Inside the woods near Burke's Crossing lurks a very real danger. It began as a sense of unease, a feeling of being watched, but now people are disappearing. The lumberjacks who have stayed in the little village talk of ghosts and other superstitions. Or at least they did - until a mysterious statue appeared in a clearing near the logging camp.
As if matters weren't strange enough, two mages have arrived and begun hiring armed guards to escort them into these very same woods. Is there a connection, or is it just coincidence? Either way, be prepared! You never know what's out there waiting... and watching.
"Eye of Pain" is the first of three Monstrous Arcana adventures featuring the cunning and deadly beholder. If can be played as an individual adventure or as part of the series which continue in "Eye of Doom" and concludes in "Eye to Eye."
For four to six characters of levels 4-8.
"Eye of Pain" (1996), by Thomas M. Reid, is the first module in a trilogy of adventures about beholders and also the first adventure in the "Monstrous Arcana" series. It was published in July 1996.
Generic Adventures for D&D. Starting with the publication of AD&D 2nd edition in 1989, TSR's AD&D adventures all became tightly tied to the game's settings - at first Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, and Greyhawk, and later many more. This general trend would carry onward until TSR's demise, and some suggest that TSR's heavy investment in so many different settings might have contributed to the company's death.
However, beginning in 1992, TSR again began publishing a few generic adventures that could be used in any setting. This started with the "HHQ" series of one-on-one adventures (1992-95) and continued into the "GA" (General Adventure) modules (1993). However the idea really took off in 1994 when TSR adopted a new, black-framed trade dress for their generic adventures. The year 1996 was probably the height of this trend for TSR, thanks to its new Monstrous Arcana and Tomes series of adventures - plus a few generic adventures that were totally standalone, the most notable of which was The Gates of Firestorm Peak (1996).
"Eye of Pain" was the first adventure in the Monstrous Arcana series of generic adventures.
Introducing the Monstrous Arcana. "Monstrous Arcana" was a totally new idea for TSR that would marry sourcebooks and adventures. At the time TSR planned to publish one new series of Monstrous Arcana books each year. Each sequence was to focus on a single iconic monstrous race from D&D and would include one sourcebook on the race and a linked trilogy of adventures. Thus, the first Monstrous Arcana series included the "I, Tyrant" sourcebook (which also premiered in July 1996) and three adventures: "Eye of Pain," "Eye of Doom," and "Eye to Eye." The sourcebook wasn't strictly necessary for the adventures, but could be used to help "spice them up" through its in-depth look at the beholder race.
The Monstrous Arcana adventures would continue in 1997 with a series of adventures about the sahuagin, leading off with a sourcebook, "The Sea Devils."
A History of the Beholder. The beholder is one of the oldest entirely original monsters from the D&D game. Terry Kuntz came up with the basic idea, which Gary Gygax then detailed for publication in Supplement I: Greyhawk (1975). The beholder also appeared on the cover in an illustration by Greg Bell. The name of the monster may not have been determined at the time, as Bell labeled the beholder as a "sphere of doom" - though his caption was removed before publication.
The beholder reappeared in AD&D's Monster Manual (1977), alongside the aquatic "eye of doom," which might have been the first variant of an iconic D&D monster, and was definitely the first of many beholderkin. At the time, the connection was not explicit, as the Monster Manual said, "It is possible that this monster is a relative of the beholder." The spectator appeared next in L1: "The Secret of Bone Hill" (1981) and Monster Manual II (1983).
The beholder's iconic status was obvious by the early 80s, when it was the fourth monster to appear in Dragon's classic "Ecology" series of articles, following the piercer, the catoblepas, and the mimic. Ed Greenwood penned "The Ecology of the Beholder" for Dragon #76 (August 1983). A year and a half later, Greenwood also wrote "The Ecology of the Eye of the Deep" for Dragon #93 (January 1985). This was the article that really nailed down the connection between the beholder and the eye of the deep:
Many have speculated that the eye of the deep is related to the beholder, and it is our considered opinion that it is indeed a related species; perhaps both were once the same creature and evolved differently to master their vastly different environments.
Ed Greenwood generally seems to like beholders, so they showed up in the Forgotten Realms too, but one of their biggest expansions ever came in Spelljammer (1989), which made them a major spacefaring species and also introduced the "orbus" and "hive mother" variants. A few more varieties appeared in Spelljammer supplements SJA1: "Wildspace" and SJR1: "Lost Ships" (1990).
And then I, Tyrant expanded the list of beholder species even more!
Adventure Elements of the 90s. Some of the adventuring elements of "Eye of Pain" feel like they date back to the 70s. For example, the adventure hook is found on a posting board (!), which advertises for "heroes and sellswords."
From there, however, "Eye of Pain" quickly moves into the sort of adventure more common for the 90s. It's based in a well-detailed urban setting, a town called Burke's Crossing, and the players experience a number of events there. There are also lots of machinations (and plot!) in the background: Various NPCs all have their own motivations. Though the adventure ends in a dungeon, it's a fairly small one, and just one element of the larger adventure. Still, you'll find fun traps and a clever dungeon design when you get there!
Whoops. On page 12, a section to be read to the players ends with the statement, "The woman begins moving toward a table in the far corner of the room, her companions following, as Kaywen spins on her heel and returns to the bar, her"....
That sounds rather intriguing, but all that's missing are the words "...lips pursed in suppressed anger."
About the Creators. Reid worked at TSR, then Wizards of the Coast, from 1991-2001 as Designer, Editor, Creative Director, and Brand Manager (at various times). He wrote all three beholder adventures in 1996 for the premiere Monstrous Arcana series.
About the Product Historian
The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.