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


Advice and Rules Questions

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Dark Archive

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I wanted to start this thread as inspired by this current one for Slumbering Tsar.
So this can be a forum for DMs who are running Rappan Athuk are considering running it or if you have any ideas or questions about running an RA campaign or anything associated with RA (Expansions, Lost Lands, etc) or even stories.

This thread is for DMs so if you plan on playing in this adventure/campaign you should probably stay out. Due to the nature of this thread putting spoiler tags on stories and exchanges won't work - so players would be best advised to not continue past this point.

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One of the 1st questions I have would be how people are managing or plan on managing the wilderness encounters for starting (level 1 PCs). Are you going to start them at Zelkor's Ferry or do they have to get there? Will you steer them to the Mouth of Doom or the Tunnels of Terror or will you let them wander around the RA environs hoping they don't get killed?

Also, do you plan on running this in Golarion - if so, where? Or maybe the Lost lands (not heavily detailed as a campaign world as of yet) or somewhere else?

I want this to be a thread to share ideas about this meat-grinder of a mega dungeon.

All ideas are welcome!


Dotting for interest.

Liberty's Edge

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I ran this in Golarion and plopped it down on the Lost Coast Road between Sandpoint and Magnimar, placing them on the edges of the map.

When I ran the game I tried to create a series of quests that would promote delving into the dungeon on specific missions instead of trying to tackle it like one big slog. It didn't really work out and we stopped the game.

If I returned to Rappan Athuk I think I would do it differently. I would probably just plop the characters down at first level and let them loose, running it like a big sandbox. I feel the product has tons of potential even if it ends up being kind of overwhelming. If you look at it like a toolbox to build your own adventures and delves and whole campaigns it is an amazing resource. If you approach it like it has a cohesive story and you can run it along the same lines as a Paizo Adventure Path, you will be disappointed. This product was never intended to be that type of book.

What this book does, it does REALLY well, but be aware of it's intentions.

Scarab Sages

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I have run five sessions as one offs when we could not do our regularly scheduled campaign. In a couple of months when we finish Serpent Skull we will be taking it on full time.

I am using the Lost Lands. I like that the whole thing is gritty...

I started them at Zelkor's Ferry and led them to the Mouth of Doom, partly because I was a one off (5 one offs). I let them start at 4th level. They have cleared out the Mouth of Doom and last session took the tunnel... They lost one character in the first four session and three in the last session. They made some mistakes that day and paid dearly for them.

When we really begin the campaign I will let them have a choice. Continue where they left off (in over their heads) or start in Endhome as first level characters.

We are using the slow advancement experience point chart. And I am working out how we bring new characters in. Last time I said that if their character died it would come in a level lower. I might make it a level lower than the group. I have one player who loses his characters often and will soon be 1st level and likely never make it to second... I have some thinking to do about this. On the other hand he is very risky in his play. Goes off my himself (4th session almost died to a poison dart) and takes preemptive action that forces the group to fight when they might not. The last session it was his second death, by starting a fight with an Inn Keeper who was actually tougher than he was and the rest of the group did not back him up...

Lesson, just because it is an Inn Keeper does not mean you can one shot him. It might be that he is not only tougher than he looks but tougher than you are...

Scarab Sages

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When we come back to it in the campaign I will run it as a sandbox...

There is a lot out there.

Dark Archive

Couple more questions - what kind of point buy is everyone using or are some people going old school (rolling)

I'm going to be running this soon - going to be doing it as a mix of Tunnels of Terror and then crossing over to Mouth of Doom (probably go back and forth with clues and red herrings to get them to different places).

I'll try to steer them a little in the beginning - but these guys are all experienced veteran AD&D players and have played the king of all suicidal random wilderness encounters game - Gamma World (randomly rolled Death Machine). I just wish PF had better rules for running away - might need to work on that.

Also - XP. I remember reading in LCoB that the suggestion was giving 1/2 xp for everything. Thoughts?

I already do that in my PF game and like Shem I am going with the slow track. What about everyone else?

My reasoning - I want the PCs to pace well with the levels and encounter difficulty, also the slow track feels closest to older editions. The Xp charts at low level are similar between editions (1 or 2k to go up) but the xp awarded for creatures is a fraction - even if you count in treasure - the pace of advancement is much slower.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game, Companion, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

I am having them role. I am not a big point buy guy... If I was going to do point buy I would go with 20. The Lost Lands are deadly.

For running away? Depends on where they are running. I would probably use the chase deck. I have done this several times through woods and such. I also usually do not really chase them when they run, but it could happen.

XP, I go slow and give them full points. In five session a couple of people leveled up to 5th level from 4th, and one of those got some help in the dungeon.

If you are doing RA I would not use 1/2 xp, it is deadly enough and it is very easy to stumble into an area that is a much higher level than the party.


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I'm currently running a couple versions, one with some experienced players and some not as much. One thing that's really important (I think at least) for this campaign is that you have to make some good hooks for the start, as the forces within the dungeon can't really be active villains for a long time.

As others have said, playing it as a sandbox is probably the best way to start it. I had one group start by heading down the Coast Road, but they quickly made their way to Zelkor's as a base. The other group I had start in Zelkor's, which is probably best. It gives them a good starting point and somewhere to come back to if they manage to anger the random dice gods. In addition, Zelkor's can be a good source of early hooks as well, which as previously stated is good to start it off with.

I've ran both campaigns on the Medium track, and it still seems to be fairly low... though for one campaign it's because we have a lot of RP, and that takes up most of our session time. The other group also is going fairly slow, but nyeh? I think it depends on how successful they are.

One thing that has to be considered is how random encounters will cut into session time. It's difficult, and random encounters while traveling usually ends up being one/day, which lets the party have a 15-minute workday problem.

Another thing is that both my parties have gotten a lot of wealth. Not sure if that's because I haven't been playing robbers well enough or not, but both parties are probably above WBL. (They'll need it though).

Scarab Sages

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Just give them the players guide and every session I let them hear new rumors. They have more they want to check into than they will ever be able to accomplish. They have goals and few of them are goals easily accomplished.


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I'm running a D20Pro online game with 6 PCs and have run about 22 sessions. I started the group in the city of RIddleport and had them paid to provide a room-by-room map of the Mouth of Doom, focusing on finding the healing fountain on the bottom floor. Took 5-6 sessions to clear that mini-dungeon, which then became the base of operations for a mages guild (Cyphermages) and a base of operations for the group. They were then paid to check out the exits (Teleportals and the Gut) which led them to Rappan Athuk. By this point I've got meta-plot stuff driving them on, two NPC friends have been geased to go deep into the dungeon, so the PCs are chasing them, and a paladin is having visions about Orcus, etc. So no more paying for exploration, it’s become personal.

I've used medium XP and some side adventures to break stuff up and the guys are 9th level and have a decent amount of treasure, but not too much. They're currently on the 3rd level of Rappan Athuk and looking at level 4.

One other thing, I didn't really like level 2 of RA, so I substituted the Thassilonian labratory from the Shards of Sin adventure, but I kept some of the NPCs and scenary peices. That also helped me ground the place in Varisia and make a case that the upper levels had a place in history.

Owner - House of Books and Games LLC

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I just started this recently; I've been running a campaign using Paizo materials for a while now, and they hit 9th level at the northern edge of the Forest of Hope. I plopped the whole thing on the shore of Avalon Bay between Thrushmoor and Caliphas as something that's been idle but recently more active. Not a perfect fit, but they were in Ustalav after doing the first two parts of Carrion Crown so it was convenient.

How they got where they are:

  • The Haunting of Harrowstone.
  • Feast at Ravenmoor
  • Trial of the Beast
  • Overland journey from Leipstadt to Tamrivena then by river from Tamrivena to Kavapesta and the headwaters of the Senir River (I had a blast with a wandering group of 8 scarecrows)
  • I plopped Turtleback Ferry and the Hook Mountain Massacre (RotRL) at the head of the Senir, but without any hooks after Fort Rannick, though I really would have liked to throw Black Magga at them. Maybe later :)
  • Quick journey over the mountains and downriver to Thrushmoor
I haven't modified any of the CRs of the encounters, so they cheerfully obliterated a small group of bandits that didn't realize how badly they'd be outgunned by the PCs.

They've run into the Fethine Party (Area 2), and from there to the Black Fane (Area 3) and from there to dungeon level 1A. Yesterday they started at Room 8 (which they's scouted using arcane eye at the end of the previous game), and they just defeated the three vrocks in area 13.

There's a couple dwarves in the party, and they're antsy to take on the troll nest in Area 4; on the way I'll probably have them run into cultists from Area 25 (The Cloister of the Frog). I also can't wait for them to run into the froghemoth.

I'm not planning on being very nice in the Bloodways (level 9D) but it's not that hard and I don't want to do the full grind - that would make it take FOREVER.

---

I'm going to treat it as a sandbox and occasionally send them on other "missions" (Paizo modules) as the mood takes me and when I like the modules, though the new format makes that a bit harder to do.


I am not ready to run RA yet, as we are in Legacy of Fire book 4. However, I was wondering if anyone has an idea of how long it might take to run RA meeting every other week for about 4 hours.

It has taken about 20 months to get where we are now. So I am guessing about 4-5 years.


@Silverhair2008 - It could be much shorter, given the location, but yes, it is a rather large set. The original was three module sized booklets, but the later incarnations are several hundred pages. If your group desires a lot of roleplaying, then several years at the rate you describe seems reasonable, but if they delve right in without looking for much information or side treks (such as a sampling of the wilderness encounters also included) and they subsist off of the items discovered within the set (meaning they do not return frequently to sell stuff and research spells, etc.) then you could slim this down to about a year to two. As I alluded to in my opening statement, this is a deadly dungeon because not everything on a given level has a similar power range. Some things are meant to be bypassed and come back for later, if at all. Players not being prepared to retreat from an encounter (because it has never been necessary before, or they are being stubborn) can result in a TPK as early as the first dungeon level. I made the mistake of not reading full descriptions of monster entries the first time I ran this module and I did not properly foreshadow an opponent that was unbeatable by the current party makeup which would have resulted in a TPK had I not stated out loud my error. I ended up retconning two dead PCs on that one and never made the same mistake. After that, all their deaths were their fault entirely (and they were much more skittish to boot).

Publisher, Frog God Games

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The new expansion we just released has more low level areas as well. The Barakus regional map has the area pretty well defined as well.


Which new expansion? Levels 7B?

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
Matthew Boehland wrote:
Which new expansion? Levels 7B?

The Rappan Athuk subscription, I believe


This.

Edit - ninja'd!


This may have been answered elsewhere, but does the "Volume 1" in the RA expansion foretell a "Volume 2"?

Dark Archive

Matt Filla wrote:
This may have been answered elsewhere, but does the "Volume 1" in the RA expansion foretell a "Volume 2"?

I believe that they mentioned future RA expansions, they just won't go with the subscription format and probably release stand alone add-ons/modules or levels.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

RA sub had a year long 6 part sub or two year long 12 part sub. RA1 is just the first year (although it has taken a lot longer than a year!). The second year is what we'll be seeing next, those of us who have subbed for 2 years. Will be available standalone as well, just like RA Vol1

Dark Archive

mach1.9pants wrote:
RA sub had a year long 6 part sub or two year long 12 part sub. RA1 is just the first year (although it has taken a lot longer than a year!). The second year is what we'll be seeing next, those of us who have subbed for 2 years. Will be available standalone as well, just like RA Vol1

I don't think that's right Mach. Cyclopean Deeps (which I should have subbed) had a two year sub. RA had a one year sub only.

I do recall that they are not closing the book on RA and that they were still going to release material - just not in a subscription format.


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What I would like to see with an expansion to RA is not more levels per se, but a guide to restocking common areas of entry and improtance (like the temples, etc.). Would be very useful for those groups that think they are slick and jump in and out of the dungeon to sell or make items and such. I think that would help make it a bit more of a living dungeon. I would get it anyway...


Thedmstrikes: I like that idea a lot.

Pathfinder Rules Conversion, Frog God Games

<pencils in ideas for Vol 2>


I run Swords & Wizardry, so I can't speak much to locating it in Golarion. But I definitely like the idea of starting PC's there at first level. Get 'em used to the big dungeon idea right off the bat, especially if you plan on your campaign revolving around RA itself and not just being 'there as an option'.

We had our first session last Wednesday. There was a dwarven fighter, human thief and human cleric. The thief picked up a hireling, Birgir, from Zelkors Ferry before they headed out in search of the Mouth of Doom. PC's around Zelkors Ferry seem to have an unnatural attraction to the demon statue atop the hill west of the town - so much so that I've created a little homebrew dungeon beneath it since every group I run seems to be drawn to it! Since one of my players had already gone through it though, this time, I placed the (FGG 1975 module) dungeon below it. The party did really well except for losing their thief to a cocatrice! Through some very lucy rolls they managed to fend off the summoned vrock in the treasure room for six rounds and escape with the mummys treasure. Great times, and the party has plans to delve the Mouth of Doom next.


I have run RA in all three incarnations now 3.0, 3.5 and Pathfinder. The Pathfinder game is currently on a break as the players are actually tired of RA after 4 times. I started the last group at level 1 at Zelkor's Ferry. They are now in Tsar. I might someday run it in S&W as I now have that also.


I will run Ra on Friday for my group. However, I have a question about the Wilderness Area around Ra. There are 3 Rivers shown on the Wilderness Map but only the middle one is named. What are the names of the northern river where Zelkor's Ferry is located, and what is the name of the Southern river?

Publisher, Frog God Games

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More RA in the works ince we catch up on everything else.


Looking at the Sinnar Coast map I found the river by Zelkor's Ferry is Canyon River and the middle and southern rivers are actually forks of the Wild Edge River. So I guess we could call them Wild Edge River North and Wild Edge River South.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Bill Webb wrote:
More RA in the works ince we catch up on everything else.

More the merrier, can't be long for sword of air I hope too


Ran it once.

A 6th level party found the place from a lost map and letter. Cleared the first two levels, lost all the followers (Leadership Feat) of the Dwarven Lord in a single "oops!" moment, lost the elder of two clerics, party never went back... yet.

Definitely sandboxy with a highly variable morbidity coefficient.

Beware!


Ran first session last evening. First night out in area, Barbarian hears bells set as alarm go off and sees a Black Panther climb down out of tree. Shoots at it and wings it. It runs off. They are camped by Small Lake. Find Bear tracks, follow them to a large tree with a cave like opening. Rogue throws a burning branch in to force Bear out. Out comes Big Red, a huge Grizzly (think Dire Bear). During combat Theurge casts Grease, Bear falls, Barbarian gets within reach and gets taken down and grappled. They eventually win through, but is hit and miss for a spell.

Players say they had fun, and they now know RA is very deadly.

Publisher, Frog God Games

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Mach--SOA is out as a pdf and at the printer

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Ooh I see that. I'm just waiting to be able to order print and get the bundle. Sadly I missed the KS due to lack of funding at the time

Publisher, Frog God Games

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Have no fear Mach--I just need to wait until the books get here from China


Mach, I am in the same boat as you. I had to cancel my pledge to Sword of Air. So like you I must wait on a slow boat from China before I can order the print/PDF bundle. Bill, save me a set, and the map.

Publisher, Frog God Games

Of course. Silver email me


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Thedmstrikes wrote:
What I would like to see with an expansion to RA is not more levels per se, but a guide to restocking common areas of entry and improtance (like the temples, etc.). Would be very useful for those groups that think they are slick and jump in and out of the dungeon to sell or make items and such. I think that would help make it a bit more of a living dungeon. I would get it anyway...

First of all, I would be all over this right here ^^

As for OP.

I have tried RA a few ways now. 20 point buy, Medium Progression in all cases.

*Started at level 6 in Zelkor's Ferry and went straight to Mausoleum. Wilderness was still harrowing at this level. 7th level already when they reached mausoleum. Made short work of the green gargoyles which surprised me but things soon evened out once inside. They made it down to the 4th level this time but never assaulted the temple. I think this one ended because of scheduling stuff, but it was going good.

*Start at 1st Level with Wizard's Amulet into Crucible of Freya then head to Rappan Athuk via Zelkor's Ferry. Hit Mouth of Doom even though theoretically a little above level for it. It was fine, still challenging. Everything evened out and on track by the time they got down to Demon's Gullet. Then they headed into the Wilderness rather than down to that plague infested level whatever it's called. TPK'd in wilderness.

*Start at 3rd level in Bard's Gate. Intrigue sort of city adventures lead to a discovery that Orcus cult was active. From there up to the Tomb of Abysthor dungeon (first two levels only) then back to Bard's Gate, bit more intrigue stuff, then down the Coast Road. I think this time they somehow ended up getting up to tenth or eleventh level without ever setting foot in the dungeon proper. They were going around the wilderness wiping out bandit groups and setting up a home bass near the dungeon, trying to identify alternate entrances into Rappan Athuk. No TPK, this one ended because of schedule stuff again just after they had located the goblin entrance that leads down to Izamne. They had also found the black whatcha-callit near the fairy grove. Black monolith? Black citadel? They defeated the bone-crawler but decided not to enter the black watch-callit.

That was the main three attempts I remember. A lot of details are blurry between the three but it was all really good gaming.

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Sounds like some great gaming there, esp the sand boxy last one


Yeah I think there was one more big try as well but it gets blurry because we were experimenting with things like two parties at once in the same sandbox campaign, and revolving roster of players and characters.

I remember another party that got really involved with Drusilla, running around doing her bidding. They ended up somehow clearing those spiders she wanted out of her grove by convincing the spiders to follow them in an exodus to go live in the mouth of doom dungeon of all places. They made it out to be a promised land with a plentiful supply of rats to eat. This way they had a backdoor they could always use in and out of Rappan Athuk without worrying about it getting repopulated too much with hostiles. They could keep their treasure there and everything because it was totally crawling with giant spiders that only let them come and go freely. That was awesome.

Then there was a party that got Aragnak to spare them by promising to work for him doing delves into Rappan Athuk since he was too big to go down there. So every time they came up they pretty much got auto sacked for all the loot, unless they stashed some before they saw him or convinced him they needed to keep some things in order to keep doing their job. The whole time they were plotting to get powerful enough to kill him and get back all their stuff though. That was really cool too.

There was a revolving pool of players doing these things playing in different configurations with different characters. Like it was all one big campaign but it was different campaigns? They kind of ended up with an unofficial guild of adventures, with information and resources being stockpiled and exchanged and bequeathed to and between each other and even to replacement characters. Kind of a big web. Hard to explain but really cool.

But yeah that intrigue-y Bard's Gate based adventure arch was one of the times it felt like we were getting it right. It's important you don't expect RA to provide all the impetus for plot like an AP does, as someone pointed out up-thread. It doesn't have inciting incidents and signposts saying "go here next". The group has to make the story. The city adventuring helped develop reasons for the characters to want to delve, but you can do some of that with backstory too.

Once I figured that out it got really good, that's why I decided to try it as a PbP. But that medium turned out to bring it's own challenges too. It's a learning curve.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game, Companion, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

All of the Lost Lands adventures remind me of the old Basic D&D modules.

It is not as much about the story as it is about exploration I think. My group has dived right in. Four of them have played in the old days and I think that it appeals to them for that reason.

Currently in Bard's Gate and thinking to give them hints about Sword of Air but they may go back to RA. They also have explored the first two levels of TofA.

They lost a character there who is now dedicated to Orcus. I believe he will be a recurring NPC now. To show the group the true path...

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
mach1.9pants wrote:
Ooh I see that. I'm just waiting to be able to order print and get the bundle. Sadly I missed the KS due to lack of funding at the time

And once again we see the awesome FGG customer service, what appeared in my downloads? A copy of SoA (both versions) and the map. THANKS FROGGIES! I have a couple of hundred burning a hole in my pocket for the print versions once they are in the store :D

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game, Companion, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

Wow, nice...


This is related to RA, but not specific so if it is in the wrong place please move it.

I am running RA but have it written up on Obsidian Portal. I want the players to write journals but it seems there is no motivation to do so without some kind of reward. So my question is what sort of reward would you use to invite players to write Journals?

In another game I am in the GM is using Hero Points for rewards for Journal entries. Also, if you have the max Hero Points, of 3, he allows an exchange of 1 Hero Point = 1 gem (value = level x 100 gp). There has been some suggestions of money, building points, and xp. I had my players create 3 PC's each to prepare for the certain obituaries. They are planning an Adventurers Guild in Zelkor's Ferry. That is what the Build Points would be used for. One player thinks that Hero Points would make RA less deadly. I am not so sure.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.


Dotting for later contribution.


I've decided to go with Building Resources. The players want to build a Lodge in town so I said they would get 1 point per entry in the Journals to use as Capital in accordance with the Downtime rules from Ultimate Campaign.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game, Companion, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

Interesting...


A question for others running Rappan Athuk and maybe one of the Frogs. I am reading through RA getting an idea of what I can throw at my players and was in the Cloister of the Frog God section. When I got to DL2V I noticed it referenced a connection to level 4A-1. But when I went to look at the map for 4A-1 there was no connection to DL2V. There is a set of stairs connecting to level 3. I suppose the connection could be into that set of stairs.

Any help would be appreciated.

Silverhair


It doesn't look like the map was updated to show the connection with the Cloister. Coming from the west, I would probably have it connect into 4A-2, the Basilisk cavern. There are enough random cave projections there that it wouldn't be out of place.


I never noticed that connection. Crazy.

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