Something is rotten in Rhoona?
When the grotesque god Cretia casts his ugly shadow over the town, strange things start happening. First, Duke Stephen vanishes. Then bizarre proclamations begin coming out the Ducal Palace - dwarves are outlawed, taxes must be paid in beer, horses must be ridden backwards. Soon the entire town is in an uproar, and a dwarven army is marching on Rhoona. This is the situation when you and your party of valiant adventurers arrive in the suffering town.
There you find any number of oddities:
- A ragged beggar who prowls the streets offering cryptic advice;
- A mysterious black-garbed cleric planning treachery;
- A trusted soldier plotting his master's overthrow; and
- A sinister jewel casting its evil emanations over the town.
You and your party are Rhoona's only hope. Only you can unravel the dark mystery that plagues the town and save Rhoona from the Curse of Xanathon.
For character levels 5-7.
X3: "Curse of Xanathon" (1982), by Douglas Niles, is the third adventure in the Expert series for Basic D&D. It was published late in 1982.
New Trade Dress. "Xanathon" was probably the first adventure for Basic D&D to show off TSR's new trade dress, beating out B5: "Horror on the Hill" (1983) and O1: "The Gem and The Staff" (1983). It was in fact just one of three adventures to use the trade dress in 1982, the others being I2: "Tomb of the Lizard King" and I3: "Pharaoh" (both 1982).
The new trade dress is most recognizable for the horizontal banner across the top of the cover and for the cover's gradiated background. The graphic design of the books' insides also tended to be improved, as was the case here.
Town vs. Wilderness. "Xanathon" provides extensive details on the city of Rhoon. Describing towns and cities within adventures was a trend that had been growing at TSR since the release of T1: "The Village of Hommlet" (1979). "Xanathon" nonetheless breaks new ground by not just detailing parts of the city, but also including random tables to designate what players might find as they explore the large (partially undetailed) urban area.
Contrariwise, "Xanathon" is quite weak in its detailing of the wilderness - at least for an Expert Set adventure. Though there's a nice hex map of the Kingdom of Vestland, actual wilderness travel involves only a short five-day trek to a temple (and back), with just a few possible wandering monster encounters along the way. As with X2: "Castle Amber" (1981), we can probably attribute this to the Expert Set adventures still finding their focus.
Sort of Detective Work. "Xanathon" claims to be an adventure built around "detective work" - and it sort of is. The players are trying to figure out answers to questions like, "Why have the guards started hunting down dwarves?" and "Why is the king writing crazy edicts?" and "What's that evil priest up to?" However, the questions are meant to be examined in a specific order, and each question's answer brings the adventurers to a dungeon (or at least to a mapped encounter area). Unfortunately, there's also a high priest who disguises himself as a beggar who will give clues to the PCs if they can't figure out things on their own. So, it's sort of a railroad too.
Despite these issues, "Xanathon" was still fairly innovative in its exploration of the detective genre. However, there were two adventures that partially preceded it - U1: "The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh" (1981) and N1: "Against the Cult of the Reptile God." Each adventure provided some details on a town that acted as a home base for the adventure and also described a mystery within that locale. Unsurprisingly, "Cult" was also by Douglas Niles.
Expanding the Known World. "Xanathon" was just the third book to provide any notable detail on the Known World, following on the heels of the D&D Expert Set (1981) and X1: "The Isle of Dread" (1981), both published in the previous year. It adds a considerable amount to the setting.
First, "Xanathon" fills in details for the Kingdom of Vestland, which had been mentioned in "The Isle of Dread." It introduces the Duchy of Rhoona within the Kingdom, and even adds the city of Rhoona to the map from the Expert Set. This detail of the city, with three pages of description and a few random tables, results in its being the first well-described urban area in the Known World. The modules even ends with some ideas for further adventures in the city.
Second, the dwarves of Rockhome - who also earned a paragraph in "The Isle of Dread" - get some more attention here. Rhoona lies near to Rockhome, so the city's dwarves are from that dwarven homeland; there's thus the possibility for political repercussions built right into the adventure.
Finally, "Xanathon" offers a first look at three of the immortals of the Known World: Forsetta (lawful), the Spuming Nooaga (neutral), and Cretia (chaos).
About the Creators. X3: "Curse of Xanathon" was Niles' second D&D adventure, published in between N1: "Against the Cult of the Reptile God" (1981), for AD&D, and B5: "Horror on the Hill" (1983), for the Basic Set.
About the Product Historian
The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions firstname.lastname@example.org.