Beholder Slaying 101

or, One Method to Drop an Eye Tyrant Without Becoming a Soul Stone

It’s no secret that, dragons and raid bosses aside, beholders are among the deadliest enemies an unprepared adventurer will face during their career.

Even well-prepared and equipped characters, if caught unawares or victim to a lag spike, can find themselves quickly neg-leveled to death, flung from the battle like a rag doll, or get an unlucky save and eat massive amounts of damage from a high-powered Disintegrate effect after having nearly every helpful buff whisked away in a heartbeat.

Needless to say, beholders are mean.

So what is an adventurer, particularly a solo player, to do?

The good news is, there are several methods to reduce the hostile (and they are hostile) eye tyrants to piles of goop, with just a little know-how and preparation.  What follows is a tried-and-true method that has kept me alive for close to two thousand beholder kills.. and a shameless shout-out to EvenNote’s blog, where her Players Helping Players initiative inspired me to, well, create this in the first place.

1.)  Deathblock is your friend.

Now, you may be thinking “I have death ward, which is superior, so I have that covered,” but in this case, you’d be wrong.  And, most likely, dead wrong (literally).  The reason being is death ward is a spell buff, which will be stripped from you along with every other buff the second the beholder lays that big main eye anywhere close to your whereabouts.  No, a deathblock item is what is required;  this won’t protect you from negative levels, but will ensure that nasty one-hit-kill never lands, even if you roll a natural 1.  And while the “safe zone” described below will keep you away from getting one-shotted, you still have to get there.

2.)  Speed and Misdirection.

Taken from Seann William Scott in Bulletproof Monk, the two key factors to any successful con are speed and misdirection.  This applies to beholders, as well;  the last place you want to be is in the beholder’s main line of fire for any length of time longer than you have to.  Where is this main line of fire, you ask?  Good question.  Like the P&P version, the beholder has very specific attacks which each eyestalk can perform;  unlike the pen & paper version, however, each eyestalk has a very specific arc of attack it can be used in (in spite of the eyes wandering about in all directions as they are wont to do).  The big, big nasty effects – energy drain, instant death, and disintegrate – all operate on the front and left sides of the beholder.  This means you want to be on the beholder’s right (or, as you look directly at the beholder, your left).  Ideally, you will be in the right flank.  One way to use this in a party situation follows:

  • A blitz to the beholder’s right (your left) and behind him will put you in the “safe zone” while ranged and casters remain behind, and ideally, holding fire.
  • Striking the beholder from this “safe zone” may require some position shifting to remain there; don’t assume you’ll automatically stay safe once in it.
  • Beholders are arrogant and slow to rotate to their aggro target, probably due to their 360′ attack range; this is to your advantage, as it makes it easier to stay in the “safe zone.”
  • You actually want to get aggro and have the beholder rotate – this will move the anti-magic cone off the spellcasters who are hanging back, and presently powerless.
  • Once the anti-magic cone has moved off the casters, all ranged attackers and casters can open a can of whoop-tail on the glob.

3.)  Bring the pain.

For as much pain and agony as a beholder can inflict in a very rapid amount of time, underneath it all they are pretty much squishy meatbags.  They have either comparative or fewer hit points than most of the enemies they are encountered with – it is not uncommon to see a beholder with 400hp surrounded by reavers with over a thousand – so once in position, you can beat them down fairly rapidly.  In turn with their comparatively low hit points, they have abysmally low armor classes, and the vast majority have little to no damage mitigation whatsoever.  (Armored Beholders are extra rare and an exception to this rule.)  The key here is to hit them fast, hit them hard, and commit to the assault.  The quickest way to have a beholder dissect your party is to hesitate while in active range;  remember, the beholder can hit any person in any direction at any time, so don’t think that just because he’s staring at a wall that he can’t zap you to death from his left flank if he decides you’re next.  Even a solo arcane caster with lousy DPS and attack bonuses can easily beat down a beholder from the “safe zone,” provided he or she get there, stay there, and commit to it.  (Trust me, I’ve done it many a time, and all of my arcane casters are gimped beyond belief.  I may have only done four to six damage per hit, but they eventually fall over.)

4.)  Don’t be a “hero.”

Be honest with yourself about your toon, and take advantage of the abilities of those you are with, if you are in a group.  If you have an archer or artificer, they could easily activate Manyshot or Endless Fusillade and gun the beholder down from a distance long before it even gets into range, making worrying about them pointless.  Have a toaster barbarian in the group?  They’re immune to energy drain, let him charge in and make the beholder turn.  Have a monk?  They can Abundant Step and appear in the “safe zone” before the beholder can even react, making the rush a non-issue whatsoever.  Don’t, however, try and sneak up on a beholder unless you really know what you’re doing, lest you become a stealthed soul stone.

One of the worst things you can do is break the plan in an attempt to impress someone (who?  the random PUGgers you may never see again?).  I was recently grouped with some freshly-Epic folks I hadn’t played with before in Epic Jungles of Khyber.  We had just unlocked the door, and I had briefed everyone as to the plan – my monk would Abundant Step in, get the beholder to turn around, at which point everyone else was to unleash hell.  It worked brilliantly the first time, with not a soul taking a scratch except the pile of goo at my feet.  (For the record, it was the wizard who Finger of Death-ed the beholder that scored the kill, not me.)

It was the second beholder, slowly ambling (can beholders amble?) down the ramp when things turned pear-shaped.  Acting quickly after the first death, I said to the party, “right passage, same plan,” and positioned myself in the “safe zone” without problem.  The problem arose when our ranger, apparently excited by the speed of the first takedown, thought it would be wise to open fire before the beholder turned around.

You can probably imagine where this is going.  Total party kill?  Nope.  But painful (and embarrassing, for the ranger).  Since the ranger initiated aggro, I had to “make up” damage to get him to turn around, while the beholder was already firing rays at the clustered party.  The ranger fell prey to a 650-point disintegrate, the wizard (smack-dab in the anti-magic cone and effectively disarmed) dropped a second later, and the fighter/rogue/something-else took a few negs in the two or three seconds it took for the beholder to get beaten down from behind.   We gathered soul stones and jogged back to the shrine for rezzes, and went on to complete the quest with no more hiccups – well, aside from chasing the Marut around while it rushed after a backpedalling archer, but that’s a topic for another post.

In short, the basic concept applies to more than just beholder slaying:  If you are questing with someone who has an established and proven successful plan – especially so if it’s the party leader – stick to the plan.  Just because you can solo something doesn’t mean what you do in solo play won’t make life miserable for the rest of your party.  In a party-based situation, you have a responsibility to the team to ensure everything runs smoothly;  dependent upon the team, your role may simply be “stand there and don’t die until you need to pull the lever” (see:  Genesis Point in Shavarath, the maze in The Crucible in Gianthold, etc.).  You may also be tasked with seemingly suicidal instructions – “go get Sinvala’s attention, we’ll keep you alive” (Mired in Kobolds in The Twelve).  Trust your party leader – established plans are established because they work.  You know you’ve all likely been part of a quest that unraveled in seconds because an integral piece of the party machine wasn’t in place – don’t be that broken cog.

Sometimes, a one-man blitz into the “safe zone” and having a sip of coffee while he circles and beats it down is the best option for the party.  It’s not an ego thing, it’s a best odds for success as a whole thing.

Okay, so I got a little off-topic there, but the method remains sound.  If you take nothing else from this post, remember the beholder’s right flank (to the left of the beholder, as you look at him) is your target.  That is your “choppah,” and you know what you have to do – “Get to the choppah, NAO!!”

Happy slaying!

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