Saturday, November 20, 2021

WG4: The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun

WG4 "The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun" serves as a companion to module S4 "The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth", expanding the wilderness map into another part of the Southern Yatils, southwest of the Gnome Vale.

Cover to module WG4 "The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun" (1982) by Gary Gygax.  Illustration by Karen Nelson.*

*Nelson also contributed the back cover and interior illustrations.  Her family's relationship with Gygax was discussed by Frank Mentzer on Dragonsfoot:

A local family named Shook were friends of the Gygaxes. The kid, Eric, was badgered into working at TSR for a while, and was tacked onto my RPGA office in '81 or so for a brief time. His mother wheedled Gary into commissioning her for artworks, and hence the oddball watercolor cover for this piece. (Might have done the odd map, too.)

Frank Mentzer, posted on Dragonsfoot (April 27, 2005)

The Forgotten Temple:
The Temple was built in a previous age, a secret place of worship to Tharizdun, He of Eternal Darkness.  It drew the most wicked persons to it, and the cult flourished for generations, sending out its minions from time to time to enact some horrible deed upon the lands around.  However, a great battle eventually took place between Tharizdun and those opposed to his evil.  Unable to destroy him, they were strong enough to overcome his power and imprison him somewhere, by means none have ever been able to discover.  Thus Tharizdun disappeared from the face of the earth, and from all of the other known planes, and has not been seen again since.

from "The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun" (1982)

The PCs are asked by the gnomes to track a band of marauding humanoids to their lair, which turns out to be an ancient, two-stepped, black ziggurat.

The temple consists of an upper and lower level, a dungeon level, and a hidden undertemple (which is difficult to locate, and may go undiscovered).


Gygax thanks Rob Kuntz "for inspiration regarding the subject material of this scenario."  Kuntz had earlier created the dark god "Tharzduun", who served as inspiration for Gygax's Tharizdun.*

*see "The Dark God: Historical Content, Developer Commentary, and an Ode to the Dark God" by Robert J. Kuntz (El Raja Key's Magical Emporium #4, 2003), republished in "Dark Druids" by Robert J. Kuntz (2006, 2015)

Kuntz states that Tharzduun was "conceived from CAS’s Thaisidon"* in this essay (originally published in AFS ("Anti-Fascist Society") zine #2.

*Thasaidon featured in the short story "The Dark Eidolon" by Clark Ashton Smith, (originally published in Weird Tales in January, 1935; available to read online, here)

Illustration by Clark Ashton Smith for "The Dark Eidolon", originally published in Weird Tales (January, 1935).

Gygax envisioned a connection between Tsojcanth and Tharizdun, and incorporated Tharizdun into his "Gord the Rogue" novels.*

*see also "22 Questions on Tharizdun answered by Gary Gygax" posted on neuronphaser (June 9, 2016)

New Monsters:

WG4 "The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun" uses monsters from the Fiend Folio (1981):

Aarakocra (Bird-Man), Caryatid Column, Coffer Corpse, Giant (Mountain Giant), Grell, Guardian Daemon, Meazel, Norker, Shadow Demon, Stunjelly

In addition, two new monsters were described:

Annis, Boggart

The WG1-4 Campaign:

If you are actually utilizing this module as an adjunct to "The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth", you might consider what was done in the actual campaign from which both were written.  The 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.  Because only a portion of the group went, the gnomes went along.  After initial contact and a couple of pitched battles, several of the other party members joined the three, and the 'Temple was sacked.  Losses were minimal, because the players were reasonably adept, and hit-and-run tactics were used.

Gary Gygax, from "The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun" (1982)

Gygax ran his group through an early version of "The Village of Hommlet" back in late 1975/early 1976, and again 2-3 years later, likely as a playtest for the module.

They later adventured in a revised/expanded version of the Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, followed by the Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun.

Gygax acknowledges the original set of players (Luke Gygax, Mike Olson, Sonny Savage, Richard Kuntz, and Mitch Preston) in WG4.*

*playtesters listed in the credits include Jeff Dolphin, Luke Gygax, David Kuntz, Richard Kuntz, Mike Olson, and Sonny Savage

See also "From Hommlet to Tharizdun, by way of Tsojcanth" posted on the Greyhawk Grognard blog (March 22, 2013).

Running WG4:

WG4 "The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun" is designed for up to 12 characters, levels 5-10 (although ideally 4-8 characters, levels 8-10).  By comparison, S4 is for 6-8 characters, levels 6-10).

For a Master Class in running WG4, review the "Cold Text Files" (parts 1-9) accessible through the Wayback Machine, here (strange how online material regarding Tharizdun is often deleted...)

See also "Thoughts on The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun" posted on the Greyhawk Grognard blog (April 12, 2018).


  1. My understanding is that the campaign play of this module occurred not in 1976 but c. 1881, in conjunction with playtesting of the revised/expanded version of S4, not the original tournament version. Luke Gygax had mentioned (somewhere) that his character in these adventures was Melf, not Otis. Otis was Luke’s original character from the Temple of Elemental Evil and the Giants/Drow series but he died in the Tomb of Horrors c. 1980 (as recounted in a Facebook post by one of his sisters) and Melf was his replacement character. Melf adventured in these two plus Dungeonland (again in connection with the expansion/revision for publication as modules EX1-2) and Stoink and presumably elsewhere before being adapted into a character in the second Gord novel, Artifact of Evil.

    1. Thanks for your comments on the timeline!

      So Gary ran Luke and his group through Hommlet/Temple of Elemental Evil followed by the Giant Series back in 1976/7, and the revised/expanded version of Lost Caverns followed by the Forgotten Temple in 1981?

      That's helpful to know. I assumed he ran the group through Lost Caverns back in 1976, because he lists an original set of players, and also a set of playtesters (the lists are similar, but not identical).

      Is it possible that Lost Caverns was run twice, once as part of the original campaign in 1976, and then again as a playtest for the revised/expanded version?

    2. Found this quote from Luke, from the GaryCon Forums (July 6, 2009):

      "I started playing Otis back in the early 1970s. I was probably 4 years old and wanted to play with all the big guys. Dad allowed me to roll for the NPCs sometimes. The party had just entered the Village of Hommlett and had hired a number of men-at-arms to help then explore the keep int he area. One of the men-at-arms was actually a 1st level ranger sent to spy on the group and see what their intentions were- Otis. The party did not know this right away and only discovered it later during the adventure. I don't recall who was at the table, but I imagine it was Ernie, Rob for sure and perhaps Mike Ratner, Jim Ward, Mike Menard and others that escape my memory. I played Otis as a "tank" in today's terms, which was perfect for a young player. I played Otis in the Giant series, Drow series and even made an excursion into the Tomb of Horrors. I retired Otis as a 10th level Ranger Lord. Shortly thereafter I switched to Melf."

    3. And regarding Melf, there's this, also from the GaryCon Forums (August 6, 2009):

      "Melf got a +4 magic arrow while adventuring in the Village of Hommlet and I thought that was pretty cool- I was maybe 10 or 11 at the time. So I adopted the moniker Melf of the Green Arrow. I made a green arrow my symbol- on my shield and signet ring etc. I even used the green arrow symbol in the first level of the Greyhawk dungeon when I set up a competing business to the Elves, Dwarves and Ogre that controlled the known stairs down to the deeper levels. I even tried to convert the Ogre to good- he was of a nuetral alignment which is why I did not attempt to slay him outright."

      "the funny thing is I only attemted to use the arrow once- against Lareth as I recall. I had him beaten and he was fleeing for his life. I was out of spells and so I figured one good arrow will bring him down- yes, victory is mine. But fortune being as it is (especially for my die rolling), I shook the 20 sider and let it rip- only to roll a 1. That's right a 1. Automatic miss! The only good part is that the arrow made its save vs crushing blow and I was able to retrieve it. My bad die rolling is legendary. My LA character, Strix Tanager, could only miss on a 96-100 when equipped with his magic sword. I think I rolled that atleast twice per game session!"

      And then this, from the Doomsday Message Boards (July 3, 2009):

      "The story of how Melf acquired the Spear of Zagyg is known to but a few- and they no longer walk the same path as we gamers (yes they have given up gaming). I obtained the Spear immediately after defeating the Vampire at the center of the Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth. Melf definitely kicked some serious ass with the Spear. It was a bit random- but it was fully loaded with powers. Flight at will, invisibility at will, planar travel at will. Transform from needle to pike and was +1-8. It definitely made Melf significantly more formidible."

      All of which sounds as though Luke ran Otis through ToEE back in 1975/6, when he was 4/5 years old (wow), and then ran Melf through a playtest of Hommlet and Lost Caverns around 1978/80 (presumably followed by the Forgotten Temple), when he was 10/11 years old.

    4. Took a chance and reached out to Luke. He responded that he only played in the Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth in 1981, so the earlier tournament version was likely based on play from El Raja Key and perhaps the Expanded Greyhawk Castle, not the ToEE campaign.

      Sounds like Gygax revisited the Lost Caverns around 1980, after running his group through Hommlet, again (in which case, the Forgotten Temple was originally run a year or so before it was published).

      Thanks again, Trent, for helping to clarify the timeline!

  2. Great detective work! Glad I was able to point you in the right direction