Temple of Elemental Evil Design Diary: The Labor of Love

The Temple of Elemental Evil Designer Diary: The Labor Of Love

by Rick Maffei

My work on Original Adventures Reincarnated #6 started, as projects of this type often do, with what I call the “homework” phase. Before I began writing, I read my brand-new, print-on-demand copy of The Temple of Elemental Evil from cover to cover. (Alas, I knew my original venerable copies—I own two—wouldn’t stand up to the repeated handling.) I then unearthed and read lots of related material: Monte Cook’s Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil, Gary Gygax’s write-ups of Iuz and St. Cuthbert in the Dragon Magazine #67 article “The Deities & Demigods of the World of Greyhawk,” and information about the Temple’s geographic area. Beyond gathering information, this stage was also about steeping myself deep in the old-school vibe. For me, keeping the adventure true to its roots was a sacred task.

I already knew module T1-4 very well and had run the adventure for at least two player groups over the years, but part of the joy in re-reading older adventures is finding those little surprises and good bits, and this adventure was no exception. Parts of the adventure showed its age—such as a cursed no-save magic item that could instantly slay its wearer—but I was delighted in the strength of the background material and adventure atmosphere. And the adventure contains so many wonderful encounter areas! As I read through the work, I also made a mental note of just how many spells and magic items hadn’t survived the evolution from 1E to 5E; it was a surprisingly large number. Many monsters had also not made the journey to the latest edition of the game. My work was cut out for me.

My writing phase started slow at first (which is usual for me) but soon I got into that happy rhythm that every author knows and loves. Part of the reorganization of the adventure involved breaking down room descriptions into the familiar order of presentation used by 5E, but in this case that order helped me keep all the details in line. As I went along, I carefully noted the various clerics and villains and kept a running hierarchy of the bad guys for later reference. Slowly, but surely, rooms were written up and old magical treasures brought back to life. By the time I was done, I had written stat blocks for 33 monsters, 15 magic items, six new weapons, two gods, and one artifact!

One of my biggest but most enjoyable jobs was breathing life into the Air and Earth Nodes. In the original work, these areas were no more than monster and treasure lists and a few brief notes. Well, we at Goodman Games had already decided that the Nodes would get the full treatment and complete area descriptions I had yearned for in my youth! It was again important to me to hold to the adventure’s original atmosphere, though I did want the Nodes to feel a bit more connected to their varied elements. I printed out copies of the Node maps and happily scribbled notes, assigning monsters to areas and considering newer monsters that were a good fit. These notes became the launching point for fully fleshed-out Nodes.

A last assignment involved illustration write-ups for much of the art in the book. This basically involves writing scene descriptions for an artist, to give them a solid starting point. I come from a long history in the world of publishing, so mentally I already pictured each piece of art as a quarter-page, half-page, etc. Having now seen the final art, I’m delighted—our artists knocked it out of the park.

This project was a huge labor of love. The writing team often referred to it as a marathon and it felt like one, but I truly feel the finished books will embody our love and respect for the original material. I look forward to holding the finished books in my hands, letting out a deep breath, and running my group of veteran players through the Temple, 5E style.

Original Adventures Reincarnated #6: The Temple of Elemental Evil is now available everywhere. Check your FLGS for your copy today, or you can order it through the Goodman Games Online Store.

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