XI: The Temple of Elemental Evil ~ Part II (1976)

The medieval concept of the Hellmouth seems to lie at the core of Gary’s conception of the Temple of Elemental Evil.

Hello, and happy Matriarchs Festival to you from the castleoldskull.com blog. As we continue TSR and Dungeons & Dragons history series, we’re exploring the 1976 maps that Gary made for his Temple of Elemental Evil campaign. Today we look at Hommlet, the Temple grounds, the Cthulhu Mythos, and the mysteries surrounding the Elder Elemental God.

Ready the oil flasks, set the marching order with men-at-arms to the front. Someone back in the village muttered something about frogs, but they were drunk in the middle of the day so whatever. Onward and downward we go!


Secrets of the Early Temple Setting:

April 1976

A chronicle of the year 1976 as it pertains to the history of Tactical Studies Rules, fantasy role-playing games, E. Gary Gygax, and David Lance Arneson.

Disclaimer: This is an historical essay, developed for knowledge and research endeavors, and is freely shared to the public for nonprofit educational purposes as a matter of fair use. All mentioned copyrighted entities remain copyrighted by their respective holders, being corporate for-profit organizations which castleoldskull.com (Kent David Kelly) is neither partnered nor affiliated with. No challenge to such copyrights is intended by specific entity mention in this open historical record.


Midway upon the journey of our life I found myself within a forest dark, for the straightforward pathway had been lost. Ah, me! How hard a thing it is to say. What was this forest savage, rough, and stern, which in the very thought renews the fear? So bitter is it, death is little more. But of the good to treat, which there I found, speak will I of other things I saw there.

Dante Alighieri / Longfellow


This is Part II of our series exploring the design history of the (Lost) Temple of Elemental Evil. For Part I, click here.

In Part I, we explored how Dave Arneson’s Temple of the Frog likely inspired parts of the background for Gygax’s Temple of Elemental Evil. Here, we take a closer look at Gary’s hand-drawn maps of 1976. We can compare these to the published maps for T1 (1979) and T1-4 (1985).


“The village and main temple areas were carefully mapped before I began adventure sessions in the area. The random generation was used mainly in developing the land around the village and some of the side areas surrounding the main rooms I had done for the temple dungeons.”

Gary Gygax


The 1976 Homlett Map

(For reference, you can find many versions of the 1979 Hommlet map if you look around.)

As noted earlier, Hommlet was still named “Homlett” (hamlet, little village) at this time. Hommlet would give Gary an opportunity to focus on the importance of individual inhabitants, rather than the faceless masses who would necessarily appear throughout the vast Free City of Greyhawk.

When we compare the 1976 map to the 1979 published version, we can immediately see that the 1979 version represents the passage of time. It’s still the same village, but the 1976 original has many fewer buildings. Adventurers are still expected to arrive from the south, with roads to leading to Verbobonc (northwest) and the Temple ruins (east). The road east further tells us that it leads to the Nyr Dyv, further evidence that the ruins lying “somewhere on the shores of the Nyr Dyv” were situated on the western side of that great lake.

Looking again at the Great Kingdom map, this tells us that the Temple was very likely in the borderland wilderness between Walworth and the Kingdom of Faraz. There are regions between these two realms that are abstractly covered with diagonal lines, which might indicated heavy forest (later, the Gnarley Wood). Whether Gary had situated Greyhawk City in Walworth (northern shore) or in the southern reach just below Yerocundy is open to question, but the south seems the most likely for 1976.

The stream that flows west to east through Homlett is still present, so there were certainly highlands (later the Kron Hills) to the west.

Jaroo, the Druid of the Grove (1979) is merely termed the “village priest” in residence here. This would be the home of the druid character soon to be played by Tim Kask, of course being the infamous “Ashstaff” or “Tim, the Lusty Druid” perhaps related to Tim the Enchanter (and the constant victim of bawdy songs by other players).

The Inn of the Welcome Wench appears in full in the map of 1976. There are “fair grounds” to the north by the traders’ establishment, along the road to Verbobonc. Perhaps this would be where markets and caravans would set up on their way to and from the city. Notably missing is the northward Church of Saint Cuthbert, which indeed module T1 tells us is a “newly built edifice … raised by the Viscount in honor of the aid rendered to him by the Archcleric of Veluna in the war against the Temple of Elemental Evil”.

Other new buildings (1979) to north and east include the cheesemonger’s, the carpenter’s (formerly a farm), the tower of Burne and Rufus, and the beginnings of the “smallish castle” that is being built upon the heights. T1 tells us that in the 1979 version of the village, Burne and Rufus came to the village three years ago as adventurers and became very successful. So we know that the 1979 map represents the passage of three years’ time, both in the real world and in the Great Kingdom.

The 1976 Trader Map

There is also a small hand-drawn map (c. April 1976) that is simply a floor plan for the traders’ establishment. You can view this one in Original Adventures Reincarnated Volume 6, Book 1, from Goodman Games. This map is noteworthy because it was drafted by Dave Arneson, who was playing the role of the trader in Gary’s game.

It has been known for some time that trader master Rannos Davl is a stand-in for Dav(e) L. Arn(e)son, while his partner Gremag is (David) Megarry. The 1979 module text has some unfair and unflattering things to say about both, due to Gary’s ongoing legal woes that the courts were later decide were largely of his own making. We will set that sad tale aside here.

The floor plan is interesting to compare to the Comeback Inn and the merchant establishment of Blackmoor. It is a simple affair that is mostly admirable because of its attention to detail, down to the individual tables and windows. This map was completely redesigned for its inclusion in T1.

The 1976 Temple Map

The revealed Temple map Gary drafted in 1976 shows us the surface-level grounds but not the dungeon. We see the Temple proper surrounded by walls and fortification, with what appear to be razed areas (from the siege by the armies of Lawful and Chaotic Good?) evident to the north and west. It looks like there may have even been a keep stronghold on the complex’s northern side, which was completely wiped out and left to be overgrown.

In a different age – the time of the Homlett campaign which is about to begin – the Temple had apparently been reclaimed in secrecy by evil, and there is a “magically barred gate” to the south. (The gate is probably not barred by evil priests, but rather represents the holy ward that the forces of good put upon the place to trap the demon inside.)

In the northeast corner stands a “refactory”, by which Gary probably meant “refectory”, which is a monastic dining commons. Hidden in the refectory is a trapdoor leading down presumably into the dungeons.

The 1976 Dungeons

Gary would apparently run out of time and would leave the dungeons as a playground for his ongoing random dungeon level generation experiment. (The first system was created around the beginning of 1975 by George A. Lord, then play tested and refined by Gary, with Rob Kuntz and Ernie Gygax participating, as we read in The Strategic Review #1.)

Sadly I have no draft map of the dungeons to share with you, and so I cannot comment outside of my narrative already provided to readers all the way back in Hawk & Moor Book III.

The Elder Elemental God

With no other maps to ponder, we are left to consider thematic concepts for the Temple campaign. There is not much more 1976 lore released yet about the Temple’s design or its denizens. We can find some tantalizing bits in The Oerth Journal #12, where Paul Stormberg reports on e-mails he traded with Gary concerning the World of Greyhawk and its mysteries. However, that publication dates to 2001 so we must assume that by even that time the original 1976 campaign was – to Gary’s recollection – a distant memory layered over with many other time periods of design and further refinement..

Here are some of the pieces of interest from OJ12:

The Elder Elemental God was supposed to have a lair in the deepest dungeons beneath the Temple of Elemental Evil. (This would be after 1979’s T1 publication, and before the 1985 publication of T1-4.)


“The Elder Elemental God was indeed meant by me to have a place in the very nethermost recesses of the Temple of Elemental Evil. An anomaly there allowed him to manifest a portion of himself, and by doing the wrong (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.”

Gary Gygax


So it appears that the original cult of chaotic evil, in founding the Temple, was creating a place of demonic worship. When we consider this fateful sentence from Gary’s 1976 introduction to the Lost Temple:

“It is rumored that a demon took up abode in the deepest level in order to better receive the sacrifices to him …”

It seems that the nameless demon lord would later be reconceived as the Elder Elemental God. Therefore the demon beneath the Temple would be the Elder Elemental God himself, and Zuggtmoy would be a separate and weaker demonic entity that must have been summoned to fight against good in the battle that saw the Temple besieged. Gary’s comments are also intriguing because it is hinted that the unholy God and Zuggtmoy would not be friendly toward one another if they should ever meet!

The Elder Elemental God has the power to strongly attract evil beings to worship it; perhaps it would speak to the tempted and the fragile in dreams, much as Great Cthulhu would in the works of H. P. Lovecraft. We find (1978) a buried temple to it/him lost below the Steading of the Hill Giant Chief, and another hidden away in the Hall of the Fire Giant King.


“Upon retiring, he had had an unprecedented dream of great Cyclopean cities of titan blocks and sky-flung monoliths, all dripping with green ooze and sinister with latent horror. Hieroglyphics had covered the walls and pillars, and from some undetermined point below had come a voice that was not a voice; a chaotic sensation which only fancy could transmute into sound, but which he attempted to render by the almost unpronounceable jumble of letters, ‘Cthulhu fhtagn’.”

H.P. Lovecraft


Extrapolating, it seems likely the that original cult that founded the Lost Temple was acting in the name of this evil entity, which would prove to quite alien and stronger than mere demonkind.

Zuggtmoy and Iuz

So if the Elder Elemental God is the big bad guy beneath the 1976 Temple, and Lolth is not yet anywhere to be found, where does that leave the BBGs we find in T1-4, Zuggtmoy and Iuz?

There is not much solid information to be had. There are a few clues hidden away in the 1980 World of Greyhawk Folio which reveal the way that Gary felt about things at that time:

In the history section, we learn that the fight against the Temple forces was known as the Battle of Emridy Meadows. The major kingdoms are identified as Furyondy and Veluna. (In the Great Kingdom of 1976, these lands probably correspond roughly to the County of Yerocundy and the Kingdom of Faraz.)

The Demoness Tsuggtmoy (Zuggtmoy) was imprisoned in the Temple dungeons after the defeat of the Temple cult and its evil legions (the “Horde of Elemental Evil”).

The demigod Iuz is somewhat conspicuous in his absence here; and we can see that Gary’s T2 The Temple of Elemental Evil – if it had ever been published – would be quite different from what would later be revealed in Mentzer’s co-authored work in the summer of 1985. Knowing that Iuz is a fair-weather ally of Zuggtmoy, we can assume that he is not in any loyal to the Elder Elemental God, who would probably merely regard him as a much younger enemy of inferior stature.

The Eidolons of Elemental Evil

And to end this essay with a bit of speculation on my part, it seems interesting to me that Gary decided on the concept of elementally-delineated evil forces at all. I am reminded of the “Elemental Theory” of the Cthulhu Mythos, as conceived by August Derleth in riffing off of that more cosmic conception of otherworld beings devised earlier by H. P. Lovecraft. Derleth’s contributions to the mythos are quite fairly maligned, in part because he did not seem to be able to grasp that Lovecraft’s universe was filled with uncaring superintelligences that literally existed beyond matter, time, good, and evil.

(Derleth messed up the Mythos in a lot of other ways, too, which are hard to justify. He took advantage of Lovecraft’s death to recast the Mythos in a manner to his own liking.)

Derleth, moving against Lovecraft’s cosmic and timeless viewpoint, instead decided that the Mythos was filled with elemental creatures that warred with one another, crafted from the primordial elements of air, earth, fire, and water. The powers – among others – in this theory included Ithaqua (air), Shub-Niggurath (earth), Cthugha (fire), and Cthulhu (water).

There is no evidence that I can find that Gary was a fan of Derleth’s elementals of evil concept, but I do note that Derleth is recommended – with no specific work cited – in Gary’s 1979 Appendix N listing of inspirational authors in regard to Dungeons & Dragons.

Did Gary pull the abstract concept of Elemental Evil from Derleth?

We will put this idle question in the “plausible” theory section for now. We do know that the unfinished Temple haunted Gary in later years, and he was hoping to create sequel material to T1-4. But he was ousted from TSR and that remains the end of the story. For now.


“If I could revisit something, two adventures spring to mind immediately. The city of Erelhei Cinlu in The Vault of the Drow; and the Elder Elemental God, and what might lie below the Temple of Elemental Evil.”

Gary Gygax


So if you need the inspiration to create a ToEE dungeon level 5+ with a buried temple where the EEG still slumbers and waits to feed, hopefully this essay has shown you the way.

And so my worthy class (*ahem*), if we all open our T1-4s and follow along to page 106, referencing area 435, you will certainly note that there is a demonically empowered throne ensconced in the deepest depths of dungeon level 4. Then if you compare this to the surface-level Temple sanctum described on page 42, area 10, you will learn that the unholy throne there hides a secret descending shaft, and the throne can descend much further down through the dungeons to reveal the labyrinths of Elemental Evil.

But curiously, the throne on dungeon level 4 hides no such shaft, and there is nothing beneath it but solid stone, so very obviously this one does not descend.

Or does it?

*Looks archly at class in silence, then proceeds on to research the next subject.*

That is all that I have for you for now.

In Part III of this series, we will take a look at the beginnings of the TSR Temple campaign, with roles being played by Dave Arneson, Tim Kask, David Megarry, Ernie Gygax, Skip Williams, Heidi Gygax, Luke Gygax, Tim Jones, and others.

Stay tuned …


One response to “XI: The Temple of Elemental Evil ~ Part II (1976)”

  1. As always lots to unpack with this subject.

    Ooo, going to have to go back and examine the throne there.

    For me the hardest thing in analyzing the 1976 campaign is to not let my 1979 information intrude on/and become assumptions in, my analysis. Some of it is helpful and needed, so the question of proceeding from the 1979 information, or not to, becomes a very tricky decision.

    Case in point: most theories I’ve seen on level four revolve around the “8-room design” as being proof that it is a nod to a spider, thus a nod to Lolth. Despite Gary’s later denials, mostly to those who knew him, “The fact that it looked like a spider, he explained, was a coincidence – 8 radiating spider legs/4 element paths with symmetrically mirrored map plans. So how can I ever one up that? He really was insistent about it not being a spider.“ Yet there is an even more possible animal correlation. Since Gary revealed the lower levels of the Temple were to be devoted to the EEG, doesn’t it seem more likely that the layout resembles a squid; the 8-armed (2-tentacled) beast whom he often compared to the EEG? This is by no means exact, as this also makes a supposition on information we have gained from later information, but seems more probable to me.

    So when I analyze the Village Priest residence, I have to force myself to NOT make the immediate connection to Jaroo. It may indeed be his residence, and that “priest” and “druid” are interchangeable in this instance; but for me I try to avoid these jumps of conclusions if at all possible, as they offer a “short cut” and do not allow me a critical view.

    I believe that Jon Peterson in a post at RPGNet Forums suspected that the “hatched area” on the Great Kingdom map indicated disputed, or annexed, areas between Walworth and Faraz, but again too little information is available to know for certain.

    In a related topic, I did a fun little exercise where I added some place names to Gary’s Horsemen of the Apocalypse Essay:
    “The few small states that lay around the City of Greyhawk were… a strong kingdom [Faraz], but with tumultuous marshes bordering it. There a county palatine [C. of Yerocundy], and in the hinterlands robber barons and bandit lords.” States in brackets are my additions. The “marshes” are depicted on the Domesday version of the map, but as Buggs Bunny would say, “Eh, could be.”

    Anyway great installment! Keep up the fine scholarship.

    Rich…

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