Monday, April 8, 2013

Temple History and Hazards

One of the things I like about the backstory of the Temple of Elemental Evil is that it has been sacked before. This has several advantages, and a few quirks to it:
  • This explains why the Temple, despite being the seat of serious Evil, is fair game for a set of character ~ 4th level by removing organized resistance
  • This allows really cool faction play by removing a central power structure
  • This allows really strong foes to be present for the 'oops' factor, but gives a good explanation of why they don't just stomp on the PCs posthaste
  • It gives the Temple some cool history that can be discovered in the game, through PC events (rather than through narration)
  • It gives hints about archaeology in gaming for those interested - that is, Gary's group (and Chainmail before) was involved in the sacking of the temple.
That last one is purely a GM's pleasure, of course. However, the other four bullets can be appreciated by players, either passively or actively - that is, the GM can bring them out in play and they can be noticed and enjoyed. I'm particularly interested in doing so with the fourth bullet, because I think the module itself handles the first three pretty well.

This is a formerly-sacked temple. Furthermore, it hasn't had any serious upkeep since after its desolation, nigh around fifty years ago. It's an imposing and impressive artifice, but it should still probably be falling apart. This fact isn't well-represented in the materials, though it's certainly available to inference. So what should we do with it?

First, the Temple should be dirty. Old leaves, vines, encroaching roots, rats, and just general grime and dirt, as well as old bloodstains and in some under-travelled portions even old, old corpses either dehydrated or mostly collapsed and scattered. This isn't just atmospheric; this can attract vermin (like rats...hordes of rats) as well as obscure signs of traps or other important dungeon features. It's not all one-sided either; the occasional body may contain valuables, or a rubbish pile might have accumulated some interesting detritus over the years.

I don't want to go so far as to have players digging through trash to find valuables in the same way they might in a first-person-shooter, though. Video game memes should stay in the video games. Anything that is valuable will be pretty obvious to the most cursory inspection, I think, and just have been not encountered by the intelligent denizens.

The other part of making the Temple old involves architecture. Specifically, portions of it should be falling apart, or dangerously unsound. The easiest way to model this in the game is with descriptions and with 'traps' - that is, pits and deadfalls and broken flooring and whatnot. These should be fairly obvious, since they aren't set specifically to trap adventurers, but should nevertheless present an obstacle, especially to a party not able to take its time due to being chased by monsters or whatnot. Possible other nuisances include unintelligent denizens, like black puddings and cubes and the like, mostly cleared out but still attracted to the edges of humanoid activity and the detritus of old battles.

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