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5E Mind Flayer Alternates

Okay, so Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden came out recently, and the adventure contains some variant types of mind flayers created when a mind flayer tadpole is implanted into the mind of a gnome. I love these creatures, as I love both gnomes and mind flayers. These creatures are very similar to normal mind flayers, but slightly different due to the nature of the host bodies they possess.

This got me thinking about what other variant creatures could happen, which has already been answered for some questions in the lore, but not nearly as many as I wish there were. In the lore and previous editions there are mind flayer dragons (brainstealer dragons), mind flayer lizardfolk (tzakandi), mind flayer beholders (mindwitnesses), and about a dozen other examples of ceremorphosis gone wrong when occurring inside of a non-standard host type.

So, this thread is for me to share the mind flayer alternatives I have created, getting feedback on those mind flayer alternatives, as well as getting suggestions for possible creatures. I currently have created/am creating a mind flayer ogre (ogre cephalid), a mind flayer troll (troll illinad), and a mind flayer aboleth (ibyoleth). I will post these three in the thread when I have finished them, and further additions will be in future posts.

Feel free to give comments on specific mind flayer alternatives, share your own variants, give opinions on these creatures, suggestions for possible alternatives, as well as discussing mind flayers in general and thought experiments for other mind flayer-creature interactions. Enjoy!

Ogre Cephalid
Description
When an ogre has a mind flayer tadpole implanted in its brain, due to the genetic differences between typical host creatures and the brains of ogres, the transformation into an illithid is warped. If a weak tadpole is implanted, the process of ceremorphosis will often go awry, causing the death of both creatures involved in the metamorphosis. To get this difficult transformation to take place, the tadpole often has to be the strongest and healthiest of the brine pool, or complications are almost bound to occur. In the best of scenarios, the ogre is transformed into a towering muscular mind flayer with a purple ogre-ish body from its shoulders to its feet, with slight differences anatomical differences. This is an ogre cephalid.

Like all mind flayers, an ogre cephalid gains telepathy and other psionic abilities, as well as the need to devour brains. Due to the structure of an ogre's brain, a mind flayer tadpole cannot properly develop in mental capacity, giving it slight variations in psychic power, and causing the cephalid to be significantly lacking in mental capacity when compared to other illithids, while still being very mentally adept compared to normal ogres and humanoid commoners.

The brutish cephalid is noticeably taller than the average ogre, as the process of transforming into a mind flayer straightens out its spine, causing its posture to become far better than an ogre's. With long and muscular tentacles, a cephalid uses its psychic powers to stun enemies and devour the brains of giants and humanoids alike. Most of them prefer the brains of fellow ogres, but individual tastes may differ from cephalid to cephalid.

Due to their somewhat lesser mental capacity and the necessity for a strong and healthy illithid causes cephalids to be fairly rare in mind flayer colonies, and only when ogres are easily accessible. Very rarely does a mind flayer colony will go out of their way to capture an ogre to transform into a cephalid. Prowess for psionic powers is revered in mind flayer colonies, so cephalids are looked down on as "weaklings," even if their physical might is far greater than a typical illithid's. When a mind flayer colony does possess one or more cephalids, they are often used for moving heavy objects and other actions that require more heavy lifting than intellectual capabilities.
Because of their treatment in the societal structure of mind flayer colonies, cephalids are more likely than the average mind flayer to abandon the colony. They are often more aligned with their personal goals than the "greater good" of the colony, causing them to often leave the colony when they have the opportunity. When doing so, they occasionally will leave to an ogre tribe and turn them into their thralls and devour all the brains it needs to survive, or attack a nearby humanoid settlement to feed, inevitably being taken down by adventurers, a dragon, or by the very colony that they fled.

No matter how oppressed they are in mind flayer colonies or how horrified ogres and humanoids are when they come across this frightening creature, cephalids are special creatures. They are a extremely uncommon, very powerful in combat, and quite useful if someone manages to befriend one.

Troll Illinad
Description
If a mind flayer tadpole enters the brain of a troll, either through a nostril or ear canal, the process of turning into a mind flayer is warped by the strange abilities of the giant species. The process of ceremorphosis is a difficult and long process that can end in multiple outcomes, all of which are harmful to either the troll, the tadpole, or both creatures.

There are many difficulties with the process, due to the regenerative nature of trolls. When a mind flayer tadpole begins to consume and replace the brain of a troll, the troll regenerates too much of its lost tissue for the tadpole to successfully complete ceremorphosis on its own. In order to completely transform the troll into a mind flayer, the troll has to be restrained and partially burnt or dissolved by acid at a consistent rate in order to slow this regeneration ability enough to allow the process of ceremorphosis to be completed.

When the process is completed, the tall, lanky, green-skinned troll is fully transformed into purple-colored, muscular, tall, regenerative mind flayer known as a troll illinad. These mind flayers are less intelligent, wise, and charismatic than the average mind flayer, but are physically superior in every way to a typical illithid. An illinad is a towering monster who uses its long tentacles and raking claws to attack, mentally harm, and restrain their victims as they begin to devour their brains. They also can use a burst psychic energy to paralyze their victims that help them in combat. During the process of becoming a mind flayer, they make greater use of the mind flayer's inherent psionics, and use this power to ignore and absorb psychic energy.

As trolls are fairly uncommon, most mind flayer colonies do not have any illinads among their ranks. When they do manage to find a troll, they often will stun or charm the giant, bringing it back to their colony to experiment on the creature or occasionally create an illinad. When an illinad is created, they are used by the colony as guards, hunters, or brutish fighters when sent after a specific target. They are prized due to their regenerative nature, their ability to heal from psychic powers, their ability to track other creatures, and their physical strength.

Ibyoleth
In the rare occasion that an aboleth that is captured by a mind flayer colony, and they somehow manage to transport it back to their base of operations, they can inject a large mind flayer tadpole into its skull, and cause it to undergo ceremorphosis. This process goes very differently in the mind of an aboleth than it typically does, due to the anatomical and mental differences between an aboleth and a humanoid. This change is likely to go awry, resulting in the death of both the tadpole and aboleth. If the transformation is completed, the aboleth will change in physical appearance significantly.

The most noticable change after the process of ceremorphosis is the color change. A typical aboleth can range from a pale sky-blue to a whitish green. After the change into a mind flayer, an ibyoleth is a glimmery, rich purple color, about the shade of an eggplant. Their tentacles transform into sucker-colored illithid tendrils that they use to grab their prey and devour their brains. Their mucus cloud is a pale pink color that coats their whole body while underwater. Their alien mouths change to become more circular, almost a perfect large replica of an illithid's mouth.

The metamorphosis into an ibyoleth does not only change an aboleth physically, though. The most notable change is their mental capacity, an ability that all illithids, even elder brains, envy. Due to the physical structure of an aboleth, their brain runs all the way down their spine, ending near the bottom of their tail. This massive brain is consumed by an illithid tadpole during ceremorphosis, who has to grow to replace this whole monstrous organ. This greatly enhances and twists both the psionic capabilities of aboleths and illithids, blending them together. This lends them a few handy abilities, such as the ability to enslave people with a burst of psychic energy, or the ability to transverse the planes how mind flayers can.

Another feature that ibyoleths possess is their ability to hold memories of others that they communicate with telepathically. They are capable of absorbing all the memories of creatures they interact with in a telepathic manner, learning everything that they know and have experienced. They can also communicate any of the knowledge they know with their allies, functioning as a living archive of everything the hive has ever experienced. This is unique to ibyoleths, and is why all other mind flayers are jealous of them. This comes from their perfect memories, which they inherited from their aboleth bodies.

Because of all of these unique abilities, an ibyoleth is both treasured and despised inside of a mind flayer colony. Whenever a mind flayer feeds on a creature's brain, if the colony has an ibyoleth, they will journey back to their base and speak telepathically with the ibyoleth, so that it can compile and organize memories and knowledge that they have learned from the brains of those they devour. They do this to learn more about the behaviors of other creatures, to search for any lost lore that they would wish to know, and learn as much about the world as they possibly can, with the off chance that they may learn a forgotten secret (such as how to create a Nautiloid).

An ibyoleth who has access to a great supply of information can learn enough about humanoids and their other prey to perfectly predict the actions of individuals and societies in a variety of circumstances. For example, an ibyoleth that live in a colony near an orc tribe could use their telepathy to pretend to be Gruumsh, saying all the key phrases needed to provoke their rage, which they could use to drive off a nearby rival mind flayer colony or other enemy, without risking the lives of their own colony's members in any way. Due to this vast mental toolset, an ibyoleth will often be the core member of a mind flayer colony, the advisor to the elder brain.

Though an ibyoleth is more powerful and intelligent than an elder brain, they are normally more than willing to cooperate with the colony leader and allow it to take the lead. Elder brains possess abilities that even the ibyoleth doesn't contain, and without an elder brain or ulitharid, a colony is normally severely lacking. In the event of a colony split, the half that contains the elder brain will always keep the ibyoleth in their base. An elder brain and an ibyoleth that cooperate together can become bonded, the closest thing in a mind flayer society to a friend, the concept of which is completely alien to illithids.
 
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MarkB

Legend
Dragonborn Mind Flayer: Can use its tentacles to shape and channel its breath weapon, allowing it to choose between the Line or Cone shape as suits the situation.

Tabaxi Mind Flayer: Constantly gets distracted by chasing its own tentacles.
 


Dragonborn Mind Flayer: Can use its tentacles to shape and channel its breath weapon, allowing it to choose between the Line or Cone shape as suits the situation.
I was thinking maybe they could have a tongue-tentacle that could slam people around, grapple them, and eat their brains by pulling them closer. Whaddyathink?
Tabaxi Mind Flayer: Constantly gets distracted by chasing its own tentacles.
That would be strange.
 

MarkB

Legend
I was thinking maybe they could have a tongue-tentacle that could slam people around, grapple them, and eat their brains by pulling them closer. Whaddyathink?
That has potential.

Alternatively, merge their breath weapon with Mind Blast, adding a couple of dice of elemental damage on top of the psychic damage.
 

Drazen

Akalich
A illithid Kraken, created by mad mindflayers
A Giant Mindflayer Titan (Sounds like a lot) who hunts down giants and devours their brains
 

A illithid Kraken, created by mad mindflayers
That sounds cool. I just made an aboleth mind flayer (ibyoleth) that has some powerful abilities. I'll publish it above, and probably start working on some of these other ideas.
A Giant Mindflayer Titan (Sounds like a lot) who hunts down giants and devours their brains
That sounds cool. The Ogre Cephalid I made above is pretty similar to that.
 


MarkB

Legend
One thing occurred to me: If a druid Awakens a beast, does the beast's brain become tastier to a Mind Flayer? And would it become a viable target for a tadpole?

If so, my immediate follow-up thought is Mind Flayer Mammoth, with five trunks.
 


Eltab

Hero
Illithid "pets" (probably seen as failed experiments, or a sign of insanity on the part of the experimenting illithid; in the worst case the evidence of a depraved mind )

Illithi-lion - keeps would-be intruders far away
Ooze-ilid - somebody was engulfed by that one gelatinous cube from Out of the Abyss
After an Intellect Devourer pounces on a vulture ... "I can't believe I ate the whole thing!"
Porcupine ==> covered with tentacles (tipped with stingers)
Giant Ant (from the Basic rules) or a whole nest of them - vaguely inspired by the Infernal Wasps of Descent to Avernus
A sheep that grows brain matter instead of wool. It's like trying to live on only oatmeal, though (see also Survival Rations)
 
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Illithid "pets" (probably seen as failed experiments, or a sign of insanity on the part of the experimenting illithid; in the worst case the evidence of a depraved mind )

Illithi-lion - keeps would-be intruders far away
Ooze-ilid - somebody was engulfed by that one gelatinous cube from Out of the Abyss
If an Intellect Devourer pounces on a vulture ... "I can't believe I ate the whole thing!"
Porcupine ==> covered with tentacles (tipped with stingers)
Giant Ant (from the Basic rules) or a whole nest of them - vaguely inspired by the Infernal Wasps of Avernus
A sheep that grows brain matter instead of wool. It's like trying to live on only oatmeal (see also Survival Rations)
Those are great. I'm definitely going to use some of these in my games.
 


Iry

Hero
One of the coolest variant mindflayers I've ever used could create illusions instead of Mind Blast. It used these to become the image of loved ones and friends, and try to get close enough to grapple and slurp out your brain. Imagine coming home and finding your spouse standing at the door, opening their arms to greet you after a hard day of work. You return their hug, perhaps just a quick snug before...

CRACK!
Slurp, slurp, slurp.
 

One of the coolest variant mindflayers I've ever used could create illusions instead of Mind Blast. It used these to become the image of loved ones and friends, and try to get close enough to grapple and slurp out your brain. Imagine coming home and finding your spouse standing at the door, opening their arms to greet you after a hard day of work. You return their hug, perhaps just a quick snug before...

CRACK!
Slurp, slurp, slurp.
Oh, that is terrifying. Gosh, someone should make a mind flayer arcanist/alhoon variant that can do that.
 

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