The Mists of Ravenloft envelop you once again. When you realize where they've taken you, it's too late. You find yourself in the burning wastelands of Har'Akir—where nothing is as it seems.
The desert is a powerful foe, but in Har'Akir, an ancient evil is awakening, and the desert will be the least of your worries. As withered hands cast off ancient shrouds, little can save you from their touch of death.
An adventure for 4 to 6 characters, levels 3rd-5th.
RA3: "Touch of Death" (1991), by Bruce Nesmith, is the third of the "RA" Ravenloft Adventures. It was published in October 1991.
Continuing the Ravenloft Adventures. In early 1991, the Ravenloft line began to focus on supplements, including one Monstrous Compendium and two "Ravenloft References" — though RR2: "Book of Crypts" (1991) was really an adventure anthology in disguise. Then, eight months after the release RA2: "Ship of Horror" (1991), TSR returned to Ravenloft adventure publication with a new release that would innovate the line.
To start with, "Touch of Death" was quite short. Where the previous two adventures had been 96 and 64 pages long, "Touch of Death" came in at just 32 pages. Despite that small size, "Touch of Death" thought big: it was the adventure that truly kicked off Ravenloft's first metaplot.
Plotting Along. RA1: "Feast of Goblyns" (1990) and RA2: "Ship of Horror" (1991) were originally released as standalone adventures. However, "Touch of Death" changed that on page 17 with its introduction of "Hyskosa's Six Signs". This prophetic verse described "six signs that would foretell the coming of the cataclysm" (though only four are present in the partial prophecy included here). The first two verses hinted at events from "Feast of Goblyns" and "Ship of Horror", while the third focused on "Touch of Death", referring to the seventh rising of the pharaoh Anhktepot and his battle with the knavish mummy Senmet:
Seventh time the son of suns doth rise to send the knave to an eternity of cries,
This was all a lead-up to the Grand Conjunction that would shake-up the domains of Ravenloft in advance of the Ravenloft Campaign Setting (1994), but there was a problem with the Grand Conjunction campaign as it was laid out: the levels were all over the place: "Feast of Goblyns" was for levels 4-7, "Ship of Horror" was for levels 8-10, and "Touch of Death" was for levels 3-5. Fortunately, the metaplot was very loose through its first four adventures, and so their order could easily be rearranged. A better ordering for the campaign would become obvious with the release of the even lower level RQ1: "Night of the Walking Dead" (1992).
Adventuring Tropes. If the task of the Ravenloft adventures was to reveal the possibilities of that setting, they were doing their job in spades. "Feast of Goblyns" had been fairly traditional Medieval horror, in the manner of I6: "Ravenloft" (1983), but "Ship of Horror" had gone a bit further afield with a nautical horror adventure. Now, "Touch of Death" moved out to the Islands of Terror, to show that totally different types of terror were possible away from the Europe-influenced Core. The result was a classic Mummy movie, complete with tombs and Egyptian trappings.
Like an old-school adventure, "Touch of Death" features village interaction, desert exploration, and dungeon crawls. Like the adventures of the '90s, "Touch of Death" builds upon a strong underlying plot, which drives seven days of events. Unfortunately, the result suffers from one of the problems of the plot-heavy '90s: the players have little chance of figuring out what exactly is going on with the underlying plot. In fact, they'll probably flee at the site of the final fight between Anhktepot and Senmet.
Expanding Ravenloft. "Touch of Death" offered the first in-depth look at a non-western Ravenloft setting: the domain of Har’Akir. It had previously received a short mention in Ravenloft: Realm of Terror (1990) and its ruler, Anhktepot, had been extensively described in RR1: "Darklords" (1991). Now, Har'Akir got more detail too. There's a map of the entire (small) realm with particular attention paid to the village of Mudar, the desert, and the valley of Pharaoh's Rest.
Monsters of Note. Unsurprisingly, "Touch of Death" focuses its attention mummies — greater mummies to be precise. It also introduces a new desert zombie.
About the Creators. Nesmith, the co-author of Ravenloft: Realm of Terror (1990), continued to be an important member of the Ravenloft design team with releases like RR1: "Darklords" (1991) and RA3: "Touch of Death" (1991). Meanwhile, he was also offering his contributions to the Forgotten Realms, Spelljammer, and even Buck Rogers XXVc. Nesmith would also author the fifth Grand Conjunction adventure, RQ3: "From the Shadows" (1992).
About the Product Historian
This history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, 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 email@example.com.