Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sandy Box Kit

Mandy is going to DM an Arabian Nights-y Middle East Campaign, so I am writing up some "Sandy Box" tools she can use to fill in the gaps when DMing...

DISTANCES (approximate)

Capital to capital with a different language
(ex: Baghdad, Iraq to Tehran, Iran)
420 miles
14 days ride
28 days walking

City to nearby big city
(ex. Mecca, Saudi Arabia to Medina, Saudi Arabia
Baghdad, Iraq to Mosul, Iraq)
Cairo, Egypt to Jerusalem, Israel)
250 miles
9 days ride
18 days walking

Going about as far as you can and still be in 1001 Nights territory
(Morocco to Afghanistan)
4500 Miles
150 days ride
300 days walking

(Assuming a small boat with no crew other than the PCs. Larger boats with full crews could sail all night and go twice as fast.)

Sailing to the next decent-sized port along the coast
50 miles
1 day

Sailing from port to port in a different Middle Eastern country
(ex: Beirut to Alexandria, Egypt, or Beirut to Turkey)
300 miles
6 days

Sailing about as far as you can sail and still be in a 1001 Nights-y land
(Morocco to Syria via Mediterranean)
2000 miles
40 days


Roll 1 per day riding, 2 per day if walking, 3 per day hunting or searching

1-5 Harmless edible animals worth #of day food for one human = to number shown on dice
6-10 Snake (poisonous)
11-20 Bandits
21-25 Insect swarm
25-30 Sandstorm
31-34 Wild dogs
35-37 Scorpion (normal)
38-39 Oasis
40-44 Mirage
45 Mirage with hag, sand witch, or mind flayer waiting
46 Caravan--merchants
47 Caravan--starving
48 Caravan--pilgrims
49 Lone trader
50 Exiled madman
51 Bad guy disguised as something innocent
52 Half-a-man
53 Abandoned cart
54 Living statue/idol (immobile)
55-57 Sinkhole
58-59 Ogre
60 Ettin
61-62 Wizard with retinue
63-69 Jackal Men
70-78 Sand shark
79-80 Giant snake
80-81 Yak men
82-85 Giant desert lizard
86-87 Skeletons
88-89 Skeletons riding skeletal horses
90 Sphinx (think of a riddle)
91-92 Giant scorpion
93-94 Giant spider
95-97 Sandman
98 Sarlacc (hidden, like a sinkhole)
99-100 Talking animal (small bird, lizard, fox etc.)

We have TSR's Al Qadim stuff, but if anybody out there has any links to useful pseudo-Middle Eastern D&D stuff, let us know in the comments.

Remember: Mandy's relatively new to DMing, so relatively simple, newbie-friendly material is best. System will be the usual lite 3.5/AD&D mash-up so almost any era resource is cool.


Il Male™ said...

I've ran an arabic based campaign for a while. It was like 1000 and 1 night, only with laser guns, nyarlathothep, time traveling and other assorted stuff.

I still have some maps, if you're interest I can make it into a pdf with my notes and post it on my blog ^^

mordicai said...

I have a question, actually! What sources are you using? Which sounds like a challenge, but more I mean "I am interested in your sources."

trollsmyth said...

I've got an old GURPS book titled "Arabian Nights" which is a fairly good overview of the historic Middle East and the common mythologies from there and then, but for what I imagine she has in mind, she might get more mileage out of renting Harryhausen's Sinbad trilogy.

Pekka said...

The desert encounters table should have a genie in it.

Link: Wolfgang Baur's The Six Arabian Nights.

Zak Sabbath said...


1-I hate genies.

2-Mandy wants the really elaborate monsters reserved for stuff she actually plans..

Zak Sabbath said...

@Il Male
If you like. If the stuff is "basic" enough mandy may use it

google maps for geographic distances, talking to army guys &military historians for walking distances (i made them lower than soldier march distances), and some random blog gave me a range for medieval ship speeds as being like 5-9 mph and i chose 8 mph since it makes the math easy.

Inspiration is locked in. We need some tools so i'll check out the GURPS,

richard said...

I don't know Arabian Nights D&D stuff, but I do know a bit about the historical/lit background. Alas, that's more likely to get in the way than be useful.

If she's looking for inspiration, though, Kalila wa dimna has great stories mostly about animals outwitting each other/humans, kinda like Arabic/Indian Aesop, but animal transformation is deep in the cultural consciousness (people realising they have some animal characteristics or sympathising with animals)(no, not furry stories) and it's never really used in roleplaying.

I think the Baburnama is a readymade campaign, worthy of REH. Thackston's translation is the one to read.

On your distances for Arabian Nights land, don't ignore the Indian Ocean. Ibn Battuta was still in Islamdom down in the Laccadives, and the Ocean of a Thousand Islands (now known to be well over 15000) stretches all the way down to the Sea of Tar/Bad Luck (the Antarctic Ocean) and the Island of Wakwak. China's southern trade was mostly in Muslim hands between 1000 and 1500ce - Zheng He's as Arabian Nights as Sindbad or Richard the Lion Heart. So I'd say Morocco to at least Java and more like Nanjing.

And the all-time great double act of Emperor and Vizier, real ancestors of Ming and Klytus or Palpatine and Vader, are Malikshah and Nizam al Mulk - a much better scheming genius than pious Ja'afar. The latter's Macchiavellian treatise (but 400 years earlier) on how to run an empire is just phenomenal.

richard said...

...took me so long to write that comment, a bunch of new info turned up. I second GURPS Arabian Nights: good stuff. Other than that, I think D&D is already plenty Arabian Nightsy. The old classic Thief of Bagdad is worth adding to the Sinbad movies. As far as real world traveling rates and such goes, I've been meaning to write up my notes from Goitein's Mediterranean Society on how much a camel can carry and trouble you can get into in Islamic ports with the wrong passport and so on. It works out much closer to modern life than the default "medieval" of D&D.

Zak Sabbath said...


I mean 6 not 8, sorry.

I also assumed only 8 hours of sailing per day, it'd be faster if the ship had a full crew and they don;t have to keep waking up to fight sea monsters.

Jason Brezinski said...

Xoth: Bride of the Spider God. There's some middle eastern themed stuff there: tribes, gods, treasures, stuff like that.

richard said... which I mean people actually travel, there are hotels, there's a common tongue and sometimes holy men and scholars go off to fight monsters, possibly in company with brigands. IOW D&D's default society fits better in Arabian Nights than in Europe.
And now that's enough staggered comments. Sorry for the verbal.

Bighara said...

If you can find a copy, TSR's GAZ2 "The Emirates of Ylaruam" from the Known World is a great Araby-ish resource.

John Matthew Stater said...

The first issue of my fanzine NOD - free download on my blog - has pseudo-Arabian material for the hexcrawl. Of course, it has lots of completely non-Arabian stuff as well. Could be useful.

Pontifex said...

Ask and ye shall receive:

DHBoggs said...

I'm thinking she wants this

Endless Sands is a pretty good product, well rounded with lots of handy info and its cheap. I got hooked big time on TSR's "desert of desolation" series back in the '80's and for a while I collected every desert themed product I could. I still like Hickmann's Pharoah.

For something a little different but still Arabesque and very cool (but not cheap), you might also have a look at "Far Harad"

Yeah it's supposed to be Middle Earth but its outside of the books and really not about hobbits or oliphants. I've used it as a setting in a standard D&D campaign and no one was the wiser.

Zak Sabbath said...

Good suggestion.


the Wyvern coast is very impressive.

going to check out more nods now.

huth said...

(Morocco to Afghanistan)

The original version of Aladdin actually takes place in China, and (IRL) there were plenty of Muslims in China for Ibn Battuta to hang out with when he went there. Plenty of Mongols actually converted, too, and there were lots of Muslims in India too by the end of the Golden Age (and a lot of the stories in the AN might have originally been Indian folktales, anyway). So the Dar al-Islam can extend way farther than Khorasan. The third voyage of Sinbad is totally Homer fanfic too.

tl;dr an AN game can cover a lot more and feel Arabian-y.

Zak Sabbath said...



I know my history and world lit as well as you, but I also know that once you reach the far east (even China) there is the ever-present possibility of ninjas and then you encounter the Ninja Genre-Co-Option Axiom which states that even the possibility of ninjas in any fictional creation instantly forces that creation to be mostly about ninjas.

So, yeah, unless we go Oriental Adventures, we'll be stopping west of Kashmir.

huth said...

Also, I remember this one story that had this castle filled with empty bird cages.

This indonesian guy in high school told us a bunch of ghost stories about his family from the old country, but since it was a muslim community he was from, they were framed as stories about djinn. I think it's a cool alternative to the comforting tale of a vision of your dead grandfather, if that's actually an evil spirit fucking with you.

One of the stories involved a cousin who was born with a caul, who could see skinny guys in white shrouds clinging to people's backs and feeding on their souls. She got better after the exorcism.

So yeah. Djinn.

migellito said...

Very nice. I love Scheherazade flavour. Your excellent encounter table made me want to make a table. I've been feeling tablish lately anyway.

"Something is buried here. Clearing away the sand, you slowly reveal.."

1. A brass oil lamp. It is highly polished, but has a crude skull and crossbones scratched into it.
2. Parrot bones.
3. A clear bottle with a rolled parchment inside. It crumbles to dust when the cork is removed.
4. A wineskin half-full of clean water.
5. A mummified human body clothed in rags, preserved in the act of reaching forward while crawling.
6. A beetle's nest, ready to hatch.
7. The top of a tent. Inside are 1d3 sandstorm survivors and their equipment.
8. Enormous bones, scoured white. Revealing the entire creature would take 1d3+3 days.
9. A rolled up carpet.
10. A small locked chest full of various incense.
11. A fulgurite. (hollow glass tube made by a lightning strike)
12. A single small featurelessly smooth brass ball. Appears solid, but makes a tinkling sound when shaken. Four being sounded at once will open a gateway to the City of Brass.
13. The top of a mummified palm tree. Buried at the bottom is a skeleton in a red shirt. 30 feet further down, water begins to bubble up.
14. A brass horn.
15. The top of a broken pillar.
16. A pot of olive oil, sealed with wax.
17. An ivory scroll case. Filled with unground cinnamon bark.
18. A human skull with a jeweled scimitar through it. The skull has 4 eye sockets, all smaller than normal. If the scimitar is removed, the rest of the skeleton rapidly grows back, followed by organs, muscle, 4 green eyes and dark violet skin. She is a humanoid ranger of 3rd level, dead for centuries and with little to no memory of her past. Straight black hair begins to grow back on her head the next day.
19. The toe bones of a camel.
20. A hump of stone, which further clearing reveals as the massive stone nose of a prone person. Further clearing reveals the cyclopean stone face of a man, 20 feet from chin to forehead. It lays prone, looking upward. The lips are sculpted wrinkled in a sneering frown. Clearing the edges reveals them broken, as though the face splintered from a gargantuan statue.

Tom said...

While the feel is totally different, there's quite a bit of desert survival, wild tribes and trade through the sandy wastes in the Dark Sun stuff. Just strip out the psionic, post-apocalyptic, savagely feral and other elements that don't fit and go for the hard data.

The (first) Boxed Set, Slave Tribes, Elves of Athas (no really), and Dune Trader are probably all that's worth getting/downloading. The rest is too setting specific to be workable, and won't hold enough data to mine to be worth the trouble.

The maps are also quite nice as a starting point to a custom setting with a more traditional "Scheherazade-esque" setting, though I'd suggest replacing the Sea of Silt with the much more typical Sea of Salt. OTOH that may be more work than Mandy wants to do just at the moment.

Alex Schroeder said...

The single thing I used the most is a list of names:
Arabic Feminine Names
Arabic Masculine Names

Based on the copy right notice in the file these are derived from the lists on this website: (a site which I've never seen before).

Zak Sabbath said...


In the kit I made up for Mandy I also included a lot of names but didn't include them in the post because I figured Hey who wants to read 900 names off wikipedia, right?

But yeah, it's good to have names.

Hartful said...

Curious what a Half-a-man is.

Adamantyr said...

Another vote for the value of GURPS Arabian Nights. Heck, any GURPS book, 3rd Edition or otherwise, is an awesome gaming resource. I even used the book on Imperial Rome for a college paper source.

GAZ2: Emirates of Ylaruam is less useful, but it's not too bad. I have a spare copy (sans map) of it if you're really interested and have trouble finding it electronically.

huth said...

@ Hartful

Or which half.

liza said...

"Tales of the Caliphate Nights RPG" is a superb resource for running games in the folkloric Middle East of the "1001 Nights". And it uses the True20 system, a very streamlined version of d20.
Also, "Rolemaster Arabian Nights" is worth a reading, with lots of useful background information.
Sorry for the nationalistic bias but... have you considered to extend yor campaign limits a little further west, to include Al-Andalus? (I consider Islamic Spain the the D&Dest setting in world history!)

MattInOk said...

Heard of a singer on NPR today, Azam Ali.
Her music is perfect for this. I've been thinking about running one myself after picking up her From Night to the Edge of Day album. Check it out!

Konsumterra said...

i have made these ancient iraqui image dumps for my babylon game but you might use as ruins of ancients (only a bit down road from bagdad) time travel, sleeping wizards and other ancient remnants could make this useful - previous 4 blogs same will do more

piles said...

a bit late to the show, but nevertheless a comment.

I enjoyed the following blog:

I got there throught the following post:

what an awesome picture! it is by zdzislaw beksinski, a polish artist who made some amazing stuff. I could very well imagine that you already know his work, but if not, make sure you google him!

Tom said...

I am creating a campaign in this setting right now. Here's my things I've used, hope this is useful!
For travel, I'm using this chart, and a map of ancient persia I found in a book. But generally in a story you're going to skip travel most of the time, unless you get put there by bandits or an evil visier.
- For city ideas (Arabian Nights land only has vast cities or tribes, no such thing as villages) I used invisible cities by Italo Calvino which is just a list of cool Eastern style cities with a fairy tale like quality.
- For palace generators i used the interiors in red and pleasant land because lots of them are quite decadent.
- For plots I just skim-read the Wikipedia page/ TV tropes guide for ancient persia and Arabian Nights and picked things and themes I liked (bandits and thieves, rooftops, usurpers)
- one blogger did a module called Tomb of the Serpent kings which is a good, and really beginner DM friendly module. But no one's yet gone in a dungeon, seems to be quite overworldy.
- there are lots of Moroccan riad floorplans on Google. I'd also like to save a bunch of Persian miniatures or similar and turn them into room descriptions
- the garden section in maze of the blue Medusa, just steal the rooms from that for your overgrown harem Garden
- literally all visiers are evil wizards
- a post above has a name generator which is great. Though no one is going to remember an Arabic name so mix with the vornheim generator ("Ibrahim the Exquisite")
- A sandstorm is always near in the desert, 1d4 turns away
- caravan encounters
- nomad encounters
- royal plot hookshooks://
I generally think an Arabian Nights campaign should revolve around the PCs being either bandits or princes, or moving from one to the other. There are merchants too but they're not particularly exciting to be. And then like, terrain is either the desert or the city, and if you want to get between the cities you can generally teleport between them ("you walk the deserts for 20 days and 20 nights") if you have a quest, but otherwise it's really hard traveling and you run out of water and have to end up fighting a giant scorpion or something. It's also really easy to get an audience with the king if you have a quest (and the quest will generally be to do with court intrigue as well) but impossible otherwise - though sneaking into the palace should always be possible. The city should always be vast and unmapped.
Good music to play whilst dming is Lawrence of Arabia, 300 soundtrack Persian bits, Prince of Persia ambient music, music from hyper light drifter