Monster Analysis: Beholder (Happy Anniversary!)

  • Encounter Appearance: 44 The Sunken Tomb
  • Armor Class 18
  • Speed 20 ft hovering
  • 120 ft Darkvision, Passive 22
  • Immune to Prone
  • Three Legendary Actions per Round
  • One Lair Action per Round
  • Suggested Average, Max HP: 180, 266
  • 440 total HP, 505 taken, 72 HDYWTDT by Zahra

The beholder presumably took up residence among the lesser-minded kuo-toa where he both ruled and fed upon them. While we are unable to know what he said due to his tongue, it can be assumed that he also fed upon the power of the Vestige. Although we never got a name for him, to prevent us saying The Beholder over and over again, we’ll call him One Year Anniversary Gift, or Oyag.

Mechanically, with the exception of its (brutal, but entirely reasonable) HP modification, Oyag was very much a textbook beholder. His eye rays carried the standard 16 DC saves for each type (which the party successfully saved on 16 of 19 rays, much to Matt’s annoyance). The dice also seemed to favor rays that favored damage over effects (also to Matt’s annoyance).

So, the big question that everyone seems to want to know is, how is this unnamed fella different from the first story arc boss?

K’Varn’s Blessing

Well, we can start with the obvious: K’Varn had the Horn of Orcus, which granted him several mid-combat healing benefits. He theoretically had less health (approximately 370), but thanks to the horn’s healing properties, he didn’t go down until he had taken 475. Even then, he rose back to undeath, requiring an additional 69 damage before going down permanently. K’Varn also had a higher AC of 19 compared to Oyag’s default 18. This is explained by the armor that K’Varn grafted to himself as part of his own experimentation.

Party Strategy

Without considering combat effectiveness, the party had 10 combatants against K’Varn and 9 combatants against Oyag. Without Tiberius until the very end and a mostly-grounded Kima, the party effectively had 8 against K’Varn. Kima was promptly tossed out of the battle by Oyag, reducing the effective party members to 8, as well.

From the party’s perspective, they were much more prepared and equipped to handle K’Varn. A small portion of that can be attributed to Percy and Keyleth taking advantage of their special abilities, forcing K’Varn to grant the party advantage on saving throws and epically tackling the floater down to the ground, respectively. Both of these abilities were checked against Oyag, with the trick shots receiving the appropriate nerfs while the magical beast form also fell victim to the antimagic field.

However, even without these advantages, there was much more strategy against K’Varn than Oyag. The party cornered K’Varn from both the floor and the ceiling, preventing him from using his height to his advantage. This also greatly minimized the effectiveness the Antimagic Cone, as there was no one area he could focus on.

Oyag, on the other hand, had the element of surprise, and he used it very well. He used the ceiling and the pit very effectively, and the cone limited the party’s damage options. However, even with his elevated view of the battle, the spellcasters still managed to find ways to make it work, including helping their physical damage-dealing members get into position to take it down.

Beholder Strategy

The battle with K’Varn lasted four rounds, including a total of 20 eye rays in four rounds (13 saved). The battle with Oyag lasted for three rounds, with a total of 19 eye rays in three rounds (16 saved). K’Varn used his Lair Action only once at the top of the third round, while Oyag put it to use every single round.

A beholder who uses all three of their Legendary actions and their single Lair action to shoot an additional ray can shoot up to seven rays per round. Undead beholders don’t get legendary or lair actions, so we’ll assume Undead K’Varn was limited to his standard three rays. With this in mind, K’Varn fired 20 rays out of 24 possible rays. Oyag, however, fired 19 out of 21 possible rays. One of these remaining two was spent on the tendrils, while the last was likely cut short by Zahra’s HDYWTDT before he could use it. Therefore, Oyag very nearly maximized his attack opportunities.