A Review of the Role Playing Game Supplement Rappan Athuk Reloaded

Rappan Athuk Reloaded is a role playing game supplement, a megadungeon, published by Necromancer Games. This is a revamped version of the original megadungeon, which makes it compatible with D&D 3.5, as the original was aimed at 3.0, includes two other books that were released at a later date, adds various pieces of web support and includes six new levels. The supplement, being intended for D&D 3.5, is covered by the Open Game License and therefore some of it is considered to be Open Game Content. Rappan Athuk itself is a collection of temples to Orcus, the Demon Prince of the Undead, and there is a strong undead theme to the whole dungeon.

The supplement is available from RPGNow as a PDF for $19.99, as a print on demand softcover book for $74.99 or as both book and PDF for $74.99. The supplement is also one of five supplements in the Necromancer World Collection, which is how it was purchased. The collection is available at the regular price of $60 but was bought at the reduced price of $18. Although this is all one PDF, the PDF itself is divided into three different books. The whole PDF is 390 pages. It can also be found in printed form from sites such as Amazon.

Book One: The Dungeon of Graves is 234 pages long. Two pages of this are the colour front and rear covers, one page is the credits and front matter and one page is the Contents for Books One and Two.

Book One starts with an Introduction. This covers why the revision of the original dungeon were done, a brief history of Rappan Athuk, 60 rumours about the place, how the NPC and monster statistics are handled, the various levels and the Introductory Characteristics which are covered for each level.

Rappan Athuk ReloadedWilderness Areas: Dying Outside the Dungeon covers the area surrounding the dungeon itself. There are several different areas, random encounter tables for each, including a number of bandit groups, and then twenty-four different encounter locations, some of which are lairs for the bandits and other random encounters. These provide a wide range of potentially lethal encounters without even setting foot inside the dungeon itself.

The rest of Book One describes the dungeon itself. There are a total of 32 different levels, including the Ground Level. There are 15 main levels of the dungeon but a range of sub-levels increase the number of different areas available to die.

Each area has an Introductory Characteristics table, as mentioned earlier, which has Difficulty Level, Entrances, Exits, Wandering Monsters, Detections, Shielding, Continuous Effects and Standard Features.

Difficultly Level is the experience level required for a party of six characters to be challenged by the level. Entrances and Exits detail how to get to and from the level; where such lead to, both other parts of Rappan Athuk and the wilderness. Wandering monsters is a short wandering monster table. Shielding covers magic and material effects that prevent the use of divination spells and effects, if applicable. Detection gives the result of general divination spells on each level. Spell Function and Recovery covers anything that might affect the functioning and recovery of spells, if applicable. Continuous Effects covers any effects that are continuous throughout the level, naturally enough. Standard Features covers such as standard doors and construction.

The levels themselves vary in size, content and type. They range from small crypts to an entire goblin city, with several temples to Orcus throughout, and there is even the occasional safe haven for characters.

Book Two: Food, Pets and Slaves is 101 pages. Two pages of this are the colour front and rear covers.

Book Two is divided into four appendices.

Appendix A: Monsters provides the monster stats for those encountered in the dungeon that are referenced as being in the appendix; some reference the Monster Manual instead.

Appendix B: NPCs of Rappan Athuk does the same as A but for the non-player characters.

Appendix C: New Monsters and Rules has a number of new monsters and a new prestige class.

Appendix D: Legal is two pages and has the Open Game License and designation of product identity.

Book Three: Pathways to Damnation is the shortest at 58 pages. Two pages of this are the colour front and rear covers.

This final book collects the various maps for the dungeon, and the surrounding wilderness. It starts with a side plan map of the dungeon, with the positions of the various layers marked as well as the different connections between the levels and the exterior. As a result, it is quite complicated. The rest of the book covers the wilderness, various locations in the wilderness and finally the various levels of the dungeon.

Rappan Athuk Reloaded in Review

The PDF is bookmarked to an okay level, with the wilderness and various levels and sub levels in the first book, the various appendices in the second and the various maps in the third. This could have been done to a lot higher level though, such as listing the various encounters as well as the different monsters and NPCs; only Book Three is truly adequately bookmarked. The Contents is to a similar level as the bookmarks. Navigation is, on the whole, quite poor for a PDF of this length.

The text maintains a two column format and a number of spelling errors were noticed, primarily the use of the wrong word, some missing words and a few times the text was formatted incorrectly. The quality was still pretty high considering the length.

Rappan Athuk Reloaded InteriorThere are a number of black and white illustration that are related to the associated text. Many of these show characters doing quite poorly against the inhabitants of the dungeon; this is not a normal type of illustration.

Rappan Athuk is incredibly lethal – intentionally so. the first trap encountered is a literal death trap, and this is deliberate as it points out in the text. Much of the dungeon cannot be really cleared in the traditional sense, not perhaps because new inhabitants come in but due to many of the various traps and monsters being impossible to permanently destroy, due to them resetting or reforming due to unknown magics. The closest that can be come is defeating the Avatar of Orcus at the bottom level, which requires the destruction of three temples to him throughout the temple in order for players to stand a chance. According to the introduction to that level, the final level has never even been reached, let alone beaten, in 25 years of DMing and playtesting.

Although the dungeon generally gets more dangerous the deeper it is penetrated, there are areas in the upper levels – which are usually incredibly difficult to gain access to by lower level characters – that are far more dangerous than their surroundings. This includes a level which is the prison of a powerful creature, a biological weapon that would eat the mighty tarrasque for breakfast, that could scour a planet and which even gives Orcus pause. Lower levels can be reached from higher ones, bypassing the intermediary levels, as well. The various encounters are marked with their Encounter Level, which will give an idea as to how dangerous they are. In a number of places there are extremely dangerous effects, such as curses, with no saving throw and no warning to players that they are going to happen.

The dungeon is vast and deadly enough, with enough hidden areas, that players are unlikely to actually find everything hidden, let alone defeat everything. This is an extremely Old School death-trap dungeon; Tomb of Horrors taken to the nth level. Modern players may not be able to deal with the sheer deadliness of the dungeon if they are unfamiliar with the style of play, given how likely they are to lose characters during the exploration.

There is a Pathfinder version of Rappan Athuk, but this version should be largely compatible with Pathfinder anyway. There are also links to places outside the dungeon, in publications also from Necromancer Games, for when players wish a change of scenery for where they get killed. These start with a reference to a location in Vampires and Liches in the Wilderness Area, and there are references to The Crucible of Freya, Demons and Devils, Bard’s Gate and The Tomb of Abysthor inside the dungeon.

There was also a mention of an upcoming, at the time of publication, product called The Sword of Air. It looks like this may have been something that didn’t get published before Necromancer went on hiatus due to the d20 crash, and was later published by Frog God Games instead, although for Pathfinder and Swords & Wizardry, not D&D 3.5.

There are also brief references to items from Relics & Rituals, which was originally from Sword and Wizardry Studio, but is now from Nocturnal & Onyx Path.

The various monster and NPC details are all in Book Two, rather than appearing in the text as and when they are relevant, and the same applies to the maps, which are all in Book Three, rather than being where they are needed. This is rather inconveniently organised for a PDF, where having those details where they are needed is much more convenient, as flipping between different pages of a PDF is not as easy as in a book. It will probably require these pages to be printed out – all of Books Two and Three in other words – to be able to run the dungeon properly.

Having various threads that lead outside the dungeon although, bar the included Wilderness Area, these will require additional products and development, does mean that when players are tired of the dangerous death trap they can take a break and go something different.

This is a massive and well written megadungeon, but navigation is a lot harder than it could be, and using it will be more difficult. Rappan Athuk Reloaded will also not appeal to players who do not enjoy death-trap dungeons.

 

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