Written by Joe Bingaman
WG4: Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun is a classic World of Greyhawk adventure, written by the man himself, Gary Gygax. First published in 1982, it is somewhat of a sequel to S4: Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, as it follows up on the characters encounters in Gnome Vale. There were, however, no modules with the stock numbers WG1 to WG3, which left some confusion, as most classic TSR modules followed the codes for a story.
Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun is a combination of a wilderness and dungeon adventure that runs 32 pages, with only four pages for the wilderness section. Gygax had this planned out extremely well, as there are ten random encounters and 22 numbered areas on the small wilderness map. Most of the encounters are normal wilderness encounters, though one involving an aerie of aarakocra leads to a side mission against some griffons.
The meat of the adventure is the temple itself. Gygax did not make the temple easy to access, as there are no less than 41 guards at the entranceway, made up of gnolls and norkers. Once these guards are attacked, over 70 more may come to the aid over the next 2 rounds, ranging from more gnolls and norkers to trolls, giants, and even a witchdoctor. That is just in the first three numbered areas. Not an easy feat for any party, especially not one on the lower end of the adventure’s scale, which runs levels 5-10. This can be compounded by the possibility of reinforcements arriving from outside the temple, as Gygax even has a chart for recruits arriving. If reinforcements do arrive, the characters would be trapped in a bottleneck, surrounded on both sides. These reinforcements also arrive if the characters do not clear the temple in under a week.
If the party somehow manages to make this assault work to their advantage and survive, a retreat will occur, and many survivors will head to the lower level, where they will wait for the characters to come to them. While on the lower level, the characters will also encounter more norkers, gnolls, trolls, ogres, and giants, as well as a new creature, the annis. The annis encounter is very dangerous, as two are polymorphed to appear as human females slaving away in a kitchen. The annis has an armor class of 0, and once it grapples an opponent, all attacks automatically hit. This new monster just shows how the mind of Gygax worked, as both the trickery of the polymorph effect, as well as the naturally tough skin, makes this opponent a tough change from a lot of norkers and gnolls.
This adventure is not without rewards, as soon after the encounter with the annis, the characters will come across a great room that was (or is, if they have not defeated him yet) home to a giant named Groorg. In this room there is no less than 20,000 gold pieces worth of items, along with quite a bit of copper pieces, electrum pieces, and platinum pieces. A massive treasure haul indeed, this room does have a cursed sword, so not all is without consequence.
There will be much of the same on the rest of the lower level, as characters encounter more norkers, gnolls, and the like, with some treasure scattered throughout. Players should rest and level their characters before heading into the dungeon level, however, as Tharizdun is essentially a trapped, insane god, one that has the classic Lovecraftian feel of madness, nightmares, and horror. From this point on, this adventure tests more of the players thinking than brute strength of their characters, as puzzles and illusions face the players from the get go, beginning right at the staircase down and four colored idols. Beyond the idols, the players will encounter a few creatures, such as otyughs, a stunjelly, and a guardian daemon, but this level is where players have to think logically, looking for secret doors to progress further down.
Beyond the dungeon lies two more levels, the undertemple and the black cyst, both of which are small levels, but contain many interactions, as Gygax describes floors changing colors, voices speaking aloud from nowhere, and a ceiling with a cryptic, yet psychedelic, feel to it. The end, while interesting, may seem a bit anti-climactic to some, as it leaves a somewhat open-ended plot.
Many questions still surround this module to this day, even though Dungeon Magazine ranked it the 23rd greatest D&D adventure of all time in 2004. For starters, what were modules WG1-WG3 going to entail? No one is quite sure of an answer for this, as the Acaeum states that WG1 and WG2 were slated to be The Village of Hommlet and Temple of Elemental Evil, while WG3 was to be Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth. Gary Gygax went on record with Dragon Magazine in 2007, stating “While the named modules were indeed set on Oerth, and a WG would have been appropriate, I do not recall ever asking for such a designator. Certainly The Village of Hommlet was dubbed T1 by me.”
Another question that surrounds this module comes from the ending, as well as a review published in White Dwarf in August of 1983 (SPOILER ALERT). At the end of the module, a tome is found titled the Lament for Lost Tharizdun, which is followed with the following: “What this tome is, says, and does is the subject of some later revelation.” Apparently, this caught the attention of White Dwarf magazine staff, as they confirmed this: “The story does not end here either, a future work is promised to develop the plot further.”
If you are seeking a follow-up, however, prepare to be disappointed, as no follow-up was ever published by TSR Hobbies. The story was left without the closure for the story…or perhaps, this was meant to be a large adventure seed written by Gygax to inspire future writers to design their own continuation. WG4 is available as a pdf for $4.99 on Dungeon Masters Guild.