"The land of Arir - a once peaceful desert country, dotted with oases, teeming with caravans - fell into the hand of infidels. The ruler, the dearly loved Sultan Amhara, was killed in the battle for the capital city of Khaibar. He left behind one of the greatest treasure stores ever amassed - jewels and coins, more than anyone had ever seen before or since - and in addition, the Cup and Talisman of Al'Akbar.
A deadly plague sweeps your land. The holy men say that if only they had the Talisman, they could create cures for this dread disease. Many adventurers have tries and failed to find the Cup and Talisman. Now it is your turn. Find these treasures, and save your people!
The journey is exciting, but treacherous. Do not be distracted by exotic sights and sounds, the strange foods.
You must avoid being discovered by Al'Farzikh and his brigands, as you infiltrate the palace. Be wary - what is most beautiful may be most deadly, and what seems useless may be priceless."
I9: "Day of Al'Akbar" (1986), by Allen Hammack, is the ninth Intermediate-level adventure for AD&D. It was published in August 1986.
About the Cover. The cover shows three lingerie-clad women in what might be a harem. It's not particularly titillating, but the reviews made it clear that it was a big change for TSR. Carl Sargent in White Dwarf #87 (March 1987) called it a "sexploitation cover". Tom Zunder in Adventurer #6 (January 1987) was even more explicit about the context, and why it had changed, writing, "Gary Gygax really must have left Lake Geneva at last … [for he] was really keen on the 'family' image — and these playboy lasses on the front cover would certainly not have passed in the old days".
Origins (I): The Intermediaries. I9: "Day of Al'AKbar" (1986) was another supplement in TSR's long line of "I" Intermediate-level adventures (1981-1988). After a run of four Hickman adventures (1983) the "I" line had once more settled into being a series of unconnected adventures written by a variety of authors. "Day of Al'AKbar" thus followed I8: "Ravager of Time" (1986) by the TSR UK team of Graeme Morris and Jim Bambra.
Origins (II): Pick an Artifact, Any Artifact. When Allen Hammack, now a freelancer, was contracted to write "Day of Al'Akbar", he wanted to dig up something "from the very early days of D&D". He settled on the game's artifacts, because he thought they were cool but "no DM in our group dared allow any player character near one of those things". He ended up selecting the Cup and Talisman of Al'Akbar as his macguffins because they were "the least likely to destroy a campaign".
Artifacts had occasionally appeared in D&D adventures prior to "Day of Al'Akbar". Some were new, like the three named weapons in S2: "White Plume Mountain" (1979) and the Ring of Eibon in X2: "Castle Amber" (1981), while the Dragonlance Chronicles adventures (1984-1986) had highlighted some classic artifacts: the Dragon Orbs. However writing a whole adventure focused on one of D&D's classic artifacts was definitely a novelty (and one that would be repeated several times in the '90s).
Origins (III): A History of the Cup and Talisman of Al'Akbar. The Cup and Talisman of Akbar were created by Neal Healey for The Strategic Review v2 #2 (April 1976), alongside the lesser-known "Staff of the Priest Kings" and "Brazen Bottle". In that first appearance, they were clearly artifacts of Allah.
They returned as the Cup and Talisman of Al'Akbar in the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide (1979). The references to Allah were removed, and the artifacts were now clearly part of the World of Greyhawk, as they were given to the Paynims (a real word, meaning non-Christians, especially Muslims!) following the Invoked Devastation, then lost to the Bandit Kingdoms.
Origins (IV): Arabic Sources. Using the artifacts of Al'Akbar required Hammack to create an Arabic-influenced adventure. Though there's a dungeon crawl that isn't as heavily Arabic-themed, the rest of the adventure, with its city, its sultan's palace, and its many colorful peoples, feels like it could have used 1001 Arabian Nights (1704) as a source.
This was a first for D&D, which wouldn't return to heavy Arabic theming until the Al-Qadim line (1992-1994). However, it wasn't a first for the "I" product line, which had featured quite varied settings, primarily thanks to Tracy Hickman's Egyptian-themed Desert of Desolation adventures (1983) and his Gothic I6: "Ravenloft" (1983).
Adventure Tropes: Dungeon Crawls. Though the first part of "Day of Al'Akbar" is a fairly traditional sewer crawl and tomb crawl, the rest of the adventure is quite open, supporting wilderness travel, urban exploration and a palace exploration. It's all keyed to numbered encounters, like any traditional crawl, but the environments allow for much more variety of action.
Adventure Tropes: Player Numbers. The old D&D modules were much looser in their player requirements. Thus, "Day of Al'Akbar" asks for 6-8 characters of levels 8-10. It's notable both because the range was very wide (possibly running as low as 48 total levels or as high as 80!) and because the expected player count was very high (6 to 8, instead of the 4 that would develop as a new standard in the 21st century).
However, "Day of Al'Akbar was troubled by even wider inconsistency. Its inside cover says 5-10 characters of levels 4-8 and its 8 pre-generated characters are levels 9-12. These wide inconsistencies suggest how much these level listings were determined by the seat of one's pants. If you want to actually play "Day of Al'Akbar", the best advice is probably in the introduction, which suggests total character level should be 70-80.
Exploring Greyhawk. Though the Dungeon Masters Guide places the Cup and Talisman of Al'Akbar in Greyhawk, this is a generic adventure that can't easily be placed in the World of Greyhawk setting. Nonetheless, if you want to return the artifacts to their original setting, look for Braggi's "Refitting I9 Day of Al-Akbar for Greyhawk" article on Canonfire!
Artifacts of Note. Obviously, "Day of Al'Akbar" spotlights the Cup and Talisman of Al'Akbar.
About the Creators. Hammack became a game editor TSR in 1978, after which he contributed to many products, including design work on C2: "The Ghost Tower of Inverness" (1980), A3: "Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords" (1981) and Monster Manual II (1983). This was a much later work, done as a freelancer after Hammack had left TSR and opened a game and book store in Birmingham, Alabama.
About the Product Historian
The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.