Giving up on fixing the Temple of Elemental Evil

For the past week or so, I’ve been working on something I’ve been calling T5. It was essentially meant to be an expansion of the existing T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil, adding new elements like additional preliminary adventures similar to the moathouse, allowing the PCs to have a better chance of being of sufficiently high level to take on the Temple itself, adding a new dungeon level 5, which would be a heretofore-hidden temple of the Elder Elemental God, with a section of errata for the notoriously buggy text. My intention was to do it, make it pretty, and then let it loose into the wild (for free, given the nature of what it was).

But damn, the module has beaten me. There is just too much wrong with it to apply patches.

The problem was not with the new material. That’s (especially the connection with the EEG) been something I’ve been working on for years, conceptually. Fixing the missing text from T1 is a snap. I’ve got the original T1, and a comparison with the relevant portions of T1-4 was easy. Going through the text of T1-4 was a bit more of a bear, but there are some collections of errata online, and I think I’ve gotten most of the wrinkles out of the text.

But once I realized that the very maps themselves were fakakta, and the errata got longer and longer, I realized that my approach wouldn’t work.

As the errata were mounting up, and the additions were growing, and then came the realization that I would at the very least have to do new maps, I just couldn’t do a T5 in the original way I intended. It wouldn’t be playable; you’d need to have two books open at all times, side by side, for the whole thing. It’s would be completely unworkable.

I would have to do a T1-5, completely redoing the original text, integrating all of the changes, and errata, and additions, with new maps.

Unfortunately, as I realized the path that I’d have to take, so too did I realize that doing it this way would go way over the line in terms of legalities. It’s one thing to publish errata and additions to something. It’s completely another thing to take an existing, copyrighted text, and make changes and additions to it, and then publish it. The former would probably be treated as a derivative work. The latter would get me a C&D from Hasbro’s lawyers lickety-split.

Which doesn’t mean I’m not going to do it. It just means that it’s going to have to remain completely in-house, never to see the light of day, and only my players are going to get to experience it. Unless something drastically changes, like Mike Mearls reading this and deciding that it’s something that Must Be Done and helps makes it happen. But for now, it’ll have to remain a labor of love, done for my own gratification. And I’m okay with that.

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.

19 thoughts on “Giving up on fixing the Temple of Elemental Evil

  1. I came to a similar conclusion while trying to make it work. I ended up just using some of the themes and background setting from ToEE and doing my own much smaller version of a Temple of Warring Elemental Cultists.

  2. My DM had to do quite a bit of work to TOEE to make it work and added his own plot threads to fill in some of the gaps. He didn't bother with an extra level to the dungeon though (though that would have made sense). He just shored up the references to the elder god.

    I really wish WotC would OK this. Short of that, I'd love to be in the game. 🙂

  3. It's enough that you were willing to even take on such a task.

    I ran that module two years back and followed up with the next two mega-modules which I'm still running now. I don't think anyone would be surprised to hear that I ended up re-writing a large portion of each of them.

    ToEE was the one I made the least changes to, but I had to add a huge backstory to it to make it flow.

  4. I admire the intent and will to do this project Joe. Meanwhile wizards will be doing their own elemental evil storyline pretty soon. I hope they don't borrow too heavily from GH on this.

  5. You know, there was this guy who did his own version of Castle Greyhawk from scratch. Maybe you can talk him into making his own version of ToEE from scratch. 🙂

  6. I have also run the ToEE multiple times. I found that its not really a module per se, but really just a large plot device, the eye of a storm if you will. I got into the whole logistics of how the Temple is able to sustain itself and function – I did a lot of side adventures about just that. Really, the Temple is something so large from an organizational point that there is no way that it can exist as presented without a huge support structure. It is very much a spider in a larger web! The module even gives ideas on how to flesh out the world and uses Hommlet as a model and gives Nulb as a skeleton to flesh out.

  7. yeah. everytime I sit and reread the temple I realize if I were to run it it would be a momumental task of rewriting most if not all of it. Just a bit too much at this time.

  8. Joe, let me make a couple of suggestions and contact me privately if you want to discuss further.

    1) Why not contact WotC to get their stance on this (if released for free). They may only have a problem if it is a for-profit endeavor.

    2) I would be interested in lending my skills, meagre as they are, to assist you in dragging this behemoth into the light.

    Let me know what you think.

    Alex Karaczun

  9. It's good to see someone's working on this.

    I'm having similar (but less grand scope) issues with Maure Castle and the few bits of it that were published in Dungeon Magazine, alongside teased elements form Eric Mona's aborted Absolute Power mini adventure in Living Greyhawk (don't ask me how I got the various LG texts)

  10. I ran ToEE a while back using OSRIC posts here

    I fleshed out the world around it (riffing off the seeds provided in T1 and rich Greyhawk setting) and making links into/outof/withit (which a good DM needs to do with any module). I vaguely remember some minor map problems, solved via hand wave. But I don't remember anything that bad, certainly nothing requiring rewrite. To be fair, I'm not a simulationist and don't need to justify and plot out where each EHP sources their toilet paper from.

  11. Its a real shame that this will never see the light of day. I have been working on something similar, on and off for a while – also including the EEG more centrally, and with a number of sub-plots to help fill out the whole.
    Overall I have not made as much progress as I had hoped, and the Temple part of the project proved more problematic than I anticipated.
    Good luck with your work – I will be interested in any blog posts that surface from you in how you tackled the project…

  12. I would urge you not to give up on this, just rethink the scope. There is probably an incompatibility inherent with what you would need to create for your own campaigns, and what would be palatable for the release to the community. Not being able to metaphorically 'kill-two-birds-with-one-stone' may make you want to give up on this exciting project, but clearly you have an itch that needs to be scratch—and please believe there are many fans out there who would love to see you add another chapter to this story.

    Consider the following:

    * Gygax himself had difficulty translating his personal campaign content into marketable modules and left it to others to do or finish the effort for him (e.g. T2-T4, Castle Greyhawk, Q1, etc.) and the world is poorer for it.

    * Your issues with the maps and content are all probably with T2-T4 (Nulb,temple,etc.) which were by-and-large a disappointment to most. A complete re-write IS in order. Savage what's good but don't let the past overly constrain you. Nobody will miss the junk you flushed down the commode.

    * Start small. The scope is overwhelming—just tackle T2 (i.e. fix Nulb) and then see where it gets you. Even if you never get beyond that, you would have moved the mythos forward in a 'better' direction. Let history (and those less prolific) judge your contribution—but better to create SOMETHING than just let time slip through your fingers, all the while wondering if you could have done more.

    * WotC will probably not approve or cooperate with any effort to restore the original Gygax/AD&D/1e intent. They are obviously cooking up their own plans. Unfortunately, 'elemental' interpreted as the classic Aristotelian elements of Earth, Wind, Fire and Water is sophomoric as best. Restore the EEG as the creepy Cthulhian terror he was mean to be. Give the world a version that properly links the ToEE to the G-series and D-series modules that you have so carefully researched and clued us all in on. If WotC sends you a Cease-and-Desist letter, then you just comply. But…the content will already be "out there" and it could always be plastered over with a thin veneer. 😉

    * Less is more. Set the stage, but don't play out the action. Hint at connections and what's to come without being explicit. This is suppose to be a playground for the imagination. The ToEE is special. Its the hub of a great wheel. We may NEVER know why, but ultimately that's OK.

    Good luck! We are all rooting for you.

  13. How does the DMs Guild change this effort? Does it make it possible without worry of legal action? I hope so. T1 and even TOEE is and remains a favorite! This just sounds so delicious. To quote the philosopher Shia Labouff, DO IT!

  14. Correct, Timothy. Once DMs Guild allows products from the World of Greyhawk as a setting, then the way would be paved for the sort of project I envision. Until that happens, it would have to be a bootleg, and I would really rather avoid that.

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