This text is an attempt to make a players guide to Zakhara, the society described in the AD&D(tm) Al-Qadim(tm) series. Most of this text is an extract of the Arabian Adventures source-book, the Land of Fate box- set, and The Complete Sha'ir's Handbook. It also uses material from the Psionics Handbook and the Tome of Magic rulebooks. The text is meant to be a supplement for players, used as an addition to the Players Handbook for the AD&D role-playing game.

The Zakharan society is divided into to very separate groups, the Al- Hadhar (The city-dwellers) and the Al-Badia (Nomads). Note that there is no separation of the population on terms of race - an Elvish Al- Badia will most often feel closer to a Human Al-Badia than to an Elvish Al-Hadhar. The Zakharan society has absolutely no native racial tendencies; ogres, orcs and half-orcs are as much a part of the established socity as elves, humans and dwarves. The person is judged on the basis of his actions, not of his race.

The Al-Hadhar were above not very accurately described as city-dwellers. It would be more correct to describe them as the part of the population that lives a stationary life, be that in a city, a small village, or perhaps on an isolated farm-stead. The Al-Badia on the other hand, are nomads. Their life is centered around the deserts of Zakhara, where they live the often tough and difficult life of a wanderer. Both of the two groups are however very necessary to the Zakharan society, each supplying to the whole what the other cannot. The Al-Badia have their herds and their caravans, while the Al-Hadhar have their merchants, their crafts-men and their farmers. This is a fact often overlooked by the people themselves, the two groups are in general sceptical towards the other. Even the lowliest of Al-Hadhar consider themselves more cultured and civilized than any Al-Badia. They usually have a home, enough to eat and drink, and an easier life. Also, they have ordered priest performing their religious seremonies in mosques, and therefore consider themselves more pious and in accordance with the gods. The Al-Badia, on the other hand, consider it more pious to live under the open sky, daring the dangers of the deserts, where the whim of the gods is what in the end decides who lives and who does not. Also, the Al-Badia see the Al-Hadhar as soft, and pity what they see as lack of freedom.

There are several very important perspectives of life to the people of Zakhara. In the end, the way you live the life you have been given is what decides how the people around you view you. Rules are what govern the Zakharan society, rules set down by tradition, and by the Lore-giver. To a Zakharan, honour is the essence of everything. If a man has no honour, he is not a man. Being honourable and being good are very much the same thing in Zakhara. Everything you do or do not, in some way influences your honour. A deed will either give you more or less honour in the eyes of those around you. Crime is also an aspect of honour. To damage some other persons honour will by this other person and by most others be considered a crime for which restitution must be made. Sometimes an excuse is enough, sometimes it isn't. The result of no restitution would in most cases lead to a blood feud. Killing is not a crime if it is justified - though there are no clear rules as to what "justified" entails. Note, however, that only two crimes automatically leads to the death penalty; murder and improper love.

Another aspect of honour is family. The family is the most important thing in a Zakharan's life. Any act of one member of the family not only influences the honour of that person, but the honour of the whole family. Divorce is legal, and marriage is the only family tie that can be broken. Relatives of the blood will continue to influence the honour of a family for all time. Therefore a family will often kill a member of the family who seriously damages the honour of the family. Usually this happens if some family member have commited rape, or in any other way have acted improper with relations to love or signs of affection. It is important to avoid any unnecessary physical contact with someone you are not married to, otherwise it might be considered such an improper action.

Hospitality is essential. Custom and honour demands that you offer food and drink to anyone who pays you a visit - whether the guest is invited or not. But a guest who overstays his welcome equally debases his own honour by taxing on other unnecessarily. The bond of salt is important here. Once a guest have eaten salt from the table of the host, they are formally bonded, where the two owe each other mutual protection and help. Salt is considered as remaining in the body for three days.

Honour and religion are very much the same thing. Being honourable is demanded by any god in the Land of Fate, and an unhorouble man is also an impious one. A man without honour cannot expect to be found worthy by any god to enter the paradisical afterlife. Any person not pract- icing a religion, will be looked upon with disdain and lack of trust by Zakharans.

The most important criterias for begin considered a pious person, is to belong to an enlightened religion, to believe in fate and the word of the Loregiver. Fate, pictured as a woman, is said to have visited Zakhara many centuries ago. She then left all her wisdom and her teachings in the hands of a young girl, who through all the following centuries was known only as the Loregiver, the person to whom the task of bringing on the learning of the code of honourable behaviour. These ideals are embraced by all Zakharans, at least in theory.


bjornts@ii.uib.no