Mystara Monday: Module X3 – Curse of Xanathon

It's time again for a look at a bit of D&D history. This week we've got another Expert level adventure, X3: Curse of Xanathon, by Douglas Niles. This adventure takes the party to another new area of the map, the Kingdom of Vestland, along the northern coast.

Mystara Monday: Module X3 - Curse of Xanathon
This scene will only occur if the PCs go the wrong way.
This is somewhat emblematic of the adventure as a whole.

The adventure takes place in the town of Rhoona, ruled by Duke Stephen (no, a different Duke Stephen). Rhoona is a decent sized town located on a fjord near the border with the dwarven nation of Rockhome. As such, there's a sizable dwarf population, many of whom have been employed by the Duke to construct a new palace. There is also a growing population of immigrants from the Ethengar Khanate.

The Ethengarians have brought their religion with them and have recently constructed a temple to their god, Cretia who is mysterious and strange and not at all evil at all, no really. This being early D&D, we need one church for each of the alignments. Cretia fills the Chaotic slot; in addition we have the Lawful Order of Forsetta and the best neutral church ever imagined, the Temple of the Spuming Nooga. The Spuming Nooga is worshiped by fishermen and sailors, takes the form of a giant spouting whale, and is the only one of these three that is neither evil nor an idiot.

As the adventure begins, the party are in a tavern (take a drink) in Rhoona and have learned that the Duke has recently been issuing strange decrees. First he declared that all taxes must be paid in beer, causing a beer shortage which has the dwarves in particular even crankier than normal. Then he declared that all horses must be ridden backwards while in town. A herald then announces the latest decree, that all dwarves are now banned from town. Any found within town after an hour has passed will be arrested, shaved, and stretched on a rack.

This gets the dwarves in the tavern in a bit of an uproar and one dwarven stonemason (who is wearing plate mail and carrying a battle axe because dwarves? I guess?) starts going on about how Draco Stormsailer, the captain of the guard, behind all of this. If the PCs approach him, he'll tell them there've been strange people hanging around the guard barracks and that someone should check it out. If they don't the high priest of Forsetta, who is hanging out disguised as a beggar, will whisper a cryptic clue as he passes. Apparently he has a good idea of what's going on, but can't take any action because he's lawful. And somehow that means he can't oppose an attempt to undermine his lawful ruler by dark magic, or something. I think Niles seriously misunderstands the definition of lawful here.

What's going on is that Draco is attempting to foment rebellion against the duke so that he can depose Duke Stephen and take his place. He's aided in this by Xanathon, the High Priest of Cretia, who has cursed the Duke with something similar to a feeblemind spell. Since Cretia aided him in inflicting the curse (as opposed to most cleric spells?) it can't just be removed in the normal fashion, an antidote is needed. Guess who has that? Also Xanathon is entirely invulnerable because Cretia stuck his soul in a diamond which is hidden in a shrine up in the mountains. Also, also, Xanathon is actually serving as an agent of the Khanate trying to weaken Rhoona so the Ethengarians can swoop in and conquer it.

The adventure, then, consists of five parts. First up, go to the barracks to try and find out what the hell's going on. The adventure basically assumes the players just start murdering their way through the guards to get to Draco, which seems a bit unheroic? Apparently directly opposing a villain is 'unlawful' but sending a bunch of dudes to kill all the towns guards is allowed? The adventure even makes it clear in the background that most of the guard, while loyal to Draco, have no idea what he's up to. Once they've reached Draco's room, the players find that he's not home, but he left an encrypted note on the table and a Helm of Reading Languages and Magic in a chest nearby.

Mystara Monday: Module X3 - Curse of Xanathon
Also, isn't it super cool to be evil like you and I both are?

While the adventurers were busy with that the Duke has outlawed fire, because it makes the sun jealous. With the evidence they now have, its presumed the players will go to the Temple of Cretia next to confront Xanathon. If they don't, the priest of Forsetta will get cryptic at them about it again. Fighting their way through a bunch of evil clerics, they will find Xanathon only to discover that he can't be harmed! He's super arrogant and riddles at them about it, as well as having a map on the wall with a big red mark where his super secret soul diamond is being kept. If the PCs are smart, they jump out the handy window and run like buggery. If they're not, he bludgeons them to death one by one with his mace and laughs.

Assuming the adventurers got a good look at the map while Xanathon was beating on them, they should now travel into the mountains to find the Shrine of Cretia. On the way out, they hear that the Duke has declared that meat is for horses now. There are a couple of paths once they get near the shrine; one leads to the chimera from the cover, the other to the shrine. The shrine is a short dungeon with fairly typical monsters; a bunch of various undead, some ogres, gargoyles, so on. At the end, guarded by a spectre, is the diamond. The players might think they need to destroy it, but no, they need to take it back to Xanathon. Once it's near him, he'll be vulnerable.

Now that they have the diamond, the adventurers can take out Xanathon, recover the antidote, kill Draco, and restore the Duke. He is, of course, grateful and rewards the PCs. How he plans to keep the peace since his entire guard force was brutally murdered is not detailed. Maybe he hires the dwarven army that are coming to burn the town after he apologizes to them.

As I already said, Curse of Xanathon is disappointing. There are the bones of a good adventure here, but the execution is just terribly ham-handed. The basic idea of an agent from another country trying to foment rebellion by cursing the ruler is good; there's a definite Grima Wormtongue vibe to that. Duke Stephen could be used as a patron for the adventurers in the future since he owes them big. I feel like there's a lot work needed to bring the adventure up to snuff though. Also, it needs more Spuming Nooga.

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