Was Zuggtmoy’s Prison a Temple of the Eye?

Hey all! You didn’t think I was done examining the nooks and crannies of the Temple of Elemental Evil, Giants/Drow, and Elder Elemental God, were you?

Well, to be honest, I thought I was done, but over on Facebook commenter Jeff Hawks asked a question that has sparked some more thoughts on my part.

One thing I’ve been wanting to ask: is it possible that Zuggtmoy’s prison was intended to be the shrine to the EEG? I tumbled on that possibility when I googled the materials parts of the prison are decorated in and found that they match pretty closely to the description of the shrines in the G series. … what I think piqued my curiosity was this from room 352 in the Temple: “The floor here is serpentine and porphyry. The walls are of black marble, veined with green and purple.” I didn’t know what porphyry is, so I googled it. It’s a kind of stone that comes in purple and green varieties. That immediately made me think of area 17A in G1: “This room is of faintly glowing purplish green stone…” Basically, the color scheme in the weird abandoned temple is the same as in much of Zuggtmoy’s prison.


I looked some more at the descriptions of Zuggtmoy’s Interdicted Prison beneath the Temple of Elemental Evil, and the Temple of the Eye in G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King (which has a nearly-identical counterpart in the Eilservs estate in D3 Vault of the Drow). This is a not-unreasonable theory at face value.

Jeff’s point about the color scheme is right-on. In fact, not only are the colors the same, but the specific types of stone are mentioned in both:

The floor on this side of the columns is of porphyry, the pillars of serpentine. [T1-4]

The floor here is serpentine and porphyry. The walls are of black marble… [G3]

The similarities don’t end there. Both sites have pillars that close off one part of the area from another. Both are oriented on an east-west axis with a raised dais to the west. I can definitely see why this could be a thing.

Which is not to say there aren’t arguments against the idea. The altar which is so prominent (and arguably the whole point of the shrine) in G3, in which the EEG manifests itself to accept sacrifices (and occasionally to smite the greedy) is completely missing in Zuggtmoy’s Prison.

Too, the Prison doesn’t manifest the various madness-inducing effects that the Temple of the Eye does. The pillars in the Prison seemingly exist only to free Zuggtmoy; those in the Temple deal out electrical damage to those daring to pass from the servants’ worship area into that of the giants. They also radiate fear, again a mechanism to keep the hoi-polloi out of the place of worship of the rulers.

It’s worth noting that in the Temple of the Eye, that means moving into the area with the serpentine and porphyry floor.

There’s also no tentacle-themed anything, which seems to be prominent in the EEG’s iconography. Instead, everything is fungus-themed, which fits perfectly with Zuggtmoy’s iconography. So no tentacle curtain, etc. Instead, there’s a silver throne with demon-linked gems where a “huge stone altar block of dull, porous-looking, somewhat rusty black mineral” should be.

The dais itself is also wrong; in T1-4 it’s translucent alabaster, while in G3 it’s made of three different types of stone (black/violet, gray/lilac/orange, and black/plum). But in both versions the dais has three tiers.

So where does that leave us? There seem to be a limited number of choices:

  • The similarities are completely coincidental
  • The similarities are a result of deliberate copying
  • The similarities are because the Interdicted Prison was once a Temple of the Eye/Shrine to the Elder Elemental God

The first is the easiest to explain in real-world terms. Purple and green could be regarded as weird/demonic/evil color combinations, and Gary might have given Frank the idea in the notes that were passed on, or even mentioned the specific stones. But it’s completely unsatisfying from an in-game perspective.

The second one is, I think, the most fun to speculate on; that Zuggtmoy and Iuz knew the basics and broad terms of what a shrine to the Elder Elemental God was supposed to look like, with its porphyry, serpentine, and pillars, and designed a faux shrine to fool those who thought the Temple of Elemental Evil was in fact linked to the Elder Elemental God. I actually really like this idea, as it highlights the perfidy and deviousness of the pair of demons in setting up the Temple. It also leaves the option open for there to be a real shrine to the EEG elsewhere beneath the Temple.

The third is the most obvious in-game. The Interdicted Prison was once a shrine/prison of the Elder Elemental God, but at some point something happened and the direct connection to the EEG was lost. That is, the altar stone and its accompanying paraphernalia (the metal triangle, the bronze braziers, the drum, and the chimes) have been removed and/or destroyed.

I’ve searched through the T1-4 module and can’t find anything that indicates they were moved to some other part of the dungeon (although how COOL would that be if there were; I had a glimmer of hope that I could uncover a 40 year old Easter egg, but it was not to be).

Honestly either of the last two options could work. Which one do you prefer? Let me know in the comments.

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.

5 thoughts on “Was Zuggtmoy’s Prison a Temple of the Eye?

  1. I’m flatter to have been quoted in your article. I would never have considered the connection if I hadn’t been lead to look at G1 by your previous writings on the nature of the EEG.

  2. You had me until east-west axis. My copy of G3 has the altar at the north end.

    Awesome ruminations, though, as usual.

  3. I like the third option. You can always include the triangle, brazier, drum and chimes in a lower level of your design.

  4. Hmm. What if types of stone are important in creating temples to various sorts of entities?

    Serpentine and porphyry could be necessary for the type of entity, with other details being specific to the entity.

    I would guess that those types of stone are rare and expensive, limiting the number of these temples that could plausibly be hidden away somewhere.

    I imagine a campaign, a points of light thing with vast numbers of now abandoned cities, or some such. Go to the cities to investigate trade records, which can provide clues to the shipment of these rare stones. Trace how many loads went from what quarries. For a JRPG style got to go to all the temples, and kill all the entities to save the world. Probably only a few groups of players that would want to do that. Fun thought anyway.

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