C1 Hunting the Xanathar is an adventure for characters of level 17+, by Cawood Publishing.
The adventure takes place in Skullport. Skullport is a very shady place, located in the Undermountain, in Faerun. The characters have the very important and dangerous task of getting rid of the Beholder known as the Xanathar. Apart from being a Beholder, which is a good enough reason for some factions to want to kill it, the Xanathar is also the leader of a notorious Thieves Guild, which has become too dangerous to be left unchecked.
To do that, they will have to track down its lair, which will not be that easy. There are two contacts waiting for them in Skullport, an Ilithid and a Duergar. They’re supposed to help them but backstabbing isn’t that unlikely. However, even if they manage to find its lair, they will have to go through the Xanathar’s minions and, finally, confront the infamous Beholder itself.
The adventure is set in the Forgotten Realms and assumes that the characters are agents of the Lords’ Alliance. Of course, this can be changed according to your plans as a DM.
Creating an adventure for high leveled characters is a challenge. However, I believe the author has done a good job. There are quite a few combat encounters and there’s a great variety of enemies. The encounters have have varying difficulties but they seem to be at an appropriate level for the adventure. Moreover, there is a nice chase scene, accompanied by extra chase tables to make it more interesting.
It’s important to note that the number of encounters the characters will face depends greatly on their approach. In this adventure they can choose between a stealthy or a flashy approach. The latter will complicate things since, there are a lot of factions in Skullport, and not all of them want the Xanathar Thieves Guild gone. The adventure feels like it leaves a lot of room for the DM to plan how things will go, but also to the players because they will have to decide which areas to visit and when.
Also, you get to fight a couple of Beholders, and something that looks like one, which will definitely make the players feel like real heroes. However, I believe Beholders are difficult monsters to handle and the DM should make sure they know how to use them beforehand. It would be a shame if they didn’t fully use their powers, leading to a very quick and unfulfilling battle.
The cover of the adventure is really beautiful. Apart from that, there are quite a few beautiful pieces of art, of varying styles, in the adventure. There are also many maps that cover all the areas of Skullport the characters may visit. The only issue I had with them is that the resolution of some of them seemed a bit low.
There’s a lot of extra content in this adventure. It contains information about Skullport and its factions, as well as a ton of NPCs. There are many NPCs in the adventure and many of them don’t play an active role in the adventure. Small bits of information about them are included so you can use them in the adventure if you want. Moreover, there are a few encounter tables, listing what you can encounter on Skullport, as well as lists of locations for every area of the town. I believe that this is enough content if you want to expand the adventure, or if you decide to run a couple of extra sessions in Skullport.
Finally, a Forgotten Realms calendar and the stats for a few pre-generated characters are included.
A couple of notes
I found it weird that the Beholder is addressed as “the Xanathar”, but it seems like the author has done their homework. Apparently, the story behind it is that the Beholder in the adventure killed another Beholder called Xanathar, and took over the Thieves Guild. Later, it claimed that “Xanathar” is a title so it’s using it in order to keep secret the fact that it’s a different Beholder.
The layout of the adventure is pretty straightforward, however there are a few editing errors here and there. Again, errors like these don’t usually affect the game but some could find them annoying.
Overall, C1 Hunting the Xanathar is a nice adventure. As I said, designing high level adventures is a challenge, but I believe this one manages to provide a satisfactory experience. If you want to see how high level play feels like, fight a couple of Beholders, and get a location to add to your game, you can check this one out.