Handling Knowledge of Xhamen-Dor

Strange Aeons

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

So I had a question about PCs learning early on about Xhamen-Dor. As far as I am aware, the first opportunity they have to become aware of the Great Old One is in book 2: The Thrushmoor Terror. There is a painting on the cave wall in Daridela's Grotto, and PCs can make a DC 25 Knowledge check to know it is a symbol of Xhamen-Dor. It seems to me that gaining awareness of the Great Old One this early on kind of spoils things a bit. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I got the sense that knowledge of the X-D was pretty rare, and in fact, knowing about him sort of plants the seed (literally) of infection.

I know that it explains in X-D's bio that if someone is actively pursuing knowledge about the Great Old One, there is a 1% chance over a year's time that he could reach out to the person in their dreams and corrupt them that way, but that's an almost insignificant chance that doesn't lead to one being very concerned of the risk.

I guess my question is, if a PCs makes that Knowledge check to identify the symbol on the grotto wall, what does that PC learn or know about Xhamen-Dor, and what does that revelation do to the PC?

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Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

When my players got there and saw the symbol, I decided to go with the DC 25 just giving basic info. The name Xhamen-Dor, the title of The Inmost Blot, and a vague description of the area of concern. I would have given a few more hints of information per 5 over the DC (like identifying monsters), but that didn't become necessary for my group.

Looking ahead to the beginning of part 2 of What Grows Within it mentions that the PCs exposure to the influence of The Inmost Blot over the campaign has rendered them effectively immune to the symptoms of Seeded Consumption, but not to being carriers of the supernatural disease.

Therefore, working backwards, one could make the jump that correctly identifying the symbol proves the infection of whoever identifies it and whoever they explain that knowledge to. You can then, if you want, start making saves for all of the NPCs they ever come into contact with using the formula in the seeded creature template on p.91 of What Grows Within: 10+(1/2 seeded creature's HD)+(seeded creature's charisma mod).

The onset time of the disease is a month. For the purposes of PCs, one could argue that since they know the symbol outright (having made the check) means that they're already infected at the time of making the check. If they don't recognize it, but later do research, you have the opportunity to infect them at that time, or maybe just chalk it up to the amnesia and go with the already infected angle.

For NPCs of Thrushmoor purposes, the long onset time means the odds are extremely good that the PCs are long gone by the time anyone in town starts showing symptoms. So that would probably become something that only becomes a horrific realization if/when they ever return to the place. For the NPCs on the river journey in Dreams of the Yellow King there's a very real chance that their new friends and allies might actually start showing symptoms of some mysterious disease. It can add another dimension to the river journey, and the DC 30 heal check to identify in a PC (also from the beginning of part 2 of What Grows Within) means they might not realize that they're the root (hah) cause of the affliction.

Dark Archive

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I had 1 PC who just crushed the knowledge check, which I totally gave him sanity damage for as well as some of the other PCs who started using the name aggressively while interrogating prisoners. Based on the rules he failed his will save an developed a madness on the spot. I did also roll the 1% chance since he had played Cthulhu games before and would have found it completely appropriate.

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I like this - infection by name-dropping! :)

Personally, I really don't like the idea of giving away the big XD name drop so easily. DC 25 is too low for something that is only known about in rare occult texts. A DC 25 is equivalent to something specific in an area of study, so while it would make sense for most uncommon holy symbols to fall in this category, XD is beyond obscure. If a PC's backstory would explain their knowing (if they are a wizard who studies the dark tapestry for instance), then giving a bit more info would be fine but I'd suggest that you seed things with the symbol. Tell them after making the check that they feel nauseated and uneasy and they don't know why. Or that they recall seeing something reminiscent of the fungal tendrils in the corner of one of Zandalus' sketches. If they make a really good check or use legend lore, reward them with the knowledge that it is not contained in any conventional book and if they want to understand the only way to learn more is to research more obscure texts (which they can find at Iris Hill, maybe from a book with the symbol of XD on it's cover).

The horror of XD comes from the desire to know being tainted and dangerous, so I'd play that up and set things in a way that makes your players want to know. I also really agree with Leedwashere in that making the PC's be vectors is really cool and if they learn about XD at iris hill then the boat ride is a fantastic place to bring out that aspect.

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Pathfinder Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

For all of the Lovecraftian lore/critters, I've been increasing the DC by +10. I'll ease the DC by 5 during Chapter 3, once they've studied Lowls's books and venture into the dreamy beyond on the Sellen. Alongside I've encouraged them to do research and investigation in order to uncover the things they're up against.

That said, I handled the painting in the Old Grotto a bit different. I allowed them all a check (with the increased DC applied), but regardless of their result, upon seeing it I had all PCs experience a probing sensation in their mind that repeated the words, "Xhamen-Dor. Xhamen-Dor. Xhamen-Dor."

I explained that they instantly knew that it was the name of the creature depicted even though they couldn't understand how. None made a knowledge check high enough to know anything further, but they did have to make sanity checks. They were positively horrified at this event, and very wary of the painting and chamber thereafter.

Since then, I've been including flashes of this awareness in their dreams, but I'm also going to have them experience moments where their mind has strange and compelling thoughts about Xhamen-Dor, including receiving fragments of information they couldn't have possibly known from elsewhere. This is, of course, meant to demonstrate how their minds have become infected by the mere knowing of this other-worldly monstrosity.

I'll let this "infection" build in intensity until they deal with Neruzavin.

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I'm not there in the campaign yet, but my plan is that making the Knowledge check to recognize the painting allows the PC to recognize that it represents a being known as the Inmost Blot, but not its actual name - because there's almost no book anywhere on Golarion where that's recorded. Later, in Lowls journal, they'll find an entry where he talks about learning about Xhamen-Dor, except in the entry, the name has been scribbled out. In a subsequent entry a few weeks later, he explains that his research has uncovered the infection side-effect of the beings name, and he went back and covered it up in his journal so it won't affect him. He muses that his "intense mental training as a scholar" gave him the mental fortitude to protect himself from exposure. The next two pages are stuck together, and when the PC pries them apart, it's just "Xhamen-Dor" written over and over again.

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