Rahasia was originally written and self-published by Tracy and Laura Hickman in 1979. Tracy took the adventure with him when he joined TSR, and it was published for the RPGA network in 1982, as RPGA1 Rahasia. A follow-up adventure, RPGA2 Black Opal Eye, also appeared that year. Finally, both parts were published together for the D&D Basic line in 1984 as B7: Rahasia. The hook – a strong feature in any Hickman adventure – sees the players asked by the most beautiful elven maiden, Rahasia, to rescue her father and her betrothed from a temple that has been taken over by evil forces.
The ultimate foe in the adventure are a trio of witches that were trapped in statues long ago. An evil cleric, the Rahib, has freed two of the witches, and those witches now possess the bodies of a pair of elven maidens. The third and most powerful witch wants Rahasia for her host, and has captured Rahasia’s loved ones in an attempt to lure the elf maid to the temple. The players will discover that many of their foes have been charmed by the witches, including the priests and acolytes of the temple. This makes a lot of the encounters more challenging than they may initially appear, assuming the party are trying to preserve the lives of the innocent. They are Lawful, aren’t they?
In Rahasia, we have the first version of the “most beautiful elven maiden” who would find her fullest expression in Laurana of Hickman’s Dragonlance series. Her description as “most beautiful” seems quite unfamiliar in most modern tales, but is one that draws upon fairy tales and mythology. Helen of Troy isn’t just any woman, she’s the most beautiful woman in the world; this love of epic mythology comes across in many of the Hickmans’ works.
The elven temple (corresponding to the part published in RPGA1) describes the areas very well, and presents a large number of foes to overcome, as well as a few tricks, traps and some role-playing to provide variation. Many of the monsters are the elven acolytes, the Siswa. The adventure suggests that the DM should encourage the players to think of ways around the Siswa without killing them; remember, this adventure was released for Basic D&D when knocking monsters out was not a standard option in combat, so that’s actually quite challenging.
In the temple, the players will be able to defeat the Rahib, find Rahasia’s father (now slain and a haunt), rescue her betrothed (who will join the party to aid them), and meet a wise reptile who can tell them the secret of the witches and guide them to the next stage of their quest: the ruined tower of Elyas, the wizard who originally imprisoned the witches.
Elyas’s tower is easily found from the temple – a tunnel runs right to it, something that may seem like coincidence, but in fact the temple was built to honour his memory by the elves. The tower has a higher percentage of tricks than the temple, and they’re extremely inventive. I particularly like a trap that turns treasure-hunters into statues made of precious metal (no save!), and then deposits them in a hallway as a warning to intruders. It’s quite likely one of the player characters will be caught by this, but – thankfully – the transformation is reversed if the players finish the quest. And the transformations of all the NPC adventurers who had previously been caught by it, which could be very entertaining in the hands of a fiendish Dungeon Master.
There’s also the statue that needs wine poured into its mouth to open doorways further into the complex; different bottles of wine can be found around the tower, each of which opens different doors. I wonder how many parties became stuck because they drank the wine rather than using it with the statue?
The ultimate aim of the party is to gain the Black Opal Eye, the artefact that can defeat the witches, from where it is stored, take it to be purified, and finally use it to defeat the witches and free the elven maidens they’ve possessed. This feels a lot like one of the things you’ll now see in computer-game quests, although it’s far more likely sourced from fantasy tales (as there basically weren’t any computer RPGs when the adventure was originally written!)
Rahasia is a big adventure, with over 100 areas described in the text (a mere 32 pages). By the time the authors are describing Elyas’s tower, the text displays all the inventiveness typical of their best work. A few of their common tropes, such as the teleporter maze and the crypt of interesting inscriptions, occur here, but there’s a lot to delight players who like killing monsters and solving puzzles. I’m once again awed by how much material there is in this 32-page adventure; very few modern adventures have this compactness of detail. The original intention was for the adventure to be played in a single evening; this may have been true of the original publication, but not of this version!
A few touches are quite interesting; for instance, the random encounter tables for Elyas’s Tower has an entry for encountering the Rahib, in case the party did not defeat him in the first part of the adventure. And an unlucky group might find one of their charismatic females possessed by the lead witch!
The personalities of the Rahib and the witches are not that well defined. The witches are certainly vain (the lead witch doesn’t want to possess just anyone, but instead the “most beautiful elven maiden”), and they argue with each other when not threatened; however, that’s about it. The rest is left up to the DM to fill in.
Rahasia herself, after she gives the players the quest, doesn’t appear again in the adventure, although the DM is free to use her as he or she wishes.
Ultimately, what you have here is a strong mythic plot-hook, combined with an inventive dungeon. What’s not to like?
The fact is that, in many ways, there’s just too much dungeon in the final product. It doesn’t excite me as much as the one in Pharaoh, which feels a lot tighter and a little more varied, with each section displaying a different approach. Exploring room after room takes away from the core threat of the adventure: the return of the witches and the Rahib.
Despite these niggles, Rahasia does stand as a superior adventure. As with many dungeons of this era, it works best with a DM who makes the adventure dynamic, with the foes reacting to the players’ movements and actions. Keeping the Rahib and the witches locked in their keyed locations robs it of a lot of potential interest; make them move, make them alive!
Ultimately, Rahasia is an adventure that takes a dungeon setting and tries to do a little more with it. It isn’t as successful or as memorable as Pharaoh or Ravenloft, the truly great adventures from Tracy and Laura Hickman, but it’s still one that is worth investigating.