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.
by Christopher Perkins
This adventure is a challenging high-level Fifth Edition adventure designed for three to five 13th-level characters. The adventure begins in the frontier city of Horizon, but the GM may change the location to better suit his or her existing campaign. The party should contain a variety of character classes, although at least one arcane spellcaster and one cleric is strongly recommended.
The GM should read this adventure thoroughly before refereeing it. Many of the adversaries are NPCs with considerable spell repertories and numerous magic items. To play these antagonists effectively, the GM should become familiar with their abilities, possessions, and tactics. GMs are invited to remove or change any spells or magic items which are unfamiliar or unnecessary. The adventure features several original monsters as well as those found in traditional Fifth Edition supplements.
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Beginning the Adventure
The characters are summoned to the city of Horizon by its benevolent overseer, Glynn Palderus (LG male human noble). Palderus has heard a great deal about the characters’ past exploits and needs their skills to save his city from total annihilation.
Read or paraphrase the following:
Welcome to Horizon – a beautiful city by the Bronze River delta on the edge of the wild frontier. You have been summoned here to meet with the city’s overseer, Glynn Palderus. Horizon’s city hall is easy to locate: a tall triangular building with three slender towers of white stone. The letter you received on the overseer’s behalf was eloquent but urgent:
My adventurous friends,
I speak on behalf of the citizens of Horizon, for our city is in dire need of your services. I hereby request an audience with you to discuss this urgent matter.
In brief, a foul magical curse has beset Horizon. We need your skill and experience to spare our city from the vengeance of a wizard bent on destroying everything we hold dear.
I eagerly await my messenger’s return with news of your decision.
Will you concede to meet with me at Horizon’s city hall, whereupon I will describe our precarious situation and petition for your aid?
Overseer of Horizon
The overseer is elated to see you in person. Palderus leads you to his office in one of the towers and draws your attention to a window, beyond which can be seen the avenues and market squares of the city. Horizon shines in the morning sun, but all is not well.
A hemisphere of impenetrable darkness has formed at the intersection of two main boulevards. According to Palderus, the hemisphere was approximately 1 foot in diameter when it first appeared three days ago. Its radius has since increased to approximately 20 feet. Palderus assures you that the hemispherical void is growing steadily, and no amount of magic has affected it. Nothing tha tenters the void emerges, and anything that passes through its outer rim is irresistibly drawn inside.
“I have consulted with Amazzar, our resident mage, and he believes the dreadful void is actually spherical. I believe he calls it a sphere of annihilation, although he admitted he had never seen one grow in size like this. According to Amazzar, the sphere utterly destroys anything absorbed into it. Many citizens believe the city has been doomed by the gods. Some have moved away, but most residents have nowhere else to go. Amazzar has other theories about its origin. He believes the sphere was created by a wizard named Bzallin, who once held the post of Horizon’s wizard-protector before he vanished on some errand to the Outer Planes. Amazzar, his replacement, found some of Bzallin’s old research notes hidden in the wall of his study. One of the notes described a “void of utter blackness” that could be controlled and used as a devastating weapon.
“If the sphere continues to grow at its present rate, Horizon will be consumed in fewer than seven days. Nothing would remain except a crater in the ground – and then there’s no guarantee the sphere would stop increasing in size! Amazzar has asked to meet with you to discuss the matter further. Will you consent to this meeting?”
Characters who choose to inspect the sphere at closer range are free to do so. Except for its size, its powers and nature are identical to a standard sphere of annihilation (see the DMG page 201). Palderus insists that the PCs do nothing to the sphere until they have consulted with Amazzar.
Glynn Palderus knows very little about magic. He’s a skilled politician with a genuine concern for his people; however, characters wishing to learn more about the blacksphere must consult with Horizon’s expert, Amazzar. If the characters agree to a meeting, Palderus removes a delicate crystal rod from the top drawer of his desk. He then says, “With this rod, I will transport you safely to Amazzar’s magic workroom.” Palderus walks over to the characters and touches each of them with the tip of the rod, speaking Amazzar’s name (the rod’s command word) each time the rod is used. Characters who allow themselves to be touched by the wand are immediately teleported to the “magic circle” rug in Amazzar’s workshop. Characters who resist are allowed a DC 15 Charisma saving throw to avoid being teleported. The crystal rod of teleporting has 10 charges.
Part One: Amazzar’s Workroom
Amazzar’s workroom is a windowless chamber located in a tower attached to Horizon’s library. There is no conventional means of entering this chamber, for there are no doors or windows. Amazzar uses glassteel spells to render the ceiling transparent to the sky, thus allowing light to enter. He comes and goes via a permanent phase door set into one wall.
Magic cast upon the workroom protects it from scrying spells, crystal balls, and other divination spells and magic items that infringe upon Amazzar’s privacy. Read or paraphrase the following description of Amazzar’s workroom when the PCs arrive:
With a touch of the crystal rod, you are instantly transported to a brightly lit chamber with six walls. The ceiling rises to an apex nearly twenty feet above the tiled floor, and six triangular windows along the ceiling allow the morning sun to enter.
You are standing atop a beautiful embroidered rug that resembles a magic star. Ornate designs are sewn into the rug with gold and silver thread. Nearby are three rows of bookshelves packed with volumes of lore. Other furnishings include a round table, a wall shelf lined with spell components and various jars, a neatly-made bed with a black crow perched on one bedpost, a life-sized statue of a shocked-looking wizard, and two cluttered desks. Seated at one of the desks with his back to you is an elderly man wearing a skullcap. He is leafing through the pages of a thick tome.
The wizard seated at the desk is a programmed illusion of Amazzar. As an exercise in relaxation, the real wizard has polymorphed himself into a cat, rendered himself invisible, and climbed atop the nearest bookshelf to view his expected visitors. If the characters try to get “Amazzar’s” attention, the illusory mage continues to read his book (a cookbook written in Orcish) without distraction. If the characters give up on him, they are free to inspect some of the room’s contents (see “Workroom Features” below) before the real Amazzar makes his presence known. If the characters try speaking with Amazzar’s crow familiar, it stars at them vacantly, blinking in a disinterested manner. Meanwhile, Amazzar jumps down from the bookshelf and revers to his true form.
Amazzar (CG male human archmage) is friendly and approachable, and he takes his duty as Horizon’s protector very seriously. He has spent the last several days (on and off) researching the nature of Bzallin’s enlarging sphere of annihilation. Years ago, when he replaced Bzallin as the city’s guardian, he found some dusty old notes tucked away in one of Bzallin’s forgotten tomes. In these pages, Bzallin described how an ordinary sphere of annihilation could grow if it were fed energy from the Negative Material plane and linked via a magical conduit to the Quasi-elemental Plane of Vacuum (which most wizards refer to as simply “the Void”). Apparently, Bzallin has succeeded in doing just that. Amazzar believes that Bzallin obtained a sphere of annihilation from somewhere int he Outer Planes, transported it to Horizon, and is using a device (perhaps a talisman of some sort, similar to an “ordinary” talisman of the sphere) to infuse the sphere with the energy needed to make it grow.
Amazzar’s Magic Items
In addition to the equipment normally worn by an archmage, Amazzar has the following magic items on personage: bracers of defense, ioun stone of greater absorption, robe of stars, wand of paralysis (7 charges), wand of fireball (7 charges). He also carries three gate spell scrolls.
Origins of the Sphere
Amazzar and Bzallin were friendly rivals, always enticing each other with their spell research. The two wizards were not exactly friends, but they respect each other’s intellect and abilities. Ten years ago, without explanation, Bzallin resigned as Horizon’s wizard-protector, suggesting that Amazzar be offered the position in his stead. He removed his remaining possessions from the city and retired to his citadel in the Ruvean Forest. Days later, the citadel was besieged by fiends from the outer planes and left a crumbling ruin. Scouts from Horizon were sent to investigate the citadel after huge fires swept through the forest. A few of these scouts encountered minor fiends (such as lemures and nupperibo) outside the ruins. No clues pointed to Bzallin’s whereabouts, and most people at first assumed he was driven away or, more likely, dragged off to the pits of Baator or some gloomy layer of the Abyss.
Amazzar has no clues to Bzallin’s whereabouts, but he believes that Bzallin (or someone associated with him) is responsible for the blacksphere in Horizon. Why Bzallin would choose to destroy Horizon is unknown. As far as Amazzar is concerned, Bzallin has no enemies of consequence living with the city, and Glynn Palderus spoke of no hard feelings when Bzallin left his post. In any event, Amazzar hasn’t had the time to give it much thought. (The true fate of Bzallin is fully described in “Part Two: Bzallin’s Citadel.”)
Bzallin’s old notes provide little information to how the blacksphere was created; after all, these pages constituted only his preliminary research and not his most detailed work. Nevertheless, Amazzar recently procured a tome titled Destructive Magics which details spheres of annihilation among other things. From this tome, Amazzar has learned of three ways to destroy the sphere, taking into account the blacksphere’s increasing size:
- Casting a gate spell on the blacksphere has a 50% chance of destroying it, a 35% chance of doing nothing, and a 15% chance of tearing the spatial fabric and annihilating everything with a 1-to-4-mile radius (including the remaining city and likely the surrounding farmland). Amazzar has procured a three gate spell scrolls for this contingency, but he will only use it as a last resort (i.e. if the party fails).
- Touching the sphere with a rod of cancellation collapses the sphere but also triggers an explosion with a radius in yards 10 times greater than the blacksphere’s radius in feet. For example, if the sphere has a 15-foot radius, the explosion would have an approximate radius of 150 yards. Everything caught in the blast sustains 105 (30d6) force damage. This is not a viable option given the size and density of Horizon’s population.
- Amazzar believes that Bzallin has a magical device that controls the sphere’s growth. The characters could use this device to shrink the sphere’s size and destroy it without jeopardizing the city. For details on the talisman of the sphere, refer to page 207 of the DMG or the “Bzallin’s Talisman” sidebar below.
Based on the above information, can think of only one way to stop the blacksphere without endangering innocent lives:
“My attempts to locate Bzallin have failed. I ask that you travel to the ruins of Bzallin’s citadel and search there for clues to his current whereabouts. Those who have visited tthe ruins in the past claim they are haunted but don’t let these rumors dissuade you.
“Horizon’s sphere of annihilation continues to grow at a slow but steady pace. It’s only a matter of days before it engulfs the city. I believe the sphere was placed here by Bzallin himself, or by someone familiar with his research. I believe whoever is responsible has created a magical device that increases the sphere’s diameter. If such an item exists, you must retrieve it. With the aid of this device, I’m certain I can reverse the growth of the sphere before it obliterates Horizon. Once we have restored the sphere to its original size, I can use a gate spell to destroy it with minimal damage to the surrounding city.”
Once the characters are informed of their quest, they may bid farewell to Amazzar and make preparations to visit Bzallin’s citadel. Amazzar has a crystal rod in his desk similar to the one which Glynn Palderus used; if the characters have no way to reach the citadel quickly, Amazzar offers to teleport them there. However, before the characters have the chance to leave, Amazzar is “visited” by some unwelcome guests. Refer to “The Yugoloth Intruders” below.
Amazzar’s workshop contains many things of interest. Below are brief descriptions of the various furnishings and contents. Characters should not be given free access to Amazzar’s possessions. However, if Amazzar is slain by Vzarros and his henchmen (see “The Yugoloth Intruders”), no one stops the characters from taking what they want.
- Magic circle rug. This handsome carpet is worth 12,000 gp intact. Chances are the rug is damaged or destroyed in the battle with Bzallin’s yugoloths.
- Chairs of comfort. Amazzar’s two chairs are both magical in nature. Anyone who sits in either chair feels comfortable beyond compare. A creature sitting in either chair gains the benefits from a short or long rest in half the time normally required. Each chair is worth 4,500 gp intact.
- Round table. This table has been enchanted with a permanent animate object spell, but only Amazzar knows the command words for activated and controlling it. If a creature uses its action to utter the proper command word, the table comes to life and unhinges its six metal arms (hidden in the underside). One of its arms grasps a wand of magic missile. The table is also endowed with average Intelligence and can pick targets as it sees fit (see attack table in the appendix). Once activated, the table can be commanded with the proper command words, requiring no additional actions.
- Amazzar’s desks. These desks are ordinary but covered with sheaves of paper, ink jars, ornate paperweights, and other junk. Many of the inks are rare and quite valuable (500 gp per jar). There are eight jars in total. Buried with the junk in one desk is a crystal rod of teleporting (10 charges) similar to the one used by Glynn Palderus. Amazzar used this rod to transport the party safely to Bzallin’s ruined citadel if they so wish.
- Wall shelf. In addition to a vast assortment of spell components, this shelf contains the following potions: aging, ambrosia, antidote (all poisons), anti-magic, clairvoyance, controlling damage, deftness, brass dragon control, ethereality, good humor, human control, insulation, lightning form, lucky, magic blocking, magic shielding, mind focusing, protection from immiscibility, regeneration, resistance to cold, resistance to fire, sobriety, stone form, superior healing, useful appendages, and vitality. Many of the potions listed here are not in the PHB or XGtE. Feel free to come up with uses for these potions or different potions for the characters to find.
- Bookshelves. There are literally hundreds of valuable tomes packed into these shelves. Included with the more benign books of lore are dozens of spell books, each one warded by a magical spell (glyph of warding, Mordenkainen’s sword, invisible stalker, feeblemind, or symbol of stunning). Contained with these books are all the 1st through 8th level spells described in the PHB plus 2d10 spells from XGtE (determined randomly by the GM).
- Statue. This is all that remains of Drellenor, a chaotic evil wizard who was petrified by Amazzar’s flesh to stone spell. If he is restored to life, Drellenor (CE male half-elf archmage) is carrying a Staff of the Magi (31 charges), a dagger of armor piercing, a dart of slaying planar monsters, and a ring of clear thought.
- Four-poster bed. Amazzar’s bed radiates magic thanks to a Nytsul’s magic aura spell. It is, in fact, an ordinary bed.
- Phase door. Only Amazzar may use this magical, invisible doorway. Removing the phase door requires a successful DC 17 dispel magic spell cast upon it.
Wondrous item, artifact
The talisman is a flat, round amulet made almost entirely of platinum. Wizardly runes are embossed along the rim (providing the command words for attuning the talisman to a particular sphere of annihilation), and embedded in its center is a shiny black ball (black pearl) surrounded by a seven-pointed, star-shaped pattern. The pearl may be used to cast identify spells. As jewelry, the talisman is worth 17,500 gp.
Random Properties. Bzallin’s Talisman has the following random properties:
- 2 minor beneficial properties
- 1 minor detrimental property
- 1 major detrimental property.
Sphere of Annihilation Control. Bzallin’s talisman of the sphere is similar to others of its kind (see DMG page 207 for fundamental properties). Bzallin’s talisman, however, is a unique magical item designed by the lich to alter the size of the sphere of annihilation. The wearer of the talisman can attune the device to only one particular sphere oat one time. Once this is done, the wearer has absolute, uncontested control over the sphere regardless of the distance separating them. If the wearer possesses a strong aura of negative energy (i.e., the wearer is an undead creature with 7 or more hit dice), he or she can affect the growth of the sphere by establishing a ley line or conduit to the Negative Energy Plane. This is a taxing endeavor that leaves the wearer perpetually fatigued, doubling the time it takes to prepare the spells (assuming he or she can cast them) and imbuing a disadvantage to initiative checks and doubling casting times.
Destroying the Talisman. It is nearly indestructible. However, one way to destroy the talisman is to crush it with a hammer of thunderbolts or a maul of the titans. The weapon must be wielded by an individual with storm giant Strength (29) or higher, and the talisman must be smashed atop an anvil of the gods. Another way to destroy the talisman is to throw it into a sphere of annihilation. Doing so not only destroys the talisman but also causes the sphere to collapse without destroying or damaging any of the nearby surroundings.
The Yugoloth Intruders
Moments before the characters conclude their meeting with Amazzar, the wizard’s workroom is invaded by Vzarro the nycaloth and four gated mezzoloth henchmen. Using the information given to him by Bzallin, Vzarro has pinpointed the location of Amazzar’s workroom. Before confronting the wizard, Vzarro polymorphs himself into human-like form to confound his opposition. He and his mezzoloth thugs then used a teleport scroll to appear in the middle of the chamber. Read or paraphrase the following when Vzarro and his henchmen arrive:
Five threatening figures suddenly materialize in the middle of the room. Four of the intruders resemble seven-foot-tall humanoid insects with chitinous plates covering everything but their glowing red eyes. These horned fiends are equipped with shields and various sharp weapons. Standing in the middle of this fierce pack is a fat, bearded human with small horns wearing wizard’s robes and clutching a long metal staff.
The intruders seem surprised to see you in Amazzar’s company. Clearly, they were hoping to catch the wizard alone. However, the human intruder wastes no time getting to the point.
“I am Vzarro, an emissary of the dark lich Bzallin. I have no quarrel with you,” he says, pointing to your group, “So dare not stand in my way!”
Bzallin has sent the yugoloths to destroy Amazzar before the wizard finds some way to counter the sphere of annihilation. Bzallin may have bound the nycaloth to service, but Vzarro follows his orders grudgingly. The nycaloth deliberately lets it slip that Bzallin is a lich. If goaded, Vzarro is even willing to tell the characters that the transformation to lichdom was necessary to operate the magical talisman which controls the sphere. This talisman, worn by Bzallin as an amulet, harnesses the negative energy of the lich to increase the sphere’s size. (For details, see “Part Two” and “Part Three” as well as the Bzallin’s Talisman” sidebar.)
The nycaloth doesn’t know whether destroying the talisman will have any effect on the blacksphere (it will). However, Vzarro knows that Amazzar’s workroom is shielded against Bzallin’s scrying, so he doesn’t mind telling characters that the sphere is merely a test. If Vzarro’s words can be trusted, Bzallin plans to obtain another sphere of annihilation and plant it in a key planar city (probably Sigil). According to Vzarro, Bzallin has allied himself with a powerful fiend named J’zzalshrak. This monstrous fiend is bent on conquering the outer planes, and J’zzalshrak has promised Bzallin unlimited power for helping her destroy Sigil (an event which J’zzalshrak hopes will frighten her baatezu enemies into submission).
Vzarro imparts any or all of the above information on the assumption that the characters have enough information to track down Bzallin and destroy him. With the lich gone, Vzarro is no longer bound to service and may return to his home plane. If the characters wish to leave Amzzar’s workroom, the nycaloth allows them to do so. However, Vzarro has orders to return with Amazzar’s corpse, and he has no intention of failing in his task.
Vzarro assumes his true form when combat erupts. His metal staff transforms into a greataxe +3. He is also wearing a ring of magic missile protection (it is a rare magic requiring attunement that grants the user immunity to damage from the magic missile spell) and an amulet of protection against banishment (a rare magic item requiring attunement which allows its user to automatically pass Charisma saving throws to avoid banishment spells).
If Amazzar attempts to reach his potions, Vzarro tries to negate their potency using his dispel magic innate ability. He isn’t too particular about whom he attacks or what he destroys to ensure Amazzar’s demise. If reduced to 30 hp, Vzarro uses a scroll of plane shift to return to Bzallin’s lair, leaving his mezzoloths to fend for themselves.
One mezzoloth will lead with a cloudkill spell while a second uses darkness. From there, the mezzoloths fight with their weapons, taking advantage of the magic darkness. The mezzoloths are armed with special magic items to aid them in the combat:
- Mezzoloth #1 wields a mage slayer, which acts as a longsword +1 that deals an extra 3d6 slashing damage against creatures that can cast wizard spells. It protects itself with a +1 shield, giving it an AC of 21.
- Mezzoloth #2 wields a morning star +1 and wears a ring of protection from magic missiles (see the description above). It is also equipped with a shield +1, giving it an AC of 21.
- Mezzoloth #3 fights with a scimitar of the vampire. The scimitar of the vampire acts as a scimitar +2. In addition, for every two points of damage the scimitar deals, the wielder gains 1 hp up to its maximum. It is a very rare magic item.
- Mezzoloth #4 wears a ring of berserking (10 charges). The wearer of the ring can use an action to activate it. Once activated, the ring bestows the wielder with a +2 bonus to damage rolls and resistance to all bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage. And the ring is cursed. While berserking, the wearer must attack until all its enemies are destroyed. The ring requires attunement and it is a rare magic item. The mezzoloth also wields a mace of crushing. The mace of crushing acts as a mace +3, however, the user’s Strength modifier are doubled when added to damage rolls made with the mace. The mace is considered legendary.
Vrazzo’s CR is 10 (5,900 XP) and all of the mezzoloths are CR 6 (2,300 XP).
Amazzar is unwilling to leave behind everything in his workroom. He flees via the phase door (or teleport spell) only if reduced to 10 hp or fewer. Amazzar’s magic rings provide adequate protection, while his ioun stone absorbs most (if not all) spell attacks directed at him. Amazzar knows the yugoloths are resistant to his wand of fire, but he may attempt any of the following actions once combat erupts:
- Cast blur upon himself.
- Cast Mordenkainen’s sword and direct the shimmering blade to attack the nearest yugoloth.
- Hurl one of the embroidered stars on his robe of stars (acts as a single magic missile).
- Cast his confusion spell upon the yugoloths.
- Cast Bigby’s hand upon the most threatening yugoloth.
- Activate the attack table. Unknown to Amazzar, both Vzarro and Mezzoloth #2 have magical items that protect them from the table’s magic missile damage.
- Imbibe one or more magic potions stored on the wall shelf. Amazzar drinks the potion of protection from immiscibility first (which allows him to drink multiple potions without a chance of a negative effect), then quaffs the potions of controlling damage (he can use his reaction to reduce damage by 1d8) and deftness (grants a +4 bonus to his Dexterity that lasts for 1 minute). Other potions may be selected as required.
- Cast banishment upon one yugoloth.
If Amazzar is slain by the yugoloths, Vzarro uses a scroll of animate dead to reanimate Amazzar as a zombie and plane shifts back to Bzallin’s lair with him. Under this circumstance, Vzarro will “neglect” to mention his encounter with the characters to Bzallin, hoping the party will eventually locate the lich and destroy him. Characters who fail to stop the yugoloths from stealing Amazzar’s body encounter Amazzar’s zombie later in the adventure.
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Thumbnail Art by Wizards of the Coast