The secret door the party discovered took the adventure into an entirely different, sinister, direction. This was no longer about defeating the giants and the other humanoids occupying this enigmatic alien temple.

This is Session 7, the last of my recap / walkthrough / playthrough series of THE FORGOTTEN TEMPLE OF THARIZDUN (1982) by Gary Gygax. [PDF for $5 at DTRPG].


Delmar discovered a room filled with decayed splendor. And beyond that, a hidden chamber under the temple stairs.

The room was quite bare, save for a dark shaft plunging deep into the earth. Ancient brass rungs, spaced 1 foot apart disappeared into the darkness. The reverse side of secret doors were visible on the east and west wall

The party tried a couple of methods to determine the depth of the shaft. Rolen cast Dancing Lights, but even at the end of its range (120′) no bottom was visible. Tagren dropped a lit torch, which disappeared into the darkness, eventually sending up a faint clatter as it hit bottom.

They investigated the secret doors, first the east door. Beyond was a

Secret closet containing: 3 strange, hooded robes of deep purple, 2 iron thuribles with iron chains, and an iron box, all iron unrusted. […] The robes are very long, fully 7′ but by use of the black cord belt each has, the hem can be adjusted so as to just sweep the ground. The sleeves are so long as to reach at least 1’ below the hands of even a long-armed man. With each robe is a long, pointed hood whose front and back points reach well down on the wearer’s torso, and whose sides cover the shoulders. The pointed front and back pieces are decorated with inverted, two-tiered black pyramids. Each hood has narrow, slanting eye holes. The pointed top extends a foot or more above the crown of the wearer’s head.

The party tried on the robes, and Rolen’s vision from before was made clear. The robes were warm. Willhelm cast Detect Magic, and all items had Abjuration magic emanating from them.

The party was unable to open the iron box. It had a thin seam, but no apparent way to open it. The thuribles appeared to be typical incense-burners, but no incense. They took everything with them.

Continuing on, Rolen investigated the west room. This had 4 robes as before, plus

…a strange iron horn with a handle set on either side of its tube, 4 iron holders, and an iron box.

This box was similar to the other, but larger, and also a sealed mystery. The iron holders seemed like torches, but with an indentation at the top, and it was unclear how to use them. These too the party brought with them.

Returning to the central shaft, the party shrugged and went down one-by-one. Yebarinscrud the dwarf noticed the old brass rungs could easy be pulled from their sockets, and he warned the party to take care. They descended into the darkness.

You dare all and begin to clamber down the shaft you have discovered in the secret room.

Yebarinscrud counted the rungs, all 333 of them, meaning they were that many feet below the temple level.

At last you are at the bottom of the shaft. There is a low passage leading south, so there isn’t much trouble deciding where to go. You are disturbed to note that your light sources seem very poor now, with only about one-half the illumination that they shed above. It isn’t the air, for even magical daggers and swords give off but dim light.

They continued. The air was quite chilly, but the robes kept them warm.

You have come but 40’ south down the passage. The 10’ wide walls of rough, black volcanic stone widen here where four passages meet. The ceiling, only about 12’ high in the passage, is domed here to a height of about 20’. As you enter this area, there is a strange iron gonging, and then all is silent again, but you all feel something strange. Before you the walls seem to waver and turn purple.

A voice of incredible basso-sort speaks out of nowhere:
You cannot resist an upward glance. The ceiling is of transparent, seemingly infinite purple. Swimming through this universe of violet hue are glowing black runes. In a moment you can understand them:
“Those whom I find unfit I place on my left,” say the first set.
The next set states: “Those who succeed I place on my right.”
Lastly: “The chosen may come before ME!”
The ceiling quickly fades to black, and all is normal – if there is such a thing in this place – once again.

Yebarinscrud proffered the thought that Left/Right might actually be the way they were currently facing, as opposed to the orientation of the map. The party went west.

They found themselves in a chamber shaped like a hexagon.

This place has five strange formations in it. Each appears similar to a small tree, its trunk of shiny black near the base but then becoming a shade of color as it grows upwards, until finally branches, twigs, and leaves are of brighter hue.

The trees were: Opalescent black, deep green, metallic crimson, indigo blue, and smoky purple.

Each tree has globular fruit-like growths hanging from its branches. Although the trees themselves vary in color as described, the fruit of each is the same lustrous black.

The party explored the room, but found nothing more. Some considered picking the black fruit, but they decided to leave the room for the time being. They went east, which ended in a trapezoidal chamber.

The poor light allows you to determine little of this place, but you can see gleaming metal to the east. There appear to be suits of armor there, some fallen, others still on their stands. Likewise there are shields of archaic type hung on the walls. Perhaps those are shelves too, with books and other items lined up on them. The light is too poor to tell for sure at any distance.

Exploring the room, they found all the items to be worthless junk. And that is when the Shadow Demons appeared.

The shadow demons were troublesome, as they appeared, attacked, and disappeared back into the shadows. Quick thinking by Rolen, using his drow racial ability Faerie Fire, limned one of them, and it could not hide. It was quickly cut down. The other was more elusive, but it too was slain. It dropped a box containing an unknown wand.

After thoroughly searching the room, and Delmar working the perimeter for secret doors, they were satisfied they exhausted the chamber. The party returned to the tree room.

This time, Rolen, abandoning caution, picked a fruit from the purple tree. The black fruit shattered in his hand.

I told my middle son he needed to make a System Shock roll. We’re actually playing this in 5th edition D&D, which is the system with which the group is familiar. However, any time the module references rules directly, I use the rules from Advanced Dungeons & Dragons or whatever Gygax declares.

System Shock rolls are related to the Constitution ability score. Here they are from the 1e Player’s Handbook:

With a CON of 14, Rolen the dark elf sorcerer has a SS of 88%

He rolled.

WHAT?! We were all hooting and hollering!

I told him that he felt himself on the brink of oblivion, but recovered. In fact, his Charisma score went up by 2 points.

(Actually, the module says 1 point, but mechanically that does nothing in D&D 5e. I had to make a few adaptations for this room to work.)

With Rolen’s amazing results, other party members chose colored trees in accordance to whatever theory they had in their head. Some got ability score increases, others were wounded.

[They surmised it had something to do with ability scores or character class, but were mostly guessing. It was actually character class. Yebarinscrud almost got turned to ash, but being multi-classed saved him from utter destruction, when he picked from the black tree. I’d forgotten he was a fighter as well as a cleric.]

They [wisely!] decided not to get greedy, and left the magic tree room, heading south at the intersection. They discovered an octagonal chamber.

This place is over 40‘ across and about as high. The rough igneous rock from which the chamber was hewn is featureless except for inlaid stone symbols on each wall surface save the north where the passage enters. The symbols are the familiar twostep pyramid, reversed.

Rolen, ever the risk-taker, touched one of the runes. A 10‘ radius circle in the exact center of the chamber floor to turned a translucent, faintly glowing purple color.

They thought to blow the horn.

Upon sounding the horn you see the glowing floor brighten and begin to pulse. The dark, translucent purple grows brighter, lighter, transparent. It seems to rise slowly in a column, and around it is a curtain of gray vapors, like-wise rising slowly towards the ceiling of the chamber. The room is growing frigid!

The party found the strange robes protected them from this cold.

Now you see a black pillar rising in the heart of the glowing, 20’ diameter beam of purple. As this black shaft touches the ceiling, the gray vapors thicken and make vision of the whole obscure.

The group couldn’t figure out what exactly to do next. They surmised they were missing some portion of the ceremony.

Then they began discussing whether it was even wise to perform rituals to an obviously evil outsider deity as Tharizdun…

The party took a vote, and decided to leave the Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun!

I told the players they made the wise decision. Little good would have come from proceeding. I told them this was Gygax screwing around with his players, slyly coaxing them into performing abhorrent rituals to a terrible entity.

“A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?”

Joshua, the AI from Wargames (1983)