Dungeons & Dragons Online

Zak, the Lawful Good Beholder – An NPC for Your Game

G’day Reddit! I made an NPC some time ago based on a passing joke here on Reddit – what would happen if an evil monster pulled the Balance card from the Deck of Many Things, and had their alignments magically altered? I present to you Zentashk (Zak) the Beholder.


Overview of Article

  1. Background / Motivations of the Character
  2. Plot Hooks
  3. Related NPCs
  4. PDF of this document, as well as a PDF of 5 related NPC’s statblocks.

Foreword: I realised as I finished that the MM presents Beholders as LAWFUL Evil – I for whatever reason put them down as Chaotic Evil in my mind due to the way you run the eye rays and roll randomly. I wish I could go back in time and correct this lapse, but I cannot. To most people on the outside observing a Beholder, they do appear fairly chaotic, but it’s their paranoia in extremes and the way they approach it which makes them lawful. As such, it does really negate most of this article, and I do apologise in advance. But I’ve written almost 7000 words at this point, so if you’re willing to say that this Beholder was initially chaotic evil, then you’ll find the rest of this content quite useful. If not, save yourself the time and skip this one – I won’t feel bad!


Humble Beginnings

Before he was Zak, the Beholder known as Zentashk began life just like every other Beholder. Born from the fearful nightmares of a different Beholder, Zentashk was chaotic, evil, and immediately driven to kill the rival Beholder. What he did for his early period in life was the same as most any typical Beholder. He found a dungeon to call home, stocked it out with traps, and otherwise was a paranoid Beholder, terrified that another Beholder would come to get him.

What came to slay him instead of a Beholder was a band of five ambitious adventurers, seeking his treasures for themselves. They were ultimately unsuccessful, and the last one standing was the Human Ranger. His cleric disintegrated and the Paladin hit with the death ray, the Ranger had no chance of winning conventionally. So he used his final action to pull out the Deck of Many Things he had obtained in and pull one card. This was his final action, as he pulled Void and his soul was sucked off to a different dimension, leaving only a husk. The Beholder, curious to his foe’s fate, discovered the Deck and determined both its purpose and its potential power (It is the full 22 card deck). He considered every possibility over the following days – drawing a card, not drawing a card, destroying the deck, etc. – but his fear that another Beholder could defeat him in straight combat, or draw a card and gain an advantage over him, drove him to draw a card.

Zentashk the Beholder drew a card, and it was called Balance.

In that instant, his alignment was changed, and he went from one the extreme Chaotic Evil to the most Lawful Good he could be. He immediately checked on the Ranger, and despite being abandoned for a few days was still alive, albeit dehydrated. He did his best to administer water to him, and he left his dank and dreary dungeon behind for a better lair, the Ranger floating behind him (telekinesis eye ray).

He found his way to an impressive white tower a decent height in some mountains, it’s previous owner(s) dead/ missing, and made it his home. He learned the arcane arts of magic from a left-behind wizard tome, and he has learned many things in his quest to destroy the Deck of Many Things lest any other Beholder/ evil entity pull a card and luck be on their side. He fears that a villain, armed with the Fate Card, could well stop a last-stand band of heroes stopping a calamity, and that certainly would be awful to behold – unless he could nip it in the bud now.


The Tower of Zak


Approaching the Tower

The Lightning Tree

To get to Zak’s tower, you must find a particular tree near the base of a mountain, distinctive due to how it has been struck by lightning and left a deep red scar. Approaching the tree and asking “May I come on up?” causes a hidden door in the mountains sheer wall to reveal itself and slide to the side to show a staircase carved up the mountain, hidden behind powerful illusion magic. After a few hours climbing the stairs, around about 6 hours (though you can easily change this to be more), the party will arrive at the overlook.

The Overlook

The staircase terminates at a rock shelf which affords a beautiful view of the lands below. An old man sits near the ledge cross legged, a thick brown cloak draped over his shoulders. His grey hair is long and unwashed, his matching wild beard long and unkempt. His eyes are open, but they see nothing. Around him are a multitude of of small trinkets, and at his back is a stone slate with a table of names and dates next to them (see below).

Those who investigate the man might determine that this is the Ranger who pulled Void. He has a few spells around him to protect him from harm. Of note, a spell that keeps him from freezing to death that insulates him against changes in temperature. Also a variation of Sanctuary has been cast, which dissuades people from intending him harm. Those who do intend him harm must succeed on a DC22 wisdom saving throw, or their attack fails.

The path terminates here. To advance the final 200 meters to the tower, one needs to leave a small gift in any form as tribute to the fallen Ranger. If your players are just giving coins, it should be at least 1 gold piece, but anything that is heartfelt (if worth less) will also work. It’s the act that matters more than the value.

Placing an appropriate gift ends the illusionary wall for that particular character, and they are able to walk along the newly revealed path to the Tower of Zak. If the player has a mount that you deem would not be able to grasp the concept of charity – i.e. a horse – that mount can go with the player. Otherwise, the fellow party members will watch as the character walks through a solid rock wall – one that they themselves cannot pass through (treat it as though it were a wall of force. It can be teleported past, but it will greatly irk Zentashk and it’s not worth the spell slot (4th level dimension door is the earliest spell you can access that does not require you to see the location)). Additionally, the act of charity also magically inscribes the character’s name onto the stone, as either initials or full names or some kind of combination there-of that is the character’s decision, made subconsciously.

Trinkets present

Note; if you need more inspiration, see the trinkets table in the PHB (pages 160-161)

  • Bottle of whiskey – 'Contra 1463'
  • An old stuffed teddy bear of a child
  • A knitted brown blanket that rests over his legs
  • A gold wedding ring hangs on a chain around his neck. It has no inlay for a stone. A matching ring is on his finger. They’re worth 25 gold each. (His late wife’s, and his own respectively).
  • A pirate’s hat
  • An iron shortsword
  • An unstrung longbow
  • A novel – The Many Mysteries of Nancy Druid
  • A quiver which is mostly empty – 3 arrows still inside
  • 4 wax candles. 3 of them have burnt out, the other seems to have only half melted.
  • Coins: 43 gold coins, 11 thick doubloons (pirate currency, worth 2 gp each), 11 electrum coins, 180 silvers coins, 109 copper coins

SignatureDate
Z.2/5/1447
Adriana Fawlks19/7/1447
Sattaro28/2/1450
Adriana Fawlks27/4/1450
Acelum Mankaacaajesh11/5/1450
M. Sprang22/2/1451
Adriana Fawlks30/6/1452
Adriana Fawlks2/9/1453
Lt. Balkron5/4/1455
Adriana Fawlks3/7/1456
Flemo20/5/1458
Cleaver20/5/1458
Adriana Fawlks6/4/1460
Capt. E. Teach7/8/1461
Horus Currahae17/6/1462
Gerard B.17/6/1462
Adriana Bowers14/8/1462
Guy Bowers14/8/1462
Thomas Bergersen15/11/1462
Adriana Bowers19/5/1464
Millie Bowers19/5/1464
Guy Bowers19/5/1464
Nikolas Phoenix1/1/1467
Belrion30/7/1468
Bob31/13/1470
Yemmy28/1/1473
Adriana Bowers10/2/1473
Pagrax Sunderfall13/11/1475
Adriana Bowers11/4/1489
Millie Bowers29/3/1492
Guy Bowers29/3/1492
Millie Bowers1/4/1495
Millie Bowers4/5/1499
Volothamp Geddarm6/5/1499

Note on the dates: I have a world with 12 months in the year, with every month being exactly 30 days long. You can easily change the years as you like. As I am Australian, I use dd/mm/yyyy as the formatting. The current year in my game is 1501.

Inscribing your name: When you offer a gift, your name is inscribed onto the slate along with the date. You can have any combination of your full name, initials, titles, etc., and the option is presented to you mentally. The Butler is exempt from this as he visits every day to feed the Ranger, as is Zentashk.

Names of note: Z. (Zentashk), Capt. Edward Teach (Blackbeard), Bob (There’s not 31 days in a month, or 13 months in a year. He is a planar entity of some mysterious origin – mine is Bob from The Search for Bob of Critical Role, which aired a week before I ran this NPC. That should tell you when I wrote this originally!), and Volothamp Geddaram (the fictional character that wrote Volo’s Guide to Monsters for 5e, among many other books. His conversation with Zentashk is where the entire Beholder chapter in the book comes from!). Depending on your setting, you might need to change some of these. Additionally, Adriana Bowers and her daughter Millie are descendants of Thomas Fawlks, and Guy Bowers is Adriana’s husband (hence the name change). M. Sprang and Satarro are also members of the League of Otherwise Villainous Entities – L.O.V.E. for short – and are detailed much later on. Acelum Mankaacaajesh’s grandson died to Zak prior to him pulling Balance.


The Tower of Zak Description

Exterior

The Tower is made of white quartz, with trims made of white marble. It stands five floors high, though it features no windows. At the base of the tower is a rather large double door (that a Beholder could fit through easily!), made of dark oak with brass handles. The tower is not far from the base of a cliff, and a little distance away is a small stone silo (used to store melt water off the top of the mountain for drinking and sanitary needs).

If you are so inclined, my party did assist him in petrifying a T-Rex that he placed as a lawn ornament on the exterior to his tower. If you want it to be there, it’ll be covered in a light dusting of snow, owing to the altitude.

Interior

The Tower has a significantly larger inside than it does outside, seemingly stretching to the heavens when you look up, the ceiling impossibly far away (the space inside the tower is considered extradimensional). Visitors are greeted by The Butler at the door, where they are asked to remove their shoes before they venture out onto the polished, well swept marble floor. In the very centre of the floor is a circle with intricate geometric patterns (which can levitate downwards to the Beholder’s lair, and this is where he emerges from). Above the 1st floor is a continuous cylindrical tower, with five marble pillars ascending to the ceiling at the top of the tower, without floors anywhere. (The Beholder just levitates everywhere, and the Butler is a shadow monk who runs up the columns and rests on tiny handholds every so often, as well as teleporting when possible). The walls are all just book cases, filled with books – most of which are don’t have a name on the spine, but are the same beige colour of hard cover.

There’s a small sitting area on one side of the ground floor, with a pair of leather couches that face each other and a plush red carpet underfoot. The walls in that room are covered in multitudes of paintings of landscapes, and geometric shapes. However, one wall sticks out as different, and it is just 13 paintings of a single family. The earlier ones depict a young lady and her transition into a woman, and in the 7th such painting she appears not on her own but with a man. A few paintings later and she has a newborn in her arms. The final few paintings show the woman becoming rather elderly – she no longer stands in the paintings, but instead sits, her hair turning grey. And the newborn seems to have grown into a young lady herself. The final two paintings are of the young lady alone, and in the last one she seems to be wearing not a thick winter coat, but rather a more form-fitted monk’s uniform, dark greys and blacks with red trims.

The other side of the room is a large wooden desk, and it is kept clear except for an open book with a lot of numbers on it, and an ink pot with its quill. (The Beholder and Butler both work here to write their works, and it is kept clear unless they are working on something).

Meeting Zak

It is most likely that The Butler will be friendly with the party, and tell them not to fear Zak. My players had not been informed that Zak was a Beholder, merely that he was a friend, and that he was a non-human wizard.

At some appropriate instant, the geometric pattern in the centre of the room will slide apart, and Zak the Beholder will float up, his centre (antimagic) eye closed and a pleasant smile on his face, and he'll greet the party. A circular floating disc of marble (the elevator) will approach from below and seal off the fall hazard after he has cleared the ground (this is how guests get up and down the tower).

Top of the Tower

At the top of the tower is a kitchen, as well as a collection of small bed chambers. This is where Butler and guests will sleep. The geometric pattern circle that floats up and down serves as the elevator access to this floor.

Bottom of the Tower

Beneath the main floor from which Zak emerged from is essentially a laboratory, where Zak experiments with the destruction of the Deck of Many Things and its 22 cards of chaos.

On one side of the room is a plinth with the Deck on it. All around it are traps and spells and protection to stop people from acquiring it. As the ground around it is beset with Symbols and Guards & Wards spells galore, as well as non-detection, hallow, spells to detect non-beholders, and more. One example of a Symbol I had is that if something casts dispel magic or counter spell on the protections, the Symbol fires off a dispel magic/ counterspell at it. Much the same, if there’s an aberration that isn’t Zak nearby, it fires off flares and bright lights from around the room at the (hopefully an enemy) aberration in an attempt to blind them – an attempt to force an enemy Beholder to close their central eye and thus hopefully disable their anti magic come. If a player tries to get close to the Deck, they will otherwise take a lot of damage and probably die, all going to Zak’s plan to protect the world from the Deck. He also has effects that prevent teleportation in the room, as well as ethereal travel in this area. Walls of Force and likely a variation of Prismatic Wall also protect the Deck of Many Things.


Possible Hooks

Okay, so you’ve read this far, what can you do with Zak the Lawful Good Beholder? If you haven’t had any ideas immediately spring to mind of where you could use Zak, here is what I did with him.

The Far Realms Scholar

“The Far Realms is an unreality – something so perverse to your very fibre, that to comprehend it drives one insane. As a place of near infinite possibilities, on near infinite planes, where all your rules go out the window, it’s one of the few places that makes intrinsic sense to me.”

If your game features aberrations or the Far Realms as an element/ a core to the central plot, you can likely find a way for him to be the NPC with the answers your players seek. I can’t name any other aberration creatures who would be wholeheartedly happy to help a party with good intentions with explaining the quirks of some the Far Realms and its denizens.

He also goes on occasional sabbaticals to the Far Realms. As time is so far from being concept in the Far Realms, and straight up non-existent on occasion, the time he spends there and the time that transpire in the Material Planes do not line up at all. What he does there is mostly categorise and take notes to write scholarly papers on in his spare time, which he sells to universities, libraries and private individuals who would be interested in such papers. Butler of course makes written copies of all of Zak’s notes before they’re sold, but that money is used for spell components (for Legend Lore), food, or whatever other needs the Beholder might need. As such, the players might come across such works when they’re visiting appropriate locations. Some titles for his works are;

  • Non-Euclidian Distances and Arcane Line Length Effects on Magical Attenuations
  • One Plus One Equals Seven and a Bit, and Other Perversions of Logic in the Far Realms
  • Measuring to Infinity

A Repository of (Lost) Lore/ Information

Zak, thanks to the help of his Butler, has assembled quite the collection of maps, notes, books and literature in his search for information to uncover lost notes on how to destroy magical items (see below). Zak, to his knowledge, has never known of a Beholder dying a natural death due to old age – most are slain by adventurers, fellow beholders that they create themselves in their nightmares, invading beholders or other marauding monsters. As such, Zak believes he might live a very long time, and so is more than happy to delve deep into literature for any potential scraps of information. With his incredible brain and its very strange cognitive architecture, he never forgets a detail, or which book/ page he needs to reference to find that information.

He also has the 5th level spell Legend Lore prepared at all times, which has all of its normal uses of learning information on legendary events in history. Depending on his disposition to the players, and the nature of their request, he might or may not ask them to pay for the material costs.

When my players lost the lead to find a certain castle in Hoard of the Dragon Queen, they were directed to find the Tower of Zak by a Ruby Dragon who was friends with Zak (see below in the NPC section, under L.O.V.E). Lo and behold, Zak had a map of the region of the world they needed to go to, and the Butler was able to redraw the map at Monk SpeedTM for them to go on their merry way.

Magic Item Destroyer

“Those cards are a waiting calamity, designed to inflict destruction upon the lives of the people who cross paths with it. Woe behold the fool who finds it. And may fate pity the one who draws a card of their own volition, knowing full well what they are about to unleash.”

Zak desires to destroy the Deck of Many Things that changed him. He cannot allow any other Beholder to ever draw a card from it, lest they pull a card of impossible power such as Fates, Moon, Key, Star, Throne or Vizier (imagine if a Paranoid Beholder asked the right question!). He hasn’t figured out yet how to destroy the Legendary Item, but he might know how to destroy magical items of lesser power. He may also have learned how to destroy particular artefacts – trivial information to him – but potentially of incredible importance to the party.

  • He has spent a considerable amount of time towards this endeavour, including;
  • Using his disintegration eye (to limited or no success, at your discretion)
  • Concentrating his cone of antimagic on the item for extended period of time (again, to no success)
  • Researching the Sphere of Annihilation. RAW, that can destroy anything that is not an artifact, but I extend that to Legendary Items as well.
  • Researching Ancient Dragons, and learning if any are capable of destroying a magical item such as the Deck of Many Things. I’m almost ready to release another article on Dragon Metabreaths and how to give your acid based and fire based dragons such an ability, so I’ll ninja edit this later to link to the article.
  • The four stomachs of a Tarrasque are allegedly capable of destroying anything, at least according to the wizard who was crazy enough to let himself be swallowed by the Tarrasque and to record what happened for as long as possible while using arcane wards to protect himself until he teleported out. For my narrative, I use Otiluke as the wizard, and say that he was using a higher tier spell of Otiluke’s Resilient Sphere. Each of the four stomachs are more powerful and capable of destroying more things than the last. Zak did his research into this possibility, but he had given up on finding the actual Tarrasque. He did come by a Pseudotarrasque, and he did study that enigma for a time. See below in Entrance to the Shadowfell to read more on the pseudoterrasque.

He may buy unwanted magical items off of the party for a fair price, he’s not particularly interested in what they do for the majority. But he can practice and experiment destroying those ones he buys.

Entrance to the Shadowfell

When the PCs enter the Tower of Zak, instead of turning the doorknob clockwise and pushing the door inwards, it’s turned counterclockwise and pulled outwards. Stepping inside the doorframe takes the players to a dark reflection of the tower in the Shadowfell – perhaps this is a hint as to the fate of the original inhabitants of the tower? It has the same build as the normal tower, however it is dark and unlit. The bookshelves that reach to the top are empty. Everything is covered in a thick layer of dust, there’s cobwebs everywhere, and the place smells overwhelmingly of must and fungus.

Zak uses the dark echo of the Material plane to make it easier to get to the Far Realms. However, it also features as a possible adventure location. I had a shadow white dragon wyrmling in here as this was the location of a side-story when only two players were available for a session, but you could have anything here. Once the dragon was dealt with, the central geometric circle could ascend (though you could have it descend) the tower. At the top of the tower, solving a puzzle would allow the players to step outside the tower and find themselves at the top of a dark, frozen mountaintop. On my mountaintop (after another small encounter) was a small cage, kept closed not with a key and key but instead a Ring of Protection, and housed inside the cage was a tiny little pseudotarrasque. The origins of this adorable little guy are up to you, but I had him be the subject of Zak’s research. Unfortunately, the little Tarrasque was unable to destroy the Deck of Many Things, and as the little fella doesn’t require food or drink, he was put here so that he could stop mucking up the tower – tearing up books and spilling ink pots everywhere had made him a right-old menace. Consider it the equivalence to being put in the naughty corner.

The Planes and Counting to Infinity

Those who take an interest in his collection of beige spine-bound books find them full of numbers. Zak, as a hobby, is counting to infinity. He finds it an interesting philosophy that something like an inner plane could be infinite, yet there’s planes beyond that inner plane (in my version of the universe, which is a bastardisation of the Great Wheel Cosmology) – and therefore beyond infinity. That would imply that it is in fact countably infinite, as infinity is a destination (and a reference point, such as in physics for the reference point of gravitational potential energy). What the Beholder would or could do with such knowledge doesn’t make much sense to most, but to the Aberration it makes plenty enough sense. When I tried to roleplay this, I referred to the logic of the (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coastline_paradox), which I know isn’t perfect in that it has some flaws, particularly in that it doesn’t work when you’re applying it to a circle (assuming the planes are circular, and a circle’s circumference has a definite length at c = 2 x Radius x Pi, except that Pi is an irrational, similar to how Infinity is a rationally irrational number. Of course, if planes aren’t circular, and are elliptical, then the plane might be infinity by 2 x infinity, but of course infinity is still infinity). Anyway, it worked well enough for my needs.

I play with other DMs – in fact, all but one in my group of 6 that comprise this particular campaign are or have at some point been a DM. I use the Far Realms as a way to import characters between worlds, and that those who are fated (by plot armour) can travel between different campaign worlds at the discretion of the DMs in question. If the imported character doesn’t meet some criteria of the world – for example, my world doesn’t have psionic characters for lore reasons, but another DM might allow them – then they can change classes or the like.

The ability to count to infinity could also be the solution to a puzzle, or a prophesy, that has otherwise vexed your players / the NPCs of your world.

Underdark Entrance

Despite living on top of a mountain, you can use his lair as an entrance to the Underdark. At the bottom of his basement is the beginnings of a staircase, carved out with perfect 10 ft. cubes thanks to his disintegration ray. He mostly uses the staircase to access the caves that connects him to the other side of the mountains. You can imagine that as the staircase consists of 10 ft. spaces between each step, it’s quite frustrating to walk depending on your gait.

I had Zak accompany my players at least as far as the staircase base (it’s as long a walk as you need it to be), they had a rest and during the rest a pair of Tyrannosaurus Rex’s attacked my level 6’s (inspired by Journey to the Centre of the Earth). The players had a blast fighting alongside a Beholder as their ally, and Zak requested that they leave one alive so that he can petrify it as a lawn ornament. They succeeded, and any future adventurers in my world will see the T-Rex out the front, a dusting of snow on him depending on the time of year.


Related NPCs

Zak has come to know a few people in his time. These are the 3 most interesting of them, who tie into Zak and so rendering favours to them can get them in contact with them, and vice versa.

Gerard the Butler (LG)

The Butler is a level 9 Shadow Monk. He is well mannered, and a student of Satarro (see below). As a monk, he uses his trained graceful abilities to tread silently, so as to not disturb Zak, with minimal footprints to keep the marble floor as spotless as possible. He is responsible for keeping the tower inhumanly clean. His training likewise serves him well, as he has proficiency with painter’s tools and calligraphy tools. He painted the last 7 of the 13 Fawlks Family paintings on the wall, and they are markedly the best. He likewise uses his talents to rewrite out books of Zak’s writings and research (the printing press has not yet been created), as well as to draw and update maps. He likewise prepares meals (mostly mushroom based diet), keeping the meltwater collector working, and feeding the unfortunate Ranger who began all of this, Thomas Fawlks.

He is also responsible for containing the spread of the corruption that the Shadowfell entrance intends to emit every time that doorway is open. On the times that the Pseudotarrasque (see above, Entrance to the Shadowfell) was on the material plane and otherwise attempting to rampage around, it was up to Gerard to keep it from tearing up scrolls, scratching the floor and otherwise running amok.

He was mentored by Satarro (see below) on how to be a shadow monk.

Gerard the Butler may or may not have a Scottish accent, inspired by the real Gerard Butler.

Millie Bowers (LG or NG)

Millie Bowers, granddaughter to Thomas Fawlks and daughter to Adriana Fawlks and Guy Bowers, has been visiting Zak and her grandpa since she was a newborn. Millie likely won’t be at the tower when your players visit, but she can serve as an NPC in any kind of capacity as you need. Interested by Mr. Zak and his unique nature, as well as the quiet resolve of The Butler, she would at age 16 take the pilgrimage to find Satarro’s hidden underground monastery (again, see below), and learn the way of the shadow from Zak’s best friend.

She’s a rather capable NPC, I had a PC die, and we pranked the party by having the player show up as Millie, RP her for a few minutes, before having her introduce the player’s actual character (a pact of the genie warlock, who is associated with the Noble Dao above). As such, she’s a level 14 character as provided at the end of the document. You can change that if you wish, though it may require a brand new statblock. I realised I wanted her to be much younger, but I had her born 37 years prior to the campaign. As such, she’s been de-aged due to errant magic at some point on one of her adventures.

Possible hooks:

  • Lower Tier (Local Heroes) – someone (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything Shadow Sorcerer?) has committed a dark and treacherous act (assassination in the night of a noble, theft of a McGuffin, tainting an area with the Shadowfell, etc.), and the party needs the aid of an expert. Their search for help leads them to Millie, who can aid them. This gives them a contact to meet Zak, either immediately after the mission or some later point in time.
  • Medium Tier (Heroes of the Realm). The players have a problem, and they need the aid that only Zak the Beholder can provide them. They pick up some information from one of the articles that Zak has published, but it’s clear that they need to find the author of the works to help them. They follow clues and hunt down leads to find Millie Bowers, who they understand could take them to Zak.
  • High Tiers (Heroic/ Epic Tiers). She seeks out the party, and asks for their aid to find her Grandfather’s soul on an extra planar location, and to free it from the clutches of whatever monster guards it. She may not be able to pay with money, but she can otherwise promise to get them in contact with either Zak or Satarro. This might even be an exchange of service – they help her, and she/ Zak/ Satarro will help them.

Satarro the Vampire Shadow Monk (LG)

Much like Zentashk, Satarro is a good aligned individual that strongly goes against type. In my world, “The Curse of Strahd” is that Strahd is doomed to repeat his experiences in Barovia until he can learn to be human again. But, as Strahd is as deeply flawed as he is tragically near-human, he’s yet to be released unto the sweet embrace of death. So whenever a band of unlucky adventurers roll into Baroiva, the campaign module The Curse of Strahd runs for them. Some lucky adventurers get out, perhaps they do everything right, and drive a wooden stake through Strahd’s heart and destroy his body in running water with daylight and they destroy all of his coffins and fill them with dirt sanctified with holy water. Those adventurers are free to leave Barovia. But the next time a band of adventurers find the mists of Barovia, they’ll find Strahd ‘alive’ and well.

Satarro was one of the few who got out. When he completed his adventure, he was a 13th level (Way of the Open Hand) Monk. Unfortunately for him, Strahd had killed their only cleric in the fight, and Satarro had failed the saving throw against becoming a vampire himself. Pragmatic in his outlook and determined to overcome the curse of vampirism, he dedicated himself to reaching level 15, where he gained the ability “Timeless Body”. No longer requiring food or drink, he was freed from requiring blood or the terrible cruelty that came from such desires. Doing his best to make a positive out of this negative situation, he set about developing a new monk discipline that took advantage of his new supernatural abilities. As such, Satarro developed the Way of Shadow discipline in my world, and rather fittingly is a 20th level Monk overlaid on a vampire statblock (see the bottom for a link to the PDF).

Satarro has spent thousands of years in quiet contemplation, meditating on the many things that a vampire monk is want to. He’s cured those who have been cursed themselves, taught pupils the Way of Shadow (including Millie Bowers (see below) and Gerard the Butler (see above), and otherwise used Astral Projection to explore the Astral Seas. All Way of the Shadows monks in my world can trace their teachings back to this Master of Shadows. As a high level monk, he spends a lot of time using Astral Projection to visit libraries and monasteries on the Outer Planes, and learn ancient and long forgotten knowledge – particularly the ways of curse breaking. And while he’s quite capable of reversing his own Vampire curse, he’s continued to hold onto it, reasoning that any kind of rest isn’t worth the good that he could continue to do in the world by being in an eternal twilight of living.

If you want to add more individuals of this nature (like I did), monsters who are traditionally evil but are good aligned (or neutral at worst) and willing to help your PCs, then they might join up together as a force for good. In my world, they are known as the League of Otherwise Villainous Entities – L.O.V.E.

L.O.V.E

In addition to Satarro, there is also neutral aligned noble Dao (earth genie) who can cast wish, though she is chaotic neutral and not above perverting wishes. Her name is Alykassa’ran, and her statblock is provided at the end if that’s of interest to you. She possibly has too much health, at 275 hp and resistance to all bludgeoning/piercing/slashing damage, though I never expect her to fight. The rules of Genies using wish, and the spells that she can cast, was more useful to me.

The fourth and final member is a psionic ruby dragon from Matt Colville’s Strongholds & Followers, called John Michael Jacob Sprang, who usually projects a tangible illusion of a set of triplets called John, Michael, and Jacob Sprang. This is of course not his real name, but with the antics he pulls, nobody would trust him to give an entirely straight forward answer anyway. The triplets are humans, and excellent shop keepers. One has run a smithery, another has run a jewellery shop (with raw diamonds), and another has bought and sold magic items. In every case, the shop was an illusion, which was manifested to be real. The full logic (and terror) of illusions being real is penned nicely by Mr. Colville in his book.

It’s worth noting that a Ruby Dragon isn’t usually an evil creature, though this particular one is a neutral aligned one who somehow found friendship with the other 3 members. This psionic dragon has, in one of my campaigns, summoned the astral projection of Satarro to cure my party who managed to get all of themselves cursed while the Cleric wasn’t able to make a session and things spiralled from bad to worse. He is also responsible for directing the players from my campaign to go and meet up with Zentashk when they needed directions to find on the map where a certain swamp castle in Hoard of the Dragon Queen.

The Original Adventurer’s Team

Below are the poor individuals who made the ill-fated foray into Zak’s dungeon with the Deck of Many Things.

  • Thomas Fawlks, Human Ranger
  • Raskax Mankaacaajesh, Black Dragonborn bard
    • Raska’s Grandfather is/was Acelum Mankaacaajesh, and a chronicler. Acelum came to the tower to find the remains of his grandson, and traded stories at length with the Beholder whom his grandson had fallen to. Zak regretted that he had not brought the other adventurers back to life, but he does know where their bodies lie.
    • This could be its own low level adventure, where Acelum Mankaacaajesh asks the players to retrieve the body of his grandson from the dungeon which still has all the original Beholder style traps (see Volo’s Guide to Monsters for ideas on how to build a beholder lair), then make the boss be something much more reasonable (probably needs to be able to hover or climb walls with spider climb, so an air elemental or a phase spider might be appropriate). The reward could be learning how to find Zentashk, as the grandpa has been to Zentashk's tower (as shown in the inscription stone).
  • An unnamed Halfling Paladin of Devotion
  • An unknown Wood Elf Rogue (Scout)
  • An Elven knowledge-domain cleric

Statblock Adjustments

For Zentashk, I gave him many adjustments to the otherwise generic D&D Beholder stats, including making him a wizard. You’ll also find a link at the end of the document to a PDF of his statblock, Satarro, Millie, Sprang, and Alykassa’ran the Dao Noble Genie. Do note that Sprang’s statblock references the psionic abilities as provided in Matt Colville’s Strongholds and Followers book. I’m not going to republish those rules here, but those are called Amplify, The Real, and the legendary action of Psionics. Charges and Fracture are also explained there. Also on the same Google drive is a PDF of this document, in case you found it useful enough to want to return to it later. Said PDF isn't formatted super nicely, I admittedly haven't investigated how to format for printing with Scrivener 3 yet. You may also notice it's for something called Steal Matt's Campaign – this is just the first post of many on fixing the Tyranny of Dragons campaign module – Zak was written to replace On the Road, as a glorified map provider for my players to find a particular castle, among other things.

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1lVU4JyJnW9o3WzEAO9586N1iuJpDHk1W?usp=sharing

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