A sinister force, long thought destroyed, stirs from the black hole that spawned it. Like an ebony darkness it prowls the land and safety is but an illusion, for it watches from every shadow and ponders possibilities.
What began years ago, with the introduction of the players to the quiet village of Hommlet and the amazing lands of Greyhawk, at last is complete. Here is the long-awaited campaign adventure, featuring the ruins of the Temple of Elemental Evil, where a great evil broods and grows beneath its blasted stones. This is your chance to drive it back and scatter its force again.
This product includes the village of Hommlet, the filthy shire of Nulb, and reveals the ruins of the Temple of Elemental Evil and the labyrinths that lie beneath, a warren of darkness. And beyond these ruins, even more is revealed.
For the first time, this product provides a complete campaign adventure, which will take beginning characters from 1st all the way to 8th level and possibly beyond! Hours of adventuring await you!
T1-4: The Temple of Elemental Evil (1985), by Gary Gygax and Frank Mentzer, was published in August 1985 as part of what might have been AD&D's biggest year ever for the publication of major books.
The Long Wait. The first part of this mega-adventure was published years earlier as T1: "The Village of Hommlet" (1979). That adventure into Hommlet's Moathouse set up an expedition to the Temple itself, and the expectation was that TSR would publish what was being called "T2: The Temple of Elemental Evil" just a short time later. Unfortunately, as early as 1980, Gygax reported that the adventure was delayed. It would in fact be six years after "Hommlet" before the Temple finally appeared.
Part of the problem was with Gygax's design of the Temple itself. He'd run it as his house campaign mainly to explore ideas about random dungeon generation. However, he didn't feel that the random dungeon he'd created was appropriate for a published adventure, so he thought it would have to be redone. Tension over this work probably increased when T1: "Village of Hommlet" received considerable critical acclaim. Now, Gygax had to both recreate the Temple and do it at a level of quality that matched its already well-regarded predecessor.
The other problem was Gygax's role at TSR. From 1979 onward, he was increasingly doing business development and management, leaving him less room for creativity. He recognized this by creating a Design department, but he wasn't willing to turn the Temple over to them — so it sat and waited (not unlike the Temple in the adventure itself). The likelihood of Hommlet's successor being produced decreased even more in 1982, when Gygax was effectively exiled to the West Coast by the Blume brothers.
The "Do or Die" Year. In 1984, TSR, then under the Blume brothers, took a hard stumble, and Gygax came rushing back. Returning to TSR, he found the company a million and a half dollars in debt. To help correct the deficit and get TSR back on his feet, Gygax proposed five major releases - four of which would bear his name as a creator. T1-4: The Temple of Elemental Evil was one of these five projects.
The Format. Temple was published as a "super module," a format used for the first time a month earlier by Lankhmar: City of Adventures (1985). The 128-page book was 2 to 4 times the size of any of TSR's adventures to date, and it also included a 16-page map book that a GM could use to easily cross-reference locations with details. The format would continue to be used in the years afterward for TSR's most prestigious adventure releases.
The Adventure Continues. Temple forms the start of a major Greyhawk adventure path, which continues in two more super modules, A1-4: Scourge of the Slave Lords (1986) and GDQ1-7: Queen of the Spiders (1986). Though connected, they weren't as closely knit as the adventure paths later created from their ashes by Paizo in the pages of Dungeon.
Ironically, you can probably trace the origins of adventure paths back to the original GDQ adventures (1978-1980). However, the new "TAGDQ path" formed a much more extended campaign of the sort that had originated with TSR's own Dragonlance saga (1984-1986) and DGP's "Grand Tour" for Traveller (1985-1989).
About the Creators. "The Village of Hommlet" was entirely the creation of Gary Gygax. He also gave Frank Mentzer what has been described as "200-300 pages of notes" on the Temple; from that source, Mentzer created the finished adventure. While Mentzer was working on Temple, he was one of the major designers at TSR. He was right in the middle of producing the BECMI edition of Basic D&D (1983-1986), and he'd already been picked to lead the work on AD&D Second Edition. As it happens, Mentzer never got to work on 2e; instead, he joined Gygax in forming New Infinities Productions in October 1986.
About the Product Historian
This history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.