Out of the Box D&D Encounters, Series 2, #23, “The Librarian”

Out of the Box D&D Encounters, Series 2, #23, “The Librarian”

Out of the Box introduction

A classic monster from D&D has always been the beholder. However, when one says that word, it tends to conjure images of the largest and worst version of the species. To be fair, there are a lot of different versions of this species, each with their own specialty. They range in power and size from the tiny gazer to the undead eye tyrant, with a few variants to fill the gaps in between.

D&D spectator
A spectator as seen in the fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual. [Image courtesy Wizards of the Coast]
One that has come up in the past but seems overlooked more often than not is the spectator. The spectator is unique among the beholder species in that it isn’t necessarily evil by default. Sure, individual Dungeon Masters can pull the switch on any creature and alter it’s alignment, but the spectator needs no such alteration as written to deal with almost any character….within reason.
Like the rest of it’s species, it’s full of behavioural quirks the DM can use to enliven any encounter, and can be inserted into a game world for a number of reasons. They are typically guards, but in rare cases they can be more than that should their original task be complete. Mental imbalance follows this variant of the species like all others of it’s kind, so using one as a benefactor can lead to…complications.
To the cunning or resourceful, complicated relationships are but another cog in the wheel. Therefore, I would like to offer an encounter from one of my own campaigns. Imagine a library, but not in the typical sense. Instead of rows of books, or shelves lined in orderly ways, think of a massive cylindrical room towering way up. Its guardian and chief proprietor is our spectator. He knows where every book is and can reach every shelf, no matter how high. This beholder, like all others, has his problems. Dealing with those problems to acquire a needed tome or text can have it’s rewards or even it’s complications.
What makes such matters even more complex is books are not the only things on display here. Because of that, temptations may arise withing the player characters. Will they risk the beholder? Will they play nice and simply seek a tome? How will they react to The Librarian?

Environment

Urban

Level

4

Description

Out of the Box D&D
Make sure you return your books on time with this librarian.

Entering the massive set of 10 foot wide and easily 12 foot tall double doors, the party is greeted with the sight of a massive library with a 50 foot diameter circular floor, and rising up like a gargantuan cylinder, perhaps close to 100 feet high. Books and scrolls fill shelves that spiral upward. Light comes from ornate lamps. These lamps float in rings of six each, and are equidistant from each other. The first ring hangs 15 feet above the floor, with two more rings of lamps above that, each likely 30 feet higher. Together, they light the entire room to ensure proper reading light, and dispel almost every chance of a shadow.

Suspended from the ceiling by a long, black, spiked chain is an elaborate cage dangling exactly between the elevation of the bottom ring of lamps and the one above it. The cage is a globe of ornately fabricated bars so as to resemble thin branches of vines. The cage itself appears to be plated or made from gold. Within that cage is what appears to be a broom, dashing about like a bird.
These wonders are not all that exists here. Upon the opening of the door, a large green and yellow globular figure will descend from the ceiling. It spins to gaze upon the entrance, revealing a large central red and yellow eye with the pupil of a goat, sporting what looks like an over-sized monocle in a fine gold frame, suspended by a chain from the red fez upon the top of its….”head”.
It’s circular body of dark green fades to a light yellow from top to bottom, and four snake-like eyestalks with yellow eyes blink out of sequence as it looks at you. A wide mouth filled with large triangular teeth smiles, and a long tongue licks it’s dark green lips in anticipation.
If the player characters do not immediately attack, as some are want to do, read them the following:
“Vissssitors, visssitors. Howwwww delightful. Weeee have not had vissssitors in some tiiimmme. Pleeeezze.  Asssk what you willll. Minnd your mannerrrrs here, if you willlll. Otherrrrrs are readinnnngggg.”
(Success on a quick DC 10 Wisdom (Perception) check will reveal there are no other visible occupants here.)
This is Belthrinzaar, the spectator (as per Monster Manual, page 30) and if asked for his name he will gladly volunteer that. He will then also promptly ask the party to “please ignore Chester, as he has poor manners and interrupts constantly.” If the party inquires with regard to the identity of Chester, he will look over to an unoccupied spot with a sneer. In reality, there is no one there, and never was. Chester is a figment of his imagination. This will not prevent Belthrinzaar from arguing sporadically with this figment, even in the middle of conversations with other people. Note that Belthrinzaar speaks Common in addition to his other languages after spending years in this library.
The library itself should be considered a great resource for research into the fields of history, religion or arcana. So long as the PCs ask for the resources and do not attempt to steal or remove them, the spectator will facilitate their requests and aid in their research. If they try to steal them, though, he will take great offense, and with a great cry of “Chester! Stop them!” he will attack.
Out of the Box
A broom of flying as seen in the fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master’s Guide. [Image courtesy Wizards of the Coast]
Belthrinzaar will especially take offense at the attempted or successful theft of the Broom of Flying in the gold cage. This broom, indeed contained within this spherical cage, is not ordinary broom. This broom is a sentient magic item named “Zing” made aware by a wild surge in an Underdark faerzress zone. It’s rash, impulsive, and unpredictable, albeit curious and generally benevolent. Its purpose, if it indeed has one, is to explore and see new things. Its desire to be free can be conveyed to any that touch it, although it’s a hard broom to tame. (I:10, W:13, CH: 13, Alignment: CN, Communication: emotion via touch, Senses: Normal vision and hearing 60 feet, Purpose: Exploration).
The cage is not actually gold or gold-plated, but painted in gold-like paint. This will be evident to anyone within 5 feet who succeeds on a DC12 Intelligence (Investigation) check. To access Zing, the players have a few options. They can either try to pick the intricate lock through a successful DC 20 check using thieves’ tools, pry open the cage bars by succeeding on a Dc 25 Strength (Athletics) check, or break the chain that suspends it (AC:17, 15 hp, or success on a DC 20 Strength check to pull apart). Breaking the chain leaves the party with a massive ball cage to deal with, which itself might lead to all sorts of hilarity.
Any attempt to breach the cage or steal Zing will result in an instant magic mouth spell crying out
“Thieves! Thieves! Thieves…”

Monsters

Belthrinzaar – Spectator (As per Monster Manual, page 30, except as noted above with regard to languages)

Treasure

Zing – Broom of Flying (sentient) , as well as a remarkable library filled with resources for all kinds of research…so long as PCs behave.

Complications

There are a lot of things that could take odd or dangerous directions here. The spectator’s spell reflection ability can be dangerous. His confusion ray could potentially turn one character on another – especially dangerous when one considers that a character may be paralysed by a previous ray. Spectators are formidable foes.
Shelves of books spanning to a very high ceiling means that one in four parties of PCs will potentially have someone try and climb them. That means a potential fall of up to 10d6 damage. Whereas the occasional reader may claim such a circumstance is unlikely, I am willing to bet that there is more than on DM that will read this and nod when they think about their group.
Releasing Zing, whether or not the magic item is claimed and mastered by a PC could lead the party on any number of misadventures. This spectator is not bound to this library, so he may well pursue Zing to recover him.
On the other hand, the PCs may refrain from larcenous behaviours and secure Belthrinzaar as a viable contact and his library as an ongoing resource. Should that occur, the DM should restrict access to rarer books to some sort of timeline. The spectator may also end up employing the PCs to retrieve rare or fantasical tomes and scrolls for storage and recording in the library.
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I fell into gaming in the oddest of ways. Coming out of a bad divorce, my mom tried a lot of different things to keep my brother and I busy and out of trouble. It didn’t always work. One thing that I didn’t really want to do, but did because my mom asked, was enroll in Venturers. As an older Scout-type movement, I wasn’t really really for the whole camping-out thing. Canoe trips and clean language were not my forte. Drag racing, BMX and foul language were.
What surprised me though was one change of pace our Scout leader tried. He DMed a game of the original D&D that came out after Chainmail (and even preceedd the Red Box). All the weapons just did 1d6 damage, and the three main demi-humans (Elf, Dwarf and Halfling) were not only races, but classes. There were three alignments (Lawful, Neutral and Chaotic). It was very basic. I played all the way through high school and met a lot of new people through gaming. My expected awkwardness around the opposite sex disappeared when I had one game that was seven girls playing. They, too, never thought that they would do this, and it was a great experiement.
But it got me hooked. I loved gaming, and my passion for it became infectious. Despite hanging with a very rough crowd who typically spent Fridays scoring drugs, getting into fights, and whatnot, I got them all equally hooked on my polyhedral addiction. I DMed guys around my table that had been involved in the fast-living/die young street culture of the 80s, yet they took to D&D like it was second nature. They still talk to me about those days, even when one wore a rival patch on his back to the one I was wearing. We just talked D&D. It was our language.
Dungeons and Dragons opened up a whole new world too. I met lots off oddballs along with some great people. I played games like Star Frontiers, Gamma World, Car Wars, Battletech, lots of GURPS products, Cyberpunk, Shadowrun, Twilight 2000, Rolemaster, Champions, Marvel Superheroes, Earth Dawn…the list goes on. There was even a time while I was risiding with a patch on my back and I would show up for Mechwarrior (the clix kind) tournaments. I was the odd man out there.
Gaming lead to me attending a D&D tournament at a local convention, which lead to being introduced to my paintball team, called Black Company (named after the book), which lead to meeting my wife. She was the sister of my 2iC (Second in Command), and I fell in love at first sight.
Gaming lead to me meeting my best friend, who was my best man at my wedding and is the godfather of my youngest daughter.
Life being what it is, there was some drama with my paintball team/D&D group, and we parted ways for a number of years. In that time I tried out two LARP systems, which taught me a lot about public speaking, improvisation, and confidence. There was a silver lining. I didn’t play D&D again for a very long time, though.

Then 5E came out.

I discovered the Adventurer’s League, and made a whole new group of friends. I discovered Acquisitions Incorporated, Dwarven Tavern, and Nerdarchy. I was hooked again.
And now my daughter is playing. I introduced her to 5E and my style of DMing, and we talk in “gamer speak” a lot to each other (much to the shagrin of my wife/her mother…who still doesn’t “get it”). It’s my hope that one day she’ll be behind the screen DMing her kids through an amazing adventure. Time will tell.

Gazing Into Eye of the Beholder: The Art of Dungeons & Dragons
D&D Flavour Shot: Dark Fey Portals
Follow Mike Gould:

I fell into gaming in the oddest of ways. Coming out of a bad divorce, my mom tried a lot of different things to keep my brother and I busy and out of trouble. It didn't always work. One thing that I didn't really want to do, but did because my mom asked, was enroll in Venturers. As an older Scout-type movement, I wasn't really really for the whole camping-out thing. Canoe trips and clean language were not my forte. Drag racing, BMX and foul language were. What surprised me though was one change of pace our Scout leader tried. He DMed a game of the original D&D that came out after Chainmail (and even preceedd the Red Box). All the weapons just did 1d6 damage, and the three main demi-humans (Elf, Dwarf and Halfling) were not only races, but classes. There were three alignments (Lawful, Neutral and Chaotic). It was very basic. I played all the way through high school and met a lot of new people through gaming. My expected awkwardness around the opposite sex disappeared when I had one game that was seven girls playing. They, too, never thought that they would do this, and it was a great experiement. But it got me hooked. I loved gaming, and my passion for it became infectious. Despite hanging with a very rough crowd who typically spent Fridays scoring drugs, getting into fights, and whatnot, I got them all equally hooked on my polyhedral addiction. I DMed guys around my table that had been involved in the fast-living/die young street culture of the 80s, yet they took to D&D like it was second nature. They still talk to me about those days, even when one wore a rival patch on his back to the one I was wearing. We just talked D&D. It was our language. Dungeons and Dragons opened up a whole new world too. I met lots off oddballs along with some great people. I played games like Star Frontiers, Gamma World, Car Wars, Battletech, lots of GURPS products, Cyberpunk, Shadowrun, Twilight 2000, Rolemaster, Champions, Marvel Superheroes, Earth Dawn...the list goes on. There was even a time while I was risiding with a patch on my back and I would show up for Mechwarrior (the clix kind) tournaments. I was the odd man out there. Gaming lead to me attending a D&D tournament at a local convention, which lead to being introduced to my paintball team, called Black Company (named after the book), which lead to meeting my wife. She was the sister of my 2iC (Second in Command), and I fell in love at first sight. Gaming lead to me meeting my best friend, who was my best man at my wedding and is the godfather of my youngest daughter. Life being what it is, there was some drama with my paintball team/D&D group, and we parted ways for a number of years. In that time I tried out two LARP systems, which taught me a lot about public speaking, improvisation, and confidence. There was a silver lining. I didn't play D&D again for a very long time, though. Then 5E came out. I discovered the Adventurer's League, and made a whole new group of friends. I discovered Acquisitions Incorporated, Dwarven Tavern, and Nerdarchy. I was hooked again. And now my daughter is playing. I introduced her to 5E and my style of DMing, and we talk in "gamer speak" a lot to each other (much to the shagrin of my wife/her mother...who still doesn't "get it"). It's my hope that one day she'll be behind the screen DMing her kids through an amazing adventure. Time will tell.

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