It should come as no surprise, then, that I was sore disappointed when T1-4: The Temple of Elemental Evil finally made its way to publication. While I have used the surface temple map as an entrance to other dungeons, I have never actually bothered to run it outside of a failed attempt at a solo campaign from some summer when I was in college and was desperate for some gaming.
Therefore, it has been the TSR module I have most wanted to re-imagine a la Slave Pits of Abhoth are to A1: Slave Pits of the Undercity and The Caves of Cormakir are to B2: The Keep on the Borderland. I have drawn maps, re-skinned Druids as elemental monsters and fiddled with the idea for years. Unfortunately, nothing has ever really inspired me to go beyond tinkering.
While I have been working on my various alternate versions of SWCL, I have been trying to wrack my brains as to what kind of adventure I could write up to support SWCL since it has set up permanent residency in my gamer heart and mind. It occurred to me that I could write up a mega-dungeon based on maps I’ve done in the past and ran in my Lost Colonies Campaign (with mixed results, thus justifying the re-write). It also occurred to me that these maps could be the foundation of my version of ToEE. Once I had that thought, ideas just started flowing.
The first big idea, the one where this will most obviously be a re-imagining, is to ditch the 4-part European elemental system and replace it with the 5-part Asian system. In terms of gaming, it offers a lot of world-building and factional goodness that the 4-part system lacks. For example, each element has two “opposites,” one element it likes to work with and another that likes to work with that element. Therefore, there is a given structure to motivations and factional disputes that is really easy to re-skin for use in an RPG.
There are also a bunch of associations that are made with each element that are not necessarily obvious at first glance, but not only make some sense but suggest a much richer elemental creature catalog than that suggested by a 4-part elemental structure. For example, here are how the animal associations are described:
Wood = ScalyGiven that we are talking about a corruption of nature, this gives me the ability to assign two different archetypal creatures to each element: one is ideal and the other is corrupt:
Fire = Feathers
Earth = Human
Metal = Fur
Water = Shelled
Wood = Dragonborn/TroglodyteOnce you start skinning these creatures in elemental clothes and add in other related creatures this very quickly becomes a fertile ground for all kinds of ideas.
Fire = Kenku/Dire Corby
Earth = Human/Humanoid
Metal = Ratling/Wererat
Water = Crabmen/Spiders and Driders
Finally, there is one really punny idea that really started this ball rolling and one that as an Old Grognard I cannot resist: Hermit Crabmen.