The treasure vault described on page 44 of Rise of Tiamat mentions:

This area is guarded by 2 wraiths and 4 specters.

It mentions that the wraiths are warriors who pledged their souls, okay, fine, two wraiths. But then it mentions that

The specters are the reanimated souls of three cultists who died here and of three yuan-ti that died exploring the ruins.

I'm not a mathematician by trade, but I'm fairly certain that adds up to 6 specters. So which one is correct? The first text or the second?

A developer answer or an official errata if it exists would be preferable.

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    \$\begingroup\$ In some ways, the right answer must be 42... ;) \$\endgroup\$ – Sava Oct 11 '18 at 22:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Interestingly, I find both answers are correct. Originally, 2 Wraiths and 6 Specters. The cultists went in, fought them, killed 2 Specters, and ran away, marking the room as dangerous, and leaving 2 Wraiths and 4 Specters. \$\endgroup\$ – BlueMoon93 Jan 11 '19 at 12:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, it's a bit of a dilemma, at this point, both upvoted answers have merits. Maybe I'll try to track down whoever wrote Rise of Tiamat to see if I can get the official version. \$\endgroup\$ – Theik Jan 11 '19 at 12:19

2 Wraiths and 4 Specters is correct

1. Nothing precludes 6 people turning into 4 monsters

Maybe two of them aren't important enough to get their own "body" (excuse the lack therof). Maybe some of them fused into each other to create a total of four specters. Or maybe something killed some of them (such as the yuan ti that were exploring). It doesn't really matter the exact cause, because there's no conservation of energy law for turning cultists / snakes into specters.

2. The xp cost lines up for a deadly adventure with 6 creatures

The party should start the adventure around level 7, and there's one milestone between the start and now. That brings us up to level 8. Hard XP for four level-8 characters is 5600 and Deadly is 8400. XP spent for 2 wraiths and 4 specters is 8800, close enough; whereas XP spent for an additional 2 specters is 12000, WAY over. Even if the party were level-9 at this point, that would still be 2500xp over budget.

3. Lastly, and leastly, devs make mistakes.

It is entirely possible (I will say nothing of the probability) that it was supposed to say "two and two" or "one and three" or whatever and whoever was writing missed it. OR, if it is a mistake, I find it most likely that an earlier revision had 6 specters and they forgot to change the text.

Addendum: WotC Support says "2 wraiths, 4 specters"

I emailed Wizards of the Coast's support team. I hadn't used it before; kinda a mixed bag.

Thank you for reaching out to Wizards of the Coast Customer Support, Based on the challenge ratings in the Dungeon Master's Guide it appears the 2 wraiths and 4 specters would be the appropriate encounter rather than 2 wraiths and 6 specters per the additional text. Again, The final word on any additions or other modifications to the encounter would be entirely at the DM's discretion. Thank you again for playing Dungeons & Dragons, we hope you and your party enjoy the remainder of the Rise of Tiamat!

  • \$\begingroup\$ Could it also be argued that a wraith is an advanced version of a specter? The stat-blocks are pretty close. If yes, than 2 of those and 4 specters could be collectively called 'specters' and be described as originating out of 6 creatures. \$\endgroup\$ – Nox Jan 8 '19 at 17:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Nox the two wraiths are specifically called out as being worshippers of the temple, separate from the 3+3 would-be specters. \$\endgroup\$ – goodguy5 Jan 8 '19 at 17:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah, ok, got you. \$\endgroup\$ – Nox Jan 8 '19 at 17:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ While this isn't exactly backed up by any developer feedback, I am unable to find any errata or corrections for it, and the general reasoning checks out. It seems unlikely that a fight with that many monsters in such a small room would end well, and this'd just be a guaranteed death trap, so barring somebody finding a developer to comment,this seems to be the logical answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Theik Jan 8 '19 at 23:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Great, considering you now have an official response, I feel comfortable that this is the right answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Theik Jan 11 '19 at 14:05

2 Wraiths and 6 Specters is correct

1. Three risen dead don't turn into a single specter

The wraith ability "Create Specter" specifically creates one specter per one dead humanoid. While you can rule as you wish, for me personally it is intuitive that souls are on a 1-to-1 basis. There's never been a case of a "fused" ghost that I can remember.

2. The room is big enough that it makes sense

As you can tell by reading the legend, the room is actually represented by tiles of 10 square feet rather than 5, meaning the treasure room is a 30ft-square (or a 6x6 grid, if you prefer). 8 monsters and some PCs is just fine. As an addendum I should remind that this is actually just Diderius' bedroom so it's fine if it's cramped for so many people to fight in it.

3. This room was so deadly that the entire cultist group failed to clear it

The cultists went through other doors and fought undead guardians but didn't mark anything so clearly and adamantly as this one, with "DANGER" written on it and spiking it shut.

They were so thoroughly terrified by the slaughter that they left a retinue of devils on watch duty just in case the undead guardians burst out.

Story-wise, this room was deadly to a party much larger than the adventurers' one, and it would be dishonest to dial it down (or fudge if you will) for the sake of PCs. This room is quite literally marked for the PCs not to go into it, and they should pay the price if they ignore the warning.

4. This room is not vital to the dungeon

They can skip this room entirely, it's more of a bonus challenge with bonus rewards. Even if they go in, they can leave if they don't want to fight the pack of CR 1 creatures. Apparently the undead didn't follow the cultists out.

5. Encounter difficulty calculations are wildly inaccurate

While you may think the encounter is beyond deadly due to XP costs, you'd be surprised at how effective player characters are. A single mummy lord encounter is even deadlier than 2 wraiths + 6 specters, XP-wise, but you'll find he may not even get to play his turn before he dies. Specters are CR 1 enemies and can be taken out in their entirety by a couple of fireballs. The undead horde may be crippled by an averagely successful Turn Undead. Nothing about the composition of the undead suggests this encounter is actually hard.

6. The encounter is more than just the undead

It seems to me that the author knew how underwhelming the encounter is to the PCs (combat-wise), that he explicitly reminds us

to have the devils attack the party when they come up the stairs, completing the combat portion of this encounter.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Hello and welcome! You can take the tour to learn a bit more about how this site works. Since this answer is mostly the opposite of another answer, answering separately just as you did is actually just fine, no worries there. Thank you for contributing and happy gaming! \$\endgroup\$ – Sdjz Jan 11 '19 at 12:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Maybe the cultists killed 2 of the Specters? \$\endgroup\$ – BlueMoon93 Jan 11 '19 at 12:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Maybe they did ;) Or, maybe many other things. Each game is unique and can be freely modified. I prefer to go with what I think is the most straightforward solution which is "a typo" because the author does detail what the cultists did, where they went through, and the trials they've undergone, so leaving that part out seems inexplicably odd. \$\endgroup\$ – Sleeptime Jan 11 '19 at 13:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ thanks for pointing out that the squares are 10 feet! \$\endgroup\$ – goodguy5 Jan 11 '19 at 15:06

My guess (for a guess it is) is that there are two Wraiths and four Specters, for a total of 6 specters (lowercase, as a general word for ghosts referring to the 4+2).

Is there mention of the Wraiths' background, or is only the Specters explained? If the former, this answer is obviously wrong, but if the latter, this might be it.

What would be a more reasonable difficulty for the intended level+party size at that point? 2 wraiths and 4 or 6 specters? That's also an indication of what's most likely the right answer, though again obfuscated, since you don't know the intended encounter difficulty.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The two wraiths are warriors who pledged their souls to Diderius. That makes it impossible for them to overlap with the cultists and Yuan-Ti, who died later because they tried to plunder the riches. \$\endgroup\$ – Theik Jan 8 '19 at 13:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, snap. What would difficulty indicate, 2+4 or 2+6? Are the backstories important to the adventure somehow, could they be a form of riddle? No way the other 2 specters are accounted for, like being reinforcements or appearing later? \$\endgroup\$ – ThanosMaravel Jan 8 '19 at 16:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ Rather than leaving half your answer crossed out, you should edit it to stand as if it were always the best version of itself. Anyone interested in older versions of the answer can check the revision history. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jan 10 '19 at 2:51

The contradiction can be resolved without ignoring or changing any of the statements. Here is a breakdown of the 4 specters that fits all the information provided:

1 specter which is the reanimated soul of a yuan-ti that died exploring the ruins, 1 specter which is the reanimated soul of a cultist who died here, and 2 specters which are the reanimated souls of yuan-ti who were also cultists who died here while exploring the ruins.

That said, I haven't read that adventure so there might be a reason that the two groups can't overlap in this way, and this is also only "logic" that satisfies the provided conditions rather than something specifically indicated somewhere.

An alternative interpretation which also fits the provided statements:

There are 6 specters, but two of them aren't guarding the area. It would be up to you which two those are and what they are doing instead.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The Yuan-ti and the cultists are enemies, so they're by definition not overlapped. The undead can't leave the room, so there'd be nowhere else for them to go. So while this reading would work in general, it does not really work for the scenario as described in the book. \$\endgroup\$ – Theik Oct 12 '18 at 13:58

Though there isn't an official answer that I can find I do have a possible answer and what I would say to a PC that somehow divined wondering where they're from.

It is possible that 2 of the specters were killed before the adventurers got there. Potentially the three cultist specters were animated then the yuan-ti killed two of the cultist specters but were in turn killed. therefor leaving us with one cultist specter and three yuan-ti specters.

Sorry that there is no official word on the topic but I would say use the 4 not the 6 because specific beats general. The text says specifically 4 and we are implying 6 from the flavor text.

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    \$\begingroup\$ 5e doesn't use flavor text (rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/78012/…). So they're two texts in the same paragraph that specifically state two different things. I'm not certain why this would imply that the text with 4 is more specific than the one with 6? \$\endgroup\$ – Theik Oct 12 '18 at 14:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Theik a) that question was about spells specifically. b) this is a campaign so not even rules per say. c) the 4 is more specific because it is said in the section of the encounter listing the enemies not the area saying who the already listed enemies are. \$\endgroup\$ – rpgstar Oct 12 '18 at 14:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ For example "there are 4 goblins" is more specific than "the goblins names are Nub, Lub and Tub". In that case if those two statements were in a similar situation then there are still 4 goblins even though only the are named. The same would be true if five were named. \$\endgroup\$ – rpgstar Oct 12 '18 at 14:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't really think that's based on any developer decisions. To me personally, a bunch of names and character descriptions are a lot more specific than a single number which could have been a typo. Do you have any developer quotes for the difference between flavour text and numeric statements? \$\endgroup\$ – Theik Oct 12 '18 at 16:07

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