Friday, July 28, 2017

More on Eclavdra's Motives

Recently I've been going through some of the motives for the machinations at the heart of the Giants/Drow modules (originally G1-3, D1-3, and Q1, republished as GDQ1-7). A correspondent had asked something about my analysis, and that prompted me to look at the primary sources, and I noticed something very odd indeed.

The section that described Eclavdra's motives is missing from G3, but it was added into GDQ1-7.

Here's what the passage looks like in G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King, that describes the PCs finding the map of the underworld that eventually leads them to Erelhei-Cinlu:
If your players have enjoyed these scenarios - or simple this single scenario - and you intend to continue it with the balance of the modules which follow #G3, their party will find an adamantite tube when they search area 20, a scroll, and a map accidentally (?) dropped by one of the fleeing noble Drow. The scroll contains a wish spell. The map is a continuation of the Drow escape route, showing a vast maze of passages on a large scale.
Okay, so the originally-published version lays a slight hint with that parenthetical question mark, but leaves it at that. But behold the equivalent passage in GDQ1-7 Queen of the Spiders:
The characters will discover in searching area 20 an adamantine tube worth 200 gp, containing a scroll of one spell (wish) and the players' map of the Depths of the drow. This tube has been left behind by Viconia so that, in the event Ecalvdra's scheme is foiled and the ruler of house Eilserv is slain, the attackers will be aware of the existence of the drow homeland and, it is hoped, launch an attack against Eilserv's rival factions.
Lolth's Mighty Mandibles! That's one hell of a change.

* * *

And as an aside, it has literally taken me 31 years to realize that the reason that PCs might think their ultimate objective is to confront Lolth (rather than the Eilservs who serve the Elder Elemental God, who is Lolth's rival) is that the name of the reissued module IS FRIGGING QUEEN OF THE SPIDERS. Of course they think Lolth is the Big Bad. The very title of the module is a meta-misdirection!

To quote the 12th Doctor, "You know what really bothers me about the completely obvious? MISSING IT!"

But I digress.

* * *

Knowing that Eclavdra (or Viconia) has deliberately set the rest of the Drow noble houses up to be trashed by the PCs who were strong enough to take out three giant strongholds, really changes how one might look at the whole D1-3 series. Imagine an expedition of PCs that is subtly being (mis)guided by the forces of House Eilserv. Once they reach the Vault, and certainly when they are in the city, House Eilserv would be subtly maneuvering them and helping them to take out their rivals among the Lolth-worshipers.

That makes perfect sense. Remember that the whole motive for House Eilserv to switch from Lolth to the Elder Elemental God was to gain control over the Vault. And the whole point of the hill/frost/fire giant uprising was to gain enough power above ground to be able to rule below. So what do you do when confronted with a force that is strong enough to defeat your proxies? Aim it at your enemies.

Remember what I wrote a couple of weeks ago, when I was contemplating the implications of a possible D4 module that would give the PCs a way to figure out what was going on?
The PCs somehow become aware that Lolth's egg has the keys to the prison of the EEG, and go out of their way to kill her material form in order to grab it and travel to the Abyss to shut the interdimensional crack that has allowed it to manifest on Oerth.
Now that we know that House Eilserv (who worship the EEG) has deliberately drawn the PCs to the Vault to assist with exterminating their enemies (who worship Lolth), the implications become clear. It would be House Eilserv who carefully feeds the PCs the incriminating evidence that points to the Lolth-worshipers as the source of the giant troubles on the surface.

It would have to be done carefully, so that the PCs don't know they're being used as dupes, but it does give a much clearer answer as to how the PCs are being fed all the information about Lolth and the egg. And the kicker? It gives a reason why the PCs would "accidentally" free the Elder Elemental God. Because that's where the Eilserv information led them. So once (if) they figured that out, they'd need to thread the needle to thwart both the Eilserv's indirect attempt to free their god, and Lolth into the bargain.

Ah, yes. It's all falling into place now.


Michael Gross said...

This is great! As I want to run these modules again some day, reading your analyses is fodder for doing them better justice than I did in & around 1984-87.

Timothy Brannan said...

This is gone from "I must read each time it is published" to "I am printing this out and sticking it into my D1-2 folder".

My kids just finished G3 about two weeks ago and are heading down in the Vault as we speak. (

I have to mention, that since I am running this under 5e I did not let them find the "Wish" scroll. They have enough help with my youngest being able to roll natural 20s at will.

Steve Queen said...

Brilliant. The motive you've sussed out is the absolute key to running D3---the PC's get "help" (and mis-information) from House Eilservs. They get sent after Lolth with the goal of retrieving the egg/keys, all the while believing they are eliminating a major threat to the surface world.

All sort of possible lies become possible. Perhaps the PCs are led to believe the Egg will allow them to permanently banish Lolth, but after they retrieve it, the Eilservs try to steal it and so they can use the keys inside to release the Elder Elemental God---tracking all the way back to the ToEE to attempt it, with the PC's in chase (and the Lolth-loyal drow not far behind looking for revenge!). Imagine: no real need for Q1 at all---just a rewrite of the deepest level below the Temple. Forget about the geas-spell inside the egg (a weak plot mechanism at best).

The PCs only hope of evading the trap is to realize the drow noble they killed in the Giant stronghold, Eclavdra, was the head of the house of drow who are suddenly helping them. A potentially wonderful "Aha!" moment.

Mike said...

This is excellent.

Michael Gross said...

Great idea, Tim. I really should go back & print all of Joe's blog entries.

Excellent follow-up comment, Steve Q!

yeoman said...

Great series of articles.....

I was interested in Perth Journal 12's (Volume II ) article on the WEB which included a history with Gary Gygax' s collaboration. As such I place a degree of faith that it accurately reflects his thoughts..

In that article Beory takes offencee at the EEG's corruption of the Flannae and turns it to stone, shattering it and hiding the pieces in the deep places below to prevent them from being found by the Flannae.

Temples and shrines form around some of these places. Now I have a theory that the Eilservs discover the EEG, and that it tries to manipulate them to collect some of these pieces to take them to a place where it can manifest and absorb them, so as to return to Oerth.

Of course the Eilservs serve Lolth at this time, betray the EEG and as it manifests, Lolth entraps it at the site of the TOEE to drain its power, creating an artefact from its pieces that enables Lolth to manipulate elemental power. As such the elemental nodes and the Demonweb (all demiplanes which exist through the power of the artefact, part of which are the 'keys' - pyramid, cube, sphere and star - by which Lolth accesses the aeroplanes.

I like the idea of Lolth using the EEG cult as a cover, sacrifices to which only serve to increase her own power through the nodes. I also like the idea that having set up the cult she loses control of it to the machinations of Iuz, Zuggtmoy and Iggwilv for their own purposes, and in the ensuing confrontation loses the 'keys', the true power of which her rivals cannot guess. Lolth is banished to the Demonweb in which she has placed the main artefact parts.

In the ToEE, the PCs May free the EEG by use (or rather misuse) of the keys, which frees the EEG from its entrapment, but does not fully free it, enabling the EEG once more to manifest within its temples.

At this point, a disenchanted Eilservs clan, having failed to take what they see as rightful ridership of the Crow, lacking Lolth's support, switch allegiance to the EEG and decide to use the cult as a means of establishing greater power, much as Lolth did previously.

I reason that Lolth finds this somewhat amusing, not least with the havoc unleashed on her old rivals by the PCs.....after all, the EEG remains the source of the power which maintains her demiplanes.

Now ultimately, the Eilservs know that the true way to release the EEG from its ages old bondage wrought by Beory means the destruction of the artefact which Lolth created her demiplanes with....which means the PCs have a use, to be directed at Lolth by the Eilservs. Meanwhile, Lolth getting rather less amused at the prospect of the PCs causing havoc among her Crow, decides to confront them if they dare breach her temple...and if beaten, leave them a 'gift' of the keys where she can arrange a proper welcome on her terms within the Demonweb. She will not suppose that they could have any inkling of the artefact therein.....but then certain Crow have plenty to gain from revealing such...

Ultimately, by obtaining and destroying the parts of the elemental artefact, the PCs can unleash the EEG, destroy the Demonweb, and possibly banish the EEG too...

I just have to work out how to get the 'keys' (which I have replaced the elemental gems from ToEE with) back to Lolth after the possible release of the EEG from its imprisonment at that site....but I currently suppose that after its use, the keys simply return to the main artefact within the Demonweb.

There are some loose threads for me to still deal with, but I'm finally feeling like I can get this story arc to work, and hopefully in a way that is consistent with Gary's intentions (at least so far as possible)

Jared Milne said...

Great post.

I love the "web" of intrigue that Eclavdra spins, that's both fitting for someone who wants to rule the Vault and ironic considering her betrayal of Lloth. For her, this is all about power-the giants were a means to an end, and now so are the PCs.

If the PCs don't follow up on Eclavdra's hints, she can concentrate on retrenching. If they follow but are killed along the way, she gets some nice revenge. If they reach Erelhei-Cinlu and are tricked into storming the Fane, then she gets the chance to seize the keys to the EEG's prison and free it!

I seem to recall Gary Gygax talking about the EEG being largely instinctive and reactive, the way some of Lovecraft's creations were. In that case, Eclavdra doesn't even mind so much if her attempt to free the EEG fails. If it does, then she can harness its power for her own ends, and nothing and no one can stop her! If she fails, then it will still appreciate her efforts and the sacrifices she made to it, and the Fane will be so crippled Eclavdra will still be able to seize power over Erelhei-Cinlu, and begin building an empire anyway.

No matter what happens, Eclavdra wins. I see her as intelligent enough to know when to stop, to know that revenge can become a sucker's game, and how to turn losses into victories, often by turning her enemies against each other.

Far better than the latter-day foolishness of Lloth inexplicably welcoming Eclavdra back into her service, or Geoff and Sterich falling to the giants even though all the leadership of their attack should have been decapitated...