Heirs of Elemental Evil

A Walk Through the Planes – The Lost Modules: Heirs of Elemental Evil




As noted earlier, through internet shenanigans (i.e. downloading way too many ancient torrents until finding one that both worked and had the file I was looking for), I managed to nab myself a copy of William James Cuffe’s Heirs of Elemental Evil. He includes background about its creation here on his website, but the short version is that while Cuffe created it for a 1997 design contest, the adventure wasn’t officially run until the Origins Game Fair 2000 Team Event. As such, it was the last Planescape release for second edition AD&D. The version I read seems likely to be the revised one Cuffe was asked to later submit to fit the event’s requirements, the only unfortunate part about this being that there was no proofreading involved and as such one important location’s information is missing (it involves a bulette on the Plane of Earth).1 Nonetheless, it’s a fun, one-shot adventure—or perhaps two-shot, given that it’s probably about 6-8 hours of length—that does an excellent job of capturing the setting’s spirit. It’s not, as Cuffe himself noted, the holy grail of these lost adventures, but I don’t think anyone who finds a copy will be disappointed. 

The actual story of the adventure concerns a sort of fetch/escort quest that ties in nicely with the game’s lore. Rather than explaining the setup myself, I’m going to quote the actual adventure background at length here, as I’m guessing very few people reading this will have access to copies themselves (though, you know, if you’re really interested, the contact us page of this site does function properly…). 


The Believers of the Source have asked the Damage Control Company for help. They are petitioned to retrieve four individuals that are believed to have the “spark” of divinity within them. These individuals have been under the watchful eye of the Godsmen for some time, and now it is believed they have come under the notice of another party—a party that wishes them ill.

The charges that the PCs are asked to protect turn out to be children. All four children are genasi—those touched by beings hailing from the elemental planes. Somewhere in their bloodline, one of their ancestors had a dalliance with an elemental denizen. Diluted through succeeding generations, which forbearer it was is dark. Indeed, no evidence of the event has ever reared its ugly head…

 … until now.

Now, the plots of these ancient progenitors have been unearthed. The elementals in question where none other than the Elemental Princes of Evil—Ogrémoch, Yan-C-Bin, Imix, and Olhydra (a Princess, actually). To preserve their power as the ultimate in evil of the planes of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water (respectively), each chose to sire an heir. By mating with a mortal, they planned that one of their successive decedents [sic.] would inherit their might and one day sit beside them as the Elemental Heir Apparent: Cliff Gemstone, Gail Whisperscent, Blaze Emberspark, and Brooke Soothewater.

Unfortunately, the Elemental Prince of Cold, Cryonax, was left out of this plan. Angered by the snobbery of his fellows and in fear that perhaps they knew something he didn’t, Cryonax vowed to destroy the elemental progeny before they could claim the destiny that was theirs. He has sent his proxy Hoarfrost Everwynter, a white dragon, and a contingent of Frost Giants and Yeti, to abduct the children and bring them back to his realm on the Para-Elemental Plane of Ice. Or, failing that, to kill them.

Word of Cryonax’s plot, though not the identity of the plotter, has reached the ears of the Believers of the Source. The Godsmen had already been aware of the four children, for it is their faction’s philosophy that life is a series of tests that, once passed, lead to higher levels of existence. To the Godsmen, the children were textbook cases of the “spark of divinity” needed for ascension, and they are very concerned with the safety of their “powers-to-be”. This is where the characters come in.

The Godsmen give them the locations and keys of the portals that will take them to each of the children. They are to use these portals to retrieve the children. Once all four children are in their care, they are to return to Sigil, to be escorted to a Godsmen safehouse in the Lower Ward of Sigil.

It should be noted that all the children, though innocent babes, have the blood of Elemental Evil in their veins. As such, they all have the tendency toward evil acts. At such a young age, they have not been fully taught responsibility, caring, compassion, or respect. These are the years that will heavily influence each child’s personality, and the PCs will serve as pivotal role models, for woe or weal, through the course of the adventure. Can the adventures turn the children away from the path of evil that is destined to be their fate?

Quoting this at length also has the advantage of offering everyone a nice smattering of Cuffe’s prose. Unlike most Planescape works, this adventure assumes zero familiarity with D&D‘s multiverse, and pretty much never drifts into planar cant. This decision makes for a very readable, brisk work that’s rather dense despite its relatively short page count (although my pdf is 91 pages long, many of these are filled with character sheets or explanations of normal planar rules—I’d put the actual length of the adventure on par with about 20-25 pages of a normally published AD&D book). That being said, if you’re going to run this adventure you’re going to want most of the PCs, not to mention the DM, to have familiarity with Sigil’s factions, as they play a major role in the story and roleplaying. While not everyone involved needs to be a Planescape veteran, some of the adventure’s best material derives from this.

One of the other oddities of Heirs is that because it was written in 1997, it predates both The Inner Planes and Monstrous Compendium Planescape Appendix III. As a result, Cuffe had to rely on filling the adventure with creatures like flumphs rather than more unique (and for the most part more interesting) planar entities who would only be created later. His version of the Inner Planes, which is where most of the adventure takes place, feels closer to Jeff Grubb’s version than Monte Cook’s. Not that this is a problem, but if you were to use this for your own campaign, I’d suggest taking a look at those two later era books and making adjustments as you see fit. 

But back to the actual adventure as it stands. Players can easily seek out these four children in any order, and hopefully are smart enough to realize that this adventure is going to mean a lot of traversal through the Inner Planes. These places are often quite hostile, and though Cuffe does his best to abate this, it’s still quite easy for players to accidentally journey to the Plane of Fire and soon perish from unpreparedness. Each of the children’s locations also have a convenient portal leading to one other of the children, and so it’s quite easy for players to do this journey without constantly returning to Sigil. And while this part of the adventure is kind of a ridiculous conceit, it does make it all much more playable, so no complaints here. I’m going to go through these locations in the order listed, though it’s unlikely most groups playing Heirs do the same.

A hex map of the giant tarrasque corpse, now repurposed into the small community of Rocky Hallow.

The first location is also my favorite. It turns out that the earth genasi heir lives within the corpse of a giant tarrasque, about ten times larger than its Prime Material cousins. Now this feels like Planescape. Here, he hangs out with pech miners and umberhulk blacksmiths, because why not? He also has a pet sandling. The main challenge here is simply to not piss everyone off while exploring their rather cool environment. Depending upon how annoying your players are, this can be quite difficult. There’s also a strange bridge puzzle that Cuffe has done illustrations for within the adventure, and if the players were nice earlier they can get some help from the genasi they’re rescuing as well. I can’t say that I love this part, but I’m also just not too into this type of puzzle; some may consider this one of the highlights of the whole adventure.

The water heir lives in Gurgle Current, an underwater community inhabited by aquatic elves, sahuagin, and locathah, none of whom get along with each other. Players need to navigate this conflict while convincing the heir to join them. They also sing a lot of songs because the genasi loves that. And did I mention she also has a pet dolphin? Long story short, she’s super cute, and as such all three factions want to claim her as theirs, even though she just wants to play with her dolphin friend. She’s the best.

In the Plane of Air, players need to immediately figure out how movement works or they’ll fly straight down into a pocket of Negative Energy. Fortunately, they appear quite nearby the elemental heir they’re looking for and the weird community of flumphs who attends her, and if they play their cards right can get some hints as to how to stop their falling before death. Unlike her… cousin(?) though, this heir is a brat who plays a prank on the PCs and tries to get them to fight with the flumphs. Sometimes, kids suck like that. Really, the only challenge here is not to be tricked by a little kid and to figure out how the hell this plane works. But given that there’s a definite time limit, it’s still rather tense.

The line-puzzle required for exiting Rocky Hallow.

Really, players in the fourth adventure should be dead from lack of breathable air in the Plane of Fire, but whatever, that’s always been a bit weird and a messy aspect of the place (of the inner planes, this is always the ones I have the most issues with from a logical standpoint). Also weird to me is the description of the town Morningstar players soon arrive in: “It appears as if it is some kind of pueblo, with baked clay and adobe brick structures settled on naturally flat outcroppings.” Pueblo just means village, so are we talking Pueblo Indians? Like, are we saying it looks like a native village from New Mexico, despite the overall arabic flavor? My quibbles about this aside, players will soon be attacked once they enter this village, making this a mandatory fight encounter because this particular elemental heir is a complete dick. 


One thing I haven’t mentioned until now is that as noted in the adventure’s background, the players aren’t the only ones looking for these children. Cryonax’s minions are also out on the hunt, and as such Cuffe has DMs randomize the order in which this occurs. While it’s theoretically possible for players to arrive at each of these locations first, grab the kids, then head back to Sigil, most likely they arrive concurrently with these minions at least once, as well as too late at another location, such that the elemental heir has already been nabbed. Assuming this is the case, in order to get the remaining child(ren) back they’ll need to travel to the Paraelemental Plane of Ice, which may take a little bit of improvisation on the DM’s part in order to make happen. It seems quite possible for players to lose the plot here, but that’s fine, as it mostly means that people are going to need to pay attention to the adventure. Having not played through this myself, this is all just guesswork, so take my read through with some generous helpings of salt.

In any case, once they arrive on Ice, players must contend not just with the freezing cold, but also with a barrage of spell crystals. That oft-forgotten part of the planes can easily summon any of the planar characters away, essentially resulting in their death, though if you’re adapting this to a more traditional campaign this can just mean a temporary removal of that PC until they can make their way back to Sigil and reunite with their companions. Fortunately, the elemental heirs are semi-divine beings, and while they can be captured temporarily, once found by the heroes they’ve almost certainly disposed of their captors. From here, it’s just a quick riddle (with hints from the heirs) for players to get back Sigil. But that doesn’t mean the adventure is finished, not remotely (well, unless they’re extremely trusting). 

If players get chased by the Harmonium in Sigil for largely no reason, this is how that works out.

Longtime Planescape fans may have long ago realized that the individual who gave them this quest, Pidey, was actually a Revolutionary League traitor covered in Uncaged (the character is Farrow, an extremely interesting person who fully changes identities when becoming part of each faction). If they hand the children over to Pidey/Farrow, “the adventure ends here, the Revolutionary League plot having succeeded. The children never make it to Harbinger House (though where they are is dark), Pidey lays low for a while until the heat dies down, and the Believers of the Source deny ever hiring the group (but they do admit Pidey is a Godsmen).” However, if instead the players are suspicious of Pidey and ask to escort the children themselves, they’re ambushed by a gang of eight fifth-level fighter thugs. Upon defeating them:

If captured, the thugs (but not Farrow), will confess they are working a cross trade with a berk named Jemorille, known on the streets of Sigil as “the Exile” (both the thugs and Farrow where hired by Jemorille, only they were hired separately). If pressed, they state that Jemorille is just some addle-coved rilmani—an arumarch they think—from the Outlands that claims to have caused this trouble in the first place, by causing the creation and later the destruction of some elemental temple on a backward prime world called Oerth. He hired the thugs on to capture the children in some kind of effort to put things back into balance, but they know nothing more than that. 

That’s right, the whole Temple of Elemental Evil craziness from Gary Gygax’s original adventure is revealed to have been caused by this one “addle-coved” rilmani, who apparently regrets getting the temple destroyed at all. Unfortunately, this explanation is non-canonical, as Heirs never received a real release, but the explanation does still entertain me and I wish it had been kept as part of the D&D storyline. Also unfortunate is that this Rilmani is never mentioned again, and instead the adventure comes to a rather contrived conclusion.


It’s also possible that players inadvertently piss off the Lady of Pain for some reason (this is never explained) and end up getting mazed by her so as to extend the adventure. But this bit seems tacked on and doesn’t make a ton of sense, so I’m just going to pretend it’s not here. None of this is ever really explained, and is best forgotten, even though she makes her way into the adventure one way or another.

Cuffe had players complete a literal maze to escape the Lady’s mazes. Which is one method of doing this, I suppose, but as with in Torment I feel like this diminishes their impressiveness.

The ending of Heirs is a bit of a deus ex machina, and so maybe not a great fit for an ongoing campaign. However, it works for an exciting one-off bit, and so I end up giving it a pass, though just barely. Cryonax appears through a portal the Lady of Pain makes for him (why?????), and once the players are sucked through this portal he tries to get the players to betray their group and give him the heirs (at least, this is what I think is happening, as it’s actually quite unclear from me what the hell is going on here and I’m having to make some assumptions). He offers bribes, then eventually tells their horrible secrets. One way or another, this eventually leads to a fight with Cryonax, which is really the only reason why I’m convinced the players get tossed through the portal and that it’s not Cryonax meeting them in Sigil, as the lady would never let him in. But then, why did she build a portal just for this, and why were they mazed and… ok, I shouldn’t be thinking so hard about this, but in any case I don’t much care for the ending, neither its suddenness nor its reliance on the Lady of Pain to make things happen.

The players can’t actually do anything to a god, even a pseudo-sorta-god like Cryonax. Fortunately, once one of them goes down, the heirs team up and use their combined powers to kick his butt. They’re also demi-gods, and by being together they powered up or something. I don’t know, the end of this adventure gets messy and goes a little bit out of the PCs hands.

So yes, I’m a bit down on the end of this adventure because of its mechanics regarding gods and the Lady of Pain. It’s all set up to be an epic conclusion, but the lack of cohesive logic just doesn’t do it for me. I suggest altering things for the end here so that they make more sense and just feel less rushed. This adventure had extremely tight length restraints, and while its first half isn’t long it still feels full and developed. It’s only at the end of the adventure where it seems like the conclusion is being rushed and the metaphysics aren’t meshing well with what we know of the multiverse. If you’re using this as part of a campaign, why not bring in that rilmani, or come up with an explanation as to why the Lady of Pain is helping Cryonax? Essentially, flesh out this back half and you’ve got a much stronger story.


If that were the entirety of Heirs, it would be fine enough. Planescape has had better stories in the past, but it’s also had worse ones, and Heirs to Elemental Evil seems like just a few drafts and a bigger word count away from being a publishable adventure. But I don’t want to skip over my favorite part of this module, which is its pre-generated characters. 

Admittedly, I’ve never played a game of D&D with pre-generated characters. Ever. Not in hundreds of sessions over dozens of years. That’s just not how my friends and I grew up playing, even though there are plenty of modules we have played where this would probably make for a better game. The six characters Cuffe chose for the party here are a wonderful smattering of Planescape archetypes that rub against each other in interesting ways. Really, the story of any D&D campaign is always about the characters and how they interact, and Cuffe set up a roster that is certain to lead to interesting exchanges (and perhaps even fights) if players are as committed to roleplaying them as they should be.

So that players don’t figure out Imyril’s identity, there’s even a couple pages of fake statistics for her player to cover her real character sheet with. This is a wonderful conceit.

The party consists of Brianna, a Free League bariaur druid; Oberon, a Doomguard aasimar bard; Imyril, Revolutionary League drow thief disguised as a Moon Elf Believer of the Source thief named Jyslin; Garth, a human ranger from the Birthright world of Aeberynis; Click, a rogue modron Sensate fighter; and Wraith, a Dustmen tiefling necromancer. These characters clash not just in their alignments, but also in their dispositions and factions. Cuffe also gives the characters some interesting backstory relationships. For instance, Garth was previously betrayed by Oberon, who he considers his best friend, though Garth is unaware of this betrayal and how it resulted in him losing his birthright abilities. Likewise, Imyril’s true identity is known to Click, but he doesn’t care about this duplicity. However, Click does have a personal hierarchy for rankings within the theoretically leaderless group, which can irritate the members who he considers his subordinates. And more obviously, anytime you put a necromancer and a druid in the same party you’re just begging to see some conflict.2

Heirs of Elemental Evil doesn’t quite feel like an in-house TSR work. It’s rough around the edges, not just in terms of copy editing but also with its haphazard conclusion and isolated nature. Like a lot of these RPGA adventures it doesn’t feel like part of a campaign, whereas all of the proper Planescape releases do. However, it’s just a different take on what Dungeons and Dragons is, and wouldn’t take a ton of alteration to play today in fifth edition. I would definitely change the ending, finding a way not to involve the Lady of Pain or remove the players directly from combat, but the actual journeys around the inner planes and the betrayal by Farrow are still excellent and usable. Maybe it’s not Cutters or one of the missing Monte Cook adventures, but I’m certainly still glad I read it and think anyone else interested in Planescape would be happy if they found themselves a copy as well.

1. It may be that the only changes were the removal of two characters from the module, both of whom Cuffe has included in full on his website here. I’m unsure about what else got changed during this process.

2. There’s even more conflict with Cuffe’s original characters, a githyanki and githzerai pair involved with a slavery-love plot. I don’t care for this type of thing myself, but it may be worth reading through for anyone who does want to use them… though eight PCs for a campaign sounds absolutely miserable to me.

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