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RR9 Van Richten's Guide to the Ancient Dead (2e)
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RR9 Van Richten's Guide to the Ancient Dead (2e)

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In the caverns, crypts, and chasms of Ravenloft lie mummies and other horrors for whom sleep is a natural state. These are the ancient dead. Dreams of love, glory, and wealth subdue them through the ages, and time grows meaningless—until the greedy or foolish disturb their rest. When the ancient dead rise and walk again, evil spreads before them and destruction lies in their wake.

In the land of mists, the ancient dead are unique monstrosities of astonishing power, capable of rising again and again despite the efforts of the mightiest heroes. Only Rudolph van Richten, Ravenloft's greatest foe of darkness, has accrued the knowledge necessary to stop them. Within this treatise the doctor classifies these complex creatures, defines their common characteristics, and speculates upon their salient abilities. It may be impossible to destroy the ancient dead, but with persistence, good fortune, and Van Richten's wise counsel, one might send them back to their dreams...

Product History

RR9: "Van Richten's Guide to the Ancient Dead" (1994), by Skip Williams, is the ninth Ravenloft Resource. It was published in July 1994.

Continuing the Ravenloft Resources. RR9: "Van Richten's Guide to the Ancient Dead" was the first Ravenloft release published following the the new Ravenloft Campaign Setting (1994). That could have meant changes to the line, but the Ravenloft Kargat has steadfastly said that the Campaign Setting wasn't a new edition — and other than a hokey-pokey of domains moving in and out of the setting, things were mostly the same.

This meant that "The Ancient Dead" continued right on from RR8: "Van Richten's Guide to the Created" (1994). It was another monster splat book, written largely from the view point of Dr. Rudolph Van Richten, providing details on the horrific critters of the demiplane of Ravenloft.

In case the name isn't obvious, "The Ancient Dead" is about mummies, except it removes them from the cultural trappings of Egypt. As a result, it allows GMs to create any variety of preserved dead, whether they be linen-wrapped and buried in a sarcophagus or not. The result is similar to RR5: "Van Richten's Guide to Ghosts" (1992), because it support mummies at a variety of strength levels with a variety of powers and weaknesses. A considerable amount of crunch supports these varied mummies — more than in most of the Van Richten Guides.

Like its immediate predecessor, "The Ancient Dead" didn't actually have a module code, but it was later recognized by TSR as "RR9". It was the last coded Ravenloft Resource, though the Van Richten Guides continued with "Van Richten's Guide to Fiends" (1995) and "Van Richten's Guide to the Vistani" (1995) before TSR closed down the line entirely.

A History of D&D Mummies. RPG mummies originated in OD&D (1974). From the very beginning, they had their iconic attack, "rotting disease", but were "vulnerable to fire". When they reappeared in the AD&D Monster Manual, they now had their somewhat strange tie to the "positive material plane" and were given "an unholy hatred of life".

Unlike many of the classic D&D monsters, there aren't many mummy variants. However, a very strange faux mummy appeared in the Fiend Folio (1981): the adherer. The adherer is one of the "trick" monsters that were common in the early days of D&D. Though it looked like a mummy, weapons got stuck to it!

The mummy wasn't the star of any early D&D adventures, but it appeared occasionally as an encounter in a room, particularly when D&D visited desert lands. Thus, you can find minor mummy encounters in all three of the Desert of Desolation adventures: I3: "Pharaoh" (1982), I4: "Oasis of the White Palm" (1983), and I5: "Lost Tomb of Martek" (1983).

As a core D&D monster, the mummy reappeared in the AD&D 2e Monstrous Compendium Volume One (1989), then in the Monstrous Manual (1993). As a core horror monster, the mummy got even more attention in the Ravenloft line. That began with Ravenloft: Realm of Terror (1990), which revealed the domain of Har'Akir, ruled over by the mummy-pharoah Anhktepot. He got a full writeup in RR1: "Darklords" (1991), then received his own adventure, RA3: "Touch of Death" (1991). That adventure also featured the variant "greater mummy", who had debuted in MC10: "Monstrous Compendium Ravenloft Appendix" (1991).

Future History. TSR immediately followed up this book with an adventure about an Ancient Dead: "The Awakening" (1994). "Van Richten's Guide to The Ancient Dead" was later reprinted in Van Richten's Monster Hunter's Compendium Volume Two (1999).

About the Creators. Williams was a long-lived TSR employee from the company's earliest days. He'd been writing for the company since the mid '80s, but this was his first (and only) work for the Ravenloft line.

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to shannon.appelcline@gmail.com.

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File Last Updated:
December 09, 2013
This title was added to our catalog on December 10, 2013.