Mind Flayer Society: Politics, Hierarchy, and the Illithid Empire

Mind Flayers, also known as Illithids, are terrifying and alien creatures that dwell in the dark corners of the Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) multiverse. These aberrations hail from the treacherous depths of the Underdark, where they build hidden cities and forge a vast empire under the dominance of their powerful Elder Brain.

Physically, Mind Flayers are striking and fearsome to behold. They possess an octopus-like head with four writhing tentacles, which they employ to manipulate and consume the brains of their unfortunate victims. Their bodies are tall and gaunt, standing around 6 to 7 feet tall, with purplish-blue or grayish skin. Their eyes glow with an eerie, malevolent light, and they possess sharp teeth capable of rending flesh.

What truly sets Mind Flayers apart, however, is their formidable mental prowess. They are psionic masters, capable of unleashing devastating psychic powers upon their foes. They possess an innate ability called “Mind Blast,” which can stun and disorient those caught in its psychic blast radius. Mind Flayers also possess the power of mind control, using their psionic abilities to dominate the will of others, turning them into obedient slaves.

Mind Flayers are a highly organized society with a strict hierarchical structure. At the apex of their civilization lies the Elder Brain, a massive, disembodied brain that floats in a vat of cerebral fluid. This ancient and immensely powerful entity serves as the collective consciousness of the Mind Flayers, directing their actions and plans. The Elder Brain also acts as the repository of knowledge and memories, preserving the history and lore of their kind.

Mind Flayers are relentless hunters, perpetually seeking out new sources of brains to feast upon. They abduct victims from the surface world or venture into the Underdark to capture creatures for consumption or to transform them into mindless thralls known as “intellect devourers.” These enslaved creatures serve the Mind Flayers, acting as guards, spies, and assistants.

Encountering a Mind Flayer is a harrowing experience, as their sinister intelligence and psychic might make them formidable adversaries. Facing these otherworldly horrors requires not just physical strength, but also clever tactics and mental resilience to resist their insidious mental assaults.

In the world of D&D 5th Edition, Mind Flayers embody the essence of cosmic horror, serving as iconic villains capable of instilling fear and dread into even the most courageous adventurers.

Mind flayers were humanoid in appearance but with an octopus-like, ridged head with four tentacles surrounding a lamprey-like mouth. They were warm-blooded amphibians, Whose blood had a silvery-white color.

Their hands had long, reddish fingers and lacked the index, and their feet were two-toed and webbed. Mind flayer eyes were extremely sensitive to bright light, and they considered it painful, a characteristic that some githyanki scholars attributed to the very fact that their alien anatomy focused light in a strange way. Their vision was also more sensitive to the popularity of geometric patterns than that of other humanoids. Mind flayers that were healthy from brain-rich diets excreted a sort of slimy mucous substance that coated their mauve skins.

Mind Flayer 5e Origins: A History of the Illithid Race

Mind Flayer 5e

  • Hit Points: 71
  • Challenge: 8 (3,900 xp)
  • Features: Magic Resistance, Innate Spellcasting (Psionics)
  • Actions: Tentacles, Extract Brain, Mind Blast

Mind flayers were tyrants, slavers, and planar voyagers. They viewed themselves as masterminds, controlling, harvesting, and twisting the potential of other creatures to further their evil and far-reaching goals. Although they cooperated to realize a goal, they might back out at the first sign that something wasn’t profitable to their self-serving interests.

Mind Flayers are naturally not all right built physically, and in and of itself rely instead on mind-effecting spells, mental powers, and psionics in D&D 5e.

Emotionally, a mind flayer appeared detached and calm, showing no signs of passion or loss of control. However, sometimes they showed great bouts of anger, which were difficult to spot as true emotions or mere displays. The mind flayer mind knew only negative emotions, only finding fulfillment within the angry and sadistic act of consuming a brain. The closest to happiness any mind flayer could know was in its pride and in satisfying its curiosity.

Mind flayers constantly experimented with transforming other creatures and implanting their tadpoles into different races, producing an outsized sort of thralls.

For those unaware, Mind Flayers were originally seen during a Dungeons and Dragons first edition newsletter, where they were described as “a super-intelligent, man-shaped creature with four tentacles by its mouth which it uses to strike its prey.” Since that beginning, the Mind Flayer has appeared in every edition of D&D and is definitely one of the most iconic creatures of the franchise. The term Illithid refers to what these creatures call themselves in their native tongue, essentially meaning Mind Flayer.

Of note is the Mind Flayer’s mind blast ability, which enables it to stun all creatures during a cone, leaving the targets defenseless to the Mind Flayer’s probing. Those with weak wills and low wisdom stats would have the best to avoid Mind Flayers at the least cost, as once one fails this saving throw, there’s not much which will be done to save lots of them bar killing the Mind Flayer before it’s ready to reach the target.

Mind Flayers are a harrowing, mysterious, and powerful race of beings that certainly shouldn’t be trifled with. If not for his or her distaste for working with others and therefore the priority they place on self-reliance, they might pose a true threat to the overworld. For the most part, though, they continue the shadows of the Underdark in solidarity, seeking their next victim and acquiring knowledge slowly over time. The influence of Mind Flayers began with D&D but has reached far beyond, even into other realms of popular culture. One example of this may be the Mind Flayer from Stranger Things.


In Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition, Mind Flayers possess a variety of attacks and abilities that make them formidable opponents. Here are some of the attacks commonly associated with Mind Flayers:

  1. Tentacle Attack: Mind Flayers have four writhing tentacles on their face, which they can employ to make melee attacks. These tentacles are formidable weapons and can deal slashing damage to their targets.
  2. Extract Brain: One of the most horrifying and distinctive abilities of Mind Flayers is their ability to extract and consume the brains of their victims. If a Mind Flayer successfully grapples a creature, it can use this attack to deal piercing damage and potentially incapacitate or kill the target.
  3. Mind Blast: Mind Flayers can unleash a devastating psionic attack known as Mind Blast. This attack affects a cone-shaped area and can stun and incapacitate creatures caught within it. Victims of a Mind Blast can find their thoughts scattered and their actions disrupted.
  4. Dominate Monster/Person: Mind Flayers possess powerful psionic abilities that allow them to dominate the minds of others. They can use spells like “Dominate Monster” or “Dominate Person” to take control of a creature’s actions, forcing them to act according to the Mind Flayer’s will.
  5. Psionic Spells: Mind Flayers are skilled psionicists and can employ a range of psionic spells to attack their enemies. These can include spells such as “Mind Spike,” which inflicts psychic damage, or “Mind Thrust,” which assaults the minds of their foes.
  6. Claws: In addition to their tentacles, Mind Flayers may also possess sharp claws, which they can use to make melee attacks. These attacks can deal slashing or piercing damage to their targets.

It’s important to note that specific statistics, abilities, and attacks of Mind Flayers can vary based on the source material, Dungeon Master preferences, or unique campaign settings.


Q: What are the abilities of Mind Flayers in D&D 5th Edition?

A: Mind Flayers possess a range of formidable abilities. They are skilled psionicists, capable of using powers such as Mind Blast, which can stun and disorient creatures in its area of effect. They also have the ability to extract and consume the brains of their victims, gaining knowledge and sustenance from them. Mind Flayers can dominate the minds of others, enslaving them to their will. Additionally, they possess sharp claws and tentacles, which they can use in combat.

Q: How do Mind Flayers reproduce?

A: Mind Flayers have a unique and grotesque method of reproduction. When a Mind Flayer consumes the brain of a humanoid, the victim’s body can be transformed into an “Intellect Devourer,” a small, brain-like creature. The Intellect Devourer then implants itself in the victim’s skull, taking control of the body and transforming it into a new Mind Flayer over time.

Q: Are Mind Flayers only found in the Underdark?

A: While Mind Flayers are primarily associated with the Underdark, their reach can extend beyond those subterranean realms. They are known to venture to the surface world in search of victims or to carry out their sinister plans. However, their hidden cities and strongholds are typically located deep within the Underdark.

Q: Can characters resist Mind Flayer’s mind control abilities?

A: Yes, characters can resist Mind Flayer’s mind-control abilities through their saving throws. Mind Flayers typically employ psionic powers like “Dominate Monster” or “Dominate Person” to take control of their victims. Characters who succeed in their saving throws can resist the Mind Flayer’s control and maintain their autonomy.

Q: Are there different types or variations of Mind Flayers?

A: Yes, within the lore of D&D, there are various types and variations of Mind Flayers. The most common and well-known is the standard Mind Flayer, also known as an “Illithid.” However, there are other specialized variants such as the “Ulitharid,” which are more powerful and serve as leaders within Mind Flayer society. Additionally, there are unique Mind Flayer NPCs and named individuals that may possess different abilities or roles.

Q: How can adventurers defend themselves against Mind Flayers?

A: Defending against Mind Flayers requires a combination of physical and mental strategies. Protection from psychic damage can be helpful, such as spells like “Mind Blank.” Developing high Wisdom saves or proficiency in Wisdom saving throws can increase resistance to mind control abilities. Additionally, using anti-magic fields or spells that disrupt psionic abilities can hinder Mind Flayers. Strategically employing crowd control tactics, ranged attacks, and focusing on disrupting their concentration can also be effective against these formidable foes.

Q: Can characters become Mind Flayers?

A: The process of transforming into a Mind Flayer is typically reserved for NPCs, as it involves a complex and gruesome metamorphosis. However, with the approval of the Dungeon Master, it is possible for a player character to undergo a unique storyline or quest to become a Mind Flayer, which can lead to interesting role-playing opportunities and challenges.

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