If you thought last week’s monster was intimidating, prepare yourself: this week we’re looking at Scary Lizard 2.0, the behir!
The behir is bigger and badder than the basilisk could ever hope to be–and I mean that literally! This thing is huge-sized, which makes it the largest monster we’ve covered yet. It’s basically an enormous snake with legs, and… well… let’s just say it makes judicious use of all that extra tummy space.
But I’m getting ahead of myself! Before we talk about what behirs can do, let’s talk about what behirs are. According to the Monster Manual, behirs were created by giants in ages long past; they were meant to hunt down and destroy dragons, which giants were warring with at the time. Behirs maintain a hatred of dragons to this day; this enmity is so intense, in fact, that if a behir even senses a dragon nearby, they feel compelled to go attack it.
That said, the modern behir isn’t likely to go seek a dragon out; they’re mostly content to hang out in abandoned ruins and such, chomping down on adventurers who wander in looking for sweet loot.
That’s… that’s kind of a weird trope, when you think about it, right? There are always these monsters in fantasy stories who seem to exist solely to gobble up adventurers. Like, they just post up in a spot that has a legendary sword or whatever, and they seem to subsist on a steady diet of people who wander in looking for the magic macguffin. I’m not talking about monsters who are specifically there to guard a treasure–supernatural guardians are a different matter. But it sort of weirds me out when there’s a huge monster that can’t possibly survive on the local fauna, and their lair is just littered with the bones of all the folks they’ve killed. If people didn’t go to these places for just, like… a few months, tops, they could starve the thing out!
Unfortunately, that’s kind of what we’re dealing with when it comes to behirs. They don’t have a lot going for them in terms of interesting hooks; I mean, if you want to have a dragon be a prominent part of your campaign, you could introduce a behir as its rival, I suppose. The players could make a deal with the behir to take the dragon out, or–if it’s a good dragon–they could try to stop the behir from attacking. But beyond that, they’re kind of just… big snake-y boys who make for good dungeon bosses.
The clock in at a mean CR11, so they’re a pretty substantial threat. There are a few reasons for this high rating; its aforementioned size is one, surely, as is its affinity for lightning–in addition to immunity to lightning damage, it’s got some wicked lightning breath. If it gets in close, that’s when you really need to look out! On top of a nasty bite, it can constrict its foes, dealing decent damage and restraining the target.
The main danger of the constriction isn’t the damage, though–it’s the fact that it sets you up for the behir’s main method of finishing off its foes. This guy can straight-up swallow players whole! Swallowed targets end up in the behir’s serpentine belly, where they take consistent acid damage on top of being restrained, blinded, and just generally not much use to their party. Of course, if the swallowed target manages to deal a decent amount of damage from within this sinister serpent, they’ll be regurgitated back to (relative) safety.
Swallowing people whole is a neat trick, and it makes a lot of sense for a monster that’s basically a huge snake, but honestly? A lot of larger monsters can do it. The fact that it’s the key feature of the behir is a bit of a letdown. I mean, sure, they’ve got the lightning breath as well, but… there’s really not a lot going on with this monster lore- or stat-wise.
Behirs first appeared in Gary Gygax’s The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth back in 1982, so they’ve been with the game quite a while. It’s a bit of a shame they haven’t gotten more compelling lore in that time, but hey–not every monster is going to have a rich fictional history attached to it. Some of them are just going to be big, scary snakes! And that’s okay. Sometimes, a big, scary snake is all you really need.