A Jinn (also djinn or genie) is one of a class of spirit creatures from Middle Eastern (primarily Arabic) myth that might be considered local equivalents to a variety of creatures, many of which would be called fairies in European myth. Although emphatically pre-Islamic, the jinni are described in the Quran as beings created from pure and smokeless fire and free willed like mankind, able to chose between good and evil1. Some may be pious and of good character, but they are generally thought to be tricky at best and often downright hostile. More generally, jinni may be suspected behind any sort of haunting or misfortune and many kinds are said to occupy desert places and ruins looking to entrap and murder or enslave passers by.
Classification of jinni is somewhat opaque, although the most powerful class are often called Marid and there are also said to be the particularly savage race of ifriti. Ghuls are also considered to be jinn in many tellings. Powers vary immensely, from vast sorcerous potency to the ability to impersonate humans with varying degrees of competence. Particularly minor jinni may be unable even to manifest a physical body and be restricted to hanging about incorporeally making a nuisance of themselves by stealing items, causing bad luck and generally being aggravating.
Arabic wizards - known as Sha'ir - are thought to do most of their business either by bargaining with jinni or by enslaving them and forcing them to do their bidding. They, and an assortment of holy men (not least Solomon) are also said to have left a trail of bound jinni, confined in containers such as the mythical magic lamp2 … releasing one such from imprisonment is said to compel it to reward its benefactor, but may not be worth the effort given that some of them will have been imprisoned for very good reasons3.
Game and Story Use
- Up to the setting designer how much a jinn is a separate type of critter and how much it is a middle eastern hat on something universal. To avoid race inflation the latter is recommended.
- The idea of free-willed supernatural beings is also an unusual one in many cultures - the idea that a spirit being might have a personality not directly linked to its species.