Mind Flayer (5e)

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Mind Flayer exists in other D&D editions see:

Mind Flayer (disambiguation).

a.k.a. Illithid
Mind Flayer Overview[1] [2]

Illithid, or Mind Flayers, are purple-blue skinned anthropormorphic aberrations. They have bulbous heads with four tentacles. They are know for their psionic ability as well as for their cruelty.[3]

In Other Settings[edit]

In Eberron[edit]

[4] The illithids of Eberron are the creations of the daelkyr Dyrrn the Corruptor. Most mind flayers on Eberron dwell in Khyber with their daelkyr masters… A few [are] on the surface, working with the Cults of the Dragon Below or pursuing their own enigmatic goals… [often trying to] reopen the gates to Xoriat

Other Lore[edit]

 Wikipedia  [5] 
Illithids (commonly known as mind flayers) are monstrous humanoid aberrations with psionic powers. In a typical Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting, they live in the moist caverns and cities of the enormous Underdark. Illithids believe themselves to be the dominant species of the multiverse and use other intelligent creatures as thralls, slaves, and chattel. Illithids are well known for making thralls out of other intelligent creatures, as well as feasting on their brains.

Typical physical characteristics

Illithids have a humanoid body with an octopus-like head. They have four tentacles around a lamprey-like mouth, and require the brains of sentient creatures as part of their diet. An illithid who snares a living creature in all four of its tentacles can extract and devour its living brain. Their eyes are pale white, and they can see perfectly well in both darkness and light. Their sense of hearing is slightly poorer than a human's; they have difficulty distinguishing between several sounds mixed together, yet they are good at discerning from what direction sounds came from. Their skin is purplish blue to gray-green and covered in mucus, and is very sensitive to sunlight. They loathe sunlight, though it does not actually harm them.

One of their most feared powers is the dreaded Mind Blast, where the illithid emits a cone-shaped psionic shock wave with its mind in order to incapacitate any creature for a short amount of time. Illithids also have other psionic powers, generally telepathic in nature, although their exact effects have varied over editions. Other powers include a defensive psionic shield and powers of psionic domination for controlling the minds of others.


Illithids are hermaphroditic creatures who each spawn a mass of larvae two or three times in their life. The larvae resemble miniature illithid heads or four-tentacled tadpoles. Larvae are left to develop in the pool of the Elder Brain. The ones that survive after 10 years are inserted into the brain of a sapient creature. Hosts are determined in a very specific manner. Hosts generally are humanoid creatures that are between 5 feet 4 inches and 6 feet 2 inches. The most desirable of races for hosts are Humans, Drow, Elves, Githzerai, Githyanki , Grimlocks, Gnolls, Goblinoids, and Orcs. Upon being implanted (through the ear canal), the larva then grows and consumes the host's brain, absorbing the host's physical form entirely and becoming sapient itself, a physically mature (but mentally young) Illithid. This process is called ceremorphosis. Illithids often experiment with non-humanoid hosts, but ceremorphosis involving other creatures usually fails, killing both host and larva. The transformation between the host (almost always a human or similar humanoid, such as an elf or dwarf) takes about a week, unless detected and removed within about thirty minutes of injection into the incapacitated host.

When an Illithid undergoes ceremorphosis, it can occasionally take on some elements of the absorbed host creature's former mind, such as mannerisms. This typically manifests as a minor personality feature, such as a nervous habit or reaction (e.g., nail-biting or tapping one's foot), although the process that determines the type and number of traits so inherited appears to be stochastic. Some adult Illithids have even been known to hum a tune that its host knew in life. Usually, when a mind flayer inherits a trait like this, it keeps it a closely guarded secret, because, were its peers to learn of it, the Illithid in question would most likely be killed. This is due to an Illithid legend of a being called the "Adversary". The legend holds that, eventually, an Illithid larva that undergoes ceremorphosis will take on the host's personality and memory in its entirety. This Adversary would, mind and soul, still be the host, but with all the inherent abilities of an Illithid.

Occasionally, ceremorphosis can partially fail. Sometimes the larva does not contain enough chemicals to complete the process, sometimes there is psionic interference. Whatever the reason, it has happened that ceremorphosis has ended after the internal restructuring, resulting in a human body with an Illithid's brain, personality and digestive tract. These unfortunates must still consume brains, typically by cutting open heads (as they lack the requisite tentacles). These beings are often used as spies, where they easily blend in with their respective host types.

Illithid society also maintains a long-standing taboo related to deviations to or failures of the ceremorphosis process and hunt and destroy such exceptions. Occasionally mind flayer communities are attacked (often by vengeful Githyanki and Githzerai) and their inhabitants must flee. This leaves the larvae unattended. Bereft of exterior nourishment, they begin to consume one another. The survivor will eventually leave the pool in search of food (brains). This unmorphed larvae is known as Neothelids. If the Neothelid consumes an intelligent creature it will awaken to sapience and psionic abilities and grow to immense size, while retaining its memories of savage survival. In Complete Psionic, it was revealed that Illithids have a step between larva and Neothelid called a Larval Flayer, which looks like an overgrown tadpole. The existence of these beasts is a guarded secret among Illithids, and it is considered impolite to speak of them.


Qualith is the writing system the mind flayers use. It is read by touch.[6]

List of Mind Flayers[edit]

(12 official and unofficial Mind Flayers)

Name Type Subtype Size HP CR (XP) Alignment Habitat Source
Illithilich Undead Lich, Mind Flayer Medium 135 22 (41,000) Any evil alignment Underdark, Underground, Urban "Varied"
Mind Flayer Common Aberration Mind Flayer Medium 71 7 (2,900) Lawful Evil Underdark, Underground Monster Manual (5e)
Mind Flayer Overview Overview Aberration, Mind Flayer Underdark, Underground, Urban "Varied"
Alhoon Overview Overview Undead, Mind Flayer, Alhoon Varied
Alhoon MotM Undead Mind Flayer, Alhoon, Wizard Medium 150 10 (5,900) Neutral Evil Underdark Volo's Guide to Monsters
Alhoon VGtM Undead Mind Flayer, Alhoon Medium 120 10 (5,900) any evil alignment Underdark Volo's Guide to Monsters
Mind Flayer Arcanist Aberration Mind Flayer, Wizard Medium 71 8 (3,900) Lawful Evil Underdark, Underground Monster Manual (5e)
Elder Brain Aberration Mind Flayer Large 210 14 (11,500) Lawful Evil Underdark Varied, VGtM, MotM
Elder Brain Dragon Aberration Mind Flayer Gargantuan 350 22 (41,000) Lawful Evil Underdark Fizban's Treasury of Dragons
Ulitharid Aberration Mind Flayer Large 127 9 (5,000) Lawful Evil Underdark Volo's Guide to Monsters
Mind Flayer Psion Aberration Mind Flayer Medium 71 8 (3,900) Lawful Evil Underdark, Underground Volo's Guide to Monsters
Vampiric Mind Flayer Undead Mind Flayer Medium 85 5 (1,800) Bluetspur Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft

Sources and Notes[edit]

  1. Wizards RPG Team (September 2014). Monster Manual. (5e) Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 978-0786965618. p. 222. Licensed: © Wizards of the Coast.
  2. et. al., Mike Mearls (November 2016). Volo's Guide to Monsters. (5e) Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 978-0-7869-6601-1. p. 71-81. Licensed: © Wizards of the Coast.
  3. user:Rlyehable
  4. Keith Baker, James Wyatt, Jeremy Crawford (19 November 2019). Eberron Rising from the Last War. (5e) Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 978-0-7869-6689-9. p. 284. Licensed: © Wizards of the Coast (used under 'fair use' clause).
  5. Wikipedia — Illithid. (accessed 2020-04-10). Licensed: CC-BY-SA
  6. Wizards RPG Team (September 2014). Monster Manual. (5e) Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 978-0786965618. p.221 (paraphrased)

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Facts about "Mind Flayer (5e)"
Author"Varied" +
Canontrue +
Creature NameMind Flayer Overview +
HabitatUnderdark +, Underground + and Urban +
NameMind Flayer Overview +
Publication"Varied" +
SettingEberron +
SortTextMind Flayer AAA Overview 5e +
SubtypeAberration + and Mind Flayer +
TypeOverview +