Connecting the Temple of Elemental Evil with the Vault of the Drow (Part 2)

I think I’m finally closing in on the connection between T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil (ToEE) and D1-3 Descent into the Depths of the Earth/Vault of the Drow. In my previous installment, I went through the timeline of the two adventures, and I think the case is pretty solid that ToEE happens before D1-3.

Now, we know that Gygax intended for the Elder Elemental God to be found in the lowest levels of the dungeons beneath the Temple:

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. But, alas, I was too busy with other things at the time when the project was being completed. As it was already quite hefty, I decided to omit any mention of this to Frank Mentzer, and so the ToEE was released with only the Eye of Fire as a clue to what I should have included in the adventure.

(Oerth Journal 12)

So the “anomaly” would be beneath the lowest dungeons of the Temple. I can’t help but think that the placement of the Temple on that exact spot cannot be coincidence. I had originally speculated some sort of subconscious attraction on the part of Zuggtmoy (and commenter Vernon L. Vincent speculated some more intricate ideas on my previous post), but I think the answer is much simpler and more direct. There’s something about the anomaly that Zuggtmoy found attractive or necessary for the construction of the temple. The Nodes.

It is the “anomaly” that exists beneath the Temple which was responsible for the existence of the Elemental Nodes.

Since she was using Elemental Evil as a cover for her scheme, Zuggtmoy wanted to take advantage of the relative ease of creating these elemental demi-planes for her own purposes. The anomaly itself could remain completely unknown to the builders and inhabitants thereof, because they were interested in the Nodes, not arcane investigations into their source.

That’s why Zuggtmoy build the Temple where she did. Not because of the EEG’s anomaly directly, but because of the side effects it caused.

Now, we come to one of my reinterpretations of what we see in both ToEE and D3. I believe the Elemental Power Gems which activate the Golden Skull of Death are the same items as are later found in the Platinum Egg in the possession of the demon-queen Lolth in the Vault of the Drow. How they get there will be an interesting trip, but first let’s examine what their role is in the Temple itself.

The gems themselves do nothing on their own, save take those who touch them (and anyone within 50′) to the center of the corresponding elemental node. If they are placed on the appropriate place of the Golden Skull of Death, they allow various powers and abilities, such as summoning demons, conjuring elementals, visiting elemental planes, etc.

There are two possibilities about those extra powers. First, they could be inherent in the Elemental Power Gems, and are just unlocked by fitting them into the Orb of Golden Death. They could be unlocked by other means. Second, they could only be due to the magical experimentation and transformation of Zuggtmoy and the priests and mages of the Temple of Elemental Evil that they have these extra abilities; i.e., those powers never existed before the Orb was created.

Functionally, the only purposes of the Elemental Power Gems in ToEE is to get the player characters to the northern part of dungeon level 3, where Zuggtmoy is imprisoned. They can also use them to escape the Elemental Nodes*. They get the gems one at a time, use them to visit the Elemental Nodes, and then return to the Temple to insert them into the Orb of Golden Death, at least in theory.

We do learn a bit of the history of the Elemental Nodes and the Orb of Golden Death, but it’s a bit ambiguous:

The elemental nodes form the basis for the whole evil operation. They are as cauldrons, used to mix evil and elemental forces in an unholy recipe concocted by Zuggtmoy and luz over a decade ago. Within the nodes are special creatures, to be used as future troops and specialists. The nodes and the Orb of Golden Death (see Appendix D) were created together, and are directly and magically linked. The powers of this artifact come from the nodes…

Temple of Elemental Evil, p. 95

Note carefully the language used in this section. It says the Elemental Nodes were used by Zuggtmoy and Iuz, and that the Orb of Golden Death and the Orbs were created together. Later on, we are told that Zuggtmoy created the nodes (p. 107), but the basic theory still holds true. It’s quite likely that the existence of the Elder Elemental God’s “anomaly” made possible the creation of the Nodes. Whether Zuggtmoy was aware of this connection when she did so remains unknown, but I tend to think not.

So there’s a connection between the Elemental Power Gems, and the Orb of Golden Death, and the Elemental Nodes. And Falrinth, who is dedicated to Lolth, holds the Golden Orb. Well, well, well.

At this point, I think it’s worth asking a question that I don’t think anyone has ever asked before, at least not that I’m aware of. When House Eilservs was rejected in its bid to make Eclavdra the Queen of All Drow, we are told that the resistance to the idea was spearheaded by the priesthood of Lolth, who feared they would lose their pride of place and power.

The Eilservs (and Tormtors) naturally wanted to spurn Lolth, and do so in a manner that would be the most insulting, and effective, way possible. So why the heck would they turn from her worship to the worship of a semi-imprisoned Elder Elemental God who was not only totally alien to the material plane, but who could not directly intervene in their struggle against the Demon Queen of Spiders? Why did Eclavdra choose the Elder Elemental God?

She could have picked another demon lord (in fact, in Gygax’s Gord the Rogue novels, she did, becoming a priestess of Grazz’t). She could have picked another evil god, like Beltar or Nerull. Why pick a hobbled alien deity? Simple. The EEG and Lolth had a history. And nothing could be more insulting than to take up the worship of her former goddess’s greatest enemy.

And that, I think, is the key to explaining why the EEG’s prison is accessible through Lolth’s Abyssal palace. That history was an ancient war, and she ended up (imperfectly) imprisoning the Elder Elemental God somehow.

And Eclavdra Eilservs, spurned by the priestesses of Lolth and recently converted to the worship of the Elder Elemental God in order to spite them and their spider goddess, wants to unleash that weird deity upon the multiverse, and increase her own power thereby.

And the keys to doing that are to be found in the Elemental Power Gems.


* On page 107, the references to room 351 should actually be 339. Even in the revised pdf, this error remains.

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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.

2 thoughts on “Connecting the Temple of Elemental Evil with the Vault of the Drow (Part 2)

  1. In my notes for a campaign using these modules I had Lolth in her previous incarnation as Araushnee consort to Corellon as creator of the cube, sphere, star and pyramid which are keys to the EEGs prison. It was her study into the EEG and the creation of these artifacts that corrupted her and started her along the path to becoming Lolth. We should chat about it sometime.

  2. You inspire all of us to re-examine all our old Gygax modules, sifting for all the clues and Easter Eggs Gary left us about the EEG. Well played, sir! 🙂
    I’ve always thought “The Keep On The Borderlands” and its ‘Temple of Evil Chaos’ fit it with the overall EEG theme. It was originally set in Greyhawk, after all (Ratik, The Pale, or Tenh, were the originally suggested locations for the Caves of Chaos and Caverns of Quasqueton, if I recall correctly). If they were intended to be, then the EEG’s tentacles might have been sleepily (?) reaching out to the four corners of Oerth since its imprisonment.
    That might suggest that Roghan the Fearless and Zelligar the Unknown had been up to a hitherto unspecified no-good some time ago. They were Evil, after all. Maybe their attempts to raise the EEG were the actual reason they disappeared all those years ago….

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