Recently I’ve been going through some of the motives for the machinations at the heart of the Giants/Drow modules (originally G1-3, D1-3, and Q1, republished as GDQ1-7). A correspondent had asked something about my analysis, and that prompted me to look at the primary sources, and I noticed something very odd indeed.
The section that described Eclavdra’s motives is missing from G3, but it was added into GDQ1-7.
Here’s what the passage looks like in G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King, that describes the PCs finding the map of the underworld that eventually leads them to Erelhei-Cinlu:
If your players have enjoyed these scenarios – or simple this single scenario – and you intend to continue it with the balance of the modules which follow #G3, their party will find an adamantite tube when they search area 20, a scroll, and a map accidentally (?) dropped by one of the fleeing noble Drow. The scroll contains a wish spell. The map is a continuation of the Drow escape route, showing a vast maze of passages on a large scale.
Okay, so the originally-published version lays a slight hint with that parenthetical question mark, but leaves it at that. But behold the equivalent passage in GDQ1-7 Queen of the Spiders:
The characters will discover in searching area 20 an adamantine tube worth 200 gp, containing a scroll of one spell (wish) and the players’ map of the Depths of the drow. This tube has been left behind by Viconia so that, in the event Ecalvdra’s scheme is foiled and the ruler of house Eilserv is slain, the attackers will be aware of the existence of the drow homeland and, it is hoped, launch an attack against Eilserv’s rival factions.
Lolth’s Mighty Mandibles! That’s one hell of a change.
And as an aside, it has literally taken me 31 years to realize that the reason that PCs might think their ultimate objective is to confront Lolth (rather than the Eilservs who serve the Elder Elemental God, who is Lolth’s rival) is that the name of the reissued module IS FRIGGING QUEEN OF THE SPIDERS. Of course they think Lolth is the Big Bad. The very title of the module is a meta-misdirection!
To quote the 12th Doctor, “You know what really bothers me about the completely obvious? MISSING IT!”
But I digress.
Knowing that Eclavdra (or Viconia) has deliberately set the rest of the Drow noble houses up to be trashed by the PCs who were strong enough to take out three giant strongholds, really changes how one might look at the whole D1-3 series. Imagine an expedition of PCs that is subtly being (mis)guided by the forces of House Eilserv. Once they reach the Vault, and certainly when they are in the city, House Eilserv would be subtly maneuvering them and helping them to take out their rivals among the Lolth-worshipers.
That makes perfect sense. Remember that the whole motive for House Eilserv to switch from Lolth to the Elder Elemental God was to gain control over the Vault. And the whole point of the hill/frost/fire giant uprising was to gain enough power above ground to be able to rule below. So what do you do when confronted with a force that is strong enough to defeat your proxies? Aim it at your enemies.
Remember what I wrote a couple of weeks ago, when I was contemplating the implications of a possible D4 module that would give the PCs a way to figure out what was going on?
The PCs somehow become aware that Lolth’s egg has the keys to the prison of the EEG, and go out of their way to kill her material form in order to grab it and travel to the Abyss to shut the interdimensional crack that has allowed it to manifest on Oerth.
Now that we know that House Eilserv (who worship the EEG) has deliberately drawn the PCs to the Vault to assist with exterminating their enemies (who worship Lolth), the implications become clear. It would be House Eilserv who carefully feeds the PCs the incriminating evidence that points to the Lolth-worshipers as the source of the giant troubles on the surface.
It would have to be done carefully, so that the PCs don’t know they’re being used as dupes, but it does give a much clearer answer as to how the PCs are being fed all the information about Lolth and the egg. And the kicker? It gives a reason why the PCs would “accidentally” free the Elder Elemental God. Because that’s where the Eilserv information led them. So once (if) they figured that out, they’d need to thread the needle to thwart both the Eilserv’s indirect attempt to free their god, and Lolth into the bargain.
Ah, yes. It’s all falling into place now.