Favorite Monsters Revisted: The BeholderPosted: August 18, 2011
I will confess my love for the Beholder, especially the one drawn by the frequently underestimated Tom Wham (by the way, I found out that T.W.’s last name is pronouced to rhyme with ‘gone’ rather than ‘slam,’ assuming Erol Otus was saying it right).
Loads of eyeballs, teeth and a ‘chitinous’ exterior are all winners, but the few times I remember encountering one of the beasts in play in was a real slugfest. After the first time, when we saw the beholder coming, we pretty much knew that at least half of us would be rolling up new characters unless we could kill it ASAP.
I suppose some of the more serious minded advocates of D&D might feel less enchanted by the ‘Beholder’ because it has not been transplanted from myth or legend, unlike the pedigreed dragons, unicorns, hydra, etc. The Beholder looks like it floated right off the cover of some cheap, lowbrow pulp or comic book… I can just see it on the cover of a magazine called “THRILLING WONDER TALES!” or something similar, threatening a bound-up blond with ogling and cunnilingus as a square jawed hero in a torn shirt and jodpurs busts through the door… but I like that lurid pulp shit. I liked it even before I knew about it… when, as a teen, I first discovered a book with reproductions of the covers of old pulps in the library, my first reaction was, “Where have you been all my life?”
The fact that the Beholder has eleven different eyes… all of which do something different… just adds to the ocular glory. In order, the ten little eyes on tentacles can shoot rays that charm people, charm monsters, cause sleep, telekenisis, turn stone to flesh, disintigrate, fear, slow, cause serious wounds and, finally, death ray (which I suppose is why OD&D had it’s own ‘Death Ray’ saving throw). The eleventh eye is an ‘anti-magic’ ray which causes all magic spells to fail and all magic items to temporarily stop working. Although we, as players, were more afraid of disintigrate and death rays, I think the ‘anti-magic’ eye probably caused us the most problems simply because there was fuck-all your wizard could do if the Beholder looked at him — meanwhile the beholder was using all of its other rays on all of your comrades, so, before you knew it, a third of the party was dead, disintigrated, turned to stone, running away, attacking the ir friends, etc., and the wizard with his wand of fireballs and staff of mystical whupass was pretty running around trying to get out of the sight of the big eyeball so he could DO something. Good times.