Beware the cat-men's fury!
This entry-level module pits a single player character of 2nd to 4th level against samurai cat-men. Rage of the Rakasta is specially designed as a one-on-one for a single DUNGEON MASTER and one player. It can also be played by a DM and a group of players or by a single player without a DM.
Rage of the Rakasta takes place in the Thunder Rift game setting. It can be played by itself or as part of a campaign with other modules sharing the same setting: Quest for the Siver Sword, Assault on Raven's Ruins, Sword and Shield, Knight of Newts, and the forthcoming In the Phantom's Wake.
The DUNGEONS & DRAGONS Game Box is needed to play this adventure
Recommended for a single character, levels 2-4 Can be played with or without a DUNGEON MASTER Includes a large map sheet and twenty stand-up figures Introduces new monsters, new magic items, and a new character class Can be played as a sequel to Quest for the Silver Sword or as a stand-alone adventure.
"Rage of the Rakasta" (1993), by William W. Connors, is the fifth Thunder Rift adventure. It was published in April 1993.
About the Title. This adventure was originally advertised in Thunder Rift (1992) as "Rage of the Cat Men".
Origins: Simple Adventures. By Spring 1993, the Thunder Rift line of adventures was quite mature. Each one was a short and simple 16-page supplement meant for use with The New Easy-to-Master Dungeons & Dragons Game (1991), based on the setting described in Thunder Rift (1992).
"Rage of the Rakasta" is a pseudo-sequel to the first Thunder Rift adventure, "Quest for the Silver Sword" (1992). It's set in the same locale, uses the same character as a patron, and allows for slightly higher level play.
Graphic Tropes. Like all of its predecessors, "Rage of the Rakasta" comes with components intended to make play (and particularly combat) easy. A black-and-white map with room descriptions gives the GM easy access to the overall dungeon; while a color battle map and cardstock figures give the players evocative access to the locale.
Adventure Tropes: Choose Your Own Adventure. Like "The Knight of Newts" (1993) before it, "Rage of the Rakasta" supports GMless gaming. The difference is that "Rage" is a one-on-one adventure; if the single player goes GMless, then it becomes a solo gamebook, a style of play that had very different expectations than the multiplayer GMless experience of "The Knight of Newts".
At the time, solo play was quite well-developed in any number of choose-your-own-adventure stories or more complex gamebooks. TSR published many of their own, including Basic D&D solos in the BSOLO (1984) and XSOLO (1984-1985) lines. These adventures usually included pretty sophisticated game systems that protected players from knowing too much and that carefully guided their actions.
"Rage of the Rakasta" instead repeats the much more limited GMless play style of "The Knight of Newts", and it's nothing like that. The player reads short descriptions of rooms on maps, decides what to do, then finds the room in the adventure text, and sees if his actions are supported. Players expecting the more complex and mature solo play of previous D&D solo adventures tended to be disappointed.
Adventure Tropes. "Rage of the Rakasta" sounds pretty epic. The adventure background is all about stopping a war. But the adventure is just another dungeon crawl (or a palace crawl if you prefer).
Expanding D&D. "Rage of the Rakasta" is the only Thunder Rift supplement to contain rules for a D&D class: the Rakasta. Unfortunately, because "Rage" was a supplement for black box D&D game, the class only goes up to fifth level! This class was included with Ral Partha's "Basic Heroes Set" (1991) of miniatures a few years earlier — but that class was limited to fifth level too, because it was another black box release!
Players who wanted higher level Rakasta play could instead consult Dragon #181 (May 1992), where Bruce Heard's "Voyages of the Prince Ark" article sort of had rules for Rakasta — though it just allowed them to use human character classes, at variance with the rest of Basic D&D play.
Exploring the Rift. "Rage of the Rakasta" starts out in the town of Torlynn from "Quest for the Silver Sword", but its most notable exploration of the Rift comes in its one-page description of the Rakastan village of Artarashai. Though the Rakasta near Torlynn had been referenced in the Thunder Rift sourcebook, the actual village was new.
"Rage of the Rakasta" also makes a rare reference to lands beyond the Rift. The Rakasta apparently came from "the grand Kingdom of Ashai", which appears to be somewhere faraway, on the same world as Thunder Rift.
Monsters of Note: Rakasta. Though Thunder Rift was theoretically its own standalone world, the presence of the Rakasta in this adventure suggests a connection to the Known World, as they're a race that's exclusively appeared in that setting.
The Rakasta debuted in X1: "Isle of Dread" (1981), then returned in X2: "Castle Amber" (1981). However, these early adventures gave almost no indication of who they were and what their culture was. For that, fans would have to await Bruce Heard's "Voyages of the Princess Ark" column (1990-1992). The Rakasta made their first appearance in the column in Dragon #160 (August 1990), where the crew of the Princess Ark found Rakasta on the Known World moon of Myoshima; this article also offered the first indication they had an Asian-influenced culture. This was clearly an influence on the Rakasta of "Rage of the Rakasta" — and some fans suggest that the Kingdom of Ashai might be associated with Myoshima.
Later, the Rakasta would return in Dragon #180 (April 1992) and Dragon #181 (May 1992) which laid the groundwork for their presence in the Red Steel Campaign Expansion (1994). As noted, Dragon #181 included alternate rules for Rakasta PCs, something that Bruce Heard revisited for AD&D 2e and the Red Steel setting in "Rakasta of Mystara" in Dragon #247 (May 1998). Though the Rakasta remain a favorite of fans, that would be their last appearance.
Monsters of Note: Rakshasa. Because of their similar names and their similarly feline appearance, fans confuse the Rakasta of Basic D&D and the Rakshasa of AD&D. The similarity in names is probably purposeful, but the Rakshasa aren't feline humanoids, but instead evil spirits drawn from Hindu mythology.
Gary Gygax said that his particularly inspiration for the Rakshasa came from "Horror in the Heights" (1974), an episode of Kolchak the Night Stalker (1974-1975) where Kolchak must fight a Rakshasa who has a vulnerability to a blessed crossbow. This vulnerability indeed was referenced in the debut appearance of the AD&D Rakshasa, in The Strategic Review #5 (December 1975).
About the Creators. Connors burst onto the D&D scene in 1989 with work on many Monstrous Compendiums. He also coauthored GAZ11: "The Republic of Darokin" (1989), giving him footing in the Basic D&D game. "Rage of the Rakasta" was his second Thunder Rift scenario, following "Quest for the Silver Sword" (1992).
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