The Temple of Elemental Evil is an adventure module for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, a location within the fictional world of Greyhawk and a computer game; today I will be discussing all three of them briefly.

The Location

The Temple of Elemental Evil is a vast undergroud catacomb located near the village of Hommlet in the Viscounty of Verbobonc in the world of Greyhawk. The Temple is dedicated to the dread god Tharzidun, although that is a secret that is largely kept even from the priests of temple. Most believe they are serving something called the Elder Elemental Eye or the fungi demon (goddess in 1st edition) Zuggtmoy.

The exterior of the temple is a soaring cathedral built in the gothic style and decorated with stained glass windows and obscene carvings. Normally this part of the temple is abandoned or empty, as the temple itself is usually presented as having been looted or destroyed in the past and just now beginning to rise to power again. There are normally four dungeons levels below the temple itself, with the third level being notable for containing portals to four different elemental nodes (demi-planes), with the final level being the home and prison of the demon goddess Zuggtmoy herself.

Within the temple there are normal four sects of competing priests, each serving one of the four classical elements, with a fifth set of priests who serve the greater temple as a whole. The priests themselves are served by bugbears, bandits and giants of all types.

To date this location has been presented three times (in the Temple of Elemental Evil module, in Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil and in the computer game) with a fourth presentation scheduled for the fourth edition of the Dungeons and Dragons rules.

The adventure module

T1-4 (TSR product number 9147) was released in 1985. It reprinted the module The Village of Hommlet that had come out several years earlier (T1) as its first section, but otherwise consisted of original material. Originally it was supposed to be four separate modules, but that idea was scrapped after the first one in the series came out, and thus it was just released as a supermodule (with 128 pages of action, and 16 pages of maps done in the text light style of 1st edition it is easily one of the largest adventure modules ever created). It was designed to take characters from 1st to 8th level under the 1st edition AD&D rules and thus was good for many months of gameplay.

In the module the characters come to the village of Hommlet and learn about a nearby abandoned moathouse filled with bandits. In the moathouse they encounter Lareth the Beautiful and his bandits who are servants of the temple. After that the action switches to the temple itself, where the characters fight their way through many hundreds of monsters and cultists, four demi-planes culminating in a battle with the demon goddess Zuggtmoy herself (who in an example of first edition style play could also be encountered as a wandering monster).

The Computer game

The computer game appears to be well described above, but I do have a few notes to add.

The original release is so buggy as to be almost unplayable. Not only were there various lockups and crashes there were hundred and hundreds of bugs with the D&D rules. This ranged from bugs of omission, like the fact that there was no place in the game to get sling ammunition, to spells and effects that didn't actually do anything, to serious problems with the internal plot. Enemy spellcasters were almost completely ineffective since they invariably began combats casting their lowest level spells first, while other monsters were accidentally given great power because their statistics were entered incorrectly into the game engine. This was particularly notable with gnolls who for some reason had a damage reduction rating of 10 (this means that they take 10 less damage than normal from attacks), when they weren't supposed to have damage reduction at all. There is one very early room full of gnolls in the game that often slaughtered low level parties who couldn't even hurt them at all.

The various official patches fix some bugs but many others still remain. Fortunately there are some unofficial patches that go way beyond the official patches and largely make the game playable. As of this writing there are still some serious game issues that will probably never be fixed (the last unofficial patch hasn't been updated in some time). The main issues I have encountered as a frequent player are as follows.

  1. Druid and ranger animal companions are largely worthless. They tend to follow along at the end of the party and you can't control them directly, so they often just stand there not doing anything because they are too far back to "see" the opponents. When they do go into action they move without paying any attention to attacks of opportunity or area effect spells, and thus end up killing themselves as often as they kill baddies. This is particularly annoying since some of the best druid spells are the same ones that the animal companions hurl themselves into.
  2. Paladin mounts are not implemented, as horses are not implemented. Nothing else has been added to the class, so the paladin class has been significantly depowered.
  3. Archery is basically worthless as none of the bows in the game add strength damage.
  4. The game is very inconsistent about attacks of opportunity, sometimes movements that should provoke them simply don't do so, while other times attempting to do an impossible action that would provoke attacks of opportunity will result in the attacks followed by the game telling you "invalid action". Monsters can drink potions without provoking attacks of opportunity while players cannot. Tripped characters automatically attempt to stand up at the beginning of their turn and are given no choice in the matter, meaning that monster trip attacks are far more deadly than they should be. Meanwhile prone characters do not threaten other squares, even though they are supposed to under the D&D rules. However the game still implemented the penalties for making an attack while prone even though the removed the ability to do so (only reason I even know it is implemented is that you can see them show up if you are using an item or effect that automatically attacks back when you are attacked).
  5. Misclicks while assigning a full attack action can cause you to simply not get some of your attacks.
  6. If the green button (which indicates that you want to end target selection) is on a part of the screen that is covered with the fog of war then all targets may be deselected when you try to click it.
  7. The game does the math wrong when adding multiple extra effects to a magic weapon (flaming, ice, etc), and you can upgrade magic armor to +3 for free, making it far cheaper than normal to make the weapons and armor. Everyone seems to like that though.
  8. Wands have 20 charges and not 50.
  9. Masterwork (and thus magical) versions of most weapons don't exist in the game, unless you add a special separate patch that also adds extra game content.
  10. One of the hostages you free inside the temple attacks you after you bring her back to her husband (run away from this).
  11. Sometimes a party will simply stop being able to find secret passages, making the game almost impossible to complete, this usually happens pretty early on, and once it happens that individual group will never be able to locate one ever again.
  12. The magic swords Scather and Fragarach will often result in the game getting eternally stuck in the turn based system with no way to get out without killing the application from the windows task manager. This makes both swords essentially unusable, or really, really frustrating to use. If you do use them remember to always switch them out as soon as you see a fire creature (it ALWAYS happens with fire creatures), and to consider doing the same against bugbears (it often happens with creatures that trip you and bugbears trip like it is going out of style). Unfortunately there are a lot of bugbears and fire creatures in the game, which makes it pretty hard to even try the conservative approach to using these weapons.
  13. It is impossible to advance past 12th level as a rogue, because rogues are supposed to get a rogue bonus feat type thing at 13th level, but the game doesn't recognize anything on the list as a valid choice for a 13th level rogue, however it does recognize them as valid at 10th level the first time they are supposed to get one.
  14. Ray of Enfeeblement does temporary ability damage in this game, rather than assessing a temporary penalty like it does in the real game. The minor difference means that they stack and you make most creatures worthless by hitting them with a few of them.
  15. Reach weapons (like glaives) threaten at both 10' and 5' meaning that they basically rule the game. The spiked chain also acts that way (it is supposed to) but has such a slow animation that it will drive you crazy if you try to use it.
  16. The game does weapon sizes and such like 3.0 D&D did and doesn't correctly interact with size changes. This leads to enlarged glaive wielders holding a giant glaive in one hand rather than 2. This also allows you to slap a shield on an enlarged character who is wielding a two handed weapon, and it will stay there after they return to normal size, this further pushes the game in the direction of glaive wielders being the best choice.
  17. Sorcerors if played to high levels will often get stuck being unable to gain a level because they cannot select their new spells due to their being no new spells for them to select (the new content patches mostly fix this).
  18. Bad guys can "see" invisible creatures just fine, although they still suffer a 50 percent miss chance against them. Invisibility is still good for sneaking around past monsters who are not in combat. Parties resting with while invisible will still attract groups of wandering monsters who surround them completely and just stand there doing nothing.
  19. You can apply the extend spell feat to a spell multiple times and it redoubles the duration each time. This means you can make normally short duration spells like haste last for an entire temple raid with only one or two casting by using a high level slot to cast the spell. Needless to say you aren't supposed to be able to apply the same feat to a spell more than once, and even if you could in D&D math doubling something twice triples it, while doubling something three times gives four times the norm and so on.
  20. Finally the boots of speed are glitched and tend to crash the game if you try to activate them.