The plot begins when the protagonist, a son of the prosperous Al-Hazrad family, completes his training as a Corsair and returns home to marry his beloved fiancée, Princess Kara. However, the genie in service to the Al-Hazrads inexplicably attacks the Caliph's ship, leaving Kara missing and the Al-Hazrads facing the Caliph's wrath. The protagonist must clear his family's name, find the princess, and defeat whoever was really responsible.
The game was released in 1994, having been developed by Cyberlore Studios and published by SSI. Al-Qadim differs considerably from SSI's other Forgotten Realms games (such as the Gold Box series), being more action-focused and less customisable. It features real-time combat, puzzle-solving, and occasional stealth.
- 3/4 View: This is the perspective used throughout the game. (This contrasts with most of SSI's other Forgotten Realms games, which use first-person perspective.)
- "Arabian Nights" Days: The overriding theme of the whole game. That's what the Al-Qadim setting was created for, after all.
- Badass Family: The entire Al-Hazrad family are quite the badasses. The player character is a corsair and plows through pirates, genies, sorcerer's dungeons and evil plots all by his lonesome. While your family is not playable, your elder brother Tarik is a corsair and Merchant Rogue himself, your elder sister Aliya is a sorceress who can fly, and your father and aunt are both accomplished sorcerers themselves. Only your mother is a quiet homemaker. Although she does command a genie, as does the rest of your family.
- Baleful Polymorph: When you find Princess Kara, she has been transformed into a monster. Fortunately, defeating the monster form reverses the spell.
- Bedlah Babe: About half the female characters (with the other half wearing things which are less revealing). Since the setting's "Arabian Nights" Days theme doesn't extend to its religion, the rules of Islamic Dress presumably aren't applied.
- Bewitched Amphibians: Your aunt has a house full of magically-produced frogs, although they didn't start as humans and weren't meant to be frogs. Rather, she was trying to turn chickens into beautiful white stallions as a present for you, but got frogs instead (that is, after first getting fish, leopards, and monkeys).
- Crazy Jealous Guy: The sorcerer Farid Al-Mutan is a little way down this road, being paranoid that his wife will be seduced by another man. He is therefore keen to keep you a heroic, swashbuckling, Walking Shirtless Scene away from her. He doesn't go so far as to drive you away, but he does make pointed remarks to you about how dishonourable any hypothetical wife-seducer would surely be, and he asks your word that you'll never seek out his wife's company. His wife, should she learn of his jealousy, takes her husband to task for being silly she's loyal to him and he should trust her.
- Evil Chancellor: The Caliph and his Vizier have a magical telepathic link, and after the vizier turns down one of your requests, you are approached by a noble named Obdel who tells you that the link actually allows the Vizier to control the Caliph's mind. He sends you on a mission to infiltrate the Vizier's quarters, where a diary can be found to corroborate this. The diary is actually a (rather clumsy) fake. The Caliph is being mentally influenced, but it's by Obdel's masters. The Vizier is trying to fight them off, so Obdel is trying to get him out of the way.
- Feuding Families: Two cases:
- Your own family, the Al-Hazrads, have a long-running vendetta with another merchant family in town, the Wassabs. An early quest involves helping the local Qadi (magistrate/mayor) establish a formal treaty peace between the two. This is achieved just in time for the Al-Hazrads' genie to go rogue and sink a ship belonging to the Wassab family, undoing all the work.
- Later, you visit an island where a war between its two clans has been going on for years (despite the island's tiny size and the huge cost of the conflict to both sides). If you want, you can figure out that the incident which incited the conflict was engineered by the Nameless Masters in order to distract the islanders; doing this allows the feud to be ended.
- Forced into Evil: The island of Aballat is used to store portions of peoples' souls, so as to control or torment them. The guards overseeing the island, however, are themselves magically controlled. This backfires on their masters, however, since some of them are quite eager to fail in their jobs of keeping you away.
- Genie in a Bottle: We don't see any literal bottles, but the idea of genies being bound to serve masters is important to the plot. The Al-Hazrad family (to which you belong) is wealthy thanks to its genie, and near the start of the game, the fact that said genie nearly drowns the Caliph in a storm causes the Al-Hazrads to be imprisoned (except for you). You know that your family wouldn't have given any such orders, and must therefore Clear Their Name.
- Healing Spring: The oasis near Zaratan can have healing properties, but you have to go to the right place not all of its waters are magical.
- Heir-In-Law: The Caliph's daughter is due to marry a son of the Al-Hazrad family (you). However, the Al-Hazrads' genie nearly drowns the Caliph in a storm, and he decides that his soon-to-be in-laws aren't content with just securing the marriage they want the him out of the way so that they seize the throne. The Caliph accepts that the you were ignorant of the plot yourself, since you helped rescue him, but the other Al-Hazrads are imprisoned.
- Identical Twin ID Tag: The djinn sisters, Khanah Satarah and Khanah Bubishah, always talk with you together, but they fly around too much for you to keep track of which is which. Instead, you have to remember that Satarah wears red and Bubishah wears blue. They frequently test you to see if you know which sister you're addressing.
- La Résistance: As Al-Qadim's government becomes more oppressive, people are starting to organise resistance. The leader is Sumia, the Caliph's cook, who helps you get where you need to go. In the end, the Caliph turns out to have been under the mental control of the real villains, who you defeat, so a revolution isn't needed.
- Life Energy: The Nameless Masters are deriving magic by stealing this from their captives.
- Our Genies Are Different: In keeping with the overall Forgotten Realms lore, and the Al-Qadim setting in particular. The elemental division is clearly made an efreet (fire) is different from a djinn (air) is different from a dao (earth) is different from a marid (water). The "three wishes" thing doesn't really come up, although the broader subject of controlling genies is highly relevant.
- Our Mermaids Are Different: The oasis near Zaratan is home to a pahari, who can turn from mermaid-like to human at will. She provides you with a certain amount of help, and also turns out to be married to the sorcerer Farid Al-Mutan, who provides more assistance later on.
- Random Encounters: When travelling between islands, there is a chance of your ship being boarded by either pirates or water elementals. These have to be fought off before you can continue.
- Royal Harem: The Caliph has one, and you have to sneak into it at one point in order to collect a key from the one of the women there. She is part of a conspiracy to provide you with proof of the Vizier's treachery which is fabricated, as the real conspiracy is against the Caliph himself and is opposed by the Vizier.
- Save the Princess: The caliph's daughter, Princess Kara, goes missing shortly after the start of the game. After being rescued, she marries the protagonist (although the two were already in love and engaged when she went missing, so it isn't a straight case of Rescue Romance or Standard Hero Reward).
- Turtle Power: When the protagonist needs to leave the island on which the game begins, he is given a magic phrase to summons a turtle which can carry him.
- Voice Changeling: This is done to your brother by the Nameless Masters, which is what enabled them to take control of the Al-Hazrad's genie. In this case, the method involves stealing the original voice and bottling it, rather than simply duplicating it. (Another character has had her voice removed by the same method, but in her case, it was just to deprive her of it, not to use it.)
- Walking Shirtless Scene: The player character, in accordance with Orientalist tradition.
- Your Soul Is Mine: The Nameless Masters are controlling various people and monsters throughout Al-Qadim thanks to having stolen parts of their souls their honour, for example, or their joy. These are hidden in bottles, which you can smash to free them.