Saturday, January 25, 2014
Part of the Basic Dungeons and Dragons Reviews
I have the small goal of doing a review of the Basic series of modules 1 through 10. After doing node graphs of the first 8 modules, it was Rahasia that really stuck out as being different. I had forgotten a lot of things about this adventure; the use of teleporters around almost every corner, the comparatively large size of the dungeon, the idea of a tower complex buried under a mountain.
I ran this adventure way back in 1984. My cousins would humour me by playing on occasion, or it might have been they were stuck way out in the country with nothing to do. We had fun with all the modules that came back out then. There was nothing like breaking open the cellophane wrapping and devouring the latest TSR adventure to run for the next weekend get together.
But this adventure never grabbed us like some of the others. Looking back on it now, you can see where Rahasia was derived from a tournament module (actually two; RPGA 1, RPGA 2). I suspect that the first one ended at room 50, which makes sense as that is the halfway point between room 1 and 100. I think the length of the adventure and the nature of its mapping and cerebral puzzles were a bit much for our young minds back in 1984.
The number of rooms might not seem like too much; 100 rooms, but consider that the Caves of Chaos only has 59 thinly described rooms and that those 59 rooms are divided up between 10 caves. A group could pick one cave, explored the 6 or so rooms of the cave and call it a night. In Rahasia, you are in the complex and probably going to have to stick it out until you reach the end.
Another factor increasing the size of the dungeon is the use of teleporters. Hickman seemed to have a predilection with trying to confuse the mapper of a group. Both Rahasia and Pharoah use disorienting tricks to try and get the mapper to write out an incorrect map; a map that will probably make the dungeon seem much larger than it really is as the players trudge over rooms they already encountered but aren't aware that they have been teleported around.
There is also something that feels disjointed about the presentation to me. Rahasia and Rahib have a Middle Eastern vibe to there names, dress, manner but the rest of the setting does not back it up. The lower levels of the dungeon were suppose to be a tower of ancient evil that was smashed by a mountain, but there is little information that relays that information to the players and it doesn't seem to matter much in the scheme of things. It gives the feel that they needed more "dungeon" for the players to go through.
Still, there are a lot of encounters in Rahasia that I quite like. There is a wine tasting statue. The main opponents are three witches who have taken over elven maiden bodies so the players might want to think of ways to incapacitate them. A magic quill that will answer a limited amount of questions. And I like the general tone and outline of the adventure.
If I were to run this adventure today, I would reskin it slightly and change some of the layout. I would make the temple complex and the evil beneath something the elves knew about all along. The elves have spent centuries guarding the evil beneath to make sure it is contained. I would remake Rahib into an elf that was jilted by Rahasia and so looks for revenge by cutting a deal with the imprisoned witches.
As for the layout, I would do away with the myriad of teleporters and "disorienting map tricks" and try to connect up the temple levels and the caves below in a more natural manner. I would add another, easily spotted, physical entrance to the complex. I would leave the roadside shrine teleporter to get into the lower levels of the complex and would provide clues to its operation up front.
In short, I would try to make the dungeon a living, breathing location with ways for the players to get into and out of the dungeon so they can make repeated trips. Also, the denizens of the dungeon would have more transparent motives for the players to understand and possibly manipulate. The mysteries and backstory, too, would be more readily deduced so as to give the players ammunition about how to complete the adventure.