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The DnD Beholder’s mouth will not stop growing

A tabletop RPG author has spotted a troublesome trend with this classic DnD monster - the Beholder's mouth is growing at an alarming rate.

Pink beholder from MTG card

A DnD writer has uncovered a medical mystery that’s left tabletop scientists baffled. The Beholder, an iconic monster which has been featured in every single edition of the roleplaying game since its creation, is evolving at a remarkable rate. In the past 50 years, since 1974, the creature’s mouth has easily quadrupled in size.

Justin Alexander, who runs the tabletop RPG blog The Alexandrian pointed out on Friday that the Beholder’s mouth appears to grow with each DnD edition. He detailed this monster’s decades-long transformation in a popular tweet thread.

The very first Beholder

Sure enough, in original DnD, the Beholder (published in the 1975 Greyhawk supplement) has a mouth that’s exactly the same size as its central eye. It seems comically tiny on its massive, spherical body – presumably because we’re all so used to the creature’s modern look.

This gradually changes, going through multiple stages, from an eerie too-wide grin in AD&D 1E, to a more circular hole in 2E (it now looks like it might feasibly be able to eat you.) But the 3E design by Scott Fischer is where things really seem to step up a notch. The mouth widens significantly to fit dozens of horrible stalactite teeth.

A 3e DnD beholder

This is the point of no return. The design remains more or less the same for a while from 3E onwards, but the mouth continues to grow. We’d guess this is to catch up with the teeth, as Fischer’s Beholders look like they would give themselves impromptu lip piercings with their new dentures.

And finally, we reach the newly revealed Beholder 5e design, on the front cover of the 2024 Monster Manual (a much better version than the disappointing alternate art.) This Beholder looks enormous, but even though the whole thing seems to have swelled to a previously undreamed of size, the mouth has gotten even bigger in proportion to the rest of it. This thing could swallow a grizzly bear.

2024 version of the Beholder

So what’s the deal with these ever-changing designs? Alexander has a hypothesis:

“This is actually evolutionary pressure: Adventurer miniatures have increased from 20mm to 25mm to 28mm to 30mm scale. Beholder mouths need to get bigger so that they can keep swallowing their primary prey.”

With so many different artists lending their talents to drawing DnD monsters, it’s only natural that some would shift over time, and the stewards of D&D like to deliberately shake things up now and then.

Right now we’re in the midst of a massive rework for DnD Dragons. Only some of the designs have been shown off officially, but many more seem to have been sneakily woven into recent DnD books.