Lolth and the Keys

Yes, I am still thinking about this! Before we get started, you’ll probably want to read this earlier post of mine from 2017 on the subject of the platinum egg that is found at the end of D3 Vault of the Drow. It’s got a lot of important background that I’m not going to revisit here, except for specifically relevant references.

My question for today is, why does the platinum egg suddenly appear?

A lot of people seem to be puzzled by the sudden appearance of the platinum egg with the four objects (iron pyramid, silver sphere, bronze star, and blue crystal cube). Its purpose is summed up in the introduction to Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits:

  • Cursed by Lolth as a means of vengeance
  • A trick by Lolth to get the PCs to the Abyss where she can destroy them as well as a “key” (to what, we are not told)
  • A gift from a rival deity

But this is a meaningless puzzle, almost a bait-and-switch, because the purpose of the egg (and its contents) is quite clear from the text in Vault of the Drow:

If Lolth flees, or is slain in her currrent form, a silvery (platinum) egg will be revealed. A remove curse will enable it to be opened, and whomever does so is geased to enter the astral gate on Level #1 (14) and confront Lolth if he or she is able or die trying.

That’s pretty plain. The second of the three options is the correct one, and the egg is left behind as a means to compel the intruders to come to the Abyss where Lolth can, presumably, destroy them. The fact that she leaves it behind even if she just flees (as opposed to being killed on the Prime Material Plane) amplifies that conclusion. Dropping the platinum egg is a conscious act on her part.

But… let’s tease that out a little more.

You’re a demon queen and demigod. There’s a group of mortals (lured to your mortal stronghold by your greatest enemy) who charged through all your supporters and managed to either kill your mortal form or drive you off. You drop an object that’s intended to lure them to your home where you are strongest so you can finally destroy them. But it also has within it a number of powerful objects that are the key to freeing your greatest rival.

Huh?

In what multiverse does that make a lick of sense? The trap you leave behind to lure your enemies into your clutches is also the means to defeat you by raising up your other enemy? Couldn’t Lolth have prepared something else that would lay the geas on her enemies? Like a magic ring or sword or something? Something’s going on here.

Could there be something intrinsic to the platinum egg (and/or the four elemental symbols within) that makes it uniquely suited to the task? Or maybe that makes using it to lure in the PCs worth the risk?

Maybe the geas on the platinum egg wasn’t originally placed there by Lolth. Maybe she’s just using it to draw the PCs to her in a place she thinks she will be able to vanquish them. She knows about it, and figures it’s the best way to deal with the problem. Since she is all-powerful on her own level of the Abyss, she might be confident enough to risk giving it and the keys to the Elder Elemental God’s prison to her greatest mortal foe.

That’s pure speculation, of course, but it does open up a question. If Lolth didn’t put the geas on the egg, who did? Who would want to make sure that the same individual who held the key to freeing the Elder Elemental God was also filled with an uncontrollable urge to slay the keeper of its prison? The answer is obvious; the Elder Elemental God itself.

But there’s another possibility along this line of speculation. What if Lolth doesn’t know the four elemental keys are inside the egg? What if she just thinks its a way to lure her enemy into her clutches, and is unaware of the precious cargo inside? What if the platinum egg is a trap set by the Elder Elemental God millennia ago, specifically designed to bring together a great enemy of Lolth (against whom the demon queen would use the egg) and the means to unlock its own prison?

Oooh.

Now Lolth dropping the egg makes a lot more sense. In her mind, she’s not handing an enemy the keys to another enemy’s prison; she’s just using an ancient cursed item she has been holding in reserve for just such an occasion. But she doesn’t realize it’s actually a booby-trap that her great enemy prepared against her.

I’m not sure this will stand up under additional scrutiny, but right now I’m loving the idea of the trap-within-a-trap platinum egg.

~ ~ ~

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Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

14 thoughts on “Lolth and the Keys

  1. I like the interpretation Joe, and will offer another that supports and twists the egg in the same general direction, but from a different source:

    What if the geas on the platinum egg was placed by Lyme—Eclavdra’s consort, and also a 12th level MU—as part of House Eilservs’ continued machinations to use the PCs to further weaken their arch-rivals, Charinida and Lolth herself? They have the goal to free the EEG, but perhaps lack the means (and/or want to continue to leverage their expendable PC patsies…); with the egg in Lolth’s possession, the geas upon it is their insurance that the PCs will continue to follow-through with “their” mission.

    Allan.

    1. Great post. I like Allenโ€™s theory best, because it furthers the plot thread of Eilservs manipulating the PCs to do their dirty work. The egg and its contents feel more Drow than EEG in their origin, more the product of a mortal mind than an alien consciousness.

    2. I think you have inspired me to something big, Allan. And I love how that works. I post something, it inspires you, and your inspiration inspires me back in return. That’s how this is supposed to go!!

      More to come on my big revelation.

      1. I like the Allan’s theory as well, however as I’ve had some time to mull it over – I have an alternate thought.

        I’m not sure that Lolth intentionally *dropped* the egg – I think it could have been an involuntary reaction to being defeated that she was able to take advantage of.

        Here’s why:

        The text in D3 doesn’t give any indication that it was intentionally left by Lolth. It just appears. There’s no reason to believe based on this that it was intentional. Like Joe says – why have a plan that’s based not only on you being defeated, but someone also having the power to compel the egg to open. And regarding Allan’s excellent alternative – as much as I like it, how would any Eilserv wizard get access to the egg in order to place the geas? It’s not like Lolth would leave the thing lying around.

        If we presume that Lolth was involved in the binding of the EEG, then we can also presume that she knows about the keys necessary to release him. Gary has said several times (in the Enworld thread if not elsewhere) that the keys to undo a binding are necessarily a part of the binding itself. So if the platinum egg is necessary to free the EEG, and if Lolth participated in the EEG’s imprisonment, she would most probably be aware of the key needed to free him.

        I think the leaving of the platinum egg and the geas were part and parcel of the binding magics used to imprison the EEG, and that defeating Lolth was one of the methods to obtain that key – an involuntary ‘reflex action’, as it were. So why does the geas compel the opener to come after Lolth? Because Lolth is aware of the magics on the platinum egg – they are unavoidable remnants of the binding magic – and she found a way to subvert the geas so that the subject is compelled to come after her instead of using the keys to free the EEG. Why subvert the geas? Because she’s running a gambit in this case – hoping that she can draw the adventurers into attacking her and not release the EEG. Assuming the gambit pays off – Lolth defeats the adventurers in the place where she’s strongest, which effectively resets the ‘doomsday clock’ back to 0, or whatever the default is, and all is well.

        In this scenario – I could expect the power of the geas to exert a tug-of-wars on the subject – pulling them toward Lolth, but also pulling them away at times where the original geas reasserts itself.

        Sorry for the length of the reply, but this really got me thinking. Excellent stuff, Joe (and Allan)

        1. @ Vernon: I assume that Eclavdra was high in Lolth’s preistesshood prior to her apostacy, so she could have had access to the egg if it was in the main temple complex.

          I like your idea as well, about Lolth luring the PCs to her vs. allowing them to focus on freeing the EEG—although that does sound somewhat more self-sacrificing and responsible behavior than I would normally attribute a demon queen ๐Ÿ˜‰

          Allan.

          1. Ah – so, you’re thinking that before she ‘went public’ with her new deity, Eclavdra could have had her house wizard lay some ground work? That’s certainly the drow way to do it – reinforcing the crippling effect of a betrayal. I still don’t know how they could have gotten access to the egg in the first place unless the egg is just lying around (so to speak) and the adventure text is simply imprecise instead of definitive.

            And – yeah, it could be self-sacrificing on Lolth’s part if she at all though she’d be vulnerable to the adventurers. The way I saw it – she knows she can’t defeat the EEG in one-on-one, so she’s drawing the lesser threat toward her so that they don’t release the greater threat. After all – if the EEG is released, Lolth won’t be in a position to worry about some pesky “name-level” adventurers. After all – it’s only self-sacrificing if you actually intend to sacrifice yourself. ๐Ÿ™‚

    3. Great post, Mr. Bloch-although I agree with Mr. Grohe that Lyme would be more likely to place the geas rather than the Elder Elemental God.

      Didn’t Gary Gygax say in an EnWorld thread that he considered the EEG to be mostly reactive, somewhat like the Lovecraftian Azathoth? Placing the geas sounds too rational and far-sighted for the EEG, particularly given how random and erratic it’s depicted as in Hall Of The Fire Giant King.

  2. I like the Eilservs theory more, but only because I think something the EEG came up with would be more eldritch and less smooth, shiny, and filled with regular solids. While Eclavdra and her lot are vile to the core and love them some disturbing imagery, they also seem to appreciate the beauties of precious metals and that sort of aesthetic.

    If the EEG were responsible, even if it contained those keys, I’d expect it to be composed of a misshapen lump of unidentifiable golden mineral with striations of purple and colorless forms which seem to move and shift beneath the surface when you’re not looking at it directly.

  3. Joe – once again you have performed Gygaxian alchemy and distilled some incredible deductions from the adventurer and Gary’s various references.

    I was 9 when I first started playing D&D, and as I was in a small town, I didn’t have a lot of choices for other players. So the local hivemind wasn’t as developed as it is today with regards to this stuff. You have found a metric crapton of nuance and insight that never, ever, would have occurred to and my friends when we were playing in the 80s – we simply didn’t have the perspective or the mental fortitude to dig beyond the obvious.

    Once you’ve completed your new T5, D4, and Q2 – I need to get some of my buddies back together and rerun Temple, and the GDQ series.

    Someone at WotC or whereever needs to hire you as the resident Chair of Greyhawk History and Philosophy (Joseph Bloch, PhD has a nice ring to it).

    Bravo!

  4. Perhaps Lolth placed the geas on the egg soon after she used the contents to bind the EEG? It was a way of insuring that, should she lose possession of it somehow, the current keeper would be forced to return with it to a place where she was at her greatest power. Then she would regain it and kill him/them for having the insolence to steal it. Thus, the geas had nothing to do at all with the current dust up between the Drow factions and the adventuring group’s involvement.

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