Long ago, the Sabrak clan of dwarves, in an effort to restore their clan’s lost power and status, meddled with dark forces in the Sunset Mountains. The dwarves succeeded only in creating their own isolation and madness. Their clan grew smaller and ever more degenerate—so that today, only the three brothers who lead the clan and a handful of other dwarves remain.
Of the three brothers, Zarnak, the eldest and most powerful, is a seer whose mind shattered long ago when it came into contact with an ancient evil known as the Elder Elemental Eye... and who now plots to spread the Abyssal Plague throughout the world.
"The Elder Elemental Eye" (2012), by Peter Sleijpen and Chris Sims, is the adventure for Season 8 of D&D Encounters. It was released for play in Spring 2012.
Continuing the Encounters. "The Elder Elemental Eye" continues with the general trends of Encounters. It was an adventure intended for play in a weekly format where players play through just one encounter during each week's play. These individual encounters are in turn organized into three chapters. Traditionally, the end of each chapter marked the only opportunities for characters to take extended rests, but "The Elder Elemental Eye" changed things up by also offering an extended rest just before the final session of play. Some hoped this would allow for a no-holds-barred finale, but instead what followed was a coda to this season of Encounters and a prologue to the next one.
Many of the previous seasons of Encounters had been far-flung sorts of adventures—like the weird town adventuring of Season 5's "Dark Legacy of Evard" (2011); the politics of Season 6, "Lost Crown of Neverwinter" (2011); and the more thoughtful roleplaying of Season 7's "Beyond the Crystal Cave" (2011). Some players were thus pleased that "The Elder Elemental Eye" went back to basics and offered up some old-fashioned dungeon crawling (along with some wilderness adventuring).
Like "Beyond the Crystal Cave," this adventure series started off with a week dedicated to joint character creation, for players who didn't want to use the stale pregenerated PCs that had been in use since Season 4's "March of the Phantom Brigade" (2010). After that, the season totaled just 11 weeks of play, making it the shortest Encounters season to date. It ran from February 22, 2012, to May 9, 2012.
About the Encounter Format. The format of the individual encounters is slightly changed in "The Elder Elemental Eye" because each week's play now begins with a summary of previous events for the players. This change was well received, for it was useful in Encounters groups where players could come and go from week to week. Beyond that, though, the encounters of "The Elder Elemental Eye" usually fall into the roleplaying-then-combat formula that has dominated Encounters.
However, some of the encounters herein allow for exploration (particularly in the dungeon crawl portions), and there are three different structured skill challenges within the adventure.
About the Product Tie-In(s). As had become par for the course, this adventure requires Essentials characters and is tied to the newest Fortune Cards release, Spiral of Tharizdun (2012). It also offers three new Fortune Cards as rewards: Questionable Intent, Demented Assault, and Worth the Price.
The plot is heavily focused on "The Abyssal Plague" and even allows for characters to get the plague themselves. This was a big media crossover that Wizards conducted through novels, e-books, and a few adventures in 2011 and 2012. "The Elder Elemental Eye" actually marked the second time that Encounters had touched upon the Plague, following "March of the Phantom Brigade." Some players of both Seasons of Encounters found its use here somewhat repetitive.
However, this adventure's most important tie-in was to Heroes of the Elemental Chaos (2012), the last major player book for D&D 4e. Not only are "Elder Elemental Eye" players encouraged to make Elemental Chaos PCs, but the eponymous "Elder Elemental Eye" of this adventure was also featured in that book.
Finally, the aforementioned final encounter of this Season features the drow, to foreshadow the "Rise of the Underdark" event (2012-13) that would overtake the next three seasons of Encounters (with lots of novels and RPG Products).
About the Homage(s). Much like Season 5, "Dark Legacy of Evard" (2011), this adventure isn't an explicit homage to any one D&D adventure, but it does tie in to D&D myths and legends dating back to the hobby's earliest days. Much of this focuses on the Elder Elemental Eye (or Elder Elemental God, to use its traditional name). The Elder Elemental God (EEG) was a Gygaxian deity who was first hinted at way back in D3: "Vault of the Drow" (1978). The EEG should probably have appeared in as the arch-foe of both Q1: "Queen of the Demonweb Pits" (1980) and T1-4: The Temple of Elemental Evil (1985), but instead disappeared as Gygax become more focused on the corporate side of TSR. One of the few later uses of the EEG at TSR was in FOR2: The Drow of the Underdark (1991), where Ed Greenwood introduces a drow Forgotten Realms deity called Ghaunadaur, who is another face for the EEG.
A decade later, in Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil (2001), Monte Cook revealed that the EEG was itself a facade for Tharizdun—himself a very old Gygaxian deity that had first appeared in WG4: "The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun" (1982). Tharizdun is in turn the source of the Abyssal Plague that was ravaging D&D's worlds in 2011-12. As a result, Tharizdun, Ghaunadaur, and the EEG all get some focus in this adventure!
Expanding the Forgotten Realms. "The Elder Elemental Eye" is set in the western Heartlands of the Realms, with individual sessions occurring in the city of Iriaebor, the village of Easting, and the temple of the Sunset Shrine. Iriaebor had been offhandedly mentioned starting in the mid-80s, in sources like Dragon #110 (July 1986), N5: "Under Illefarn" (1987), and the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (1987). There are some more details herein, while Easting and the Sunset Shrine are largely unveiled in this adventure.
Future History. The Halls of Undermountain (2012)—released in April 2012, just before the end of this Encounters season—includes some plot hooks and other suggestions for continuing play using the characters from "The Elder Elemental Eye." Meanwhile, the finale, Lair Assault, Into the Pit of Madness (2013) returns to Tharizdun with an assault on his Forbidden Temple.
About the Creators. This was the second Season of Encounters in a row for Sims, who would return for Season 14's "Quest for the Crystal Staff" (2013). Meanwhile, this was the first major published work for Sleijpen, though he'd also written numerous adventures for the Living Forgotten Realms.
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.