Connecting the Temple of Elemental Evil with the Vault of the Drow (Part 4)

This series is coming fast and furious, I know! This is how it works sometimes. I’ve been knocking around these themes on the blog for more than a decade, but now it’s all coming together.

I think I’ve been looking at this whole timeline wrong. Now that we have the events of Temple of Elemental Evil taking place before Vault of the Drow, I think it’s worth re-evaluating what, exactly, Gygax said his plans were for the Elder Elemental God. First, his connection to the Temple of Elemental Evil:

The EEG was indeed meant by me to have a place in the very nethermost recesses of the ToEE. An anomaly there allowed him to manifest a portion of himself, and by doing the wrong (right from the DM’s point of view) thing the adventurers could release him also!

Oerth Journal 12

But now let’s take a look at what Gygax said his original plan was for Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits:

I had what I consider a much more interesting plan for the conclusion of the G-D series, one in which the PC party could loose the Elder Elemental god or send him into deeper isolation, thus assisting Lolth to become more powerful. By very astute play, they could have thwarted the designs of both evil entities. The Demonweb Pits were indeed envisioned as maze like, but there were to be no machines therein. 

EnWorld Q&A part I

There’s something really odd in those two comments. Gary is talking about releasing the Elder Elemental God in Temple of Elemental Evil, but then he also says the players could loose it in his capstone to the G-D series!

If the EEG is freed in T1-4, how can it also be freed in Q2*?

There are a few possibilities:

  • It’s only partially freed in each scenario; the keys release portions of the EEG, and gradually increase its power as its bonds are lifted.
  • It’s only locally freed in each scenario;
  • It’s only possibly freed in each; if it’s not freed in the ToEE, it could be freed in Q2.
  • Gary was mistaken in his recollection, and only one of the opportunities to free the EEG was really intended.

The first and second make the most internal plot sense, the third makes the most meta-plot sense, and the fourth actually gives us the most potential for a dramatic plot. Such an agony of choice! Let’s work through each of these in turn.

In the first option, the EEG can already “manifest a portion of himself” in the dungeons below the Temple. This might be similar to how it is able to do so in the Temple of the Eye in Snurre’s hall and the Eilserv compound in the Vault of the Drow, or it might take some different form. As the EEG becomes freed in more locations, it’s abilities increase and it slowly builds in power across the multiverse. In so doing, its worshipers would become more powerful as well, which would give Eclavdra Eilserv a motive to want to unlock more of these anomalies. Unlock enough of them and the EEG is fully freed and its followers can tap into its full power.

In the second option, the EEG can also already “manifest a portion of himself” beneath the Temple, but the PCs could arrange for it to be able to manifest its full self in that physical space. In other places where such anomalies exist (such as the Demonweb Pits, Surre’s Hall, and the Vault of the Drow), it would still be limited in its power unless the keys/Elemental Power Gems were used to open those gates as well. I like this, because it makes the EEG more alien than other deities, more tied to the physical chunks of its being (which Gygax tells us in OJ 12 were blasted and scattered about by the goddess Beory).

The third option is much more player-centric than the others. Basically, the adventures are giving the PCs two opportunities to free the EEG. In the first chance, beneath the Temple of Elemental Evil, the PCs can free both Zuggtmoy and the Elder Elemental God. Since they seem to be at odds, this results in a strategic tie. That would seem to indicate the EEG has a general animus against demonkind in general. If they fail to free it beneath the Temple, the same keys are then made available to them to try to free it again in the Demonweb Pits, and imprison Lolth at the same time.

Personally I find the fourth option most compelling from a storytelling point of view. In it, the PCs accidentally completely free the Elder Elemental God completely (along with Zuggtmoy). This in turn allows the Eilservs to launch their campaign against the surface with the aid of the giants, because they now have access to the full resources of the Elder Elemental God as a lesser deity (with spells, magic items, etc.). It is, in fact, the PCs fault that the giant raids are occurring later on, even if they don’t realize it until they come upon the EEG’s trappings in either the Hill Giant or Fire Giant lairs. They then have a personal motive for putting an end to the Eilservs’ schemes, once they realize what’s going on.

This strategic storytelling choice will determine how the Elemental Power Gems find their way from the Kron Hills to the Vault of the Drow. I’m curious as to which of these options you find most interesting, and why. Or are there other options I’ve not considered? Please weigh in, in the comments.


* Q2 is my designation for my replacement for Q1, which I think is just too far removed from Gygax’s original concept to be useful.

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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.

11 thoughts on “Connecting the Temple of Elemental Evil with the Vault of the Drow (Part 4)

  1. I see option 1 as reconciling both Gygax comments. The OJ comment could refer to freeing the EEG completely in its Sunless Sea shrine, or in some demonweb mayhem. Certainly 8th level characters (approximate levels of those successful in clearing the Temple) would be hard-pressed to defeat a fully freed manifestation of the EEG—the merest tentacles in Snurre’s hall are terrifically potent.

  2. What if the physical chunks of the shattered EEG became the 333 gems of Tharizdun? And/or the Elemental Power Gems? Or the 4 items found in Lolth’s egg?

  3. Dang Joe – I’ll have a shot of whatever you’re having! Seriously – this is top notch stuff.

    I hadn’t heard of Gary’s interview in OJ12, so I finally took the time read it. Very informative on the EEG front, and I was particularly interested in the Beory connection, which I would never have guessed. But I was particularly disappointed that there was no Lolth connection to be found, considering the now-obvious connections you’ve uncovered.

    Back to this article – I love the idea that the raids in Sterich could have been made possible due to the actions of the characters, however that supposes a decent length of time between the actions at the TOEE and the beginning of the raids. Othewise, Eclavdra would have to have had the alliances in place on the assumption that EEG would be released, which seems unlikely.

    So the idea that the EEG can be freed locally makes perfect sense here. Eclavdra unlocked some access to the EEG somewhere (otherwise how would she have clerical spells) and used that power to set the Sterich events in motion, while at the same time started looking for other locales where the EEG could be released.

    Speaking of which – in re-reading D3, it suddenly jumped out at me that the Fane of Lolth is itself shaped like an egg. And, of course, the platinum egg is found within the Fane (an egg within an egg). So I then had this thought: If we posit that Lolth had an active hand in the banishment of the EEG – then what if the actual place of banishment occurred on the spot where the Fane is now built, and that the Fane itself is somehow part of the keys? What if Erelhei-Cinlu itself was built/founded in part so that Lolth could constantly watch for any hint of breech? And that is why the platinum egg itself is found here. Yes, the elemental gems could be placed within the platinum egg, but what if this is *why* they were placed here – because the platinum egg is metaphysically anchored to this location (which is why it is only ‘discovered’ if Lolth flees) and it is the one and single place where the elemental gems can be used for this purpose? Without the egg, the elemental gems cannot be used for this purpose; and without the gems, the platinum egg is simply an empty receptacle.

  4. I thought Gary meant Q1 when he said, “I had what I consider a much more interesting plan for the conclusion of the G-D series”? But then I read Q1’s Preface and have since changed my mind.

    Isn’t there evidence that Gary intended an EEG level from which a part if the EEG would be able to manifest itself and wreak havoc on everyone and everything? Maybe Gary was intending a hidden level to be a T5.

    Q1 also says, “it suddenly struck me that what I had sketched out was far too similar to another module ‘rough’ I was committed to: the TEMPLE OF ELEMENTAL EVIL, the final part of the VILLAGE OF HOMMLET (AD&D™ module T1).” So does that mean his original outline for T5 was something that would have resembled the T1 (monochrome version) moathouse dungeon but leveled up for the EEG? And if so, then Q1 would have been written as a module unrelated to the T series?

  5. I found this reference to Lolth in EEG’s T1-4 prison:

    Here’s one that’s been bothering me for a long time. In your original conception of the Temple of Elemental Evil, was Zuggtmoy the big
    baddie, or did you come up with her as a replacement for Lolth after Q1 was released and you were forced to rethink her involvement?
    Close to the mark there Scott. when Dave Sutherland did the Q1 as it was, and Brian okayed it, I was rather stuck. Lolth was supposed to be in
    there, and in the depths the prison of the Elder Elemental God. I had my hands full with the management of the D&D Entertainment Copr. out on
    the West Coast, so I couldn’t get to the copmpletion of the ToEE. That;s when Frank Mentzer took a hand and filled in the lower levels that I
    hadn’t detailed. That’s why they ended where they did instrad of proceeding downwards more to where the EEG’s area was going to be.

    1. Yes, exactly. Gygax had originally intended for Lolth to be a major player, but when Q1 was published, that had to be changed.

      However, in the published T1-4, there are repeated references to Lolth, so I’m trying to work them in as much as possible, to retain both canonicity and Gygax’s original intent.

  6. …that page also says:

    Lolth was to be connected to the temple, she
    the key to activation of that which would remove the imprisoning bonds from the Elder Elemental God. Of course that would have been by
    unintended consequences of her actions when the PCs discovered her.
    Hoiw it was all to operate was something I never did get fleshed out. This was to happen in the lower levels of the temple

    1. She’s not imprisoned beneath the temple (although way back in the origins of the adventure, she probably had the place of Zuggtmoy), but she’s “connected” and is “the key” to freeing the EEG. So I’m using Falrinth, who’s Lolth’s agent, in that role.

  7. I prefer the third option for a couple of reasons.

    For one thing, it allows for the players not freeing the EEG or Zuggtmoy and, as Gary Gygax alluded to with the astute play, defeat both the EEG *and* Lolth. What’s the status of Zuggtmoy in canon? Was she freed from her Temple prison, or was she banished back to the Abyss with the Goldenskull’s destruction? (And a part of this is admittedly From The Ashes making me twitchy about making such drastic changes to benefit evil without giving players or novel characters a fair chance to prevent them.)

    The fourth scenario, OTOH, automatically assumes that the players will free Zuggtmoy and the EEG. If the players don’t do so, and the villains remain sealed, what then? And what if the players successfully destroy the Goldenskull? Shouldn’t the power gems be destroyed along with the rest of the artifact? I’d find it a bit odd that Lolth could somehow salvage and take them back to the Fane if the Goldenskull is destroyed.

    And how long passes between the Temple and Giants adventures? I’d think Eclavdra would need some time to orchestrate an alliance between the different giant races, particularly if she’s using somebody like Snurre as a catspaw. I always imagined Snurre as having charisma on the level of a Napoleon or Hitler, which explained how he rallied the giants to his cause. He had the perfect combination of charm and stupidity to make him an ideal stooge for House Eilservs.

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