D&D General Thoughts on running Rappan Athuk (and deadly megadungeons in general) [SPOILERS]

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I've been running Rappan Athuk for 4 years and 4 months. I should wrap it up by the end of the summer. I'm running the 5e version and most of the characters are at level 17 and will likely level to 18 by the end of the next session. Rappan Athuk, and megadungeons in general, are not everyone's cup of tea. But I wanted to start a thread for those who do like it and share thoughts on what worked and didn't work in the adventure. How their campaigns (or even brief delves) played out, and lessons learned and tips for running Rappan Athuk and deadly megadungeons in general.

I am not a fan of plus threads, because I find I learn a lot from peoples' negative experiences, but I don't want this to be another thread on why you like or don't like megadungeons. There are other threads on that. But if you really hated Rappan Athuk, I'd be interested in reading why, as long as it is focused on specific features of Rappan Athuk, rather than "RA is a megadungeon and megadungeons suck." If you've never played Rappan Athuk but have run other megadungeons, I will be interested in what worked and didn't work for you. My posts will all be RA specific.

Rather than making a massive post, I'll make a series of posts, each focused on a different thought or example. And I'll continue to post as continue down the final stretch of the long campaign.

WARNING: This thread will have A LOT of spoilers. It will be too cumbersome to have the discussion I want having to constantly review and edit my posts with spoiler tags. If you are going to be a player in a Rappan Athuk game, best not to participate in this thread. I'm assuming those reading this are GMs who have run, or plan to run, RA; players who have already played in RA; or people who do not intend to ever play in RA but are interested in talking about running deadly megadungeons.
 

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MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Thoughts on Session Zero, Setting Expectations, and Getting Buy-in

When are started to think of running RA, I already had a group of players I'd been playing with for several years. Our first campaign was a large-world sandboxy homebrew. Are second campaign was Curse of Strahd. At the time we were playing in person. I floated the idea of playing a massive, old-school, deadly megadungeon.

Place the Megadungeon in a Larger Setting, tie it to lore of the setting, and give natural "outs" if the players want to quit or get a break from the dungeon
They were all interested. We, or at least I, had some concerns that a megadungeon could get old fast. But I had a lot of Lost Lands material and made it clear that the party was free to go and explore other areas of the world and pursue other quests and adventures. We always had an "out." More important the "out" was organic. Rappan Athuk is part of a much larger world with a lot of published material. Initially, my thinking is that this would give an "out" while still feeling natural in game. No need to kill the campaign and start a new, just move on to another part of the world.

But a secondary benefit is that it helped bring Rappan Athuk to life having it placed within a much larger setting. I didn't realize it at the time, but Frog God Games have threads sewn all throughout RA linking it to other locations, adventures, and lore. It is easily ignored if you don't want to invest in the Lost Lands setting, but if you like having the support of massive amounts of setting material, lore, and other adventures, it is there.

Also, this was my first "kitchen sink" campaign for 5e (and I hadn't played any TTRPGs from the very early 90s until 5e came out). The Lost Lands is such a massive world that you can have very thematic and tightly focused campaigns, but you can also fit about any race, class, or background you want and find a place for it in the world. Generally, I let players use any official WotC options and build their characters in D&D Beyond. Those players that were into detailed character backstories would write their ideas and I would find ways to tie it into the canonical Lost Lands lore, occasionally homebrewing to fill gaps or teak things to make their backstories work within the setting. But...

We started with a session 0 funnel...
I encouraged the players to not invest a lot of time into character backstories before our first session. Each player rolled up four characters using the level zero rules from the Adventurer's League adventure, DDAL-ELW00 What's Past is Prologue.
  • The character has chosen a name, race, and background.
  • The character has NOT chosen a class.
  • The character has gear plus weapons, up to one common magical item, and proficiencies granted by their race and background.
  • A level 0 character has 6 + their Constitution modifier for hit points, 1d6 hit dice, and no proficiency bonus.
  • Weapon and armor proficiencies may be granted by race and background; those are fine!

The first session started with the second-most trite setup in D&D after "you meet in a tavern." They were all members of a caravan travelling down the Coast Road on their way to the wilderness settlement of Zelkor's Ferry. One of the wagons broke down about a day or two's journey from their destination. The caravan stopped for repairs and maintenance and it was decided to camp for the evening and push on to Zelkor's Ferry in the morning.

In the evening they were approached by the Felthane, a group of fey (sprites, pixies, etc.) and were invited to a celebration. There were a variety of social challenges. The fey were threatened by a deadly creature called the bone crusher and were hoping that perhaps this large group of big folk would be able to destroy it.

The bone crusher is a custom RA monster that is quite deadly for low-level PC, much less level-0 PCs who don't even have a class yet. My players a long-time gamers and highly tactical. There were a lot of NPC caravan guards. They focused on protecting themselves and the non-combatant NPCs. Still, it was a meat-grinder. They ended up damaging the bone-grinder enough that it retreated, they did not follow. The surviving PCs received some rewards from the Felthane, treated the wounded, and buried the many dead. All of the players had at least two PCs that survived.

In the morning they pushed on to Zelkor's Ferry, where they gathered rumors, found a mentor/trainer, and leveled up to level 1.

The names of the dead PCs and NPCs were added to the obituary poster hung on the wall behind my DMs seat and expectations were set!
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I've never been in RA specifically as either player or DM (but I own the 3e version and want to convert and run (bits of) it someday), but I've both run and played/am playing in other megadungeons.

They're a tricky beast. The biggest headache, unless the party is high enough level to have easy access to long range transport, is that there needs to be a city or similar somewhere the PCs can access for supplies, training (if used), new recruits, and so on; yet having that city be located close to a megadungeon makes no narrative sense. So, the PCs are either going to be stuck in the dungeon until they run out of resources and-or characters, or are going to be doing a LOT of travelling back and forth.

I tried running the old (late 1e/early 2e) Temple of Elemental Evil, and the travel killed it - they had no long-range transport so had to ground-pound through a few hundred miles of dangerous country to get from city to dungeon (or back), and the trip to-from town was ultimately found to be more deadly than the dungeon itself. Got me fired as DM of that group, that one did. :)

The other thing with megadungeons is timing: if the party stays in there, you'll likely go through very few game days but take a lot of sessions doing it. Two weeks of game time can take a year in real time. What this means is that anything going on in the outside game-world effectively grinds to a near-halt, and as DM you have to remember it all 6 months or a year later when the party finally comes up for air. (this is even more of a female-dog when you're running more than one party side-along in the setting; the one in the megadungeon more or less stops in time while the other(s) advance, knocking them way out of synch). However, if they have to travel for weeks each way to get from dungeon to town and back, suddenly you're leaping ahead through game time which can raise its own issues.

And the megadungeon has to have some means of maintaining long-term player engagement. The one I'm playing in, on bi-weekly online sessions we've been in that thing for (looks it up and says "Yikes!") a bit over 2 real-world years with no end in sight. I-as-player have long since forgotten our initial reason for going there; what keeps me engaged in the moment is that my (current) character is a greedy little thing and this place is loaded with "nick", as she calls it.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
They're a tricky beast. The biggest headache, unless the party is high enough level to have easy access to long range transport, is that there needs to be a city or similar somewhere the PCs can access for supplies, training (if used), new recruits, and so on; yet having that city be located close to a megadungeon makes no narrative sense. So, the PCs are either going to be stuck in the dungeon until they run out of resources and-or characters, or are going to be doing a LOT of travelling back and forth.
Very true. This is even more the case with the Lost Lands. Travel distances are rather insane compared to typical D&D. But, when done right, it adds to the challenge, and getting access to magical travel become a huge milestone.
I tried running the old (late 1e/early 2e) Temple of Elemental Evil, and the travel killed it - they had no long-range transport so had to ground-pound through a few hundred miles of dangerous country to get from city to dungeon (or back), and the trip to-from town was ultimately found to be more deadly than the dungeon itself. Got me fired as DM of that group, that one did. :)
In Rappan Athuk, there is a small wilderness settlement called Zelkor's Ferry that gives a fairly safe place to retreat to and resupply at lower levels. There is lore and world building that helps it make some sense (if you don't think about it too critically).

But to get to larger cities is a major undertaking at lower levels. I handle that mostly at downtime and use a variety of downtime rules to handle how costly and time consuming the travel it. Downtime activity, especially in the first two tiers of play, are basically a subsystem that we play over e-mail between sessions.

The other thing with megadungeons is timing: if the party stays in there, you'll likely go through very few game days but take a lot of sessions doing it. Two weeks of game time can take a year in real time. What this means is that anything going on in the outside game-world effectively grinds to a near-halt, and as DM you have to remember it all 6 months or a year later when the party finally comes up for air. (this is even more of a female-dog when you're running more than one party side-along in the setting; the one in the megadungeon more or less stops in time while the other(s) advance, knocking them way out of synch). However, if they have to travel for weeks each way to get from dungeon to town and back, suddenly you're leaping ahead through game time which can raise its own issues.
In-game time play passes at a much more realistic rate because of all the downtime stuff, especially at lower levels. In addition to a mix of downtime rules from the PHP, DMG, and Xanathar's, I also use skill-type challenges for travel, rules for training to level up, GP for XP, and strongholds and followers rules. It creates more record keeping for me as a GM as I track time, events, costs, etc. on a spreadsheet, but we play for a long day (8 hours) once a month. So I enjoy the downtime stuff between sessions as a way to stay engaged with the campaign and players.
And the megadungeon has to have some means of maintaining long-term player engagement. The one I'm playing in, on bi-weekly online sessions we've been in that thing for (looks it up and says "Yikes!") a bit over 2 real-world years with no end in sight. I-as-player have long since forgotten our initial reason for going there; what keeps me engaged in the moment is that my (current) character is a greedy little thing and this place is loaded with "nick", as she calls it.
Agreed. But with RA, I let that develop organically. Some players built detailed backstories for why they are doing this, others its just for gold and power. Overall, the they grab on some plot threads and let other go, and I create new story threads based on the parties actions and how different factions in the dungeon are likely to react to those actions.

I also use the Strongholds and Followers rules from MCDM. They've taken over, repaired, and expanded Castle Calaelen (sp?) and over time an entire town has grown. They hire troops to protect and hold their progress.

With over 4 years running, the players have organically developed deep backstories and engaged in factional politics, built strongholds and a town, and in one case a new religious order. It help build engagement and on going interest in focus on one location. We've really enjoyed it. But after this campaign wraps up, we'll likely run a very different style of campaign, perhaps even in a different system than 5e (I'm leaning towards running DCC Dying Earth).
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Thoughts on Game Aids when Running a Mega Dungeon

A lot can change in four years. A new job requiring working overseas most of the time, a pandemic, and new technology.

Before our Rappan Athuk campaign, I was running Curse of Strahd in person. I printed all the Schley maps with a large-format printer and we played a mix of theater of the mind and printed battlemaps with minis.

With Rappan Athuk, that wasn't going to be practical. Especially since my father retired, sold his company, and his large format printer. Paying to print the 100+ maps in Rappan Athuk was beyond my budget and trying to create fog of war to keep the sense of danger in the dungeons of RA with physical battlemaps would have taken more work than I would want to deal with.

I started the campaign using RealmWorks, which is what I built and ran my first campaign in (which was homebrew). There was no way that I was going to do all the data entry of putting everything from a 660 page (they really should have added 6 pages to stay true to the setting :) ) book into RealmWorks. But I also bought there physical map pack, so I would just enter the maps and display them on a vertical display using RealmWorks manual fog-of-war features to reveal the map as they explored.

Then Lone Wolf Development stopped supporting RealmWorks. Also, it still required more prep to get the maps in RealmWorks. In RA you can move from level to level, map to map, and it was difficult to know where the PC may go and find themselves. If they go in a direction that I didn't have a map ready for, I would have to take a short break to get it into RealmWorks.

So, I moved to the open source software Map Tool. It was amazing. I could have my hundreds of maps and hundreds of tokens on my hard drive and easily search through them. I could find, load, resize a map, apply fog of war, and drop tokens in a couple of minutes at most. I didn't bother tracing walls for line of sight or anything like that. I just used the manual tools to reveal areas as the PCs explored. Very little prep needed.

Then I got a job that required me to live overseas for much of the year in an area with poor bandwidth. Trying to host games on Map Tool over the internet was more of a hassle than I wanted to deal with. I tried running the games using Google Meet, but need me to move all the PC tokens based on the players instructions wasn't fun for me or the players. So I spent many, many hours testing all of the major VTTs at the time, in particular: Roll20, Fantasy Grounds (classic and Unity), d20pro, and Foundry. Roll20s was great in terms of still being usable without great bandwidth, so long as I used something else for audio/video conferencing. But the space limits were too stingy, even at the highest subscription levels, to load all of the maps for RA. Loading them on the fly was not a great experience for me. d20pro I found clunky and limited in features. I really liked Fantasy Ground classic, which would have supported both in-person and online play. I didn't like that the players had to install software to use it, but the killer was bandwidth. It was almost unusable from the location I was at. Unity was too buggy in general at the time and suffered from the same bandwidth issue.

So I ended up selecting Foundry hosted by the The Forge. It provides an excellent online experience without players having to install anything. Performance offered by The Forge was also excellent. I was able to upload all 100+ maps for a reasonable hosting cost. The main downside is the manual fog of war in Foundry is not official supported. You have to use a community mod. The developer stopped supporting it and even though it was taken up by other devs, it has not been reliable. To good news is that the Foundry makes tracing walls and applying auto fog of war reveal and lighting and line of sight features easy. At least, easier than any other tool I used.

For a while prepping maps became a separate hobby between sessions. When working abroad, between sessions, on the weekend I would spend a few hours listening to podcasts and prepping maps. I now have all the maps prepped in Foundry. And for some of them I've taken time to apply some cool features to the maps that add to game. Lighting and sound effects. The most difficult to prep was the blood ways with its spagetti of maze-like passages that lead up and down levels constantly. I applied teleport tiles so that when they moved to an area that leads up or down a level or several levels, the character token is automatically moved to the right spot on the new map. It took a lot of time to prep but really made the Bloodworks easy to run. Plus I was able to add a red mist effect and limited sight ranges.

Dungeons are ideal for VTTs. A few years ago, I would have told you that I the time needed to prep a map wasn't worth it, but now that I've gotten quite efficient in map prep, I enjoy it, and it makes running the game easier. That said, most of play time takes place in VTT maps. For my next campaign, I want to move away from that somewhat and use the VTT just for set-piece battles. I am looking forward into injecting more theater of the mind back into my game in my next campaign.
 




Thanks for this thread. I'll be following it with in interest.

How do you feel about Rappan Athuk as an adventure? I read part of it, but got really turned off by the dung monster, which felt to me like Beavis and Butthead write a module. Given all the praise for RA, I assume other parts are better?
 

Stormdale

Explorer
I have been trying to get my players back into RA since 2003. Managed it once or twice but the old adage of once bitten twice shy applies. They know it is lurking there daring them to return but have been too traumatized. I like it but think Tomb of Abysthor is a more manageable dungeon.
 


Retreater

Legend
Longtime fan of Necromancer/Frog God Games (and Rappan Athuk) here. I spent a lot of time on their boards (probably before I came over here). They published my first adventure, which I submitted through a fan open-submission call on their board. Talking to Bill Webb (who was editing my book) over the phone is how I first learned how to pronounce the dungeon's name correctly.
I had the first three softcover volumes for 3.0, got the 3.5 Rappan Athuk Reloaded (RARE), but never actually tried to run it until I got the 5e volume.
I'm lucky that my wife loves RPGs (and for other reasons I won't get into here lol). If she could, she would play almost daily. She will try different systems, play solo adventures, listen to all the news I blabber about, watch 2 hour streams about the state of the industry with me, etc.
And she loves dungeons - nasty traps, dangerous monster fights, etc. During COVID I ran her and her brother through a good chunk of Barrowmaze, which I converted entirely onto Roll20. (Every original monster was statted, tokens created, the massive dungeon lined up on the grid and set up with fog of war.)
We got through about 1/3rd of Barrowmaze before we had to stop due to life getting kinda hectic, but we had a blast with it. I did gold for XP, and the party was doing great about levelling up and seeming "badass" (which is my wife's main goal in playing RPGs.)
With Rappan Athuk, I ran it solo for her. Of course we could play it in person. She had a few characters (probably a fighter and rogue) and I played two casters (a healbot cleric and a blaster) as NPCs.
She had a great time. It wasn't tied to a real world, and retreating to "town" for supplies and healing was handled off screen. It was a little more like playing a Dungeoncrawling Board Game like Descent more than a typical RPG session. We got to the illusory ambush by Scramge the Raksasha before we hit a TPK. That ended the game. She'd probably go back to it, but we're honestly playing enough games with other groups (in person and online) that we don't have time for solo adventures.
 

pogre

Legend
Congrats on making it through Rappan Athuk with your group!

I think you hit right on the head about setting the dungeon into a greater environment the PCs can interact with and escape to from time to time.

I have run several megadungeons and the best results happened when there were connections and goals mixed in locations and events above and below.

Currently I am running a very big dungeon, not quite mega, for a group of folks with Dungeon Crawl Classics. I figured the combinations of whacky rules and goofiness would make a pure dungeon delve doable. It was a mistake. I should have established a greater world setting around it and crafted more missions and motivations for the PCs. After three months we're almost done and I am looking forward to moving on to something else.
 

jgsugden

Legend
My general thought on mega-dungeons: The story tends to be less of an emphasis, and that results in a campaign that gets repetitive and boring. The dungeon needs to be the location where a great story is told if you want a great game ... not just a place where a lot of combats take place.

My best megadungeon is a manor house on a large island. The PCs explore the ruined surrounding village, then the manor house. They discover connections to the Shadowfell, Feywild, Ethereal and pocket dimensions inside the place which allow for me to use four different maps of the island that have very different features. As they explore, the PCs discover the history of the island, a long dormant threat to the world that is arising, and dozens of shorter storylines that require them to solve puzzles, outsmart enemies that are more powerful than them, and eventually beat the giant big bad. There are twelve shorter storylines, three longer storylines, and one overarching storyline. The interdependence of the megadungeon's structure and the storylines is what makes this dungeon work really well for me. The PCs can approach the dungeon like a sandbox and visit areas in different orders - sometimes needing to find ways to avoid powerful enemies until they are strong enough to fight them. I've run it twice and am setting it up to run again in a year or two.
 
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Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
I am not very fond of megadungeons... but I think a big dungeon can be great. (the kilodungeon?)

We did about 2 levels of undermoutain back in the 2e days and... we grew bored of it. So we moved on to other adventures. In the 3e era we did the return to the temple of elemental evil and it was a HUGE slog and we just gave up following a semi-TPK (1/3 of the party dead, 1/3 captured, 1/3 evaded but no easy way to free the others so... screw it).

What I have found that did work was when a large dungeon had a solid sense of story but also was "completable" - ie didn't go on forever. I can personally recommend the Gates of Firestorm peak - it has 125 rooms but more importantly, there is variety (different "sectors" of the dungeon with different challenges/environment), it has "factions" (it's not kill everything all the time, diplomacy is possible) and the story is pretty solid. I've run it twice in 5e and would do it again.

I don't know RA and maybe it doesn't have the same flaws. Variety is important I think, and dungeons can be limited in that sense.
 

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
I love the idea of MegaDungeons (MD). I own Rappan Athuk as well as Arden Vul

From my perspective, a MD is a setting; not an "adventure". Adventures can happen in the MD, in fact multiple adventures can happen. The MD has multiple factions; and also has multiple safe-spaces for the party. And if the party never appeared in the MD, the factions would continue to act to their own interests

I am currently a player in an Arden Vul west marches campaign. He's running it in Freebooters on the Frontier, a Dungeon World fork that's trying to more closely emulate the feel of an AD&D/Old School type rules set but also to preserve the PbtA nature of Find out what Happens. The GM handwaves returning to town after every adventure, mostly due to the West Marches nature of the campaign. All avenues of entry are available to us, and as PCs we can encounter any monster - there is no concept of "encounter balance". After about 6 months worth of essentially weekly games (some weeks 2 sessions, some none) we have explored about 5% of Arden Vul 😂 I'm loving it - but also because as players we have also started to build out some of the localtown of Gosterwick.

I do think a MD needs a local town within a half-days or less journey to provide respite. The town should be large enough provide most everything (including a place to sell unwanted magic items!); but not so large that itself becomes a hub of adventure. Like I wouldn't run a campaign with Arden Vul or Rappan Athuk next to Ptolus

A specific question on Rappan Athuk - I had a hard time figuring out all the interconnections between the levels. There is a map in the tome - but it wasn't great for my brain. To the OP - did you have any suggestions or tips on how to keep all the connections between the levels straight?
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
A specific question on Rappan Athuk - I had a hard time figuring out all the interconnections between the levels. There is a map in the tome - but it wasn't great for my brain. To the OP - did you have any suggestions or tips on how to keep all the connections between the levels straight?
Only suggestion I can give - though it might involve a little tedium - is to photocopy the maps (and number them, if not already done), highlight each level connection, and add a note in bright red saying where it leads to.

So (hypothetical example as I don't have RA in front of me) next to a set of down stairs on the number 3 map I'd write "To map 4, Area 16". If it's a staircase passing through the level I'd write "UP: to Map 2, Area 12. DOWN: to map 4, Area 16". Then on maps 2 and 4 there'd be corresponding notes at the other ends of those stairs each saying "To Map 3, Area 25".

This comes in real handy when there's connections that bypass levels, as all you care about is where it goes becvause that's the map you need to use next. So for example a shaft leading several decks down from that same room might have a note "To Map 6, Area 3".

Further, going through this process will help familiarize you with what levels connect with what.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Not that it helps you now, or solves bandwidth issues, but RA was released on FG earlier this month. Rappan Athuk for Fantasy Grounds

Looking forward to more of your posts on this. Never run or played RA, but am a megadungeon fan :)
That's awesome! A few years too late for me, and I have issues trying to run games on FG from my location, but if you are going to run RA, the cost of both FG and the RA content for it is WELL worth it given how much play time you'll get out of it and how much prep time it will save.

$50 is well worth it. If they are including everything in the 5e version of the book, it is a massive amount of content.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Thanks for this thread. I'll be following it with in interest.

How do you feel about Rappan Athuk as an adventure? I read part of it, but got really turned off by the dung monster, which felt to me like Beavis and Butthead write a module. Given all the praise for RA, I assume other parts are better?
This is a spoiler-friendly thread, so I'm not going to take the time to put my responses in spoiler tags. It would be too cumbersome to write or read. So, if you are concerned with spoilers, please be warned.

First, I don't think of RA as an adventure so much as a setting. It is comparable to massive city-setting books like Bard's Gate or Ptolus. There are plenty of plot threads, factions, and locations, but you can build many adventures in it. I've been running RA for over 4 years. That's not an adventure, its a campaign.

In terms of tone, there is a lot of variety. Yes, there are some purile encounters and locations, like the dung monster. Others might complain about parts of it being too edge-lord grim-dark. RA was a home setting created by Bill Web over many decades. Parts of it were created at different points in his life and things that happened in his home games made it into the setting's canonical lore. It shows. It isn't the most cohesive and consistent settings in terms of tone. But that is also part of its charm.

RA is really what you make of it. There is a lot of lore written into it (and a LOT more supporting lore if you dive into the other setting books and adventures in the Lost Lands), but you can completely ignore it. You can easily ignore/remove/change sections or encounters you don't like. It is such a huge megadungeon you are unlikely to play through it all even after years of play, you might as well focus on what you like.

For my part, I approach it like jazz. I run it as written, but I improvise and add onto what it is written. Throw away encounters or out-of-the-way and more obscure areas in some cases become important parts of the campaign's story, depending on what the characters decide to do and what I decide the repercussions of their actions are.

As for the Dung Monster itself. "Dungie" beloved encounter for many RA fans. It is one encounter that most who play the game will encounter given its location in one of the main entrances to the dungeon. Yes, there is a purile, slap-stick nature to it, but it doesn't have to be played that way. Actually, in my game it really only had a slapstick feel when reading it as the DM. In play, it is more of like a horror encounter. A naughty word golem, while ostensibly a slap-stick throwaway, can be run as a quite terrifying encounter. A good example in non-D&D fiction is
the sewer golem like monster in sewers of the castle in Another Kingdom, by Andrew Klavan
. If you don't like the Dung Monster, then replace it with an undead ooze, which is stated up in the book and given it the Dung Monsters similar near-impossible-to-kill-permanently ability.

Rappan Athuk has diverse encounters and areas that can be whimsical, puerile, grime-dark, edge-lord, or scary. It has political intrigue, faction-based politics, hack and slash, body horror, creepy environments, deadly puzzles, otherworld explorations, magical weirdness, sci-fi encounters, demonic traps, and on and on. It is a kitchen sink setting that somehow works. But if something doesn't work for you, it is easy to remove or alter without wrecking the setting.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I have been trying to get my players back into RA since 2003. Managed it once or twice but the old adage of once bitten twice shy applies. They know it is lurking there daring them to return but have been too traumatized. I like it but think Tomb of Abysthor is a more manageable dungeon.
My sense is that in 5e it is not quite as deadly as the 3e, Pathfinder and Swords & Wizardry versions, but I've only run the 5e version. If you start them at 5th level, they should find the upper levels more survivable with the occasional deadly surprise to keep the dangerous flavor. But you don't even have to do that. In the current version they've added a lot to do before going to the dungeon proper. The Mouth of Doom is an entire dungeon in itself that is meant for lower level characters. There are also a lot of wilderness encounters for various levels. The Zelkors Ferry supplement also gives a number of low level quests. The party doesn't have to go directly to the sunken graveyard and try to get in through the mausoleum or go down the well.
 

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