Friday, May 15, 2009

The Chamber Of Eyes

The Chamber of Eyes is the first of Thunderspire Labyrinth's mini-dungeons. It's the lair of the Bloodreaver Slavers, and if the party are serious about rescuing the Slavers' victims this will be their first stop after reaching the Seven-Pillared Hall.

But what is the Chamber of Eyes?

As I've mentioned previously, Thunderspire is obsessed with its minotaur-themed backstory, even though the minotaurs never actually turn up. The story of the minotaurs is basically a re-telling of the legend of Moria from The Lord of the Rings.

Long ago, the minotaurs came to Thunderspire to build a great city in honour of their god Baphomet. They created a vast empire that stretched from Thunderspire to the borders of the Underdark. However, they delved too deep, and discovered that the lower caverns lay beneath the shadow of the deity Torog, the Patient One, known as the King that Crawls.

The Patient One got his claws deep into the minotaurs; sects to him sprang up, temples were built, and a nation once dedicated to Baphomet turned to the worship of an even darker and more vile patron. Civil war raged between the Torog followers and those faithful to Baphomet, and in the end both sides fell to a violent madness that consumed and destroyed the entire race.

None of this is at all important to the players, but in the Chamber of Eyes we start a kind of reverse archaeological tour of the minotaurs' holdings, beginning at a temple to Torog built in Saruun Khel's final days, and eventually continuing to a civil-war era fortification and finishing at one of the original temples to Baphomet.

Minotaurs and Torog have long since abandoned the Chamber of Eyes, which lies some distance from the Seven-Pillared Hall, "deep within the labyrinth". The Bloodreaver Hobgoblins have taken over the abandoned ruin and now use it as a headquarters.

It would have made sense, given the above, to call the area, "The Temple of Torog" or "The Cursed Temple". Neither of those are terribly imaginative but they have the advantage of being both descriptive and firmly in the D&D tradition. Instead the developers went the extra step and called the place "The Chamber of Eyes".

It's not just a name. The approach to the Chamber features a lintel carved with "five staring eyes", and the door of the Chamber itself shows an image of "a great eye with multiple eye stalks".

Even as your players come to this doorway, they'll be sharpening their weapons and patting each other on the back and declaring, "Oh boy! Beholders!" Beholders are a classic enemy and one of the great things about 4th Edition is that the Monster Manual comes complete with low-level versions of iconic monsters, so that even a 4th-level party can tangle with an Eye Tyrant.

Unfortunately, once again, it's not to be. There's no Beholders in the Chamber of Eyes, or anywhere else in Thunderspire for that matter. Possibly they're hanging out with the Minotaurs and the Mages of Saruun. Never mind that the developers inexplicably drew a Beholder on the dungeon's door - it's all just a fake out. If you don't reset their expectations quickly, your disappointed players will spend hours searching the Chamber for secret doors, convinced they still haven't found the room with the Beholder in it.

What we do have in the Chamber of Eyes are some very cantankerous hobgoblins and a big frikkin' wolf. Which is good, and all. I suppose. But wouldn't a Beholder have been great?


Maelora said...

I'm probably being pedantic, but the lowest level beholder in the MM is 13th level, which could probably eat 4th level players for breakfast...

But yes; this is dashing expectations all over again. Amusing to think of the minotaurs, the errant beholder, and the Mages of Saruun all hanging out with Elvis, Shergar and Lord Lucan in some secret chamber... :-)

Anders Hällzon said...

Hehehe. I get the idea that "missing monsters" is going to be a theme.

Greg Tannahill said...

There is, I understand, a heroic tier beholder in the MM2.

Plus you can pit a level 13 against level 4s provided that they have an indirect way of winning the combat that doesn't require them hitting defences or surviving much damage. (Think the final level of the Eye of the Beholder computer game.)

Maelora said...

Haven't got MM2 so you may be right.

And yes, I recall that fight in EOB with fondness... That could work in 4E with all the movement, pushes and the like!

Xtian said...

Not to mention that it isn't hard for the devs to build a low-level beholderkin specifically suited for this dungeon. Heck, you can take the Elf Archer, bump it up a few levels, give it a template to make it an elite, and it would serve a beholder's stats pretty well. Thumbs down on unmet expectations.

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