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A beholder, sometimes called a sphere of many eyes or an eye tyrant, was a large aberration normally found in the Underdark. These large, orb-shaped beings had ten eyestalks and one central eye, each containing powerful magic. Powerful and intelligent, beholders were among the greatest threats to the world.
- 1 Description
- 2 Biology
- 3 Personality
- 4 Combat
- 5 Society
- 6 Usage
- 7 History
- 8 Notable Beholders
- 9 Appendix
Description[edit | edit source]
Beholders were immediately identifiable, being essentially a floating head with one single, cyclops-like eye surrounded by ten smaller eye stalks. Other than this, the main feature of a beholder's anatomy was its massive, gaping maw. Because of these features, beholders were occasionally known as "spheres of many eyes" or "eye tyrants," although the latter also referred to a specific type of beholder.
Because their entire body was covered in eyes, beholders had the capacity to see in all directions at once, making it nearly impossible to ambush them while also giving them an unusually high degree of perceptive ability. Although beholders lacked the capacity to see color, they had the ability to perceive even in the most darkened environment, under conditions in which a human or similar creature would be rendered blind.
Beholders were also capable of flight, in spite of their lack of wings or similar physical features, simply hovering above ground effortlessly. The effects of this flight resembled those of the wizard spell levitation.
Biology[edit | edit source]
Beholders were omnivorous, genderless aliens, and a subject of great fascination for sages who studied biology and the hunters who attempted to kill them. As such, a large amount of information was available on beholder anatomy.
Biological Features[edit | edit source]
The skin of a beholder appeared to be made out of a stony substance, as strong and durable as steel. Upon death, the skin would harden further into a stone-like consistency.
Beholder 'bones' were incredibly porous and lightweight leather-like cartilage that was visually indistinguishable from their skin, but comparatively weaker, almost having the strength and durability of iron. Upon death, a beholder's skeletal structure would become brittle.
Their eyestalks were usually flexible tentacles, but varied among individuals and could instead be jointed stalks covered in rigid chitin or segmented stalks similar to the bodies of earthworms.
Not all beholders possessed nostrils, those who did could breathe like humanoids, those that didn't could only breathe through their mouths.
A beholder's mouth was relatively similar to a humanoid's, but on a larger scale, containing soft palettes, a muscular tongue and a row of upper and lower teeth (averaging 56 teeth in total) lining a hinged jaw. Said teeth are long and thin however, designed for ripping and tearing rather than for chewing.
Beholders had one lung, and two stomachs.
Blood[edit | edit source]
Unlike a humanoid heart that pumps blood around the body constantly, beholders had a central 'blood sac' that, in conjunction with a powerfully muscled diaphragm, pushed blood into the beholder's blood vessels, then pulled the blood back into the sac.
Brain[edit | edit source]
The beholder brain was similar in appearance to that of a humanoid's, but wider. It's two lobes (known as 'dweomerlobes') descended downwards to the left and right from the center like horns and had a complicated central nervous system surrounding it. The brain and nervous system was where magical energies were stored, amplified, and directed to the eyestalks. It had been observed that older beholder's brains gained ridges.
Diet & Digestion[edit | edit source]
While they required, on average, about 10 lbs (4.5 kg) of food and 2 gallons (9 liters) of fluid per day, an otherwise healthy individual could typically survive over twenty days without food or drink before dying of starvation or thirst. Additionally, a beholder's digestive system was capable of storing excess consumed food to process as needed at a rate of 20 lbs (9 kg) per day. For example, if a beholder ate 110 lbs (50 kg) of food, only 10 lbs of that would go towards their daily intake needs, and the rest would be digested over the course of the next five days without them needing to eat anything else. Food was liquefied in the beholder's two stomachs and pumped through a intestine-like system up to the lung where these intestines thinned out to a hair's breadth and mixed the food with air. The beholder's diaphragm pumped the digested food, combined with air from the lungs around the body through a system of fine arteries to nourish the organs. Waste liquid, devoid of nourishment and oxygen, would then drain back into the mouth to be expelled, or more likely dribbled out steadily.
Beholders could eat just about anything, but they did have preferences. They tended to enjoy eating small mammals alive; roast beef, lamb and pork; liver and brain pâté; leafy vegetables, leaves, and flower petals. Their favorite drinks were blood, wine, and food coloring. Visually impressive meals were always preferred, particularly colorful ones. They did not typically enjoy citrus fruits, grapes or melons; eyeballs; hard-boiled eggs; shellfish still in the shell; bull testicles; or anything fried in batter.
Indigestible items eaten by a beholder would be either vomited up or absorbed into the body where it would eventually embed itself on the inside surface of their skeleton.
Eyes[edit | edit source]
The beholder's eyes were remarkable things. Hard, solid balls that drew in both light through the pupil and magical energy through the iris
Flight[edit | edit source]
An alien lighter-than-air gas was produced inside the bodies of beholders. Some sages called this gas tiusium. Tiusium would collect in chambers in the body, concentrated mostly at the top of the skull, thereby ensuring that individuals would rest in an upright position. A beholder would generate or expel the tiusium autonomically when they desired to ascend or descend. 360° tilting and horizontal movement was achieved through blowing air out of their lung via air vessels leading from their lung to their skin.
Life Cycle[edit | edit source]
Beholders were considered adults at the age of two years old and retained their vitality until their ninetieth year. After that milestone, most beholders became increasingly frail and their abilities gradually ceased functioning as they should. Most beholders died of natural causes between the ages of one hundred and twenty and one hundred and fifty. Exceptions could be found in the elder orb subrace of the species.
At some point before the age of forty years, typically at the age of thirty, an egg-shaped womb swelled below the back of their tongue. This pregnancy caused extreme (for a beholder) paranoia in the individual, until it got so bad that they had to secret themselves away in their lair until they gave birth. Prior to this, the beholder would consume up to four times the amount of food it normally would to create a great enough reserve, as eventually, after around four months of pregnancy, the womb swelled to a size too large to fit any food in their mouth. After just shy of six months of pregnancy, the beholder gave birth.
The birth process had been witnessed by very few. According to those rare few witnesses, the beholder would unhinge their jaw, spit up their womb and bite it off. The babies inside would then have to chew their way out. A beholder brood was normally up to a dozen babies in size with newborns being almost always one sixth the diameter of their parent. Newborns possessed strong racial memories and an inherent ability to speak Quevquel, though their eye powers would develop later.
The parent would choose one infant who looked most like themselves to rear, and either eat or reject the remainder, forcing the survivors to fend for themselves. Since the birth process involved the destruction of the womb, beholders could only become pregnant and give birth once in their entire lives. When the child that the parent chose to rear reached adulthood, it typically rejected their parent and left to become independent.
Respiration[edit | edit source]
Beholders did not sweat or urinate. They did defecate, but their stool, which could be up to six cubic feet in volume, would become almost indistinguishable from a natural sedimentary rock within two days.
Personality[edit | edit source]
Xenophobic and vicious creatures, beholders were quick to attack enemies, including anyone they deemed not "like themselves." Beholders, as a rule, were violent and greedy, hungering for both wealth and power over others. This was made all the more complicated since more than one variety of beholder existed, each believing itself to be the pinnacle of bodily perfection and they viewed other beholders who differed from this image in even the most minute details as loathsome enemies and inferiors.
Beholder minds were divided into two separate entities. Each of these entities thought and acted on its own accord even though it was bound to the same body as the other half of its mind. Neither half of the beholder's mind trusted the other, so they hid a lot from each other, creating a very paranoid relationship. "Sane beholders" were beholders whose minds were not "divided" so to speak. They were still two entities within the beholder, but neither hid anything from the other, making a less paranoid beholder. However, the persona of a "sane beholder" was just as likely to be considered "insane" by any non-beholder. Because there were two entities within a single beholder, that beholder should always be addressed by its full name when in conversation with them, or they would perceive it as speaking to only one of the entities.
Combat[edit | edit source]
Beholders were not particularly strong but were inherently magical creatures, with each of their eyes possessing an innately magical nature. Beholders, who often attacked for seemingly no reason, would often try to end a battle as quickly as possible, unleashing their terrifying abilities all at once. Among the most basic of these attacks was their deadly ability to project magical power from their eyes, in varying forms such as instilling fear within, charming, knocking out, petrifying, disintegrating, slowing, or killing their enemies. Any combination of these was possible, although they often used only two at a given time.
Many, but not all, beholders also had the capacity to use their central eye to project a field of antimagic, which canceled the effects of all supernatural abilities within a small cone of 150 feet in length. In addition to enemy spells, prayers, or similar effects, this also affected a beholder's own eye rays, suppressing their power. However, the inability to cast its eye rays at full strength was hardly a hindrance—it allowed a beholder to attack its foes with its large, toothy maw.
Society[edit | edit source]
Culture[edit | edit source]
Beholders were often found occupying deep, underground caverns. Frequently, these lairs were carved out by the beholders themselves, using their eye rays to mold the environment for their purposes. Often, these lairs were built vertically rather than horizontally like most buildings, with beholder architecture frequently exhibiting a large number of vertical shafts which beholders and other flying creatures could use with ease, while walking creatures found their navigation hindered. Beholders worshiped Gzemnid and the Great Mother.
Subraces[edit | edit source]
In spite of their hatred of diversity (or perhaps because of it), beholders came in a variety of forms, some of which are listed below:
- Bloodkiss beholder
- An undead beholder that sucked its prey dry of blood with its eye tentacles.
- Death tyrant
- Death tyrants were undead beholders akin to zombies.
- Elder orb
- These beholders were born with amazing longevity, to near-immortality.
- Eye of flame
- An unusually docile form of beholder whose members, while still malevolent, were willing to serve beneath more powerful beholders.
- Eye of frost
- A cruel beholder who lived in solitude.
- Eye of Shadow
- Eyes of shadow are beholders that have been warped by too much time spent in the tangled paths leading to the Shadowfell.
- Ghost Beholder
- A beholder that has died and has risen as a ghost. These may rise in the form of doomspheres, whose eyestalk rays take on more chilling and necromantic properties.
- Hive mother
- Also known as ultimate tyrant, an enormously powerful variant of beholder with the capacity to stun nearby enemies as well as a greater range of eye ray abilities. Hive mothers had the ability to magically dominate other beholders.
Beholderkin[edit | edit source]
A vast number of beholderkin existed. Not true beholders, these creatures did not share the race's xenophobia, although most were still quite evil and cruel in nature.
- Death kiss
- This creature's eyestalks were replaced with blood-draining tentacles.
- Beholder hive shock troopers.
- Eye of the deep
- An aquatic subspecies of beholder. Its most notable physical change was its two large clawed arms.
- A subspecies of beholder from the same plane as spectators which fed on magic and magic objects.
- Also known as eyeball, a tiny beholderkin with four eye stalks.
- Ruthless carnivores that hunted beholders.
- An observer was one of the most socially adept of the beholder family.
- An overseer resembled a large, fleshy tree with mouths on its trunk and eyes on its branches.
- A spectator was an extraplanar beholderkin with four eye stalks.
Beholder Mages[edit | edit source]
A beholder who wished to learn the Art of arcane spellcasting beyond the simple use of its innate powers faced a number of limitations, the greatest of which being its own antimagic eyesight. However, some beholders were known to blind their own central eye in order to study wizardry, becoming a beholder mage. The beholder then used its gouged-out eye as a spellcasting focus and was able to cast spells by wiggling and writhing its eyestalks. To learn spells of a new level, a beholder mage had to permanently sacrifice the innate power of one of its eyestalks to dedicate to that new level. Doing this not only granted it access to more powerful spells but also negated the need for material components. Furthermore, beholder mages were so innately gifted with magic that they could simultaneously cast spells with each eyestalk that had been dedicated to their arcane studies. In such cases, they handled the various conflicting verbal components by singing a complicated spellcasting song.
Usage[edit | edit source]
Beholder hide was a very rare and high quality crafting material, used in creation of armor and reinforcing weapons.
History[edit | edit source]
Notable Beholders[edit | edit source]
- Large Luigi, a rare non-evil beholder, who was one of the most enlightened entities in the multiverse.
- Manxam, a beholder among the ranks of the Zhentarim
- Xabash, the mysterious Grand Master of the Shadow Thieves' Waterdeep sect circa 1370 DR.
- Xanathar, the leader of an infamous thieves' guild.
Appendix[edit | edit source]
See Also[edit | edit source]
Appearances[edit | edit source]
- Under the Dark Fist • Undermountain: The Lost Level • Tomb of Annihilation • Waterdeep: Dragon Heist • Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage
- The Maelstrom's Eye • The Radiant Dragon • The Paladins
- Video Games
- Curse of the Azure Bonds • Pools of Darkness • Treasures of the Savage Frontier • Eye of the Beholder • Eye of the Beholder II: The Legend of Darkmoon • Descent to Undermountain • Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn • Icewind Dale: Trials of the Luremaster • Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance • Neverwinter Nights • Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark • Arena of War • Baldur's Gate III
- Referenced only
- Tales from Candlekeep: Tomb of Annihilation
- Board Games
- Faerûn Under Siege • Tyrants of the Underdark: Aberrations and Undead • Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Begins • Dungeons & Dragons Dice Masters: Trouble in Waterdeep
- Card Games
- AD&D Trading Cards • Dragonfire
- To Catch a Thief
Gallery[edit | edit source]
Further reading[edit | edit source]
- Ed Greenwood and Roger E. Moore (August 1983). “The Ecology of the Beholder”. In Kim Mohan ed. Dragon #76 (TSR, Inc.), pp. 6–8.
- Mike Mearls (November 2003). “Eye Wares”. In Chris Thomasson ed. Dragon #313 (Paizo Publishing, LLC), p. 54–59.
- Richard Baker, James Jacobs, and Steve Winter (April 2005). Lords of Madness: The Book of Aberrations. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 37–51. ISBN 0-7869-3657-6.
- Skip Williams, Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook (July 2003). Monster Manual v.3.5. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 25–27. ISBN 0-7869-2893-X.
External Links[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
- Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford, Christopher Perkins (2014-09-30). Monster Manual 5th edition. Edited by Scott Fitzgerald Gray. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 26–28. ISBN 978-0786965614.
- Mike Mearls, Stephen Schubert, James Wyatt (June 2008). Monster Manual 4th edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 32. ISBN 978-0-7869-4852-9.
- Skip Williams, Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook (July 2003). Monster Manual v.3.5. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 25–27. ISBN 0-7869-2893-X.
- Doug Stewart (June 1993). Monstrous Manual. (TSR, Inc), p. 25. ISBN 1-5607-6619-0.
- Gary Gygax (December 1977). Monster Manual, 1st edition. (TSR, Inc), p. 10. ISBN 0-9356-9600-8.
- Jeff Grubb (August 1989). “Lorebook of the Void”. Spelljammer: AD&D Adventures in Space (TSR, Inc.), pp. 69–70. ISBN 0-88038-762-9.
- Skip Williams, Jonathan Tweet and Monte Cook (October 2000). Monster Manual 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 24–25. ISBN 0-7869-1552-1.
- Mike Mearls, et al. (November 2016). Volo's Guide to Monsters. Edited by Jeremy Crawford, et al. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 6. ISBN 978-0786966011.
- Richard Baker, James Jacobs, and Steve Winter (April 2005). Lords of Madness: The Book of Aberrations. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 40. ISBN 0-7869-3657-6.
- Jeff Grubb and Kate Novak (August 1997). Finder's Bane. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 216. ISBN 0-7869-0658-8.
- Rich Redman, James Wyatt (May 2001). Defenders of the Faith. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 93. ISBN 0-7869-1840-3.
- Bruce R. Cordell, Eytan Bernstein, Brian R. James (January 2009). Open Grave: Secrets of the Undead. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 132. ISBN 0786950692.
- Arron Allston (1996). I, Tyrant. (TSR, Inc.), pp. 14–15. ISBN 0-7869-0404-6.
- Arron Allston (1996). I, Tyrant. (TSR, Inc.), pp. 10–11. ISBN 0-7869-0404-6.
- Rob Heinsoo, Stephen Schubert (May 2009). Monster Manual II (4th edition). (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 24–25. ISBN 978-0786951017.
- Mike Mearls, Greg Bilsland and Robert J. Schwalb (June 15, 2010). Monster Manual 3 4th edition. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 22–23. ISBN 0786954902.
- Mike Mearls, Greg Bilsland and Robert J. Schwalb (June 15, 2010). Monster Manual 3 4th edition. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 23–24. ISBN 0786954902.
- James Wyatt and Rob Heinsoo (February 2001). Monster Compendium: Monsters of Faerûn. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 88–89. ISBN 0-7869-1832-2.
- Rob Heinsoo, Stephen Schubert (May 2009). Monster Manual II (4th edition). (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 26–27. ISBN 978-0786951017.
- Arron Allston (1996). I, Tyrant. (TSR, Inc.), p. 10. ISBN 0-7869-0404-6.
- Mike Mearls, et al. (November 2016). Volo's Guide to Monsters. Edited by Jeremy Crawford, et al. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 124. ISBN 978-0786966011.
- Richard Baker, James Jacobs, and Steve Winter (April 2005). Lords of Madness: The Book of Aberrations. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 137–138. ISBN 0-7869-3657-6.
- Richard Baker, James Jacobs, and Steve Winter (April 2005). Lords of Madness: The Book of Aberrations. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 138–139. ISBN 0-7869-3657-6.
- Mike Mearls, et al. (November 2016). Volo's Guide to Monsters. Edited by Jeremy Crawford, et al. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 125. ISBN 978-0786966011.
- Mike Mearls, et al. (November 2016). Volo's Guide to Monsters. Edited by Jeremy Crawford, et al. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 126. ISBN 978-0786966011.
- James Wyatt and Rob Heinsoo (February 2001). Monster Compendium: Monsters of Faerûn. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 24. ISBN 0-7869-1832-2.
- Arron Allston (1996). I, Tyrant. (TSR, Inc.), pp. 11–12. ISBN 0-7869-0404-6.
- Richard Baker, James Jacobs, and Steve Winter (April 2005). Lords of Madness: The Book of Aberrations. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 139–140. ISBN 0-7869-3657-6.
- Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford, Christopher Perkins (2014-09-30). Monster Manual 5th edition. Edited by Scott Fitzgerald Gray. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 30. ISBN 978-0786965614.
- James Wyatt and Rob Heinsoo (February 2001). Monster Compendium: Monsters of Faerûn. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 21–22. ISBN 0-7869-1832-2.
- BKOM Studios (2017). Tales from Candlekeep: Tomb of Annihilation.
- Christopher Perkins (November 2018). Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage. Edited by Jeremy Crawford. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 30. ISBN 978-0-7869-6626-4.
- Ed Greenwood (June 2014). The Herald. (Wizards of the Coast), p. ?. ISBN 978-0786964604.
- Dale "slade" Henson (April 1991). Realmspace. Edited by Gary L. Thomas, Karen S. Boomgarden. (TSR, Inc), p. 49. ISBN 1-56076-052-4.
- Richard Baker (1992). Rock of Bral. (TSR, Inc), p. 78. ISBN 1-56076-345-0.
- Interplay (December 1997). Designed by Chris Avellone, Robert Hanz. Descent to Undermountain. Interplay.
- Westwood Associates (1991). Eye of the Beholder. Strategic Simulations, Inc.