Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Elder Elemental God and the Hill Giants

One of the little things tucked away in the original Against the Giants modules (G1, G2, and G3) is the connection to the Elder Elemental God that runs throughout the first and last in the series. I'd like to tease out some of those connections and see where they lead, especially in the context of the other EEG references we see in Greyhawk.

Let's begin at the beginning, with G1 Steading of the Hill Giant Chief.  Specifically, the dungeon level, which we are told is "certainly superior to orcish work" and "old." There are areas (18, 22, 26, and 27) that are in the process of being cleared of rubble, with tools and the like in the latter two areas. Obviously the hill giants stumbled upon this dungeon complex and either built the Steading atop it intentionally, or discovered it after the Steading itself was complete. The latter does seem somewhat of a stretch, unless they were unconsciously guided by some force to do so.

The dungeon level is pretty extensive, and we're not told how much of it has been cleared, or how much was already clear when the giants took over. But the fact that there are still areas being cleared of tons of rubble, and that the whole is old, leads to the conclusion that the whole was a self-contained dungeon complex before the giants moved in upstairs. The fact that the ceilings are 20'-30' high, however, indicates that it was originally built for giant-sized creatures.

There are two very interesting items about the southeastern portion of the dungeon (the portion that is blocked off by rebel orc slaves, who've erected a wall of boulders to seal themselves off from their former masters). 

The first is the most obvious - there's an abandoned temple of the Elder Elemental God in area 17A. Although it's not specifically labeled as such (it's called the WEIRD ABANDONED TEMPLE), there's little question of it, although it seems to be long abandoned and only operating at partial power (compared to others we see). It has the same sort of insanity-inducing effects, and it is possible to invoke an image of "a writing amorphous form of sickly mauves and violets" with "formless members". 

Immediately adjacent to this temple is a VESTRY (?) (area 18). It's got "disgusting murals and bas-relief depictions of nasty things."That would square with the description we get of an EEG temple in G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King

But this also brings us to the second interesting thing about this part of the dungeon level. The vestry has "a flight of ridged, step-like stones slants steeply downwards toward the south, but this way is completely blocked by tons of stone blocks and rubble."

And that flight of stones leading down? It undoubtedly leads to the lower dungeon level.

Those of you familiar with the adventure module will at this point be swiftly reaching to your bookcases, in order to flip through the module and its maps. You will doubtless then come back to the computer and shout, what second dungeon level? There's nothing like that in the module!

Oh yes there is, dear summer child.

First, of course, there's area 18 that leads down to it. But there are is also a mention of it in area 21: "their main hunting ground is the series of caves beneath their own, the entrance to which is through the sink hole at the east edge of their lair. (The lizards feed upon the fungus and the fungus eaters.)". And yet again in area 23: "All carrion crawlers in the whole complex of caves and caverns come to this area from time to time to breed. ... these monsters will appear ... from the north or south along the stream or by one of the sink holes." There's also a sink hole in area 19, and while there's no mention of it in the text, it undoubtedly leads to the same level of caves and caverns.

So we have:
  • The dungeon level was here before the giants, and contains a temple to the Elder Elemental God
  • The giants have at least partially cleared the level, including the temple
  • There is a second dungeon level consisting of caves and caverns with undetailed fungus and fungus-eaters
  • The giants allowed the temple and all entrances to be walled off, and haven't bothered to unblock it
So the giants took the time to clear the temple, but left the staircase leading down choked with rubble. In addition, they haven't seemed to care that the orcs have cut off access to the temple, so it's not a place that is either in active use for worship by them, nor is it particularly of importance to them. Heck, it's entirely possible they're happy that the orcs sealed the place off. 

It's also possible that they intentionally threw that rubble in their to deliberately seal off the caves and caverns. While this is a fun theory, I tend to think it's not feasible, since the drow would undoubtedly have noticed that their access was cut off. 

What all this adds up to, in my opinion is that the giants either stumbled on (or were subconsciously guided to) the temple of the Elder Elemental God, and doing so somehow alerted the Eilservs (who were already worshiping the EEG). That was the impetus for the drow to incite the giants to their attacks, as mutual worshipers of the EEG. The fact that there's a sealed scroll from Eclavdra in the Steading, identified with the symbol of the Elder Elemental Eye, also speaks to that interpretation. 

It's also not impossible that the second dungeon level leads to the underworld passages of the drow, too. But when the drow reached out to the much more powerful fire giants, the hill giants felt slighted. Still under the thumb of their more powerful frost and fire giant allies, not to mention the drow, they might well have been happy to abandon the temple and see it sealed off, halting further efforts to unblock the access to the second dungeon level, with its potential connection to the underworld.

This adds another level to the intrigue going on; the hill giants (or at least Nosnra) are growing restless, feeling slighted at being displaced by Snurre and the fire giants. That's why they don't particularly care that the rebel orcs have cut off the temple of the Elder Elemental God, which would otherwise be a powerful connection to House Eilserv. 

It's noteworthy that although there are stone giants and a cloud giant in Nosnra's hall, there's no particular mention of them being there to be convinced to join the attacks, as we see in the frost and fire giant adventures. It almost like the hill giants were told to entertain these guests, but not trusted with trying to bring them into the cause. That's left to the fire and frost giants.

I think expanding the module to detail the second dungeon level, with its caves and caverns, and fungus and fungus eaters, would be worthwhile. Where does that passage in the vestry lead? What's under those sink holes? Is there a connection to the drow underworld, with drow troops and advisers there, waiting for the giants to clear the passage from the vestry, unaware that such efforts have been abandoned?