The Temple of Elemental Evil Retrospective Review

RPG Codex has cranked out a retrospective critique of The Temple of Elemental Evil, one of the fine titles we were treated to during Troika Games' relatively short reign. The article also includes an analysis of Zuggtmoy's outward appearance and how it has changed from the 1E version of the module through additional iterations made by Wizards of the Coast:

Naturally, it does retain many of the problems featured in other D&D-based crpgs. The pseudo-simulationist ability scores result in outright-dump, less-important, and must-have stats for certain classes, making the process of assigning those scores a rigid, uninteresting routine. There are outright statistically-inferior weapon and armor choices (and exclusive to ToEE are wearable items that don't actually do anything but still add weight). Ultra-specialized feats like weapon focus and favored enemy are a blind guess without metaknowledge. Since this is 3.5, clerics can become better fighters than fighters through the use of self-buffs. Hard counter spells that make certain status effects completely negligible are present, though the times when they're useful to have are few and far between. The array of degenerate, go-to tactics are also here: HP mechanics can be bypassed entirely through coups de grace and the slay living spell, you can summon up to five summons at a time to soak and deal damage, and there are plenty of buffs you can cast before combat, such as the ever-overpowered haste, a spell that gives you an extra attack with the full base attack bonus and +1 to your attack and armor class scores. Par for the course, nothing stops you from resting after every fight by either demolishing any random encounters that interrupt you or backtracking to a safer place.

As far as class balance goes, I believe pretty much any balanced party can complete all challenges, and no one class is necessarily essential. Of course, since this is D&D, caster-heavy parties will have a much easier time, though the level cap of 10 keeps them from becoming absurdly more powerful than the mundanes. Skills exist; considering this is primarily a dungeon crawl, the ones that provide a systematic benefit are generally preferable to those that require scripted support. There are a few trap feats, including toughness, the Monte Cook classic that gives you a paltry extra three hit points. Loot is a sparse gamble, and the store selection is terrible, so I recommend getting the magic arms and armor and wondrous item crafting feats. The prerequisite spells for those items aren't documented until you've actually bought the feats, so you should look those up too.


If anything, the elemental nodes finally delivered some new backgrounds and combat music (I've also never played them until now). It's clear they had the least amount of time spent on them, considering I have a PC that's 8-9 years newer than a top-of-the-line PC from 2003 and yet there are times where the game freezes for seconds/sometimes even minutes. Troika's engine can't keep up with their vision. They're also significantly different from their tabletop counterparts: smaller and with different/missing enemies. Notably, the two dragons per node have been replaced with a demon guardian. This is understandable, considering that dragons are a Big Deal to implement, which is why they don't exist in Baldur's Gate or Icewind Dale either (but do in Pool of Radiance where everything is so much more abstract that it isn't much of a Big Deal).

The Glabrezu in the earth node served as the introduction to the hd/hh node guardians and it came with two elementals, quasit-summoning, at-will-mirror-imaging, and a lot of spell and holy negating-damage resistance. It's one of the more demanding battles, though it's a bit of a shame how all the other node guardians are just slightly-modified reskins. The earth node was also home to Galeb Durhs, the most annoying enemy to exist by far. They move excessively slow, have a lot of health (but don't hit often or do much damage), and have 15 dr and sr that can't be negated. There are 17 of these fuckers and all you can do is slowly chip away at their health. The worst aspect is that Galeb Duhrs don't even have this bullshit damage resistance in either first or third edition (they do have DR in third, but it's negated by magic). This inept design is all on Troika's shoulders.