Beauty is in the eye of the beholder! Ok, maybe just ego-maniacal destruction…
DnD’s beholders are intelligent floating heads with wide, toothy maws and one large Cyclops-like eye surrounded by ten smaller eye stalks. Each eye has its own magical abilities. Beholders are lawful evil aberrations created by the Great Mother and are denizens of the Far Realm. Beholders are an original DnD creation not based on other mythologies or fiction, and the second-most iconic monster in DnD next to dragons.
Beholder 5e Lore
Beholders are born from each other’s dreams. Their dreams also warp reality. As the imagined creators of reality, beholders cannot conceive of more evolved creatures than themselves. Each beholder thinks they are the best beholder to ever behold. They are hateful, unstable, and paranoid that the whole world is coming to kill them. Beholders neurotically make slaves and minions protect them and do their bidding.
Beholders are also the terraformers of the various DnD underworlds. While digging in the earth looking for treasure, food, or places to hide from imaginary intruders, beholders create massive cavern and tunnel complexes that serve as their kingdom and sustain other Underdark populations and ecosystems. As territorial zealots, beholders litter their lairs with covered pit traps, collapsible ceilings, hard-to-reach doorways, and other elaborate obstacles while waiting for insolent adventurers to try their hand.
Now that you know the lay of their land, what about beholder stats?
Beholder 5e Stats
- Armor Class: 18 (natural armor)
- Hit Points: 180 (19d10 + 76)
- Speed: 0 ft., fly 20 ft. (hover)
- STR 10
- DEX 14
- CON 18
- INT 17
- WIS 15
- CHA 17
- INT +8
- WIS +7
- CHA +8
Skills: Perception +12
Condition Immunities: Prone
Senses: Darkvision 120 ft., Passive Perception 22
Languages: Deepspeech, Undercommon
Challenge: 13 (10,000 XP)
Antimagic Cone. The beholder’s main eye emits an antimagic field in a 150-foot-cone. This debuffs any magical effects a character benefits from and prevents arcane or divine casting spells for 3 seconds. The beholder can turn the cone on or off and choose its direction at the start of each turn. The antimagic field works against the beholder’s own eye rays.
The beholder’s base stats and antimagic cone make them super tough and perceptive, but the beholder’s actions are truly terrifying to behold.
Beholder 5e Actions
A beholder’s maw takes a chunk out of anyone who gets too close, but its eye rays cause pure chaos.
- Melee Weapon Attack
- +5 to hit
- Reach: 5 ft., one target.
- Hit: 14 (4d6) piercing damage.
The beholder shoots three of the following magical eye rays at random. Choose one to three targets it can see within 120 feet. Reroll duplicates.
Charm Ray. Charm targeted creature for 1 hour, or until target is harmed by the beholder.
DC 16 Wisdom saving throw.
Paralyzing Ray. Paralyze targeted creatures. Effect: 1 minute.
DC 16 Constitution saving throw. Targeted creatures can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns.
Fear Ray. Frighten targeted creatures. Effect: 1 minute.
DC 16 Wisdom saving throw. Targeted creatures can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns.
Slowing Ray. Halve the targeted creature’s speed. Nullify the targeted creature’s reactions. Reduce targeted creature’s actions to either an action or bonus action, not both. Effect: 1 minute.
DC 16 Dexterity saving throw. The targeted creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns.
Enervation Ray. 36 (8d8) necrotic damage to targeted creatures. Half damage on successful save.
DC 16 Constitution saving throw.
Telekinetic Ray. Move a targeted creature up to 30 feet in any direction. The targeted creature is restrained until the end of beholder’s next turn, or beholder is incapacitated.
Move an object weighing 300 pounds or less that is not worn or carried up to 30 feet in any direction.
Exert fine motor control on objects, such as manipulating tools or opening doors.
DC 16 Strength saving throw.
Sleep Ray. Make targeted creature fall
asleep. No effect of constructs or undead. Effect: 1 minute.
16 Wisdom saving throw. Target awakens if it takes damage, or another creature uses an action to wake it up.
Petrification Ray. The targeted creature starts turning to stone and is restrained. After being restrained, the targeted creature must pass a saving throw at the end of its next turn or become Petrified. Only Greater Restoration or other magic can end this effect.
DC 16 Dexterity saving throw.
Disintegration Ray. 45 (10d8) force damage. Target a creature, object, or creation of magical force.
If reduced to 0 hit points, a targeted creature and everything they are carrying, except magical items, are turned to dust.
A targeted Large or smaller non-magical object or creation of magical force can be disintegrated without a saving throw.
A targeted Huge or larger object or creation of magical force has a 10-foot cube of it disintegrated.
DC 16 Dexterity saving throw.
Death Ray. 55 (10d10) necrotic damage to targeted creature. If reduced to 0 hit points, the targeted creature dies.
DC 16 Dexterity saving throw.
These rays all pack a wallop, and they can target the same fighter for all 3 blasts! Not only do Beholders essentially have 3 main Actions with their eye rays, but they also have Legendary Actions and Lair Actions at their disposal.
Beholder Lair Actions
Lair Actions automatically get inserted into the turn order at an initiative count of 20 (losing ties) and cannot be repeated until all are used up. That means you’ll see all these dastardly beholder tricks before your battle is done.
Slippery Slime. An area within sight of the beholder becomes slimy. That area becomes difficult terrain until the next round.
Players caught in the slime are slowed to half speed. In a well-designed dungeon, that could spell curtains.
Grasping Appendages. The walls sprout grasping appendages. Each creature within 10 feet of the wall must succeed on a Dexterity saving throw or be grappled.
Monks, Rogues, and other sneaky sorts might try to creep into the beholder’s blindspots. This lair action helps keep them within the gaze.
Random Eye Ray. An eye opens within 60 feet of the beholder and shoots a random eye ray.
Combined with Legendary Actions, this essentially gives the beholder 7 eye rays within a single round.
Beholder 5e Legendary Actions
Eye Ray. The beholder uses one random eye ray.
If a beholder gets lucky and rolls a Disintegration Ray or a Death Ray as a legendary action, you’ll be scrambling for cover!
A beholder has 3 legendary actions outside their turn. Only one legendary action can be taken at a time, and only at the end of another creature’s turn. The beholder regains spent legendary actions at the start of its turn. This means your party will be crossing its fingers 3 times a round while the beholder laughs maniacally to itself.
With such insane power, how do you fight a beholder?
How to Fight a Beholder in 5e
- Run. Don’t be as arrogant as a beholder—use cover. A beholder has to see you to target you.
- Restore. If someone starts turning to stone, use Greater Restoration ASAP. Petrified pals are useless and hard to revive, and you’ll need all the help you can get.
- Blitz. If the beholder uses up their 3 legendary actions, go all in—including all Action Surges.
- Fan Out. The antimagic cone can’t cover your whole party if you spread out enough.
- Go for the Eyes. Blindness spells, smoke bombs, blow-guns, or Stunning Strikes if you’re playing Monk—anything you’ve got. Taking one of the more powerful rays out of commission will buy you precious time.
- Block retreat. A beholder has spent their entire existence waiting for a dramatic invasion to validate its fears, including planning elaborate emergency exits. Find their escape hatches—and turn them into traps.
- Flattery will get you everywhere. Did we mention beholders think highly of themselves? As a last resort, characters high in Charisma can try to talk their party out of a battle. Try congratulating beholders on their amazing mud trap at the entrance, convincing them to enlist you against the other beholders that are definitely plotting against them, or offering an NPC as a minion…beholders love minions.
On the flip side, who hasn’t wanted to roleplay a narcissistic dream being with a god complex? A beholder as a BBEG promises loads of dynamic fun for your adventurers.
How to use Beholders as DM
- Use Regional Effects. When the beholder sleeps, minor warps in reality occur within 1 mile of its lair and then vanish 24 hours later. This ability can make oases appear, statues cry, objects move around, or whatever your twisted mind comes up with. Take advantage to throw your adventurers off-balance or make them waste precious resources.
- Count on the cone. The antimagic cone is tricky since it debuffs your own attacks, but with strategy, you can isolate more powerful enemies. Keep enemies close.
- Plan your own private obstacle course. Beholders can fly, but adventurers can’t. Create intricate labyrinths with lots of “surprises” for your unsuspecting subjects. They’ve spent their whole lives preparing for this encounter with the supreme being of the universe, after all, so make it worth their while!
- Again, you can fly. Stay out of harm’s way. Hide behind stalactites, use minions as a shield, or use your disintegrating ray to create tunnels in a pinch. And don’t forget to gloat while you float!
As if the standard Beholder variant isn’t enough to make your adventuring party break out in a sweat, there are several different variations of the standard Beholder that can be even trickier to deal with.
The Volo’s Guide to Monsters sourcebook also adds several different Beholder variations that aren’t considered true beholders. True Beholders can manifest lesser beholders from dreams and the type of dreams they’re having can cause different types of Beholders to manifest.
- Death Tyrant
- Death Kiss
A Beholder that dreams of its own life after death can transform itself into this undead monstrosity. Death Tyrants slough off their skin and become undead creatures that can theoretically live forever. It looks like a massive floating skull with floating balls of energy where its eye stalks would have been.
It’s very similar to a human becoming a lich, but the Beholder has far more inherent magical energies and they become far more dangerous.
Spectators are a lesser form of Beholder with only 4 eye stalks plus a single eye on its head. They are used as magical guards and when summoned are compelled to guard a location for 101 years.
This often forces them to go insane and they tend to have odd personality quirks. They are typically friendly and cordial to those that encounter them as long as they make no threats on areas that they are charged with guarding. If attacked or threatened they can quickly become violent and are formidable enemies.
When Attempting to summon a Spectator sometimes a Gauth with push through the summoning instead. Gauth aren’t true beholders. They have similar shape and structure, but they are incredibly greedy and feed off the magic of others.
Unwary summoners can sometimes accidentally summon a Gauth and leave them to guard magical treasure. The Gauth will quickly devour all the magical energies it can find and flee afterward.
When a Beholder has a nightmare it can sometimes manifest a Death Kiss. Death Kiss are a form of lesser Beholder that feeds exclusively on blood. Instead of eye stalks the Death Kiss has barbed suckers on the end of its tentacles to drink blood.
They are in constant fear of being without blood and will suck any creature dry of blood, leaving only a dried husk behind. They are relatively intelligent and will sometimes attempt to trick other creatures that they are a true Beholder in order to gain minions that will bring it blood.
Gazers are tiny lesser Beholders. When a true Beholder dreams it will sometimes manifest miniature versions of itself called Gazers. Gazers are approximately 8 inches in diameter, has only 4 eye stalks, and physically resemble the Beholder that dreamed it into existence.
Gazers are not dangerous on their own, but they’ll often patrol their master’s lair for them. They are not intelligent and cannot speak, but they can mimic speech like a crow. They often attack vermin and will harass intruders by mimicking them and mocking them.
Examples of Beholder Names include:
Barixis, Blorghathus, Chelm, Derukoskai, Eddalx, Famax, Gazriktak, Irixis, Irv, Ixahinon, Jantroph, Khoa, Khuxristul, Kreskalat, Lanuhsh, Murlbalbluthk, Nagish, Orox Qeqtoxii, Qualnus, Ralakor, Selthdrych, Sespetoxri, Sikrewxes, Sokhalsh, Thimnoll, Velxer, Vhalantru, Xanathar, Xeo, Zalshox, Zirlarq, Zommist, Zulnethra
If all else fails, embrace the eye-ray chaos. You’re just a dream after all. If you’re done beholding, why not check out our other guides including Hit Dice 5, DnD 5e Books, Mage Slayer 5e, and Cleric 5e?
Before starting GameCows with his wife Kendra, he used to teach English Language Arts in the US. He combined his love of gaming with education to create fun game-based learning lessons until he eventually decided to run GameCows with Kendra full-time. He’s known for pouring over rulebooks in his spare time, being the rule master during game night, and as the perma DM in his DnD group. Bryan loves board games, writing, traveling, and above all his wife and partner in crime, Kendra.