Connecting the Temple of Elemental Evil with the Vault of the Drow (Part 1)

A few days ago, I posted a speculation that perhaps the contents of Lolth’s platinum egg were actually unknown to her, and that she thought of it as nothing more than a device to draw her enemies into her clutches in the Abyss.

I had speculated that the egg had originally come from the Elder Elemental God itself, but Allan “Grodog” Grohe tweaked that, and posited that it was the Eliservs who set up the trap, wherein the device she used to lure in the adventurers who penetrated into Erelhei-Cinlu to their deaths in the Abyss, also included the keys to release the Elder Elemental God.

I like that even more, and it got me to thinking that this might even be the link between the Temple of Elemental Evil, the Elder Elemental God, and the Vault of the Drow/going after Lolth after adventure. By Harry, I might have this thing finally figured out!

This is going to need a careful read; hang on, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

First, from Temple of Elemental Evil:

Some actually turned to Lolth in desperation, for many drow visited the Temple after its fall. Lareth was one who sought to serve both the Temple and Lolth. And although Lolth hated Zuggtmoy’s Elemental Evil, she so lusted for power that she accepted such service. Had she not been routed, her dark followers so crippled, much might have come of this.

But as it transpired, Lolth could—and can yet—give only encouragement, without physical or magical aid, to those who call on her.

T1-4, p. 29

This is a somewhat deceptive quote. It implies that the ToEE module happens after D3 Vault of the Drow/Q1 Queen of the Demonweb pits. And that would make sense, given the timing of when they were published; T1-4 came out several years after D1-3/Q1.

But that cannot be the reference here, for several reasons. The implied ending of Q1 is that Lolth is permanently slain in the Abyss. If she’s slain, she cannot give encouragement, obviously. If it’s just a reference to her material form being slain in D3, then she’s just imprisoned in the Abyss for a century (per the MM). As a lesser goddess, there’s nothing I’m aware of that says she cannot still grant spells.

So I believe this is a reference to some other setback.

In fact, there’s only one major setback to Lolth that we know of that fits the bill. Something that happened several years before CY 569 (the year of the Battle of Emridy Meadows, a decade before when we know the Temple of Elemental Evil module was set), and which would count as “a sharp check” to Lolth:

Having just learned of the sharp check dealt to Lolth in her plans to wreak Evil, the Lady of Fungi agreed to accept luz as an (almost) equal in the Temple.

T1-4 p. 29

I think this is a reference to the betrayal of the drow Houses of Eilservs and Tormtor and their defection to the worship of the Elder Elemental God. (This represents a correction/change to my previous article on Dating Modules.) The two most powerful houses in Erelhei-Cinlu were loosed from Lolth’s grasp, and the whole of the Vault of the Drow was plunged into a cold civil war:

The Eilservs have long seen a need for an absolute monarch to rule the Vault, and as the noble house of first precedence, they have reasoned that their mistress should be Queen of All Drow. When this was proposed, the priestesses of Lolth supported the other noble families aligned against the Eilservs, fearing that such a change would abolish their position as the final authority over all disputes and actions of the Dark Elves. Thereafter, the Eilservs and their followers turned away from the demoness and proclaimed their deity to be an Elder Elemental God (see MODULE G-3). Although there is no open warfare, there is much hatred, and both factions seek to destroy each other.

D3, p. 18

It’s also supported by the earlier reference in the same section of T1-4 that Zuggtmoy, “having just learned of the sharp check dealt to Lolth in her plans to wreak evil, … agreed to accept Iuz as an (almost) equal in the Temple.” This happens many years before the events of the adventure (let’s call it CY 563 at the very earliest), at the very beginning of the Temple, so it almost certainly doesn’t refer to the events of Vault of the Drow. The defection of the Eilservs and Tomtors are the only thing we really know of that could fit the bill.

So, step #1: the Eilservs went over to the worship of the Elder Elemental God prior to the establishment of the Temple of Elemental Evil.

Now we come to step #2: Gygax has already stated that the original intention was for the Elder Elemental God to be present in the lowest levels of the dungeons beneath 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! Of course that would counter somewhat the freeing of Zuggtmoy, had she been loosed, so on balance it could serve to redress that error.

Oerth Journal 12

More on that anon, but the point is that there’s both opportunity (the Eilservs were looking to expand their dominion on the surface to further their ambitions in the Vault) and motive (they turned to the worship of the Elder Elemental God) for the Eilservs to interact with the Temple of Elemental Evil, and the Elder Elemental God’s “anomaly” beneath it, and set the stage for what must come later.

More in part 2!

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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.

12 thoughts on “Connecting the Temple of Elemental Evil with the Vault of the Drow (Part 1)

  1. I like what I am reading here! It is still my dream to be able to run a party through the whole string of adventures and have them clearly and logically linked by the end.

  2. Okay – after reading this, I think I’m swayed to Allan’s point of view here. I still don’t fully grasp how they could have gotten the platinum egg, but that’s because I interpret the D3 text as saying that the egg doesn’t appear until or unless Lolth flees or is defeated. Were it present before – it seems like it should be something that could be noticed (and potentially stolen by a thief). But if we accept that it is present, just unnoticed, then the chain of events Allan and you posit make a lot of sense.

    Of course, we don’t know how the Eilservs got the keys to the EEG’s prison in the first place, but that’s not really as important as the fact that they actually had them and used them as part of their a plot in luring the adventurers into conflict with Lolth

      1. High praise! You can thank Allan for kicking what’s left of my creative juices into gear (and for mixing my metaphors).

        Where I also tend to get a bit confused is the difference between Tharizdun and the EEG, because both have similar backstories in the fact that at some point in the past – both were bound away by the deities of the Greyhawk multiverse. Did the same deities who bound Tharizdun also bind the EEG? Your suppositions here suggest that you believe it was just Lolth who bound the EEG (which more than plainly suggests why she’s interested in the TOEE if the EEG is able to manifest however minutely in that location).

        But then what attracted Zuggtmoy to the location? As a demon queen herself – was she aware of Lolth’s actions in imprisoning the EEG, or was is simply dumb luck that she learned about the ‘power nexus’ (or whatever). Or did Iuz plant the idea in her head due to his connection to Iggwilv? It seems like Lolth and Iggwilv have similar interests in magic and binding-spells (the Demonomicon being the definitive compendium on spells for binding outer planar creatures) so I can see Iggwilv having more than a passing familiarity with Lolth’s actions. Or maybe Grazzt is involved – he looks like a super-tall dark elf himself, so maybe he ‘consorted’ with Lolth at some point in the past and learned all kinds of stuff. An Lolth-Grazzt-Iggwilv-Iuz-Zuggtmoy connection (with a commensurate distortion of information, intentional or otherwise) is an interesting chain to consider.

        There’s just too many demon lords and queens involved between the TOEE and the Drow for it to be coincidence.

        All of this is just me free-associating possible connections – thanks for kickstarting me thinking about this!

  3. So is the egg her trap to get adventurers to meet her on her terms so she can defeat them? And EGG’s way to try and get adventurers that will overpower her?

  4. Bookmarking this for future re-reading. I currently have my family on the last level of Q1, but I am swapping out the Spider-ship for the Skein of the Death Mother. I am planning to take them right to the TOEE for the big campaign finale.

  5. Damn rabbit holes! They never end, do they! Too bad Gary never told anyone what his plan for ToEE and Q1 might have been. Or maybe that’s the crux of the problem. Maybe he never laid out his plot vision to either Mentzer or Sutherland. Or maybe his notes were incomplete. Or worse yet, maybe he never sat down to work the problem out.
    Or maybe he did, and they ignored him. Maybe he had a gag order placed on him so he couldn’t tell the tale. I’m sure there are others who know more about the story behind this than I do.
    I won’t speculate on his relationship with TSR at the time. Maybe he was too peeved to care. I don’t think so. He must have hated how they were messing with his opus.
    The true horror is that maybe ToEE and D1-3,Q1 never meshed in the first place.

    1. According to an interview with Gygax in Oerth Journal 12, he never passed on the EEG connection to Mentzer because the module was already getting too big. But it was his intention to have the connection originally.

  6. So, are the “agents of Lolth” mentioned in the ToEE, effectively her agents or are they House Eilservs’?

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