Buried Treasures: Big Rubble, The Deadly City

The BIG RUBBLE is the perfect hunting ground for both prospective and veteran adventurers. From the relative safety of the frontier town of New Pavis, exploration parties may venture forth into the Rubble to once again tap the treasures and magics buried in its ruins. They will be aided and hindered by the guards and bureaucrats of the occupying Lunar empire.


Recently there was considerable discussion in the OSR about the ability to publish a mega-dungeon. Some, such as James Maliszewski over at Grognarda, didn’t think it could be done. Other disagreed including Michael Curtis over at The Society of Torch, Pole and Rope who published his Stonehell soon after. One constant in all the discussion, however, was the conclusion the attempts at publishing one of the classic mega-dungeons like Blackmoor or Greyhawk had all failed. While that might be true at least one early structure that should qualify as a mega-dungeon did see the light of day. In fact, it had two published boxed sets cover it and the associated city which still garner high prices on eBay and were reprinted as one massive book in the 1990s. That mega-dungeon is the Big Rubble, the ruins of the city of Old Pavis in Glorantha.

For those who are wondering why you have never heard of Pavis or The Big Rubble along side the Slaver, Giants, and Drow modules the answer is simplicity and fate. Pavis: Gateway to Adventure and Big Rubble: The Deadly City were published not by TSR but by Chaosium. They are not for D&D but for Runequest. I find it ironic that the game that in its day was considered the anti-D&D published the most successful mega-dungeon of the period. Both boxed sets were among a series of supplements, mostly boxed sets but some booklets, that represented the golden age of Runequest and, in my mind, of Glorantha as a game setting. Anyone interested in early campaign styles that started to add loose plotting to great sandbox settings should look at most of these sets.

What is the Big Rubble? It is a the ruins of two cities the later of which was about sacked about 400 years earlier. The first city was founded about 900 years before the supplement begins by a culture of evil magicians to capture magical cradles carrying giant babies to the sea to join in the battles of Glorantha’s mythological age. It only lasted twenty or so years before being destroyed by a giant and his allies who included a minor god. They built the towering walls (80 feet plus in height) of Old Pavis to use as a fortification. About thirty years later a man named Pavis, whose city was sacked by the same minor god’s followers, lead a giant, faceless statue and some nomads to take the fortifications. After the battle the statue was used to build the interior buildings. Pavis himself would later become the city’s patron deity but the city would be sacked by trolls around 400 years after its founding.


A game master opening the Big Rubble boxed set could look forward to “thousands of acres of ruin and destruction now remain, full of robbers, outcasts, and inhuman monsters.” To get an idea of the scale consider the image to the left superimposing both the old (larger) and new (smaller) city on modern London (the original source has one imposed on Manhattan as well). The white area outlines medieval London contrast. No attempt was made to detail all of this area. Instead a 48 page “Rubble Guide” details some highlights of the area. Nine scenarios detail such a maze-like canal built for seemingly no purpose to a troll town hiding a magical artifact and everything in between. Plenty of notes are provided to help the game master build his own sections of the city. Finally, some forms used by officials in the new city to control exit from the rubble to the new city are included.

So, you can publish what amounts to a mega-dungeon. You can especially publish an adventurous, mostly above ground, one rooted in unique mythology. You can even create one of our hobby’s forgotten masterpieces in the process.

4 thoughts on “Buried Treasures: Big Rubble, The Deadly City

  1. Thanks for posting this… I never saw much of runequest so never heard of these.

    I think another good example of the above-ground megadungeon is Dwellers of the Forbidden City… I've always wanted to populate/stock all the buildings on the map, but that monumental task has always eluded me. But Cook did a nice job of throwing a variety of encounters out there, with some detail to explain the relationships of the various factions. If that city had, say, a ruined magic school, a haunted graveyard, a few ruined temples, and so forth, it's basically a megadungeon.

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