The giants of different types have descended in bands upon the human kingdoms, bringing death and destruction to every city and town on their way. The failure to protect the wealth and lives of their subjects becomes a disgrace to ruling class and so the band of accomplished adventurers, player characters, is hired to take the fight back to the giants, invade or infiltrate their strongholds and slay their leaders. However, over the course of this quest, the adventurers discover far more sinister forces have been behind the attacks. They must then venture deep Beneath the Earth into the realm called the Underdark to confront the evil Drow and finally even challenge their cruel goddess - Loth, Queen of the Spiders.
Gary Gygax's "supermodule", often considered his best creation and voted the greatest Dungeons & Dragons adventure of all time by the Dungeon Magazine, Queen of the Spiders is a long campaign consisting of two entire series of linked modules, G - Giants and D - Drow, with standalone Q module, Queen of the Demonweb Pits, as the epic finale of the saga. They bear historical markings on the history of Dungeons & Dragons as the first introduction to the Drow, Kuo-Toa, Svirfneblin, the Underdark as a setting and also first peek into the Abyss - the hell-like dimension of infinite layers ruled by demon lords, out of which Loth was just one of the many. The Giants series is considered extremely deadly, but not in the Tomb of Horrors kind of way that relies on outsmarting the players, but because it takes a realistic approach to the giants. Instead of waiting for the players in their rooms, the giants can be easily alarmed and storm to defend their home, making a careless party quickly overrun by hordes of huge enemies. The Drow series is enjoyed for introducing a new, interesting setting in Underdark and making the Drow a terrifying group of enemies that prove a challenge even to the experienced players.
The order of the adventures is as follow:
- G - Giants series, sometimes called Against the Giants after the collection of all modules in the series.
- Steading of the Hill Giant Chief
- Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl
- Hall of the Fire Giant King
- D - Drow series, sometimes called Descent Into the Depths of the Earth
- Descent Into the Depths of the Earth
- Shrine of the Kuo-Toa
- Vault of the Drow
- Q1 - Queen of the Demonweb Pits co-written with David Sutherland
The series is often considered a follow-up to The Temple of Elemental Evil and an earlier module series A - Aerie of the Slave Lords has even been re-balanced in a compilation Scourge Of The Slave Lords to fill the level gap between the two. It has then been known as "the Greyhawk Sequence" among the fans to start with the Temple, follow with Scourge and finish on Queen of the Spiders.
The series has received a set of homages and tributes in further editions of the game. While always firmly set in Gygax world of Greyhawk, Second Edition reboot of the G series for D&D 25th Anniversary, Against the Giants: The Liberation of Geoff links it even further, adding series of connected adventures in Grand Duchy Of Geoff to expand the story, serving as a sort of prequel 'and' a sequel. It offered an alternative option for a villain behind Giants' attacks a renegade clan of Cloud Giants, allowing the story to be played as standalone, without the Underdark modules. Underdark meanwhile has been reintroduced in a module the Night Below, set up to carry the player characters from very beginnings to higher levels, homaging the original supermodule by giving the party a surface threat that later turns out to have a source in the Underdark, but its surface part felt closer to Temple of Elemental Evil than Against the Giants. Dungeon Magazine adventure City of the Ghouls was intended for higher levels, introducing a new threat to the Underdark and while it throws nods to the D series, it went on to establish a legacy and series of sequels and homages on its own.
Third Edition paid the tribute to the Drow part of the series with two adventures. City of the Spider Queen, which tied to Forgotten Realms novel series War of the Spider Queen, was a homage to the D-series. Meanwhile, Expedition to the Demonweb Pits, concerning machinations of Demon Prince Graz'zt against Loth involving player characters, was a tribute to the Q-module. Giants did not get direct homage, but the first level of adventure The Forge of Fury and adventure Sons of Grummsh are often seen as Spiritual Successors to Against the Giants in taking the similiar approach to the Orcs.
Fourth Edition has released two unconnected adventures set in Nentir Vale setting. The Demon Queen's Enclave focused on navigating a Drow outpost currently besieged by forces of Orcus and Revenge Of The Giants was a direct homage to Against the Giants.
Fifth Edition took a similar approach to Second and Fourth, with two separated modules set in the Forgotten Realms - Storm King's Thunder focusing on giants attempts to impress their gods by destroying "smallfolk" cities and Out of the Abyss dealing with an escape from the Underdark while it is being invaded by who's who of the Demon Princes. It has also reprinted original Against the Giants as one of the "seven deadliest dungeons" in sourcebook Tales From The Yawning Portal, with guidelines how to adapt the adventure to Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance and Eberron.
Queen of the Spiders Provides Examples Of:
- Body Horror: In Demonweb Pits some spells and abilities are corrupted. Regeneration has a chance of regrowing a body part as that of an insect, for example turning your leg into a spider's leg.
- Enemy Mine: In Against the Giants the party can free various groups of humans and Orcs enslaved by the giants and convince them to join forces against their oppressors. In Vault Of the Drow it is possible to end with Loth loyalist helping the party against the Drow aligning themselves with the Elder Elemental God. Gygax's original plan for the finale of the module was to let players decide whenever they side with Loth or Elder Elemental God.
- Evil vs. Evil: All over the place - the heroes can convince Orcs to aid them against the Giants, every other faction in the Underdark hates the Drow while still attacking the good guys on sight (except for the Gnomes whom you can talk with), the Drow themselves are divided between those who serve Loth and Elder Elemental God and Gygax's original plan for the finale was to have the heroes be caught between Loth and said Elder Elemental God.
- While that last bit never got to materialize, it was still homaged by throwbacks to the module in future editions, be it a Drow outpost attacked by forces of Orcus in Demon Queen's Enclave or have other Demon Princes wreck the Underdark and figt one another as well as the Drow or the Player Characters in Out of the Abyss.
- The Man Behind the Man: Drow are behind the giants while themselves being pawns of the Elder Elemental God. A fact so well known now that the future editions' homages to this adventure also has someone manipulating the giants, be it ancient dragon in Storm King's Thunder or a Primordial, effectively recreating the plot of the original but skipping the middle man in Revenge of the Giants.
- The Liberation of Geoff had an only exception, offering that instead of the Drow, giant attacks from the original module have been lead by a clan of Cloud Giants that subjugated all other giants to its orders.
- Our Elves Are Different: The series marks the first appearance of the Drow in D&D franchise.
- Our Giants Are Bigger: It is noted to be unusual that giants of different types are working together.
- Our Gnomes Are Weirder: Descend marks the first appearance of the Svirfneblin, the Deep Gnomes who live in the Underdark. They are few people the party may ally themselves with.
- Our Titans Are Different: Basically what Elder Elemental God in Vault of the Drown and the Primodial in Revenge of the Giants are.