What up, nerds? As a creative exercise (and to force myself to write more), I’m trying to take more of my idle day-dreaming and shape it into something that one might actually be able to use at the game table. What follows is something that I’ve been kicking around in the ol’ back-brain for a while now. If I like what pops out in this post, I may even develop it into a full adventure.
Recently, I got my hands on a copy of Princes of the Apocalypse, one of WotC’s official adventure paths for D&D5. It’s… fine? I mean, it’s mostly uninspired stuff, but there are some quality ideas kicking around in there. With a fair amount of tweaking and rewriting, I think it could be perfectly playable. However, it got me thinking about the old T1-4: The Temple of Elemental Evil modules. I’ve always been a huge fan of ToEE. It’s goofy as hell, but a ton of fun. Not only do you get a completely bonkers funhouse megadungeon, but the adventure is packed to the gills with implied intrigue and hints to a broader cosmic conflict playing out in the background.
One lackluster read and a fair dose of nostalgia later, I find myself inspired to try to put together my own adventure in this vein. The basic premise is ToEE with weird fantasy and Lovecraftian horror themes. For now, I’m going to call this project the Temple of Elemental Weirdness.
Some Brief History
Millennia ago, long before the age of men, the gods of old longed to know their nature, purpose, and place in the universe. Thus, they forged a mighty lens with which to gaze into the cosmos. Each of the gods of old poured some of their power into the lens so that their vision might penetrate even the fabric between worlds, secure in the knowledge that they were the most powerful beings in the multiverse. This hubris, however, proved to be their undoing.
As the aperture of the lens opened, the gods of old gazed into worlds undreamed of and, beyond that, a luminiferous void, vast beyond comprehension. And there, lurking within the void, something gazed back. In witnessing the existence of such entities, the gods of old inadvertently gave them life and, in naming the shapeless horrors of the void, alerted them to the existence of our world. Azathoth, Lord of the Nameless Void, was born.
A great battle raged. Many of the gods of old perished at the hands of Azathoth and his vile spawn. With a tremendous expenditure of power and lives, the gods of old were finally able to close the aperture and seal the horrors of the void from our world. Unable to unmake that which they had wrought, the survivors dubbed the lens the “Chaos Gate” and sealed it in the Eyeless Chamber deep within the earth.
The ages rolled by.
As the gods of old faded into history, then into legend, all knowledge of the Chaos Gate was lost. However, the horrors of the void never forgot about us. Over the millennia, they have found innumerable methods of projecting their power into our world. Slowly, but surely, they were named and found followers among mortal madmen and those who hunger for power. Finally, mere months ago, Azathoth – empowered by years of unwholesome worship – summoned all of his might to draw a mortal to the Chaos Gate.
Francis Waddleton was a miner by trade. For years, he toiled in the Iron Hills, scratching his meager fortune out of the living rock. Two months ago, however, on a starless night, he dreamed of gleaming diamonds in the dark. When he awoke, he knew precisely where to dig. That very morning he began his search for the Eyeless Chamber.
As he worked, tirelessly digging for the Gate, others arrived to join in him in his quest. The first was a strange sorcerer from the South, garbed in tattered yellow and wearing a pallid mask. The second was an astronomer from the East, leading a legion of dreamers and carrying a telescope that looks into other worlds. The last was a mad fisherman from the West, bearing forth the blessings of Father Dagon and Mother Hydra. The sorcerer spoke to Francis of a prophecy carried to this world from dim Carcosa.
When the charnel star is sighted in the lightless sky, a lone visionary will undertake an impossible task and his coming will herald the return of Azathoth, He Whose Name Endeth the World. Seek ye the Herald and serve them as you serve the spawn of the Nameless Void.
Thus, was Francis declared the Herald of the Apocalypse.
Supported by the Cults of the Nameless Void, the Herald’s excavations proceeded apace. Meanwhile, around the site, a great Temple was raised in honor to the dark gods. All manner of monsters and brigands were attracted by this monument to unwholesome power. To fund these activities, the Cults sent forth groups of bandits and monsters to harry caravans and sack villages. The seemingly random nature of these attacks have made it nigh-impossible for local authorities to mount a proper response.
Last week, deep beneath the earth, the Herald and his servants finally broke through into the Eyeless Chamber. Those who bore witness to that most hideous lens were changed forever…
The Cults of Nameless Void
I’m still working on the specifics of the four cults attracted to the Temple, which I think certainly warrant their own post. So, for now, here are the names and subjects of the four cults:
Lords of the Drowning Deep – Cult of Cthulhu, That Which Dwells Beneath
Explorers of the Boundless Void – Cult of Nyarlathotep, The Crawling Chaos (Stalker Among the Stars)
Servants of the Stranger – Cult of Hastur, The Unspeakable One (Lord of Carcosa)
Princes of the Apocalypse – Cult of Azathoth, Lord of the Nameless Void (He Whose Name Endeth the World)
Starting the Adventure
The players are likely going to be hired by a local lord to figure out who’s attacking caravans and villages in his demesne. Savvy players can investigate the scene of an attack and follow the bandits back to their base of operations, in which they’d find clues leading them to the Temple itself. Hell, you could probably throw the moat house from T1: The Village of Hommlet in here wholesale. Just make sure to re-skin things to match the new themes discussed above. Maybe the bandit leader and his lieutenants are mutants? Instead of a Giant Crayfish in the caves underneath the Moathouse, you could have some sort of squamous horror? This definitely bears further consideration.