Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Crossover Combat: Dalek versus Beholder

The Daleks are the perpetual whipping boys around here. They were featured in the very first post in this series (previously called Geekfight, but now renamed to Crossover Combat) as the opponent for a Jedi. They lost.

Daleks should need no introduction to readers of this blog or fans of Doctor Who. The history of Doctor Who is the history of the Daleks and that history is the Daleks fucking up and losing every time they appear.

However, are they finally being confronted with an adversary they can defeat? Read on to find out.

Beholders are one of the most recognizable of the Dungeons and Dragons monsters. They're so closely tied to the brand that when the rules were open-sourced in order to open the game more widely to third party creators, Beholders were one of a handful of "product identity monsters" that were held back.

It always struck me that Daleks and Beholders more or less occupy the same niche, xenophobic aliens who shoot their death rays at anything different from themselves.

They certainly have a distinctive look. And when I say "distinctive look", what I mean is that they're fucking terrifying.

Look at them. Good god.

The big center eye projects an anti-magic field in front of it. While this is usually a big deal in D&D, it's completely irrelevant against the technological Daleks. Not so the ten eyestalk eyes, each of which generates its own magical effect, charm, disintegrate, flesh to stone, death ray, telekinesis.

How do they fair against the Daleks?

Daleks: The Daleks are, for the purposes of this exercise, comparable in performance to what we see from the individual Dalek we see in the Eccelston episode of the same name. We're basing it on what we see it do on screen, not on accounts of what we're told it can do. Refer to the earlier post for details. 

Beholders: They're based primarily on their entries in the various monster manuals, and the more detailed information in "I, Tyrant" and "Lords of Madness". 

One on One - Straight Up Fight

The Dalek and the Beholder are in a forest glen, see each other at the same time, and hostilities commence immediately (of course).  Who wins? 

This is a fight that highlights the similarities between the two combatants. They're each packing an instant kill death ray that they have no compunctions about using. Maybe a slight advantage to the beholder, because the terrain is not going to be perfectly level, and while we know Daleks can levitate, they don't do so all the time. 

On the other hand, if the beholder has never seen a Dalek before, it might think the anti-magic eye would protect it, and, if so, it would have no chance to learn from its mistake. 

This one could go either way.

Verdict: Toss-Up (Or more likely, mutually assured destruction)

One on One - Indirect

Say the beholder and the Dalek start off on opposite sides of a city and have basic knowledge of their opponents.  

This one's not even going to be close. With the charm ray, the beholder has an advantage that the Dalek couldn't hope to overcome. The beholder does everything the Dalek does, and a whole lot more. It has on average, higher than average human intelligence. The Daleks are often described as "geniuses", but that can only possibly refer to technical aptitude, as they have no impulse control and are absurdly incompetent each and every time we see them on screen. 

Verdict: Beholder

Small Groups: 

Here's where the Daleks have an advantage. Whovians know that there are occasional schisms in Dalek society, with each faction believing that the other is impure and must be destroyed. Beholders think that about every other beholder. A dozen Daleks would exterminate a dozen beholders one by one, in less time than it takes to screech the word.

Verdict: Dalek

Small Groups - Unified Beholders:

There are certain circumstances where beholders can work together. A hive mother can compel cooperation, groups have united in the Spelljammer setting, and if faced with the real prospect of extermination, they would probably unite against a force dedicated to that. Under these circumstances, the beholders would crush a much larger force of Daleks.

Verdict: Beholder.

Every Dalek versus Every Beholder:

This is the only way the Daleks ever win these things, isn't it? There are a zillion of the buggers. Yeah, they'd win, through virtue of overwhelming numbers. 

Daleks lose. Daleks always lose. 


  1. I really enjoyed this post. One question. Why would the Beholders get an advantage on uneven terrain? Are you thinking line of sight here? And in that case, what if the Beholder is on the lower terrain? I'm actually not certain how high the tend to levitate, so I'm not sure how much the lower terrain would matter.

  2. Thanks. I thought it was kind of lackluster. I had it mostly completed about a month ago and then shelved it, figuring I'd return to it eventually. I never did, and it wasn't getting any better on its own, so I wound up just posting it as it was. Glad you enjoyed it.

    Re: Uneven terrain. The Dalek, for the purposes of this exercise is based on the capabilities of the Dalek we see in the episode of the same name. It could and did hover, but did so intermittently. There must be a reason it doesn't hover all the time, because doing so would provide advantages. Some of the books have postulated that the Daleks are vulnerable from below. Or maybe it draws on the same fungible resource that powers their other systems, so power allocated for flight takes away from power that could be used for something else. We don't know WHY they don't fly all the time, but they don't, so the exercise assumes that they won't start out hovering unless they have specific reason to do so.

    Also, don't know why the spam filter snagged you.

    1. To further answer GGM's question, I think the point Josh was making was that Daleks aren't exactly all-terrain vehicles, and probably won't do so well driving around on uneven land.

      Winner: Beholder. Method of victory: opponent tipped over.

  3. I haven't checked the site in days, so my follow up response is rather belated. So it goes.

    I guess I do not understand, based on the two responses to my question, how the Beholders get an advantage here. If I'm reading you both correctly, you're basically saying that Daleks just don't hover as often as Beholders. So what? I'm not trying to be terse but to get to the meat of this, because I find the question interesting and worth thinking about, if thinking about Beholders and Daleks duking it out can be thought of as worthwhile. But, to get back on track, I'd think the Dalek's death ray would shoot just as good from the ground as it would from the air. I'm also not sure a Dalek would have to spend any more time calculating the proper angle from the ground to shoot its death ray at the Beholder than from the air. This is why I asked about LOS, as I could see maybe the Beholder having a slight advantage because it sees the Dalek a split second sooner and decides to eliminate it rather than find out its intent.

    1. Mostly my argument was essentially that they're evenly matched, but mobility is an area where the beholder has a slight advantage. It probably won't come into play during any individual confrontation, which is why I called this one a draw, but if there were a sufficiently large number of such encounters, such an advantage would possibly tip things in favor of the beholders, possibly to a statistically significant degree.