Connecting the Temple of Elemental Evil with the Vault of the Drow (Part 5)

Here’s where we wrap everything up. Apologies – this is a rather long one, but I think it’s worth it. Previous installments:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

As laid out in a previous installment, we have the four Elemental Power Gems from the Temple of Elemental Evil as the same items as are later found in Lolth’s platinum egg, which she leaves behind as a trap for the PCs who best her in the Fane of Lolth in the module D3 Vault of the Drow.

I originally posited that she was unaware of the existence of the items in the egg, which she simply thought would lead her enemies into a trap. She was not aware that she was also giving them the keys to unleash her enemy, the Elder Elemental God. That simple idea (and Alan “Grodog” Grohe’s comment on the post) has spawned this five-part series on how to connect these two classic adventures through the common theme of the Elder Elemental God and its struggle with Lolth.

Now it’s time to finish the connections.

There’s quite a bit of narrative work to be done, with the Elemental Power Gems and various other things, but it’s quite doable. And the way to do it is by freeing the Elder Elemental God via its anomaly beneath the Temple of Elemental Evil. Let’s start with the anomaly and its origin. According to Gary, the Oerth Mother goddess Beory turned the Elder Elemental God to a column of stone and then…

She followed this with a second terrible blow that reduced the column to rubble. … Beory swept away these evil fragments and hid them away in the darkest recesses of Oerth. … In fact, the EEG was not destroyed but entrapped by Beory’s blow. As a result the deity is crippled and can only access the Prime Material Plane through these fragments. … Temples and shrines are built around shards of the EEG.

Oerth Journal 12

Gygax has told us that the freeing of Zuggtmoy and the Elder Elemental God was supposed to be linked in some way. And that there is that anomaly beneath the Temple dungeons through which the EEG manifests itself. And how is Zuggtmoy freed? It’s complicated. Very complicated. Because of course it is.

First, you need all four of the Elemental Power Gems installed in the Orb of Golden Death to even have a random chance of reaching the Interdicted Prison of Zuggtmoy on level 3, by using it to alter the teleportation effect of the elemental talisman figures on levels 3 and 4. You can also get there by the throne in room 10, if you either have the Orb of Golden Death (sans gems) or are willing to spend a limited wish to learn the otherwise-unknowable combination to activate it.

If all 666 gems are pried out of her throne, she goes back to the Abyss for 66 years, imprisoned there. The three pillars in Zuggtmoy’s throne room can be used to break the enchanted gates that hold her physically in the Temple (rooms 340, 210, 145, and 1), which are protected by magical antipathy (which needs to be re-made any time the character approaches any of the gates, even one that has been successfully approached before). Otherwise, someone with a strength of 20 or more can just batter down the bronze gates and free her.

The destruction of the gates allows Zuggtmoy to be gradually released. Destroy the gate in 340, and she can roam the whole of the northern half of level 3 (the Interdicted Prison). Destroy the gate at 210, and she can go to levels two and three (the whole thing). Destroy the one at 145, and she can go from dungeon level 1 through 4 with impunity. Destroy the gate in room 1 as well as all the others, and Zuggtmoy goes completely free. The gate to the Abyss in her throne room is also reactivated, so she could skedaddle immediately to her seat of power.

Okay, so if the release of Zuggtmoy and the release of the Elder Elemental God are somehow connected, what are we to make of all this?

First, the Elemental Power Gems in the Orb of Golden Death are not, in fact, keys to opening the prison, but rather are keys to entering the prison. In fact, they’re not even required to free her. It’s almost like that’s just a side-effect of their presence in the dungeons.

Second, actually releasing Zuggtmoy seems pretty mundane. Once you get past the magical antipathy protection, it’s just a matter of bashing them down, either with a STR of 20 or more, or with one of the three pillars in her throne room. Fortunately there are giants and ettins in the dungeons that could, conceivably, be charmed and then used to break down the bronze gates.

It’s worth noting that level four of the dungeons, which was closed to all but those “initiated into the mysteries of the Greater Temple” is where the real forces behind the Temple of Elemental Evil are revealed. It’s a shrine to Iuz and Zuggtmoy, not Elemental Evil. Indeed, the whole of the Inner Chamber is designed to look like the symbol of Iuz. But behind that Greater Temple and its Inner Chamber is something called the Nexus, and it is here that our endgame truly begins.

In the center of the round Nexus room is a chamber of light, in which is a bejeweled silver throne which allows psionic communication (and combat) with Zuggtmoy, who sits in an identical throne above and to the west of this chamber, in the Interdicted Prison.

Why is it called the Nexus? The only thing it has in it is a mural made of gems and the light chamber. A Nexus is either a means of connection, a connected series or group, or the core or center of a given thing (like a situation). Or, perhaps, all three. While the Nexus itself doesn’t seem to fit that bill, the Light Chamber certainly does, and here’s where we start to go beyond the printed text into the new material.

Let me emphasize that point. What follows is my own creation, intended to fit into what we know of Gygax’s original plans for the Elder Elemental God in both Temple of Elemental Evil and following Vault of the Drow.

The Light Chamber is indeed a means of connection between the Greater Temple and Zuggtmoy, but it is also the means to travel to the Anomaly of the Elder Elemental God, in a dungeon level 5, beneath the Greater Temple. If one who is in possession of the Elemental Power Gems (whether set in the Orb of Golden Death or not) sits in the bejeweled throne in the Light Chamber, that character and all within the Light Chamber will instantly be teleported to the anomaly beneath the Temple.

There might even be elemental sigils just like those in the Temple above, which could be accessed by someone with the Orb of Golden Death in the same way such a person can exercise partial control over the teleportation effect of the sigils. The Anomaly would be an ancient temple of the EEG, but with the effects toned significantly down.

After facing suitable insanity-and-tentacles themed perils in the Anomaly, including the possibility that Lolth herself will intervene to prevent the PCs from unsealing the first anomaly (in much the same way that there’s a chance that Iuz and St. Cuthbert will appear in the Temple dungeons above), the PCs can unwittingly use the gems to unseal the anomaly.

Once that happens, the EEG is able to grant its clerics mid-level spells and the means to create cult magic items such as the tentacle rods. The effects of the anomaly-temple would then be amped up, similar to those in the Temple of the Eye that we see in Hall of the Fire Giant King.

The gems themselves are then scattered to another anomaly randomly, changing slightly and subtly with each use, as a result of the eldritch elemental forces at work. It is by this means that the Eilserv family gains access to them (since their own compound in the Vault is built atop such an anomaly, which is why they can have a Temple of the Eye there), and uses them to unlock all of the anomalies on Oerth… except one. As the Elder Elemental God’s power grows with the opening of each anomaly, so too does the power of Eclavdra and her minions who serve the EEG. Naturally, this greatly alarmed Lolth.

Once Lolth realized what was going on, she took steps to close off at least one of the anomalies, preventing the full final emergence of the Elder Elemental God. Sealed within a bubble of Abyssal energy, the Last Anomaly is closely guarded, and is only accessible through Lolth’s palace in the Abyss.

And thus is the connection made. The PCs are unwittingly responsible for unleashing the Elder Elemental God, and once they realize their involvement (once they visit the EEG shrines in either Steading of the Hill Giant Chief or Hall of the Fire Giant King), that increases the dramatic stakes for them. They must make right what they have done wrong.

Now, as far as Lolth gaining the Platinum Egg with the gems inside, this is where the plotting of the Eilservs comes into play (remember that thing that started all this???). Where’s the safest place to hide a weapon to kill your enemy? Where your enemy will never, ever suspect it.

Having opened as many of the anomalies as they could with the gems, the Eilservs would have no real use for them any more. Opening the final anomaly would be a top goal, for doing so would increase their own power by allowing their god to fully realize its potential on Oerth.

How to do that is simplicity itself. All they needed to do was concoct a phony tale about the Egg, making it out to be a trap designed to slay the enemies of the one who carries it. Then they “accidentally” allow the priests of Lolth to hear of it, who conveniently obtain it and hand it over to their own deity. The seeds of Lolth’s destruction are in place, and they can be sure the gems will be as close to the Elder Elemental God’s final anomaly (reached through Lolth’s palace, remember) as possible.

I might even say the original plan was for Eclavdra (or one of her champions) to be the one who was supposed to receive the phony trap, but when the PCs came on the scene, the plan was altered to let them be the ones who take all the risk, having proved themselves worthy opponents to have penetrated as far into the Vault as they did.

And then, at the end, the PCs have four possible outcomes before them:

  • They fail
  • They open the final anomaly and free the EEG
  • They shut the anomaly for good
  • They imprison Lolth in the various shards and shut the gates, trapping them both (possibly using the Staff of Beory in some way)

So there’s my grand outline of the connections. It took a while to get here, and there are probably other choices that could get us close to the same end-point, but I think this satisfies the main elements we had laid out as being Gary’s original intention. The EGG is beneath the Temple and could be freed, and the EEG could either be freed after Vault of the Drow, or imprisoned somehow along with Lolth.

There are a bunch of smaller ideas that have sprung out of this research and this series of posts (like why do the EEG and Lolth seem to have a special enmity? I think it’s because the drow used to worship it and not her, and she only came on the scene after Beory laid the EEG low), but I’ve had an enormous amount of fun writing these posts, and I hope you’ve had as much reading them.

And now I’m gonna write it!

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.

6 thoughts on “Connecting the Temple of Elemental Evil with the Vault of the Drow (Part 5)

  1. Great analysis.

    EEG is either a former Seldarine deity who was allied with Llolth in the Seldarine civil war or worship of the EGG by dark elves postdates them being cursed with dark skins by Corellion during that civil war. It is difficult to see why elvish followers of EEG would involve themselves in a Seldarine civil war to fight against Correllion if they had already turned away from worshipping any aspect of that pantheon, including the Dark Seldarine. The one thing all dark elves have in common is a historic loyalty to Llolth or other members of the Dark Seldarine for which they were cursed with their dark skins during the civil war. This means EEG is a Dark Seldarine who sided with Llolth but does not recognise her hegemony or Eilserv worship of EGG post-dates the Seldarine civil war.

    1. I always pictured the EEG as something Lovecraftian from Beyond Space. In some cases barely even aware of its worshippers aside from pain/pleasure response (“the ants have brought us tasty, bloody fruits. here is some sugar/power for the ants… We shall not crush them… today…”).

      Love the work you’ve done here, Joe.

      Perhaps as weaver of webs Lolth was the initiator (and most recognizable agent) of the EEG’s captivity, and its not so much *hatred* of the EEG on Lolth’s behalf but fear of what it will do to her in vengeance should it ever emerge.

  2. Dang that was epic. I especially got a brief vision of Beory smashing EEG. I love when you break down classic adventures like this. If a subject takes multiple posts like this, you know its inspiring!

  3. Gary Gygax would be proud, Mr. Bloch.

    Awesome job, especially crafting a story worthy of the Old Master himself!

  4. Brilliant. I think it works on all levels!

    The Egg-as-Trojan-Horse I still think is the weakest link—but I’ve not heard a better theory that makes the whole mess work. And yet…an egg with the weapons inside that geas-es you to take it to the abyss and open the final anomaly seems plausible. I mean who’d want to be there when the EEG breaks free—total suicide mission. I’d think Lloth would believe she had thwarted her enemies by obtaining the Egg—a weapon they had crafted to use against her…something she thinks designed to force an Eilservs champion to find and slayer her in the Abyss.

    Also, if I were to change the D3 (written) part, I wouldn’t allow the Egg to open and spill it’s contents until it was in the presence of the Final Anomaly.

    The Anomalies are the Shards? I particularly like this part—all those G-series shrines as “unlocked” anomalies opened by the Eilservs. I would have to think the anomaly beneath the ToEE would have to be the biggest one to have attracted Zuggtmoy and have these “leaking magics”.

    Also, I like to think of Lloth as a servant of the EEG that betrayed him/it to Beory…perhaps as revenge for the EEG forcing her to take a spider-form.

    Wonderfully done, and thanks!

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