Obligatory Spoiler Alert.
(Though just by looking at the covers above you can probably guess what’s in the dungeon…)
Rappan Athuk is supposed to be unbeatable. The dungeon is full of deadly encounters which my result in a total party kill. I’ve seen it happen at my tabletop. Some players have trouble grasping the difficulty of the module. It was designed from a homebrew campaign in earlier editions of D&D.
The master of the dungeon is supposed to be too powerful–even if the player-characters complete specific quests in the dungeon.
Rappan Athuk came to us from Necromancer Games in the heady days of the D&D Third Edition. And it’s been with us since, getting a conversion to D&D 3.5, then Swords & Wizardry and Pathfinder.
I’ve got Rappan Athuk: Reloaded–it tops around 400 pages as a PDF. It added all the free supplemental material you could access online via codes in the original three modules.
I’ve heard the Pathfinder version is longer with additional levels.
Rappan Athuk is a massive megadungeon. Your players can explore its rooms and passages for years and still not finish.
Heck, tramping around the wilderness near Rappan Athuk can be a campaign in its own right…. which got me to thinking:
In pre-Third Edition versions of D&D, characters reaching around 9th level could start building strongholds and attract followers. I know more recent editions of D&D have rules for this, but AD&D/OD&D specifically had rules for clearing out and claiming land so a character could build a stronghold.
And that’s the key to bringing Rappan Athuk low.
A first wave of characters would explore and clear out the wilderness around Rappan Athuk. They would use the treasure found in wilderness lairs and the occasional foray into the dungeon itself to build a series of strongholds leading to the dungeon–establishing a chain of supply to more civilized lands.
A second wave would clear out certain key areas of the dungeon itself. And when they “retired,” they, too, would either reinforce the existing strongholds or build their one.
The goal of the final wave: using the resources at hand they would attempt to clear the dungeon itself and banish the evil master of the dungeon once and for all.
Would it work?
A lot would depend on the patience of the DM and the players–such a campaign would take years in, and out of, game time.
I have no idea if anybody has ever attempted this… do you?