Q. What's the game about?
A. ( Here's the module introduction, taken from the Temple of Elemental Evil sourcebook.
The Village of Hommlett-or merely "Hommlett," as it is commonly called-is situated in the central part of the Flanaess, that portion of western Oerik Continent which is known and 'civilized.' The hamlet-sized village (local parlance having distinguished it with the greater term) is located some 30 leagues southeast of the town of Verbobonc, or thereabouts, on the fringe of the territory controlled by the noble Lord the Viscount of Verbobonc. It is at a crossroads.
To the north is the mighty Velverdyva River, along whose south bank runs the Lowroad. Many days' travel to the east, on the shores of the Lake of Unknown Depths (Nyr Dyv), is the great walled city of Dyvers. The village of Sobanwych lies about halfway along the route. Below that to the southeast and east are miles and miles of forest (the Gnarley), beyond which is the Wild Coast, Woolly Bay, and the Sea of Gearnat. The road south forks a league or so beyond the little community, one branch meandering off towards the Wild Coast, the other rolling through the lower Kron Hills to the village of Ostverk and then eventually turning southwards again into the elven kingdom of Celene. The western route leads into the very heart of the gnomish highlands, passing through Greenway Valley about a day's travel distant and going onwards to the Lortmil Mountains far beyond.
Hommlet grew from a farm or two, a rest house, and a smithy. The roads brought a sufficient number of travelers and merchant wagons to attract tradesmen and artisans to serve those passing through. The resthouse became a thriving inn, and a wheel and wainwright settled in the thorp. More farmers and herdsmen followed, for grain was needed for the passing animals, and meat was in demand for the innfolk.
Prosperity was great, for the lord of the district was mild and taxed but little. Trade was good, and the land was untroubled by war, outlaws, or ravaging beasts. The area was free, beautiful, and bountiful - too much so, in the eyes of some.
Whether the evil came west from Dyvers (as is claimed by one faction) or crept up out of the forestlands bordering the Wild Coast (as others assert), come it did. At first it was only a few thieves and an odd group of bandits molesting the merchant caravans. Then came small bands of humanoids-kobolds or goblins-raiding the flocks and herds. Local militia and foresters of the Waldgraf of Ostverk apparently checked, but did not stop, the spread of outlawry and evil.
A collection of hovels and their slovenly inhabitants formed the nucleus for the troubles which were to increase. A wicked cleric established a small chapel at this point. The folk of Hommlet tended to ignore this place, Nulb, even though it was but 6 miles distant. But its out-of-the-way position was ideal for the fell purposes planned for this settlement, as was its position on a small river flowing into the Velverdyva. The thickets and marshes around Nulb became the lair and hiding place for bandits, brigands, and all sorts of evil men and monsters alike. The chapel grew into a stone temple as its faithful brought in their ill-gotten tithes. Good folk were robbed, pillaged, enslaved, and worse.
In but three years, a grim and forbidding fortress surrounded the evil place, and swarms of creatures worshipped and worked their wickedness therein. The servants of the Temple of Elemental Evil made Hommlet and the lands for leagues around a mockery of freedom and beauty. Commerce ceased, crops withered; pestilence was abroad.
But the leaders of this cancer were full of hubris and, in their overweening pride, sought to overthrow the good realms to the north, who were coming to the rescue of the land being crushed under the tyranny wrought by the evil temple. A great battle was fought.
When the good people of Hommlet saw streams of ochre-robed men and humanoids fleeing south and west through their community, there was great rejoicing, for they knew that the murderous oppressors had been defeated and driven from the field in panic and rout. So great was the slaughter, so complete the victory of good, that the walled stronghold of the Temple of Elemental Evil fell within a fortnight, despite the aid of a terrible demon. The place was ruined and sealed against a further return of such abominations by powerful blessings and magic.
Life in Hommlet quickly returned to a semblance of its former self, before the rise of the temple. For five years afterward, the village and the surrounding countryside have become richer and more prosperous than ever before. A monstrous troll which plagued the place for a time was hunted down by a party of passing adventurers. Carrying the ashes and a goodly fortune as well, the adventurers returned to the village. Before going elsewhere to seek their fortunes, the adventurers also returned a portion of the villagers' losses. Other adventurers, knowing of the evil that had once resided in the area, came to seek out similar caches, and several did find remote lairs and wealth-just as some never returned at all.
After a time, adventurers stopped coming to the area. It seemed that no monsters were left to slay, and no evil existed here to be stamped out. The villagers heaved a collective sigh-some pained at the loss of income, but others relieved by the return to the quiet, normal life-and Hommlet continued its quiet existence for four years more.
But then, a year ago, the bandits began to ride the roads again-not frequently, but to some effect. To the good folk of Hommlet, this seemed all too familiar, so they sent word to the Viscount that wicked forces might still lurk thereabouts. This information has been spread throughout the countryside, and the news has attracted outsiders to the village once again. Who and what these men are, no one can be quite sure. All claim to be bent on slaying monsters and bringing peace and security to Hommlet; but deeds speak more loudly than words, and lies cloak the true purposes of the malevolent.