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Story

Eye of the Beholder's story begins with a meeting called by Piergeiron, the current Lord of Waterdeep, with the party. He hands them a letter describing a threat that his friend, the Archmage, Khelben "Blackstaff" Arunsun, has detected witin the city and requests that the party investigate the disturbances and, if necessary, deal with them in whatever method they see fit. They are given an official commission from the city and are quickly ushered to the sewers where they believe the threat to be located. However, their unseen nemesis has been waiting for them and the only way out is suddenly blocked by a thundering avalanche of rocks and stone, forcing the player to delve deeper below the streets of Waterdeep and to a confrontation with their foe.

After a series of traps and challenges that the party encounters during the adventure, they come face to face with Xanathar, a beholder who is also acting as the major crime lord of Waterdeep who has been plotting his ascension to power. After a climactic battle in which Xanatar is defeated, the party is celebrated as heroes of the city.

Overview

Eye of the Beholder (EotB) was the first game in the AD&D-based Eye of the Beholder trilogy published by SSI as a part of their "Legend Series." It was developed by Westwood Associates, the same developers that would go on to become Westwood Studios, and published by SSI. It was notable at the time for its use of lush 3D graphics, extensive puzzles, and animated monster encounters along with the degree of interactivity that players had within its dungeons such as flipping levers, weighing down pressure plates with stones, and its real-time interface. The game would pit a party of adventurers against the mechanations of a beholder known as Xanathar, a ruthless criminal hiding deep beneath the city of Waterdeep.

The game was a licensed TSR product, and implemented the 2nd Edition AD&D ruleset and featured the Forgotten Realms campaign setting that was used in previous games. In that setting, Waterdeep is one of the greatest cities of the era, the so-called "Crown of the North," a vital trading hub whose wealth has seen its environs and its influence expand rapidly throughout the Sword Coast region. The secretive Lords of Waterdeep, the unseen council that both watches and protects the city from fell schemes discovered outside and within its own walls, maintain the tenuous balance of power between the factions there in order to ensure its survival. Only one of these Lords is ever shown as the "public" face in order to act as a liaison between the people and themselves.

Copy protection took the form of challenge questions that the player would occasionally be asked during the course of the game that would refer to a specific word within the game manual. Copies were encouraged in order to preserve the original disks.

The manual was also notable for including a great deal of information concerning the monsters, classes, and weapons that could be encountered within the game, all adhering to the 2nd Edition AD&D ruleset. Experience tables and other pieces of information were located in the back of the manual. The following manuals would be similar in design, although the monsters described would be changed from one title to the next. The manual for Eye of the Beholder would also contain a rough map of Waterdeep as well as a historical primer on its significance.

The game was ported to consoles in 1994, including a SNES version by Capcom and a Sega CD version by Sega. While Capcom's version is a more faithful reproduction of the original, the Sega CD version was an enhanced remake famous for its CD soundtrack composed by Yuzo Koshiro. Departing from the chiptune medieval music of the the original PC version, Koshiro's Sega CD soundtrack was one of the first ambient electronica soundtracks.

Gameplay

The game uses a grid-based, 3D system wherein the world is viewed from a first-person perspective with 90° turns and movement spaces. Within the ever-present interface, a small window on the upper left quadrant of the screen displayed the world as in the first with the party listed on the right. A text box on the bottom part of the screen displayed various messages while a compass was also shown when outside of combat. Random enemy encounters would provide combat opportunities within the game against mixed groups of foes. Everything in the interface was mouse driven.

Party setup and character selection were left entirely up to the player and many of the mechanisms and options available would remain unchanged through the next two iterations of the series. The party would always remain limited to six characters.

Races

Six races are available for players to choose from and would be the first step in creating a new batch of characters. Gender has no bearing on a character's performance aside from making available the appropriate portraits during character creation. Many of the steps utilized in this part of the game would continue to act as the standard setup throughout the series.

In keeping with the 2nd Edition AD&D ruleset, each race has its own set of restrictions concerning both what classes are available to them such as how far they can advance in certain ones. Racial modifiers can also affect their efficiency in certain professions.

  • Human: As in most RPGs, their statistics and abilities are fairly average across the board with no distinctive bonuses.
  • Elf: Fair haired, fair skinned, and more agile than humans, their specialties are focused on both magic and war although they tend to do better as spellcasters. They have a bonus to dexterity and the use of bows along with long or short swords. They are highly resistant to charm or sleep spells.
  • Dwarf: Short, gruff, and strong, they are renowned for their smithing skills as well as their combat abilities. Being a somewhat non-magical race, they have good resistances against many spells and even poisons.
  • Halflings: Short in stature, friendly to a fault, and generally good natured, halflings are also innately resistant to spells. They're also dexterous making them decent fighters and sticky fingered rogues.
  • Half Elves: They have no racial modifiers but are somewhat resistant to sleep and charm spells. However, because of their longer lifespans, they are able to multi-class with a greater number of combinations than other races and are decent fighters.
  • Gnome: Good as clerics, thieves, and even fighters, they are also fairly magic resistant as their distant cousins, the dwarves, are.

Classes

As with many RPGs, the game offered a choice to the player to select from a variety of classes that they would use to first create their characters and, ultimately, their parties with.

Throughout the entire Eye of the Beholder series, six classes would be made available to players to choose from, each with its own set of restrictions, although certain races have the ability to multi-class meaning that they can become a combination of classes. Each classes require certain prime requisites, or ability scores, to be at certain values before that character can become part of that class.

  • Fighter: The consummate fighter, they can use nearly every weapon that they find. They can use magical weapons, rings, but can cast no spells. As they gain levels, they also gain speed which enables them to attack more often in combat. The prime requisite for this class is strength and any race and alignment can be a member.
  • Paladin: These are elite fighters dedicated to smiting evil wherever it may be and will not join a party that has evil members. They are immune to disease, have increased resistances to spell effects and poison, and can heal other characters with their "laying on of hands" ability. At higher levels, they are also able to turn undead and can cast certain clerical spells. They also have a persistent aura around them that acts as a negative affect on evil creatures that come too close. Only humans with good scores in both Strength and Charisma can become this class.
  • Thieves: A high dexterity is a prime requisite for this class and they are restricted in wearing only leather-type armor and in using a limited number of weapons. Any race can be this class and it is considered an important one to have in the game to avoid getting the party killed whenever a trap is found.
  • Rangers: They can use any weapon as a fighter can and can even dual wield melee weapons without any penalty, but only if they are not wearing heavy armor. Humans, elves, and half-elves are the only races that are allowed in the game that can be a part of this class.
  • Cleric: They are holy warriors that can fight with a number of weapons and wear armor while casting divine spells against their enemies. Ideal for dealing with the undead as well as healing the party. Wisdom is the prime requisite for this class and any race can be a part of it.
  • Mages: The spellcasters of the Realm, what they lack in armor and weapons expertise are made up for in the spells that they can weave. Unlike several other RPG systems of the time that utilized spell points, mages in AD&D have to memorize a set number of spells in order to store and use them at a later time. Once those memorized spells are used up, the mage must take time to memorize another batch. Intelligence is the prime requisite for this class and as they gain in level, they also gain extra slots that can be used to store memorized spells. Humans, Elves, and Half-Elves can become mages in the game.

Alignment

AD&D along with many other PnP RPGs at the time made extensive use of an alignment system to determine a character's worldview and how they conducted themselves within society which would also be reflected in EotB's mechanics as well as that of its following sequels.

World View:

  • Lawful: A character will work within the laws
  • Neutral: A character will move between valuing a society and valuing an individual.
  • Chaotic: A character will choose the good of the individual above that of everything else.

Ethics:

  • Good: The character tries to act in a moral and upstanding manner.
  • Neutral: A character leans towards evaluating 'situational ethics' depending on the circumstances.
  • Evil: A character acts without regard for others or in an overly malignant manner.

For example, a Lawful Good character would be by-the-book when it came to upholding the good in society while a Chaotic Good character would be more willing to bend the rules in order to provide the same. A Lawful Evil character might hold their word as their bond and be loathe to break it for anyone, but would only give it if confronted by someone whose power they respect or as a part of one of their fell schemes. As interesting as this was, the game did not make an extensive use of the potential that this system could bring to an RPG.

Attributes

Character attributes would help determine what classes were available for certain characters and how well they would perform in them. In 2nd Edition AD&D, attribute scores of 18 were considered the highest possible in a natural sense, although racial bonuses and magical effects/enhancements in the form of spells or items would be able to raise them higher either temporarily or permanently in more rare cases. These are set as far as the game was concerned. Leveling improved a character's HP (hit points) and general abilities, but their base statistics would almost never change.

EotB and its following sequels would also allow the player to modify statistics during character creation with any number of changes that were limited only by the maximum level a particular attribute could be as determined by race.

  • Strength: This determines the amount of physical damage that a character can inflict. With a strength statistic of 18, an additional variable is added to indicate exceptional strength as a percentage shown as 18/23.
  • Constitution: A character's health and toughness is determined by this. In AD&D, this has other effects outside of simply determining the HP amount gained after every level, such as a character's resistance to certain physical effects.
  • Intelligence: A vital attribute for mages as they learn spells.
  • Dexterity: Characters with a high dexterity tend to be nimble and agile improving their AC (armor class) which measures how hard they are to hit in combat. Important for every class, but more so with others such as fighters and thieves. With a score of 16 or higher, fighters can negate some of the penalties levied against them for using dual weapons.
  • Charisma: This determines how attractive or repulsive a character is to everyone around them, whether it is in how they carry themselves in conversation or appear in public. Important for paladins.
  • Wisdom: A character's innate ability to judge situations and make the best choices. It is also important in spell resistance and particularly key for clerics. Higher wisdom scores above 13 also translate into extra spells that clerics can utilize.

Combat

Fighting in the game is handled through random encounters wherein experience, items, and gold are earned. The front ranks, determined by the two characters at the top of the party list, can engage in melee combat. All other characters must resort to ranged weapons or spells in order to join in the fight. An onscreen menu guided their actions and right clicking with the mouse on the appropriate icon, such as a warrior's sword, would cause them to act.

Camping was available for the player to rest and heal the party, memorize spells, and save the game when necessary.

NPC Companions

As well as creating a party of player characters, during the adventure beneath the city of Waterdeep it is possible to find other adventurers who will offer their services to help the player characters in defeating Xanathar.

TOD UPHILL
Tod is a Halfling Thief who accidentally fell down a sewer grate in the city of Waterdeep. His bones are located at the very entrance to the sewers and can be taken to the Dwarven Cleric on Level 5 in order to be resurrected.
  • Location - Level 1, Sewers
  • Class - Thief
  • Alignment - Chaotic-Neutral
LEVELHPACSTRCONINTDEXCHAWIS
532?171811191614
ANYA
Anya is a Human Fighter. Once her bones are found they can be taken to the Dwarven Cleric on Level 5 in order to be resurrected.
  • Location - Level 3, Lower Sewers
  • Class - Fighter
  • Alignment - Chaotic-Good
LEVELHPACSTRCONINTDEXCHAWIS
445?1816514911
TAGHOR
Taghor is a Dwarven Fighter who can be found injured on Level 4 of the Upper Dwarven Ruins. If the party tends to his wounds then he will offer his services. Taghor was separated from his clan of Dwarves during a skirmish with a group of Drow Elves. He is looking to find his clan.
  • Location - Level 4, Upper Dwarven Ruins
  • Class - Fighter
  • Alignment - Chaotic-Good
LEVELHPACSTRCONINTDEXCHAWIS
545?171911?9?
DORHUM
Dorhum is a Dwarven Fighter. When the players first encounter the Dwarf encampment on the Level 5 Dwarven Ruins, Armun, the current Dwarf Chieftan will state that the young Dwarf Dorhum would like to travel with the party while he searches for their lost Prince, Keirgar.
  • Location - Level 5, Dwarf Encampment
  • Class- Fighter
  • Alignment - Lawful-Good
LEVELHPACSTRCONINTDEXCHAWIS
328?181713161411
ILERIA
Ileria is a Half Elf Cleric. Her bones can be found on the Level 7, Reach of the Drow and taken to the Dwarven Cleric on Level 5 in order to be resurrected.
  • Location - Level 7, Upper Reach of the Drow
  • Class - Cleric
  • Alignment - Lawful-Good
LEVELHPACSTRCONINTDEXCHAWIS
652?10171215?9
BEOHRAM
Beohram is a Human Paladin. He is a member of the Waterdeep City Watch who overheard rumors of Xanathar's plot and died while investigating the Lower Reach of the Drow, alone. His bones can be found immediately after a particularly deadly trap, giving hint of how he died, and if collected they can be taken back to the Dwarven Cleric on Level 5 to be resurrected.
  • Location - Level 9, Lower Reach of the Drow
  • Class - Paladin
  • Alignment - Lawful-Good
LEVELHPACSTRCONINTDEXCHAWIS
755?17189131715
KEIRGAR
Keirgar is a Dwarven Fighter. He is prince of the Dwarves, recently taken prisoner during a battle with the Drow. He can be found shackled on Level 10, The Mantis Hive, just after an encounter with the Drow spy of Xanathar. After rescuing him, he will ask the party to escort him back to the Dwarven encampment. After doing so, he will offer to stay with the party in order to help them defeat Xanathar. Keirgar is part of the requirement for the Dwarves to relinquish the Wand of Silvias (an item required to defeat Xanathar).
  • Location - Level 10, The Mantis Hive
  • Class - Fighter
  • Alignment - Lawful Good
LEVELHPACSTRCONINTDEXCHAWIS
545?181915121715
TYRRA
Tyrra is an Elven Ranger. Her bones can be found on Level 10, The Mantis Hive and returned to the Dwarven Cleric in Level 5 in order to be resurrected. After being resurrected Tyrra explains that she was escorting another group of adventurers and blames their incompetence on her death. She is reluctant to join the player character's party but offers her services nonetheless.
  • Location - Level 10, The Mantis Hive
  • Class - Fighter
  • Alignment - Lawful Good
LEVELHPACSTRCONINTDEXCHAWIS
645?16171418716
KIRATH
Kirath is a Half Elf Magician. His bones can be found on Level 11, Xanathar's Outer Sanctum, along with a number of powerful magic items in a heap. These can be returned to the Dwarven Cleric on Level 5 in order to be resurrected.
  • Location - Level 11, Xanathar's Outer Sanctum
  • Class - Mage
  • Alignment - Neutral
LEVELHPACSTRCONINTDEXCHAWIS
721?11817181213

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