What the . . . What's with all the giant lizard guys? Ssssh! They are _NOT_ Sleestak. This isn't The Land of the Lost. Its the Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan! But its not. Its the Hidden Shrine. Tabloid Tamoachan. The what? What's going on here???
Tabloid Tamoachan - The Glozeris Expedition
by Glenn Vincent Dammerung (akaGVDammerung)
Has the last word on Tamoachan been written? Have all its mysteries been sounded, even if they may yet remain mysterious? So it would have seemed. So it was believed. The Sonjohn and Leason Expedition to Tamoachan in 577 CY firmly established what is principally known of the former northern capital of the Olman Empire and of the Olman themselves. Skreyn’s The Brotherhood of Scarlet, further illuminating Olman culture and at the same time raising new questions, seemed to offer no new insights on Tamoachan itself. Thus was the academic community left predominantly satisfied, if not satiated. This all changed shortly after the peace that concluded the so-called Greyhawk Wars.
In 592 CY, a stir passed through the community of scholars concerning themselves with the Olman and the Amedio Jungle. Rumors circulated of a new expedition undertaken to Tamoachan and of startling, and controversial, new discoveries. The next year saw these rumors given substance. In 593 CY, The Hidden Shrine was published by the renegade wizard and noted raconteur Zerken. According to reports, Zerken formed a Company to explore ancient legends all but forgotten to the modern age. One such expedition was dispatched to Tamoachan. The Glozeris Expedition, lead by the heretofore unheralded Paolo Glozeris, retraced the path first trod by Sonjohn and Leason decades before, but where Mssrs. Sonjohn and Leason revealed the wonders of Olman civilization, Glozeris claimed to have found evidence of a precursor race of reptiles that built the foundations for the civilization commonly attributed to the Olman!
Tamoachan Before Tamoachan
If the account in The Hidden Shrine is to be believed, upon closer examination, the details of the Tamoachan complex reported by Sonjohn and Leason are revealed to be refashionings of earlier carvings. According to Glozeris, the Olman recarved earlier statues, reliefs and sculpture, repainted friezes and recast objects to place an Olman face on what was not originally Olman, or even human! Glozeris’ central claim is that Tamoachan was originally built by a race of giant, bipedal reptiles, the Slaz’Stecek, that resembled a cross between the common lizard man and the extraplanar Slaadi. The Olman came along later, after the fall of the Slaz’Stecek, taking over the Tamoachan complex and remaking it in their own, human, image. Careful inspection of the details of Olman Tamoachan are reported to reveal the true, reptilian origins of Tamoachan!
Lest such claims be regarded as utter fantasy, The Hidden Shrine goes to pains to carefully describe Tamoachan in detail at least as searching as that of the 577 CY expedition. While many of the broad outlines of the features of the complex are similar to those described by Sonjohn and Leason, details are often subtly altered or different and in some cases, entirely new areas are revealed. Obviously unsubtle is the prominent depiction of Slaz’Stecek, but save for this, Tamoachan is immediately recognizable as Tamoachan. But it at the same time a very different Tamoachan.
A Reptilian Master Race
All of the dioramas that in Sonjohn and Leason’s account speak to the high level of Olman civilization are in The Hidden Shrine attributed to the Slaz’Stecek. Human beings, recognizable as Olman, appear only occasionally and in telling fashion. In the chamber of the Spirit Guard Ayocuan, Olman figures appear in chains and in positions of servitude before Slaz’Stecek. In Xipe’s Audience Chamber, there is evidence of specifically human sacrifice by the Slaz’Stecek of Olman to the gods of the reptiles. These are the only references to human beings, other than to some of the remains of the dead found under rubble. The conclusion is that the Olman existed as slaves to the Slaz’Stecek.
It is at this juncture unfortunately necessary to comment on the inexact prose of The Hidden Shrine. Glozeris references humans, as well men and women. However, in the later two cases, the use of "men" and "women" are commonly used to refer to male and female Slaz’Stecek. That these references are not to human males and females is revealed either by further explanation in the text or by accompanying illustrations that show male or female Slaz’Stecek, not human beings. Only direct use of the term "human" properly identifies such within the text.
While the civilization attributed to the Olman is in The Hidden Shrine attributed to the Slaz’Stecek, there is one notable exception. While the gods of the Olman are also represented as the gods of the Slaz’Stecek, the origin of these gods is attributable to the human Olman, not the reptiles. The original deity or deities of the Slaz’Stecek are unnamed octopoid or worm-like entities. They appear but once in the complex where the Slaz’Stecek are shown in paintings as fleeing from these beings. The Slaz’Stecek then appear to have taken up the gods of the Olman upon reaching Tamoachan, giving a new meaning to the translation "Home Sought After."
Specifically, the Slaz’Stecek gravitated toward the worship of Camazotz. This would, however, prove their undoing. The Hidden Shrine purports to reveal that the Slaz’Stecek civilization fell when the reptiles were struch down by Tlaloc for having taken up with Camazotz in a conflict between those gods. It is only in the aftermath of this Fall that the Olman Empire rose in its stead, reshaping Tamoachan to obliterate all evidence of the Slaz’Stecek, until the Glozeris Expedition, of course.
Again, while it is easy to dismiss the record of the Glozeris Expedition as fantasy, the amount of detail suggests that, if the account is a fabrication, Glozeris, to say nothing of Zerken and Company, at least did their research. Detail is expansive. And a number of recurring motifs occur in The Hidden Shrine that are not found in the journals of Sonjohn and Leason. These motifs can, for ease of discussion, be grouped into three broad categories - seduction, elementalism and infernalism.
Seducers appear throughout Glozeris’ account of Tamoachan. Several monstrous temptresses are depicted without explanation as to why or how what would be tempting to human males would also appeal to the reptilian Slaz’Stecek, unless one concludes that these beings are simply shapeshifting or date from the Olman period of Tamoachan’s occupation. Less ambiguous are the many vampiric creatures that appear. While Sonjohn and Leason’s account also features vampires, Glozeris’ account goes well beyond as it explores new territory. These numerous vampires are both Slaz’Stecek and human, doubtless reflecting the continuing influence of Camazotz, perhaps conflated with Coatlicue, who also appears in both accounts.
Portals to the elemental planes also feature prominently in the Glozeris account. Indeed, they feature so strongly that one is immediately minded of accounts of the Temple of Elemental Evil. While any such connection is at first blush farfetched, an acquaintance with Zerken and Company’s greater oeuvre holds open the possibility of relevance, however remote. Indeed, that may be the only hope of relevance for the elemental portals otherwise appear mysterious, unless one were to imagine planar cenotes. This last is an interesting hypothesis for it would harmonize the planar portals with the overarching themes found throughout Tamoachan in either version.
The odd man out, so to speak, would be the temporal portal. Clearly not susceptible to classification as a cenote, its purpose remains obscure. As the destruction of Slaz’Stecek Tamoachan appears implicated, it is doubtful the portal is of Slaz’Stecek origin in any grand sense. At the same time, given all the effort the Olman allegedly undertook to purge Tamoachan of anything suggesting the Slaz’Stecek, it is difficult to imagine that the Olman would desire to create a portal to that era. Who then created the time portal and why? Perhaps, the Slaz’Stecek, in fact, created the portal as a means to attempt to flee Tlaloc’s destructive wrath? The Olman then either could not close the portal and hide it or were unaware of it entirely, the Slaz’Stecek having hidden it to better make good an escape. That the portal appears blocked, set in a feedback loop, would be consistent with the Slaz’Stecek have fled and "locked the door" behind them. This scenario might also help explain the presence of living Slaz’Stecek that Glozeris reports - literal throwbacks, somehow cast forward in time.
Lastly, indeed according to Glozeris at the core of Tamoachan, lies a portal to the second layer of the Abyss - The Driller’s Hives - ruled by Tharzax, The Chattering Prince of Poisonous Vermin. What possible role this portal could have served is a complete mystery. By Glozeris’ chronology, the portal being so central to the complex would have to have been created by the Slaz’Stecek, rather than the Olman. The reptiles, however, fatefully worshiped Camazotz. Perhaps, bats fall within Tharzax’ vermin portfolio? If so, the portal might then be seen as in service to Camazotz. However, its penultimate position still raises as many questions as might be answered.
Taken together the presence of numerous seducers, elemental and infernal portals appear only loosely connected. Details are obviously missing. Further exploration is obviously called for, if there is anything to The Hidden Shrine and the Glozeris Expedition.
Is there anything to the Glozeris Expedition as recounted in The Hidden Shrine, published by Zerken and Company? The obvious answer is "no." Despite the foregoing, the weight of scholarly evidence continues to look to Sonjohn and Leason’s expedition to Tamoachan in 577 CY as the definitive account and the necessary beginning of any meaningful discussion and understanding of the Olman and Tamoachan.
But is the account of the Glozeris Expedition in The Hidden Shrine then worthless? The answer is also "no." While the Glozeris narrative challenges the established and demonstrable truth of the matter, until proved or disproved by returning to Tamoachan, the challenge remains. The Hidden Shrine is then an invitation to adventure. An invitation to once again sail south to Tamoachan. And who knows what will there be encountered?
DMs Note -
The foregoing is based upon the Hackmaster module The Hidden Shrine, written by Paul Glozeris and published by Kenser and Company, that pays homage to C1 The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan, published by TSR. As published by Kenzer and Company, The Hidden Shrine covers old ground but also adds new material. Unfortunately, the new material is not well integrated into the old material. Charitably, the new material is "mysterious" so that players familiar with the original Tamoachan can play The Hidden Shrine and not be able to completely anticipate the adventure. Certainly, the author (Glozeris) could have looked to weave his new material more tightly into the old material. That he did not is unfortunate but perhaps he legally could not or was prohibited by space considerations. Certainly, Kenzer and Company’s Hidden Shrine is a good excuse to revisit Tamoachan in a Greyhawk campaign, whether or not you adopt any parts of The Hidden Shrine as "real" or "true" in you game. You certainly have the option.
From a Greyhawk canon perspective, The Hidden Shrine from Kenzer and Company is not canon. It is, however, obviously derivative of the canonical C1 and it is produced under license from Wotc, successor in interest to TSR. Thus, it is not completely non-canon either. The Hidden Shrine then occupies an ill-defined middle ground of canon, call it apocrypha, call it secondary or tertiary canon. Whatever. It is available to use as one would see fit and holds some claim of a demonstrable, however characterized, connection to Greyhawk. That it invites DMs to dig out their copies of C1 can be nothing but good.