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1E ToEE: Help me flesh out the elemental caverns!


I have huge party (up to 7 players + henchmen) absolutely annihilating the ToEE right now. They're going at a pretty glacial pace; they insist on clearing every single room, and I'm happy to let them do so because I am enjoying the game immensely. Until now they have exhibited great teamwork, but something has gone awry for them last session.

The party's nominal leader, a former ninja/fighter-turned-kensai (dual-classing, alignment change, and significant roleplay events involved) was alone in the air temple on the second floor. She plucked both braziers off their chains, and has been whisked away to the caverns of air!

Now, I was planning on plotting out these caverns in, say, three months or longer when the party finally got around to the 4th floor. I'm going to have to step it up a little bit. The kensai player would like to run a side solo campaign and explore her environs (she has no idea where she is at ALL). She doesn't know that there is no hope of escape without the golden skull (safely unfound on another floor of the ToEE). The notes on the caverns suggest that "whole campaigns" could take place there, but all I have is a vague map and a wandering monster table. One thing in particular that is missing is the location of the gems of power tied to the golden skull, and who or what is guarding them.

So what would you put in the elemental caverns? There is some suggestion that generations of people have made a living here. Are there settlements? Ruins?

A couple ideas I have are tied to how this particular campaign has played out: player actions have drawn Lolth deeply into the events of the campaign, and the players are unwittingly advancing her agenda in usurping Zuggtmoy as the power behind the cult of the Elder Elemental Eye. Would Lolth's agents (formerly under Lareth the Beautiful) have been banished to these very same caverns? Also, Otis, the Bachelor-Knight of Veluna from Nulb, has been "sacrificed" to these caverns (after being accidentally compromised due to the kensai's own actions), so she can possibly find at least one friend.

I also may need to dial back the encounters. The player is a level 6 kensai; but with double-specialization from UA she is a melee beast.

Another concern I have is the magic item table. The player has a ring of warmth (lucky!) so cold environments are not an issue. But she has nothing beyond a potion's duration for surviving the other planes. How should I handle this?

Any other ideas or suggestions people might have are welcome.


I will be following this. I've run ToEE a few times and never once have gotten near to the Nodes.

I am not at all a fan of the ToEE design, which is why I've never even considered running it.

The nodes in particular are really uninspiring, being little more than a random collection of monsters which vaguely fit the elemental theme, but which don't give us any reason to explore. Basically, I would want to begin by giving each node some conceptual exploration space. So for example, we have this node of evil air. Air symbolizes thought and imagination, so logically the node of evil elemental air is about evil thoughts and imagination and something within that space must embody or represent this problem. Instead we get a totally juvenile dungeon map with a list of things to kill.

One thing I'd be tempted to do is have something in node turn out to be something radically different than it seems to be. So for example, I might have a village in the node that is supposed to be where the survivors have gone, only for it to turn out that the village is replaying ground hog day like the same week of history over and over again, ending with this choking fog that causes everyone to lose conscious, and then wake up and repeat the same week again, and that all of the villagers are long since dead except for one whose evil brooding fantasies ultimately led to a terrible tragedy - say by poisoning the whole village. And maybe during the week I'd plant hints as to where the bodies are hidden, and were the villain is now. And oh, on tuesday, the village is attacked by a white dragon, and on wednesday Valarius asks the PC to help him kill the vapor rats that have gotten into the granery. And meanwhile maybe I'd scatter these vapor monsters around that would turn out to actually be evil thoughts (I'd use stats for a ghost, making a magic jar attack) and if possessed you'd live out some dark fantasy (murder, theft, whatever). Or something because this is all just stream of consciousness right now. Anything but the lameness that is the original design, because really its not even excuseable. By the time the supermodule comes out, TSR has already produced lots of cool conceptual stuff with narrative to it and symbolism and well meaning.


Celebrim, that's an awesome idea. Thanks for that. You also have inspired me on having each node being themed more interestingly than, "ooh, fire burrrn." Air is ephemeral, shifting, fickle. Thought and imagination, as you say, but also (at least in tarot) swords and other blades, troubles of the mind, intelligence and wit. I like the idea that nothing is exactly what it seems. Everything is beguiling to some extent.

Groundhog Day Town is definitely being yanked, though.


Another idea I have is chucking the maps of the nodes altogether. North, south, east and west have no meaning in the nodes. Characters wander in the mists, randomly encountering towns, lairs, monsters, etc.; often circling back unexpectedly. A mix of agoraphobia and claustrophobia.
Another idea I have is chucking the maps of the nodes altogether. North, south, east and west have no meaning in the nodes. Characters wander in the mists, randomly encountering towns, lairs, monsters, etc.; often circling back unexpectedly. A mix of agoraphobia and claustrophobia.
Considering how bad the maps are, I'd definately advise that. The big problem with ToEE is that its state of the art dungeon design for about 1975 rather than 1985. It's very much like something Gygax would have quickly drawn up when he was running D&D six nights a week and every session was a group going down into the ruins Castle Grayhawk and dungeon crawling was new and amazing because no one had ever played an RPG before. The maps are hastily concieved, somewhat randomly populated, and the whole design is geared toward efficiency in preparation time relative to play time. It's the last of the neolithic school of modules, with just a few poorly explored hints of where D&D had gone in the past 10 years before its publication much less where RPGs have gone in the past 30 years looking back from now.

There are definately some hints that the conception of the nodes is grand and cool. Each is basically a small asteroid, having about 100 square miles of surface area. Each is essentially a physical link between the Abyss and an elemental plane. But none of that is really explored. All we have is a very tiny dungeon level. The true grandeur of the nodes is impossible for a player to discover, much less described. Particularly in the Earth node, there is no explanation as to why the trapped beings don't try to escape by tunnelling out. The Earth node particular (symbolizing flesh, or in this case, tainted flesh) needs a tunnel to the outside, exploring that lunar surface with sympathetic elementals that want to make that leap from the node to the elemental plane hanging above them. Or something. There is a lot of possibility here, it's just given no room by the designer.


I find this thread interesting more for Celebrim's interpretation of ToEE (sorry not to dump on Halivar's purposes). I almost want to dig out my copy and take a look at the maps, but I don't think I could find it, except the enlarge copy of Homlett.


Sorry for the thread jack but how are you running initiative? On another note my group will be hiting Nulb on Saturday night, they just finished the Moathouse (Paladin keeps calling it the Boathouse...).

Spoiler Alert:

They "parlayed" with Lareth and let him go.


I am using OSRIC initiative for simplicity. Each side rolls a d6 and that's your opponents' segment.

incidentally, you might be interested in my game thread "Lolth and the Temple of Elemental Evil" which you can find by filtering on AD&D 1e.
So my earth node thought is that the node is overrun with undead, and there are two potentially friendly factions - humanoids and earth elementals. Both factions are afraid of the other one, but each secretly has what the other needs. Both factions are beset by 'undead', wights or similar creatures in the case of the humans, and 'undead elementals' in the case of the elementals (grues?). Each faction is immune to the energy draining attack of the other's chief foes, so the two factions could be of immediate assistance to the other if they didn't consider the other to be part of the hazards of the nodes. In particular, both factions could escape the node provided they could access the other's abilities. The elemental faction has tunneling technology that lets the move about the node, but lacks the flight technology needed to access the gems of power. The humanoid faction has levitation and other spell technology that lets them reach the gems of power, but lacks the tunneling technology needed to find the hidden vaults in which the gems are suspended. By befriending both factions, and finding a solution other than violence (violence here representing the defining attribute of corrupted flesh, with the undead representing its logical result), the node can be escaped.
My thought on the fire node is that there a wizard of moderate power and ability who has set up a petty kingdom in the node. You might use the fire node map as the Wizard's domain, and then placing it at the center of a larger cavern system. In personality, I'm envisioning someone like the Professor from Gilligan's island. Everyone in the node that the wizard can dominate, magically or by simple persuasion, is working on a magical device that will allow escape from the node and this is the overriding focus of all the groups efforts from which nothing is allowed to distract. The Wizard initially wants the PC's help to obtain certain devices he claims will complete the device, which are being held by some other factions in the node (a red dragon, an ifrit, a crazy hermit, etc.) in a series of traditional gathering quests. Gradually though, it should become apparant that the Professor is a) not entirely the kind warm heart he appears to be and b) is perhaps completely insane. For example just after deciding that the Wizard is a good guy and completing one or more of his quests, the PC's should witness a trial of a community member for slacking off (a Gilligan type if you will) and sabotaging the communities efforts which results in the 'Gilligan' being brutally executed and his remains divided for a cannabalistic feast. Eventually it should be discoverable via diaries, inspection of the device, 'crazy' hermits that have escaped the community, villainous monologues or whatever means suits you (best have multiple routes on the 3 clues rules), that the device is not at all what it is claimed to be. Rather than a means of escape, it is a weapon. The Wizard, having long decided that escape was impossible, is instead trying to build a doomsday device which has the power to destroy the node (and all it contains) thereby he thinks dealing a grievous blow to the plans of the one that imprisoned him and 'from Hell's pit' stabbing his enemy.
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My thought on the Water Node is that water is the element most symbolicly aligned with Zuggtmoy, who is female and rules over corrupted life, and as such it is the Water Node alone where her plans are most advanced and the inhabitants most still doing her bidding. The interior of the water node ought to be that of a fungal fen or jungle, where decay has run riot and consumed everything. Indeed, the chief most danger of the node is the abundant spores and the danger of fungal diseases that the represent. Initially dermal and respirtory diseases, but eventually a disease that takes root in the mind and paracitizes the creature so that they become Zuggtmoy's loyal servant (at about that time, mushrooms spring from the creatures skull like so many horrid morels). Zuggtmoy's chief servant in the node is a female Marid lord (the Marquessa) whose mind has been overcome by the fungal parasite and which has been engaged in perparing the node to recieve Olhydra, who has been lured to aid Zuggtmoy on the promise of her eventual elevation to divinity. The Marquessa holds the stones of power which allow departure from the node. Olhydra has arrived in the node but has become disenchanted with the plan, which seems not to be advancing as quickly as desired (primarily because of Zuggtmoy's inability to arrange the cooperation of the other 3 elemental lords, though Olhydra is not directly aware of this or of their involvement). It is possible the Princess of Elemental Evil could be cozened into working against Zuggtmoy's servant, if her role in the plan is not disclosed and suitable promises are made. Of course Olhydra is not to be trusted in any matter and will betray the PC's if possible to gain contol of the node herself.

The Water node as I've envisioned it makes a suitable location for Zuggtmoy to lure the PC's into if she ever feels threatened by them directly, as its inhabitents are second only to the demon queen of fungus in power.


Celebrim, those ideas are amazing. I love them. I'll tickle the players by having Ramos and Gremag, much-despised agents of the Temple who high-tailed it out of Hommlett, in the earth node. They were punished for their failure by being banished to the earth node, where they are taking a leadership role in inciting the humans against the earth elementals.


Here is what I used for the fire node. I have not completed the other 3 nodes as I think my players are about to kill Zuggtmoy so the nodes will collapse.

Elemental Nodes - Keep in mind that the monster placement is determined by the DM and I put them where I felt it worked.
Fire, PC
https://dl.dropbox.com/u/30284331/ToEE Fire Node-PC.PNG
Fire, GM
https://dl.dropbox.com/u/30284331/ToEE Fire Node-GM.PNG

Here are all the maps I have worked up so far:

Level 1 pc
https://dl.dropbox.com/u/30284331/Temple of Elemental Evil, Level 1.JPG
Level 1 gm
https://dl.dropbox.com/u/30284331/Temple of Elemental Evil, Level 1-GM.JPG
Level 2 pc
https://dl.dropbox.com/u/30284331/Temple of Elemental Evil, Level 2.png
Level 2 gm
https://dl.dropbox.com/u/30284331/Temple of Elemental Evil, Level 2-GM.png
Level 3 pc
https://dl.dropbox.com/u/30284331/ToEE Level 3-PC.JPG
Level 3 gm
https://dl.dropbox.com/u/30284331/ToEE Level 3-GM.JPG
Level 4 pc
https://dl.dropbox.com/u/30284331/ToEE - Level 4-PC.JPG
Level 4 GM
https://dl.dropbox.com/u/30284331/ToEE - Level 4-GM.JPG


There are some nice 3D maps of the first four levels.


I used your ideas, Celebrim, and they worked out fantastically. Unfortunately, only one PC was spirited away to the elemental nodes, and was without friends. She (the player) first found help from Otis; she had inadvertently blown his cover in Nulb far earlier in the campaign, and he was chucked into the earth node. She subsequently befriended and received help from Sargen (who believes she is a demon), Jaer (who has been convinced by Sargen that she is a demon) and Darley (who secretly encourages the two of them). While the rest of the group trudged through the other layers of the ToEE, Bob the Unlucky, the flaming one-armed ninja-turned-kensai had a side quest collecting the stones of power for her friends.

The fire node worked out but with a hitch: the wizard you described was building a device called the "Archalon", which rather than trying to bridge worlds was rather intended to destroy them. The device failed, and a huge orb of nothing exists in the middle of the fire node now.

After the party jumped into the nodes, they found Bob, holding the gems of power. After transporting back to the real world, Darley collects Sargen and Jaer off to Verbebonc, where they will found a diabolic cult in honor of.... the kensai they incorrectly believe is a demon. They were definitely the comedic element of the side campaign.

Scrivener of Doom

Damn, I wish Celebrim had been ToEE's designer! Great stuff!

(snip)The big problem with ToEE is that its state of the art dungeon design for about 1975 rather than 1985. (snip)
More accurately, it's what happens when your mismanaged company is so desperate for cash that you punch out a piece of incomplete design that was, until then, vapourware and you call your inability to complete your work a design feature that requires just a few random number rolls.
[MENTION=9327]Halivar[/MENTION]: What is the purpose of the elemental nodes (and even the temple) in your game?


In my campaign, the ToEE was the focal point of the cult of the Elder Elemental Eye, a fake deity constructed by Zuggtmoy and Iuz to accrue more worshipers and power. After Zuggtmoy's imprisonment, Lolth converted key members of the temple (such as Lareth the Beautiful) in the hopes that she could supplant Iuz and Zuggtmoy and win back the drow that had turns to the cult (in my campaign, this was a brilliant success, not only did she co-opt the cult, but she also turned a PC and half the henchmen in the party.

The Elemental Nodes were how Zuggtmoy accrued elemental domain powers; by mixing sections with the elemental planes with the abyss to create para-elemental planes, she was able to provide elemental domains to the priests of the Elder Elemental Eye. They also served a dual role as a prison for heretics and the unwanted, and finally as a place of safekeeping for the stones of power.