Beholders are another classic monster in the D&D cannon from the 5e Monster Manual. In fact, there’s one on the cover. They are a nasty piece of work too, with an assortment of magical eye rays. They are wildly unpredictable in combat. This is due to the fact that, as written, they fire their eye rays at random. With effects that range from sleep to disintegration, these creatures are a challenge to manage in combat. The difference between getting rolled and TPK’ing is mostly a game of chance.
That’s all part of the fun though. The bigger problem I have with beholders is how the antimagic cone works. The beholder gets to choose whether its antimagic cone is active and which way it’s pointed at the start of each turn. Unless the beholder is able to keep the players at a distance, the shape of the cone makes it very easy for players to move around the edges of this cone. Worse yet, they can intentionally stay in it to protect themselves from the beholders magical eye beams.
Why Can’t a Beholder Track a Target?
When I’m running monsters in the DungeonSports Coliseum, I run them as written. The way that I account for difficulty in these games is by cranking up the XP budget per battle. In a more standard game of dungeons and dragons, I’m more willing to rewrite the way that a creature works to make them work better in combat.
The change that I make for beholders is that I allow them to keep their antimagic gaze on a creature. At the beginning of the turn, they may choose a creature to track with their antimagic gaze. This allows that beholder to make better use of the antimagic cone as a way to defend themselves. They can keep an eye on that nasty wizard to keep them from firing off a spell. Alternatively, they can watch that figter and his nasty sword. If the players can break line of site and make a successful stealth check, they can get the beholder to lose track of them. This edit works well for Astral Dreadnoughts as well. They have the same issue with their antimagic cone.
All done here? Maybe you want to see some monsters that are deadly just the way they are.