Oasis of the Whistling Palms is suitable for levels 10-13
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.
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:
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 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.
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.
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
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.
©1995-2008 Wizards of the Coast, Inc., a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc. All Rights Reserved.