The Great Mother of the beholders is a bizarre being of contradictions. It is a chaotic entity where its spawn are lawful, and while it is the source of beholders’ power, it is also the ultimate origin of all the different breeds of beholder and kin, and thus at least partially responsible for their xenophobic internal wars.
Great Mother (PDF Version)
(Great Beholder Mother, the Hive Spawner, Creator of Abominations)
Greater Power of the Abyss, CE
Portfolio: Magic, fertility, tyranny, beholders
Domain Name: 6th Layer/Realm of a Million Eyes
Foes: Blibdoolpoolp, Celestian, Darahl Firecloak, the Dark God, Deep Duerra, Diinkarazan, Diirinka, Eilistraee, the Elder Elemental God, Ghaunadaur, Ilsensine, Ilxendren, Juiblex, Laduguer, Lolth, Maanzecorian, Piscaethces, Psilofyr, Ptah, Selvetarm, Shevarash, Vhaeraun, the Morndinsamman, the Seldarine, the goblinoid pantheons, the neogi pantheon
Symbol: Egg with central eye
Wor. Align.: LN, N, CN, LE, NE, CE
Gliding silently through the planes, the Great Mother of the beholders ponders bizarre and chaotic philosophies while spawning endless abominations to wreak havoc across the multiverse. Held by the eye tyrants to be the epitome of each individual breed, the Hive Spawner is said to grant its progeny the powerful magical abilities they wield.
While many mysteries surround the Great Mother, its status as progenitor of the beholder races is not in doubt. In addition, many sages contend that the Hive Spawner is responsible for a number of other strange creatures, perhaps after consorting with lower planar fiends such as tanar’ri and gehreleths, and consuming them in the process. It is said some of the Great Mother’s unique spawn are nearly as large and powerful as its avatars, but these beasts rarely leave the hidden caverns in the Realm of a Million Eyes in the Abyss. While it is believed that many of the Hive Spawner’s first brood are still alive, the only confirmed member of this brood, Gzemnid the Gas Giant, is also the only one to achieve true divine status. While powerful in its own right, it is still loyal and subservient to its sire, although it no longer makes its home in the Abyss.
The Great Mother is ancient, sometimes said to be part of a grouping of evil entities from the earliest days of the universe. These deities usually wield substantial magical power, and variously include Blibdoolpoolp, Panzuriel, and Ilsensine. The lack of real connections between these deities is often cited as evidence against this theory, however. Another theory holds that the Hive Spawner is a fragment of some ancient deity that split itself into divine body parts in order to experience the multiverse in greater detail; such theories often portray the Great Mother as the eyes, or just one eye of the original deity. As yet, no supporter has been able to cite concrete candidates for the other body parts, however. Finally, the other theory of the Great Mother’s origin holds that it was the creation of a powerful group of deities or an unknown overpower in order to observe and learn all there is to know in the multiverse, but it has failed or forgotten its mission. Supporters of this theory cite the varied forms of beholders and beholder-kin, suited for wandering all but the most inhospitable environments in a form that has little capacity for many of the basic tasks that are believed to be necessary for the development of civilization. Regardless of its origins, the Great Mother floats through the planes mumbling to itself and laying eggs. To most creatures, this mumbling seems to be gibberish, but this is simply due to the inscrutable nature of its thought processes. Those able to comprehend the Great Mother’s mental structure find it is philosophizing on a wide number of subjects and mulling over vast amounts of information; in fact, those able to communicate on this higher level find the Great Mother a sage of unparalleled ability on subjects pertaining to evil and chaos. Despite this, the Hive Spawner is uninterested in gaining new information, and arrogantly believes it knows all it needs to know, and refuses to accept even the remote possibility of being wrong on any issue.
Beholder theology appears to diverge from the views of sages of the divine in significant ways, even on issues those sages believe they have confirmed as truth. As the eye tyrants tell it, all beholders and kin, including Gzemnid, are descended from the Great Mother’s first offspring, known as Kzamnal. True to beholder ideology, Kzamnal is always described as a member of the breed of beholder telling the tale. In the tale, Kzamnal tells its offspring to explore the multiverse and gather all information in existence, so that they can be like their progenitor, the Great Mother. However, not all of the spawn of the Great Mother looked like Kzamnal and his offspring. All versions of this myth describe these offspring as traitors, although there are two explanations for why; in the first version of the tale, these divergent eye tyrants claimed they were the Great Mother’s perfected offspring, and tried to eliminate the tale-teller’s true-breed beholder race. In the second version of the tale the “traitor” breeds murdered Kzamnal, claiming that his words were lies and heresy, for no mortals could know as much as the Great Mother. Regardless of the ending, this tale explains the genocidal nature beholders exhibit today. Interestingly, no beholder or beholder-kin claims to be these other eye tyrants, nor do they feature a story from the perspective of these so-called traitors, leading many sages to believe the story of Kzamnal was created to explain the rift among beholders rather than preserving even a corrupted version of historical events. In a further twist, word has recently been conveyed to sages of the divine in Sigil that this story does in fact have an element of truth: Beholders exist to gather all the information in the multiverse and act as the ultimate information brokers. In at least one crystal sphere, and likely others, there are locations that beholders can go to and access the multiverse’s knowledge, but for some reason their mission has become lost or garbled over time. This information comes from one Gamalon Idogyr of Waterdeep, spelljamming wizard and merchant, who will only say that his source has impeccable credentials; the provincially famous wizards Elminster of Shadowdale and Khelben Arunsun of Waterdeep have vouched for Gamalon and his source, although they admit they do not have first-hand information on the matter. This news has caused quite a stir among the scholarly community of Sigil, with many members dismissing it as pure Clueless poppycock. Debate on the matter is unlikely to settle any time in the future.
The Great Mother is by no means a doting parent, and only dispatches an avatar if its beholder offspring are threatened with extinction on a large scale, such as on a whole world, or at least a large continent; this is even more likely if it is being done at the hands of lawful good forces or agents of one of its foes, such as Lolth’s drow. However, as a deity of chaotic whims, the Great Mother has been known to let a planet be virtually depopulated of beholders before acting, while other times flying into a killing rage when just one hive is under threat. When it appears to beholders and beholder-kin, the unique brain structure of its spawn means they always perceive the Hive Spawner’s avatars as matching their body type and form; no known form of mental control or charms can overcome this brain feature. As such, they will never attack it, and hostilities between enemy beholder factions temporarily end for the duration of an avatar’s visit. Finally, the Great Mother appears drawn to locations of great planar magic, such as places with multiple permanent gates. Why it takes an interest in investigating such locations is unknown.
Great Mother’s Avatar (20-HD Beholder, Wizard 30, Priest 30)
The Great Mother appears as a bloated beholder of massive size, with skin encrusted with debris. Rocks and pebbles, bits of armor, broken weapons, gems, coins, shells, dragon’s teeth, and shards of bone cover its body from top to bottom. Its central eye is red, while each of the eyes on its eyestalks is a golden yellow, and saliva constantly drips from its gaping maw. It draws its spells from all schools, and the spheres of all, astral, combat, divination, healing (reversed) necromantic (reversed), numbers, protection, summoning, sun (reversed), thought, and time.
AC −5/−3/2; MV Fl 3 (A); HP 216; THAC0 2; #AT 1
Dmg 4d6 (bite)
MR 80%; SZ H (18-foot diameter)
Str 15, Dex 10, Con 18, Int 21, Wis 20, Cha 20
Spells P: 12/12/11/11/9/9/8, W: 7/7/7/7/7/7/7/6/6
Saves PPDM 2; RSW 3; PP 4; BW 4; Sp 4
Special Att/Def: The Great Mother favors using its magical powers and eyestalks over physical attacks, but if forced into melee, it bites for 4d6 points of damage. In addition, it swallows whole any man-sized or smaller creatures on an attack roll of 19 or 20. Creatures swallowed suffer 6d6 points of damage each round from acid, and strikes against the Hive Spawner’s stomach lining are made against AC 2. Great Mother expels swallowed creatures if they succeed on an attack roll of 19 or 20, as well as dealing damage.
Great Mother has all the eyestalk powers of a normal beholder, but at greater range and saving throws made against them suffer a −4 penalty. Its central eye projects an anti-magic ray in a 90° arc before it, to a range of 280 yards. The Hive Spawner’s charm person, slow, and telekinesis eyes have a 240 yard range, with a 2000-pound weight limit on the latter eye. The charm monster eye has a range of 120 yards, while the cause serious wounds eye has a 100-yard range and the death ray eye has a range of 80 yards. Its sleep and flesh to stone eyes have a range of 60 yards, and the disintegrate and fear eyes have only a range of 40 yards. In addition to these eye powers, the Great Mother can radiate at will to a radius of 20 feet fear, hopelessness (as the symbol), chill (for 1d8 points of damage per round), or repulsion. No more than one of these powers can operate per round, and they are unaffected by the central eye’s anti-magic ray.
The Great Mother is immune to nonmagical weapons, and suffers only half damage from bludgeoning weapons. It is immune to any sort of mind control, and any creature save an entity of divine or near-divine status attempting to read its mind must make a saving throw versus spell with a −8 penalty or be feebleminded and suffer a form of insanity (as the spell descent into madness) due to its chaotic and alien thought patterns. The Hive Spawner’s bloated body takes 85% of hits and has an AC of −5. Assuming an attack can reach the other parts of its body, there is a 5% chance each that attacks strike a different location (central eye, an eyestalk, or a small eye). The Great Mother’s central eye can suffer 60 points of damage before being destroyed and has an AC of 2. Damage suffered by the central eye counts towards the Great Mother’s hit point total. Each of its eyestalks and smaller eyes can suffer 25 points of damage before being disabled; this damage does not count towards its total hit points. The eyestalks themselves have an AC of −3 while the smaller eyes have an AC of 2. Destroyed eyestalks are regenerated at a rate of one per day.
The Great Mother favors making direct appearances through its avatars when intervention is deemed necessary. Its only other manifestation of power in the lives of its followers is through the temporary elevation of hive mothers to priestess status; otherwise it figures the innate magical abilities of beholders should be enough for them to achieve its goals in most situations. This granting of priestess status is most often done through an appearance of an avatar, but it is not necessary. The Hive Spawner does not communicate to its followers through omens or other sorts of messages.
The Great Mother is served primarily by its monstrous and unique offspring that reside primarily in the Abyss, as well as argos, astereaters, beholder abominations of all sorts, death kisses, death tyrants, doomspheres, gas spores, gauths, gorbels, kasharin, least and lesser tanar’ri, observers, orbi, quasits, and spectators. The Hive Spawner never displays signs of pleasure or displeasure, save through the appearance of an avatar.
Clergy: Specialty priests
Clergy’s Align.: LE, NE, CE
Turn Undead: SP: Special
Cmnd. Undead: SP: Special
All specialty priests of the Great Mother receive religion (beholder) as a bonus nonweapon proficiency.
Beholder priestesses (something of a misnomer since beholders have but one gender) of the Great Mother have a special and unique place in society since the vast majority of them do not gain their powers permanently. They are granted their powers primarily to protect their hives and prosecute wars against other races. When a beholder gains such powers, if they are not already respected as a powerful elder of the hive, their status immediately changes so that they are. For the small number that have chosen to become priests in a similar manner as beholder mages, their communities treat them somewhat differently, often seeing them as slightly addled or demented, but not so much that they come to be seen as non-true-breed beholders. With respect to Gzemnid’s followers, they have a domineering attitude, which doesn’t seem to bother the Gas Giant’s faithful. In general, the majority of the Great Mother’s faithful fall into a category similar to lay followers of other races.
Nearly every hive hosts a temple or shrine to the Great Mother, which are often restricted to hive mothers or elder orbs. Spherical shapes are common, and they are generally only accessible to creatures capable of flight or levitation. In hives with access to great magic, either through the powers of beholder mages or elder orbs, the temples tend to be enchanted to keep out lesser beholders, with the temple serving as the seat of rulership as well. Eye motifs are common in such temples, and a round hall will be found at the center with a large stone egg on an altar; this egg will feature between three and six eyes carved around the surface looking towards the entrances to the chamber. Such rooms are infrequently used, and serve more as a place for the Great Mother’s avatars to manifest should it desire to do so. Smaller shrines maintained by individual beholders also have a stone egg with a single eye carved into it, placed in such a way that it can survey a chamber but can only be accessed by levitation or flight.
There is no organized priesthood of the Great Mother in beholder societies, and they maintain no orders of novices. Full priests are rare, generally temporary, and as such have no hierarchies, ranks, or titles. The beholder term for hive mothers temporarily imbued with priestly powers is Kzakrumalakk, a term which means Chosen of the Hive Spawner, with the -akk ending indicating the concept is temporary. However, this term has come to be applied even to other sorts of priests, despite the temporary nature of this concept. Occasionally individual priests whose powers have extended beyond the normal duration, or are permanent, will adopt unique titles for themselves as well. Regardless of how they gain their position, all specialty priests of the Great Mother are known as tyrannorbs. The overwhelming majority of the Great Mother’s clergy are temporarily elevated hive mothers (94%), while the remaining members consist of beholder mage style priests (4%), elder orbs who’ve taken to priestly rather than wizardly magic (1%), and hive mothers who either retained their powers beyond the normal temporary period or took to the priesthood of their own accord (1%). Besides true beholders, any beholder-kin breed capable of becoming a beholder mage or an elder orb (such as gauths) can become a beholder priestess of these latter types; this is so rare that there are unlikely to be more than one or two non-true beholder priestess on any given world.
Dogma: Knowledge is power; gather all you can to use against your enemies. Propagate the true breed, and subjugate lesser creatures, which are fit only for labor and meat. Hunt down the false breeds and traitors and destroy them utterly, for they are an affront to the Great Mother.
Day-to-Day Activities: As most of the Great Mother’s clergy are temporarily elevated to that position, their activities are virtually indistinguishable from other beholders of the same type. None administer to a flock or give spiritual advice, seek their divine gifts as just a different set of magical tools to achieve their goals.
Important Ceremonies/Holy Days: Beholders and beholder-kin observe no holy days or religious ceremonies. There is no separation between divinely demanded activities and their personal activities, as they see ever action they take as a furtherance of the Great Mother’s will.
Major Centers of Worship: Beholders are incapable of building centers of worship that cater to any creature besides their own breed due to their extreme xenophobia. As such, any temple dedicated to the Great Mother is strictly local, and it is entirely possible that another breed of beholders would destroy such an edifice as heresy should they come across it, although they may adopt it if they convince themselves it was stolen by the false-breeds in the first place, regardless of the truth. One such local temple is the Bloodorb, a metal sphere that floats high above the beholder city of Zokir beneath the surface of Toril. This great sphere serves as both temple and seat of government, with only those hive mothers who serve on the ruling council capable of entering.
However, there are locations that could be considered sacred to the Great Mother, although whether this is truly the case is up for debate. Regardless, beholders and beholder-kin seem drawn to these locations, which inevitably leads to genocidal conflict as each breed attempts to gain control of the location. The most well-known of these sites in the Known Spheres is the outer world of H’catha in Realmspace, a flatworld with an immense spire of a mountain extending from the center. Beholders themselves speak little about why they fight for it, except to say that the false breeds must not have the world. This alone has led to speculation that the world is some holy site for the Great Mother. Unconfirmed rumors out of beholder-dominated space say that similar worlds are scattered among their spheres, which might explain why beholders dominate those spheres in the first place.
Affiliated Orders: The priesthood of the Great Mother sponsors no martial or monastic orders.
Priestly Vestments: Priests of the Hive Spawner conduct no services and wear no raiments of office. Those hive mothers temporarily elevated to priestly status do not need a holy symbol to cast or memorize spells; those rare few who choose to become priests do, however. The holy symbol used by these priests is a stone egg carved to show an eye. Such symbols are either grafted to their foreheads or kept in their mouth so they can present it with their tongue when needed.
Adventuring Garb: Beholders do not make use of clothing or weaponry normally; any equipment the Great Mother’s clergy makes use of while traveling is left to personal preference.
Specialty Priests (Tyrannorbs)
Requirements: Wisdom 9
Prime Req.: Wisdom
Alignment: LE, NE, CE
Major Spheres: All, astral, combat, divination, necromantic (reversed only), numbers, protection, thought, time
Minor Spheres: None
Magical Items: Same as clerics
Req. Profs: None
Bonus Profs: None
- Tyrannorbs may be hive mothers, elder orbs (of any type), or normal beholders with a blinded central eye. Abominations may never be tyrannorbs.
- Tyrannorbs cannot be multiclassed.
- Most tyrannorbs are hive mothers elevated to priestly status directly by the Great Mother or one of its avatars, often in response to some outside threat of great proportion. They become 9th-level priests without the need to gain experience, and have all of the powers listed below. They gain no additional hit points, and powers are typically retained for one week, with the Great Mother directly granting extensions beyond that on an as-needed basis; such hive mothers gain no experience points and cannot advance beyond 9th level even if granted these powers for an extended period of time. Only in extremely rare cases have powers been retained for a month or more.
- Elder orbs or beholders whose central eyes have been blinded may choose to learn priestly rather than wizardly magic. Treat such tyrannorbs as those types of beholders in all respects save the type of magic they are capable of learning and casting.
- Tyrannorbs can cast spells from any four spheres listed above, plus the sphere of all. These spheres are chosen when a beholder first gains priestly powers and cannot be changed later; hive mothers elevated multiple times in their life can choose a new group of spheres every time they are granted priestly ability, however.
- Tyrannorbs gain a +2 saving throw bonus versus any spells from the four spheres they’ve chosen to gain access to.
- Tyrannorbs are able to control undead as normal for a priest of their level, but can only affect unintelligent undead such as zombies and skeletons. They have no ability to control intelligent undead such as ghouls, wights, or vampires.
- At 2nd level, tyrannorbs can cast command (as the 1st-level priest spell) once per day.
- At 4th level, tyrannorbs can cast mind read (as the 2nd-level priest spell) once per day.
- At 6th level, tyrannorbs can cast animate dead (as the 3rd-level priest spell) once per day.
- At 8th level, tyrannorbs can cast divination (as the 4th-level priest spell) once per week.
- At 10th level, tyrannorbs can choose an addition sphere to gain access to from the list of spheres above. Once chosen, this sphere can never be changed. In addition, they can gain access to an addition sphere for each additional level gained, until they have access to all spheres at 13th level.
Great Mother Spells
In addition to the spells listed below, priests of the Hive Spawner can cast the 4th-level priest spell control death tyrant and the 7th-level priest spell create death tyrant, both detailed in the Priest’s Spell Compendium Vol.I.
Detect False Breed (Pr 1; Divination)
Duration: 1 turn
Casting Time: 1 rd.
Area of Effect: Path, 10 ft. × 90 ft.
Saving Throw: None
With this spell, a beholder priestess can detect any beholders or beholder-kin who do not match their own hive’s breed and appearance, even if they are disguised by magic. Further, this spell can pierce another beholder’s anti-magic ray through a special boon of the Great Mother.
While this spell is in effect, the caster sees any beholders of their own breed (including elder orbs and beholder mages) as radiating a faint, pleasing aura of green light. Beholder-kin and beholders of other breeds (those with a different coloration, skin texture, or arrangement of eyes) appear to be outlined in an angry red aura that incites hatred in the caster. These auras appear even if the beholder or kin is in another form due to illusions or polymorph magic, or targeting the beholder priestess with an anti-magic ray. Abominations radiate a faint white aura, while orbii radiate a green aura at all times.
Ground Spear (Pr 2; Alteration)
Range: 30 yds.
Casting Time: 2
Area of Effect: Special
Saving Throw: None
By means of this spell, the caster causes a sharp spear of stone and earth to stab upwards to a height of 6 feet, typically in an attempt to impale a beholder or another creature. A normal attack roll at the caster’s THAC0 is made to determine if the spear strikes, with opponents suffering a +2 penalty to their Armor Class due to the unexpected nature of the attack. If the ground spear is used against humanoids, they gain the benefit of Dexterity defense adjustments, but not shields. This spell only functions on surfaces of natural rock or earth; it cannot create a ground spear out of worked stone, wood, etc.
A creature successfully struck by the ground spear suffers 2d6 points of damage, plus one point per level of the caster; even if the attack roll misses, the target suffers half damage from a glancing blow. In addition, a target successfully struck becomes impaled and immobilized on the spear so long as the caster concentrates, suffering a further 1d6 points of damage plus 1 per level each round until slain or the spell ends. A creature with Strength of 18 can break the spear and free themselves so long as they have arms and hands capable of grasping it, as can a combined Strength of 24 from allies or companions. The spear can be disintegrated with a beholder’s disintegration eye, but only if they were floating at least four feet above the surface from which the spear is created.
It is rumored that certain beholder-hunting wizards have created a 3rd-level version of this spell, with a casting time of 6 and requiring a pinch of powdered diamond mixed with amber as a material component.
Imbue Abomination With Eye Ability (Pr 4; Enchantment/Charm)
Range: 30 yds.
Duration: 1 week or until used 3 times
Casting Time: 1 turn
Area of Effect: 1 beholder abomination
Saving Throw: None
With this spell, the caster can imbue one of their eye powers upon an abomination. For the duration of the spell, the caster loses access to that eye’s power, while the selected abomination can utilize that power just as if they were the caster themselves. The abomination granted an eye power can use it up to three times before losing the ability to do so, or until a week has passed, but loses the ability to use the power of one of their eyes. The casting priest can end this granted power at any point, even if the abomination is out of sight, distant, or even on another plane. In all other respects, this spell functions as the 4th-level priest spell, imbue with spell ability.