8 Reasons Mind Flayers Still Rule the Multiverse

You’ve heard it said that the mind flayers (a.k.a. illithids) once ruled the multiverse, until they were overthrown and decimated by their gith slaves. But what if I told you that they’re still in control, manipulating everything from behind the scenes?

1. Mind flayers (as presented in the Monster Manual) are too weak to have ever had a multiplanar empire.

Sure, they can use their psionics to cast dominate monster, but they can only do that once per day, and may not succeed. Even an elder brain can only cast it once per day.

2. That said, they might make smart use of guerrilla tactics.

A lone mind flayer who sneaks up on a victim to try and mind control them could planeshift away before being seen if they fail. The victim would just get a creepy feeling that something’s been probing their brain. Not empire-building material though.

3. It takes an illithid a day to make a thrall. 

Volo’s Guide to Monsters says that if they have the opportunity to spend 24 hours gently mindblasting another creature, they can eventually turn that creature into a thrall. But that’s still not exactly efficient. It’s no way to rule the planes.

4. These are fake mind flayers.

I suggest that the mind flayers I’m describing are just decoys, a distraction from more powerful mind flayers who are controlling things from behind the scenes. Making the world thing that your species is weak and close to extinction would be a perfect way of hiding.

5. The illithid empire never ended.

Volo’s Guide questions how the gith could have possibly overthrown their illithid masters, pointing out that no ruins of the illithid empire can be found in the Astral Plane they ruled from. Volo’s suggestion is that they may have transported their empire into the future. Maybe the illithid empire is just moments away?

6. You just don’t remember them when they’re out of sight.

Alternatively, maybe the real mind flayers have an ability similar to the Silence from Doctor Who, meaning that anyone who sees them is unable to remember them? Maybe they’re constantly present, but never remembered?

7. Perhaps the gith never actually liberated themselves?

Maybe the mind flayers noticed that their slaves were looking for opportunities to rebel and created false memories of a revolution? Maybe they sowed conflict among the gith so they would fight amongst themselves, not realising they are still enslaved? (Volo’s Guide says that when an elder brain infiltrates someone’s mind, it can alter their perception.) My theory is that the warring gith races are actually the same, but the mind flayers give the githyanki a higher dose of testosterone.

8. There are also clues that the mind flayers still control the duergar.

Volo’s Guide talks about the mind flayers giving their slaves metal implants (eg. flensing claws). In Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes we see that some of the duergar have new body mods. Maybe these are the result of continuing mind flayer experiments? We also see that the psionic abilities that the mindflayers gave them are continuing to develop…

A couple of months ago I ran Rrakkma!, an adventure that pits a party of gith against mind flayers, trying to stop them from enslaving the gith race again. My party of four gith ended up dying in the final stage of the adventure, and the mind flayers ended up enslaving the gith once again. This got me thinking about how it would be cool run an adventure where the rulers of the multiverse once again, and the gith have to stage another revolution. But then I thought, maybe the mind flayers would try to make the gith think they were free, while secretly pulling the puppet strings? If you wanted, you could run a campaign where everything seems normal, but players gradually figure out that the world is being secretly controlled by the mind flayers.

9 Reasons Why Githyanki and Githzerai are identical

It’s an unending war between two cosmic races… who are exactly the same. You may tell me that the githyanki are chaotic evil raiders from the Astral Plane, totally different from the lawful neutral githzerai monks of Limbo, but just how different are they?

1. The githyanki and the githzerai are both descended from the slaves of mind flayers. (They parted ways soon after they freed themselves.)
2. Both the githyanki and the githzerai are focussed on hunting down the remaining mind flayers.
3. Mind flayers are about the only thing they hate more than each other.
4. Both races have psionic abilities that they received from their former masters.
5. Each of the gith races is ruled by an ancient, powerful figure – an ancestral hero from the war against the mind flayers.
6. In both cases, the leader is so ancient that it’s not entirely clear whether they are alive or dead.
7. In both cases, the leader’s immense age means that they’re dependent on their followers.
8. Both races expect the return of a long-departed hero – a kind of gith Jesus.
9. Both believe in a promise of paradise in the afterlife.

If you are using the gith races in your adventure, you should do everything you can to show how ridiculously similar they are to each other, but how much they hate each other all the same.

One of the ways that the two races are differentiated in Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes is in the way their leaders are portrayed. Both are depicted straddling the boundary between life and death. It’s suggested that Vlaakith, tyrant of the githyanki, is actually consuming the souls of those who’ve ‘ascended’ to paradise. Menyar-Ag, leader of the githzerai, is portrayed as an ancient master whose psionic strength keeps him vital as his decrepit body withers away. He’s dependent on his disciples to care for his physical body. I would suggest finding ways to give the impression that Menyar-Ag is no different to his githyanki counterpart, and that he may also be consuming the souls of his followers. (It doesn’t have to be solid evidence, just enough to make your players suspicious.)

This would also muddy up the alignment of the githzerai, suggesting that their leader, if not the race in general, is actually evil. You could also suggest that their lawful nature is just a facade. Maybe their practice of stabilising Limbo is a metaphor for the stabilisation of their own chaotic nature? Every now and then, you could have a githzerai’s calm exterior crack, revealing the chaos that lies within.

Think of these two races as sects of the same religion, who have a violent disagreement about how many celestials can dance on the head of a pin. It’s a darkly comical way of saying that we may be just the same as the people who go to war against.

If you want to learn more about the gith, pick up a copy of Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes.

Mordenkainen’s Bestiary: More Humanoids

I’ve recently been reading through Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes and reviewing the content here. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the elves and duergar featured in the bestiary section of the book. Today I’m looking at the bestiary’s remaining humanoids.


The derro have already been featured in Out of the Abyss, but in Tome of Foes we get more information about their gods and their origins. Since they’re inclined toward insanity, there’s a random table for describing the nature of a derro’s madness. There are also some small changes to the derro stat blocks, which make the derro savant a little more distinct.


There was a lot of excitement when it was revealed that the giff would be included in Tome of Foes. They’re eccentric and regimented hippos who love their guns. I don’t think regular guns fit too well in Dungeons & Dragons, but I wouldn’t say the giff’s guns are very overpowered. Any player character who manages to get their hands on a giff firearm is going to also need to find a way to get ammunition and gunpowder in order to use it, so I don’t think it’s likely to warp the feel of the game a lot.


Tome of Foes has a whole chapter on the gith, which I plan to review next week. The bestiary also provides us with stat blocks for five new kinds of gith. I think the githzerai that are included here are most interesting. The anarch is a githzerai whose psionic abilities allow them to stabilise an area of the plane of Limbo in order to establish githzerai colonies. While in their colony they can access a number of lair actions, including casting lightning bolt with the ability to modify the damage type. They also have a number of legendary actions, including the ability to reverse gravity. The other githzerai in the bestiary is the enlightened, who has the ability to punch an opponent a little way into the future.


These don’t come across to me as a very strong concept, but they appear to be descended from people who’ve gone to the Shadowfell to dwell on their misery. It seems like they sneak up on people and drag them into the Shadowfell for stronger creatures to deal with. Why do they do that? I guess they’re just hateful and misanthropic?


These folks were once elven mages who plotted against the Raven Queen. She turned them into hunch-backed vulture-people. Now they can only acquire new knowledge and power from dead societies, so they plot behind the scenes to destroy societies. They’re equipped with a lot of spells that they can use to get others to do their dirty work.


These humanoids are travellers who have lost their identity while wandering the Shadowfell. They’re normally invisible, except to children, so Mordenkainen says that a child’s imaginary friend could actually be a skulk. A summoned skulk can take on some of the summoner’s appearance. As a dungeon master, I like the idea of using having a villain who uses a summoned skulk to do their dirty work, because the skulk’s appearance (if the player characters are able to see it, or get a description from someone who can) could help lead them to the summoner.

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