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.
11 – Prison Cells
Three doors lead from this long corridor. Spaced along the walls are twelve square cubicles, two of which are occupied. One of the occupants, a two-headed, six-armed monstrosity – throws itself against an invisible barrier in a vain attempt to free itself.
This corridor contains twelve prison cells, each one sealed by a permanent wall of force cast by Bzallin. The walls also render each cell completely soundproof. The lich may pass through the barriers with impunity. Dispel magic has no effect on a wall of force, but a wand of cancellation or a disintegrate spell destroys it. To place a prisoner inside a cell, Bzallin temporarily removes the wall and reactivates it once the prisoner is safely inside. The barrier does not bar the use of teleport and dimension door spells; however, all spellcasting prisoners are fitted with shackles of magic negation (see area 10).
Two of the cells are occupied. The remaining ten cells (determined by the GM) are empty. Characters captured by Bzallin’s forces may be placed in these cells.
Narikel (NE human female illusionist) is in one of the cells. She was one of Bzallin’s apprentices until she was caught trying to steal the lich’s staff of the sphere (see area 30). Narikel is deceitful and self-serving, willing to feign anything to get the characters to free her. She may assist the characters in fighting Bzallin provided she gets her fair share of magical items. Even then, she eventually betrays the characters to redeem herself in the eyes of the lich.
In the other cell is a six-armed, two-headed huge dire troll. If set free, this berserk magical creation attacks the characters on sight.
12 – The Living Floor
Ivory-colored tiles cover the floor of this 20 feet square chamber. This is deceiving because the “floor” is actually the belly of a trapper held in temporal stasis. The trapper is released via a contingency spell, triggered whenever a lawfully-aligned individual attempts to cross the room.
The trapper is a mimic, but with the following changes to its stat block:
Size. The trapper is Huge.
Hit Points. The trapper has 225 (18d8 + 108) hit points.
Abilities. The trapper has a Strength score of 25 (+7) and a Constitution score of 23 (+6).
Proficiency Bonus. The trapper has a +4 proficiency bonus.
Challenge. The trapper’s Challenge Rating is 9 (5,000 XP).
New Action: Multiattack. The trapper makes two pseudopod attacks.
Adjusted Attack: Pseudopod. Melee Weapon Attack: +11 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 20 (3d8 + 7) bludgeoning damage. If the trapper is in object form, the target is subjected to its Adhesive trait.
Adjusted Attack: Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +11 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 20 (3d8 + 7) piercing damage plus 9 (2d8) acid damage.
New Attack: Smother. Melee Weapon Attack: +11 to hit, reach 5 ft., one Large or smaller creature. Hit: The creature is grappled (escape DC 17). Until this grapple ends, the target is restrained, blinded, and at risk of suffocating, and the trapper can’t smother another target. In addition, at the start of each of the target’s turns, the target takes 17 (3d6 + 7) bludgeoning damage.
The trapper quickly wraps its folds around the lawful individual (and anyone else who happens to be standing close by) and squeezes its prey until killed or reduced to 1 hp. It continues to envelop its victim(s) for up to 8 hours after suffocation, allowing for digestion.
13 – Dining Hall
An iron chandelier fitted with glowing candles hangs above a monstrous table of stained redwood, around which fourteen comfortable chairs have been arranged. Ornate silverware graces the tabletop, and at the far end sits a fat, bearded figure dressed in crimson robes. He is tearing apart the leg of some large, cooked beast. Waiting on him are three servants dressed in neat, black uniforms. The walls are adorned with huge tapestries depicting the four elemental planes.
The hungry “mage” is none other than Vzarro. The characters will recognize this disguise from their last encounter with the sinister nycaloth (see “Amazzar’s Workroom” for details). Vzarro is busily devouring a cooked stench kow (prepared by the annis in area 19) and drinking mugfuls of baatezu blood (area 19). The three uniformed servants standing near him are actually mezzoloths using alter self spells to hide their true appearance. These are not the same mezzoloths encountered in “Part One.”
Spying on this chamber from area 14 are two bodaks drafted into service by the nycaloth. The bodaks are not eager to fight the party and remain in area 14 until called forth by Vzarro.
The secret door leading to area 14 is difficult to notice, requiring a successful DC 23 Intelligence (Investigation) check to find. A character can notice the peephole with a successful DC 21 Wisdom (Perception) check.
Vzarro is bound to service, but his loyalty is questionable. He wants the characters to destroy Bzallin, for only the lich’s destruction ensures his freedom. To allay Bzallin’s suspicions, however, Vzarro plans to kill one of the characters but let the rest “escape.” He lures the characters into the chamber and invites them to join in the feast. If the characters start asking questions, Vzarro keeps his answers as nebulous and vague as possible. He does not divulge Bzallin’s location in the event the lich is watching via his crystal ball. However, once he has chosen the character he wishes to slay and present to Bzallin as a trophy, he telepathically orders his mezzoloth henchmen to attack that one individual, cutting off the character’s escape if possible. given a chance, Mezzoloth #2 tries to catch the character in its net of entrapment while Mezzoloth #1 jabs the poor character through the net with its javelin of lightning. Vzarro is not afraid to engage in melee combat but teleports to a safer location is seriously opposed.
- Mezzoloth #1 is armed with a fully-charged javelin of lightning.
- Mezzoloth #2 carries a net of entrapment and a long sword +1.
- Mezzoloth #3 employs a rod of flailing with 30 charges.
The silverware on the dining table is worth 50,000 gp for the entire set, but there are nearly 100 separate pieces. The chandelier suspended above the table has 54 glass candles with continual light spells cast upon them. The four huge tapestries are worth 10,000 gp each but weigh 50+ lbs.
14 – Secret Storeroom
The floor of this 20-foot by 20-foot room is covered with a mottled carpet. Two ebony cabinets filled with silver dishware (value determined by the GM( stand against one wall while in the corner sits a large keg of sweet wine (2,500 gp).
Peering through the peep-hole in the secret door is a bodak. A second bodak lurks within this unlit chamber waiting to catch intruders with its dreaded death gaze. Any character who tries to look through the peep-hole into the secret room makes its Constitution saving throw with disadvantage as he or she is staring directly into the ey of a bodak. By a similar token, any character who jabs something slender through the peep-hole (like a rod) can make an attack roll with advantage, dealing piercing damage equal to 1d4 + the character’s Strength or Dexterity modifier (characters’ choice) and blinding the bodak. When blinded, the bodak’s gaze attack’s effectiveness is reduced; all saves made against its death gaze are done so with advantage.
The bodaks serve Bzallin and Vzarro out of fear. Both the lich and the yugoloth are unaffected by the bodaks’ fearsome death gaze. These hapless creatures are the remnants of adventurers slain on J’zzalshrak’s layer of the Abyss. They have no treasure.
15 – Apprentices’ Chambers
Enclosing the lecture hall (area 18) on three sides are fifteen 10-foot by 10-foot rooms reserved for Bzallin’s apprentices. Each chamber is furnished with basic comforts: a padded four-poster bed, a plush armchair, a desk, a small bookcase, and a cloak rack. The continual light spells that illuminate these areas may be turned on and off by uttering a simple command word.
The GM may allocate the rooms randomly, provided one is set aside for each of Bzallin’s 12 apprentices: Ajadarus (area 18), Cazmus (area 28), Dragen (area 30), Evelyn (area 30), Ezan (area 10), Kysh (see below), Malloch (area 30), Narikel (imprisoned in area 11), Prentiss (area 25), Raxalla (area 29), Talica (area 30), and Tzard (see below). Two of the rooms are empty.
Two of the rooms are occupied. Kysh (CE female human arcane trickster; see below) and Tzard (CE male drow mage) are either resting or studying their spellbooks. They have alarm spells cast on their doors which activate if either is opened.
Kysh uses the same stat block as a master thief, but with the following changes:
Abilities. Kysh’s Intelligence score is 14 (+2).
Skills. Kysh has proficiency in the Arcana skill.
Spellcasting. Kysh is a 7th-level spellcaster. Her spellcasting ability is Intelligence (spell save DC 13, +5 to hit with spell attacks). Kysh has the following wizard spells prepared:
- Cantrips (at will): fire bolt, friends, mage hand (the hand is invisible)
- 1st level (4 slots): charm person, colorspray, Tasha’s hideous laughter
- 2nd level (2 slots): blur, invisibility
Kysh is armed with a dagger +1 and a potion of gaseous form. Bzallin took a chance admitting Kysh into his dark school. As a struggling rogue who decided to give up her thieving ways to learn the black arts, Kysh does not want to jeopardize her growth as a mage by relying too heavily on her thieving skills. However, she falls back into her old habits if her spell power and potions prove ineffective.
Kysh’s spellbook is not trapped and contains an additional 1d8 1st-level and 1d8 2nd-level spells.
Tzard, a white-maned dark elf, is Ezan’s older brother (see area 10), but unlike his younger sibling, Tzard is exclusively a wizard by trade. Tzard is brooding and reclusive and prefers the dark interior of his room over the brightly lit chambers of Bzallin’s Cube. When confronted by the characters, Tzard casts a blur spell upon himself (time permitting) and either transforms himself into an umber hulk or attacks with his offensive spells.
Tzard is armed with a dagger +2 and a cloak of the umber hulk. The cloak polymorphs Tzard into an umber hulk. While umber hulk form, Tzard’s statistics are replaced with the statistics of the umber hulk, but he retains his alignment, personality, and Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores. He also retains all of his skill and saving throw proficiencies, in addition to gaining those of the umber hulk. If Tzard suffers 20 hp damage or more from edged weapons, acid, or magical fire, the cloak is destroyed.
Tzard’s spellbook is protected by a contagion spell and contains an additional 1d8 1st level, 1d6 3rd level, and 1d6 4th-level spells. The book is written using a magical ink that glows faintly when seen through drow eyes. To non-drow, the ink is invisible (although a true seeing or see invisibility spell may be used to reveal the script).
Regardless of the room, all apprentices keep their personal (both magical and mundane) in a fire trapped (75%) or ice trapped (25%) iron box. Anyone other than the owner who opens the box must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw or take 14 (4d6) cold damage or fire damage on a failed saving throw, or half as much damage on a successful one. Finding the traps requires a successful DC 15 Intelligence (Investigation) check and disarming them takes a successful DC 15 Dexterity check using thieves’ tools.
To determine what magical possessions are stored in each room, roll 1d12 and consult the table below. In addition to any items listed below, Talica and Ezan both keep their spellbooks in their rooms. Talica’s book contains all the spells she has memorized plus 1d8 1st-level, 1d6 2nd-level, 1d6 3rd-level, and 1d4 4th-level spells. Ezan’s book contains his memorized spells plus 1d4 1st-level, 1d4 2nd-level, and 1d4 3rd-level spells.
Roll to determine which magical items are found in the iron box:
A magical potion in a sealed crystal vial (roll 1d4): 1) healing, 2) anti-sleep, 3) blue dragon breath, 4) magic resistance.
|3 – 4||
A scroll in a crystal tube (protected by a sepia snake sigil), roll 1d4): 1) protection from energy (GM’s choice), 2) random 3rd-level spell, 3) random 4th-level spell, 4) random 5th-level spell.
|5 – 6||
A piece of jewelry (roll 1d4): 1) earring of alignment detection, 2) badge of monster control, 3) brooch of be going, 4) necklace of adaptation.
|7 – 8||
A bag containing 1d4 candles of the following type (roll 1d4): 1) darkness, 2) protection, 3) exploding, 4) evocation.
|9 – 10||
One of the following unique magic items: 1) Murlynd’s spoon, 2) quill pen of copying, 3) box of magical matches, 4) planar fork (GM’s choice).
|11||No magical item. Do not roll again.|
|12||Roll twice on the table using a d10.|
16-17 – Seminar Rooms
The floors of these soundproof chambers are adorned with tiled murals depicting rings of red, orange, and yellow fire around a central black disk. Hovering 4 feet above the floor is a 5-foot diameter circular crystal slab which serves as a floating tabletop. The transparent slab is smooth, polished, and held aloft by a permanent levitate spell. Each slab can support 250 lbs. before sinking to the floor. These chambers are used by Bzallin’s apprentices as seminar rooms and for out-of-class meetings.
The secret doors leading to area 18 may be detected normally. An avoidance spell cast by Bzallin on each door prevents non-wizards from approaching, let alone opening, the secret doors.
18 – Lecture Hall
Four rows of desks are arranged in the center of this spacious chamber. The desks face a stone dais with three steps. Mounted on the wall behind a heavy wooden lectern is a rectangular board of black slate covered with chalk marks, symbols, equations, and runes. The walls of this lecture hall are adorned with four large tapestries depicting scenes of magical destruction. The floor tiles, painted in varying shades of green and black, are arranged in a kaleidoscopic pattern. Lurking in a niche at the back of this lecture hall is a fearsome, beetle-like monster with black pincers, black antennae, and a gleaming black carapace.
Bzallin occasionally gives lectures to his apprentices on planar spellcraft and various potent spells. Bzallin’s board work includes complete casting notes for the 7th-level spell simulacrum. Wizards below 13th-level cannot decipher the scrawls, while those 13th-level or higher have normal chances of learning the spell from the information given. Ajadarus (CE male human mage but without any 4th or 5th-level spells and can’t cast fireball; CR 4), an over-eager wizard, is seated behind one of the front-row desks with his spellbook, copying a fireball spell from a scroll given to him by Bzallin. He is too distracted to notice the characters who quietly slip in through one of the secret doors.
The 8-foot tall “beetle-like monster” lurking in the alcove is a ceramic rendering of the tanar’ri lord J’zzalshrak. A single blow causing 10 hp damage or more is required to shatter one of its limbs. Six such blows are enough to destroy the entire statue. The statue, though horribly realistic, is neither magical nor dangerous.
Bzallin’s lectern is actually a killer mimic held in temporal stasis. The spell terminates whenever someone other than Bzallin touches it or inspects it for compartments and hollow cavities. Once it secures its prey, the mimic does not let go until slain or charmed.
The killer mimic has the same statistics as a regular mimic except with the following changes:
Armor Class. The killer mimic’s Armor Class is 14 (natural armor).
Hit Points. The killer mimic’s hit points are 78 (12d8 + 24).
Damage Resistance. The killer mimic is resistant to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage made with non-magical weapons.
Proficiency Bonus. The killer mimic’s proficiency bonus is +3.
Challenge. The killer mimic’s challenge rating is 5 (1,800 XP).
New Action: Multiattack. The killer mimic makes two attacks with its pseudopods and one attack with its bite.
If attacked, Ajadarus defends himself with his ring of spell storing given to him by Bzallin, first by casting his prismatic spray spell and then following up with hold person and magic missile (all cast at Bzallin’s spellcasting save DC 20). If swarmed by multiple foes, Ajadarus grabs his spellbook and uses the ring’s teleport ability to escape to area 30.
Ajadarus is armed with a dagger +1. His ring of spell storing contains a magic missile, shocking grasp, blindness/deafness, knock, and lightning bolt spell. His spellbook contains all the spells he has memorized.
19 – Kitchen
The kitchen is within easy reach of the dining room (area 13), and its accouterments include a small work table cluttered with pots, a wall shelf stacked with foodstuffs, and a large fireplace next to which are three kegs of baatezu blood which tanar’ri drink like wine (non-planar creatures who imbibe the vile liquid must make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or take 4d6 poison damage and become poisoned on a failed saving throw, or half as much damage and not become poisoned on a successful one). Hanging in the hearth are two large copper cauldrons filled with a surprisingly tasty broth.
Occupying the kitchen are two annis, Maelgor and Jzulla, pressed into service by the lich Bzallin.
If intruders are detected the hags attack with their bite and claws. If either gets within range of a dangerous spellcaster or melee combatant, she will use her crushing hug attack on the target. Maelgor wears a ring of fire resistance while Jzulla wears a ring of true seeing and carries the key to the strongbox (see below).
The annis keep several potions in a locked strongbox of immobility located on the floor under the table. The box is magically anchored to its current position and cannot be budged by any force. Maelgor carries the key for the box. Inside are six unlabeled potions: superior healing (x2), metal immunity(grants the drinker stoneskin for 1 hour), invisibility, drow poison, and clairvoyance.
20 – Portal Chamber
This room is filled with swirling gray dust. A bright golden light emanates from a circular portal which has formed in the middle of the far wall. Heaped in the corners are mounds of loose earth, and perched atop these piles are several winged creatures.
This chamber acts as a gateway between the Cube and the various elemental, para-elemental, and quasi-elemental planes. Lately, however, the portal has been malfunctioning and attracting curious mephits to Bzallin’s lair. The mephits stop by to chat and bicker with one another, waiting for the portal to open a gate back to their own plane. The portal’s destination changes randomly every nine rounds. For the moment, the portal is open to the plane of Radiance (hence the bright light). If the characters remain for more than two rounds, 1d4 radiant mephits (see the appendix) fly through the portal and begin pestering the other mephits. The portal’s destination changes the following round, opening into the plane of Ash, Smoke, Fire, Ice, Ooze, Salt, or some other element (DM’s choice). There is a 5% non-cumulative chance that the portal opens into the Quasi-elemental plane of Vacuum. Anyone inside the room at that time it must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw or get sucked into the Void and lost forever. Only a wish spell can bring the creature back.
Occupying the chamber are 1d4 mephits of the following types: earth mephits, radiant mephits, and dust mephits. Unless provoked, the mephits won’t attack the characters.
Gate spells are confounded by the presence of the elemental portal. The mephits can still gate other mephits with a 30% chance of success, but the type of mephit is limited to whichever elemental plane is currently connected via the portal.
There are two mephit variants listed here: earth and radiant. Make the following changes to each:
Earth Mephits. Use the dust mephit stat block, except its Armor Class is 13 (natural armor), and it is not vulnerable to fire damage, but thunder damage instead.
Radiant Mephits. Use the steam mephit stat block, except it is vulnerable to necrotic damage and immune to radiant damage (along with poison and fire damage). Also, tts steam breath deals radiant damage instead of fire damage and blinds a creature on a failed saving throw.
Thumbnail art by Christopher Burdett.