And yes, I realize the irony of me joking eight years ago about people making beholder clones and naming them "something to do with eyeballs", then going on to do the same thing myself with the Malopticon.
Ah, now we come to the beholder and his buddies!
Beholders are floating gasbags with lots of eyes. They have one big eye in the middle of their head and ten tiny eyes on eyestalks. Oh, and a big toothy mouth that drools. Obviously, someone was having a REALLY BAD ACID TRIP. Beholders also have magical powers, one for each eye.
There's something you have to understand about beholders and the beholder-like creatures, though. It is REALLY TEMPTING to just randomly assign new powers to each of the eyes, think up a vague rationale as to why this variant beholder exists, and give it a name that vaguely means "something to do with eyeballs".
And so that is EXACTLY what happened. There are lots of little beholder offshoots all over the place -- pretty prolific, for a creature rumored to reproduce by budding or fission!
Your basic beholder's eyeballs are divided between generally useful defensive magic (charm person, charm monster, sleep, fear, slow) and really vicious offensive magic (death ray, disintegrate, flesh to stone, cause serious wounds,) plus telekinesis and an anti-magic ray that shoots out of the central eye (slightly different names in 3rd edition.) Now, a moment's reflection should reveal that these gasbags are RIDICULOUSLY POWERFUL, since they can kill with a single glance or turn you into a statue. WHEE! Fortunately, they are not able to aim all their eyes in the same direction at once; the best they can do is aim the ten small eyes straight up, if they are attacked by a flying beast.
MAGE: HA HA, EYE TYRANT! I am attacking you from above, where your anti-magic eye cannot block my spells!When the original Blackmoor supplement for old D&D came out, it added the concept of underwater adventures, including a bunch of monsters that were exactly like certain other monsters, except they breathed water. The Eye of the Deep is like a beholder, but it has only two eyestalks and has measly powers: it can blind you with the light from its central eye, just like Springsteen, or it can create an illusion or cast a hold spell on you. What a wuss! BUT! It does have two k-rad crab pincers. Snappity snap!
BEHOLDER: In that case, I shall zap you with ALL OF MY OTHER EYES!
(BEHOLDER turns FLYING MAGE to stone. statue falls on BEHOLDER, crushing it completely.)
There's also the spectator, which is a non-aggressive eyeball critter that's mainly summoned as a guardian. They have only four eyestalks, so it can paralyze opponents, wound them from a distance, or use posthypnotic suggestion to make them leave. or, presumably, make people cluck like a chicken. It can also reflect spells with its main eye, and in some game books it can ... CREATE FOOD! Some senile spectators might get a little mixed-up and accidentally start a food fight.
And it goes on. There are blind cave beholders (NO EYES!) and the beholders with bloodsucking tentacles instead of eyestalks, and also voyeurs (I don't even want to know what they do...) Dragon #76 has an article about beholders that *ripped off* Harry Potter years before Rowling thought of him. Buried in that article was an interesting fact: since beholders only have one bodily opening, they speak, eat and DEFECATE with their mouths! Sometimes, all at once! I bet they make great dinner companions!
They also apparently lay eggs with their mouths, too; they go to a remote place and spit them out. This, however, turned into an argument over whether it was reasonable to assume a beholder would travel to the top of a cliff or hill, as the article suggested. See, since the beholder's eyerays have a fairly short range, it's really only dangerous in small tight areas where it can ambush; outdoors is another matter, since creatures can spot it from a distance and determine the best way to deal with it (balloons filled with vinegar seem like a good possibility.)
Dragon #93 has an article on the Eye of the Deep, which goes into more detail on GLOBULAR EYEBALL SEX. Eyes of the deep are bisexual (fnarr!) and spit out unfertilized eggs, which, if another EotD happens by... Well, see for yourself!
(scene: the undersea kingdom! an EYE OF THE DEEP floats by, snapping its claws gleefully.)Dragon #139 has an article about SPECTATOR SEX. These guys definitely reproduce by budding: when they reach 1000 years of age, their main body starts to shrivel up and their tiny eyes swell up; after one more year, the spectator dies and the tiny eyes break off to become baby spectators. I like this better than the Eye of the Deep's "instant random sex" method. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
EYE (to itself): Tum ti tum ti tum... I think I'll go see if there have been any shipwrecks and -- WOAH! What's this? Eggs?
(wokkachikka music begins)
Now, I've mentioned before that in the D&D universe, there are a lot of creatures whose sole reason for existing is to trick you into thinking they are something else. Introducing: THE GAS SPORE! A gas spore looks exactly like a beholder, except it's just a big ball of gas with fake eyestalks. One swift kick and it explodes, infecting everyone with spores! THE D&D GODS HATE YOU!
And then there are all the critters that are vaguely similar to beholders, like some stupid flesh-tree with eyeballs, and a little starfish-like creature that looks SO KEWT in a tiny-spear-stabbing-maniacal-creature sort of way. He has a whip on his head!
To finish this off, I would like to remind everyone that the beholder is the monster in Kibo's favorite movie, the one that we see for 30 seconds that DOES NOTHING. The characters trick it into running off somewhere. Gah.