Illithid Species in Zheng-Kitar | World Anvil


The brain-eating aberrations from beyond the stars, desperate to escape their inescapable fate

Base Racial Traits

Ability Score Modifiers: (+4 Intelligence, +2 Dexterity, -4 Charisma) Illithids are incredibly intelligent and nimble, but their fearsome appearances and reputations inspire naught but terror in others.   Size: Illithids are medium-sized creatures, and get no penalties or bonuses due to their size.   Type: Illithids are creatures of the Aberration type and the Illithid subtype.   Base Speed: Illithids have a base land speed of 30ft.   Vision: Illithids have darkvision out to 120ft.   Languages: Illithids begin play speaking Qualith only. This secret language can only be spoken(though Illithids rarely deign to speak it, in favor of telepathy) and written by Illithids, as other races lack the biological makeup to properly speak it, and almost no non-illithids can grasp the intricacies of the written language. They have have telepathy(120ft).   The Last Psions: As the last race in existence not affected by the cataclysmic detonation of the Antipath Reactor, Illithids maintain a small suite of abilities thanks to their innate psionics. They can cast Detect Thoughts and Levitate as at-will psionic powers.   Tentacles: With their trademark face-tentacles, Illithids can use them to slam into and grab onto others. They gain a tentacle natural attack that counts as a primary natural attack, dealing 2d4 force damage on a hit as the mental impact of their psionic power rips the target's mind apart. They gain the 'Grab' Universal Monster Rule with this attack.   Brain Extraction: Illithids gain the constrict Universal Monster rule with their tentacle natural attack only. This constriction damage is untyped damage. If they reduce a creature to 0HP with this constriction damage, the target is instantly slain as its brain is extracted.   Mind Blast: Once every 1d10 rounds as a standard action, an Illithid can emit a 15ft cone or 30ft line(Their choice at time of use) that deals 2d4 untyped damage to all creatures who fail a Will Save (DC 10 + 1/2 HD + INTMOD), taking half as much on a success. Those that fail the save are staggered for 1 round. At 9th level, the range of the cone and line upgrades to 30ft and 60ft respectively - and at 11th level, the staggered effect becomes stunned instead. At every 4HD, this attack gains one extra dice to its damage. Those that fail the save and are staggered/stunned are then immune to being staggered/stunned from that Illithid's aura for 24hrs.   4th Dimensional Masters: Masters of the space between spaces, Illithid are the undisputed lords of the unknown. They gain a racial +2 on all Knowledge(Planes) and Knowledge(Arcana), and treat both as class skills.   Mental Masters: Illithid gain a Mindlink as per the psionic power with any creature they have under a charm or compulsion. They can cast Charm Monster 1/day with a CL equal to their HD, using INT as their primary casting stat.   Psychometric Masters: As masters of Psychometry, Illithids can read the memories stored within the objects they touch by absorbing their latent psychic energies. Illithids are always treated as having the Occultist's 'Object Reading' class ability with a CL equal to their HD.   Fury of the Uncorrupted: Against the ever-present threat of corruption, Illithids have learned methods to stave off the creeping damnation from beyond the stars - and burn with hatred towards those among them who have fallen to it already. Illithids gain hatred against creatures of the abberation type, granting them a +1 on attack rolls against them. They gain a +2 on saves vs mind-affecting effects, curses, and diseases.

Basic Information


Illithid anatomy is a strange and alien thing - no studies have been conducted on the biology or anatomy of Illithids, but they are believed to be cephalodic in nature - they are not believed to have a skeleton, and instead are believed to have some form of chitin or other material to allow them to keep their bodily structure.   Further study has not been conducted - trying to study corrupted Illithids underground tends to lead to death and being implanted with a tadpole, and the study of Uncorrupted Illithids is all but impossible, as they do not make themselves known to others easily, especially not in a way that would be conducive for study. Contact with the Vathomi, their 'allies'(?), is usually what happens first, and only rarely are outsiders thusly given right to meet the "Shadow Caste" - which few creatures even know are the Illithids.

Genetics and Reproduction

Illithids are all sexless, without male or female biological sex, and once or twice in their life they lay a clutch of eggs from which tadpoles hatched. The tadpoles are kept in the elder brain tank, where they are fed brains by caretakers and engage in cannibalism for around ten years. The elder brain also feeds exclusively on tadpoles. Tadpoles that survive to maturity are put through the ceremony of ceremorphosis, where each are implanted into a humanoid victim and subsequently devour its brain, taking its place and merging with the body to transform it into a new illithid. Only some humanoid species are suitable hosts for illithid tadpoles.   The multiplication of mind flayer colonies happen when a tadpole, quite rarely, through ceremorphosis, create a more powerful form known as an ulitharid (meaning "noble devourer" in their native tongue), which was biologically bigger, stronger, and more powerful and cunning than regular illithid. They possessed six face tentacles instead of the regular four, and most notably, however, they were not controlled by the elder brain. The appearance of an ulitharid generally causes a burst of growth in both the colony's size and capabilities. Elder brains grudgingly accept the appearance of a potential rival, because eventually they break off from the colony. When doing so, it takes a few mind flayers with it and seeks to establish a new colony in a distant location from the original. Eventually, the ulitharid transforms into a new elder brain.   In uncorrupted Illithid colonies, a greater emphasis is typically placed on secrecy opposed to the expansion of the colony - so sometimes it may be preferable to either kill or convince the Ulitharid to stay and expand the current colony, if there not enough resources to give to a new colony split-off. In these cases, rarely, the Ulitharid might merge with the Elderbrain and the two creatures will become one - a legendary creature known as a Grand Brain, Gigabrain, or Greater Elder Brain, for the unimaginative. They form only extremely rarely, however - most Ulitharids and Elder Brains will not willingly accept this transformation and merging unless circumstances absolutely dictate it, as the notion of the two rivals becoming one is abhorrent to all but the most radical among them.   If, for some reason, a mature tadpole does not undergo the process of ceremorphosis, it became a ravenous predatory creature known as an illithocyte or, if allowed to grow out of control, a neothelid. These creatures are considered abhorrent by the illithids and are mercilessly hunted.

Growth Rate & Stages

Uniquely, Illithids have little to no growth stage - once the process of ceremorphosis has begun, it only takes a scant week for the process to complete, and for the humanoid in which the tadpole is implanted to be fully transformed into a new Illithid.   Once 'created', Illithids reach middle age around age 60 years, become old around 100, and become venerable around age 125 after which they die shortly thereafter and have their brains added to the colony's elder brain.

Ecology and Habitats

Though the ecology of corrupted Illithids is quite well known - they tend to prefer dark caverns and underground spaces where they can work in secret. Uncorrupted Illithid, however, are mostly an unknown - their true homelands or where they inhabit are an unknown even to the tribal Vathomi, whom the Illithid rule over as the "Shadow Caste" - the rulers of the Vathomi culture and society.   In truth, Uncorrupted Illithid develop exclusively in the ecology of space or the Astral Plane - almost no planets or realms will accept their presence because of the reputation-destroying efforts of their corrupted counterparts, so the are forced to remain in places none can easily get them. They dwell almost exclusively in the titanic "Lifeships" of their spacefaring fleets - giant techno-organic spaceships salvaged from a combination of the Golden Era of the Illithid Empire and the original ships that their most ancient ancestors left into the Great Beyond with untold eons ago - an incredible feat of technological wonder that only the Uncorrupted Illithid can claim to yet have.   These Uncorrupted Illithid dwell in these massive techno-organic fleets in orbit above Ea - linked to the surface by means of ancient feats of Illithid Engineering - the Blackstone Steles, disguised as normal pillars with powerful disguising enchantments to hide the part-gate, part-teleportation effects that dwell within them.

Dietary Needs and Habits

The only food llithids feed on the brains of sentient creatures (mainly humanoids). This is the only kind of nourishment that can sustain their physiology, which required hormones, enzymes, and psychic energy that only brain tissue can provide. Feeding is a euphoric experience for an Illithid, as it absorbs its victim's memories, personality, and fears. It is also viewed by them as the ultimate form of dominance over another creature - though for these Uncorrupted Illithid, the act does not dominate their society as it does with their corrupted, underground dwelling kin. They revere the act and rejoice in it - but are aware that wanton hunting and overeating will lead to a die-off of all food in an area, thus they know how to pace themselves.   A mind flayer needs to consume at least one intelligent brain per month in order to remain healthy. Malnourished Illithids die after four months of brain deprivation. The psionic energy also left traces of the original prey's individuality on a mind flayer's sense of culture and aesthetics, which they tend to let influence them at their own discretion - unlike corrupted Illithids, they have their own personality born of their lineage.

Biological Cycle

As they age, Illithid skin begins to change color from a bright purple, to a dark purple and eventually a pale grey with extreme age. Their tentacles grow a bit longer with age and tend to gnarl, but their skin stays as rubbery and raw as it always was throughout their lives, though it might develop a few wrinkles.

Additional Information

Social Structure

Illithid society revolves entirely revolve around the "Elder Brains" - giant, swollen brains that typically lie within brine pools or in specially constructed tanks when they need to travel. These Elder Brains, to a corrupted Illithid Colony, rule it absolutely - it is better to think of the thousands of Illithids under the control of a corrupted Elder Brain as no more than one creature - one single minded creature. These Illithids have little to no free will to speak of, and little in the way of personality - to survive the collapse of their ancient Empire, these corrupted Illithids agreed that complete subservience to the Elder Brain was needed to survive.   However, this is not true of an Uncorrupted Illithid Colony - unlike in the colonies of corrupted Illithids, Uncorrupted ones do not entirely lack a personality. Uncorrupted Illithids possess some modicum of free will, as the nature of the link to the elder brain is different - as the Uncorrupted Illithids are not as malicious nor mindlessly bent on devouring as their corrupted kin, so too are their elder brains - it is a relationship of neccessity, but one that is not as severe. Uncorrupted Elder Brains maintain a link to all Illithids as in normal colonies, but to Uncorrupted Illithid Colonies they act as giant organic supercomputers than actual tyrants, directing Illithids as needed and distributing information in an eyeblink to provide instantaneous updates on the state of affairs across their lands.   They are not as heavily reliant and subservient to the Elder Brain, though they are often still somewhat subservient to it - the relationship is different and symbiotic, for both need the other to endure the rampant corruption chasing them. For the Elder Brain, it fears corruption at the hands of the unknowable eldritch oblivion that took the rest of its corrupted kind, and the power of so many Illithids linked to it empowers it enough to stave off the corruption on both itself and all within its link. It is the inverse for the Illithids - they require the Elder Brains power to stave off the onset of the corruption, and there it strength in numbers - the more Illithids linked to a colony, the better off they are against the onset of corruption. And to this end, the Elder Brain is not as strong of a god-like thing to be obeyed at all times to these Uncorrupted Illithids - to do so and to present itself in this way would require an expenditure of power it is unwilling to provide, and the simple fact of having mindful, thoughtful servants with free will, independent thought, and the capability to provide unique thoughts and tactical acumen outweighs the benefits of having completely obedient slaves. Such is why splitting the colony for the birth of an Ulitharid is so dangerous - it weakens the power of the colony and risks the onset of the corruption - though the potential benefit is immense if the split off succeeds.   Such it is that the relationship between Uncorrupted Illithids and their Elder Brains is somewhat different than Corrupted ones - in both societies it is revered as a god-like figure, but to Uncorrupted Illithid it does not engender as much obedience from them, and instead takes on a uniting role, similar to a supercomputer - to link them all together and bind them, and serve as that which is integral to their continued existence. They understand what they are in a much more scientific sense, and do not worship it as strongly as a god of sorts - more like a supreme elder or parent, and a resource too valuable to lose. It is a living lineage and proof of their history - an amalgamation of all the Uncorrupted Illithids of the colony's past given form, and their ultimate peace, legacy, and afterlife. There is thusly much more emphasis on the individual in an Uncorrupted Colony, and is one of the key distinguishing factors between Corrupted and Uncorrupted Illithids - they do not see the Elder Brain as infallible, so having the personal experience to back up and validate the decisions of the almighty Elder Brain can only benefit the colony, as more viewpoints and personalities can lead to growth - or so they believe.   While they almost never meet, Uncorrupted and Corrupted Illithid societies are completely foreign to each other - a Corrupted Illithid would seem mindless and automaton-like to an Uncorrupted One, and vice verse the Uncorrupted Illithid would seem excessively independent, free-spirited, and free-thinking to the Corrupted Illithid. Such is the Uncorrupted Illithid's freedom that they can even have names, personalities, and professions and unique life experiences - the power of the Elder Brain is a unifying force that links them all in a complex organic supercomputer link, allowing for instant information sharing and directive giving when it is neccesary - a force of law all Illithids accept as mandatory, and allow, if they are to survive - better to obey the elder brain and let it control them as needed to stave off corruption, and sacrifice some limited freedoms at times than to risk corruption and lose it all completely.

Facial characteristics

Trademark to the Illithid is their elongated skulls, and face tentacles - the normal Illithid typically has four face-tentacles, while the more powerful Ulitharid has six.

Geographic Origin and Distribution

Illithid are typically only found in one of two places - for Uncorrupted Illithids, they are found almost exclusively in and around the Vathomion Isles, around the native populations of Vathomi there, as well as the mysterious lands beyond the Blackstone Steles

Average Intelligence

Illithids are extremely hyper-intelligent - their intellect is the stuff of legends, and is something few other creatures can fathom or match.

Perception and Sensory Capabilities

Illithids have superior darkvision - for corrupted illithids, this comes from their typical lifestyle in the pitch black corners of the underdark. For Uncorrupted Colonies, this comes from the dark fields of space and the astral plane, as well as the pitch black corridors of their techno-organic space stations and ancient relic dreadnoughts.

Civilization and Culture

Naming Traditions

Mind flayer names are strains of thoughts and images that identify them to other members of the race. Since these names are too complex to be pronounced or even expressed in words, other races they encounter tend to adopt rough translations in their own tongues by usually combining descriptive words that convey the general idea of the Illithids' original names in order to identify them. Sometimes, the illithids themselves choose to adopt pronounceable names for the benefit of their thralls or allies or to instill fear in their enemies.
Alternate Racial Trait List:   Illithid Alternate Racial Traits  
Racial Feat List:   Illithid Racial Feats  
125 Years
Conservation Status
The exact numbers of these 'Uncorrupted' Illithid remain unknown - but they are assumed to be a people in danger of extinction and transformation into their more corrupted kin. Wherever their true homeland is beyond the passageways of the Blackstone Steles, it is likely a well-kept secret for a reason - to protect their dwindling numbers from assault and corruption both.
Average Height
5.24ft - 6.8ft (1.6 - 2.1 Meters)
Average Weight
10.23lbs - 198.4lbs (50 - 90kg)
Average Physique
Most Illithids are tall, and physically unimposing - they do not have much muscle mass nor physicality.
Body Tint, Colouring and Marking
Illithid skin tends to be purple - the brighter the skin, the younger the Illithid. Older Illithids can even reach pallid grey skin. Their eyes are solid white, and they have no hair to speak of.
Related Ethnicities

Fleeing from corruption

Though it is a thing few people know, not all Illithids were fully corrupted by the creeping eldritch oblivion that transformed them long ago - that though their numbers are dwindling by the day, there yet remain small colonies of Illithids who despise the moniker "Mindflayers", and who yearn to find and hunt down their more corrupted, predatory brethren out of shame. These less evil, less insidious Illithid recall bits and pieces of their lives back from their time as non-illithids, and the history of their people - and though they subsist on brains and reproduce as normal for their kind, they have more of a tendency towards reasonability and negotiation. They are cursed by both the corruption at their backs and the reputation their corrupted kin have fostered for them - all races that know of them fear them, unable to distinguish between the two breeds of Illithid, and they despise this notion - they cannot interact anywhere else on the planet Ea because of this bias, and it haunts them constantly.   These Illithids, though they do have a tendency to use insidious means and prefer to work from the shadows, are not impossible to reason nor negotiate with. They prefer to be left alone, and desperately seek a cure for the eldritch corruption that constantly threatens their livelihoods - that threatens to completely erase all their memories of their past and turn them into no better than their fellows - furious, brain-devouring monsters that ravenously consume and corrupt all in their path. They know their is no future in the life their corrupted kin leave - that one day, all the machinations of their kin, evil and successful as they are, will spell their destruction - when their is no food left, the consumer has no choice but to die. So they seek to avoid this fate by finding a better way - and staving off the corruption at their backs.   Now, they sit as the shadowy masters of the island peoples of the Vathomion Isles, dwelling in the lands beyond the mysterious Blackstone Steles that dot the isles both above and below the waves, working means yet unknown nor understood either with the people there or ruling over them to achieve their goals. Their relationship with the Vathomi people are unknown - whether as masters or actual diplomatic allies.

A race transformed

Not always were the Illithids the brain-devouring race they are today - long ago, in the time before history, when the death of the old gods were fresh, they were naught but an ancient group of mortal races who, having reached the pinnacle of technology available to them at the time, sought to explore the last great unknown - to go into The Great Beyond and venture into the land of The Old Ones, and map the land of eldritch death. The exploration into this uncharted space never returned - until many milennia later, when those mortal races returned with Oblivion at their backs.   They had been transformed by whatever creeping damnation lurked between the stars - made slaves to the eldritch death that now chased at their backs - and were now eldritch, brain devouring monsters who returned to the mortal plane with their Elder Brains guiding their hands as a ruthless hive mind. Through their return, they settled in many places, primarily the Astral Plane - but though they enjoyed a brief moment of unrivaled power, the empire they quickly founded crumbled as quickly as it rose with the rebellion of the Gith, as well as a few other servitor races. Thusly, they were drove howling into the darkest reaches of the underground and the furthest reaches of the Astral Plane - driven into hiding by the races they once ruled over. Now they are but a shadow of what they were - their empire is no more, and much of the technology they once had has all but been lost - they dare not come out of hiding for too long, lest they attract the attention of their enemies.


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