In the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game, the beholder is a fictional monster. Resembling a floating orb of flesh with a large mouth, single central eye, and lots of smaller eyestalks on top with deadly magical powers, the Beholder is among the most classic of all Dungeons & Dragons monsters, appearing in every edition of the game since 1975. They are one of the few classic Dungeons & Dragons monsters that Wizards of the Coast claims as Product Identity.

Publication history

Unlike many other Dungeons & Dragons monsters, the beholder is an original creation for D&D, as it isn't based on a creature from mythology or other fiction. Rob Kuntz's brother Terry thought up the beholder, and Gary Gygax detailed it for publication.

Dungeons & Dragons (1974-1976)

The beholder was introduced to the game in its first supplement, Greyhawk (1975), and is depicted on its cover (as shown in the section below). It is described as a "Sphere of Many Eyes" or "Eye Tyrant", a levitating globe with ten magical eye stalks.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition (1977-1988)

The beholder appears in the first edition Monster Manual (1977), where it is described as a hateful, aggressive, avaricious spherical monster that is most frequently found underground. Ed Greenwood authored "The Ecology of the Beholder," which featured in Dragon #76 (August 1983).

Dungeons & Dragons (1977-1999)

The beholder appears in the Companion Rules set, in the Dungeon Masters Companion: Book Two (1984). It later appears in the Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia (1991).

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition (1989-1999)

Second edition supplements to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, especially those of the Spelljammer campaign setting, added further details about these classic creatures' societies and culture. Beholders feature prominently in the Spelljammer setting, and a number of variants and related creatures are introduced in the Spelljammer: AD&D Adventures in Space campaign set, in the Lorebook of the Void booklet (1989).

The beholder appears first in the Monstrous Compendium Volume One (1989), and is reprinted in the Monstrous Manual (1993). The book " I, Tyrant" (1996), and the Monstrous Arcana module series that accompanies it, greatly develops the beholder further.

The beholder was altered by TSR artist Keith Parkinson, who gave it plate-like armored scales and arthropod-like eyestalks. Jeff Grubb cites Keith Parkinson's artwork as the inspiration for the beholder-kin created for the Spelljammer campaign setting.

Dungeons & Dragons 3.0 edition (2000-2002)

The beholder appears in the Monster Manual for this edition (2000). Beholder variants appear in Monstrous Compendium: Monsters of Faerun (2001).

Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 edition (2003-2007)

The beholder appears in the revised Monster Manual for this edition (2003). The beholder receives its own chapter in the book Lords of Madness: The Book of Aberrations (2005).

Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition (2008-)

The beholder appears in the Monster Manual for this edition (2008), including the beholder eye of flame and the beholder eye tyrant.


The beholder is considered "Product Identity" by Wizards of the Coast and as such is not released under its Open Gaming License.

Physical description

A Beholder is an aberration comprising a floating spheroid body with a large fanged mouth and single eye on the front and many flexible eyestalks on the top.

A beholder's eyes each possess a different magical ability; the main eye projects an anti-magical cone, and the other eyes use different spell-like abilities (disintegrate objects, transmute flesh to stone, cause sleep, slow the motion of objects or beings, charm animals, charm humans, cause death, induce fear, levitate objects, and inflict serious wounds.). Many variant beholder species exist, such as "observers", "spectators", "eyes of the deep", "elder orbs", "hive mothers", and "death tyrants". In addition, some rare beholders can use their eyes for non-standard spell-like abilities; these mutant beholders are often killed or exiled by their peers. Beholders wishing to cast spells like ordinary wizards relinquish the traditional use of their eyestalks, and put out their central anti-magic eye, making these beholder mages immediate outcasts.


Beholders are extremely xenophobic, to the point of being engaged in a violent intra-species war with others of their kind who differ even slightly in appearance. They will sometimes take members of other, non-beholder races as slaves. Beholder communities in the Underdark often, when provoked, wage war on any and all nearby settlements, finding the most resistance from the drow and illithids.

Beholders worship their insane, controlling goddess known as the Great Mother, though some also, or instead, follow her rebel offspring, Gzemnid, the beholder god of gazes, who is allied with the illithid god Ilsensine.

Some beholder strains have mutated far from the basic beholder stock. These are aberrant beholders, of which there are numerous different types. These aberrants may have differing abilities and/or appearances but the unifying feature among beholders and the various aberrant beholders seems to be a simple, fleshy body with one or more grotesque eyes.

Beholders in various campaign settings

Beholders in the Forgotten Realms

Beholders are especially prominent in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, where they infiltrate and seek to control many sectors of society—many beholders are allied to the Zhentarim, some work with the Red Wizards of Thay, and a particularly powerful beholder, known as "The Eye" or "Xanathar" controls Skullport's influential Xanathar's Thieves Guild. Beholders also compete to control the Underdark from where most of them originate, with their base of power in the City of the Eye Tyrants, Ootul.

Beholders in Spelljammer

Beholders in the Spelljammer campaign are common antagonists, like the deadly neogi and sadistic illithids. However, one thing prevents them from being the most dangerous faction in wildspace: the beholders are engaged in a xenophobic civil war of genetic purity.

There are a large number of variations in the beholder race with some sub-races having smooth hides and others chitinous plates. Other noticeable differences include snakelike eyestalks or crustacean-like eyestalk joints. Some variations seem minor such as variations in the size of the central eye or differences in skin colour. Each beholder nation believes itself to be the true beholder race and sees other beholders as ugly copies that must be destroyed.

Lone beholders in wildspace are often refugees who have survived an attack that exterminated the rest of their nest or are outcasts who were expelled for having some form of mutation. The most famous lone beholder is Large Luigi, who works as a barkeeper on the Rock of Bral.

Beholders use a large number of different ship designs. Some of these ships feature a piercing ram but others have no weaponry. All beholder ships allow a circuit of beholders to focus their eye stalks into a 400 yard beam of magical energy. These ships are powered and navigated by the "orbus" (plural "orbii") race of beholders, who are stunted, albino, and very weak in combat.

Beholders in Eberron

Beholders served as living artillery during the Daelkyr incursion, using the terrible power of their eyes to shatter whole goblin armies. In Eberron, beholders do not reproduce naturally and have not created a culture of their own — they are simply the immortal servants of the daelkyr. Most continue to serve their masters, commanding subterranean outposts of aberrations or serving as the hidden leaders of various Cults of the Dragon Below. Others lead solitary lives, contemplating mysteries or studying the world. Such lone beholders may manipulate humanoid communities, but their actions are rarely driven by a desire for personal power.

Members of the Cults of the Dragon Below believe that these creatures function as the eyes of a greater power. Some insist that they serve Belashyrra, a powerful Daelkyr who is also known as the Lord of Eyes. Others claim the beholders are the eyes of Xoriat itself — that while they serve the daelkyr, they are conduits to a power even greater and more terrible than the shapers of flesh.

Beholders in other media

  • A beholder appears in the interactive movie Scourge of Worlds: A Dungeons & Dragons Adventure.
  • Two beholders are seen briefly in the 2000 motion picture Dungeons & Dragons.
  • The Dungeons & Dragons TV cartoon series featured a beholder in the 1983 episode, Eye of the Beholder.
  • Beholders appear in a number of Dungeons & Dragons computer and video games, most notably the Eye of the Beholder series.
  • The movie Big Trouble in Little China has a floating monster that resembles a beholder, though it is not described as such.
  • Beholders are also present in the Might and Magic and Heroes of Might and Magic series but tend to differ a little in form. Generally represented with tentacles for legs and a smaller body than in Dungeons & Dragons.
  • In the Ultima computer role-playing games, there exists a beholder-like monster called a gazer; when slain, it explodes into a cloud of bees (possibly a pun on "bee holder").
  • In the Xbox 360 game, Castle Crashers, it is possible to have a Beholder as a pet.
  • In the Tibia (computer game) as a magical creature. There are also Elder Beholders gazers, and braindeaths (extremely old beholders whose brains have grown out into it's eye, making it blind).
  • The very similar Cacodemon from the Doom series of first-person shooters was inspired by D&D's beholders and by the cyclopean astral dreadnought from the Manual of the Planes.
  • In Dungeon Siege, there are creatures named Furies that closely resemble beholders.
  • A Beholder appears on a special level of the NetHack offshoot Slash'EM. The original NetHack game has "floating eyes", which appear somewhat Beholder-like, but actually gained their inspiration from an entirely different Dungeons & Dragons species.
  • In Age of Wonders, the Azraks can train beholder units. Also, beholders sometimes guard caves, castles, prisons, etc.
  • In Westwood's Nox, Beholders guard an underground temple. They can partially paralyze the hero, making him slow to walk, and can emit dangerous bolts of energy.
  • In the 2007 video game Overlord, the Ruborian bandits under Kahn the Warrior use floating creatures that strongly resemble beholders to summon additional forces.
  • The Futurama episode How Hermes Requisitioned His Groove Back features a beholder who "guards" the Central Bureaucracy. It is a Grade 11 bureaucrat that begs the Planet Express crew not to tell its supervisor it was sleeping on the job.
  • In the anime Bastard!!, Dark Schneider defeats a beholder referred to as a "Suzuki Dogezaemon". This was possibly due to a naming controversy between the publishing right holder and the publisher of manga. In the initial print of manga, when a beholder initially appears, it is called beholder but this name was changed for all other prints.
  • The online comic style="font-style : italic;">Planescape Survival Guide features a beholder as one of the main characters.
  • The computer role-playing game series Geneforge includes a creature called the Gazer, which is a beholder. A variant of the Gazer is the Eyebeast.
  • The roguelike game Angband includes a variety of different types of beholder, including the unique beholder "Omarax, the Eye Tyrant".
  • A series of monsters in Final Fantasy Legend 3 for Game Boy had the appearance of Beholders, but were not so described.
  • Beholders appear as enemies in Pazuzu's Tower in the game Final Fantasy Mystic Quest. They are simply a more powerful version of a previous enemy known as a Gather. This Beholder looks like a large eye supported by numerous thin tentacle-like pseudopods; it has the ability self-destruct, attack with a pseudopod, create a blinding flash of light, and reflect magical attacks.
  • The original Japanese Famicom and MSX versions of Final Fantasy had creatures called beholders and eyes that looked like the traditional beholder. However, for the US release and later editions, the sprite was changed and the beholders were renamed.
  • A beholder appears briefly in The Order of the Stick along with a mind flayer as a joking reference to the non-inclusion of "product identity" monsters in the Open Game License materials and SRD.
  • In Teen Girl Squad #11 from, Beholders are mentioned by D & D Greg in an argument with Science Fiction Greg.
  • A Beholder-like creature appears in the computer game Fate as a monster called a Watcher.
  • A Beholder model (and also a baby Beholder model), can be found in the game data of World of Warcraft (The burning Crusade). The Beholder-Model is used for multiple enemies in the game (e.g. Broggok in the Hellfire-Citadel).
  • A Beholder-like creature appears in the 1987 computer game Dungeon Master (computer game), the first real time 3D computer role-playing game. This beholder casts lightning bolts to attack players, as well as casting Zo spells to open doors.
  • A Beholder-like creature appears in the 1989 first person, real-time RPG adventure Bloodwych
  • Several kinds of Beholders appear as aerial enemies in Drakengard and Drakengard 2.
  • Beholders appear regularly throughout the RPG Baldur's Gate 2. All but one are hostile. The exception to the rule being a Spectator, whom you have to persuade to let you retrieve an item from a chest it is guarding.
  • A traditional Beholder appears in the game Argentum Online. They occasionally reside in forests, and are found in Dungeon Dragon, one of the game's dungeons. Their visual range is extremely far, and while they have no spells, defeating them can be very difficult, as they are immune to magic.
  • A beholder appears on page 67 in the online comic Looking For Group.
  • Beholder-like creatures appear in the computer game "Shadow of the Prophecy" by SSI. Most as bad, some are good though.
  • The creatures Gazer and Eye Beast, with similar looks and powers to the Beholders appear in the shareware RPGs Exile (computer game series) and Avernum series.
  • In dragonfable after you collect the quad force pieces you can fight a beholder boss


Additional reading

Other media

A beholder is featured in D&D Miniatures: Deathknell set #32 (2005).

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