Great Mother (Dungeons & Dragons)
|Home plane||Infinite Layers of the Abyss|
|Portfolio||Magic, fertility, tyranny|
|Domains||Chaos, Death, Evil, Strength|
In many campaign settings for the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game, The Great Mother is the creator and primary racial deity of beholders, gibbering orbs, and the various races of beholder-kin. The Great Mother is the beholder deity of magic, fertility, and tyranny. Its symbol is an egg with an eye peering out of its center.
Great Mother was first detailed in the book Monster Mythology (1992), including details about her priesthood. Her role in the cosmology of the Planescape campaign setting was described in On Hallowed Ground (1996).
In avatar form, the Great Mother appears as a huge, bloated beholder with rocks, gems, scraps of armor and weapons, shells, monstrous teeth, intact skeletons, and other debris stuck in its carapace. However, because the eyes of its Abyssal layer are the eyes of the deity itself, its true form must be much vaster and stranger. Scholars who worship Gzemnid believe the Great Mother changes appearance from one moment to the next.
Unlike its primarily lawful evil children, the Great Mother is chaotic evil and quite insane by human or even beholder standards (although it is possible that mortals simply lack the intellectual capacity to comprehend its motivations). Its outlook is profoundly alien, and few of its children are able to contemplate its thoughts or understand its actions, even if they survive an encounter with it. Unlike beholders, the Great Mother is an egg-laying being.
Of its spawn, Gzemnid, its only offspring to achieve godhood, is perhaps the only one relatively safe from its seemingly mercurial whims when in its presence. Gzemnid, while he cannot entirely comprehend his mother either, does seek to understand at least some of the wisdom produced by its insanity. He greatly admires it, as much as any deity can another.
The Great Mother inhabits the 6th layer of the Abyss in the domain known as the Realm of a Million Eyes. The layer is made up of thousands of tunnels, the walls, ceilings, and floors of which the living eyes of the deity protrude. Every known kind of beholder and beholder-kin inhabits these tunnels, preying on one another and on any demons foolish enough to venture near. The Great Mother moves through the planes as it desires, laying the eggs that form Hive Mothers on many worlds.
The Realm of a Million Eyes was discovered by the mind flayer Illionth using its mental powers. It considered the Realm to be the source of all corruption and foulness, and attempted unsuccessfully to destroy it.
The Great Mother exists to remake the multiverse in its image by filling it with its spawn, replacing all forms of life with monsters that resemble the Mother itself. It does not bother to acquire knowledge as Ilsensine and Boccob do, because it has always known all that it could ever need to know. However, it cannot or will not communicate this knowledge to lesser beings, including its own offspring. It neglects its children, not bothering with omens or portents. Sometimes it will allow beholders to be entirely wiped out on a given world, while other times it will become enraged when even a small beholder community is threatened.
All beholders and beholder-kin revere the Great Mother as the creator of their race, but the Mother is a fearful power who they hope will ignore them most of the time. It is unknown if other possibly related races such as the astereaters and gibbering orbs, or the amoeboid argos and gibbering mouthers, worship the Mother.
The Great Mother does not have regular priests, though she may invest hive mothers with clerical powers in times of conflict.
Some human cultists worship beholders as deities; they are actually granted spells by the Great Mother, though they credit the mortal beholders as the source of their powers.
Myths and legends
Kzamnal is said to be the first beholder, born from the Great Mother directly. Every beholder breed believes Kzamnel had the same pattern of hide or carapace and placement of eyestalks as they do, thus justifying their belief that they are the proper kind of beholders and all others are blasphemous mutations. Kzamnal birthed the mortal ancestors of all other beholders and instructed them to gather knowledge, that one day they might be omniscient, as the Great Mother is omniscient. Some of the children treacherously gave birth to offspring that did not resemble Kzamnal, and genocidal war has resulted between the various beholder breeds ever since.
The Beholder Ancients
The Beholder Ancients (or Elders) are said to have emerged from a cluster of cosmic eggs laid across the planes by the Great Mother. The Hive Mothers are their descendants, but the Great Mother devours her offspring when they displease her. It is said that Gzemnid only survived because of his powers of illusion.
Vikhrispa is the legendary beholder who, after being blinded in battle, became the first beholder mage. It discovered the secrets of planar travel and explored the various planes, taking other beholders of the "true breed" with it on its travels. Eventually, however, Vikhrispa was captured by beholders of other breeds, who stole its knowledge and fled to other planes to infest them with their own young.
The Fragmented God
Some philosophers of other races have postulated the existence of a greater deity they call the Fragmented God. According to this theory, the Great Mother was this deity's Evil Eye and other gods correspond to other eyes, mouth, brain, and limbs of this vast, dismembered being. There were supposedly good eyes and good hands opposed to evil eyes and evil hands, and lawful eyes and hands opposed to chaotic eyes and hands, but it is unknown whether good or evil was dominant. Some hope the god could be reunited and balance returned, while some fear the evil side would be dominant and the reunited deity would be an unstoppable force of wickedness.
- Allston, Aaron. I, Tyrant. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1996.
- Conforti, Steven, ed. Living Greyhawk Official Listing of Deities for Use in the Campaign, version 2.0. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2005. Available online:
- Grubb, Jeff, David Noonan, and Bruce Cordell. Manual of the Planes. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2001.
- Smith, Lester W., and Wolfgang Baur. Planes of Chaos. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1994.
- Stark, Ed, James Jacobs, and Erik Mona. Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2006.