Dungeons & Dragons have been getting more and more popular worldwide during the last few years thanks to the TV series, computer games, podcasts, and youtube channels. With it, some concepts of D&D such as dragons, beholders, mind flayers also started to shine. In this blog, I am going to talk about mind flayers, brain eating weird psionic folk of D&D which lastly showed up on Baldur’s Gate 3 trailer.
Many DMs use a mind flayer character once in their games. They are slavers, tyrants, brain eaters, their dark living halls are deep underground. So, they make perfect villains. But, who are they actually? Where did they come from? What is their purpose? Do they worship any gods or goddesses? Let’s answer them each.
Who are they? What are their origins?
Mind flayer race is a slaver race. They live in underground places generally and their other name, Illithid, means ”mind ruler” or ”mind flayer” in Undercommon language. Although they are not physically powerful, they make other races their slaves using their psionic abilities. These same abilities also grant them considerable respect from other races of Underdark such as drows and duergars.
Mind flayer cities generally have more slaves than mind flayers. Slavery looks like their purpose of being in the material plane instead of dwelling in the astral plane and they are good at it. However, they got in some serious problems because of slavery once in their history, gith problem. The gith race, the original race of githyankis and githzerais, was a slave to illithids and one day they broke free which led the giths to be separated into two factions. However, giths became fearful enemies of Illithid race.
Story Idea: the Best way of destroying a mind flayer society is to cause a rebellion against them by using their own slaves.
There are several theories about their origins. Some say that they are humans warped by far realm, some others say they are a race coming from the future to stop their extinction brought upon them by the end of the world. Another theory says that they are cursed folk coming from another universe by their high technology ships called nautilus. It can be true that they are coming from the future since there is no knowledge in the memories of aboleths who born with all the memories of their ancestors.
Do they worship anything?
Yes. There are two deities, Insensile and Maanzecorian. However, they are not like the deities living in the outer planes. They are mythical creatures and do not offer an afterlife full of pleasures. They are forms of psionic ideals revered by mind flayers in the ways of worship. So, Insensile and Maanzecorian are not deities but they are able to grant divine powers.
Insensile is more widely worshipped than Maanzecorian. It showed up during the wars against shield dwarves and thanks to Insensile illithids couldn’t be defeated. It is also worshipped by non-Illithid races as a replacement for knowledge deity.
Story Idea: A temple dedicated to the common knowledge deity can be corrupted by agents of Insensile and a secret cult can be formed within the temple.
Some illithids see aboleths as the representative of Maanzecorian thanks to their perfect memory and this idea can cause some conflicts. Not known to much, Maanzecorian’s essence had been destroyed by the shadow form of Orcus, Tenebrous. However, some cults of Maanzecorian have formed again later.
Since there is no afterlife promised to them, an illithid wishes to become one with the elder brain, so its brain is offered and consumed by the elder brain. This is their understanding of immortal life.
How do they reproduce?
Illithids are sexless. A new illithid is created by placing a tadpole that has reached its maturity into another humanoid. This humanoid is transformed into a mind flayer by the tadpole. Different races can result in different monsters.
Encounter Idea: Actually these monsters can give good encounter ideas for mind flayer places and elder brain chambers. Such creations lose their former minds, become ruthless monsters and slaves. They generally carry the features of both sides.
In conclusion, mind flayers are the best choice if you want to create a tyrannical slaver. Although there are more about them and their minions, I think this was a good start. See you on other parts of DMs Know What They Are Doing series.
This article written by Alican Develioğlu. He is a concept writer in Dream Realm Storytellers. If you want to learn more about him please click here