Knacks: Agonize, Comprehension, Messenger, Sympathy, Synergy
Apprentice Degree: Binding
Adept Degree: Service
Master Degree: Solidarity
No one in the Crescent Empire doubts that the Djinn are (or were: it has been many years since anyone has seen one of the Djinn and recognized it as such) among the most powerful creatures in the Empire, with mystical abilities far surpassing even the mightiest mortal Sorcerers. Some of these abilities (the elemental Sorcery known as Sha’ir) were granted to mortals in exchange for some favor or pleasure the decadent godlings craved. Others (the ability to fly, to change form or appearance, to turn invisible, and many others) were shared passively, as the Djinn used these powers to advance the interests of whatever mortals had caught their fancy.
However, the greatest gift a Djinn could give was to share a portion of its pure essence through the Sorcery known as Al-Qadim (“covenant”). While almost all Djinn were Full-Blooded in the Sorcery and could use a handful of its tricks, they could only access the full power of Al-Qadim by binding themselves to a mortal. They accomplished this through an ancient ritual; a Djinn separated a small part of its life force from the real world and placed it into an inanimate object, which was then entrusted to a mortal. This gave the mortal a substantial degree of control over the Djinn, and that control could be passed onto a mortal’s descendants (or even stolen by an unscrupulous rival). Consequently, Djinn generally placed their trust only in the most deserving and (seemingly) trustworthy mortals, who were strong or well-protected enough to retain possession of the item.
Among vain or self-important Djinn (the Jann or, very rarely, the Ifrit), the bound item was usually a great treasure: a sword with a golden hilt encrusted with jewels, a ring set with a flawless diamond, or some similar object. More discerning Djinn (the Ba-jehn and the Yemman) tended to choose objects that were likely to be ignored. A leather bracelet, a sturdy but ordinary hat, or even a simple brass lamp were unlikely to earn a second glance or get stolen, and thus were easier to keep track of and keep hidden from potential thieves.
Being the recipient of a bonded item has no effect on a mortal’s appearance or personality (though mortals with a Djinn largely under their control may grow cocky on their own). The bonded Djinn seems a little less “real” to onlookers: they are slightly translucent and a bit “fuzzy” around the edges. This has no effect on the Djinn’s status among its peers; among the Djinn, there is no shame in being bound to a mortal, and many of them (with the exception of most Ifrit) see this as the highest calling of their kind.
At this level of Mastery, a Djinn can perform the ritual necessary to bind itself to an item. The ritual is not taxing in any way, requiring nothing more than an hour or so and a willingness to complete the deed. Once the ritual is complete, the Djinn may hold onto the item, place it in its personal hoard of treasure, or give it away. The bearer of a Djinn’s bound item gains the following powers:
- The bearer may spend Drama Dice from the bound Djinn’s personal pool as if they were his own.
- The bearer may summon the bound Djinn to his side effortlessly. In combat, this requires an Action. Out of combat, it happens instantaneously.
- The bearer may require the bound Djinn to spend an additional Action Die to take any Action he does not approve of.
At the Adept level of Mastery, a Djinn may spend an Action and a Drama Die to use the Minor Effect of one of his Al-Qadim Knacks. This is the highest level power a Djinn may exercise without assistance from the mortal who carries its bound item.
At this level of Mastery, a Djinn has access to the Major Effects of its Al-Qadim Knacks, though it may not use these advanced powers on its own. Once the Djinn spends an Action and a Drama Die to use a Minor Effect, the bearer of its bound item may choose to spend one of his own Drama Dice to increase the Minor Effect to a Major Effect. The bearer of the bound item is under no obligation to do so; likewise, he may choose to spend a Drama Die to escalate the Effect even if the bound Djinn does not want him to.
Agonize. The knowledge of how to break off a part of its own essence gives a Djinn insight into the mortal condition. Although fully severing an unwilling individual’s soul is nearly impossible, it is not difficult to tug on it a bit. Having one’s soul “tugged” feels unpleasant to say the least.
Minor Effect: Activate this Effect and choose another character you can see. For the next Action he takes within a number of Phases equal to your Rank in this Knack, or until the end of the Round (whichever comes first), he must either spend an extra Action Die for that Action (it does not need to be legal), suffer a number of Kept Dice of Flesh Wounds equal to your Mastery Level in Al-Qadim, or lose his Action Die without effect.
Major Effect: The bearer of a Djinn’s bound item may escalate the effect of its Antagonize by spending a Drama Die. He may choose a second character to afflict with Agonize, or he may increase the power of the Djinn’s Antagonize. In the latter case, the character the Djinn selected must overcome the effects of Antagonize two separate times on his next Action. He can choose to overcome Antagonize in different ways if he wishes: by spending three total Action Dice to perform that Action, or by suffering 6k6 Flesh Wounds, or by spending two total Action Dice and suffering 3k3 Flesh Wounds.
Comprehension. A remnant of the ancient rites and studies of the Djinn of the Crescent Empire, this power allows the Djinn and its allies to seek understanding of their opposition.
Minor Effect: Activate this Effect to grant the ability to communicate with a monster, spirit, ghost, Djinn, or similar creature to all characters in the immediate vicinity. The nature of this communication will vary from creature to creature; it may simply allow the creature to understand your ordinary speech (and vice versa), or it may forge a mental link that transmits primal emotions and desires which transcend language. This Effect does not guarantee anyone’s safety, nor compel the creature to any action or inaction; it only allows communication. This Effect lasts for a number of Rounds equal to your Rank in this Knack.
Major Effect: The bearer of a Djinn’s bound item may activate this Effect to compel a monster, spirit, ghost, Djinn, or similar creature who has been targeted by the bound Djinn to obey his will. He may name a single, explicit task for the creature to complete, and the creature cannot refuse. In order to take any Action which does not further the command, the creature must spend an additional Action Die and a Drama Die. The compulsion ends after a number of Rounds equal to the bound Djinn’s Rank in this Knack. Note that the creature is entirely aware of the compulsion it has been placed under, and will almost certainly not take kindly to being enslaved if it is intelligent.
Messenger. The Djinn places himself in danger so that his allies need not. This power allows the Djinn to communicate with its companions, even while they remain at a safe distance.
Minor Effect: A Djinn may activate this Effect and, for the rest of the Scene, it may communicate telepathically with the bearer of its bound item across a distance of one mile for every Rank the Djinn has in this Knack.
Major Effect: The bearer of a Djinn’s bound item may activate this Effect. For the rest of the Scene, the Djinn and the bearer of its bound item shares all of their senses with one another. Anything that one of them sees, hears, smells, feels, or tastes, the other senses as well. The range of this ability is one mile for every Rank the Djinn has in this Knack.
Sympathy. The bond between a Djinn and the holder of its bound item allows injuries to be transferred so that the Djinn may protect its ally from harm. Physical wounds and pain alike can be transferred in this way.
Minor Effect: The Djinn may activate this effect when the bearer of its bound item suffers any amount of Flesh Wounds. Roll dice equal to Sympathy + Mastery Level in Al-Qadim, keeping Mastery Level. Reduce the number of Flesh Wounds the bearer of the bound item takes by this amount. The Djinn takes as many Flesh Wounds as it prevents in this way.
Major Effect: The bearer of a Djinn’s bound item may activate this Effect whenever his Djinn absorbs some of the Flesh Wounds he has suffered. The Djinn takes half as many Flesh Wounds (rounded down) as the bearer of the item would have taken.
Synergy. A Djinn’s shared bond with the bearer of its bound item gives it a unique insight on how to move and strike, creating opportunities and openings for its allies that would not otherwise exist.
Minor Effect: The Djinn may activate this Effect whenever it causes any number of Flesh Wounds to another character or creature. It may choose another character within ten feet per its Rank in this Knack; that character may immediately take an Action by spending an Action Die, even if it is not legal.
Major Effect: The bearer of a Djinn’s bound item may activate this Effect whenever the bound Djinn inflicts any number of Flesh Wounds on another character or creature. He may select an additional number of characters equal to the Djinn’s Mastery Level in Al-Qadim (including himself). Those characters can immediately take an Action by spending an Action Die, even if it is not legal.
Game Master’s Secrets
It may seem counterintuitive that a Djinn would choose to place itself in a position of subservience to a mere mortal, not just for a short time or the space of a battle, but for so long as the bound item exists, passed down from generation to generation. In fact, there are several reasons a Djinn may make this choice (or have the choice made for it):
- Honor. A Djinn may have lost a bet or a duel, and this is the consequence of the loss. Or a mortal may have aided the Djinn in some way and receive a bound item in repayment.
- Fascination. A Djinn may be utterly smitten with a particular mortal, and present him with a bound item as a token of affection.
- Duty. The Djinn (even the wicked Ifrit) are absolutely dedicated to maintaining the Barrier, and one will gladly sacrifice a portion of its essence to assist a mortal who will have a hand in defending it.
- Ambition. A Djinn may crave gold or temporal power, and surrender part of itself to a mortal who will help it accumulate the object of its desire.
- Friendship. Though rare, a Djinn may strike up a genuine friendship with a mortal, and the Djinn may feel inspired to give a bound item as a gift to its friend or its friend’s children.
Al-Qadim is one of nine counter-Sorceries that oppose the nine Bargainer’s Arts. Provided to humankind by the alliance of the Sidhe, the Djinn, the dragons of Cathay, Matushka, and Theus, these magics may strengthen the Barrier, eliminate threats to the Barrier (to wit: Sorcerers), or prepare mortals to oppose the creatures on the other side. Al-Qadim is one of the latter Sorceries, providing valuable tools and weapons to mortals who, consequently, will not need to rely on the Bargainers’ Sorcery to sustain themselves. Although it is rare, it is not unheard of for a mortal to be blessed (cursed?) with the Sorcery of Al-Qadim, and forced to bind himself to another mortal (typically a spouse, child, or other close family member) to realize his full Sorcerous potential.
On the other hand, there may be some wicked Sorcerer who seeks out a bound item so that he may add the might of a Djinn to his already impressive powers. Were such a thing to happen, the Djinn would surely seek out a band of heroes to thwart him…