventurers and help chart maps and details of Unenlightened lands; the Moon-Spinners, an Afyal-based order whose primary mission is reducing the influence of the Lost One’s subtle magics on the island; the Soft Whisper, an all-female order who primarily recruits members from the Grand Caliph’s harim and take on missions they believe are in said rulers’ interests; the Storm Which Destroys, the League of the Pantheon’s “shadow army” who specializes in quelling internal disputes among said geo-political bloc; the Wind of Fate, an all-male order who recruits members from the desert tribes and monitors those wild lands for dangers beyond the al-Hadhar’s reach; and finally the Wrath of the Old, Kor-worshipers based primarily out of the north whose methods and motives are mostly unknown besides striking down threats with extreme prejudice and overwhelming numbers.
*Which is odd, given that based on earlier descriptions and the Brotherhood entry proper later in this chapter, the fire mages don’t seem to have any loyalty to the gods and view divine casters as rivals.
**you’d think that they’d worship Jauhar instead, given the focus on wealth.
Mystic organizations exist outside of the typical Clerics of Order hierarchy in the Caliphate. They are small sects which grow like mushrooms; short-lived, but explode onto the scene at the most opportune times. They tend to prefer the environs of the desert and rural communities; even when they coexist alongside churches in the city, a prior track record of conflicts with orthodoxy discourages habitation in large population centers. Mystics primarily honor one deity based upon their methods of enlightenment.
Notable Mystic groups include the Dancing Dwarves, dervishes who favor battleaxes when fighting in dancelike rhythms; the Dome Dancers, who help watch over the Desert Mosque, guard travelers against monsters, and believe that the nomadic way of life is far more moral and noble than that of sedentary living; the Readers, Zannite devotees who gain enlightenment from the act of reading as many sources of texts they can get their hands on; the Chant Masters, who live in the hills of the Pearl Cities and find religion in the ecstasies of music and song; the Court of Rhythm, common in the Ruined Kingdoms and island settlements who channel divine power through drums; and the Quiet Multitude, worshipers of Selan who meditate in moonlight. The Quiet Multitude was once a Caliphate-wide religious movement a century ago, but ended up fracturing into sectarian schisms which drastically reduced their power.
Although Zakharan magical traditions recognize four elements, the non-fire elemantalists are for the most part unorganized. They typically join existing noble courts, magical universities, and the like rather than forming organizations dedicated to their spellcasting style in and of themselves. This is due to the fact that the Brotherhood of the True Flame views such attempts as a dangerous threat to their power, and have been particularly vicious in crushing such potential opposition where they can. It will take the actions of a PC to build their own
Air Nomad/Water Tribe/Earth Kingdom
The Brotherhood of the True Flame believes in a doctrine of elemental supremacy; fire magic is the only form of magic worthy of devotion, and all other kinds must be crushed for their eventual plans of world domination. They are a hierarchical society whose existence is publically known and banned in the Caliphate, but whose members operate in secret. Their leader, Nar-Aidiya, is a 20th-level fire mage whose base of operations is a magically-guarded fortress deep in the Haunted Lands. We get a rundown on some of their other VIPs, ranging from a wanted assassin who the sultana of Hiyal wants brought back, a slaver who is notable for finding new recruits for the Brotherhood, a hot-tempered wizard who challenges others to duels at the drop of a hat, and a holy slayer leading the Flamedeath fellowship.
Chapter 4: Secrets of Zakhara
This chapter covers all of the secrets of the various cities in the Adventurer’s Guide. There are no secrets for the Nomadic Tribes, oddly enough. I suppose the writers figured gaming groups would lean more towards urban styles of campaign.
Chapter 5: Magical Items
This is by far the most detailed chapter in Fortunes & Fates. With such an innovative high-magic setting, it’s only proper that we have a bevy of new magic items to go along with it. How much are there? 17 weapons, 3 sets of armor, 4 shields, 12 potions, 11 scrolls, 7 rings, 7 rods/staves/wands, and 19 miscellaneous items, all with new d100 tables accommodating all of them! Quite a bit are renamed existing items to better fit Middle Eastern aesthetics, but most of them are brand new. For reasons of brevity I will not go over them all, but instead highlight items I find particularly interesting.Cutlass of the Golden Gulf:
You can breathe underwater as long as you hold this weapon in hand.Dagger of the Evil Eye.
A cursed weapon which bestows the evil eye upon its wielder with the first strike they make in combat.Mamluk Sword of Obedience:
A struck human, demihuman, humanoid, or giant must make a saving throw vs spells or be affected as if Charmed and immediately surrender to the sword-bear, provided that the wielder has more Hit Dice/levels than the target.Genie Slayer Sword:
This +2 sword is +4 against any genie as a basic function, but individual swords are designed to deal double damage against a certain genie clan.Sword of the Believer:
Inflicts damage only against creatures that are not Enlightened and passes right through the bodies of Enlightened targets struck. The text mentions that it is useful when cutting one’s adventuring buddy out of the stomach of a creature that swallowed them!Armor of the Desert Evening:
This lamellar armor can be worn in hot environments without ill effect.Shield of the Holy:
This +1 shield becomes +2 when in the hands of a priest dedicated to the deity inscribed upon it. They also turn or command undead as if they were 2 levels higher.Potion of Dreaming:
When you drink this potion before sleep, you’ll receive a dream providing advice on how to obtain some item or goal which you desire.Oil of Great Devotion:
When applied to a priest, their level for the purposes of to-hit bonuses, spells, and turning undead increases by 1 to 3 based on their level (lower bonus for higher-level priests) for the next 12 hours.Oil of Obedience:
When smeared against the forehead of a sleeping target, they become obedient to you for 24 minus 1d6 hours, following simple orders and tasks in a zombie-like fashion.Oil of Romance:
A love potion, but is poured across a doorway or window and the pourer utters the name of an individual, Said individual becomes subject to a powerful Charm Person and becomes romantically devoted to the oil-bearer on a failed save. This effect can only be removed via Dispel Magic or Limited Wish.Cursed Scrolls:
Interesting curses such as turning into a donkey where only a hakima (wise woman) can see your true form, being stalked and pranked by a mischievous djinni, or a blank scroll which sprinkles glitter as it’s opened:
This does nothing, but makes players very paranoid. The DM may call for additional (ignored) saving throws from the PC who opened the scroll at random moments to convince the player that something is afoot.
The curse is DM fuckery!Grant:
Is actually a nonmagical item, but has a list of various titles, deeds, and other adventure hooks for PCs. Permission to audit a local ruler’s tax records in the name of the Grand Caliph, enter said Grand Caliph’s court as an ambassador, a patch of land worth 1-12k gold when presented to a local ruler, and permission to establish a town/mosque/etc in a wild location are but a few possibilities.Scroll of Protection from Divination:
Automatically foils all divination spells targeted against the drinker and all things within 10 feet of their position.Ring of Avian Control:
Can completely dominate up to 40 Hit Dice worth of birds with Intelligence of 4 or less.Ring of Genie Summoning:
Like Aladdin’s Lamp, but in ring form. Can summon a particular genie, who must serve the summoner faithfully after which the ring no longer works. There’s a 4% chance said genie is capable of granting 3 wishes to the summoner.Ring of Message:
A common fixture in the Caliphate’s bureaucracy. It is activated by a command word, acting as a magical audio recording device. When the command word is spoken again the speaker’s message is relayed as an illusory duplicate of their face utters the message three times after which it erases said message and can store another one.Ring of the Holy Slayer:
Worn by fellowship members as a magical cyanide pill equivalent. A command word pumps a deadly poison into the wearer’s hand. Those who die from said poison cannot be raised or resurrected, and their spirit will not answer the calls of Speak With Dead and similar divinations.Rod of the Monolith:
This rod allows the wielder to control entities summoned by the Elemental Monolith spell. This is based off of the Unleash Monolith spell from Arabian Adventures, which creates a barely sentient, highly destructive 30 Hit Dice elemental after 1 day of meditation and chanting. Said monolith normally enters a destructive rampage when summoned.Banner of Renown:
This flag displays a moon and trailing stars, the national symbol of the Caliphate. All Enlightened creatures within 100 feet of the banner gain bonuses to morale checks, to-hit rolls, and damage rolls.Carpet of Fighting:
This magical carpet will not take you for a ride. Rather, it will choke a target of your choice to death.Genie Prison:
Commonly taking the forms of lamps, bottles, ewers, and geodes based upon the target genie type, sha’irs make use of said items to capture genies. Imprisoned genies are often commanded by the item’s magic to perform a specific task upon release, determined randomly via d100 roll.Qanun of Quiet:
[/url] A radius of magical silence emits as long as this instrument is played. It is more akin to a barrier, as those within the radius can hear others inside normally. It also has a similar effect of protection against divination spells directed from outside.Telescope of Fantastic Vision, and Telescope of True Vision:
Both of these items are magical spyglasses who act as a Gem of Seeing to whatever is viewed through the lens. However, the Telescope of Fantastic Vision is cursed, and after 4 uses will only show near-unbelievable scenes wildly inaccurate of the truth.Thoughts So Far:
This booklet is full of highly useful material. The magic items are both practical and flavorful, while the rules for followers and the legal system can see use in a lot of campaigns set in Zakhara. The organizations are perhaps the weak point: the mamluk societies are rather brief and lack the intrigue, factionalism, and adventure hooks we’ve seen in the city chapters barring a few exceptions. A few don’t really have any particular distinguishing factor besides how they fight or where they’re located. The Mystic groups are a bit similar in this regard, who mainly differ by how they pray for spells rather than ideological reasons.
The Holy Slayer fellowships were a step up in that they can make for both interesting patrons for anti-hero PCs and serve as ready-made antagonists. They more or less have specific tasks which can tie into adventure hooks, and I do like how a few have fallen from their lofty ideals, such as a faction of Flamedeath heretics (and the leader of the group as a whole!) allying with the Brotherhood of the True Flame.
The Brotherhood of the True Flame is the only real “mage organization,” but they make up for it by serving as one of al-Qadim’s Big Bads. Their entry has thus more room in detailing their most prominent members and ways adventurers would most commonly encounter them. The Brotherhood’s mentioned several times earlier in the Adventurer’s Guide (and the Secrets Chapter in this booklet) with other NPCs, so their brief entry here is more than made up for elsewhere.Join us as we cover the final booklet of Zakhara, showcasing its homegrown monsters in the Land of Fate!