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WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun (1e)


This special adventure is a combined wilderness and dungeon adventure scenario. It contains background information referee's notes, encounter keys, outdoor and dungeon level maps, and new monsters and treasures.

While it is designed to interface with "The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth," this adventure is capable of standing alone. Likewise, while it is placed within the Greyhawk Campaign, it can easily be adapted for play in any individual campaign that employs the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game system.

Product History

WG4: The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun (1982), by Gary Gygax, was the first (!) adventure in the World of Greyhawk series.

A Return to Greyhawk. In the early 80s, Gary Gygax tried to revive and expand Greyhawk, hoping to make it into the sort of better-defined campaign world that would become common in the 80s (but which was all but unknown in the 70s). He brought two people back to TSR to help him in this: Rob Kuntz and Eric Shook. Kuntz showed up in late 1981 and helped to polish and finish up S4: "The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth" (1982), while Eric Shook got his start doing the maps for "Temple."

This team would later put together three more major releases: EX1: "Dungeonland" (1983), EX2: "The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror" (1983), and WG5: "Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure" (1983).

The five publications (from "S4" to "WG5") fall within what's known as the "first wave" of Greyhawk publication, which extended from the setting's first adventures in 1978 through the last Gygax adventures reprints in 1987. However, what Gygax, Kuntz, and Shook started in 1982 really constituted a serious expansion of the setting. Before then, Greyhawk had been only lightly detailed through adventures like the infamous "GDQ" series and others, but starting with S4, TSR was now producing adventures that considerably expanded the setting's mythology and lore. So, let's call the period beginning with the publication of S4 the "one-and-a-halfth wave" of Greyhawk publication (or perhaps just a brief expansive interlude).

Sadly, though, this period ended very quickly, leaving behind numerous manuscripts that the Gygax/Kuntz/Shook team didn't complete for TSR, including "Wasp Nest: The City State of Stoink," "Maze of Zaene," "The Temple of Elemental Evil," and Steve Marsh's "Starstrands" planar setting. The sudden end to the revival was due to the Gygax/Kuntz/Shook team falling apart sometime in late 1982 or early 83. The last reference to the group can be found in Dragon #71 (March 1983); afterward, Greyhawk production tailed off for a few years.

Most likely, this was all related to Gygax's "exile" to the west coast in 1982.

A Quick Production. "Temple of Tharizdun" was reportedly produced very quickly by Gygax himself, rather than the company's design department. Much of the work was done by Gygax's new Greyhawk cadre. Thus Eric Shook drew the maps, while Shook's mother, Karen Nelson, drew the evocative artwork. Gygax later said that he choose Nelson's artwork to highlight the "melodrama and pathos" of the adventure.

An adventure being done by someone other than the design department was very unusual by 1982, as was having a single artist illustrate an adventure - that is, rather than the usual teamwork illustration done by TSR's art department.

A First Setting. Gygax's Greyhawk revival resulted in "Tharizdun" being the first adventure that TSR put out specifically to support a setting - unless you count X1: "The Isle of Dread" (1981), which kicked off TSR's Known World support, but that was a lower-key sort of thing until the much-later "GAZ" series (1987-91).

What About WG1-3!? Though "Tharizdun" was labeled as WG4, there were no previous "WG" adventures (and never would be). In the Glossography for the World of Greyhawk boxed set (1983), TSR indicated that T1: "The Village of Hommlet" (1979) was meant to be WG1 and that S4: "The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth" was meant to be WG3. Meanwhile, in Dragon #71 (March 1983), Gygax revealed that the adventure formerly known as T2: "The Temple of Elemental Evil" was to be WG2 - but he now said it was to be published in two parts.

As it happens, Temple of Elemental Evil would be delayed a few years more and eventually published as the T1-4 supermodule (1985).

In the forward to Dungeons of Dread (2013), Lawrence Schick further underlined the continuity between the modules intended to be WG1-3, writing, "there's evidence that Gary considered Tsojcanth part of a longer Greyhawk campaign, placing the adventure between T1-T4: The Temple of Elemental Evil and WG4: 'The Forgotten Temple oF Tharizdun'." When seen in that light, the four modules do form a nice adventuring continuity: T1 is "introductory to novice level"; T1-4 carries that up as high as level 8 (and possiblly higher); S4 runs levels 6-8; and WG4 goes from levels 8-10.

In his "Greyhawk Grognard" blog, Joseph Bloch suggests that Iuz might have been the lynchpin holding the arc together, since he's involved with the Temple of Elemental Evil and is also the son of Iggwilv from "Caverns."

However, when TSR organized their own Greyhawk "adventure path" in 1985-86, starting from T1-4, they didn't use the arc that Schick suggested. Instead, they continued from T1-4 into A1-4, then the GDQ series. The result has even looser connections, as well as some chronological problems related to Lolth.

A Sort of Sequel. "Tharizdun" is connected at least geographically to S4: "The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth"; Gnome Valley, a location that players encounter in "Caverns," is raided by norkers in WG4. This raid gets the PCs on the road to Tharizdun's Temple, where the norkers lair.

This connection puts the two adventures in extremely close proximity, both set in the Yatil Mountains near Perrenland. Unfortunately, the spatial proximity of the two adventures isn't supported that well by the adventures' production styles, which include wilderness maps in dramatically different scales.

In a much later interview, Gygax indicated that the mage Tsojocanth (who originally created the caverns from S4) defeated the cult of Tharizdun and acted as a conduit of power for the good deities to imprison Tharizdun itself. That's exactly the sort of detail that could have really tied the two adventures together -- but it's unfortunately absent from the adventures themselves (but now you know and can run the adventures yourself accordingly!).

Adventure Origins. When writing of the origins of "Tharizdun," Gygax said, "The [original] adventurers discovered Gnome Vale in the course of seeking the 'Caverns'. Later, they returned for rest and recuperation after suffering severe damage exploring the latter place. Only three or four of the original party actually journeyed to the 'Temple', because, as is usual with any group, some of its number were not on hand when it was time to adventure."

Based on the playtester lists, the players in common were Luke Gygax, David Kuntz, Richard Kuntz, and Sonny Savage. Because "Caverns" was originally playtested prior to the WinterCon V (1976) tournament, we can guess that "Tharizdun" has a similar pedigree, and thus might have been six years old by the time it was actually published as WG4.

Dungeons & Wilderness. WG4 starts off with wilderness adventuring, something somewhat uncommon in AD&D adventures in the early 80s. To be specific, it starts with a hexcrawl, but much like the hexcrawl in "Caverns," this one is oriented around a specific hex - that containing the eponymous Forgotten Temple. Unlike in "Caverns," the adventurers in this adventure don't have clever riddles to follow, just norkers to track.

The rest of the adventure focuses a dungeon, something much more common in adventures of the 70s and early 80s. However, it's a "double dungeon" with humanoid-ruled levels above (containing the raiding norkers) and the mysterious dungeons of Tharizdun below. Many a GM has said that their players have defeated the norkers and ignored the most mysterious levels entirely.

Expanding Greyhawk. Although WG4 adds a bit more detail to the area of the Yatil Mountains than appeared in S4, it's much more important in that it introduces the forgotten and imprisoned god Tharizdun. Tharizdun was originally Clark Ashton Smith's Lord of the Seven Hells, "Thasaidon," who appeared in "The Dark Eidolon" (1935). Rob Kuntz adapted him as "Tharzduun" for his own Kalibruhn campaign. Gygax then borrowed him to create Greyhawk's "Tharizdun."

In his earliest forms, Tharizdun was probably more of an uncaring, Lovecraftian god, but by the time Gygax was writing him, he'd instead become a god of entropy who doesn't appear to have originated in alien spheres.

Future History. Tharizdun wasn't used much by TSR following Gygax's introduction of him in WG4. He's mentioned in a few major releases like From the Ashes (1992), Night Below (1995), and the Greyhawk Players Guide (1998), but none of these included notable expansions or discussions of his role. Gygax actually made more (unofficial) use of Tharizdun in his "Gord the Rogue" books form New Infinities (1987-88), where Tharizdun is released and actually destroys Greyhawk.

Tharizdun got a bit more "official" attention later, at Wizards of the Coast, where he plays a major role in Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil (2001). There, Monte Cook revealed that the Elder Elemental God (another of Gygax's deities) was actually a facade for Tharizdun - which some Greyhawk fans greatly disagreed with, as did Gary Gygax:

"The Elder Elemental Eye is actually an aspect of dread Tharizdun."
     -Monte Cook, Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil (2001)

"I meant no relationship between the two. The Elder Elemental God I saw as a dark creative deity, one that spun form out of chaos in his portion of one universe, then lost control of his creation... Tharizdun is a larger and more pervasive force that is multiversal but not omnipresent."
     -Gary Gygax, The Oerth Journal #12 (2002)

About the Creators. "The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun" was prepared for publication by Gary Gygax during a period of great creativity in 1982. Around the same time he put together three other Greyhawk adventures and drafted much of the material that would become Monster Manual II (1983) and Unearthed Arcana (1985).

About the Product Historian

The 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

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