Saturday, April 7, 2018


Also known as the eye-tyrant, the beholder is well-known as one of the deadliest creatures to exist anywhere. It has only ever been encountered at the core of deep dungeons, preferring to make its lair in a small cave, the size chosen to ensure the beholder room enough to unleash its infamous arsenal of magical attacks, while ensuring that no spellcaster will have the power to cast spells beyond the power of the beholder's anti-magic eye.

Typically, the beholder will be supported by level upon level of lesser creatures, helplessly under the thrall of the beholder. While allowed to dwell and live out their lives, these slave creatures will be organized so as to protect the beholder's lair, while at the same time bringing a stream of food to the beholder, whose appetite is prodigious.

In many ways, the beholder is quite vulnerable. Despite its powers, enough creatures willing to give their lives could rush the beholder at once ~ and though many would die, the remainder might successfully, with oil and torches, set the beholder's lair alight; or they might shut the beholder up in its cave or cause an avalanche. A beholder, alone and moving about looking for its own food, could be surprised by group of large beasts and quickly made into a meal. For all these reasons, the beholder's greatest power is its intelligence: knowing precisely how to make itself safe, ensuring its well-being against all threats.

Physical Description

The beholder is shaped like a globe, covered in heavy plating and hardened ridges, causing its surface to appear stone-like. It has a large mouth and one great eye that identifies the front of the sphere. Atop the sphere are ten stalks, each of which is topped with a much smaller eye, so that the beholder has eleven eyes altogether.

Each of these eyes are blessed with a unique and individual power, any of which may be employed by the beholder once per round (descriptions follow below). These eyes are grouped on the beholder's head in a particular fashion; none of these eyes has the power to affect a 360° circle around the beholder. This means, depending on how the beholder chooses to orient itself, or upon which side it is approached, some of the eyes can be brought to bear on the target and some not.

The great eye, which can be made to bulge forward from the body, has the ability to see in a 180° arc to its front. Using the image on the right for orientation, the eye could affect targets in the pink, brown and purple zones, including creatures standing on the boundaries of those regions.

The stalks upon the beholder's head are only partially flexible, so that they can each attack only a 120° arc and no better. Stalk numbers 1 and 2 can attack the brown and purple zones (borders always included). Stalk number 3 can attack the purple and green zones. Stalks 4 and 5 can attack the green and yellow zones. Stalks 6 and 7 and attack the yellow and blue zones. Stalk number 8 can attack the blue and pink zones. And finally, stalks number 9 and 10 can attack the pink and brown zones.

Each stalk shown in the figure has a different power, as follows: stalk 1 (disintigrate), stalk 2 (telekinesis), stalk 3 (sleep), stalk 4 (hypnotism), stalk 5 (fear), stalk 6 (slow), stalk 7 (hold person or monster), stalk 8 (flesh-to-stone), stalk 9 (cause wound), stalk 10 (death). Finally, the great eye (no. 11) can produce an anti-magic ray. The description of these special powers is outlined as follows, numbers corresponding to the eye that can use that power. Each eye can be used once per round.
  1. Disintegrate. Causes complete annihilation of the body of one creature, leaving nothing behind that can be raised or otherwise preserved. The creature is entitled to a saving throw against magic. The beholder can affect one creature in this way per round. Creatures that are disintegrated can be retrieved only through a wish spell.
  2. Telekinesis. Enables the beholder to move or hold immobile any object or creature up to 375 lbs. weight. The beholder is most likely to use the power to seize an attacker and hurl that individual against a distant wall or towards the ceiling (depending on the ceiling's height) to cause, effectively, falling damage. The ceiling is preferred, as this falling damage can be accumulated twice, once upon hitting the ceiling, then again when the creature falls back to the floor. The beholder may only affect one creature per round in this fashion, and may commit only one action against that creature. If the creature is viewed as especially dangerous, the beholder can hold them immobile indefinitely. If it is determined that a missile weapon has hit the beholder during the player's turn, the beholder may grab that missile and eliminate that hit, as though it never occurred ~ however, the beholder must then forego using its telekinesis eye during the beholder's next move. Only one missile may be stopped in this manner.
  3. Sleep. Affects creatures like the 1st level magic spell, sleep.  Causes sleep in one creature, no saving throw. The creature falls asleep and can be roused. However, if the creature is not interacted with by someone, the sounds of battle will not awaken the creature, so that the effects of the sleep will last from 5-30 rounds.
  4. Hypnotism. Affects a single creature like the 1st level illusionist spell, hypnotism, with the exception that the beholder's form does not prevent the hypnotized creature from harming his or her allies. Allows a save against magic. The effect lasts only 2-5 rounds.
  5. Fear. Affects a single creature like the 3rd level illusionist spell, fear. Allows a save against magic. The effect lasts for 16 rounds.
  6. Slow. Affects a single creature like the 3rd level mage spell, slow, causing all action point (AP) costs to be doubled, precluding the creature from running. The creature is limited to performing its normal number of attacks every two rounds, so that a creature normally able to attack once per round would now do so every other round, while a creature normally able to attack twice a round would now attack once each round. There is no saving throw. The effect lasts for 6 rounds.
  7. Hold Person or Monster. Affects a single creature like the 2nd level cleric spell, hold person. Allows a save against magic. The effect lasts for 4 rounds.
  8. Flesh-to-Stone. The reverse of the 6th level mage spell, stone-to-flesh. The effect will transform the creature into solid stone, including all that the creature is carrying or wearing, including another person. Allows a save against magic. The effect is permanent.
  9. Cause Wound. Causes 22 points of damage, half if a save against breath weapon is made. If the total damage is 22, the victim will continue to bleed for 2 hit points per round thereafter, 1 point per round if the save was successful, until the wound is bound or otherwise treated.
  10. Death. Causes the death of one creature, no saving throw. The creature can be raised or resurrected, but cannot be brought back to life using death's door.
  11. Anti-Magic Ray. Produced by the great eye, will drain the magical ability and effect from one creature. If the spellcaster is actively casting a spell, the casting is disrupted and the spell is lost for that day. Ongoing spells that have already been cast, regardless of whether the spell requires the concentration of the caster, will also be dispelled. Moreover, once a character is hit with the anti-magic ray, that character will be unable to cast a spell or cantrip, make use of a magic item, or employ magic resulting from a sage ability for 3 rounds.

Engaging a Beholder in Combat

Obviously, because of the Beholder's formidable power, defenders will be anxious to find strategies to counteract the many eye attacks or at least fool the Beholder into wasting its powers on lesser combatants. As well, knowing which attacks can affect which arcs around the beholder can be useful, if protection spells of various sorts can be obtained.

Most will be anxious to destroy eyes, in order to reduce the beholder's potential for destruction, if only to weaken the creature before a retreat is called of the survivors so that another engagement arranged. It is possible to destroy any of the beholder's eyes except for the great eye, which will survive so long as the beholder's body remains intact. To destroy the great eye, the beholder must be reduced in hit points to -10 (it counts as a leveled creature). To destroy an eyestalk, however, is easier. It can be struck with a weapon, swung, thrown or fired, so long as AC -5 is successfully hit. The beholder will usually levitate high enough above the floor to preclude direct melee and may save its telekinesis power for the initial salvo that will tend to take place as a party rushes in. Of course, a beholder may be surprised by someone that is invisible, under the effect of a sanctuary spell or using various magic items for the purpose of deception, enabling a lucky shot that could take out the death or disintegration eyes (or whichever seems best).

However, it should not be supposed that the beholder will be alone, or that its lair will have a conveniently flat floor or that there won't be traps set by its minions designed to reveal hidden interlopers. The beholder is highly intelligent and will be prepared for most simple tactics, so would-be attackers should be warned.

As well, it should also be understood that there are two species of beholder. The above describes the "left-handed" beholder. In the "right-handed" beholder, the eyes are located in a mirrored position to that which appears in the diagram (left is right and right is left). It requires a true expert about beholders to be able to visually tell the difference.

See Bestiary

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