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Beholders – A Classic D&D Monster – Web DM


You’re walking down a dungeon corridor when
a giant floating eye approaches. Suddenly, your magic user can’t cast spells. Your fighters
been charmed. Your toughest henchmen was just turned to stone. You’ve encountered a beholder
and now it’s time to run. Well today the eye’s have it. I’m Jonathan
Pruitt, this is Jim Davis. It’ s Web DM and today we’re talking about everyone’s favorite
spherical, alien, death machine. The Beholder. Let’s get to it. The beholder first appeared on the cover of
the Greyhawk supplement. Which was the first supplement for Original Dungeons and Dragons,
published in 1975. Born of the imagination of one of Gary Gygax’s gaming group players,
the beholder is a classic D&D monster. The beholder has a rare distinction of not being
directly inspired by real world mythology or science fiction/fantasy literature. For
years it was primarily presented as a solitary monster encountered mainly in dungeons. But
with the Spelljammer campaign setting and later the I, Tyant adventure, the beholder
developed its own ecology, culture and society. Their powers revolve around two separate spheres.
Things that can kill you, like petrification and disintegration, and things that can make
you absolutely miserable, like charm person, slow. And an Anti-Magic cone emanating from
its main eye. The beholder has had a lasting impact on fantasy and pop culture. From ‘Big
Trouble in Little China’ to its own video game series ‘D&D: Eye of the Beholder’ for
PC, Sega CD, Super Nintendo and Game Boy Advance. No matter how experienced your players are
you can always spice up their adventure with a beholder. So Jim, Beholders. What role-playing opportunities,
not just combat role-playing does the DM have with a beholder in the campaign? For DM’s
the beholders present themselves with a really neat opportunity to just indulge in the most
hateful, racial purity kind of villains that you can think of. For our Doctor Who fans
this might mean drawing on inspiration from the Daleks. You know the beholders maniacal,
egotistical. Hate everybody. They’re gonna gloat. They’re gonna monologue. Yeah. So as
a DM you want to have a good monologue loaded up for your players. But I also think that
the beholders are gonna underestimate the PC’s. That the beholders are gonna think,
“Ah these are just a butch of humans and elves and dwarves who are just a nuisance.” Right.
So if you’re kinda one of those DM’s who likes to role-play the monsters personality as you’re
doing combat, then you might have them overlook things that the PC’s do or assume that the
players are kind of incompetent, if this is the first time they’re meeting them. Or, uh
possibly the players might catch the beholder off guard because of said over confidence.
Absolutely yeah. What we’ve got with the beholder is an opportunity to play some a monster that’s
just truly self-centered and egotistical, and as a DM that’s very fun. But with all
that power, cause beholders have a lot of power. Right. What exactly is beholding them
back? They’re typically encountered alone. They don’t usually have minions. They’re very
clannish, very insular. So it’s easy to catch beholders on their own without having to worry
about additional creatures coming along and bothering you while you’re fighting them or
trying to, if you can, negotiate with them. Let’s roll initiative. How do you as the DM
try to kill your PC’s? One of the things that beholders have always had advantage on is
the action economy of the game. Usually in a typical scenario you’ll have a monster maybe
with some minions that come along, but the players usually have more actions than the
DM does when it comes to just pure..uh.. how many times can my monster act versus how many
times can the players act. Right. Beholders kind of break that and they have through all
editions of the game being able to shoot multiple eye rays. Of course with 5th edition they’re
able to shoot them on their own turn and at the end of other players turns. Yeah. So,
you’re getting at any one sort of round of combat up to SIX times the beholders are attacking.
If it’s in its lair it’s going to get an eye (lair) action at least one more time. So six
to seven times the beholder gets to attack for each player and that allows it isolate
certain players that might be problematic. It might fling a wizard into its area of effect
for its cone of..uh the anit-magic ray. It might uh lock down a fighter who it knows
can grapple it or otherwise can keep it from flying away. So the ability to juggle multiple
characters at once, to handle an entire party with just one monster is really what makes
the beholder a scary thing from the DM’s perspective and also incredibly fun. You just get to do
a lot more stuff. You’re never wanting for options. You’re getting to use abilities that
are usually like.. one spell might charm. You know, like you might have a wizard that
turns someone to stone once. Right. But you could potentially do that every round with
a beholder. Like it’s really, they really let you cut loose the special abilities that
don’t appear that often. So, I mean from a DM’s perspective the beholders are fun because
they give you alot to do, but what about players? How would you advise players handle their
first beholder or even their second or third or fifth? Like you just explained all of the
different ways that a beholder can rain death on you, so you have a couple of options. You
want to try to get a beholder out of its lair, so good luck with that. Right. That way you
can at least limit that one Lair Action that you get in 5th edition. If you have enough
ranged characters, try to stay outside of that 150ft anit-magic cone range because beholders
are really slow. They only move 20ft. a round. Right. So if you can do that and basically
“Kite” them. Stay away, you know..there’s nothing keeping it from continuing to attack
you other than its own smug superiority. Right. If you have anyone that can cast like ‘Pass
without Trace’ or ‘Invisibility’ hopefully you can sneak up on a beholder, which normally
is not a viable option. But if you can get Invisibility that’s advantage on that sneak
roll. If you can get Pass without Trace that’s another +10 on top of it. So if you can get
in close maybe that’s an option. If you have someway to grapple or restrain so it can’t
get away. Uh-huh. Because once you start beating on a beholder, we’ve had an encounter or two
with beholders and once you start beating on them there’s nothing stopping it from just
flying straight up and getting out of there. Other than it being slow so if you can restrain
it and bring that movement to zero, that’s good. The big thing about a player fighting
a beholder…You’re gonna be making a lot of saves. You’re gonna be making saves every
round. You’re gonna be making saves of every kind. Right. There’s nothing you want less
than that fighter either being charmed and being taken out of the fight or turned to
stone and taken out of the fight. Being Slowed is one thing but you know. So having a Paladin
uh I can’t remember which..I haven’t played a Paladin yet. Oath of Ancients has the a..
The saving throw bonus? I think all paladins get the saving throw and Oath of Ancients
can help with some of the damage that, yeah. So having a Paladin in your party so you get
that bonus to savings is a very important thing but you just gotta pile it on. You gotta
pile it on as quickly and as hard as you can because they got a lot of hit points. So it’s
all about crossing that 120 ft. death range that they have (Right.) from when they can
first detect you to when you get in melee with them. Right. You’re outside that range
or way up close. Right up on em. You brought up an interesting point about grappling. Yes.
And because the beholder have a hover speed it’s difficult to knock them out of the air
if they’re already flying. Exactly. So you gotta get up on em quick and hopefully without
them noticing. Exactly. This also raising something interesting for DM’s in that it
really requires you to know the characters very well. Yes. Because you’re getting a random
assortment of rays every round. You don’t know what exactly you’re gonna get. There’s
a bit of, ok do I have a bunch of things that will target charisma saves this time, or constitution
saves? It might go badly for a certain group of players because you know maybe I rolled
a lot of things that require constitution saves. I’m not gonna target the barbarian
or fighter with those things. No, No. I’m going after the spellcasters and the squishier
types with those. Uh huh, or the rogue. And so it’s a more dynamic fight. It’s a lot harder
I think maybe to plan round to round what’s gonna happen because of that random element.
Yes. And so it makes it a lot more exciting I think. Oh, most definitely. Yeah. So one thing about the earlier editions was
morale. Right. And let’s say you’re fighting a horde of orcs or something and you kill
a few of them.. you start check for morale with the orcs. Uh huh. They run away. So you
don’t have to kill all 18 of them. You just have to kill enough to force em to run away.
But with the Zombies that wasn’t the case. You have to fight all 18 of those Zombies.
Right. And so I think without morale rules in 5th edition, DM’s can add that back in
just through role-playing how the monsters react to the players. You should take every
opportunity to close with the players, to attack them. They’re not subtle. Maybe if
they’re controlled by a necromancer they try to outflank or maneuver around. But for the
most part they’re coming straight at em. Thanks again for watching Web DM. We’re gonna
have new ones every Wednesday. Tell your friends. Come back next week.

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