(This is part of my journey playing through The Temple of Elemental Evil. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)
For all of the complex and time-intensive process of creating a party from scratch is in ToEE, the game sure does shove you right into the world with the barest of backstory. I’m given a single sentence about how some druid elder wants to meet with me and then… we’re plopped down onto the landscape. I guess back in 1985, when this module was originally written, D&D gamers didn’t need a lot of reason and motivation to go do something. It might’ve been a grateful desperation at having a purpose: “Yes! That druid elder dude! HE WANTS TO SPEAK TO MEEEE!”
As with many RPGs of the 90s and early 2000s, Temple of Elemental Evil plays out in an isometric format, although it’s a little more 3Dish and detailed than Baldur’s Gate. I love how some of my party members have hit points that can be measured on two hands. That’s newbie D&D for ya.
The druid elder is concerned that another druid, Jaroo, hasn’t reported back as he’s supposed to do once a month or so and asks us to go investigate at the local village of Hommlet. Why he can’t climb on top of one of his bear bodyguards there and go see himself is symptomatic of lazy NPCs and the sole justification for wandering heroes such as myself. We are the Fellowship of the Druid!
Hommet is a pretty place, although fairly large for your standard RPG village — the world map features a north, south, and central hommet, if that gives any indication.
Our fellowship immediately stumbles upon a couple of farms belonging to one family. Apparently, the two brothers are bickering a lot after their dad and one of the brothers’ wives died, and that’s caused a lot of grief for the families. I’m given the option to go play matchmaker by convincing a carpenter to build a new barn as a dowry, and boy does that sound like a lot of work. Where’s the temple already? When can I start bashing heads?
And then some drunk villager named — I kid not — Elmo stumbles into me and says that he’ll be a hired hand if we pay him 200 gold to come fight. Gee, why wouldn’t I want a drunk Elmo to be a part of this band? I pay up and he becomes our sixth member, which is so awesome because he’s stumbling all over the place while holding an axe PLUS he is level 4 with 41 hit points, which is a beefcake compared to the rest of my troupe.
We are now the Fellowship of the Elmo.
After our long and arduous journey, um, up the street, we arrive at the Inn of the Welcome Wench. I’m guessing this is the medieval version of Hooters or something?
Inside of the cozy tavern, we find a wizard with the unfortunate name of Spugnoir, who’s in the market for wizard scrolls. He agrees to join our party if he gets to keep all of the scrolls we find. Fine with me, Spuggy!
The inn is actually crawling with potential NPC party mates, all of whom will gladly join up as long as you have room. I actually have to turn down a monk and his friend due to space limitations, but I do snatch up a knight named Zert (a breath mint?). My party’s gone from five to eight people within ten minutes. That’s weirdly fast for an RPG.
Anyway, Zert is all eager to explore the nearby moathouse that Spug was talking about (it was some wizard home back in the day) and offers an instant teleport option to go right there. Sounds like fun fighting time to me! Let’s do it.
We arrive at the moathouse in the dead of the night and a giant frog lunges out of the water to nearly kill Ardwulf. The fight is on! ToEE has turn-based combat, so there’s no pressure to react quickly. I’m not doing much more than clicking at a mob to tell my guys to move and/or attack, but it works and the frog soon falls over dead. Three more evil frogs follow. I get into the groove of things and we emerge victorious. Over frogs. It’s not a glorious victory.
ToEE has a rather strange interface for a D&D CRPG, as it uses an unfolding radial menu to select options. While it does look slick, in practice it’s rather cumbersome. I’m sure there are hotkeys to shortcut all of this, but I’d rather have a handy hotbar instead.
My Cleric casts his one heal spell and then… I guess he’s done for the day. No more heals left. My poor Rogue has to heal herself with a potion. And we haven’t even gotten past the first screen yet!