Saturday, April 27, 2024

#AtoZChallenge2024: X is for Xanathar

 Something different for me today.  While I have been writing about D&D all month, they are all topics I have quite a bit of knowledge about. This is not one of those days.

In the past I have used X for "Expert" which not really a cheat since X was always used for the Cook/Marsh Expert set, but I already did Expert this year

So today I am going to talk about a character, or a series of characters, all named Xanathar.

Xanathar's Guide to Everything covers

Xanathur, Beholder Crimelord of Waterdeep

Greyhawk Supplement I

Xanathur is not a typical character for me to like. I lean more toward magic-using types. If I want a big bad, I have plenty of demons, devils, faerie lords, vampires, and witches. I am flush with choice. 

So what is so special about Xanathur? 

Well, for starters, he is a beholder. What's a beholder? certainly began as a joke or pun in Gary's games. It is a giant floating sphere of eyes and teeth.  

They are evil, psychic xenophobes who hate everyone and everything that doesn't look like them. Even other beholders often fail to meet their standards. 

They are one of the original creations for D&D and were even featured on the cover of the Original D&D Supplement I book Greyhawk.  But even in Gary's Greyhawk world, I don't think he had planned for what Ed Greenwood was going to do in his Forgotten Realms world. 

Though Ed has done a lot of GREAT things to expand D&D's world-building, I consider beholders to be part of the World of Greyhawk, and they found their way to the Forgotten Realms


Xanathur, or more to the point, the first Xanathur, was odd by beholder standards. He lived in the city of Waterdeep where he acted as the hidden crime lord of the city. Think Kingpin from Marvel or even The Godfather.  He had only a few close aides who knew who he truly was.  

"He" (and I am not sure if beholders have a gender, to be honest, but this is how he is referred to) was introduced to us in the 1st Edition Forgotten Realms book, Waterdeep and the North. In fact, he was on the cover with his trusted lieutenants.  

Shindia Darkeyes, Xanathur, Shadowheart, and Sinéad
Shadowheart and Sinéad seek information from Shindia Darkeyes and Xanathur

As editions came and went, we learned that the first Xanathur was killed by another beholder, who took over his business and name and ruled the crime of Waterdeep as "The Xanathur." This would happen a few more times. In total, there have been five Xanathurs

Why am I posting about this guy? I mean, I very, very little about him. I remember that Waterdeep book at Waldenbooks, and I thought it looked cool, but the idea of a Beholder hanging out with humanoids and not eating them felt weird to me. Never mind, he was a criminal and working them all. Ok, he was their overlord, and his opinions about non-beholderkin had not changed. 

But this is why he is also great. Ed Greenwood when he started building the Forgotten Realms began to challenge us early on as to what was true about a D&D world. The Realms are NOT Greyhawk, and nor should they be. This is exactly the crazy sort of thing that doesn't sound it should work, but it does and it works well. I mean I never would have done this myself, and that bothers me that I didn't think of something like this. It is so great.

This is the strength of this game. You can do anything you want with it! There is no such thing as too crazy really.

Floating cities? Of course. Dragons sleeping under a city to rise in a time of great need? Ah...hello Ansur still sleeps under Baldur's Gate! Undead tyrant leaders of a xenophobic nation of mages? Ok, that one is actually really easy to believe. 

This is why we game. This is why, 45 years later, I am still finding something new!

Tomorrow is Sunday, and so I'll talk about Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition for my last Sunday Special.

The A to Z of Dungeons & Dragons: Celebrating 50 years of D&D.

1 comment:

PT Dilloway said...

Y day should actually be on Monday, FYI.

I did something similar in a story where a gangster calling himself Don Vendetta is killed by his wife. Even though it should be "Dona" Vendetta she continues using the male name for the intimidation factor.

A Beholder gangster would actually be better than a giant space slug like the Hutts in Star Wars. I'm not sure how they ever got power since they seem kinda big, slow, and useless. Beholders could fight a lot better.