Desert of Desolation

Plot summary

Corwyn Locations:

Azhar (sunken city of pazzar)
Karthag (phoenix)
Ba'Kharra (bralizzar)
Pharaoh is an Egyptian-styled adventure that includes a pyramid map and a trap-filled maze. Cover art was provided by Jim Holloway In Pharaoh, the player characters are driven into the desert for a crime they did not commit. The characters journey to the sunken city of Azhar, and from there they travel to the haunted tomb of an ancient pharaoh. While in the desert, the characters encounter the spirit of Amun-Rhe, the last pharaoh of Bakar, cursed to wander the desert until his tomb is robbed. Amun-Rhe begs the PCs to remove his staff of ruling and the Star of Mo-Pelar from his tomb to break his curse. The tomb was built to be thief-proof, and has so far lived up to its reputation. While in Amun-Rhe's pyramid, the characters can use an item called the Dome of Flight to control or reverse gravity; carelessness can cause them to fall upwards, and the palm trees in this room bear exploding fruit. The module contains wilderness maps, and includes a number of smaller adventures which complement the main one.

Oasis of the White Palm
In Oasis of the White Palm, the characters arrive at the Oasis of the White Palm, which is on the brink of turmoil. Shadalah, who is to be the bride of the sheik’s eldest son, has been kidnapped. The sheik believes her to be held by his enemies somewhere in the oasis. The player characters must solve a mystery before they can progress further. Once the characters make the contacts they need at the oasis, they continue to the Temple of Set and the Crypt of Badr Al-Mosak, and the adventure concludes in the City of Karthag; there, the PCs must obtain the three Star Gems (the one from Amun-Rhe's tomb in the previous adventure, and two more introduced here) and free the djinni if they plan to move on to the next module. The Oasis of the White Palm module contains wilderness maps, and includes a number of smaller adventures which complement the main one.

Lost Tomb of Martek
The goal of the player characters is the tomb of the millennium-dead wizard Martek. The tomb lies in the vast Desert of Desolation, and the majority of the adventure takes place within Martek's tomb. The adventure is organized into seven parts, taking the party from the desert through a number of planes on their way to the Citadel of Martek. They must use the Star Gems to revive the dead wizard. When they have done so, he lets them choose from a variety of magical treasure, and leaves to defeat the efreet

Oasis of the White Palm

The oasis was about 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) across, with dense growth at the center, and more scattered trees and shrubs at the edges.[2]

The oasis had existed since at least the 4th century DR, when the wizard Martek sealed away the efreet Khalitharius and the djinni Aeraldoth. In order to ensure that the djinni was released in time, the wizard granted the Shorafi rulers of the Oasis an enchanted mark, which would appear on the hand of the woman whom Fate chose to marry the Sheik, and two amulets, one for the sheik and one for his heir, with the power to cause great pain to Khalitharius.

In the year 1356 DR, the efreeti Pasha, Khalitharius, was released. The Oasis of the White Palm became the only remaining stronghold left in the area that hadn't yet fallen before his power and his minions. The oasis was ruled by the Sheik Kassim Arslan, who had held the position for more than 20 years. Recently, a slaver ring had infiltrated the Sandvoyagers Guild, using them to mask their activities. Those slavers had attempted to join forces with a local dervish cult to the old gods, proscribed by the Shorafi worshipers of Anu that were in control of the Oasis. Khalitharius had sought the cult's help in kidnapping the bride of the sheik's son, and the cult in turn had sought the slavers' help to carry out the kidnapping; in the night when they decided to try, the efreet decided to do the deed himself, never bothering to inform the cultists. This had led to widespread suspicion, rendering the oasis quite politically volatile.


The location had been raised around an oasis pool surrounded by luxuriant palms; it was several hundred feet long and wide, with a calm and reflective surface, though the clear water was slightly brownish. The watering pool itself had eight guards. Those guards collected a toll of gold from thirsty travelers: the price for filling a small vial was one gold piece, a large jug was twice that of a small vial, and watering a camel cost four times as much.

Nomad Camp
Most of the tents were northwest of the center, in a nomad camp about 1,000 feet (300 meters) wide and half that deep. There were approximately 100 tents inside. Two bands of cloth encircled the camp, one green at 50 feet (15 meters) from the tents, and one red at 30 feet from the tents. The green band had a smell to repel mosquitoes and most animals, while the red one would burn for about half an hour if lit, allowing for a makeshift defense. The Sheik Kassim Arslan, his bodyguards, wives, slaves, his sons Hassan Arslan and Korus Eikoth, Korus' slave Kerina, the cleric Nadron Ilanis, and his two apprentices, Larith and Baris all lived in the nomad camp.

White Palm
The eponymous palm was a sacred tree, whose bark was bleached white, laying about 400 feet (120 meters) due north of the pool; it formed date fruits in dark brown clusters. Whenever one of its dates was planted near water, they would grow up to a full-sized tree within a week, which granted the oasis easy shade at all times. Absolutely no one in the oasis would permit it to be threatened, and in fact, not even the airlancers or most travelers would allow it to come to harm.

Sandvoyagers' Compound
A wall of white, lime-covered bricks fortified a compound southwest of the oasis pool,[3] about 320 feet (98 meters) long by 120 feet (37 meters) wide. This was the Sandvoyagers' Guild compound; its wall was capped with one-inch long spikes, poisoned with a green-tinged substance.

Inside the wall, there were a number of buildings. The northwest most buildings included a common room and a washing house; the rooms around the common room were for rent. There was a bazaar inside the compound, though its prices were highly inflated.[6] Happy Hogan's Desert Igloo occupied half a dome on the eastern side of the compound; there were two large mirrors around the door on the wall. The space behind the dome had a roof; it was used as a stable. The southern side of the compound hosted an ancient temple with six columns inside; though the ceiling had caved in, there was a runic inscription from Martek behind the altar.

The House of the Sandvoyagers' Guild occupied the southwestern corner. As of 1356 DR its double doors were often closed, with a sign reading "members only". Its main warehouse had mostly empty boxes, except for three boxes marked cutlery, with 50 scimitars each, and two boxes labeled plates, with 20 sets of plate armor and chainmail, all of them stamped with the Shorafi army symbol in them. The room also held a trap door, leading into the Recreation Room of the Temple of Set underneath the oasis. Eight guards kept watch over the lounge room at the entrance. The records office held a number of records, and one, more recent, set aside; that one had obvious signs of tampering. Finally, the kitchen was manned by a single slave; she was aware that the guildmaster of the Sandvoyagers' Guild, Tolnus Granicus, was not only ill, but also captive beneath the building. She was also aware that the Guildmaster, Thurnas Netmaster, had his own trapdoor to somewhere beneath.

The sellers in the bazaar had a small selection of wares, including: Scrolls, books and tomes, leather and tents, dried meats, fresh meats, grain, rugs, cloth, a smithy, fortunetellers, tapestries, statues, trinkets, and a stall selling fruits, nuts and dates.

The inscription on the Ancient Temple read: "I, Martek, have laid for you a great power and treasure for when you return to wrestle with the awakened evil. No man knows the time, but the place' is Set - not at White Palm, yet neither far from it."

A monolith, 25 feet (7.6 meters) tall, and 7 feet (2.1 meters) across was North of the Sandvoyagers' Compound. It had a secret entrance to the Temple of Set underneath. There was an inscription on it, reading:

"This oasis, guarded by the white palm, belongs to all who enter. This we claim in the name of the many gods."

Other Features
Other features of the Oasis were a headless statue of a regal figure sitting on a throne; its head, fifteen feet away, weighed 500 pounds (230 kilograms), but was of no value. It lay about 1,500 feet (460 meters) northeast of the oasis pool. A burned camp about 500 feet (150 meters) south of the oasis pool had a sign warning onlookers not to displease the sheik as of 1356 DR.

the city of Karthag (Karthag)

Though only 20 miles (32 kilometers) east-northeast of the Oasis of the White Palm, the City of Carthag was separated from it by a chain of rocky mountains. The city lay in a low-lying bowl, at least 40 miles (64 kilometers) in diameter, where no wind could reach; this made the temperatures stay frightfully high during the night and outright deadly by day, from 150 to 180 degrees at times.

The city of Karthag had some structures visible from the tops of dunes 20 miles (32 kilometers) away. Most who entered would do so through a pitfall, which would deposit them somewhere in the streets below. Some of those pitfalls led into glassy smooth tubes, which had been created by a beholder in service of Khalitharius, aiming to find victims to capture and convert to the cause amongst those who were caught in Karthag's pitfalls.

The city itself was silent and still, save for the sand still filtering through gaps in the magical dome; it had accumulated too high to see the tops, as there was just about no light in there. Most of the visible buildings were white marble. Buildings still at least partly standing in the city of Karthag included the house of Khalif Mubrak, the Secret Maze of Kharan, the home of Chahask Ambar, and the Baths of Garimsharr. A nonfunctional sewer tunnel connected the baths to the Statue of Set.

The foyer of Khalif Mubrak was still accessible from the outside streets. It was set apart from the street with pillars and a stone filigree; the floor was a complex mosaic of white and cream-colored stones, while the walls were covered in dark brown baked enamel tiles. There was an entrance door, with an inscription enchanted to render it readable to anyone, stating "My fun is your fun". The entrance was only small enough for one person at a time, and it required a man-sized person to stoop slightly in order to cross. Anyone passing would be struck by a chocolate cream pie in the face. Even those who covered their faces completely while entering would be assaulted by a flying pie as soon as they were inside the room.[6]

Beyond the foyer was the sitting room of Khalif Mubrak. It had walls frescoed in murals of a city with beautiful buildings descending to a large lake dotted with triangular sail ships. The room was appointed with fine couches and chairs, embroidered with pastels and gold. Two five-foot couches inlaid with gold were worth 150 gp, 10 gp for the inlay alone; a small chair encrusted with seed pearls and inlaid with gold was worth 180 gp, 20 gp from the seed pearls and 20 gp from the inlay. A high, bronze-backed throne-like seat with large arms was set with runes that would display "Rule ye all who sit here"; it was a harmless prank device, whose seat dropped out as the arms fell inward if anyone sat on it. Struggling to rise would make the legs spread outwards while the back hinged forwards. The device would return to its shape as soon as its user was extricated from the chair.

Beyond the sitting room was his dining room. It had a 30-foot vaulted ceiling, ornate brass oil lamps hanging from the ceiling, and a floor covered in thick wool rugs colored in fantastic designs. The rug would gently but forcefully remove the shoes of anyone passing by, even if it tripped them in the process. There was a long, low table in the middle of the room for diners to eat seated at the floor, which would seat up to 24. Everyone who entered would be announced with a gong, followed by the appearance of a meal of steaming roast meat, fresh fruits, pita bread, three goblets of wine (one gold and two silver), and a decanter full of wine, per person. Anyone sitting at the table would be greeted by the spirit of Khalif Mubrak, a smiling, pudgy, little man dressed in the finest silks and satins, whose fingers were covered in assortments of rings showing pearls, emeralds, rubies and diamonds. He would offer people a toast in the golden goblets; those were actually dribble glasses. If the players did not laugh alongside the man as they toasted, the meal would disappear; upon finishing the meal, one of Khalif Mubrak's rings would appear before them in the table. Those who took the rings would hear a last toast from the apparition, "Long Life".

From Khalif Mubrak's dining room, one would reach his entrance. The entrance would open unto the streets, where a boneless, desiccated husk of a corpse lay across the threshold.[6] The other room led unto his kitchen; the kitchen had three ovens, a hearth, several cleared-out cupboards, and three water taps. These water traps were prank devices; the flow of water on one of them would stop if one attempted to tap them for water, the second one would spew a torrent of water into the fact of the person attempting to tap, and the third worked normally- but it turned the tongue and lips of those who drank black. There was a warning to leave back through the entrance, which would change language as needed; those who used the other door would end in the Hall of Khalif Mubrak. That hallway contained a black obelisk with a sign of a raised palm on the side pointing towards the kitchen, and a mirror of opposition on the other side of the obelisk. Several bodies lay on the other side of the obelisk; there was a door leading outside past the obelisk.

The Secret Maze of Kharan was accessible from the street just outside the entry room of Khalif Mubrak; there was an open door to a darkened room beyond. It was divided in two sections: the Maze of Darkness, a maze with 4-foot corridors made of a stone that absorbed just about all light, and the Maze of Light, whose walls were made of mirrored white marble and abundant in torches, but not less claustrophobic. The maze of light was accessible through a teleporter in the Maze of Darkness, a 6 ft (1.8 m) silver disc.

From the Maze of Light one could reach the residence of Chahask Ambar. There was a short hallway leading up to a strange door, built to appear as though it called for depressing the latch and then pushing; it was actually opened the opposite way, even hinged wrongly. The door opened into the Library of Chahask Ambar; as of 1356 DR, the library was in shambles. The only object of value was the lamp of El-Tarifa, an aerial servant who used to be the butler for Chahask Ambar. If helped return all in the library to its proper place, it would stay with its helpers and perform up to one service that did not go against its nature (it was a good-aligned creature). There were no other doors, but one wall was actually made of lightweight blocks that crumbled away if their mechanism was triggered. That wall led to a sitting room; a carving of a skull allowed one to see the room across from the entrance, but double doors on the right led the way to the ballroom of Chahask Ambar.

The ballroom was a place reputed as the one where anyone could dance. It had a 50 feet (15 meters) ceiling, with long, hanging crystals for illumination; the walls were covered in frescoes of nymphs, satyrs and legendary beasts. Spring-loaded gimbals beneath the dance floor would complicate walking across the room; it was easiest to dance, or even crawl, than it was to run. The room opened unto the entryway, which was a normal room, and unto the Death Trap of Chahask, visible from the sitting room. The Death Trap was merely a hinged floor that dropped all those who stood by the west wall into an underground chamber. The chamber had a tunnel dug out of it which led into one of Khalif Mubrak's cellars; unfortunately, it led straight in front of the Mirror of Opposition in his hallway.

The entryway was a normal room, which led towards a slide, or "Chandelle-Glisade". The room was a long, gentle spiral that fell counter-clockwise; originally oiled daily, it was intended for descent on a pillow or a rug, with pillows placed at the end. Now, covered in fine sand, the abrasion and acceleration could both be dangerous; they opened into the vicinity of the Baths of Garimsharr.

The Baths of Garimsharr were a massive rose-colored building; it had three entrances, all of which led into a 10 feet (3 meters) wide gallery 10 feet (3 meters) above the ground; on the ground level, there were three pairs of 70 feet (21 meters) pillars leading to the ceiling. Those pillars were ornately carved to resemble legendary beasts; four pools lay between the pillars. Four more pools lay at the corners of the room, where about thirteen skeletons remained in reserve. A wraith, the spirit of Krinos Pandipolous, was hidden in the drain and would command the skeletons if it saw an opportunity to slay adventurers.

The drain led across a nest of red spiders towards a manhole, which opened before a statue of Set The djinn Aeraldoth was bound in a bottle hidden within the statue, reachable by going past the manhole in the tunnel.

The heat was outright deadly during the day in a radius of 20 miles (32 kilometers) forcing most travelers to make do by night; even then, the superheated sand remained painful to walk on, and it was so fine that it created a risk of sinkholes even then. A 1-mile (1.6 kilometers) radius dome protected the city, only the tops of the highest towers poking out through; the dome was broken in places, and the gaps could function as sinkholes for unwary travelers.[4]

The city of Karthag soon came to prominence in the times of the Pharaohs, before the drying of the River Athis, as a place with magnificent care for those who needed rest, a city whose healing waters revitalized the spirit. It became so notorious for its houses of rest and recovery that it eventually came to be known as the City of Karthag, and embraced this by changing its name. The wealthy and powerful were catered to quite intensively during this period, and the city collected their follies, coming to abound in jokes, tricks, puzzles, and even mazes with magical hazards, which were carefully watched to keep people from dying.

After the river Athis dried out around 300 DR it became necessary to raise a magical dome around the city to protect its gardens, streets, and buildings from the encroaching sands. The dome eventually covered the entire city; it was several feet thick and very strong, capable of taking the weight of a camel and a man anywhere on it. Its strength ensured the city remained hidden, even after all the inhabitants abandoned it: the sands continued to encroach, eventually covering all but the tallest towers.

Around the year 350 DR, the wizard Martek imprisoned the djinni Aeraldoth in the then-abandoned city of Karthag. By the mid-14th century DR, the City of Karthag was only an occasional hazard to the travelers who broke through the dome. Most of their fellows mistook the gaps in the dome for sinkholes, leading to avoiding the area.[1] In 1356 DR, adventurers released the djinni, which triggered the rise of the city back from under the sands.

The area around Karthag was uninhabitable by day. All life in the area emerged by night to hunt, including purple worms, giant rocs, snakes, centipedes, huge trap-door spiders, hyenas, jackals, giant ants and giant beetles. Spectral apparitions like those found in the Sea of Sand existed as well, and they led travelers towards the center of Karthag.

The fauna was very different inside the city. There were a number of permanent residents, including rust monsters, red spiders, desert ticks, fire ants, carrion beetles, snakes, and strangely enough, the skeletons of adventurers who cursed their gods as they died here. After the release of Khalitharius, a beholder under his orders had come to sift for possible servants in the ruins.