Eye to Eye (1996)

The big finale of the trilogy of beholder adventures for Monstrous Arcana is Eye to Eye (1996). Despite the underwhelming title and the plotty plot, it actually delivers quite a bit of the alien quality I was hoping would characterize the whole series. Better late than never, I suppose.

The problem really is all the plot. I am not sure any of the set-up across the previous installments is necessary or enriching, but whatever. The town of Cumbert is atop a beholder city and, thanks to the elder eye’s machinations, the hive mother wants to wipe it out, while the player characters want to do the same to the beholder colony. The elder eye’s hope is that the two factions wipe themselves out, leaving a power vacuum it can fill. Yawn. I mean, it’s fine, but I really don’t understand why I can understand the motives of a floating multi-eyed abomination, if that makes sense. This volume primarily sees the players exploring and battling through the hive city. It’s pretty much all dungeon crawl.

It’s pretty great! A lot of detail was paid to making the city makes sense as a place inhabited and traversed by a spherical species that floats, which complicates traversal for players while making the environment feel casually bizarre (one section is like a giant water park, others remind me of the videogame Marble Madness). The city is a sandbox, too — there is a lot to do here, and a lot of ways to do it. Ultimately, you could stick this city anywhere and develop a plot that doesn’t involve the players watching two NPCs battle it out in the end.

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