Connecting the Temple of Elemental Evil with the Vault of the Drow (Part 3)

In the previous installments of this series (Part 1, Part 2), we established that the Temple of Elemental Evil was built where it was because of the presence of the Elder Elemental God’s “anomaly”. I posited that it was the anomaly that made possible, directly or indirectly, the existence of the Elemental Nodes. Further, there is a direct connection between the Nodes and the Elemental Power Gems, which in turn fit into the Orb of Golden Death, which is held by a follower of Lolth. We also found a fairly decent explanation for why Eclavdra Eilservs chose the Elder Elemental God when she left Lolth; it was a deliberate slight because the EEG and Lolth had a history.

I’d like to spend a little time exploring the Elemental Power Gems, as I think they and the Orb of Golden Death are the keys (heh) to this whole thing.

The Elemental Power Gems are found in the four Elemental Nodes, the evil elemental demi-planes accessible from the 4th level of the dungeons beneath the Temple. We are told Zuggtymoy hid them there as the Temple came under siege. They cause anyone who touches them, and everyone within 50′, to be teleported to the appropriate Elemental Node. Once there, there are no other powers bestowed unless the gem is mounted in the Orb, with one exception. Each gem can control the teleport power of the various elemental glyphs on levels 3 and 4 of the dungeons and in the Elemental Nodes; the glyph will teleport those within its confines to another, identical, glyph. This is just about the only way one can leave the Nodes; find the appropriate gem, go back to the glyph in the center of the Node, and then teleport back to the identical glyph in the dungeon. This effect is also randomized somewhat, making escape even more problematic.

This is also the only way into the northern section of Zuggtmoy’s prison. But as indicated, there’s only a 1/4 chance of ending up there.

When a gem is placed in the mounting of the Orb of Golden Death, it bestows various powers; an elemental-themed spell once per week, travel to and from the appropriate Elemental Plane at will and immunity from any ill effects from its environment, conjure elemental of the appropriate type, and summon and control a demon (Babau, Type I, II, or III).

Obviously, the gems’ real power doesn’t become apparent until they are mounted in the Orb, so uniting them is a very good thing to do from the PCs’ point of view.

Now, the Orb itself is interesting as well. It has many various names; the Orb of Golden Death, Yellowskull, Goldenskull, and the Death Orb. It was specifically given to the priesthood of Elemental Evil for safekeeping. It is in Falrinth’s possession at the start of the ToEE adventure.

That’s an interesting fact, because Falrinth is shown to be a devotee of Lolth, having abandoned Zuggtmoy and the Temple in secret, and acting as a hidden agent of the spider queen.

Now let’s take a look at the platinum egg that is dropped by Lolth at the end of D3 Vault of the Drow:

If Lolth flees, or is slain in her current 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. In the egg are an iron pyramid, a silver sphere, a bronze star of eight points, and a cube of pale blue crystal. (These items have value and use only if the party continues the adventure in the next Module (Q1, QUEEN OF THE DEMONWEB PITS).

D3 Vault of the Drow, p. 20

Of course, the items were totally nerfed in the published Q1, but I’m proceeding on the assumption that the published Q1 will be replaced by something more in line with Gygax’s original concept.

Gygax, in one of his online Q&A’s, had this to say about the elemental glyphs and their uncanny resemblance to the gems inside Lolth’s platinum egg at the end of D3 Vault of the Drow:

As you note, the shapes were repeated in the ToEE as I did intend to tie the latter into the series. 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.

How it was all to operate was something I never did get fleshed out. This was to happen in the lower levels of the temple, the development of which I never got around to because of my work out on the West Coast. 

And of course we already know that this vague intention to include Lolth and the Elder Elemental God was never transmitted to Frank Mentzer, who had been handed the task of finishing the dungeons beneath the Temple. So the idea never saw the light of day.

So let’s see where we end up.

In the Temple of Elemental Evil, we have four Elemental Power Gems which are associated with:

  • Air: smoky quartz gem, circle glyph
  • Earth: carnelian gem, triangle glyph
  • Fire: garnet gem, eight-pointed star glyph
  • Water: aquamarine gem, square glyph

Now compare that with the objects in the platinum egg:

  • A silver sphere (= three-dimensional circle)
  • An iron pyramid (= three-dimensional triangle)
  • A bronze eight-pointed star
  • A pale blue crystal cube (= three-dimensional square)

Even the colors work. Smoky quartz and silver, carnelian (which is a sort of rust-red color) and iron (which, although it’s not stated, rusts), garnet (which can come in just about any color, including a bronzish hue), and aquamarine and pale blue.

I think the implication is inescapable. The four Elemental Power Gems aren’t just thematically similar to the objects in the Platinum Egg. They are the objects in the Egg.

If that supposition is correct, something has to happen during the freeing of Zuggtmoy that not only lets the Elder Elemental God loose (or maybe looser), but also sets up the double-trap of the Platinum Egg. Having established that Vault of the Drow happens after Temple of Elemental Evil, all we need to do is to get the gems (perhaps even in the platinum egg) from here to there.

If only there was some agent of Lolth nearby who could deliver them from the Temple of Elemental Evil to the Vault of the Drow and safely into Lolth’s webby digits. If only…

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.

11 thoughts on “Connecting the Temple of Elemental Evil with the Vault of the Drow (Part 3)

  1. Perhaps Lolth herself retrieves them after the events of ToEE are concluded. Or maybe another agent, assuming Falrinth is dead.

    I do not recall what happens to the Gem-intact Orb of Golden Death after it is used in ToEE. Can the PCs keep it? If so, there needs to be a mechanism to separate the orb/gems from them.

  2. Joe – this is incredible work on your part. Connecting all of these threads is a pretty impressive effort. These connections never occurred to me until I started reading your series here.

    Some questions pop into my head as I read this (I know – only “some”):

    How do the Elemental Gems (the glyphs) get transformed into their more defined counterparts? Would it happen as part of releasing Zuggtmoy? Or could it be something that happens if the gems are brought to the recessed area of the TOEE where the EEG is able to manifest. Maybe bringing the gems into contact with the EEG manifestation “primes” the gems, which transforms them into the objects we see in D3.

    I don’t know that releasing Zuggtmoy is the key here – her binding was performed by the forces of Good that besieged the temple, and there doesn’t seem to be any indication that they were aware of the EEG connection to the area. So their binding of Zuggtmoy would seem to be an independent thing – unless the magicks released by freeing her somehow interact with the manifested power of the EEG (like two sets of ripples colliding on a lake).

    I think you’re dead-on with the connections you’ve deduced for the elemental gems/platinum egg objects; and likewise the Eilservs’ plans. But there’s too much “elemental evil” flying around here for Zuggtmoy to merely be attracted to the power nexus. The Elder Elemental God manifesting under the Temple of Elemental Evil, near these Elemental Nodes and Elemental Gems; and yet somehow Zuggtmoy knows nothing about any of it – and just choose the name for the Temple on a whim? Why did she choose Elemental Evil for the theme here when she’s the demoness of mushrooms (a niche portfolio if ever I heard one)? There’s clearly some backstory here that we’re missing – which is why I think there could be something to the connection chain I mentioned in your Part I column – and that it got lost when Frank Mentzer took over the writing for T2.

    None of this in any way detracts from what you’ve posited. You’ve added so much depth to these adventures that if you don’t answer any of the questions I’ve put forth, it’s orders of magnitude better than before. Excellent excellent work!

    1. Also, the text specifically says that Zuggtmoy created the Elemental Nodes and the Orb of Golden Death. So it’s not that she was unaware of the site’s association with elemental evil; she chose it specifically because of that association. I posit that it was the EEG’s anomaly that allowed her to create the Nodes in the first place.

      1. Yeah – I thought of that after I sent the post. I got a little too “elemental happy” in my comment.

  3. Could it be that the removing that the very powers that serve to unbind Zuggtmoy could weaken the bounds of the EEG?

    Anomalies work both ways…

  4. I always read the deal with the gems allowing access to the symbols in Zuggtmoy’s prison to be an accidental flaw in the binding… like they were keyed to work with the nodes and the Greater Temple, but a flaw in the binding spell combined with the sheer elemental power of the site sometimes short circuited them to Z’s throne room instead, which is why it was only a percentage of the time they actually operated that way.

  5. Just caught up, and I’m definitely liking the path you’re exploring in these posts, Joe!

    The 2D–>3D aligned transition of the symbols is also interesting (and IIRC Paul Stormberg’s OJ article and/or one of the old Tharizdun Q&As also delved into their connections a bit?), and suggests to me some sort of planar/phase change: perhaps that’s tied to the shape of the Greater Temple level (spider-like) and ties back into the planar fabric Demonweb itself as part of the bindings that keep the EEG imprisoned….

    Also: if the Orb is destroyed, then the Nodes and much of the Temple dungeons collapse; but what about the anomaly itself?—does it survive?


    1. Well the anomaly predates the Temple, so I would assume it survives the Temple’s destruction. But as another commenter asked, what happens to the Golden Orb of Death?

  6. Remember that Gary’s original conception of “Elder Elemental Evil” was not tied to the Greek quadpartite division, but to the sense of “elemental” as primeval: he makes explicit reference to Merritt’s kraken-like, semi-Lovecraftian deity in Dwellers in the Mirage. Perhaps if Zuggtmoy’s nodes are destroyed, the older, more basic evil is no longer channelled into four material elements, and can re-united?

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