It’s Monday, and that means it is Random Monster time! Every Monday I let the Thumb of Fate loose on the 4e Monster Manual and try to come up with a scenario or use for whichever critter it finds.
This week, the Thumb of Fate brings us………
Booyah! Thank you again, Thumb of Fate!
I can’t talk about the 4e Beholder without first mentioning the artwork. That full page picture of a Beholder Sith Lord is, by a mile, my favourite illustration in the whole book. So much so that one of these days I’m going to run a whole frickin’ Star Wars campaign where Darth Iye is the bigbad just so I can say “you see this” before the climactic final battle.
Behold the Beholder Sith Lord
Beholders fall into the category of monsters I like to call “unusable in 3e but now awesome in 4e”. Back in Third Edition I ran an adventure using a Beholder and that combat turned into a 2 hour long session of Accountants & Acrimony. With each eye ray having different effects, saves and durations we came that close to creating a spreadsheet mid-combat just to track it all. Ick. Anyone who claims 4e combat is slow hasn’t tried running a complex monster such as the Beholder (or Dragon, Demon Lord or any other monster with multiple complex effects) in Third Edition.
Over in the first Fourth Edition Monster Manual we’re given two different Beholders – the 13th level Eye of Flame (who works well with others, likes to go for long walks and enjoys French movies), and the 19th level Eye Tyrant (who…. doesn’t). Before we get onto their differences, take a look at their Charisma! Beholders are the Obama of D&D. Wow. Who knew?
I like that the Eye of Flame has CHA 23 but only an INT 14. He’s smart…. but not as smart as he thinks he is. That’s perfect for use as a flawed villain in a high-Heroic tier adventure. Use the Eye of Flame as-is, give him a load of shock troops and a plan that will never work and just sit back and watch the action. As a plus point, the Eye of Flame has the awesome Fiery Burst ability, and who doesn’t love an Explodin’ Beholder?
The Eye of Flame is a truly great monster. He’s impressive yet manages to also be drop-dead simple to play as well. This is a critter I could use at the end of a three hour game session when the brain cells have started to rot, and still not miss a beat. With just three eye rays (plus the central eye) that all do mechanically simple things there’s none of that meddlesome tracking to deal with that so plagued Third Edition.
The Eye Tyrant is a slightly more complex beast, but only so much as there’s more eye rays to choose among. Even so, I would be tempted to run a battle involving an Eye Tyrant at the beginning of a session when we’re fresh as a daisy rather than at the end when we’re all pooped out. Planning when a combat occurs is a key ability of good games mastery, I find.
The Eye Tyrant is a much more formidable foe than his wannabe little brother. With an INT of 22 he has the charisma of Sarah Palin and brains of Steven Hawking (good thing it’s not the other way round). The Eye Tyrant’s plans are on a massive scale, and are quite likely to succeed without the intervention of a group of meddling adventurers.
What I want to do is run an adventure featuring that most awesome of concepts: the Fractal Beholder. Picture a Beholder. Got that? Now imagine that each of his eye stalks is another, smaller Beholder. and each of their eye stalks is a smaller Beholder, and so on.
Now imagine that first Beholder seems to be tethered to the earth by a column of living flesh.
That’s when the players realize that their entire planet is a gigantic Beholder, and their brain explodes.