Thursday, June 3, 2021

d8 Alternative Mind Flayers

 So I was reading this post by the wonderful semiurge over at Archons March On, and it got me thinkin'. Thinkin' about my own introduction to D&D being relatively similar (my first exposure to D&D was the 4e Monster Manual 2, along with the 3e-era kids book series that WotC put out, gazing in awe at the 3e books my mom's friends had, flipping through the pages of Pathfinder bestiaries while sitting on the floor of bookstores... though my first actual game was a boxed set, the box for the 7th edition of Gamma World). Also thinkin' about one bit that is mentioned in the post:

"Urophions", mind flayers made out of ropers, are born losers. An SCP-ish list of other attempts at making non-humanoid mind flayers would've been neat. 

I'm already familiar with those Urophions and other illithid-variants (alhoons (illithiliches) and vampire illithids for instance) so well, I thought I might try my hand at writing a few of those "attempts at making non-humanoid mind flayers"! Another big inspiration for this post was definitely the line of Alien toys by Kenner, which included a number of xenomorphs that had taken over non-human life. Oh also technically there is another mind flayer with a non-human host in the tzakandi which is a mind flayer in a lizardman, but its kinda boring if I'm completely honest. 

The urophion mentioned above... I wanna say this is from 3e? Love the colors and the horrid little mouth!

Alternative title for this post: d8 Mind Failures. This was going to be d12 but it has been taking me a bit too long to write.

1: Illithox: An attempt at developing an illithid to infiltrate human societies unnoticed, the illithox is a looming monstrous thing of an only loosely bovine inspiration. The host creature, the humble cow, was too large for a single larval mind flayer to take control of the whole body on its own, and so a second was introduced to speed along the process. This has resulted in a two-headed beast, long stiff necks tipped with tentacular heads jutting out from front and back. It groans incessantly, its back weighed down by a large udder-like growth that produces a sweet jelly that is sometimes used as bait by other mind flayers. The two heads of the illithox can oftentimes come to disagreements, and it is not uncommon for an illithox head to request being removed from its body so that it won't be around the other head anymore.

So I only found out after writing this that there already is
a gnome illithid but I think my attempt is distinct enough
2: Half Brain: Although the small races (halflings, gnomes, leprechauns, etc) are of a similar form to humanity, when a mind flayer larva is inserted into their skull, it finds little in the way of body matter to work with. The product is a half brain: an engorged mass of tentacles and valves with only the most vestigial of humanoid bodies hanging on like a skin tag. They move very slowly and are relatively dim witted since they lack a body to sustain them. They can reach the heights of mind flayer intelligence only shortly after feeding, their oversized brains filled with nutrients that steadily dwindle down, leaving them dumber until their next feast.

3: Calcium Creature: The rust monster is an ubiquitous presence in the dungeon ecosystem, its unique mouthparts and feathery tendrils adapted to melt away metal at the gentlest of touches. When a mind flayer takes control of these insectoid beasts, their rusting mouthparts are twisted into corrosive bonesaws that melt away calcium to leave the underlying organs defenseless. The carapace of the calcium creature is a lavender purple speckled with pale white spots, its long mandibles wrapping around limbs and heads and leaving them soft and flimsy.

4: The Colony: A desperate mind flayer larva, abandoned in the wilderness, comes across an underground maze of naked mole rat tunnels and nests. Crawling within, the wriggling thing finds the abode of the colony's queen, sliding into her mouth and taking root. What emerges is a mound of wrinkly flesh, its limbs turned vestigial, a circle of tentacles tipping its nose. The new mind flayer mole rat's psychic field takes control of the other rodents, already evolved for a eusocial existence, and bends them into a powerful colony united by one ur-mind. The colony hides beneath the surface of the earth, sometimes emerging as a many-limbed mass of earth puppeteered by the mole rats under the sway of their mind flayer queen.

5: Cerebroid Birther: In the depths of hot jungles dwells the pipa pipa, a strange little frog with a flat appearance and a unique style of birth. The female pipa pipa lays eggs which the male then forces into the female's back, the skin growing over them to keep them protected until it is time for them to hatch. When a larval mind flayer takes control of the pipa pipa, it uses these adaptations to its advantage. Although sex matters little to the mind flayer, the cerebroid birther comes in two forms: a wide limbless egg-holding form that crawls about on a ring of wriggling toes on its underside, and a slim egg-placing form with long and surprisingly strong forelimbs. Both forms produce partial larvae as clones of themselves, with the egg-placing form inserting them into the back of the egg-holding form. These partial larvae are little more than a brain with a flagellum, able to produce a slight telekinetic field that allows them to fly through the air when released from the back of the egg-holder. When the partial larvae are in the back of the egg-holder, it is also able to fly in the air, and can use the collective telekinesis to lift large objects, sometimes with the assistance of the strong forelimbs of its "mate", although this telekinesis dissipates as the larvae are launched.

6: Postoina: One of the more common variant mind flayers, the postoina is born from a larva inserted into the body of the olm, a pale and eyeless cave salamander ubiquitous in the wet caverns beneath the earth. Its pale purple skin is drawn tight on its frail bones, its head a perfectly smooth shield over a wide mouth filled with small teeth and a mass of flailing growths. Those growths are the center of the postoina's psionic power, able to cause hallucinations strong enough in the minds of creatures within a certain distance of it. Often, the postoina tricks the viewer into seeing it as much larger than itself, and as breathing a poisonous fume that can ignite easily. Because of this, the postoina is sometimes called a mind flayer dragon, but in reality the thing itself is rather small and physically weak.

7: Blattobrain: A last-ditch attempt to save whole societies of mind flayers from utter destruction, the blattobrain is a cockroach (multiple varieties of which are ubiquitous in subterranean environs) bred to large sizes and taken over by a cloying illithid larva. Dungeon cockroaches are kept as a foodstuff for the juicy mammals and reptiles that illithids eat, but during intense societal collapse the elder brains can ordain to force new larvae into especially large specimens in order to relocate. Found in massive swarms that carpet every surface as far as the eye can see, blattobrains carry their elder brain masters upon their backs, protecting the relocating society with a collective psychic blast that can put the victim to sleep. They are able to collaborate and form vaguely humanoid shapes in a pinch as well, but do not rely on that ability, instead focusing on relocating the elder brains to a new home.

8: Kavalrax: The mind flayers are fascinated by the phenomenon of otyugh intelligence, the beasts' large stumbling bodies endowed with the gift of telepathy and a mild sapience. Born from a larval illithid inserted into an otyugh, the kavalrax is a creature torn from its natural environment. The otyugh, like the cow, is too large for a single mind flayer to control, but this issue is compounded even more by the otyugh's mind already being endowed with mild psychic ability. No matter how many illithids take control of the bottom feeder's body, its mind will remain in the dark recesses, able to send out psychic screams or periodically take over the body's tentacular limbs. As a result of the uncertain control the mind flayer has over the kavalrax body and the disgust that mind flayers have for the otyugh's home in refuse and sewage, the kavalrax is typically held in a tight metal cage, kept absolutely clean and perfumed, only able to walk around when allowed.

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