Spires of Xin-Shalast 8
With a full set of players this week, the exploration of Guiltspur continues. Leaving the laboratory specimens untouched in their glass containers, the group heads further into the unexplored parts of the Silent Halls to find a pool of water being fed from above. As Grodok approaches it, it explodes in a sudden burst of movement, as two elder water elementals rise up and attack.
Though they are able to inflict some damage, but are mostly taken out with fireballs. I’m somewhat surprised that water elementals don’t have at least some resistance to fire (at least, as far as I could tell). Since meeting the Curator’s ghost when they first came down here, this was the only actual combat the party has had in these two sessions. I don’t see this as a problem, especially since there’s a lot of interesting descriptive material within the rooms, but it is a bit unusual for a Pathfinder adventure.
South of the large pool were two bubbles of water hanging in the air which seemed to contain some dark fish-like shapes. Grodok’s player identified them as Aboleth, even though Grodok himself has the intelligence of a wet kipper. There was also a relief that depicted the Aboleth’s manipulation of early humans, but outside the realm of Knowledge (Arcana) the characters are definitely very knowledge poor.
The Aboleth were left alone, mostly because everybody made their Will saves against the nightmares. Will saves were also made in fact against every potential nightmare in the Silent Halls, so a lot of potential ‘excitement’ was avoided.
Eventually, they made it around to a room containing the body of the Curator, and there is a brief discussion of doing something to bury the body, but instead they decide to simply loot it. By this time they have pretty much uncovered the map for the entire level:
This time around I had decided to lay out the entire map on the table (fortunately, it just barely fits), and then covered it with blank tiles. I normally lay the map tiles out as areas are uncovered, but unless rooms fit perfectly onto each tile, it doesn’t quite work, and hand drawing the map on the fly doesn’t provide as much detail. It could just display everything on the TV in Roll20, but I much prefer having real maps on the table, and just use Roll20 for my own use for tracking things ‘off the table’.
The final room they explored was a magic dwelling place beyond some painted doors, which included kitchens, bedrooms and more libraries. This was originally just a simple place to rest, but I had decided to flesh it out with a full library and a selection of magical meals.
Each meal provided a different set of bonus or effects which lasted 24 hours. The full list is below:
- Dragon Turtle soup with elven bread: Cured of sickness, nausea, does neutralised poison and remove disease.
- Fresh salad of Elysium: Cures all ability damage, cures 1d4 ability drain for each stat.
- Curried linnorm meat with rice: Fast healing 1 for 24 hours.
- Blue Cheeses and roasted mi go: +2 insight bonus to all saves for 24 hours.
- Roasted gug with garlic: +2 insight to attack and damage for 24 hours.
- Roasted Aboleth in a wine sauce: +4 insight bonus to all Knowledge and Lore checks for 24 hours.
- Fried giant scorpion: +2 insight concentration checks, caster level checks and spell DCs.
- Stewed Naga meat pie: +2 hitpoints / level for 24 hours (both current and maximum).
As well as a set of meals, I’d also played with the library rules. The idea behind them is a library has a number of knowledge points which can be reduced with the right knowledge skill checks. As the points are reduced, the library gives up more knowledge until it is exhausted. I had intended that there would need to be a decision made between spending days fully reading the library and heading off to find Xin-Shalast. However, I misjudged things and they fully exhausted the library in a couple of days.
The library had a total of 30 knowledge points (kp), and the information it released as it was ‘reduced’ is repeated below. I also allowed the group to rest up and gain XP at this point, which also meant levelling up to 16th level. Given I’d been holding off awarding them XP until they reached this point, it was a nice 100,000+ XP sum for them.
- Kp 27: Xin-Shalast was located near the headwaters of the River Avah, which was sacred to Desna back in the times of Thassilon. There was a road that led along the banks of the river, with watch towers and rest houses all along it. There are some sketches of the miletstones to mark the distance to the city, which may help finding the ruins of the path. Get +1 bonus when searching for Xin-Shalast.
- Kp 25: You find a discourse on the means by which Xin-Shalast might possibly be hidden in times of crisis, though the obscuring magics would be weakened during the light of the full moon.
- Kp 24: There is a description of some of the carvings on the cliffs along the path. If you can recognise these on your search, this may help. Gain a +1 bonus.
- Kp 21: You find a description of the fauna and flora of the River Avah and its environs, which may aid in relocating the lost river. Gain a +1 bonus to find the city.
- Kp 20: A treatise written by an apprentice of Karzoug named Khalib, that details some of the magical techniques his master uses. Provides a +1 bonus to saves versus Karzoug’s magic.
- Kp 18: There are some sketches of the rock formations through which the River Avah flowed, which might help identify the old path of the river. Gain a +1 bonus to find the city.
- Kp 15: There are military notes on the defensive towers that guarded the path to the city. You know what sort of ruins to look for. Gain a +1 bonus to find the city.
- Kp 12: Xin-Shalast partially existed in the realm of Leng, but exactly where in Leng this was is known only to the Runelord and some of his most trusted apprentices. The only known path to it was via the great mountain of Mhar Massif.
- Kp 10: Further notes by Khalib, which detail Karzoug’s defences. Provides a +1 bonus to spell DCs when casting offensive spells against Karzoug.
- Kp 9: The Runelords were always paranoid of being overthrown, and the Runelords of Greed were no exception. The path up Mhar Massif was shielded against all forms of magical travel, and only those that carried the mark of the Runelords were permitted.
- Kp 6: The most powerful of those who enforced the rule of the Runelords within Xin-Shalast were the Rune Giants and the Lamia priestesses.
- Kp 5: Further notes by Khalib, can force a re-roll (once) for either a saving throw that Karzoug makes against one of your spells, or a saving throw you make against one of his spells.
- Kp 3: The great mountain of Mhar Massif is not a natural formation, but created when the Great Old One known as Mhar tried to burrow into Golarian from Mhar’s Fossa in Leng, seeking the hot core of our world. It has done this before to other worlds, and each time after it has woken from its slumber, it has consumed that world in lava. When Sarenrae created the Dead Vault during the Age of Creation, she killed Mhar, but not permanently. When it awoke, it found itself trapped under Golarion’s crust and went insane. It was the psychic convulsions of Mhar that originally created the Kodar Mountains. By the time that Xin-Shalast was founded on the site of the old god, it had fallen into slumber again. Should it ever awaken, then Golarion would be destroyed.
- Kp 0: The sort of magic that was likely to be used to hide the city would be a mixture of illusions, mind confusions and planar obscurement. True sight might help, but only if it was up all the time. Gain a +8 bonus to any saves needed to overcome any such defences.
The above information not only gives them aid in finding Xin-Shalast (both mechanical, and also some background information which may help later), but provides some mechanical advantages for them when they finally confront Karzoug (assuming that they will make it that far).
At this point they have explored most of the level, with only a long corridor heading down left untouched. If they decide to go that way, then there’s not much else that will help them with Xin-Shalast, though they still have some desire to find the dragon Cadrilkasta (they consider that she has ‘their’ treasure, since she stole it from the Crag Linnorm before they defeated him, and they want it back). Whether they will go deeper, or head back is a decision that will be made next week.