Friday, July 14, 2017

Rappan Athuk Week – Part Five

The PCs were still in the Hall of the Minotaur King, on the far side of the mazy labyrinth. Having explored the perimeter of the cavern, they knew of at least two exits: one tunnel ran south, another east. Gardy made an argument for breaking apart the king’s wooden throne and boating on the fast-moving river to the south. The party decided to take the tunnel east, on the far side from where they entered. PCs took turns using Errosali’s magic boots to leap the stream, throwing them back each time in a sack tied with rope. i

At this point the party entered another section of labyrinthine maze. Here I abstracted the action to wandering-monster rolls. Halfway through they ran into an exotic mustard jelly, which emits a poison cloud of slowing and is hit only by magic weapons. Fortunately, the front-line fighters had such weapons, could withstand the poison, and bested the thing with some hard hitting.

A tiny fraction of the mazes of Rappan Athuk

After another hour of exploring in-game (i.e., just one monster roll in real life), the group came out into a small, empty room. Listening they could hear voices to the south. The thief Puddin’ crept forward to investigate and found two goblins, who saw him. He called for help and the rest of the party charged into the chamber. The goblins likewise called for help (“Bree-Yark!!”) and another dozen of their kind ran in from another room, along with a goblin priest, surrounding the PCs. Violence was inescapable. The PCs first had to chop their way through the front line, then pressed the attack on the priest. Gardy fired her wand at the side, paralyzing three goblins while avoiding her friends. The evil priest reached forward with a blazing-black hand and hit Melchior for 3 dice of damage, at which point the fighters cut the goblin down. Invisibly, Iparaguire picked up priest’s body and mimed as though it were undead. Errosali, knowing the Goblin tongue, called for the remaining 5 goblins to surrender (the dead priest apparently bowing in fealty), and they all threw down their weapons.

At last the PCs had some intelligible monster whom they could interrogate about the layout of Rappan Athuk. Where had the come? Far below, from a great Goblin city – up through harrowing caverns with dragons and many, many gargoyles, then confusing maze. Many goblins dead! How can one get to the surface? Priest thought this way, then got caught by Minotaurs – Many goblins dead! Will you be willing to serve for a chunk of gold ore apiece? Certainly – Master treat goblins better than any other!

So the players debated at this point which direction to go in; principally, forward towards the Goblin City, or back towards the surface? Arguments forward mostly turned on a belief that they couldn’t get back through the maze, and that the players wanted to experience more of the complex. A vote was taken; which split perfectly 3-to-3 on either side of the table. (Goblins ask: We get vote? But they likewise split evenly.) Then it was pointed out that the group had depleted all of their healing potions, and this swayed one of the players towards heading back to the surface with their treasure. So they turned back northward. ii

The PCs navigated one section of labyrinth, then the minotaurs cave, and then a second section of labyrinth. Fortunately, no wandering monsters of importance showed up, and some players were shocked at how quickly in real-time they returned to the rat’s cliff. iii The ropes were still in place, and no black pudding to be seen, so the thief climbed up and belayed the others. For extra safety, the fighters at this point doffed their armor, sent it up in a sack, and climbed without burden, armoring again on the upward side.

Going to exit the cave, the found the tunnel blocked by a new menace – some new type of black ooze unlike the others. The PCs made a line in the cave, some pitching daggers, others scooping up rats to use as distractions. One goblin was sent forward, tumbling into the ooze and being consumed horribly. And worse – it’s shambling skeleton was spit out of the ooze, marching forward to attack while the blob continued to block the tunnel out! Goblins fought ex-goblin, and fighters stabbed with spears. The next round, 2 skeletons were spit out of the ooze. Then the round after that, 4 skeletons. Melchior cut his way to the front of the cave and hacked at the undead ooze, chopping it into bits until the pieces finally melted away. iv

The PCs thereafter made their way back up the Well at twilight. The two remaining goblins were each given a chunk of gold as promised, and ran squealing with delight into the woods. v The PCs headed safely back to town, and the players here broke for dinner. vi

i While many sections of river in Rappun Athuk lead to other (lower, generally more dangerous) levels, boating here would be irrevocable death, as per the text.

ii Going down towards the Goblin City would have taken the PCs through a series of cyclopean caverns, get attacked by about 50 Gargoyles, a giant hydra, and a series of steam caverns with a pair of mated dragons. (The text identifies these as “umber dragons” but if necessary I was going to change them to red dragons for simplicity – note that Frog Tubson does have a potion of red dragon control.)

iii Twice an encounter came up as phase minotaurs, but I ruled that they’d been entirely wiped out earlier by the PCs.

iv The geometric increase in number of skeletons isn’t strictly the rule for the undead ooze, but in the heat of the game it seemed like a good way to ramp up the drama/tension (and force melee with the ooze still blocking the tunnel mouth). As I think about, this might also be a good way to stagger random wandering encounters, 1, then 2, then 1d6, etc. of a particular type.

v Melchior – “What do you bet that if we just follow them for 10 minutes we can recover the gold from their dead bodies?”

vi From the battle in the minotaur’s cave and various labyrinthine wanderings, the PCs had beaten 115 HD of monsters and picked up 6,350 sp value in treasure. Total XP: 11,500 + 6,350 = 17,850. Divided by 6.5 gave 2,750 per PC, and half that for NPCs. This actually permitted Puddin’ Superplum to become a 5th level Thief, and Errosali the Perfidious Magician to become a 3rd level Wizard. He paid the wizard in town to copy the levitate spell from his book.


  1. Can you explain a little bit more about how you abstracted the maze section? How did you determine how long it would take/how they get out?
    I am appreciative of the party realizing how important limited use resources like the healing potions are to moving forward. My group tends to forget to factor those in when choosing to go "one more room"

    1. Yeah, the first section we played out in detail. The silver lining is that this gave me a real time factor for that exploration, which I think was about 2 hours (broadly speaking I equate exploring in-game with real-time play spent, unless extensive searches for secret doors are made, etc.) The text calls for wandering checks every hour, so thereafter it just turned into 2 checks per maze section (8-in-20 chance of encounter per check). In retrospect, if I'd counted out spaces moved on the map, I think it should have taken longer (more checks).

    2. So actually I just counted up the square-by-square wanderings in the one maze trip that we played in detail: the PCs traveled 612 spaces = 6,120 feet. Note that this doesn't reflect random direction-scrambling (which I nixed entirely), they fact they got lucky at several branches (running from the ochre jelly put them back towards the exit; I shifted doors once to funnel them there; etc.), nor include the 6 or so times they did careful searches for secret doors. By the movement rules in Vol-3, p. 8 (180' per 10 min for PCs at MV 9"), this should have taken 6,120 ÷ 180 ÷ 6 = about 6 hours of in-game time.

  2. "Bree-yark" is a call for help? I've been hearing rumors that it meant "we surrender"

  3. You know, I think they are doing remarkably well for their levels!