Magic carpets, ghoulish vixens, genies rising from the sand in a whirlwind of smoke and fire - such wonders, spun into tales by fabled Scheherasade, enchanted a king for a thousand and one nights.
The Al-Qadim campaign will enchant role-players for a thousand and one more
You are about to discover an exotic realm inspired by the tales of Sinbad, Ali Baba, and other classics from the Arabian Nights. The first in a series of products, this volume features everything DM's and players need to launch the Al-Qadim campaign.
Al-Qadim: Arabian Adventures (1992), by Jeff Grubb with Andria Hayday, was the 150-page rulebook that introduced the setting of Al-Qadim. It was released in April 1992.
Origins. Following the release of AD&D 2e (1989), TSR started creating new campaign settings en masse — something that would continue throughout the 2e days and may have contributed to the ultimate death of the company. The first three of these settings were Spelljammer (1989), Ravenloft: Realm of Terror (1990), and Dark Sun (1991). Al-Qadim was the fourth; it was a new Arabian Nights-influenced setting created in late 1990 and early 1991 by designer Jeff Grubb and editor Andria Hayday.
Al-Qadim somewhat naturally was a rival of Dark Sun, another desert-focused setting. However, where Dark Sun was being played up as the replacement for Forgotten Realms, Grubb and Hayday instead played down Al-Qadim, saying that it was just a "cultural book". Grubb would later say that this was to the line's benefit, because they "were able to hide [the setting's] potential from the suits".
About the Cover. The first cover for Al-Qadim showed a woman opening a bottle and releasing a genie. It was deemed too cheesecake and instead appeared in the Women of Fantasy Calendar (1993?). The final cover for Al-Qadim, with the horse, was a replacement — and ironically what the designers had originally wanted!
About the Name. At the time, product names at TSR were tricky because Marketing wanted self-explanatory names while Legal wanted unique, trademarkable names. "Burning Sands" was an early choice for the setting's name, but the team instead settled on "Al-Qadim", which was Arabic for "The Ancient" — though one Arabic speaker said it meant stale, as in "The cheese is old."
Al-Qadim is set on the continent of Zakhara, which was meant to reflect the word "sahara". Combined with Abeir-Toril, it also made the Forgotten Realms go from A to Z.
Introducing the Al-Qadim Line. With its basis in Arabian myth and legends, Zakhara was quite different from the average D&D game world. Though demi-humans were allowed, humans were dominant. Religion also took on a different tone, with priests worshiping entire pantheon, and the concept of Fate underlying the setting. The result was more cosmopolitan and more Middle-eastern than classic D&D adventures.
Al-Qadim was also a very carefully organized line. Grubb and Hayday specifically designed it as a limited-edition line, meant to run just two or three years. As it happened, the line ran two years, got extended for a third, and then management asked for a fourth year schedule, but canceled it before it came to fruition (as part of some widespread line cancellations around 1993).
The careful design of the Al-Qadim line is very obvious in the first year's releases, which also included: a monster book, MC13: "Monstrous Compendium Al-Qadim Appendix" (1992); a setting box, Al-Qadim: Land of Fate (1992); and the first adventure, ALQ1: "Golden Voyages" (1992).
Expanding Oriental Adventures. As a "cultural book" Al-Qadim: Arabian Adventures was following in the footsteps of AD&D's classic cultural book, Oriental Adventures (1985). In fact, it was explicitly designed as a follow-up and companion piece to Oriental Adventures. That fact is obvious in the "Arabian Adventures" subtitle of the book as well its contents.
Much like Oriental Adventures, Al-Qadim includes character classes, skills, equipment, and special rules appropriate for the setting. The "classes" are particularly interesting: Al-Qadim stayed with the 2e trend of using "kits" but made them requirements, effectively turning them into subclasses. Some of those kits were also very expansive — especially the sha'ir wizards kit, which got a whole chapter devoted to their genie-related magic abilities.
The setting material in Al-Qadim, written by Andria Hayday, was originally planned to go at the end of the book, exactly like in Oriental Adventures, but it was so good that it got pushed up to the start instead.
Graphic Design Tropes. Al-Qadim was one of TSR's two earliest settings that placed a heavy emphasis on graphic design — the other being rival Dark Sun. Al-Qadim included beautiful endpapers, gold-foil borders (printed with a fifth ink), and full-color plates. Graphic Designer Stephanie Tabat was instrumental in much of this work. In addition, the entire Al-Qadim line used the same artist for its black-and-white interior artwork: Karl Waller.
Mapping Tropes. Much like the western Forgotten Realms, Al-Qadim was designed with a huge mega-map that could be broken up into individual maps for boxed adventures. Several parts of the map were published, but the entire mega-map was never revealed.
Expanding the Realms. Al-Qadim was officially placed in the Forgotten Realms as the new continent of Zakhara, following the original subcontinent of Faerûn and the lands of Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (1988) and the Maztica Campaign Set (1991). As such, it was another huge expansion for the Forgotten Realms.
Al-Qadim was actuallynotthe first Arabic-like setting in the Realms. Ed Greenwood had originally placed such lands at the edges of his world, and then when the world got bigger, he added more Arabic lands, so there were a lot of them — most notably Anauroch and Calimshan.
Grubb came up with a great reason for the scattered Arabic peoples, saying that Fate had banished them to the edges of the world because they couldn't get along. He's also reputed to have linked some elements from the Bedine culture from FR13: "Anauroch" (1991) into Al-Qadim. Conversely, he'd didn't really link Calimshan from FR3: "Empires of the Sands" (1988). In fact, when Calimshan was revisited in Empires of the Shining Sea (1998), it became less Arabic and more influenced by the Ottoman Empire — apparently because the Realms had one too many Arabic-influenced setting by that point.
About the Creators. It takes a village to create a new setting. As noted, Andria Hayday oversaw the line and also wrote the setting chapter, while Jeff Grubb wrote the main text of Al-Qadim, Jeff Easley painted two covers, Karl Waller drew the internal black-and-white illustrations, and Stephanie Talbot did the graphic design of the project. Jon Pickens is the uncredited hero who provided Grubb with three boxes full of reference and research material for the project — which is the sort of thing that Pickens did frequently at TSR.
About the Product Historian
The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to email@example.com.