RAPPAN ATHUK: GRAVEYARD

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“You crest the last hill and finally the complex comes into view. In stark contrast to the lush greenery of the hills lies a large sunken graveyard laid out in the shape of a cross. Rather than towering above the ground, the graves have settled into depressions, and the main mausoleum, a building of strange green stone, rests in the deepest depression some 40 feet below the ground on which you now stand. At the other end of the grave-filled hallow stands what appears to be a stone well. There are no gravestones near it. The normal sounds of wildlife are gone, and large carrion birds circle overhead. An ominous silence rests about the place. Each of you knows in your heart that you have found the legendary dungeon of Rappan Athuk. And though none dare speak it, you wonder if you will live to return to the warmth of hearth and home.”

RAS EVIL GRIN

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dndrappanathuklogoThe Egyptian god Ra was a sun god. To the Egyptians, the sun represented light, warmth, and growth. This made the sun deity very important. In later Egyptian dynastic times, Ra was merged with the god Horus, as Re-Horakhty.¹

Re -Horakhty is the son of Isis and Osiris. Previously called Horus, he ascended to take the place of the original sun-god, Ra, after defeating Set to avenge the murder of Osiris. He absorbed the divine essence of the aging Re, increasing his power beyond that of his parents.²

And as the legends³ go, Re-Horakhty took human form in the avatar of Arden, a powerful priest. Arden was killed when several “gods of darkness” attacked his temple. Tsathogga, a Demon Lord, tore Arden’s left eye from its socket during the battle.

Arden’s faithful gathered what was left of the god’s body and placed it within the temple. The eye itself became a relic known as “The Globe of Arden.” It retained some magical energies and became an artifact dedicated to the Sun, Light, and Life.

Over time, the forces of evil managed to steal away the artifact, and seal it away from the light within a stone dais. inscribed with the words “RAS EVIL GRIN.” The dais was enchanted by thirteen different Demon Lords, creating a devious trap for any who would attempt to retrieve the Globe. The trap was created to mock the followers of the Re-Horakhty, harnessing the power of the Globe to destroy the ones who would seek to reclaim it. The artifact is forever lost within the its dark, stone prison, hidden away from those who would enjoy its beauty and light.

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¹ Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

² Deities and Demigods, 2002, page 138

³ Demons and Devils, 2000, page 15.

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RAPPAN ATHUK: FREE CANDY

Hmmm …. but it says “FREE CANDY”

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A SNEAK PEEK

Whenever I am able, I write up my stories for DnD in a book. The Rappan Athuk adventure I ran awhile back was written down in a “Music” book that I bought when our Waldenbooks was going out of business.  My method is to write everything down that I plan to play through, and then start adding flavor text, color, and sometimes stickers. For example, the bomb stickers in the Rappan Athuk book were to call out traps to catch my eye. The treasure stickers were to remind me of  goodies that the playing characters might find. I bought the stickers at JoAnn Fabrics a few years back for a $1.00 a book. I bought something like 20 books.

Here’s what a usual story looks like when I write it all down. It ends up looking like a scrapbook almost. The first time one of my players caught a glimpse of this book, his reaction was: “WHAT is THAT?!”

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BACKGROUND: RAPPAN ATHUK


Many hundreds of years ago, the forces of good allied to destroy the main Temple of Orcus in the ancient city of Tsar.  With their Temple in ruins, the surviving high priests of this accursed demon-god fled the city with an army of enemies on their trail – an army of heroic fighters, clerics, and paladins led by Zelkor, a powerful wizard.  The exact fate of these evil priests was then unknown, for not only did the remnants of the followers of Orcus disappear from all human reckoning, but so too did the army of light that followed after them.  Some said that in the eternal scales the loss of so many good men was a fair price to pay to rid the world of so much evil.

The evil cult, however, had not been destroyed.  The surviving priests and their followers instead settled on a hill near the Forest of Hope, a sylvan woodland near the Coast Road.  They found a vast underground complex of caverns and mazes carving out a volcanic intrusion beneath the hill.  There the priests of Orcus found the perfect lair to continue their vile rituals. For many years they carried on in secret, hidden from the light and from the knowledge of men.

Many years later, their underground delving completed, the evil preists erected a hideous mausoleum and a sunken graveyard atop the hill.  It is believed that these graves are in fact the final resting place of the pursuing army of heroes that had been destroyed to the last man.  Soon after the mausoleum was erected, the peaceful creatures of the wood began to vanish.  Though many rangers and druids investigated these happenings, the cause of the creatures’ disappearance was not immediately determined.  Some years later, a powerful group of adventurers, led by Bofred, a high priest of Heironeous, investigated the evil happenings and found the sunken graveyard leading to a labyrinthine underground complex.  Bofred and his companions found great hordes of evil creatures in the caverns beneath the graveyard.  Though some of his companions returned from their expedition telling tales of fantastic treasure and ferocious monsters, Bofred himself was never seen again – presumed lost in the catacombs beneath the cursed mausoleum.

For the last one hundred years, ranks of adventurers swarmed to the new found dungeon.  Many fell prey to bandits and monsters in the surrounding wilderness.  Of those adventurers who survived to reach the mausoleum and the sunken graveyard, rumors suggest that most were slain by guardians of green stone before they even entered the dungeon or that they perished on the very first level.  Those rare few who return from deeper treks speak of horrible undead and of creatures that cannot be slain,  All who have explored Rappan Athuk offer this one universal piece of advice:

“Don’t go down the well.”

[Text above is copied directly from the module written by Bill Web and Clark Peterson, and provided here simply for the use of the players.]

RAPPAN ATHUK

TWEAKING RAPPAN ATHUK

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My friends and I were hanging out one night talking about the “good old days” and D&D came up, of course. We were discussing all the fun we had playing D&D during High School. October tends to be the time of year that I get an itch to start reading up on D&D. One of the guys said, “Hey, we should play some D&D.” And that was that. We started making characters, and I started to look for something to DM.

Rappan Athuk, by Necromancer Games, was the obvious choice. I’ve owned this set of modules since they came out. I bought them at Comics, Games, & Stuff in Maryland. The concept is great. And it’s written to be real D&D rather than the flashy stuff that’s out there right now.

So the first thing I did was come up with a way to “knock the dust off” in the first session. I really didn’t want to start killing characters right away. I decided to add a 1/2 level between levels 0 and 1. Level 0 is the cemetery and level 1 is roughly 30 feet below the cemetery. So I added level 1/2 at about 12-18 feet below the cemetery. I took the map from level 1, cut away some of the details, and simply used this as a map for the players to go by during play. Keep in mind that I added an entryway on the top of the Main Mausoleum. This is in the form of a hatchway. This hatch is not in the original version of the module.

They managed to get about half way through Level 1/2 during the first session.

In case you want to use Level 1/2 in your version of Rappan Athuk, I have provided the “Introductory Characteristics” as per the usual with the module. (Refer to page 4 in Rappan Athuk 1.)

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DUNGEON LEVEL  1/2

Difficulty Level: 3

Entrances: From hatchway on top of Main Mausoleum in area G-6.

Exits: Stairs to area G-5 Empty Mausoleum. Opens a secret door that is one-way.

Wandering Monsters: (Same as given in Dungeon Level 1 on page 9.)

Detections: Faint evil from the whole place, slightly more to the southeast.

Continuous Effects: The whole level is dusy and smells of mold. No effects.

Standard Features: (Same as in Dungeon Level 1 on page 9.)

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This level is an abandoned level of the Temple. It was once used by soldiers who were in charge of keeping the cemetary under wraps. As the temple extended lower and lower, the soldiers abandoned the level and now reside fully on Level 9. The only remaining inhabitants of the level are ghosts, and monsters. The ghosts are the damned spirits of Orcus’s faithful, going about their duties hoping to be blessed by their dark god.

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THE DUNGEON OF GRAVES

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Well, we had a small group gather to play the first session of THE DUNGEON OF GRAVES.

I modified the module somewhat for the first session. I added an extra level to the Dungeon, allowing the players to get their feet wet before actually getting into the thick of things. They have a healthy paranoia of the adventure (…because after all .. there all going to die down there…) and this is amusing as a Dungeon Master.

The use of the “Open Maps” has been a success. The players being able to look at the same map I am and seeing the marked areas where events are going to happen not only moves along the play of the game but also allows players to visually gauge that they are making progress. They can see the light at the end of the tunnel as to say. This also solves a problem I had in my last attempt at Dungeons & Dragons because it gives the players clear goals.

Thokk has acted more as a protector than anything else thus far, and this is interesting. His combat output has not been as high as I thought it would be. He has been effective, but not as deadly as I thought. This isn’t a bad thing as I guess it means that things are fairly balanced in the game thus far. I bet that once the real onslaught of monsters starts rolling on, things will change somewhat. And once Thokk gets his grubby hands on some of the magical weapons that I have planned to provide for him throughout the Dungeon, things will get bloody.

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Sovee has taken the role of a Legolas well. She is ranged support, popping out a hail of arrows to cover the other characters. She has also done well in using Listen and Search to fill the role of our currently missing Rouge. I have a feeling that as the game progresses, Sovee will fill an excellent role as a Ranger … part Fighter and part Rouge.

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Sara has been acting as a full on Fighter. The next Feat she needs to take is Bull Rush because she keeps doing this without the benefit of actually having the Feat to use. She has had a lot of bad luck so far. She missed her big jump and nearly fell off the roof of the mausoleum and she also nearly took a serious injury when she tripped the Ankle Breaker trap in the stairs. She hasn’t had a real opportunity to use her Cleave yet, but that will become important very soon.

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Currently all the characters are 7th level.

Stay tuned.

RAPPAN ATHUK

RAPPAN ATHUK: DUNGEON OF GRAVES

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Tonight the party had three active characters:

  • Thokk, the half-orc barbarian armed (7th level) with his two magical greataxes.

  • Sara, the human fighter (5th level) wielding a greatsword

  • Sovee, the elf ranger (5th level) with her magical bow

They gathered information about the Dungeon and sorted through the information. Then, with great fear in their heart, they entered the graveyard. Crows swarmed above them, calling angrily at their presence. The party investigated an opening to The Rat Tunnels. They were unsure of what the three foot diameter hole was exactly other than it was made by large rodents.

Thokk gathered up three gravestones and tossed them into the pit, blocking off the Rat Tunnel opening. Hopefully that would keep the Rats from coming to eat them! Then the moved on to the Large Mausoleum.

They found the bodies of six dwarves, victims of the magical Gargoyle guardians watching them from the top of the Mausoleum. (Although at the time all they knew was that the dwarves had been kiled by falling form a great distance. They would later figure out that the Gargoyles try to grab you, fly you up into the sky, and drop you to your death…)

Sovee decided to shoot one of the crows, and was pleased to see the birds scatter from the roof of the Mausoleum. Thokk jumped across to the top of the Mausoleum, grabbing up the dead crow (lunch) and stuffing it in his pack. (But not before retrieving the arrow for Sovee to use again!) Sovee followed, jumping to the roof and nearly falling off. She regained her balance only to watch Sara leap and miss. Sara narrowly grabbed on to the head of one of the gargoyles and hung there helplessly until Thokk pulled her up.

Thokk busied himself trying to wrench open a hatch on the roof while Sovee and Sara noticed that the Gargoyles were animating and coming to life! Thokk managed to tear open the hatch, and jumped inside. His Ring of Feather Falling allowed him to lightly land on the floor below, but Sara cut that short. In her rush to get into the hatch, she fell on to Thokk and they crashed into the floor in a heap. Sovee was still up there on the roof, and let loose three arrows at one of the Gargoyles. The arrows did little to stop the magical beast, and it fly at her attempting to knock her into the hole. Luckily, the creature missed! A second Gargoyle attempted to fly by Sovee and grab her, but this one landed only a glancing blow. Quickly, Sovee jumped into the hatch and landed safely next to the other two still laying on the floor in a jumble.

Above, the Gargoyles continued to leer into the hatch but did not take action to enter the room. Sara ignited her torch, and carefully opened the door that lead away from the room. She looked inside and saw a strange sight: a red skeleton sitting at a table with his hand on a deck of cards. Under the watchful protection of Thokk (who was watching the Gargoyles above) Sara and Sovee entered the next room. Thokk watched one of the Gargoyles enter the hatch and start to glide downward. There was a flash of light, and the magical beast vanished from sight. That was when they noticed that the frame of the hatch was glowing with strange magical runes, glowing intermittently with a teleportation spell. Thokk joined the other two in the new room, keeping an eye on the first room for any Gargoyles who might come in through the hatch.

Sara looked around the room and found a strange metal bowl. Water was dripping into it from the ceiling, but it did not seem to be filled up more than enough to cover the bottom of the bowl. Not knowing for sure what it was, she emptied the bowl on the floor and stashed it in her pack.

Meanwhile, Sovee looked around throughout the room. Among the debris, she found a damaged horse statue that was worth 25 GP. Thokk decided to smash the red skeleton, and then checked out the deck of cards. Seeing that the other cards were face down, but the top card was a face up Ace of Spades. He flopped the card over, and as affected by a Sickness spell. After allowing Thokk to recover, the group decided to continue to the stairs leading away from the room.

Before they could leave, a Gargoyle landed in the first room behind them. As it landed, the hatch above slammed shut. It growled, and got ready to attack. Before it could make a move, Sovee shot it three times with her bow. The arrows hit true, and Sara used the opportunity to rush forward with her sword. She landed a solid hit, but was pushed away by Thokk. Thokk took four swings with his Greataxes, hitting only once. But that was enough: the Gargoyle crumbled. Thokk took the time to pry loose the Gargoyles black gem eyes, and stashed them in his Heward’s Handy Haversack. Then they continued to an open archway and down a set of stairs.

Half way down the stairs, Sara stumbled as one of the steps gave way. She was lucky. Although she tripped the stairway trap, she was not hit by the two posion needles that popped out near her foot. She carefully withdrew from the trap, and made her way down the stairs to meet her friends.

In this new room, they found a small rug and a wooden jar. Thokk grabbed the rug and pulled it away. The old rug fell apart as it was old and worm eaten. Sara decided to look in the jar, and found that it was filled with eyeballs. Shocked somewhat, she put the lid back on and left it there. Sovee busied herself looking around for anything interesting in the room, but found it rather empty.

Thokk glanced at the reinforced door leading out of the room, but decided to instead check out the small section of collapsed wall at the far side of the room. Here he found more of the Rat Tunnels, and carefully explored them finding that they lead to roughly hewn holes in the walls too small to explore.

Before they could continue, a ghost appeared. It appeared to be the ghost of an aged Priest of Orcus. The ghost priest gave the three a good fight, but in the end was destroyed by the three and their magical weapons.

The group turned with full intent to continue their adventure by going through the door.

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RAPPAN ATHUK