Rappan Athuk - Starting, DM Set up, Questions, Advice and Stories / Run Through Experiences

Advice and Rules Questions

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Ckorik wrote:

If you want to use them as a source for adventure I'd put one in the Tsar, one in the pyramid tomb where the sword of air resides, and one down with one of the liches in RA.

Oh, or maybe that buried pyramid that is an optional side-dungeon in the Sword of Air.

"Encounter Area XR-4: Some
Things are Best Left Buried"

The great thing about this is you could pretty much just move it somewhere relatively close to Rappan Athuk if you wanted.
Of course, that pyramid dungeon is all kinds of evil.

Oh man, now I want to put one of them at the bottom of that ant hill in quests of doom too...

In fact, I might just do that.

I usually don't want things to be too open ended in adventures I run but this is a case where there are so many possibilities for getting the group to do other adventures. Very neat.

Daggers aside, it looks like I have gathered a small group interested in playing this - wouldn't be starting till next month so I have a couple weeks to get my wits about me and ready to run this.

My thought was to start people probably at level 5 so they could explore a bit of the environs without being insta-killed... is that reasonable?

Also I haven't read the whole book yet (long way from it) - any advice about what to focus on if I am not able to get through the whole thing in time? Which chapters are they likely to "encounter" early on (other than obvious ones such as Zelkor's Ferry etc).

Any tips? I am a pretty novice DM overall, so this might be too much of an undertaking for me but I want to give it a good try.

Grand Lodge

I am currently running Rappan Athuk over roll20.net, and my group is having a blast. I advertised it as a roguelike in dnd form, so they came in expecting a dungeon focused game :P

I set the dungeon in Golarion on the northern edge of Nirmathas, just below the Hold of Belkzen. The Mouth of Doom is in the forests of Nirmathas, and Rappan Athuk proper is north in the foothills of Belzen. I had to swap around a bunch of stuff on the map, but it works out well enough.

Intro wise, I replaced the town of Zelkor's Ferry with a wizard tower; the tower of Somnabulus the Great. He is paying adventurers a fortune to retrieve an artifact from one of the lower levels of Rappan Athuk, and his advertisements explain why there are always new characters waiting in the tower to form the replacements for any that die in the dungeon.

I have five players, and I started them out with 25 point buy at level one outside the Mouth of Doom. I would not recommend doing any less if you plan to run this at all by the book, because this dungeon is Lethal! I also allow monster races, and templates and all kinds of other stuff (usually using CR or racial HD as effective levels for templates and monsters respectively). That has helped a lot in keeping options open and interest high for making new characters.

So far my party has fully cleared the Mouth of Doom (and one of their characters, a ratfolk druid, decided to retire there and keep the place free of monsters), and have passed through the Gut and into Rappan Athuk proper. They emerged in level four, and are heading up toward the surface to try to make their way back to the tower overland. They are currently in level 3, and are trying to figure out how to deal with the worm cave.

Its kind of interesting seeing them approach the upper levels from the back route as it were; heading up rather than down.

As far as lethality goes? The party is currently level 7, and they have 38 dead characters between the five of them.

I didn't want to punish death too much, so I keep track of xp for the whole party, and new characters come in at the same level as the rest of the party so they do keep advancing even after all the character deaths.

I have to say though, this dungeon is amazingly fun. My players are still really into the game, even after loosing so many characters, and they are constantly coming up with new builds to try. They also enjoy all the various ways to die in this place.

Some highlights:
-The Merfolk Oracle was killed by a mutant giant water snake in the River Dripping, which was ironic as she was the only one capable of swimming to its cave to take its treasure.
-The tiefling witch decided to rest in luxury, and was eaten by the carpet in the Last One Inn.
-The Paladin of Iomedae died fighting the Fire Cobra in the Mouth of Doom, while the rest of her party fled in fear. To this day they are convinced that she survived and is fighting the good fight somewhere deeper in the dungeon.
-The Entire party TPK'd in the Chamber of Eternal Sleep, as someone tripped the carpet trap and not ONE of the five of them rolled above a 3 on their Will save.
-After a TPK, the party decided to go explore the wilderness for a bit (level 5). The first thing they found was the hill with the harpies. Every one of them but the monk failed a harpy save, and they got torn to shreds by the Dire Lions. This was the first and only time we ever called a mulligan and restarted again with a "suspiciously identical party" back at the dungeon.
-The human fighter, dwarf rogue, and aasimar cleric all got killed by their teammates while under Scramge's illusions. The wizard fled and survived, leaving only the Orc fighter left. When Scramge revealed himself at last, the Orc promptly dropped his weapon and asked for a job XD Now he is the Rakshasha's new henchman, replacing all the jackalweres that were slain.

Overall, this dungeon is a Huge amount of fun, provided your party doesn't mind dying and enjoys making new characters :P

As far as advice for you Cycnet, I would recommend only prepping the areas adjacent to where your party currently is. I do that in roll20, loading in and prepping each floor adjacent to the floor my party is currently on. When they reach a new floor I will prep all the floors adjacent to that one. Since its all stored in roll20, I can easily revisit stuff that I prepped previously if they go a different route, and this way I can keep the workload manageable.

Thanks for the advice Sarasio!

F%$*, I wish I had signed up for it, Saraiso. I tried running RA on Roll20 but it was very complex and I didn't know how to set it up.

I had group start at level 1 with 25 point buy and like 1-2k gold (I can't remember which). I asked them where on the map they'd like to start -- they chose south. I told the group that they had an idea of where RA was based off of rumors and they encountered the harpies and dire lions and shockingly survived due to my s@$%-tastic f~~&ing rolls.

They went further up north and encountered the flying dragon and fled only to get surrounded by a group of bandits to which they charismatically diplomicized out of. They promised the group that they would assassinate the other group's leader.

They decided to continue adventuring and went further north into the swamp and they encountered the Froghemoth. They were terrified and fled from that. But they did eventually get into the dungeon and died to the first Roper. I was so sad because there was a Kraken in the water in the middle. :\

Sigggh....now I gotta try and find someone to run it. -.- It looks like such a great game.

Here's a suggestion for other GM's. My players are in level 11A the Vampire level. They entered the level from level 9 into the natural cavern and as they approached the river the 3 Ropers attacked. I didn't notice that once the PC's were reduced to 0 STR the Ropers dropped them and attacked a different PC. So don't make my mistake.

Thread necro!

I just got a copy of RA for Pathfinder, and I've gotten my group fairly excited about playing around with an old-school meat grinder of a megadungeon. I definitely want to up the old-school feel of the module, but I also want to deal with the lethality by giving the players plenty of back-up characters so no one is stuck at the table without playing for too long. To that effect, I'm planning on implementing some XP adjustments and house rules to (hopefully) achieve these goals. I thought it would be a good idea throw some of these ideas onto the boards to make sure I'm not completely off track.

Character creation: my plan for generating characters is to have everyone (myself as GM included) roll an array of ability scores using 4d6 drop the lowest. This will make a pool of 6 total arrays. Players can then choose the array they want to use from the pool and apply the ability scores as they see fit. We'll save these arrays, and they will become the basis for any future characters made by the group as well.

Back up characters: I plan on using a variation on a rule that comes from the Dark Sun campaign setting for 2e. Basically, each player has a stable of 4 characters each starting at 1st level. Only one character is active at any given time, and that character earns XP normally. However, whenever the active character goes up a level, the player gets to level up one of his other three characters automatically putting that character's XP to the minimum amount to get them to the new level. These back up characters can be subbed in either when the party is back at town (at which point the currently active character gets put into the stable with the two remaining back-ups), or if a character dies one of the back-ups can be dropped in with some hastily constructed DM Fiat ("Wow, we're sure lucky you happened to be in this part of the dungeon - let's try to get out of here!"). If a character is subbed in after a PC death, the player makes a new 1st level character to add to their stable. I'm not sure how to handle equiping the back-ups - I could just say typical WBL until they're played and once they hit the "real world" they lock in their equipment and from there it's whatever they have or loot.

Treasure for XP: I'm thinking about adjusting XP from killing stuff down and adding XP from treasure to increase the motivation of exploration and clever problem solving. My basic thought is axing all XP from wandering monsters (that makes them resource sinks with basically no reward, so stealth and speed are important), and only granting 1/10th the noted XP value for "laired" monsters. Any treasure the party finds that's just worth money (coins, gems, art objects, etc.) would grant XP in a 1 GP of value = 1 XP awarded ratio. I think equipment and magic items will not grant XP as those are fundamentally useful and make the PCs more powerful (I am considering giving them 1/10th XP for sold items, but even at that reduction one powerful magic item could really skew the curve, I think). I haven't really dug into the amount of treasure available in the dungeon to know if this will keep them moving up the power level at a reasonable rate, but I am definitely digging the basic idea behind it. And it's not like Rappan Athuk is known for it's balanced encounter design in the first place.

Character advancement: I have gamed through several scenarios using the above ideas, and I realized there is a potential problem - wildly disparate party levels. In 3.5 there was the built in mechanic of lower level characters getting more XP for the same enounter. The math was cumbersome and it took longer than I liked to calculate (though a spreadsheet I finally made helped). That said, the built in catch-up mechanic was nice for this sort of situation. I do think that it is possible to replicate something like this using Pathfinder. My idea is setting the basic advancement to the Medium XP track. Any active character that is more than one level below the Average Party Level would use the Fast track, and any active character more than one level above the APL would use the Slow track. That should help pull up any lower level replacements while slowing down any higher level PCs. Once all the characters are back to parity, then everyone would be back on the Medium track.

Sorry for the wall of text; I appreciate anyone who has read this far. I'd like to hear any feedback regarding these basic ideas - do you think they will game out like I intend, or have I laid traps for myself.

Thread necro! +1

I've written a mini-adventure and additional background marterial for "Rappan Athuk: Area 29, Castle Calaelen, Basement Area 25: Mortimer's Cell". This is a first draft. Play testing is being done next week.

Mortimer's Farm
A 1st Edition Pathfinder side-trek adventure for 1st level PCs.
Download: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1iWNDW2eS_RByppRz_Kv9miyUqEA9_Df1

In this side-trek adventure the PC's encounter Mortimer's farm before they enter Castle Calaelen and find Mort.

Mortimer ("Mort" for short) is an elderly half-orc gentleman who was captured at his farm a week ago by hungry goblins from Castle Calaelen (Cah-lay-lan). He was preparing for a trip to the nearby town of Renderby to sell his pumpkin crop when the raid occurred. He's keen to escape the castle and return to his farm, but needs the PCs help to get free.

There is no money hidden on the farm. Mort typically wears a belt pouch at all times to secure his coins. This was taken by the goblins when he was captured and has since been distributed.

RA is a nightmare. A big, brutal nightmare. Not only for the PCs, for obvious reasons, but for a GM of older, seasoned players.

Using the PF system my players traveled hundreds of miles from Endholme to the south, gathering info along the way. A few high rolls with Diplomacy, Knowledge: History, Geography and Local told the PCs some of the lore around the Forest of Good Hope and the Dungeon of Graves. They made one delve, found some loot and nearly all died, and then turned the campaign BACK towards Endholme.

So much for my RA campaign.

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