I was doing some research on the Eye of Fear and Flame, thinking it would be a good monster to feature on Monstrous Monday with the theme “Monsters that Time Forgot.” The idea was to find a cool monster from the earlier editions of Dungeons and Dragons, talk about it a little bit, and give it a makeover. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it turns out that the Eye of Fear and Flame wasn’t as forgotten as I thought! Since I’ve never perused the 3rd Edition “Book of Vile Darkness,” I had no idea a version of this monster appeared in that book. I even found a 5th edition version of The Eye of Fear and Flame! Despite all of that, I’m still going to create my own version of the Eye of Fear and Flame and talk a bit about why I like this guy so much.
First, let’s take a look at the original Eye of Fear and Flame:
As you can see, the stat block doesn’t give us a whole lot of information about this guy. We know that he is solitary, very rare, highly intelligent, and Chaotic Evil, with lots of hit die and a fairly decent armor class. Beyond that, we are advised to “See below.”
And there isn’t a whole lot of information “below” either. I mean, we get the information on attacks – an eye that projects a cone of fear and another one that shoots a wicked fireball – and a bit on how much those gem-eyes are worth and how you shouldn’t even think about trying to blind the guy, but beyond that the information on ole red and black eye is pretty vague.
Vague, but cool as hell.
For starters, we learn that his hobbies include stalking the underworld for “lawful or lawful/neutral parties or individuals” so that he can command them to commit deeds that are “uniformly evil.” And we also learn that if you give him any guff over these commands, his Plan B is blasting you in the back with a 12-dice fireball while you run away in terror.
Finally, we are given some conflicting information on the creature’s origins. Although “the truth is hidden,” we are told that the Eye of Fear and Flame may have been created by Chaotic Gods to destroy “lawfuls” or, in what would probably be the biggest dick move ever on the part of Lawful and/or Neutral deities, created by Lawful/Neutral Gods for the purpose of testing “lawfuls.” Oh, and there are believed to only be about twenty of these guys in existence.
My favorite thing about this guy – the one thing that makes him interesting – is conspicuously absent from the 5th edition write up I linked to above. That is, of course, the fact that his sole purpose for existing seems to be so that he can corrupt Lawful and Neutral individuals. I also like the fact that, although his defenses are formidable, it is let on in the description that combat really isn’t his thing and that he will flee to the ethereal plane when things start to go poorly for him. I also like that their origin and hence their ulterior motives are a bit of a mystery. Who, if anyone, are they working for? Do they have a grand plan beyond the sewing of chaos and evil?
If you look at this guy and just see a skeleton that shoots fear and fire out of his eyeballs, I think you are really missing the point and the potential here (A friend and I once sketched up the outline of an adventure that involved one of these guys brining about the downfall of a powerful wizard’s college, but perhaps that is a tale for another time – and another blog post). With his high intelligence and knack for corrupting and influencing others, I see a villain on par with the likes of Emperor Palpatine. This is the guy who uses his influence to convince the senate to dissolve itself, or who bends the ear of the king, and slowly corrupts him, or perhaps convinces the loyal commander of a great army that it is he who should be king. And then on top of that, he also shoots fear and fire out of his freaking eyeballs!
Before I get too far ahead of myself, let’s take a look at the 3rd edition Eye of Fear and Flame from the Book of Vile Darkness, which can be found here.
Like the fan-made 5th edition Eye of Fear and Flame, this version has claw attacks, where the original was devoid of any melee stats. Also of note, any mention of the “ethereal jaunt” ability is missing from the 3rd edition version. In fact, I think that overall the 3E Book of Vile Darkness did a great job of reducing the Eye of Fear and Flame to some tool that has a reasonable chance of standing toe to toe with some adventurers for a few rounds while he rips off as many fireballs as he can before he’s demolished. Instead of being the kingmaker that I imagine him to be, the Book of Vile Darkness has the Eye of Fear and Flame using that high intelligence to prowl the woods looking for girls he can bully into killing their boyfriends. What a waste.
Interestingly, not one version of the Eye of Fear and Flame, including the original, has any game mechanics linked to his ability to influence others. Another thing that I find interesting is the default assumption that the Eye of Fear and Flame should be treated as an undead creature. No doubt this is because he is described as skeletal, but there are no creature type designations given in the Fiend Folio, only the insinuation that these creatures were “created by the chaotic evil gods.” As a result, I’ve always felt like the Eye of Fear and Flame should have more in common with demons and devils than skeletons and zombies. This is the type of guy that foolhardy knowledge seekers can summon from beyond, and who has a more intimate tie with the dark powers-that-be than some animated, autonomous corpse.
I could probably ramble on for another 10,000 words or so about this guy, but I think you get the idea how I feel about him. So let’s just get down to brass tacks. Here is my stat block:
|Eye of Fear and Flame
Medium Fiend, Chaotic Evil
|Armor Class 20 (Natural Armor)
Hit points 78 (12d8+24)
Speed 30 ft.
|Skills – Arcana, Insight, Perception (+6); Deception, Intimidation, Persuasion (+7)
Damage Resistances – cold, lightning
Damage Immunities – fire, poison
Condition immunities – blinded, charmed, exhaustion, frightened, poisoned
Senses – truesight 60 ft., passive Perception 16
Languages – Abyssal, Common
Challenge – 7 (2,900 XP)
|Innate Spellcasting. The Eye of Fear and Flame’s spellcasting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 15). The Eye of Fear and Flame can innately cast the following spells, requiring no material components:
At will: Enthrall, Suggestion
Eye of Fear. Once per round as a standard action, an Eye of Fear and Flame can emit a Cone of Fear from its black gem eye, as per a Wand of Fear (DMG pg. 210)
Eye of Flame (Recharge 5-6). The Eye of Fear and Flame casts Fireball from its red gem eye, as per the wizard spell, as if cast using a spell slot of 7th level (12d6 damage)
Multi-attack. An Eye of Fear and Flame may make two claw attacks as a standard action.
Melee Claw Attack: +5 to hit. Hit: 4 (1d6) slashing.
So that’s my take on the Eye of Fear and Flame. Let’s take a look at why I did what I did:
Type. Like I said earlier, I’ve always felt this monster shared more in common with demons than skeletons, so I gave him the fiend sub-type.
Hit Points and Armor Class. This was pretty straight forward. I used the 12 HD from the original Fiend Folio stat block, and made those hit die a d8 for a medium sized creature. Similarly, I modeled the armor class pretty closely after the original.
Stats. I may have made this guy a fiend, but at the end of the day he still looks like a skeleton, so I gave him the same physical stats that a skeleton has. In the Fiend Folio, the Eye of Fear and Flame has a “High” intelligence, which in 1st edition parlance translates to a score of 13 – 14 (1E MM, pg. 6). I bumped this up to “exceptional” intelligence, which feels more in line with my vision of this creature as a political mastermind. I also gave him a decent Wisdom and an extremely good Charisma, because I wanted his ability scores and their corresponding skills to reflect an overall competence in perception and deception that go beyond spell-like abilities. Charisma is of course the ability off of which those spell-like abilities should key.
Resistances and Immunities. The guy’s main ability involves chucking fireballs out of his eyeball, so of course I made him immune to fire damage. This immunity also reinforces his fiendish nature, as do his other resistances. Immunity to blindness is a feature of the Fiend Folio version (such attacks are actually reflected back on the caster) and immunity to charm just makes sense, considering what the creature does. These resistances and immunities also help keep the challenge rating right where I wanted it, which is right where it was in the Fiend Folio.
Truesight. In keeping with the theme of the Eye of Fear and Flame being a master of deception, I wanted it to make it exceedingly difficult for him to be deceived. Plus, the guy has huge gems for eyes, so I wanted to attribute as much cool magical stuff to that as possible.
Spell-Like Abilities. I really wanted the ability of the Eye of Fear and Flame to corrupt and influence others to be represented by more than just flavor text, so I decided that he should have the ability to cast the spells Enthrall and Suggestion as at-will abilities. I like the idea of someone being mesmerized while gazing into those big gem-eyes, so enthrall made perfect sense. Likewise, suggestion is a no-brainer for the Eye of Fear and Flame; it’s literally his raison d’être. Also – and I didn’t want go into any mechanical detail about this, since I feel like this would mainly apply to NPCs – I love the idea that the more times an Eye of Fear and Flame uses his suggestion power on an individual the less capable that person is of resisting the power, so that eventually those who have been corrupted by the creature are hopelessly within his thrall.
Aside from the above additions, the Cone of Fear effect works just as it did in the Fiend Folio, as does the 12 die fireball, more or less (in the Fiend Folio he can use the fireball ability “once every three rounds” which I decided to represent with a refresh rate of 5-6, just like a dragon’s breath weapon). Etherealness as a spell-like ability is also very much in keeping with the original creature.
Attacks. Ok, fine. He’s got claws. But I didn’t see any reason to make them anything special or even make them a legitimately viable attack option. He’d much rather drop fireballs on you.
And I guess that wraps things up!
So, do you love him or hate him? Is he too powerful, too weak, or about right for a CR7? Please feel free to let me know what you think in the comments.