Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Recaps & Roundups part 16: Tomb of Ra-Hotep


This series has just passed the point where the Origins I gaming convention was held, which saw the public debut of the Tomb of Horrors as a tournament module. The tournament version of that module was recently unearthed and republished as part of the Arts & Arcana tome (which is great by the way). I'll get to Tomb of Horrors soon enough, but first I want to tackle the appendix at the back of the Tomb of Horrors reprint: Tomb of Ra-Hotep.

Tomb of Ra-Hotep was an adventure written by Alan Lucien, who passed it on to Gary Gygax, and was a major influence on the design of Tomb of Horrors. The basic premise of both modules is the same: a tomb filled with traps, where an evil lich is buried with his treasure. Ra-Hotep has a more overtly Egyptian theme than its successor, and it's also much smaller.  It's not clear exactly when this adventure was created, but I'll place it here, just before the tournament version of Tomb of Horrors. It probably should have gone somewhere before the publication of Supplement I: Greyhawk, but I totally forgot about it until recently.

Here's the map, which is presented from a top-down as well as a side-on perspective. Nifty!


The tomb features lots of pit traps and secret doors, and a final battle with ten mummies and Ra-Hotep himself. Among the elements that Tomb of Horrors borrows (aside from the whole premise) we have:

  • A false burial chamber
  • A secret door at the bottom of a pit
  • A secret door covered by plaster

Ra-Hotep is a lich, who casts spells as a 17th-level cleric and a 16th-level magic-user. Among his plethora of magic items, he has a "jackal-stick" which can be used to control an item of Alan Lucien's own invention: the sphere of annihilation. The creation sphere is probably the reason that Lucien was given "special thanks" in the credits of Supplement I. Whether the lich came from him I am not sure of.

The notes for this dungeon are sparse, as seems to be customary for the time. They're also written more as a guide for the author than for a general audience, so I'll probably have to clean it up a bit before I drop it in my campaign. It also has one possible design flaw: there's a block that seals the PCs into the final encounter, but no way specified for it to be opened again. I've no doubt that PCs of a high enough level to survive the last battle would have the resources to get through a block of stone (and there is that sphere of annihilation), but it's something of an omission.

There's also a page with three hieroglyphic messages, and I'm not clear where that should be placed. I'm thinking it's best placed at the beginning, in an above-ground building that serves as the entrance to the tomb.

As for placement in the campaign world, I don't think this one will ever get an official World of Greyhawk location. When the time comes, I'll plonk it down in one of the more Egyptian-themed areas of that setting (no doubt somewhere far away from the Tomb of Horrors).

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