Vicious Venues05/25/2007


Oasis of the Whistling Palms



Oasis of the Whistling Palms is suitable for levels 10-13
and can be used with any D&D campaign.

An oasis offers a refuge from scorching desert heat. Weary travelers can relax in the shade, slake their thirst, wash away sand and dust, and perhaps enjoy a few native fruits. On a long desert trek, a verdant oasis can literally be a lifesaver. Oases beckon to travelers, but many also have permanent residents. A large oasis on a heavily used caravan route might support a village or town. A more isolated oasis might host just a few souls or a colony of wild beasts. Sometimes hostile creatures move into an oasis. After all, it's easier (and much more pleasant) to find prey in the cool shade of an oasis than on the trackless, burning sands.

Some oases develop sinister reputations thanks to their residents. The Oasis of the Whistling Palms is one of these. Locals visit the place only when they absolutely must. When camped there at night, the locals are careful to stay within a crude stockade built by unseen hands and close their ears to enticing music that plays among the trees. In the morning, the wise visitor picks some fruit from the trees, fills his canteens, and leaves quickly.

Background for the DM

The djinni Dunyazad calls the Oasis of the Whistling Palms home. She shares the place with a pride of big desert cats. Dunyazad comes from a long line of djinn who are allied with brass dragons. Over the years, Dunyazad has made many jaunts onto the Material Plane, often at a brass dragon's behest, and she has come to like the place. Dunyazad particularly loves the desert with its open vistas and (occasionally) powerful winds. Though she loves to fly over the desert for hours at a time, she also enjoys resting among the springs, pools, and fruit trees at the oasis.

Dunyazad loves music and is a bard of some skill. She uses her major creation power to create flutes, whistles, and other wind instruments. She also harvests some wood from the oasis to make a few instruments from scratch and sells her handiwork to the occasional merchant who passes her way. When she first came to the oasis, Dunyazad literally played cat and mouse with the big cats that lived there. Her magic and ability to fly kept her out of serious danger. Over the years, the cats have learned to tolerate Dunyazad's presence and even think of her as one of their own.

Although she values her privacy, Dunyazad also likes to receive visitors from time to time, and she understands that most residents of the Material Plane simply must rest and recuperate at oases to recover from the hardships of desert travel. To accommodate visitors, Dunyazad built a log stockade to serve as a refuge from the cats.

Visitors or no, Dunyazad likes to sit up in the moonlight and play her flute, sending haunting music floating over the desert. Because Dunyazad usually plays as she flies, the music seems to come from the trees, and thus has given the place its name.

The Setup

As presented here, the oasis is best placed in a classic sand sea as a patch of cool green amid acres and acres of sun-blasted sand dunes. The place could work just as well in any fairly arid zone, such as a rocky desert or even a prairie. In any case, the oasis has the only open water and tall trees for a hundred miles or more. It lies far from any settlements and well off the beaten path. The PCs might come upon it while searching for a ruin or when attempting to take a shortcut across the desert. Something specific, however, might draw the PCs there:

  • Brigands or thieves have snatched something valuable (or perhaps dangerous) and fled over the desert. The PCs are hired to track down the culprits.

    Perhaps the thieves are making for a hideout somewhere in the hinterlands, or perhaps they simply wish to lose any pursuers in the trackless desert. The PCs might catch up with their quarry at the oasis, or they might be obliged to rest at the oasis awhile before resuming their pursuit. In either case, Dunyazad most likely is willing to let the conflict play out between the two groups, though she's good-hearted at her core and likely to turn on anyone who acts truly villainous in her presence.

  • A merchant wants to hire guards for an expedition bound for a secret place in the desert. If the PCs take the job, the merchant refuses to tell them their destination. At least one rival tries to bribe the PCs to learn where the group is headed. Once in the desert, the PCs and their employers have to use many tricks to throw off pursuit.

    The merchant is headed to the oasis to purchase musical instruments from Dunyazad. He has promised to protect the djinni's privacy and refuses to reveal his destination or the source of his wares. Dunyazad's work is top quality, but not enough to explain all the interest in the trip. Perhaps the merchant has another secret he's hiding, such as the location of a lost treasure hidden in or near the oasis, or perhaps the merchant's rivals simply have allowed their curiosity to get the better of them.

  • A bedraggled group of adventurers staggers into a settlement at the desert's edge. They say they recovered a great treasure under the desert sands. They lost all their loot, however, at a haunted oasis where disembodied voices drove them mad and unseen hands snatched away their goods.

    The PCs might be on hand to hear the tale, but most likely they hear it secondhand. The "haunted" oasis might be Dunyazad's oasis, and the "ghosts" could have been Dunyazad using her voice, music, and spells against the group. Dunyazad might have seized the treasure, or, more likely, the adventurers fell to squabbling over the loot and Dunyazad, disgusted, drove them off. Alternatively, the incident might have occurred elsewhere. If the PCs investigate, the information they get points toward the Oasis of the Whistling Palms, which tends to figure heavily in any local tale.

    If the PCs go after the treasure, Dunyazad is inclined to let them have it, or most of it. Other creatures, however, might want the loot for themselves. Almost anyone from rival adventurers to a blue dragon or two might want to compete for the treasure.

  • Rumor has it that a long-lost city has emerged from the desert's shifting sands.

    The Oasis of the Whistling Palms might simply lie on the route to the city, or it might be a vital landmark for locating the place. The rumor itself could prove true, or perhaps an efreeti or other evil creature has planted it to draw victims to its lair. Dunyazad could warn characters before they fall into the trap or help them recover after they escape and perhaps help them prepare for a second foray. Of course, the rumor could be true, and Dunyazad's advice could prove valuable to characters preparing to explore the place.

Visiting the Oasis (EL 10-13)

Read the text below as the PCs first approach the oasis. The text assumes the PCs visit during a clear day and that the oasis lies in a hot, sandy desert.

The sky overhead looks as clear and blue as the finest sapphire. Not a single cloud mars its azure beauty, except over one place not so far ahead. Through the shimmering heat, a patch of green is visible. Trees stand tall against the clear sky, and thick underbrush grows in the shade below. A towering cumulus cloud hangs over the place, suggesting open water below.

The oasis is about a mile wide, with two pools and several springs. Rivulets of clear water snake out from beneath the trees and melt into the sand after a few hundred yards. The place also has several rocky outcrops with hollows and caves where the resident cats make their lairs.

Dunyazad has selected a shady spot at one end of the oasis for the stockade. She built the stockade from tree trunks about a foot thick and some 20 feet long. They're set in a square about 50 feet on a side and sloped slightly outward to discourage climbers. There is a wooden gate that can be tied shut with heavy ropes.

Inside lies an open, sandy space plus a few posts for tying up animals. Two rings of stone on the sand offer spots to build campfires.

The stockade is about as far as one can get from the cats' lairs and still be inside the oasis. It's also about a hundred yards from the nearest water source. Folks can barricade themselves inside and be safe from the cats, but they must survive on the food and water they bring with them. Dunyazad planned it that way. She welcomes the occasional guest, but doesn't want them to stay too long.

Read or paraphrase the following if the PCs decide to stop at the oasis.

The water glistens in the sunlight, and the palms provide welcome shade. A soft breeze rustles the palm branches, and it seems to carry with it a song, like a breath on the warm air.

"Rest and set your cares aside
Here beside the whistling palms.
Let your conscience be your guide,
And sleep beneath the whistling palms.

"If your heart is true and your spirit light,
You're welcome at the whistling palms.
Sleep and safely pass the night
Telling your secrets to the whistling palms.

"Your greatest wish, your ardent desire --
Reveal your heart to the whistling palms.
Do not give in to greed or ire
When you lie beneath the whistling palms."

Creatures

As noted earlier, Dunyazad shares the oasis with a pride of great cats. These animals might be any of several kinds, depending on how dangerous you want to make the oasis.

Cheetahs (3-5): hp 19 each; MM 271.
Lions (6-10): hp 32 each; MM 274.
Dire Lions (6-10): hp 60 each; MM 63.

Tactics: The big cats prefer to attack after sunset, moving in quickly and quietly. They instinctively attack weaker foes first -- if they can reach them. Once they select a target, they keep attacking until the foe is dead. They withdraw into the brush if reduced to 25% of their original hit points or less.

Dunyazad CR 10
Female djinni bard 5th
CGLarge outsider (air, extraplanar)
Init +9; Senses darkvision 60 feet; Listen +12, Spot +12
Languages Auran, Celestial, Common, Ignan; telepathy 100 ft.

AC 21, touch 16, flat-footed 16; Dodge, Mobility
(-1 size, +5 Dex, +2 armor, +2 deflection, +3 natural)
hp 72 (12 HD)
Immune acid
Fort +8, Ref +14, Will +11

Speed 20 ft. (4 squares), fly 60 ft. (perfect); Spring Attack
Melee 2 slams +15 (1d8+4) or
Ranged mwk composite longbow +15/+10 (1d10+2)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 10 ft.
Base Atk +10; Grp +17
Atk Options Combat Reflexes
Special Actions bardic music 5/day (inspire competence, inspire courage +1, fascinate 2 creatures,
countersong)
Combat Gear 2 smokesticks, 2 tanglefoot bags, 3 scrolls of cure light wounds, 2 scrolls of dispel magic, 2 scrolls of displacement, 2 scrolls of see invisibility
Bard Spells Known (CL 5th):
2nd (2/day) -- glitterdust (DC 17), sound burst (DC 17), suggestion (DC 17)
1st (5/day) -- animate rope (DC 16, +15 ranged touch), charm person (DC 16), Tasha's hideous laughter (DC 16), ventriloquism (DC 16)
0 (3/day) -- dancing lights, daze (DC 15), ghost sound (DC 15), lullaby (DC 15), mage hand, read magic
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 20th):
At will -- invisibility (self only), plane shift (Elemental Planes and Material Plane only)
1/day -- create food and water, create wine (as create water, but wine instead), major creation (vegetable matter created is permanent), persistent image (DC 20), wind walk. Once a day, Dunyazad can assume gaseous form (as the spell for up to one hour)

Abilities Str 16, Dex 21, Con 14, Int 14, Wis 15, Cha 21
SA whirlwind
SQ air mastery
Feats Combat Reflexes, Dodge, Improved Initiative[B], Mobility, Spring Attack, Weapon Finesse
Skills Appraise +12 (+14 wooden items), Concentration +12, Craft (woodworking) +12, Diplomacy +7, Disguise +13, Escape Artist +15, Handle Animal +9, Heal +4, Hide +1, Knowledge (history) +12, Listen +12, Move Silently +15, Perform (wind instruments) +14, Profession (herbalist) +10, Sense Motive +12, Sleight of Hand +13, Spellcraft +12, Spot +12
Possessions combat gear plus masterwork composite longbow (+2), amulet of mighty fists +1, bracers of armor +2, ring of protection +2, cloak of Charisma +2, gloves of Dexterity +2, masterwork flute

Whirlwind (Su) Once every 10 minutes, Dunyazad can transform herself into a whirlwind up to 50 feet tall, up to 30 feet wide at the top, and 5 feet wide at the base. She can remain in whirlwind form for up to 7 rounds; see page 114 in the Monster Manual for more details.
Air Mastery (Ex) Airborne foes take a -1 penalty on attack and damage rolls against Dunyazad.

Tactics: Dunyazad has a mischievous streak and seldom leaves strangers alone. She also has no intention of allowing bandits or evil monsters to use the oasis as a base for raiding settlements and trade routes nearby. To that end, she usually flits around invisibly and studies strangers carefully.

She sometimes tests a newcomer's mettle by casting charm person and luring the subject deep into the oasis for a conversation about his group's business at the oasis. She also might create a persistent image of a group of desert brigands digging up (or burying) a chest crammed with treasure and then binging on drink, falling into a deadly fight, or simply slinking off into the shadows. Dunyazad finds strangers' reactions to this image quite instructive.

Occasionally, Dunyazad sows dissention among strangers by using her Sleight of Hand skill to pickpocket key items from them. She may switch valuable items between characters or steal them altogether (though she usually doesn't do that unless she plans to attack).

In a fight, Dunyazad reads a displacement scroll and whistles for the oasis cats -- she has trained them to answer her call. She then casts glitterdust on the foe and uses her bardic music to inspire courage in the cats. While maintaining the effect, Dunyazad uses her Spring Attack feat to deliver slams to whichever foe seems most dangerous. After a few rounds, Dunyazad stops maintaining the inspire courage effect and uses suggestion or Tasha's hideous laughter on physically dangerous foes. Against spellcasters, she uses sound burst aimed to miss the cats, if possible. Once all the cats are killed or driven off, Dunyazad assumes whirlwind form and charges through the foe's ranks.

About the Authors

Skip Williams keeps busy with freelance projects for several different game companies and was the Sage of Dragon Magazine for 18 years. Skip is a co-designer of the D&D 3rd Edition game and the chief architect of the Monster Manual. When not devising swift and cruel deaths for player characters, Skip putters in his kitchen or garden (rabbits and deer are not Skip's friends) or works on repairing and improving the century-old farmhouse that he shares with his wife, Penny, and a growing menagerie of pets.

Penny Williams joined the roleplaying game industry as Game Questions Expert for TSR, Inc. in the 1980s. Since then, she has served as RPGA Network Coordinator, PolyhedronNewszine editor, and Senior Editor and Coordinating Editor for the RPG R&D Department at Wizards of the Coast, Inc. Now a busy freelancer, Penny edits for several game companies and runs the online playtesting program for Wizards products. When not enhancing the cruelty of the deaths PCs will suffer at the hands of designers, Penny puts up jam, works jigsaw puzzles, and tutors students in math and science.

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