Distinguishing Features of Al Qadim

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Distinguishing Features of Al Qadim

Post by Oqlanth » Sat Jul 21, 2012 4:00 pm

For many years people worked (and still working on) on Al Qadim conversions. And some of them are very good indeed -results of hard work on dozens of Al Qadim books and materials like Dragon Mag. or Dungeon Mag. -

In this post I try to explain distinguishing features of Al Qadim Setting -from my point of view- to aid future or on going conversion projects and help hew DMs/GMs to understand idea of Al Qadim Setting. I hope I can help.

If I have to list them under topics;

*Wizard Spell concept and uniqueness
*Low level gaming
*Simulative gaming
*Perils of Al Qadim
*Egalitarian society
*Orginazed society of classes
*1000 nights flavour
*AD&D flavour
*Creatures concept and uniqueness
*Religion

Lets start from fist one

Wizards and wizard spell concept and uniqueness

Wizard spells of Al Qadim is limited and highly restricted when compared to other AD&D settings (limited PHB spell list and no spells from other sources!). In Al Qadim materials TSR published dozens of 'Al Qadim only' spells to fill the gap.

5 provinces of Al Qadim spell is not divided into concept of 'standart elemental' idea. Instead it divided based on concept of 'province'.In example, sea wizards can cast spells based on seamanship and many of their spells has no real relation with element of water instead they effect seamaen or navigation. These concepts applied to all other elements too (well Flame province is little complicated but remember the Flame Truth or Flame of Justice spells to give you an idea)

So giving them '... of fire blast' or '... or Icing and macing bomb' spell to al Qadim list (I noticed these especialy 3rd or 3.5th conversions probably to fill the gap of limited spells). Instead of giving them these kind of 'generic' spells/power, I prefer convertion the original ones will be much more better.

Al Qadim wizards are completely esoteric. Elemantal mages, Digitolists, Ghul lords, sha'irs... Even 'standart' sorcerers are reserve esoterism with 'province base idea' (you can read more on these in Complete Sha'ir's Handbook).

Many got societies for themself (like many other kits of Al Qadim which I will describe undeer topic Orginazed society of classes) so not a single wizard is just a wizard. This supports esoteric concept of wizards.

So making them 'just mages with x,y,z specialty' try to converting them with whole 'concept' will be much more better. Yes some wizard kits have 'tags' like 'problem solver' 'diplomat' or 'Crisis manager' (Sha'ir!!!) but these doesn't prevent flavour of kit (i.e. sha'irs are also masters of genie lore).

This is the first part of the this article. I hope it helps, please fill free to add comments. I will post second and further topics soon.

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Re: Distinguishing Features of Al Qadim

Post by Allen Varney » Sat Jul 21, 2012 10:39 pm

It's probably more helpful to new DMs/GMs to start by explaining the distinctive tone of Al Qadim -- starting from the subtitle, "Arabian Adventures" -- and then highlighting how each individual change from the standard AD&D rules helps further the goal of establishing that tone.
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Re: Distinguishing Features of Al Qadim

Post by Big Mac » Sun Jul 22, 2012 12:17 am

Nice thread. I'm interested in 3e conversions. Not everyone at The Piazza wants to convert from 2e rules, however I think that discussing the elements of Al-Qadim could interest a lot of people.
Oqlanth wrote:If I have to list them under topics;

*Wizard Spell concept and uniqueness
*Low level gaming
*Simulative gaming
*Perils of Al Qadim
*Egalitarian society
*Orginazed society of classes
*1000 nights flavour
*AD&D flavour
*Creatures concept and uniqueness
*Religion
I'm looking forward to Low level gaming and the rest of the topics. If you keep each subject to a different post, you can come back and add links in this post, to point to the post where you discuss the topic.
Oqlanth wrote:Wizards and wizard spell concept and uniqueness

Wizard spells of Al Qadim is limited and highly restricted when compared to other AD&D settings (limited PHB spell list and no spells from other sources!). In Al Qadim materials TSR published dozens of 'Al Qadim only' spells to fill the gap.
3e's Metamagic Feats make each spell do a number of new things, so even if a 3e Al-Qadim Campaign Setting hardback had limited spellcasters to (mostly) the PHB those spells would have been slightly more flexible.

* = I think they would have added in all or most of the 2e AQ spells.
Oqlanth wrote:5 provinces of Al Qadim spell is not divided into concept of 'standart elemental' idea. Instead it divided based on concept of 'province'.In example, sea wizards can cast spells based on seamanship and many of their spells has no real relation with element of water instead they effect seamaen or navigation. These concepts applied to all other elements too (well Flame province is little complicated but remember the Flame Truth or Flame of Justice spells to give you an idea)

So giving them '... of fire blast' or '... or Icing and macing bomb' spell to al Qadim list (I noticed these especialy 3rd or 3.5th conversions probably to fill the gap of limited spells). Instead of giving them these kind of 'generic' spells/power, I prefer convertion the original ones will be much more better.
The province concept is a bit like a school in the traditional sense (an organisation). If you have a number of different organisations, they could all learn a set of spells and pass those spells on as a tradition.

The original schools (that force a spellcaster to choose opposition schools to avoid) make a lot more sense if they are an organisation rather than a type of spellcaster.
Oqlanth wrote:Al Qadim wizards are completely esoteric. Elemantal mages, Digitolists, Ghul lords, sha'irs... Even 'standart' sorcerers are reserve esoterism with 'province base idea' (you can read more on these in Complete Sha'ir's Handbook).
I need to pick up that handbook (and some of the other AQ products).
Oqlanth wrote:Many got societies for themself (like many other kits of Al Qadim which I will describe undeer topic Orginazed society of classes) so not a single wizard is just a wizard. This supports esoteric concept of wizards.

So making them 'just mages with x,y,z specialty' try to converting them with whole 'concept' will be much more better. Yes some wizard kits have 'tags' like 'problem solver' 'diplomat' or 'Crisis manager' (Sha'ir!!!) but these doesn't prevent flavour of kit (i.e. sha'irs are also masters of genie lore).
Kits would seem to naturally convert to PrCs (although some could change to classes or substitution levels in the standard class. But sometimes 2e's kits didn't really do much (mechanically). It would probably be worth looking at each one individually. It might even be worth having a thread to discuss each kit and how to get the best (for your game) out of it.
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Re: Distinguishing Features of Al Qadim

Post by Oqlanth » Sun Jul 22, 2012 8:49 pm

Second part can be found at this link:

viewtopic.php?f=7&t=8968

Ironicaly 'prototype' of Metamagic system first introduced at Al Qadim in Complete Sha'ir's Handbook. But instead of having 'additional' powers, sorcerers must relinquish ability to cast some provinces in return to have 'metamagic powers' in primary province.

But the real problem is building spells around provincal spells and main concept of AQ Spells.

To clarify the things take a look at list of eligible spells at Arabains Adventures. Here is an example;

There is no 'Enlarge' spell (1st level spell from PHB) but there is 'Enlarge Desert Creatures' spell (2nd level Desert spell) so 'Enlargement' is reserved only for Desert Mages -or sorcerers- (I know that this sentence is also reserved for many jokes :D )

If you check spells you can multiply examples. Each 'province' is got a place, got things to do. Only sha'irs can do gap filling role (with limitations of long casting times and chance to fail to cast spell!).

Most conversions and probably DMs forget or do not notice this point.

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Re: Distinguishing Features of Al Qadim

Post by TBeholder » Sun Aug 19, 2012 8:11 am

Big Mac wrote:Kits would seem to naturally convert to PrCs (although some could change to classes or substitution levels in the standard class. But sometimes 2e's kits didn't really do much (mechanically). It would probably be worth looking at each one individually. It might even be worth having a thread to discuss each kit and how to get the best (for your game) out of it.
And sometimes it's a blunt tool that kills the whole idea, especially in case of what AD&D2 called Thaumaturgy Schools.
Just like... e.g. suppose Bard instead of being a base class was a PrC with prerequisite of arcane caster levels?
FR3 "conversions" of Spelldancer and Alchemist illustrate what exactly happens in such cases. If an Alchemist must already be able to cast all spells in question, and Spelldancer can switch between Vancian magic and Spelldance pretty much freely, this kills the whole point to have them at all and their place in-universe - as PrC they became mostly meaningless either at all or other than as grind tools.
Do the same to Sha'ir and clockwork mages, and they too, instead of being another way, will become either an useless oddity or a way to munch.
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Re: Distinguishing Features of Al Qadim

Post by Big Mac » Sun Aug 19, 2012 7:56 pm

TBeholder wrote:
Big Mac wrote:Kits would seem to naturally convert to PrCs (although some could change to classes or substitution levels in the standard class. But sometimes 2e's kits didn't really do much (mechanically). It would probably be worth looking at each one individually. It might even be worth having a thread to discuss each kit and how to get the best (for your game) out of it.
And sometimes it's a blunt tool that kills the whole idea, especially in case of what AD&D2 called Thaumaturgy Schools.
Just like... e.g. suppose Bard instead of being a base class was a PrC with prerequisite of arcane caster levels?
FR3 "conversions" of Spelldancer and Alchemist illustrate what exactly happens in such cases. If an Alchemist must already be able to cast all spells in question, and Spelldancer can switch between Vancian magic and Spelldance pretty much freely, this kills the whole point to have them at all and their place in-universe - as PrC they became mostly meaningless either at all or other than as grind tools.
Do the same to Sha'ir and clockwork mages, and they too, instead of being another way, will become either an useless oddity or a way to munch.
So if you don't like the PrC option, do you think the substitution level or full blown class options could work?
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Re: Distinguishing Features of Al Qadim

Post by TBeholder » Mon Aug 20, 2012 3:32 am

Big Mac wrote:So if you don't like the PrC option, do you think the substitution level or full blown class options could work?
Again, they work well enough in their scope, which is to fix what shouldn't have been broken in the first place remove inconveniences caused by the inflexible class progression when default options are visibly not one-size-good-for-all. But this just can't go deep enough.
Fundamental differences like this can be resolved only via new base class. Without class construction mechanics at least as thorough as "Players Options" it's somewhat less convenient, but there's still no working way around it, IMO. Green Ronin developers and others who made up a class every time they need it instead of taking lessons from Procrustes are right.

<checks Dragondex> <searches> Looks like Wizards did tumble on this too. Dragon #315 has Sha'ir as a base class. Wait... did they just... gave Sha'irs fixed spells-per-day. :lol: <facepalmeyestalks>
On the bright side, they found 1 (one) spellcasting class for whom Charisma bonus looks reasonable and not ludicrous. :)
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Re: Distinguishing Features of Al Qadim

Post by Big Mac » Mon Aug 20, 2012 3:14 pm

TBeholder wrote:
Big Mac wrote:So if you don't like the PrC option, do you think the substitution level or full blown class options could work?
Again, they work well enough in their scope, which is to fix what shouldn't have been broken in the first place remove inconveniences caused by the inflexible class progression when default options are visibly not one-size-good-for-all. But this just can't go deep enough.
Fundamental differences like this can be resolved only via new base class. Without class construction mechanics at least as thorough as "Players Options" it's somewhat less convenient, but there's still no working way around it, IMO. Green Ronin developers and others who made up a class every time they need it instead of taking lessons from Procrustes are right.

<checks Dragondex> <searches> Looks like Wizards did tumble on this too. Dragon #315 has Sha'ir as a base class. Wait... did they just... gave Sha'irs fixed spells-per-day. :lol: <facepalmeyestalks>
On the bright side, they found 1 (one) spellcasting class for whom Charisma bonus looks reasonable and not ludicrous. :)
So you would be happy with the base classes then? <bats eyelashes eyestalks>

Would you pull the conventional D&D standard classes and replace them with ones designed specifically for Al-Qadim? That would seem to be similar to the way that Oriental Adventures did it.

How many classes do you think Oqlanth should be building?
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Re: Distinguishing Features of Al Qadim

Post by TBeholder » Fri Aug 24, 2012 10:02 am

Oqlanth wrote:Al Qadim wizards are completely esoteric. Elemantal mages, Digitolists, Ghul lords, sha'irs... Even 'standart' sorcerers are reserve esoterism with 'province base idea' (you can read more on these in Complete Sha'ir's Handbook).
This completely hangs on what you understand under this vaporous term, and thus says nothing, coming across as either tautological, meaningless or incomprehensible, depending on the reader's view on the same fog.
Oqlanth wrote:So giving them '... of fire blast' or '... or Icing and macing bomb' spell to al Qadim list (I noticed these especialy 3rd or 3.5th conversions probably to fill the gap of limited spells).
"Foo Damage Substitution" and "Spell Plus Bar" don't fit well anywhere except pure hack&slash. Settings with more explicit flavouring just make it proportionally more obvious.
Big Mac wrote:The original schools (that force a spellcaster to choose opposition schools to avoid) make a lot more sense if they are an organisation rather than a type of spellcaster.
Why? If wizards are supposed to develop a specific dialect of arcane script for themselves (leading to others' spellbooks not being readily memorizable, etc)... which got some limitations as it is (spells non-scriptable at all, wild mages having to cast even common spells in unstable forms)... specialists just have variants optimized for one specific area. And conversely less optimal or plain incompatible with other areas. Why not?
Big Mac wrote:Kits would seem to naturally convert to PrCs (although some could change to classes or substitution levels in the standard class. But sometimes 2e's kits didn't really do much (mechanically). It would probably be worth looking at each one individually. It might even be worth having a thread to discuss each kit and how to get the best (for your game) out of it.
I doubt "1:1" is such a good idea. It already was used in FR and crippled whatever it touched as often as not. Even not counting all the crap inevitably caused by weak sides of d20 mechanics such as ambiguous "+1 to existing class", mechanically, kits and PrC are so different, they can't be used to model the same thing 1:1.
Sometimes PrC isn't deep enough in its scope and a base class would be better (most Thaumaturgy shools with side benefits; in AQ - Sha'ir, Clockwork mage, etc).
Sometimes PrC is too big and from d20 toolkit a feat probably would be the best method, if any mechanics is needed at all (sorcerous societies).
Sometimes PrC can be better than a kit, especially when specific and high enough prerequisites are half of the point. Can't think of a Zakharan example, but for e.g. Eagle/Jaguar knights of Maztica or Metamagician from Net Wizards handbook it makes much more sense than anything else. Maybe even paladins, for that matter.
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Re: Distinguishing Features of Al Qadim

Post by Big Mac » Sun Sep 02, 2012 10:09 am

TBeholder wrote:
Big Mac wrote:The original schools (that force a spellcaster to choose opposition schools to avoid) make a lot more sense if they are an organisation rather than a type of spellcaster.
Why? If wizards are supposed to develop a specific dialect of arcane script for themselves (leading to others' spellbooks not being readily memorizable, etc)... which got some limitations as it is (spells non-scriptable at all, wild mages having to cast even common spells in unstable forms)... specialists just have variants optimized for one specific area. And conversely less optimal or plain incompatible with other areas. Why not?
OK, the thing I was talking about here was the specialist wizards lack of spellcasting with an opposition school.

An illusionist being able to study another wizard's spellbook and attempt to learn a spell is the same as a generalist wizard. But not being able to learn any necromancy does not seem to tie in with illusion. But if you have an Illusion School (as an organisation) and the other illusionist there are extra good at illusion spells, OK at non-opposed schools and unable to cast necromantic spells, it makes sense for that to get taught to the next generation of illusionist wizards.

If a campaign setting (like Al-Qadim) has those schools or has different organisations, then I find it easier to buy into Specialist Wizards either being there or not being there. In other words, I don't want an Enchanter to just be a core character class that I use with Al-Qadim by default. I want Al-Qadim to have an arabian logic for the class being present or absent.
TBeholder wrote:
Big Mac wrote:Kits would seem to naturally convert to PrCs (although some could change to classes or substitution levels in the standard class. But sometimes 2e's kits didn't really do much (mechanically). It would probably be worth looking at each one individually. It might even be worth having a thread to discuss each kit and how to get the best (for your game) out of it.
I doubt "1:1" is such a good idea. It already was used in FR and crippled whatever it touched as often as not. Even not counting all the crap inevitably caused by weak sides of d20 mechanics such as ambiguous "+1 to existing class", mechanically, kits and PrC are so different, they can't be used to model the same thing 1:1.
Sometimes PrC isn't deep enough in its scope and a base class would be better (most Thaumaturgy shools with side benefits; in AQ - Sha'ir, Clockwork mage, etc).
Sometimes PrC is too big and from d20 toolkit a feat probably would be the best method, if any mechanics is needed at all (sorcerous societies).
Sometimes PrC can be better than a kit, especially when specific and high enough prerequisites are half of the point. Can't think of a Zakharan example, but for e.g. Eagle/Jaguar knights of Maztica or Metamagician from Net Wizards handbook it makes much more sense than anything else. Maybe even paladins, for that matter.
I did say that substitution levels might be better than PrC's sometimes. I hadn't thought of feats, but they could be the way to keep something from the kits that didn't do much.

I was talking in general terms. I think the only way to work this out is probably to look at kits on a case-by-case basis.
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Re: Distinguishing Features of Al Qadim

Post by Idabrius » Sun Sep 02, 2012 1:35 pm

Big Mac wrote: OK, the thing I was talking about here was the specialist wizards lack of spellcasting with an opposition school.

An illusionist being able to study another wizard's spellbook and attempt to learn a spell is the same as a generalist wizard. But not being able to learn any necromancy does not seem to tie in with illusion. But if you have an Illusion School (as an organisation) and the other illusionist there are extra good at illusion spells, OK at non-opposed schools and unable to cast necromantic spells, it makes sense for that to get taught to the next generation of illusionist wizards.

I think it's fair to say that this is specifically NOT what was intended by the schools/opposition schools in the original 2e PHB. School here is not used as an organizational term fairly explicitly:
Schools of Magic wrote: Although they are called schools, schools of magic are not organized places where a person goes to study. The word “school” identifies a magical discipline. A school is an approach to magic and spellcasting that emphasizes a particular sort of spell. Practitioners of a school of magic may set up a magical university to teach their methods to beginners, but this is not necessary. Many powerful wizards learned their craft studying under reclusive masters in distant lands.
Opposition Schools wrote: Opposition School(s) always includes the school directly opposite the character's school of study in the diagram. In addition, the schools to either side of this one may also be disallowed due to the nature of the character's school. For example, an invoker/evoker cannot learn enchantment/charm or conjuration/summoning spells and cannot use magical items that duplicate spells from these schools.
It is positing that the very nature of studying specifically one school of spells prohibits the wizard from getting a good understanding of another type. For example, since Illusion is so radically different from Necromancy, Evocation, and Conjuration the wizard who spends most of his time attempting an in-depth understanding of it suffers in his understanding of those schools to the point where it doesn't even really make any sense to him. Specialists, by their nature, lack a complete comprehension of magic.
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Re: Distinguishing Features of Al Qadim

Post by TBeholder » Mon Sep 03, 2012 4:00 pm

Big Mac wrote:OK, the thing I was talking about here was the specialist wizards lack of spellcasting with an opposition school.
An illusionist being able to study another wizard's spellbook and attempt to learn a spell is the same as a generalist wizard. But not being able to learn any necromancy does not seem to tie in with illusion. But if you have an Illusion School (as an organisation) and the other illusionist there are extra good at illusion spells, OK at non-opposed schools and unable to cast necromantic spells, it makes sense for that to get taught to the next generation of illusionist wizards.
I see it the opposite way: it can be justified in-universe as it was done with "schools of philosophy", but institutional and convential limitations are very artificial and don't hold well.
Otherwise it's an unstable equilibrium: what prevents an illusionist from finding a generalist's spellbook (or, better off, research workbook) with a few necromantic spells and trying to learn from there?
Now if necromancy just "doesn't make sense" for them, or can't be meaningfully expressed in their dialect of magical script and thus memorized, the limitation is inherent and not breakable without learning from scratch a lot - something more than just basics of necromancy from cantrips up.
With elementalists almost everything is straightforward. Schools of effect may be trickier, but no big deal. Thaumaturgy? There are lots of things that never were formalized, but common sense could do - e.g. if a mageweaver won't be able to cast power words at all, etc.
This also almost implies that there can be a Metamagician (better off as PrC, obviously) who would study exactly this area and handle multiple scripts and/or thaumaturgy methodologies, but it's just so: steps taken from applied research into abstract.
On the mechanical side, the problem with "how to handle diferent methods" mostly arises from skipping pupil's "0-th level" right into adventuring (such as it is on 1-st level) and skipping the constructor of classes into implying too much. 3ed with its Commoner class made the former atavism completely ludicrous and threw away attempts to fix the latter in PO.

Magical traditions as such are fine in almost any setting, but for a character who leaves the place it's just a starting point. They are also easily handled as quirks similar to specialization on a smaller scale, as was proposed in "The Net Wizard's Handbook".
BTW it should be much more appliable to core Realms - there are several independent "roots" of magic - at least three Creator Races, Torilean elves, emigrant elves, Imaskar. In the middle - lots of really weird splinter schools like Dukars and elven Dualists, later - distinctive schools like the Covenant... :twisted: Thus e.g. sources of Netherese magic are traceable: an elven tradition, then Golden Skins (sarrukh collection) and one Sarrukh lich, then their own development based on a few extra discoveries.
Now, in Zakhara it's simpler: they have a few flavours of strong elemental influences all over the place, a handful of unique "thaumaturgy schools" (clockwork mages, astrologers, etc) and Sha'irs who are something even more different than a thaumaturgy school.
Big Mac wrote:If a campaign setting (like Al-Qadim) has those schools or has different organisations, then I find it easier to buy into Specialist Wizards either being there or not being there. In other words, I don't want an Enchanter to just be a core character class that I use with Al-Qadim by default. I want Al-Qadim to have an arabian logic for the class being present or absent.
One is obviously linked with another - if locals don't train "core" variants of wizards, not much are around and a few outlanders here and there stand out for this very reason. But when they interact...
That's why the difference should be deep-seated enough, too. I suppose e.g. a mageweaver who left Zakhara can learn from an enchanter and eventually become one, or vice versa, but such things would be better off handled with some room for maneuver, as opposed to stretching simple "PrC suddenly got plugged in" or "sudden amnesia as to what they did before".
Big Mac wrote:I was talking in general terms. I think the only way to work this out is probably to look at kits on a case-by-case basis.
Of course, but there are a few common categories that boil down to "Schools of Thaumaturgy" in 2e terms - which didn't have very good support to begin with, and for which 3e mechanics doesn't have ready solutions. So the lest messy way is from the ground up - a new base class.
Non-elemental kits fit there, others got more differences than similarities (Sha'ir, Mechanician and Spellslayer don't even cast spell on their own).
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