What are mind flayers?

Continuing the discussion from Evil races and D&D:

Aside from “intellectual property”, what are mind flayers? I’ve read some of the source books providing background on them and the Gith, because I love me some Astral Wars, but I was surprised to see as many directions they’ve gone with.

What are mind flayers?


I’ve never actually used them as a GM nor experienced them as a player. I have had other GMs threaten me with them though; and I mentioned them to my players to set the tone in terms of the kinds of threats they could face if they wondered too deep in the Underdark. I know their only commonly found deep in the underdark or in parts of ravenloft I believe.

Physically I have been told their like something of the body of tentacled elder god got hybridized with a bipedal humanoid. Their powerfully psionic; and they derive sustenance from both the psionic energy of living things with brains and the various fluids, juices and wet matter the average brain stews in.


There are a lot of mind flayers in one of the The Dark Elf Trilogy - Wikipedia books.

They are pretty terrifying. A handful of them, (or maybe just one?) basically took over a city in the Underdark, and kept thousands of minds under their control, just doing manual labor mining and such. It was pretty creepy. And yeah they would basically eat the minds on occasion.I don’t remember how ol’ Drizzt got out of that one. :slight_smile:

I used to read a lot of Forgotten Realms fiction.


There were a few source books released by Wizards of the Coast and others that expanded on the background of Illithid, and there were two things I found really interesting:

  1. One book went way into Mindflayer communities, and how they have this motherbrain thing and a spawning pool and lamprey-like young and ugh it is squeegly!
  2. One possible background for the species is a multiverse-spanning empire of humans from the far far far future, after they’ve mutated due to dealings with the Outside or whatevs, and then something sent them, or causes them to flee, back through time.

Illithid are brand IP I think, so I am uninterested in their exact implementation. Even with the serial numbers filed off, I find the concept kinda strange in that “this is D&D!” way. However! I like the two ideas I outlines as separate concepts, or perhaps even opposing forces: humans in the far future have to find psychic lampreys from the Far Realm that ultimate turn into motherbrains capable of piercing the dimensions where time don’t exist, so the only way for the humans to survive is to timeleap and prepare the multiverse for the way to come, possibly by means of a super-soldier project in the astral plane (looking at you, Gith!).

I will have to track it down, but my favorite comic involving a mindflayer is from Dragon magazine, and involves mindreading. :slight_smile:

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