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The announcement trailer for Baldur's Gate III prominently featured a whole bunch of mind flayers. With that in mind, the folks over at VentureBeat sat down with Dungeons & Dragons' lead story designer Christopher Perkins and asked him a bunch of questions about these tentacled monsters. The resulting interview runs for two pages and contains a lot of Illithid-related trivia.
Here's an excerpt and you take things from there:
GamesBeat: Do the facts about mind flayer biology, culture, society, and such in the Second Edition and Third Edition products such as The Illithiad (2E) and Lords of Madness: The Book of Abberations (3.5E) still apply to Fifth Edition illithids, as we’re going to likely see in Baldur’s Gate 3?
Chris Perkins: Our current mindset, and one of the guiding principles of Fifth Edition, is that we don’t assume everything that was true in earlier editions is canonically true now. We assess each element of a monster on its own merits. That said, if something has been consistently true about a monster throughout the game’s history, it’s a good bet that it holds true in Fifth Edition. Everything that we know is true about mind flayers in Fifth Edition can be found in the 5E Monster Manual and the “Mind Flayers: Scourge of Worlds” section of Volo’s Guide to Monsters. The latter resource, in particular, picks up elements of mind flayer lore from earlier sourcebooks, including The Illithiad and Lords of Madness.
GamesBeat: Mind flayers first appeared in Eldritch Wizardry way back in 1976 for the original D&D White Box, right?
Perkins: Yes. Mind flayers in Eldritch Wizardry had 4+2 Hit Dice, an Armor Class of 5, and a “% in Laie” of 50%. (That’s a typo in Eldritch Wizardry, by the way. It meant to say “% in Lair.”) Eldritch Wizardry also established that mind flayers are lawful evil, have four face-tentacles, and are “psionically endowed,” all of which remain true to this day.
GamesBeat: Mind flayers must consume the brains of sentient creatures … do they have fondness of a particular humanoid over another? Do they view the brains of beholders and dragons, or even celestials and fiends, as delicacies to seek out?
Perkins: Although mind flayers don’t display a great deal of individuality, they do have food preferences the same way humans do. That is to say, one mind flayer might enjoy the taste of elf brains more than dwarf brains, while others might dislike elf brains entirely. Some find the brains of highly intelligent humanoids tastier than the brains of dimwits. They don’t eat the brains of non-humanoids, as a rule, and thus have no interest in non-humanoids as food sources. A starving mind flayer might resort to eating the brain of a rothé (Underdark cow) or similar creature, though it wouldn’t provide much nourishment.