Fear, Flames, Dead Wizards, Doppelgangers, and the Greatest Adventure I Never Made

On more than one occasion I’ve talked about how much I love the Eye of Fear and Flame, a classic monster from the 1E Fiend Folio, so much so that I even tried my hand at creating some 5E stats for this old school baddie. And yet despite all this love, I’ve never actually used the Eye of Fear and Flame in an adventure.

But that’s not to say that I’ve never thought about using one in an adventure! I’ve just never bothered to iron out any of the wrinkles, address any of the logistical issues, or otherwise write down anything resembling an adventure based on this idea. And none of that will happen today either! But I am going to ramble on about this idea that I had once upon a time, because this site really needs more rambling if I want it to be aptly named.

The whole idea started like a lot of good adventure ideas start – with a perusal of a monster book. I was looking through the Fiend Folio with a friend, and we were talking about some of the more unusual monsters and how to maybe incorporate them into our games as a way to shake things up. When we started discussing the Eye of Fear and Flame, what really struck us as interesting about this guy was his ability to corrupt and subvert lawfully aligned characters. There aren’t any mechanics listed for how this ability works, but presumably it involves the Eye of Fear and Flame talking to his intended victim and suggesting morally questionable courses of action. Would just talking to this creature for long enough be all that it took to corrupt an otherwise Lawful individual, despite any safeguards that person may have taken?

We started to think about a college of wizardry, and about the Lawful Neutral summoner who studied there. A man dedicated to cataloging the denizens of the outer planes, and learning what he could about the cosmology of the planes from these creatures. He was a skilled and careful wizard, one who always invoked the proper safeguards before summoning creatures for questioning. But the problem with using a Gate spell to call forth creatures from distant planes is that you don’t always know what sort of creature will step through such a gate, or how to defend against the powers that such a creature may have. So the Eye of Fear and Flame, doing nothing but talking, is able to exert his corrupting influence on this powerful wizard, who then seeks to bring some of his fellows into his cult of corruption. We were thinking at the time that the Eye of Fear and Flame could only corrupt Lawful Neutral individuals (I’m pretty sure the power is broader/vaguer in the actual Fiend Folio description, but this is the assumption I recall us operating under) so it was fortunate that in this story we made up the head of the school of enchantment also happened to be Lawful Neutral.

Eventually we imagined that a great battle for control of the wizard college would ensue, with those corrupted by the Eye of Fear and Flame ready to spread corruption and evil in the name of their dark master while those who managed to avoid corruption fought to stop them. At the height of this conflict the summoner who was responsible for all of the bloodshed had a moment of clarity, and knew that he must do what he could to help his doomed former comrades prevent the Eye of Fear and Flame from spreading his influence across the land. At this point they were unable to send the Eye of Fear and Flame back to his own dimension, but the summoner and a handful of the remaining “good” wizards managed to craft a powerful barrier spell that prevented any extra-planar creatures from crossing outside the boundaries of the wizard college or entering in to the area. The summoner offered up his very soul to power this mighty spell, and virtually everyone involved in this climactic struggle was destroyed – except for the Eye of Fear and Flame, who was doomed to walk the abandoned halls of the wizard’s college until the barrier spell could be broken.

Did I mention that this wizard college was situated in a remote and mountainous region, and that these guys were kind of hermetic?

So we imagined a long time passing, with the existence of this college fading from memory. A quiet ruins inhabited by a vengeful Eye of Fear and Flame, and the ghost of the summoner whose soul was trapping the creature there. Since only extra-planar creatures were prevented from entering and exiting the ruins, they were eventually inhabited by the sort of creatures that one typically finds in remote ruins (keep in mind that we never actually fleshed any of this out, so whatever you imagine is probably appropriate). This was the way of things for perhaps hundreds of years – until a wandering clan of doppelgangers showed up with the intent of making the ruins their home. This is where things get interesting. And difficult, from an adventure design perspective.

Basically, the Eye of Fear and Flame wants out, but he is not a wizard and cannot break the spell that holds him within the ruins. He really needs a wizard to show up at these ruins, which is unfortunate because nobody knows that these ruins exist. All that is about to change though, as the Eye of Fear and Flame manages to enlist the doppelgangers to his cause. He doesn’t even need his corrupting ability – the doppelgangers are assholes already and they think that unleashing this guy on the world sounds like great fun!

So the doppelgangers head in to the nearby towns, spreading rumors of a long abandoned wizard’s college, and they even have some treasure to back their stories up. Posing as an adventurer needing to hire some other adventurers a doppelganger would then assemble a party and guide them to these ruins. Once there the plan would be to isolate and murder each member of said party except for the wizard, who would be brought before the Eye of Fear and Flame and forced to begin working on a way to reverse the barrier spell. Wizards not powerful enough to complete this task would be killed, and more would be lured to the ruins.

One more thing: while the party is exploring these ruins, the ghost of the summoner will try to tell the story of what happened to the wizard’s college. But the only way he can communicate is by replaying scenes from the past in the form of phantasms that play out events that happened in specific rooms when they are entered.

And that’s that! The biggest problem I have with the story, design-wise, involves the doppelgangers killing off party members. I mean, I feel like you would want to kill one or two of them off and replace them, but it doesn’t seem like you can do this fairly or believably, which I suppose is a larger problem with doppelgangers in general. I mean, if you manage to isolate and kill a PC and have them replaced, everyone at the table is probably going to know this and they’ll all probably work really hard to get this player knowledge into the hands of their characters. And then even if you do manage to replace one or two people, it seems like it would be rather difficult to have the players in charge of those characters believably play as doppelgangers.

One way I thought things could play out is that maybe you wouldn’t need a powerful wizard to break this barrier spell, maybe all that needs to happen is that the ghost of the summoner needs to be defeated, and maybe this can be done by destroying his bones – which are guarded by a ward that only requires a person to be Lawful Good to pass through it or something. So the narrative would revolve around the doppelgangers and the Eye of Fear and Flame trying to steer the party towards where they need to go to destroy these bones before they pass through enough rooms to learn enough of the story about why the ghost is here and what destroying his bones would mean. Successful resolution of the adventure would of course revolve around defeating the Eye of Fear and Flame, and then probably finding the summoner’s bones and burying them in hallowed ground or something so he could finally be at peace.

Anyway, that’s my rambling kinda/sorta adventure idea. Feel free to lift what inspiration from it that you may.

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