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.