Behold the Beholder: Integrating Beholders into Your D&D Campaign

Eye Eye, Captain! 

Beholders. The floating orbs of death that haunt the nightmares of adventurers everywhere. These aberrations are the stuff of legend, second only to dragons in their iconic status within the realms of Dungeons and Dragons.

But what makes a beholder so terrifying? Is it the massive, bulging eye that sits above a maw filled with sharp teeth? Or perhaps it’s the writhing eyestalks that crown its grotesque form, twisting and turning to keep its prey always in sight?

No, I think it’s something deeper than that. It’s the sheer alien nature of these creatures, the way they dismiss all other life as inferior and unworthy. It’s the paranoia that consumes their every waking moment, the certainty that everything and everyone is out to get them.

You see, a beholder is convinced that all other creatures resent it for its brilliance and power. It views the world through a lens of suspicion and hatred, always ready for the betrayal it knows is coming. Even other beholders are not safe from this mindset, for each beholder believes itself to be the perfect form, and all deviations are flaws to be expunged. This belief is further reinforced by the beholder’s unique reproductive process: when a beholder dreams, its dreams can manifest as physical reality, including giving birth to new beholders.

The Eyes Have It: A Closer Look at Beholder Abilities

But enough about their charming personality. Let’s talk about how these aberrations can utterly destroy a party of adventurers foolish enough to cross their path.

First and foremost, a beholder is a tactician. It will analyze its opponents, take note of their weapons and armor, and adjust its strategy accordingly to eliminate the biggest threats first. And trust me, it has plenty of options to choose from.

Let’s start with the obvious: the eye rays. Each of those writhing stalks has a specific ability, from disintegration to petrification to good old-fashioned death. The beholder can choose which three of these rays to fire off per round, in addition to its main eye abilities. Fun!

Speaking of its main eye, let’s not forget about the beholder’s central eye and its incredible anti-magic cone. This 150-foot cone of anti-magic suppresses all magical effects within its area of effect, severely limiting the party’s options and making it a key aspect of beholder tactics.

Lairs, Traps, and Other Deadly Delights

But a truly sadistic Dungeon Master knows that the key to a memorable beholder fight is the lair. These creatures are paranoid, remember? They’re not going to just float out in the open and wait for some murder hobos to come knocking. No, they’re going to hole up in a labyrinthine lair filled with traps and obstacles designed to split up and weaken their foes before the main event.

Picture this: the party enters a long, narrow tunnel, only to have a hidden pressure plate trigger a cave-in behind them. Suddenly, they’re trapped in a small chamber with a beholder floating smugly above them, its eyestalks already glowing with eldritch energy. Roll initiative, suckers.

But wait, there’s more! Remember those lair actions? Yeah, the beholder gets to use one of those on initiative count 20, losing ties. Maybe it coats the floor in slippery slime, sending the fighter careening into a pit trap. Or perhaps it causes writhing appendages to burst from the walls, grappling the squishy wizard and holding them in place for a point-blank disintegration ray. The possibilities are endless!

Minions, Cannon Fodder, and Other Expendable Assets

And let’s not forget about the minions. A beholder is arrogant, yes, but it’s not stupid. It knows the value of cannon fodder, and it will gladly send waves of enslaved creatures at the party to soften them up before the main event. After all, why risk its own precious hide when it has a horde of disposable mooks to throw at the problem?

But even with all these advantages, a beholder fight is never a guaranteed win for the DM. These creatures are glass cannons, after all, and a well-placed spell or lucky critical hit can bring them down faster than you can say “anti-magic cone”. And that’s where the real fun begins.

The Art of Losing Gracelessly

You see, a beholder is a sore loser. It cannot conceive of a world where it is not the apex predator, the ultimate being. So when it starts to lose, when the tide of battle turns against it, that’s when the true depths of its madness and desperation are revealed.

Maybe it starts ranting and raving about the inferiority of the party, its eye rays firing wildly in all directions as it tries to take as many of them down with it as possible. Or perhaps it attempts to flee, disintegrating walls and collapsing ceilings behind it to cut off pursuit and buy itself time to recover and plan its revenge.

And of course, there’s always the nuclear option: self-destruction. A cornered beholder, faced with the ultimate humiliation of defeat, may just decide to take the whole damn dungeon down with it in a final blaze of spiteful glory. Hope you brought your Eversmoking Bottle, because it’s about to get real foggy in here.

Pride Goeth Before a Disintegration

But for all their power and alien malevolence, there is one thing that will always be a beholder’s downfall: its own hubris. These creatures are so convinced of their own superiority that they cannot fathom the possibility of defeat. They will underestimate their foes, ignore potential weaknesses, and make tactical blunders that a more humble creature would avoid.

And that, my friends, is where the true satisfaction of a beholder fight lies. Not in the thrill of victory, but in the slow, dawning realization on that bulbous face as it realizes that maybe, just maybe, it’s not as perfect as it thought. That look of shock and disbelief as the killing blow lands and the light fades from that hateful eye? Priceless.

Embrace the Chaos, Revel in the Madness

So go forth, brave Dungeon Masters, and unleash the beholders upon your unsuspecting players. And remember, there are several beholder variants in D&D lore, each with its own unique abilities and quirks, such as the death tyrant, the spectator, and the gauth. Incorporating these variants can add even more depth and complexity to your beholder encounters.

Just be prepared for the inevitable moment when your players outsmart you and send your carefully crafted plans crashing down in flames. Because in the end, that’s what D&D is all about: the unpredictable, the unexpected, and the sheer, chaotic joy of it all.

And who knows? Maybe your players will surprise you. Maybe they’ll come up with a brilliant strategy that you never saw coming, or pull off a last-second clutch play that snatches victory from the jaws of defeat. Or maybe they’ll just get disintegrated in the first round and spend the rest of the fight rolling up new characters. Either way, it’s all part of the fun.

Just remember: when it comes to beholders, there’s no such thing as a fair fight. These creatures cheat, they lie, they stack the deck in their favor and then cackle gleefully as they watch the party squirm. But that’s what makes them such wonderful villains, such perfect foils for the brave heroes who dare to stand against them.

So embrace the chaos. Revel in the madness. And above all else, never, ever underestimate the power of a paranoid floating eyeball with a god complex.

Because that, my friends, is what beholders are all about.