The original ‘Bzallin’s Blacksphere‘ was written by Chris Perkins in the September 1997 issue of Dungeon Magazine (#64). The original art was done by Bradley K. McDevitt and the Cartography was by Rob Lazzaretti. I’ve since converted it to Fifth Edition for educational purposes.
Part Three: Lair of the Lich
Bzallin’s lair is located in a spatially-warped, extra-dimensional pocket plane. This wrap-around complex of subterranean chambers conforms to the shape of a cube. This design is deliberate, as it allows Bzallin to move quickly to areas that would otherwise be isolated and distant. The cube was created with the aid of Bzallin’s ally, J’zzalshrak. This beetle-like tanar’ri has beefed up Bzallin’s roster with a few tanar’ri guardians.
Not only has Bzallin pledged loyalty to the tanar’ri but also he and J’zzalshrak have begun training wizards for front-line duty in the Blood War. Most of these fatalistic “hopefuls” were drafted from various strongholds throughout the planes. Bzallin is providing them with the knowledge and resources to harness their destructive potential and plans to use their spell power to augment J’zzalshrak’s tanar’ric forces.
if possible, the GM should avoid revealing the cube-like nature of Bzallin’s complex. Players will begin to realize something is amiss when they unexpectedly re-enter an area they’ve already explored.
To succeed in their quest, the characters must confront Bzallin and obtain his talisman of the sphere. The talisman acts as a conduit between the lich and the blacksphere, harnessing Bzallin’s negative energy to expand the size of the sphere. Stealing the talisman should be enough to halt the blacksphere’s growth. Each hour the amulet remains apart from the lich (or any powerful conduit of negative energy for that matter), the sphere shrinks by 5% its current size. The sphere stops shrinking when reduced to a diameter of 12 inches (at which point Amazzar, if he is alive, can destroy it safely using a gate spell). If the talisman is hurled into the sphere of annihilation, the sphere collapses (without damaging the city) and the talisman is lost forever.
If one of the flameskulls managed to warn the lich of the party’s impending assault, Bzallin takes measures to protect himself and the talisman. The talisman’s steady drain leave the lich fatigued, so he places the nycaloth Vzarro in charge of security, assuming the yugoloth survived the encounter in “Part One.” Assisting Vzarro is one of J’zzalshrak’s agents – a babau named Koroxon – who oversees security in Vzarro’s absence.
Notable Cube Features
Bzallin’s complex is carved out of an unfamiliar smoke-colored stone resembling polished marble. The floor tiles are colored differently from room to room, laid out in twisted mosaics and jagged patterns. Most of the rooms in Bzallin’s Cube have 20 foot high ceilings illuminated by continual light spells. The corridors are lit in a similar fashion with ceilings 15 feet high. Characters who try to burrow or move through the floor, ceiling, or walls are blocked after 10 feet by an impenetrable wall of force which completely encases the Cube. This indestructible shell is 100% resistance to magic and physical damage, for beyond these barriers lies the Void (the quasi-elemental plane of Vacuum).
All normal doors are made from a strong greenish wood. None of the doors have locks, but Bzallin can arcane lock them simply by casting his guards and wards spell.
Transportive spells such as teleport, phase door, and dimension door (and items and features which duplicate their effects) do not function if used to move individual objects into or out of Bzallin’s Cube. These spells function normally if employed within the confines of the Cube. For instance, Bzallin could teleport himself from his study (area 31) to another location within the lair, but not to a location outside the Cube. The Cube is also closed to the Astral and Ethereal planes. There are several ways to enter or leave the Cube: the teleporter dais in area 1, a plane shift spell, a gate, or a cubic gate (see area 22).
The ranges of all divination-type spells cast (or similar effects) within the Cube are restricted to the room or corridor in which the spell is cast. Peering into other planes from within the Cube is not possible, except within certain areas as noted. The Cube cannot be spied on from any source external to it except where noted otherwise.
Most importantly, clerics, paladins, and warlocks cannot recover any spells above 2nd-level while they are inside the Cube. This is due to the Cube’s extra-planar construction (cutting divine spellcasters and warlocks off from their respective patrons). All other spellcasters can recover their spells normally.
Lastly, all of the intelligent inhabitants of Bzallin’s Cube are familiar with the layout of the complex. They will use their knowledge of the lair to every possible advantage when confronted by a powerful, invasive force such as the characters.
Green wooden doors. 1 inch thick, AC 15, 100 hp. When arcane locked, the doors require a successful DC 28 Strength check to break open or a successful DC 28 Dexterity check using thieves’ tools to pick.
Guards and Wards
When Bzallin becomes aware of intruders inside the Cube, he first uses his crystal ball with clairaudience to determine the party’s location, then casts his guards and wards spell. The spell has the following effects:
- All doors are arcane locked.
- All corridors become misty as if under the effect of a fog cloud spell. A gust of wind clears the mist for one round before it fills the corridor again.
- Everything inside the Cube radiates magic, making detect magic spells useless unless a spellcaster upcasts detect magic using a 4th-level or higher spell slot.
- A powerful suggestion is placed upon the door to area 31, affecting the first character to approach within 10 feet of the portal (DC 20). The suggestion is simple: “Guard this door and kill any living being that tries to open it.” The lich does not count as a “living being,” nor does his undead shadow fiend servant, unseen servants, and automatons.
The guards and wards spell makes it difficult for some of the Cube’s residents to move about the complex, For the most part, they remain in predetermined areas until confronted by intruders, at which point they attack. Some exceptions include apprentices with knock spells and fiends with the ability to cast teleport or dimension door spells. The GM may wish to stage a few random encounters with Bzallin’s apprentices and Koroxon the babau in the misty corridors of the Cube.
1 – Dais and Statues
Read the following when the characters first arrive, assuming they appear atop the teleporter dais:
From the dusty tower chamber of Bzallin’s ruined citadel, you are transported to a large, well-lit room with a high vaulted ceiling, a tiled mosaic floor, and three alcoves. Placed in the alcoves are life-sized renderings of three horrific fiends, each one carved from dark green stone.
The three statues are actually petrified barbed devils – victims of Bzallin’s flesh to stone spell. Bzallin displays them as trophies, reinforcing his allegiance to the tanar’ri. Characters who restore these fiends to life are mistaken for Bzallin’s allies and attacked without deliberation. If the characters can restrain the baatezu long enough to prove they are enemies of the lich, they can attempt to use a DC 22 Charisma (Persuasion) check to form an alliance with the barbed devils, assuming the characters live up to their claims.
If Bzallin is warned of the PCs impending arrival and has a full turn to prepare, he dispatches two apprentices (Dragen and Malloch from area 30) to subdue or destroy the interlopers. These wizards are joined by six juju zombies (three per mage, taken from area 28) who follow their masters’ orders without question. Dragen and Malloch use their invisibility spells to conceal themselves and the juju zombies, attacking as the PCs step down from the dais. If the battle turns against the wizards, they retreat to area 30, using their knock spells (if necessary) to get through the door.
The characters can return to Bzallin’s citadel by stepping onto the dais and uttering the command word, “J’zzalshrak.” An identify spell cast upon the dais or a successful detect thoughts spell cast upon one of the Cube’s occupants reveals the proper command word.
2 – Spider Construct
Hanging on the walls of this chamber are four huge tapestries depicting scenes of carnage. Hordes of baatezu and tanar’ri are portrayed in scenes of fiery battle, dismemberment, and devastation. In the middle of the chamber stands a tall metal spider with razor-sharp mandibles, eight jointed legs, and four crystal lenses for eyes. Tightening bolts on top of the contraption is a grimy little man with a large nose, wearing a gleaming metal vest. Next to him is a hatch that descents into the metal spider.
The tapestries depict scenes of the Blood War and are valued at an average of 6,000 gp each. They weight 150 lbs. apiece.
The metal spider is a magically-powered construct, built by Bzallin with the aid of several enslaved deep gnomes. It is manned by a charmed deep gnome named Garaflix who controls the spider’s attacks and movements by a series of iron levers. The spider’s movements are somewhat awkward, but its leg span allows it to cross the chamber quickly.
Garaflix the svirfneblin enters and exits via a hatch on the spider’s “back.” When he spots intruders, the gnome scurries into the contraption, bolts the overhead hatch, and activates the spider (this takes one round). The interior is not large enough to accommodate anyone of Medium size or larger. The spider is not air-tight, and the driver is afforded no protection against gas attacks. The spider sustains full damage from lightning attacks, but the driver is insulated and protected from residual damage. Garaflix has limited vision through the four crystal windows and cannot see opponents in the rear or rear flanks. The crystal windows have glassteel spells cast upon them, rendering them unbreakable.
If freed of his charm, Garaflix happily joins the party and aids them any way he can. The svirfneblin is a master craftsman and can build just about anything with a few tools and a little ingenuity.
3 – Kitty’s Black Ball
Two padded sofas and three plush armchairs are placed around a circular rug in the middle of the room. Watching you with disinterest are two gray cats wearing shiny silver bell-collars. These felines are nestled in the corners of a sofa. A third cat is playing with a small black ball on the rug.
Four doors lead from this chamber. A 3-inch diameter hemispherical indentation is carved into the wall next to each door. To open a door safely, the characters must take the cats’ “black ball” and place it in the indentation. Doing so causes the door handle to glow for 3 rounds, during which time the door may be opened safely. Any character who otherwise touches a door is struck by a feeblemind spell (DC 20). Bzallin’s apprentices are equally susceptible to the trap, but they know enough to use the black ball for safe passage. The ball is made of a lightweight, virtually indestructible metal with no other special properties.
The four cats are really balgura tanar’ri. They assume their true form if attacked or if the characters try to take the black ball. The balgura wear iron collars of polymorphing (which duplicate the effects of a polymorph spell).
The balguras use their entangle innate spells to prevent the characters from leaving, then attack with their bite and fists.
4. Supplies Storage
This chamber contains two long shelves. The lower shelf is lined with blankets, linen sheets, and towels. The upper shelf is covered with stacks of loose parchment, stoppered jars of ink (various types), quills, blank 50-page spellbooks, and empty scroll tubes. The GM may determine the exact number and nature of these mundane items.
5. Crystallized Ones
Placed in the corners of this room are six transparent, crystalline statues depicting female warriors in plate mail wearing helmets and artificial wings.
The statues are the petrified remains of six clerics of the Illuminati, an obscure lawful good order that was obliterated while trying to invade J’zzalshrak’s layer of the Abyss. The clerics have been crystallized by a flesh to stone spell. If freed, these zealous NPCs (LG female human priestesses) insist that the characters help them destroy Bzallin, his apprentices, and their tanar’ri allies. Characters who refused are ridiculed and scorned, but not attacked.
The priestesses are each equipped with plate mail +1, wings of flying, footman’s mace +1, and rope of entanglement. These items are only available if they are returned to their normal form.
6 – The Water Weird Pool
Most of this area is taken up by a wading pool of crystal clear water. The pool is enclosed by a white marble rim, and the floor is tiled with patterns of blue and green. Hanging on one wall is a horrid tapestry depicting fiends swimming in a river of blood. Two stone benches are positioned near the walls.
The shallowness of the pool is a permanent illusion concealing its true depth of 10 feet. A true seeing spell will penetrate the illusion and reveal the treasure hidden at the bottom (see below). Living within the pool are five water weirds that keep their presence secret until an intruder tries to drink the water, immerse in the pool, extract a water sample, or retrieve the treasure. The water weirds are intelligent, and they’ve been trained not to attack the residents of Bzallin’s Cube. The water weirds allow such individuals to bathe in the pool and remove water as they see fit.
Water weirds attack with watery pseudopods which form instantaneously. A successful attack roll indicates the victim has been dragged underwater.
Hidden at the bottom of the pool is the water weird’s treasure: 583 gp (loose), a dagger +1 with a squid-shaped handle (imparts water breathing upon its wielder), a suit of elven chain mail +2, a shield +1, a blue crystal key of opening (14 charges, any locked object it touches has a 75% chance of opening), and a ring of depetrifiction (13 charges; restores victims of flesh to stone spells and similar effects).
7 – Flaming Doors
The three doors that lead from this chamber are painted with the picture of a salamander standing in a pool of fire and clutching a black, two-pronged pitchfork. The room itself is empty save for the decorative, star-shaped mosaic on the floor.
All three doors are magically trapped from this side. Anyone who touches a door without first uttering the proper command word (“Koroxon”) must make a DC 13 Dexterity saving throw, taking for 28 (8d6) magical fire damage on a failed saving throw, or half as much damage on a successful one. The flames spring from the mouth of the salamander painting and continue to burn the victim. At the start of each of the target’s turns, it takes an additional 7 (2d6) fire damage. A creature can use its action to put the flames out.
The trap is magical in nature and can be detected with a successful DC 20 Intelligence (Arcana) check or a successful DC 25 Intelligence (Investigation) check. The trap can only be removed with a dispel magic spell (DC 19).
8 – Jillian’s Quarters
This 10 foot by 20 feet chamber contains a carved stone bed belonging to Koroxon’s lieutenant, an elite cambion named Jillian (area 9). The walls are lined with eight metal shields adorned with spikes, horns, and hideous visages. One of the shields is shaped in the likeness of the Abyssal lord Fraz-Urb’luu; any non-tanar’ri who touches this shield must make a DC 20 Wisdom saving throw. On a failed saving throw, the creature is cursed with a permanent inability to speak truthfully. A remove curse spell or ring of truth negates the effect.
9. Armory and Storage
Jillian (CE female elite cambion) occupies this chamber. Her innate intuition warns her of impending danger most of the time (see has advantage on initiative checks). If she senses the approach of intruders, the hateful cambion shapechanges into a young human female and plays her role to the hilt, claiming that she was lured to Bzallin’s Cube by the nycaloth Vzarro and coerced into becoming a servant for Bzallin’s apprentices. Familiar with the layout of the Cube, she leads the party to the nycaloth (area 13).\ where she hopes one or the other will be destroyed.
Jillian is searching the chamber for a suitable dagger to add to her personal arsenal. She recently lost her old dagger on an excursion and needs to replace it. If disguised as a human servant, she claims to be searching for a dagger that she wrongfully placed with the others in storage. The dagger supposedly belongs to Raxalla in area 29.
For Jillian use the same statistics as a normal cambion, but with the following changes:
Hit Points. Jillian has 142 (19d8 + 57) hit points.
Proficiency Bonus. Jillian’s proficiency bonus is +4, giving her a +1 bonus to all of her saving throws, skills, and attack rolls, as well as the save DC for her Innate Spellcasting.
Challenge. Jillian’s Challenge Rating is 10 (5,900 XP).
Innate Spellcasting. Jillian can cast dimension door once per day. In addition, she can cast darkness three times per day.
New Trait: Alert. Jillian has a +5 bonus to initiative. She can’t be surprised while she is conscious, and other creatures don’t gain advantage on attack rolls against her as a result of being unseen by her.
New Trait: Great Weapon Fighter. Jillian gains a +2 damage bonus to attacks that she makes with a melee weapon she wields with two hands.
New Trait: Improved Critical. Jillian scores a critical hit with a melee weapon on a roll of 19 or 20.
Multiattack. Jillian can make three melee attacks or can use her fire ray three times.
Jillian uses her command innate spell and fiendish charm to coerce her enemies into surrounding and reserves her dimension door for quick escapes. She likes to stalk her enemies using the mist-filled corridors of Bzallin’s Cube and carefully laid darkness spells to conceal her presence.
Resting against the walls of this chamber are seven unlocked iron trunks containing weapons and armor. Bzallin intends to hire mercenaries to fight alongside the tanar’ri in the Blood War, and this equipment (crafted by the slaves in the Abyss) will be used to secure their loyalty. The trunks contain the following:
- Trunk #1 holds 6 suits of plate mail +1 and a suit of plate mail +2 designed for a female elf.
- Trunk #2 contains 6 shields +1 and 6 helmets of protection (acts as a cloak of protection).
- Trunk #3 contains 14 long swords +1, 5 long swords +2, 10 short swords +1, and 10 short swords +2.
- Trunk #4 holds a battle axe, 3 morning stars, a morning star +1, and a maul +2.
- Trunk #5 contains 11 greatswords, 5 greatswords +1, a scimitar +1, and 15 daggers +1.
- Trunk #6 holds 15 spears +1, 24 daggers, and 9 daggers +2.
- Trunk #7 contains six suits of splint mail +1 and a suit of studded leather armor +2.
10 – Jailer’s Den
Guarding this chamber is Ezan (CE male drow elite warrior) who recently joined Bzallin’s school of wizardry. As a newcomer, he is assigned the most boring tasks. No one has ever escaped from Bzallin’s prison, and Ezan feels his talents are being wasted serving guard duty. At the moment, Ezan is playing chess with one of Bzallin’s invisible stalkers (and winning). Being drow, he keeps the light in the chamber relatively dim.
Ezan can cast the same cantrips and 1st level spells as a drow mage (he only has 3 slots for 1st level).
Ezan keeps his distance, using his ring of ice knives and witch bolt spell. In melee combat, he wields a longsword +1. Ezan wears chain mail +2 and a ring of protection, giving him AC 19 (his CR is 8). The stalker attacks intruders on sight.
Next to the door leading to area 11 is a locked iron chest containing 11 pairs of steel shackles. These shackles of magic negation prevent spellcasting and suppress innate magic abilities. Once locked, they can be removed only by a knock or dispel magic spell. They shackles have resistance to spells and magic effects. The shackles have an AC of 19 and 75 hit points are immune to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical weapons. Characters can use the shackles to prevent captured NPCs from employing spells and spell-like abilities. The chest is warded by a Leomond’s trap spell, and Ezan carries the only key.
Other furnishings in the room include a black marble table displaying an ornate chessboard (450 gp, plus 32 steel chessmen worth 10 gp apiece), two padded chairs, and a bold tapestry depicting the Quasi-elemental plane of Lightning (worth 7,500 gp).