As our game group rollicks towards the ending of the Tiamat campaign, the characters are rising to levels rarely attained. Currently at level 12, the heroes are in the middle of traversing a magical maze that surrounds a wizard’s tower. The maze is constructed (with magic!) so that bypassing encounters or going over or around the maze was impossible. They kept coming to a clearing with a sundial pointing to one or more of the myriad pathways leading out of the clearing. 5 times the came to the clearing, and had to choose the right path. If they chose the wrong path, they wound up with an encounter.
Previously, they had made great choices and made it to the final clearing, before choosing the wrong path.
The maze gently curved around for a few moments, then they came to a place where the shrubbery was overgrown, making a narrow gap to squeeze through. On the other side, there was no way back, and the hedge had been replaced by tall, narrow stone walls. Everything was covered in slime, and a greenish haze made the area indistinct. They had unwittingly entered the Beholder’s Maze.
Anatomy of a Beholder’s Lair
One of the great innovations of the fifth edition of the world’s most awesome role playing game is the inclusion of “lairs” for the deadliest, most iconic monsters. So far the party has fought a white and green dragon in their respective lairs, and it was challenging. The beholder also has rules included for its lair, which I adapted and used to great effect.
The lair of the beholder, as written, has some pretty intense affects. Once per round an eyeball can spawn anywhere within the lair and fire a random eye ray. Also, once per round, tentacles can appear and restrain a character, forcing them to have to break free or be immobilized. There is a third thing that can happen too but I forget what it was, blinding fog maybe?
Anyhow, I wanted my beholder to be unique, and so I gave it an extra power: a ninth eyestalk. This eyestalk held a blue gem instead of an eyeball (the gem is required to exit the encounter area) and the eye could fire a teleportation ray once per round in addition to its regular attacks. The character had to make a dex save or be teleported to a random quadrant of the lair. Great Fun!
The other unique aspect of this lair which was shaped like a maze, was the inclusion of a gelatinous cube. The combination of randomly teleporting, a gelatinous cube, and a maze full of tentacles and eyestalks made the encounter incredibly fun and challenging. In some ways it was reminiscent of some of the better 4th edition “set-piece” battles we have fought. So much importance was placed on movement and positioning.
Even under normal circumstances, the beholder is a dangerous foe. It projects a consant anti-magical field in a cone directly in front of it, (which I ruled projected out at 45 degree angles, so if the beholder placed himself just right in one of the corners of the lair, it could project anti-magic thoughout its entire lair.)
The wizard was reduced to a weeping wreck for most of the battle, as his magic was useless. The rest of the party used melee attacks to slowly whittle away at the beholder. For some odd reason I kept rolling 1’s to see which random eye stalk ray it fired each round, and the Charm Ray was far and away the most popular choice. Numerous characters were charmed during the battle, which was hilarious because I described the hideous beholder, and then told how the character started to look more than just skin deep to see the true beauty in the eye of the beholder. Put a blond wig and some lipstick on that beholder, and you’ve got a date!
At one hilarious point in the game, two characters were stuck in the gelatinous cube while the ranger plucked away at it with his bow, not caring that the characters inside the cube were taking half damage from every arrow.
At another point the gnome rogue was using her invisibility cloak when she got hit by a paralyzation ray, then sucked up by the cube. So she was invisible, paralyzed, and slowly melting into the cube and none of the other characters even knew where she was!
Incredibly the barbarian scored a critical hit with a thrown spear and somehow managed to score 52 hit points in damage. I was incredulous and made her add the total back up, and I was justified, it was only 51 hit points! This made a big difference in the last two rounds of the battle, in which the beholder charmed and disintegrated with great abandon.
The wizard finally girded his loins enough to make an attack, and positioned himself so he could throw a fireball at the beholder from behind. He hit and did, oh I don’t know how much damage, because the beholder only had one hit point left! (which is why that 52 points was so important earlier in the battle. It gave the beholder two extra rounds of life.) It was incinerated and the blue gem fell to the ground and began blinking like it was going out of existence. The ranger picked up the gem and a door opened up in the far wll of the maze, an escape.
They somehow extricated themselves from the gelatinous cube mess, and rushed through the exit just before the gem winked out of existence, which would have reset the whole encounter. Close escape! This battle took up the majority of our 2 hour gaming session, and ranks in the top five battles of all time for me. What a blast!