Every New Years Eve at home we play a tabletop game. (Past NYE posts: 2020 ~ 2021)

This year I DMed the opening of Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun for my boys, and their uncles.

Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun (WG4)

An Adventure Set on Greyhawk’s World for Character Levels 5-10″

1982 … Gary Gygax … 32 pages + double cover … TSR 9065 … ISBN 0880380020

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Tsojcanth’s Side Quest

Tharizdun begins in the Gnome Vale from the Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth. The party agrees to assist the gnomes against the depredations of a nearby warband of humanoids, which have occupied an old temple in the wilderness.

Gygax was experimenting a bit with Tharizdun. This AD&D module seems a reply to the treasure zoo dungeons that were common in the early days. Kick in the door, kill monster, take its loot, move on to the next…

Not so with Tharizdun. From the moment the PC party begins fighting the first defenders, the whole complex comes alive. Gygax wrote a detailed schedule of when various defenders come upstairs to join the fight.

A party could sneak in with a ruse, or invisibility perhaps. But both groups I’ve ran plowed right on into a brawl.


All player characters are level 7. Told the players to generate their PCs with endurance in mind, to go the distance without rests. Gave them +1/+2 magic weapons and armor to match the old school theme.

I’m running this classic AD&D adventure by Gary Gygax using Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition (5e) on Roll20 online tabletop, converting on the fly from the original module. You’ll be seeing screen snips from the session.

I’m attempting to hew close to the spirit of the original module. Where Gygax states a direct effect, I’m going with that over whatever the 5e rules would say for that situation.

Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun actually starts out with wilderness hex crawling, but I wanted to get into the main event for New Years Eve. So the party is starting in the vicinity of the Temple.

As suggested by Gygax, the Gnome King sent 4 of his finest warriors to help the party root out this den of bandits.

The gnomes led the party to the mystery Temple and humanoid lair.

As you proceed north up the track it becomes apparent that there is more traffic on this part, for it becomes progressively broader and well-traveled. Peering ahead, what you first take for a flat-topped mountain is something else. Atop a low peak is a two-stepped construction of basalt, a sort of pyramid from the way its sides slope. This place was hidden from view until you rounded the side of the mountain you are now on. You note that the trail leads directly to the strange, black building; and, as you come within 100 yards of the place, you begin to get some idea of its size. The construction's upper story appears to be about 80' square and 40' high. The lower floor, seeming to grow directly out of the mountain rock, is some 160' square and likewise 40' high. The track leads across a bridge and up a steep ramp to the upper story of the place. (Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun, page 9)

The party was careful in its approach, but there were no patrolling sentries, or guards posted out front. Nobody outside at all.

Yes, really. No encounters outside the temple. There is the wilderness random encounters table, but they only happen on a 1 on 1d20. I rolled nothing.

We can chalk it up to: The humanoids are lazy, arrogant, and bestial, in their den during the day. Gygax did note the defenders reaction if the party retreated, and returned later. The humanoids wouldn’t be surprised a second time.

Nobody was outside, though grunts and giggles, and some wisps of smoke emanated from the entrance.

Delmar the thief easily climbed up the slope to the side of the entrance, reaching the roof level. It was covered in black stone slabs. Delmar noted worn glyphs on the perimeter. Rolen joined him. The glyphs drew a memory of an ancient darkness from Drow lore.

...these glyphs send curses to the bringers of light, the blinders, and all responsible for wrapping blackness in everlasting chains.

Yebarinscrud cast Detect Magic, and in his view entire structure gave a faint, but menacing glow.

The party entered the passageway. It was blocked by a low wall, clearly a recent build. They could hear more giggles and grunts.

Delmar was the only character lacking Darkvision, so Yebarinscrud cast Light on a coin, which the thief tossed into the room beyond.

…revealing several Gnoll archers. It was clearly a very large chamber inside the Temple.

Note that players cannot see the grayed-out portions of the map, only the DM.

And so the battle commenced!

Little Norkers charged forward! They attacked with clubs and 3″ fangs. They had tough skin, almost an exoskeleton. They failed to notice Delmar hiding in shadows.

The Norkers surrounded Tagren, and he dispatched one that ran past him.

Gnoll archers weren’t finding many hits on the party. The dwarf battle cleric was shouting insults and challenges, attempting to draw their fire. Arrows deflected off his heavy armor.

Norkers began going down. The Dwarf fighter/cleric managed to kill 3 in one turn. More gnolls came out of the darkness to join their comrades.

… just in time for Rolen’s turn! The drow tossed a Fireball at them.

Half didn’t make their save and perished in the flames. They weren’t giggling anymore.

Norkers around the corner activated their trap, dropping a tarry net over the entrance. PCs and norkers alike were trapped.

Netted characters are unable to use weapons or cast spells. They have no dexterity bonus with respect to armor class and they can not effectively move. The weight of the net and its tarry, clinging ropes is such that all under it are most effectively trapped for that round and the following one. Those near the edge can slip out in two rounds and be ready to fight again on the third, providing that they are not overwhelmed meanwhile. Those in the center area are trapped for from three to six rounds, depending on the roll of a d4.

Delmar and Tagren were caught under the net. Gnolls and more norkers rushed forward to attack their defenseless foe. [I treated the net as Difficult Terrain to walk on] Party members also rushed forward to defend their comrades. Bodies began piling up; it was chaos.

Delmar and Tagren were getting clubbed and poked, but norkers and gnolls were dying.

[I marked the trapped norkers Yellow to distinguish them from the ones on top of the net.]

The gnome warriors accompanying the party were serving well. They got a few hits in, but really found success in dispatching trapped norkers. More Norkers appeared from deeper in the room, including some tougher-looking. Delmar and Tagren freed themselves from the net.

The bodies continued piling up.

My youngest, playing Tagren the half-orc, wanted to throw his opponents around. [We did opposing Athletics checks. The first couple were a modest success, but his third try the rolls came out well for Tagren.] The half-orc threw the wounded gnoll so violently that he died on impact, as well as the norker he landed on!

The gnoll leader went down, and the party began pushing their opponents back. [Our session was ending]

[Here’s the player’s view!] Two more norkers appeared from downstairs, hinting that more reinforcements will arrive soon.

Gygax notes:

Initially, the upper level of the Temple should be relatively easy for the party to capture, as the guards will be nothing more than a group of norker guards with some miscellaneous assistants. However, help will be sent upwards quickly, [...] when the “big guns” begin appearing from below...

See also:

I ran the Tharizdun opening assault back in 2003 – here is my short write up from that time at my RPG reference site.

WHITE PLUME MOUNTAIN: Session 1 – Our game group’s run of this classic module.

Talisman Gameplay: I Spent Too Long in the in the Tavern