Spires of Xin-Shalast (GM Reference)


Rise of the Runelords

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Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Maps, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
TheOrganGrinder wrote:
1) Its effects are noted to cover the whole of the Spires of Xin-Shalast, but I don't know if it's specifically mentioned anywhere that this extends into the extraplanar Eye of Avarice.... Or is it intended that PCs who find out Karzoug's identity early in the adventure path should be able to peek into the Eye of Avarice with no more than normal difficulty for scrying on a powerful NPC in an extraplanar space?

Either way, frankly I'd never let Karzoug fail that will save. My players greatly enjoyed the reveal of Karzoug upon Mokmurian's defeat and I wouldn't let anything spoil that. But yes, I'd say that the barriers to scrying extend to the Eye.

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2) Does possession of a Sihedron medallion or Sihedron ring allow a character to bypass the occluding field's otherwise absolute barrier to divination effects, or does it 'merely' protection the character from the field's other effects (teleportation block, vertigo, damage, wisdom drain, blindess)?

I can't imagine any reason why Karzoug would make it easier to scry on him through those objects. In my game, they provided protection from the physical effects only. I didn't see anything in the AP to suggest otherwise.

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I'm toying with the idea that a Sihedron ring protects the wearer from all of the occluding field's effects, while the less-powerful Sihedron medallion does not - from an in-setting perspective, I feel as though Karzoug wouldn't carelessly hand out items that, if captured, would allow...

Xin-Shalast can be a bit of a slog. The occluding field wasn't a particularly fun thing, and there really isn't any reason to make it a major plot point. The main thing it does is it potentially forces some of them to wear the Sihedron medallions, which provides some entertainment when Karzoug speaks through their voice.


TomParker wrote:
Either way, frankly I'd never let Karzoug fail that will save. My players greatly enjoyed the reveal of Karzoug upon Mokmurian's defeat and I wouldn't let anything spoil that. But yes, I'd say that the barriers to scrying extend to the Eye.

This is about what I was leaning toward too. :)

TomParker wrote:
I can't imagine any reason why Karzoug would make it easier to scry on him through those objects. In my game, they provided protection from the physical effects only. I didn't see anything in the AP to suggest otherwise.

The description of the occluding field on page 342 of the Anniversary Edition notes that "the occluding field renders the entire area shown on the Spires of Xin-Shalast map on page 343 impenetrable to divination or scrying of any sort (though use of the Eye of Avarice to scry upon the outside world is not similarly barred)," and goes on to state that "a character who wears a Sihedron medallion or Sihedron ring can ignore the effects of the occluding field," and what I'm trying to determine here is how those two statements interact - whether the scrying/divination barrier is included in the effects that the Sihedron items allow the wearer to ignore, or if it's only the dangerous effects of the field (teleportation block, vertigo, damage, wisdom drain, blindess) that are ignored.

Khalib (p. 357-358) has arcane eye prepared, and has made several divination spells permanent upon himself, so either it's his Sihedron ring that allows those permanent spells to function (and makes his choice to prepare arcane eye a meaningful one), or those effects are suppressed until he leaves the occluding field, or "impenetrable to divination or scrying of any sort" applies only to spells and effects that pass into or out of the occluding field, rather than those that take place entirely within it - that last part is something I don't need to think about for many months though!

TomParker wrote:
Xin-Shalast can be a bit of a slog. The occluding field wasn't a particularly fun thing, and there really isn't any reason to make it a major plot point. The main thing it does is it potentially forces some of them to wear the Sihedron medallions, which provides some entertainment when Karzoug speaks through their voice.

Apologies if I wasn't clear about what I was considering here - if it's intended (or if I decide, for my group/table) that the scrying/divination barrier is among the effects that wearing a Sihedron item allows a character to ignore, then I was thinking about having that property apply only to Sihedron rings, not to the less-powerful Sihedron medallions - both types of item would allow their wearers to ignore the dangerous effects of the occluding field.

My players are a long way from Xin-Shalast and I don't know enough to anticipate what their reactions will be - could be that they want to press on immediately toward the Spires only to find themselves turned back by the occluding field until they've accumulated a sufficient number of Sihedron items, could be that they're happy to explore the sprawling lost city until events propel them onward.

Thank you for your thoughts on this!

Shadow Lodge

About Khalib, you can use divination spells while within the field, as long as their targets are also within the field. He could always cross the field's threshhold, Teleport somewhere else, then do that again to go back after doing his divinations to see where the PCs are.

Also, I feel like it's implied that the protection the Sihedron objects give in relation to the occluding field relates to being inside it, instead of divining/conjuring through it. Though I'd say, if a PC manages to Detect Scrying, and successfully make that caster level check, feel free to take that player aside and tell them they get a mental image of Karzoug offering a round of sarcastic applause.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

The occluding field "feels like an invisible force, almost like gravity, that seems to push against the intruders" (RotR AE p. 342).

Should I take this as flavour text, backed up by the effects described in the rest of the paragraph, or should I take it as an actual Repulsion effect (like the spell)?

I'm currently favouring the first option as there is no accompanying DC for a Will saving throw.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I personally wouldn't, but you can if you wish, though if you went that route, I'd recommend the Sihedron rings and amulets allow the PCs to ignore the repulsion effect as well.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Thanks for the answer. Like you suggested, I think that I'll skip defining it as a Repulsion effect mechanics-wise, and just go with the mechanics already delineated in RotR AE.

Liberty's Edge

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Self-pitying sigh.

Just finished the last session of my home Runelords game before driving our daughter to her first year of college, and my ability to deny she's leaving has come to an end.

My wife, daughter, son, their friend, and I started this AP on New Year’s Eve, 2014; tonight, we got through the Fen of the Icemists and the fight with the giants guarding the road to Xin-Shalast. The night ended as the PCs started up the gold-tinted path and caught their first glimpse of the city, much of it built from green marble, sparkling in the early dawn.

They got it, and I played "Follow the Yellow Brick Road" as we packed up for the night.

I hope everyone took good notes, because we probably won’t get to play again until December. #IcastSunriseSunset

Scarab Sages

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Tusk the Half-Orc wrote:
They got it, and I played "Follow the Yellow Brick Road" as we packed up for the night.

Nice. I played The Ecstasy of Gold from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly when they first saw Xin-Shalast.


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My players nicknamed Karzoug "Ruby Slippers" for some unknown reason back in book 4 or so. We've just made it to Xin Shalast and the group flipped when the Oz reference came out.


It's mentioned in the description of the Leng Device (p354 of Anniversary Edition) that it's similar to the ring of stone in Magnimar. However, even after flicking through the "Magnimar, City of Monuments" book, I can't find any reference to a ring of stone.

Can anyone tell me what is this actually referring to? Thanks.


It is refering to the ring stone in Riddleport, the Cyphergate.


Adjoint wrote:
It is refering to the ring stone in Riddleport, the Cyphergate.

Ah, thanks. That makes a lot more sense.

Liberty's Edge

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I’m starting to prep for the final battle (still a few months off, but I want to be ready). Am I missing a reference to the roof height above the various surfaces in the Eye of Avarice? I’m not sure how much good a prismatic wall will do if the party can fly right over it.

Scarab Sages

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I assumed the throne was tucked into an alcove of sorts, so the prismatic wall sealed off that section. I considered the rest of the room to be at least as high as the distance to the lava.

Liberty's Edge

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Thanks, that makes sense. I’ll probably do the same.

Liberty's Edge

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Welp, I just did a mock run through the final fight with my party at their current level (16, just entering Xin-Shalast), and it did not go well for the heroes of Sandpoint. I ran it just with the party (4 PCs, 1 GMPC fighter), no minions (the rogue is now the Highlady of Wrath and has four surviving warriors of Wrath following her around who are currently at level 12), no called or pre-summoned allies, and no hero points. I prebuffed the PCs with all of their usual end-of-book boss fight buffs and had the cleric and wizard prep their usual spells. I gave big K one round of buffing to cast Mass Bear's Endurance before they arrived in the Eye, figuring he would have seen some of the fight with Ceoptra. Other than that, I mostly stuck to the tactics as written.

It did not go well for the party. Karzoug and the dragon rolled well for initiative, going first and second. Meteor Swarm was surprisingly effective thanks to a few good attack rolls for K and bad saving throws by the wizard and cleric. The cleric has 20 points of fire resistance, but the wizard took the full damage from being whacked in the face with two of the meteors and in the range of all four explosions.

The dragon used its breath weapon and I rolled to determine which two PCs would be caught in the line; he got the monk and the wizard. The monk has improved evasion, made the save, took no damage; the wizard failed this save, too, and was left with 7 hit points.

It went downhill from there. By the end of round 2, the dragon was dead, but the wizard was unconscious (before his turn), the fighter was in a Maze, the cleric was on the wrong side of a Wall of Force dividing the Arrival Platform, and the rogue and the monk were badly injured and had retreated to the Arrival Platform to guard the wizard's body until the cleric could get there.

By the end of round 4, the cleric and monk were dead, the fighter was still in the Maze, and the rogue was hiding in a cloud of smoke she had unleashed from an ever-smoking bottle.

In round 6, the rogue managed one successful sneak attack on Karzoug that took out most of his temporary HP.

Round 7, Karzoug casts Temporal Stasis defensively and freezes the rogue in mid-air, forever.

Ten minutes later, the fighter reappears from the Maze. I didn't bother to run it, but I'm confident he will die quickly.

In reality, they will be at least one level higher by the time they get there, maybe two. The cleric plans to ask an angel for help before they head into the Pinnacle, using greater planar ally, and I'm sure they'll have hero points saved up to use in the Eye, which will help with the bad saving throws, but while I expected the party to lose, I was surprised at how quickly it all went south. I may run it all again in a couple of months, using the same initiative rolls and enemy tactics, to see how much of this outcome depended on the dice.

Scarab Sages

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I think some of it depends on how you run the prismatic wall. I ran it as a defensive tool that wanted to stay behind, and didn't allow him to quickened D Door through it. (There are varying opinions on this, I think.) In retrospect, after reading his tactics again, I think maybe the intent of prismatic wall was to be cast amongst the PCs to split them off.

My party was 5 people, plus a semi-reformed Viorian Dekanti. I don't use XP, so they were whatever level the AP said they should be entering the Eye. They all had dominant weapons, which Karzoug knew, so he didn't squander actions on things like disintegrate. Their stats were also a bit ridiculous due to some whining 6 years previously when we'd started. They were used to modified stat generation methods that made them grossly overpowered, but that was offset quite a bit by the fact that they're not remotely optimizers.

I also took the map as 10' scale. There was a conversation, probably in this thread, about the correct scale. I think the map says 5', but the descriptions of the Runewell imply that the squares are 10', and it seemed silly that Karzoug would create the Eye where his guards on the platforms would be squeezing. (If you're treating it as a 5' scale, keep that in mind—in many areas the giants will be squeezing.) Also, based on the model I built, Karzoug didn't have line of sight when they arrived on the platform, and stuck to long range spells due to the distance.

I probably didn't run Karzoug as well as I should have (and it's been a year, so some details are foggy), but they also made some key saves. I did completely forget about the glaive until pretty late in the combat, but it was close enough as I ran it. If I'd run his tactics better, I think he would have beat them. Ultimately, it felt like an epic conclusion and no one felt like any punches were pulled.

Everyone played to their strengths. The rangers worked on the giants, their favored enemy. The paladin smote the dragon. Twice. The combat ran 12 rounds over 5 hours or so. As they closed in on Karzoug, he killed the sorcerer and Dekanti with Wail of the Banshee, and then the paladin closed on him and smote him.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

I'm thinking of skipping Sins of the Saviors and taking my group straight from Fortress of the Stone Giants into Spires of Xin-Shalast. I don't think my group will enjoy Sins of the Saviors, as it's mainly a long dungeon-crawl with little to liven it up, and nothing significant in terms of the story other than gaining dominant weapons (which can be achieved some other way). Would this be a foolish idea? Are there any problems that you can foresee?

Of course, this would mean that I would have to scale down the encounters in Spires of Xin-Shalast to be appropriate for a party of 13th-15th level. Is that do-able? Has anyone tried something similar?

Grand Lodge

I know people have skipped Sins of the Saviors by re-directing their party into Book 5 of Shattered Star, but I don't know enough about that AP to recommend that or know how to merge them.

While the story of Book 5 is pretty light, it is massively important for Golarion. You find notes on how several of the Runelords aimed to survive the Cataclysm, meaning other potential Runelords could be stopped before they ever influence things as much as Karzoug has. Additionally, you get confirmation of when the Cataclysm was (10,000 years ago, not 8,000), how each sin is connected to a school of magic, and a glimpse of just how much has managed to survive from Thassilon without people's notice.

That said, my party is primarily motivated to answer questions they have - if your party is a little less engaged with the history, then I think you have two options (other than leveling down Xin-Shalast, as you'll find that much harder than you'd like it to be: )

1) Find another pre-written adventure for Book 5 dealing with Thassilon, and shape the information found there to match what's in Book 5. I don't know the APs that well, but I would, as mentioned, start with Shattered Star Book 5 for this.

2) Find a way to increase drama of Book 5. For instance, I'm planning to have lamia minions of Karzoug's follow the PCs into Runeforge, trying to take them out when they're weak, as well as figure out how other Runelords managed to survive the Cataclysm (especially Alaznist, as I think either she stole her idea from him, or he stole his idea from her). He's got to be thinking more than a step ahead here, and his next big threat after the PCs are his fellow dormant Runelords. The politics of Runeforge are something I think is a lot of fun, but I'm sure there are other ways to spice up the Runeforge for your players.

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