Saturday, February 22, 2020

Djinn(Also Ifrit, Marid, Jann, Jinn, Shaitan, Dao, but not Hinn)

Separated, as many D&D things are, into association with the various classical elements and sorted into a power hierarchy, these beings go from

Jann(MM2)- Elemental unaligned super-people who can travel to any elemental plane, have superb strength, magic resist, a few tricks like growth/invisibility/create food/limited etherealnesss, and live in an open and egalitarian society in forlorn deserts for privacy and safety, with a neutral-leaning-good alignment.

These are the sort of 'common' Jinn you'd see in the 1001 Nights who are more magical than humans and certainly fierce enough to turn the tide of battle, but are essentially just another group of people, not so much the 'genie of the lamp' of Disney Aladdin.

Dao(MM2)the earth aligned variants, they are wicked and though precious little of their society is mentioned apart from a posible king-type,  as they 'dislike servitude as much as efreet' it seems unlikely that there'd be much hierarchy.

It is mentioned Dao can move through earth (but not worked stone) presumably so that would-be binders of these entities cannot have them tunnel through dungeon to steal treasure unhindered., and like demons, much detail and attention is given to how much weight they can carry, though unlike demons Dao tire and must take rests every so often, depending on how much they carry. This could lead to a sort of 'escort mission' where a bound Dao carried vast heaps of treasure through uncleared dungeon terrain, and would be protected during its 'rest stops.' This applies to all the (non-Jann) genie-types as well, naturally, just at different carrying capacities.

Dao, unlike 'lesser' variants, can grant the limited wishes of others, but in a 'perverse way' ie, all the various forms of monkey's paw wishes that plague would-be wishers. It is unclear whether this stems from ill-intent or simply a lesser form of the greater wish-granters.

Djinni (MM)- Fairly limited in their powers compared to the mightier variants (creation of metal objects being a temporary affair for example) and only 1% of Djinni (the Noble Djinni) can actually grant 'wishes' rather than simply services rendered by a powerful magical being. However, of great interest (at least to me) is the ability to 'Form a Whirlwind' which is a smallish tornado that take a turn (10 minutes, presumably) to form and a turn to dissipate, and lasts(or as I attempt to more accurately interpret this, 'is active') for one melee round, where it deals 2d6 damage to all it encounters... and automatically sweeps away and kills all creatures of under two hit dice that it encounters. No save, no to hit, just destruction. One might decide this applies only to those who directly touch the funnel-whirlwind itself, but I dunno, 'encounter' is a much broader term than 'touch.'

The 3.5 version of this has a fairly boring interpretation where the Djinni just turns into a dust devil and sucks people up with a lot of math, but I kinda like the idea that this is more like calling up a hideous storm to destroy a city, army, or the like with the vague definition of 'encounter' applying  far more broadly than the 'grapple' interpretation 3.5 went with.

In any case, the details of how one might bind a Djinn to ones will is left up to the DM. The obvious point that treating a bound Djinn poorly leads to poor service and rebellion and treating them well can cause them to respect you might seem self evident, but recall that Disney's Aladdin was not out yet, and the Djinn of the 1001 Nights tended towards extremely fickle behavior (ie, killing whoever released them from their prison) so this specification might have actually been important to state in 1978.

Efreeti(MM)- The fire version, It is said they can be forced to serve for 1001 days, or by causing them to fulfill three wishes, which is a bit more info than what the Djinni entry states, but still pretty reliant on DM fiat. Despite their demonic art and mention of twisted wishes and cruel and vengeful natures, their alignment is given as Neutral(tend towards lawful evil) which could be used for a rather more charitable interpretation of their foul disposition as simply being sick of being used as wish-machines by people.

Unlike Djinn, all of them are able to grant the wishes of others, so they seem a likely example of a sort of dark temptation for power hungry players- Binding an Efreeti instead of a common Djinn yields more potential power, but at the cost of wickedness and danger.

They have the most interesting society mentioned of all geniekind- the infamous City of Brass- but you might as well look up details on your own.

Marid(MM2)- The most powerful of geniekind, and associated with water. Their powers are greater than the lesser one and they can carry twice as much gold as a Dao, blah blah, but it's somewhat interesting to note that they all claim to be kings (or rather, the persian and turkish equivalent) so their ruler is a Padishah, or 'Great King.' As such flattery and respect gets the best results when interacting with them, though as one given title for Marids is Mufti (an islamic jurist and scholar) some humbler individuals with an interest in laws must be presumed to exist. Whether they are meant to be Lawful exceptions to a largely Chaotic species, or simply the lawkeepers of a chaotic society in which all are kings, is unclear, though both interpretations are interesting.

Their wish-granting power is Alter Reality, which is (as far as I can be bothered to investigate) basically just Wish at a higher power level and devoid of the XP cost.

"I won't bother using reference" I said
"it will save me time" I said
Just keep scrolling down

Sunset Realm Ifrit/Jinn
When the 1st sun was torn asunder, its disparate and fragmented lights became all manner of strange beings, the largest of which were the dread Moons. Some of the smallest sparks, rather than simply fizzling out, ignited into extremely pure fire known as the smokeless flame, and this substance became the bodies of the Ifrit/Jinn. They could impose their will on the light-starved world and shape it to their whims, but only in the absence of greater lights. Many were born in the void initially and wandered the empty chaos beyond the light of the world for eons, and only slowly found their way to the world.

Dwelling in the world rather than the void had advantages in that there was far more matter to shape, and the Ifrit built palaces and cities of wonder. With practically no limitations on materials, what their society valued was artistic skill and creativity, so even relatively pathetic mortal creatures could gain prestige as architects, artists, chefs, and so on. The most wondrous cities attracted more and more beings seeking to trade good ideas for wishes, and as the population grew, so too did the complexities of society. Some ifrit entered covenants with mortals, providing them with wishes and services that a mortal could not do themselves, and some great spirits (for they were not called gods in those days) grew jealous of the ifrits, and schemed against them in the great city in the desert. Methods of binding and coercing the ifrit were given to mortals, and the flames of greed were fanned such that the mortals felt entitled to wishes and resented the Jinn for not granting their every desire. Tensions rose, and finally the city was destroyed by the Black King of the the Ifrit. Mortal sorcerers with the secrets of jinn-binding fled into the wastes, the great spirits villified the Ifrit and established cults among the mortals in their place, granting miracles instead of wishes, and the great city was no more.

However, not all mortals sided with the scheme of the new gods, nor did all jinn resent all mortals for the great betrayal. In the desert lands, mortals and beings of smokeless flame took a break to let tempers cool, going their separate ways and maintaining contact only through ritual and taboo for centuries. The desert empire of Saresare arose and trusted only the bonds between people, the Law, rather than the whims of gods or the light of suns past and future, and though the practices of Jinn-binding were preserved by wicked sorcerers, most Saresaren sorcerers do not delve into those shadowy binding rites and instead stick to exchanging favors with the Jinn that remain. Indeed, the Saresaren queendom of Fassulia* that nearly fell to chaos and destruction was saved by Ifrit and Jinn who restored life to the people and land by providing green bodies of vegetable matter to mortals and maintaining a lawful afterlife within the waking world, an act of altruism that broke through centuries of resentment and bad memories. Of course, some wicked sorcerers took advantage of this and tricked ifrit into lamps and so on to fuel their magical spells, and some ifrit still slay mortals on general principle and blind vengeance, but for the most part relations are congenial between ifrit and mortal these days, though jinn/ifrit and the gods still do not get along well.

*Fassulia being a Lungfungus hexcrawl module that I liked a lot

Why All the NamesThe difference between the names used for these beings is mostly a matter of clannish affiliation. All are composed of smokeless flame begat by sparks of the broken first sun, not elemental palette swaps of each other. Nor are they necessarily indicative of 'power level.' Rather, the different names for the same thing mean the following-

  • Jann- Half-breeds. While mostly used to refer to human half breeds (who, 'power level' wise, tend to be akin to a Hercules or other demi-god) there are the occasional animal or monster janns, for a Djinni is composed of flame, not flesh, and as a being of pure soul its true form is mutable and a matter of will, not birth. Jann Half-breeds tend to simply look like extremely vigorous, healthy, and perhaps oddly-colored variants of the mortal parent, and can be simulated by rolling 4d6 for stats & probably being a MU/Fighter.
  • Jinn- A generic term for all their kin, typically implying friendliness with mortals
  • Ifrit- a generic term for all their kin, typically implying antipathy towards mortals and the gods especially.
  • Djinni or 'Genie'- refers to those who fled to the sky and live among clouds. As clouds obscure the hot desert sun, they are popularly invoked and praised.
  • Dao- refers to those who fled to the earth and live in caves and holes. Saresarens use pots or shallow burying to deal with waste rather than the Mercian style of outhouses for fear of accidentally using a Dao's home as a toilet.
  • Marid- refers to those who fled to bodies of water. As water is the most dangerous of elements to flame, only the most magically potent and creative of Jinn/Ifrit could find ways to live under the water, and even then most of them fear the ocean and stick to inland lakes and rivers. As such, a Jinn who is a 'Marid' is as to other Jinn as a wizard is to other humans.
  • Shaitan- the keepers of the underworld of Fassulia, and the primary psychopomps of the otherwise mostly godless Saresare. They are revered by humans, but feared also as omens of death.
Stats As- n/a, mostly. They are puzzle and roleplaying encounters and should be run more with fantasy logic than big numbers, imo. Baseline AD&D 'can spam pyrotechnics and turn into a fire elemental' is just not very interesting. If you trick one into a locked chest, it can't open the chest on its own and might be coerced into granting a wish for whomsoever releases it. If it turns into a lion and tries to eat you, if you can beat a lion, the jinn will surrender and offer wishes for mercy. Maybe it's a firebreathing lion for extra spiciness. Maybe it can possess a statue and use stone golem stats. But it's not all-powerful. So how to run this sort of thing?

The things I try to remember when running them are
  • They can shape the world, but they are not the masters of the world. Their light isn't brighter than an entire citystate, or a god, or a moon, or an elemental. They keep their heads down because too much reality warping will piss someone or something off. They know they are big fish in a small pond, basically.
  • They are not infinite in creativity or energy. I tend to think of their HD as 'how many cool things can they do before running out of ideas or energy' or magic dice for a GLOG sorcerer, and as a rough limitation of the upper bounds of their powers. Turn into a new animal. Lift a heavy thing. Throw a fireball. Summon a storm. Steal a spellbook. They tend to do context- appropriate things, not 'look up the most mechanically dangerous monster in the manual and polymorph into that' sort of things.
  • There's a difference between a Wish and those 'cool things.' They can do 'cool things' for themselves as they please. A Wish has to be granted to someone else, souls aligning to achieve a change in the world, and this change can't go against the 'rules' of the dominant light source (typically the sun, with other likely candidates being local gods, local laws (provided the majority of the populace actually wants them enforced), and moons in the moonlands. That's why some alterations of reality are easy (make me rich!) and possible to achieve with just 'cool thing' abilities rather than a true alteration of reality and some are basically impossible whether using standard tricks or reality alteration (make me omnipotent!). 
you can't sue me for sharing some of your ideas Kevin Murphy cuz i have my dad's dragon magazines
Some Rude Ways to Twist Wishes Pilfered From Dragon Magazine #146 article "If You Wish Upon A Star" by some dude called Kevin Murphy

  • Contrived Wishes- This sort of wish tries to stay within the realms of plausible deniability, like a badly plotted novel, trying to hide the fact reality has definitely been altered. Wishing for a heal for a dying party member would result in a wandering high level cleric to show up and just so happen to have the perfect spells prepared and a very favorable disposition. 
  • Expiring Wishes- This sort of wish only lasts for a certain amount of time, like Cinderella's pumpkin carriage. This is basically the premise of GLOG sorcerers.
  • Caveat Wishes- This sort of wish has a built in undo clause that's more permanent than an expiring wish, but still not a guaranteed thing. Like it comes undone if you ever tell anyone about it, or if you ever see an unmarried person, or fail to do some daily ritual, etc. etc. Works a little better for stories than games due to a GM attempting to force the breakage condition is basically just a reskinned 'lol paladin falls' scenario.
  • Monkey's Paw Wishes- Basically, a cursed wish from which only wickedness comes. I think these are fun to offer players because the players just refusing to make the wish is a 'win' via identifying and turning down a trap option, cautious players managing to get away with a corrupted wish makes them feel smart, and people who get their kicks from chaos, masochism, and schadenfreude get to have fun with seeing how bad things get.
  • Benevolent Wishes- an interesting twist on the monkey's paw wish, these wishes are the opposite- nothing bad can come of these wishes, making them a bit of a joke option for amoral mercenary characters, but a genuinely nice reward for players who really are trying to be the good guys.
  • Wish of Contrariness- A wish that does the opposite of what you wanted. While it may seem a silly, simple, and arbitrary seeming gotcha moment, that's really only the case if there's no context. Tracking down a wishing ring causing mishaps for a series of owners, or identifying a genie as a not-that-creative asshole, or simply figuring it out themselves over the course of three wishes can all be interesting happenings.
  • Half-Wish- basically as the above- a wish that gives only half of what was wished for.While potentially seeming annoying & arbitrary in a vacuum, with context, an interesting little problem solving exercise. The examples the article gave was a character trying to wish for boots of jogging and slogging and getting  only one magic boot.
  • Wish of Overkill- the opposite of the half-wish, basically, where wishing to be rich results in a boastful genies giving you a tragically immobile diamond the size of a mountain, wishing for the death of the king involves everyone with a crown dropping dead, etc etc. Less subject to feeling like a waste of time, but definitely monkey's-paw territory.
  • Wish of Misinterpretation- a variant on the Monkey's Paw wish where things go wrong but out of the wish granter being stupid, willfully obtuse, hard of hearing, or intentionally mischievous. This is a more comedic and light-hearted take on the Monkey's Paw wishes where the goal is shenanigans and further adventure rather than a potential horrible trap.
  • Wish of Least Resistance- My wishes are these by default- the responsible entity trying to solve the wish via the least effort possible. If you wish for a million GP, and the nearest GP is in the king's castle, congratulations, you've stolen the royal treasury. If you wish to be as strong as a giant, you might just be turned into a giant via the polymorph scroll the wizard was saving for a rainy day.