Every Beholder thinks it is the epitome of Beholderkind, and the only thing it fears is that it may be wrong. -Valkara Ironfell, Dwarf Sage
Out of all the monsters in Dungeons and Dragons, there is no question that the Beholder is the most iconic, as well as the most terrifying. They’re also the most bizarre, imaginative, and fun to play with!
I mean, come on! There is a strong possibility that these fuckers are literal aliens! The book isn’t super clear on that, but that is rad as hell!
Lore: The Ultimate Xenophobes
Holy shit, there is a lot to unpack here!
Beholders are the ultimate purists. They hate everything and everyone, including other Beholders. Even if they’re alone, they believe that something is plotting against them. Their hatred knows no bounds, nor any equal.
Some use this to become something even more terrible: an Eye Tyrant. Using their abilities, a Beholder enslaves those around them to fulfill their own ends. These Eye Tyrants will sometimes make their lairs beneath populated cities, taking control of major networks to complete their goals. One of these Tyrants is Xanathar, the most terrible and well-known of all Beholders.
Other Beholders, on the other hand, prefer to live in old ruins, caves, or frigid hills. Pretty much anywhere without people. No matter the environment, it will use its eyes to carve out a lair in which it can comfortably move around. They’ll typically have large rooftops, which allow them to float far above any potential intruder.
This lair, which is ‘as alien as their creator’, reflect the genetic arrogance of the creature itself. Its chambers are filled, sometimes to the brim, with the trophies and treasures of the monster. It judges its own worth based on its loot. If a Beholder has nothing, then it may as well be worthless.
Which could make for a fun little story in it of itself! Perhaps the party needs to help build a Beholder’s treasure trove in order to get it off their backs? Then, along the way, they become strong enough to take it down! That’s a whole campaign right there! And that’s only one possibility! The number of stories that could be told with these guys is immense!
Even just finding one could be a story! Perhaps the players could be sent on a chase when they discover the effects a Beholder has on the region they live in. It could be a fun little mystery leading up to a grand battle!
Or a TPK. Friendly reminder: a Beholder is the perfect murder machine.
Design: Further Selling Me on the Whole Alien Thing
If you are into fantasy games of any kind, then you already know what these guys look like. They are undeniably iconic in every sense of it!
This thing is incredibly creative. No other monster looks anything like these guys (save the other varieties of Beholder, but they don’t count). Their designs are mysterious, but they still manage to tell their story: these guys are ruthless, pure evil, and entirely alien.
Plus, just describing these guys is a ton of fun! There is nothing more satisfying as a DM than slowly adding detail after detail, building up to the reveal of a Beholder. You’d think that would be the grand climax. But then you get the satisfaction of saying ‘Role for initiative!’ and the thrill of the fight itself!
And oh fucking boy is it thrilling!
Stats: The Grim Reaper
Little bit of adivce: don’t throw a Beholder at a party that is anything lower than level ten. If you do, you’ll kill them right quick. And that’s no fun.
In terms of regular ability, a Beholder isn’t all that bad. They have a pretty high AC and pretty high health, and their stats are pretty high. They only have one melee attack, but it does a decent amount of damage. Luckily, they have pretty low mobility.
Unfortunately, that’s not all they have. Because these mother fuckers don’t rely on biting their enemies to death. They’ve got eyes; they intend to use them.
Each of the Beholder’s eye’s has a unique spell, which they use three of randomly in a fight. These can:
- Charm an enemy
- Paralyze them
- Put them in a state of pure terror
- Slow them down
- Hit them with necrotic power
- Use telekinesis
- Put an enemy to sleep
- Petrify them
- Disintegrate them entirely
- Straight up fucking kill them
Oh, and they have three Legendary Actions, in which they can use another eye ray.
An encounter with a Beholder can quickly become hectic, dangerous, and explosive. The party will need lots of members of high level in order to survive, let alone actually kill it. These things are among the single most dangerous monsters in all of D&D.
And I haven’t even touched on Death Tyrants or Spectators. But that’s for next time.
At this point, it should be pretty obvious where I’m putting these guys on the list. But I’ll say it anyway: they are an easy #1. They sit at the top of the list, and they likely won’t be conquered by anything else. Everything, from their designs to their abilities and lore, is absolutely perfect!
They’re not the Dragons in Dungeons and Dragons. But in terms of the D&D original monsters, there can be no question that these guys are the best of the bunch. Unless there are some serious hidden gems in here that no one talks about.
But something makes me doubt it.