Another Beholderween come and gone, and I’ve saved the best for last – one of my favorite (and nastiest) creations from editions past. The Beholder Mage! In previous editions, beholder magi were absolutely terrifying for their ability to cast nearly a dozen spells a round of varying levels as fast as a mortal mage could do one, maybe two.
5th edition’s random ray selection changes this somewhat (at least in my version), but they still make terrifying (and highly customizable) foes for any party. Keep in mind their “mage” status fits as they are certainly glass cannons, however – their basic defenses like hit points, AC, and saving throws don’t increase despite being CR 16 instead of 13, so they had best invest in some defensive spells and play as intelligently as a beholder’s genius intellect demands! They are also cannons in the sense they will run out of steam quickly, forced to rely on whatever’s in their Mage Hands – unless the party is lobbing magic at them (which most parties will, freed up by the lack of an Antimagic Cone), that their new central eye power can turn into fuel for more spell-slinging!
Their spell stalks can be switched out for all sorts of loadouts, meaning one can make a necromancer beholder, an enchanter beholder, a blaster-sorcerer beholder, and so on! In addition, while the lore for this particular template claims only “true” beholders can become Beholder Magi (and that is what my admittedly brief balancing tests have based it on), there’s nothing stopping you the DM from applying this template’s ideas to weaker beholderkin to switch things up! Though if you do I recommend keeping their spell stalks to lower level spells…there’s no need to be cruel to your players, after all. That’s the beholder’s job.