Spires of Xin-Shalast – 3
Having killed the white dragon Vestmer, the party realise that they now have no way of finding the dragon’s treasure. There is an attempt to use Speak with Dead, and bargain with it with a promise to bring it back if it tells them where the treasure can be found. However, they don’t trust it, it doesn’t trust them (which was probably sensible, since they were planning on using Reincarnation on it, which may have brought it back as a Kobold), so they leave it to die. It saves me from having to come up with Reincarnation tables for dragons though.
I have their ranger guide Harsk suggest that he could use Create Treasure Map on it, though it requires him to learn the spell overnight and cast it early the next morning. This spell requires some skin of a creature killed, so he skins part of the dragon’s hide and takes it with him.
They turn back to mist form and fly up the river and higher into the mountains, where they spot the log cabin of the Vekker brothers ahead. As they approach it, the weather begins to take a turn for the worse and they hear a howl in the distance which (due to some poor Knowledge checks) none of them recognise. At the cabin, they are a bit more successful in noticing the claw marks on the outside of the cabin, and the strangely fortified roof (there was a dragon in the area after all), but fail to identify the (un)dead tree for what it is, until it awakens and tries to consume them. Flaming swords and fireballs make quite short work of it though.
There is some discussion about whether to go in through the top of the cabin or the front door at the ground level, and they decide to use the front door. The adventure seems to assume they will, but at this level with the common availability of fly spells I think there’s probably evens chance that a party would go in through the top.
Inside the cabin they encounter their first haunt – the spirit of a dwarf stuffing gold dust into his mouth that tries to persuade them that the arsenic laden dust that covers the floor is really tasty. Only Solassar is convinced – but only for a moment. Fortunately for him, he’d run out of the room as soon as the haunt manifested, and by the time he moved back in to try a mouthful his rogue’s slippery mind ability had shaken off the suggestion.
Upstairs, they easily navigate the traps and quickly locate the hidden room with the brothers’ ledger. The adventure itself doesn’t say much more about the ledger other than mentioning it contains some notes and maps about the mines, and that there are some pages torn out. I did provide a chance to find out a bit more information from various skill checks – Intelligence, Profession (Miner and Merchant), Survival and Linguistics or Profession (Scribe). Each skill would provide different types of information about the content. For those without the skills (or the time to sit and read), I did provide a small handout for what was written either side of the missing pages:
One of the bits of preparation that took more time than it should was figuring out the time table of events for the ill-fated dwarven expeditions. I finally decided that they found the hidden city in 4676, and went back again in 4683. I think this is a bit later than implied, but a more recent date makes it easier to explain the good condition of the cabin. It was at about this time that one of the players, who hadn’t been feeling great at the start of the evening, decided that they had to drop out at that point, so Esheire sat down in a corner to read the ledger, leaving the others to explore further.
Avoiding the outside porch for now, they soon encountered a pile of bones and managed to trigger another haunt. This one I had concerns about, since depending on who triggered it, it could have been either deadly or ineffective. As it turns out, it was Grodak of the ridiculously high AC that triggered it, and even with 10 attacks a round it barely managed to scratch him.
As I feared though, I managed to play the haunts wrong. I don’t think it was a problem as far as the adventure went, but I do find haunts a bit complicated since they have quite different rules, plus I read up on these particular ones weeks ago and didn’t refresh my memory beyond want I had in Roll20 – which as it turned out wasn’t quite enough. However, my modification to my initiative scripts which forced haunts to always go on initiative 10 worked and was helpful.
Soon after that, the party heard a knocking from down below, and it became apparent that they were assuming a very literal interpretation of what the haunts wanted as they tried to find specific items that the individual apparitions seemed to want. As the whole cabin began to shake as if being hammered from the outside, I decided to end the evening. For the reveal of what the haunts are actually after I wanted all the players to be there and conscious, so that they would all get a chance to find out what the Vekker brother really needs.