Originally posted by Pennarin:
Some have asked, so here it is.
I started working on an athasian illithid project but got bugged down with an inability to come with an exotic, alien and athasian way of seeing them at the level of personnality, motivations, social life and societal structures.
I’m searching for new and great ideas on those subjects and I decided also to post what I have done already in the hope of getting the ideas geared in the right direction. I have rules for an athasian illithid character race, which is central to the project. Exposed in its fluff and abilities lies a good portrayal of the way I want illithids to be on Athas.
I’m also searching for great new alien names for classes, PrCs, family structures - if any - and others. Think of the uhrnius term for a dwarven leader…
Also a series of numbered questions below will help define the areas in which racial information needs to be fleshed-out if illithids are to be made a fully athasian race, not just a D&D port to DS.
Also below is a section dedicated to bridging the gap between Pennarin’s Illithids and Jihun-Nish’s Athilids, if at all possible.
Index (one post each):
Illithid character race
Fundamentals of athasian illithids
Exisitng rules for the project
Preliminary timeline of great events relating to illithids
Illithids/Athilids bridging effort
DISCLAIMER #1: I will update those posts as my brain will start functionning again. Especially the questions section and the fundamentals section.
DISCLAIMER #2: I wanted an illithid character race that wasn’t a master race but rather in par with the other Rebirth races. I didn’t want a 8+ HD creature, with instant-kill powers. I rather chose to make them of equal power to the strongest character races we have out there. The LA of +2 maybe wrong, I’m not an expert. To leave the potential to have illithids with powers similar to those of D&D mind flayers, I created a racial class called ‘illithid’. Any illithid can take levels in that class, just like taking levels in fighter. But instead of gaining class abilities, the class develops your racial abilities: better mind blast, better telepathy and other goodies. Its probably similar to playing a 8HD illithid from the get go, but I don’t like having extremely powerful innate abilities just being handed like that to a character race. ECL is there for that, but fluff-wise it sucks. That’s my opinion.
Originally posted by Pennarin:
Illithids might be mistaken for humans with braided beards at a distance, due to their mouth tentacles. However, closer inspection reveals illithids to have gray, marble-like skin, moist and rubbery like that of an oasis’s amphibious creature. Four tentacles surround a round mouth filled with hundreds of obsidian-sharp teeth. A half-dozen small patches of body tentacles cover the illithid and help it smell, to compensate for the absence of a nose. Their eyes are striking, as they are entirely white. Illithids are called “mind flayers” by other races, and for a good reason―they nourish themselves by cracking open a creature’s head and siphoning out the brain inside. One major difference between illithids and most intelligent races of Athas is their asexual physiology. Illithids are genderless and possess no sexual characteristics or roles.
Personality: Illithids communicate among each other through a combination of telepathy, bitings and scratchings that express dominance and physical stances that convey mood and support telepatic exchanges. An important part of the stance as communication is the positionning and actions of the sensory and mouth tentacles. Sensory tentacles also serve to perceive the changing sent of an illithid as part of exchanges. These elements are disturbing and frightening to other races who only see aggressive illithids, dozens of writhing tentacles flailing around or poiting to or even touching other creatures. As creatures that function in utter silence, seeming to communicate without addressing each other and executing unfathomable activities, other races see illithids as alien. All the races that have heard of them fear them and those that have dealt with them despise them. Illithids are greeted with universal fear and loathing in their dealings with intelligent creatures, since their brain extraction and the nourishment they take from it are objects of horror to other creatures. Their reputation for enslaving intelligent creatures makes the latter flee even the rumored presence of a nearby illithid encampment. This tendency to enslave Rebirth races is more myth than fact; illithids rarely take slaves among them, preferring instead to produce their own specialized slave races from inferior beings they awaken to sentience, or avoid the need for them altogether by manifesting unseen constructs. As nocturnal creatures, illithids have ancestrally extended their activities underground, making communities of all sizes spring forth in the soft rock and dirt.
Physical Description: When encountered on the surface at night or anytime in their subterranean communities, illithids move naked. On the rare times they are encountered on the surface during the day they are always wearing a specialized skin graft or carapace symbiont that protects them from their heat vulnerability. Some rare naked illithids can be encountered during the day, members of the community brainwashed and exiled for murders or graver crimes.
Relations: Illithids look down upon other races, which are loath to trade with them from illithids’ reputation as slavers. Most illithids sincerely believe their race has embarked on a superior life path, and look at others as childlike or mere savages, still embracing the passions of beasts.
Alignments: Illithids tend toward law and evil. Living in biologically structured communities, illithids embrace the order that comes from the overmind’s gestalt. They pour their energies into psionics and the betterment of their species, focusing on constants like racial identity and personal achievement. Illithids concede no intrinsic valor to the laws of the other Rebirth races.
Illithid Lands: South of the Sea of Silt lies a plateau, the Hiriman highlands, that is surrounded by salt fields, the remnants of inland salty marshes. East of these lands is dromite territory, and to the west lies the vast Obsidian Plains of the undead. The south is blocked by the Red Peaks, a chain of jagged volcanic mountains that makes passage quasi impossible.
Religion: The elder brain is the center of an illithid’s spiritual life. They venerate them as the source of their life and its ultimate culmination. Although this veneration is not as strong as for the gods of old, illithids defer to the elder brain’s wishes on all things.
Psionics: Illithids are profoundly psionic beings, whose potential for mastery is amongst the highest of the Rebirth races. An illithid will undoubtedly take levels in a psionic class in its life or take illithid racial levels. Everyday life confronts them with problems that can be solved with hard labor or psionics, the latter they prefer out of love and respect for its power.
Magic: Their pride in their strong connection with the Unseen Way makes them disdain sorcery, which their society condones. A telltale ash circle will get the attention of illithids in a war party and make them converge on the unfortunate. The brains of those victims are considered subsistence food for their propensity to ‘taste’ bad.
Language: Illithids speak Common, but communicate telepathically with one another. Their own language, Qualith, is in written form only. Illithids dabbling in symbiont lore know ancient halfling from the rhulisti texts they decipher.
Names: As telepathic beings, illithids rarely use names. When forced to talk, they refer to one another using a combination of prefix and suffix that conveys a general description of an illithid’s personality.
Adventurers: Since the great events of recent memory, like the apparition of the Cerulean Storm and its spin-off storms, illithid society and its elder brains have decided it is time they try and get a level of control over the events that befalls them. Lone illithids are sent far and wide to try and understand the causes of these events. Amongst them are individuals trained in the ways of the desert and able to track down quarry. Missionary groups with malinarint among them are also deployed, staying in touch psionically with the community.
Illithid Racial Traits
● –2 Constitution, +4 Intelligence, +2 Charisma: Illithids are very intelligent and confident, but lack in resilience.
● Type: Aberration. Illithids are not subject to spells, powers or effects that affect only humanoids, such as charm person or dominate person.
● Size: Medium. As Medium creatures, illithids have no special bonuses or penalties due to their size.
● Illithid base land speed is 30 feet.
● Darkvision: Illithids can see in the dark up to 60 feet.
● Light Blindness (Ex): Abrupt exposure to bright light (such as sunlight or a daylight spell) blinds an illithid for 1 round. In addition, illithids suffer a –1 circumstance penalty to all attacks rolls, saves, and checks while operating in bright light.
● Heat Vulnerability (Ex): Abrupt exposure to heated air (as experienced on the surface during daylight hours) sickens an illithid for 1 round. In addition, illithids suffer a –1 circumstance penalty to all attacks rolls, saves, and checks while exposed to the hot air of the surface during the day.
● Soft Skin: Illithids have a rubbery skin like that of amphibious creatures and take a –1 penalty to armor class.
● Naturally Psionic: Illithids gain 3 bonus power points at 1st-level. This benefit does not grant them the ability to manifest powers unless they gain that ability through another source, such as levels in a psionic class.
● Improved Grab (Ex): As in Monster Manual.
● Natural Weapons: Tentacles. See Savage Species.
● Extract (Ex): As in Monster Manual.
● Mind Blast (Ps): A creature targeted by this psionic attack must succeed on a Will save (DC 10 + ½ illithid’s character level + illithid’s Charisma modifier) or be stunned for 1d4 rounds. The save DC is Charisma-based. This ability is the equivalent of a 1st-level power. An illithid can muster such an attack only once per day.
● Telepathy (Su): Illithids can communicate with one another telepathically if within 60 feet of each other.
● Automatic Language: Common and Qualith. All illithids are literate in Qualith. Bonus Languages: Any (other than secret languages, such as Druidic). Most illithids have no access to languages spoken in the Seven Cities besides Common.
● Favored Class: Illithid.
● Racial Levels: Unlike most races, illithids can take a few levels in “illithid” as a class to develop their racial qualities more fully.
● Level Adjustment +2
When more than one illithid are in close proximity to each other, they gain access to abilities that stem from their interaction with the overmind or from a gestalt effect in their psionically active groups, in the latter case as long as every individual is at least 10 feet from another illithid, or unless stated otherwise:
● Multitask (Su): Whenever part of an overmind (see below), the character can take more than a single mental action during his turn. Once per day, an illithid can spend a power point as a free action to gain a free standard action that the illithid can use to take any purely mental action. The mental action may be using a Knowledge, Psicraft, or other skill check requiring only mental cognition. The mental action could also be the manifestation of a psionic power; however, the illithid can only manifest a power with its extra mental action if the normal actions allowed the character during the round do not also involve manifesting a power.
● Oracle (Su): Whenever part of an overmind (see below), an illithid is granted a daily precognitive edge. Essentially, the edge translates into a floating +2 insight bonus that the illithid can apply at any time either to an initiative roll, an attack roll, or a saving throw. In the case of an attack roll or saving throw, the illithid can elect to apply the bonus to the roll or save after he determines whether his unmodified roll misses. Only one precognitive edge may be applied by the illithid per day.
● Overmind (Su): When within 5 miles of an illithid settlement hosting an elder brain, an illithid becomes part of the overmind and can tap into a racial network of knowledge and information. An illithid can spend one power point as a free action to gain a +2 bonus to any Knowledge or Psicraft check he makes. An illithid can still tap the network if part of a 30+ strong group with at least one malinarint in its midst. The range of this diminished overmind is half a mile. Malinarint are also their own overmind and can tap the network without being part of a group. When not part of an overmind, illithids suffer withdrawal on a permanent basis, suffering a –1 morale penalty to Knowledge and Psicraft checks, as well as to Will saves.
● Power Resistance (Ex): Illithids gain power resistance from a gestalt effect in their psionically active group. The group starts with power resistance 5, and each individual adds another point with a limit equal to the highest-level illithid in the party. For example, a party of five would have power resistance 8: base power resistance of 5, + 5 (1 for each member) with a limit of 8 for the highest-level member of the party (an 8th-level character). A malinarint counts for 5, an elder brain for 20 and those numbers can bring the power resistance beyond the limit. A maximum of four malinarint can be counted in this way, any more are counted as normal illithids. When a group comprises an elder brain, malinarints part of the group are counted as normal illithids. This ability does not require illithids comprising the group to be part of an overmind.
Illithids can take up to three levels in “illithid” at any time. Each level represents the illithid focusing on mental discipline and exploring racial qualities. Not all illithids take racial levels (or all three of them). Illithid levels stack with a manifester class level for purposes of determining manifester level for powers. If the illithid has two manifesting classes, the illithid levels add to the higher of the two class levels.
Hit Die: d6
Skill Points at 1st Character Level: (2 + Intelligence bonus) x 4
Skill Points at Higher Levels: 2 + Intelligence bonus
“Class” skills: Autohypnosis (Wis), Concentration (Con), Craft (Int), Gather Information (Cha), Knowledge (psionics) (Int), Listen (Wis), Move Silently (Dex), Psicraft (Int), Sense Motive (Wis), Use Psionic Device (Cha).
Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Illithids with levels only in illithid (no actual class levels) are proficient in the use of all simple weapons but no armors or shields.
Innate Psi-Like Abilities: Use the illithid’s character level to determine the manifester level. DC is Charisma-based (DC 10 + power level + Cha modifier).
Psionically-Active Mucus (Su): The skin produces a coating of mucus with psionic properties that gives the illithid a +5 circumstance bonus to Escape Artist checks when not wearing armor or clothing. It also focuses its powers and psi-like abilities, increasing their DC by 1. The illithid must from now on wear a specialized form of protection (carapace symbiont, sunwise skin graft or psychoactive skin of the daywalker) on the surface during the day or see this ability become ineffective as the mucus dries out. When wearing a carapace symbiont or skin graft the illithid no longer receives his bonus to Escape Artist checks. The mucus renews itself after 24 hours in an indoor illithid structure or a suitably moist environment.
<br />Racial <br />Level BAB Fort Ref Will <br /> 1 +0 +0 +1 +2 <br /> 2 +1 +0 +1 +3<br /> 3 +2 +1 +2 +3
- Innate psi-like abilities: at will―read thoughts, wall walker; mind blast 2/day (10 ft.-cone, 1d4 rounds, 2nd-level power); telepathy (100 ft.)
- Innate psi-like abilities: at will―psionic levitate, psionic suggestion; mind blast 3/day (30 ft.-cone, 2d4 rounds, 3rd-level power); telepathy (contact any creature with a language)
- Innate psi-like abilities: at will―conceal thoughts, psionic dominate; mind blast 4/day (60 ft.-cone, 3d4 rounds, 4th-level power); psionically-active mucus
Originally posted by Pennarin:
Some history: Illithids lived in salt marshes, active during night times, and as such now have to live underground in closed environments due to the lack of water and humidity. Their city-nests are mostly underground, with some air-exchange parts sticking out of the ground, plus the entry.
Champion: In the past, a Champion had been sent to destroy the illithids: Barien, Mind Flayer Dessicator.
Reproduction: illithids are sterile (it wasn’t always so). Elder brains produce tadpoles through an orifice. They grow in the pool around the elder brain until they can be taken care of by an adult illithid. An elder brain has a reproductive cycle that allows it to produce youngs once in a while, in batches. Each elder brain can produce a certain, fixed amount of tadpoles each reproductive cycle, depending on its HD. Elder brains can choose to produce a tadpole that will mature into an illithid (or even a prestige illithid) or into a symbiont (life-shape); it also has a fixed amount of free XP per reproductive cycle to spend on their creation.
Ceromorphosis: a speeded up, boosted process of maturation for a tadpole developped during the Cleansing Wars and currently pretty abandonned. Pick an intelligent humanoid, put a modified tadpole in it and it will mature in 1/3 the time and be more powerful (it gains the Ceromorph template).
Overmind: All illithids within a certain distance of an elder brain, or in the presence of a malinarint (prestige illithid), are connected through an overmind. Many of their abilities come from such a connection, while some others come from simply puting enough illithids together, overmind or no overmind.
The overmind re-enforces the illithid racial imperatives, allows the elder brains to perceive the ebb and flow of the race.
Society: Illithids trade for salt, since they are made to drink salt water and need to salt the fresh waters collected from underground sources.
Society: When an illithid endeavors to create a new psionic power and succeeds, it must confer knowledge of the power to an elder brain.
Society: There are farming operations are set-up in underground and aboveground locations that raise pulp bees that produce a pasty substance and a nutritious fluid. The pasty substance is treated and made into a form of hardened paper and traded. It is later treated again to make it resistant to humidity. The nutritious fluid is harvested and fed to the tadpoles in their briny pools, until they mature and can nolonger eat it and must start ingesting brain matter.
Society: Illithids write Qualith on polished chitin pieces using thick colored inks or on pressed paper sheets. The paper sheets that store knowledge are usually folded into origami shapes as an art form (the paper most be treated to resist the humidity of a subteranean community).
Society: Small farming groups make monthly trips in the desert to collect liquid crystal from the bodies of crystal spiders, which they farm. The liquid crystal is traded and used in the making of psionic tattoos.
Symbionts: Grafts are accessible to the general population on a need-to-have basis. As for cerebral and carapace symbionts, I leave it open to someone else’s imagination. Surface and roaming communities usually are too small to boast an elder brain and usually cannot produce or take care of symbionts more complex than grafts.
Trade: Illithids do not use currency but achieve the same result using trade. Trade is made between individuals, creeds and communities, sometime with other Rebirth races, in the form of exchanged ideas, research material, new found powers or trade goods. Many calligraphy and origami artists have amassed favors and great ‘wealth’ in trading their craft to other illithids.
Undeads: illithids have to deal wth the usual undeads from their own ranks, like any other races: dhaots, racked spirits and wraiths.
Thralls: the term comes from the Cleansing Wars, a derogative, propaganda term developed by the troops to aleviate any remaining guilt in using other Rebirth races for ceromorphosis. After the wars the practice has been abandonned, but some slave taking still takes places. Those slaves are brain-washed and made into a warrior force. Most of those are Rebirth races or dromites from the eastern regions. Hard labor is still done by astral constructs, though.
Dromites: I decided to include dromites (from the XPH) into the athasian sphere of alienness because dromites are too cool. They were so primitive and inward fighting that Rajaat never bothered to send a Champion: all dromites would drown in the coming Blue Age. The eastern dromites were taken as warriors during the Wars when the humans came from the west. Now some dromites have escaped and civilized their lands. Dromites are now making a gorrila war against their illithid neighbors.
Astral Constructs: outside of the few thralls that exist, the brute strenght necessary for digging the underground towns and cities, erecting the aboveground installations, hauling things around…are all done by animals, if possible, or by astral constructs. As such, many illithids take levels in the Constructor PrC from the Mind’s Eye. Half the visible population in large cities is composed of constructs.
Chitin Armor: communities too small to boast an elder brain, or roaming communities, cannot usually provide the trade necessary to obtain symbionts or to care for them. Without symbionts, these illithids are forced to live at night and to protect their bodies using alternative solutions. In these cases illithids use chitin to make armors. Contrarilly to the Rebirth races of the Seven Cities, illithids do not make chitin armor out of interlocking hexagonal bits of chitin but use giant insects’ carapaces, at varying stages of growth, to obtain fitting pieces. No cutting or shapping is involved. The result is the same as the chitin armor described in Chapter 6: Equipment, in the DS3 Core Document.
Readjustment: an illithid is sent to readjustment (to receive a dose of a psionic power from an elder brain or a dedicated representative) whenever the following happens.
- aura alteration: when a symbiont takes control over an illithid
- mindwipe: when an illithid discover talents that makes him a renegade. The elder brain erases the illithid’s mind of the knowledge, if the illithid was prompt in reporting the offending abilities
Items: Illithids use symbionts in conjunction with psionic items. Also, they have nearly no metal, but instead use crystal (use the rules in the XPH).
City life: Illithid cities are called city-nests and smaller towns are called nests. They are not unlike modern many-leveled underground parkings. There are vertical passageways that link the levels, some have stairs, although most are huge tunnels in which illithids levitate or wallwalk. Astral constructs move around through small holes drilled in the walls and ceilings.
Building techniques: The underground facilities have walls covered in organics, the product of special industrial-strenght symbionts. The go through tunnels like hug slugs, slowly spiraling in it and depositing this material that isolates the walls perfectly, keeping the moisture in. Humidity and driping water are constant in those installations. Seals to the outside keep in the moisture.
Environmental effects on illithids: they need moisture. Always had. As the world changed and dried up they went underground, cloistering around water sources. If illithid skin makes contact with dried hot air or sunlight, it will dry up. All illithids on the surface need to wear specific psychoactive skins or skin grafts or carapace symbionts. They can go out at night with layers of clothing without problems.
Originally posted by Pennarin:
Pennarin’s Note: Under ‘Warriors’ below is found ‘rangers’. I initially decided to use a magicless ranger - an earlier iteration from athas.org - for the illithids. But since I have no idea weither this is a feasible way of doing things for a project like this one, if you don’t like it simply remove it. I wanted a base class with tracking abilities and a magicless ranger was the one. A magical ranger would be unacceptable for illithids, they would fall in the ‘Exiles and Outcasts’ category.
I also included NytCrawlr’s psi-monk to the ‘Unseen Adepts’ section.
Fighters, brutes, rangers, rogues.
Warriors play an important role in illithid communities by serving in the defence of the nest. Aside from using tentacles, hand to hand combat is frowned upon by illithids―the extensive use of psionic powers by unseen adepts insures that. Most warriors will develop their ranged martial skills (rogues may take the Accurate Shot feat to increase their sneak attack range, see Skills), although warriors trained for close-quarter combat in the nest will hone their melee skills. Many such illithids will specialize in their own natural attacks.
Psi-monks, psions, psychic warriors, soulknives, wilders, erudites (Dragon Magazine #319).
The greatest calling of an illithid, the Way of the Unseen has many adepts in all walks of life. Most unseen adepts are evenly distributed among psions and erudites due to the high academic levels found amongst most large communities. Wilders are more present by far in smaller, subsistence communities, were the task of survival is so great extensive schooling is not an option. As those smaller communities grow toward one day having their own elder brain, their fraction of psions and erudites steadily increases.
Soulknives and psychic warriors hone their ranged martial skills to an art form, but unlike warriors, can hope to gain higher status in the community through dedication and personal achievement due to their use of psionics.
Illithids value knowledge and artistic talent nearly as much as they value psychic abilities, and the larger the community the more experts it can train and support. These illithids can reach great status in the community, rivalling that of the greatest unseen adepts.
[SIZE=3]Exiles and Outcasts[/SIZE]
Clerics, druids, wizards.
For historical reasons and for pride in their own psionic affinities, illithids despise wizards. Members of the community that even show a modicum of sorcerous talent are sent to readjustment. Those that hide or do not report readily their newfound talent are expeditiously judged and exiled.
Affinity for the elements or the land is frowned upon nearly as much as sorcery, but judgment always leads to outcast status. They are condemned never to come in proximity of an overmind under pain of death. Any interference with nest activities results in a hunting party dispatched by the for the express purpose of the elimination of the offending outcast.
Those are the direct wishes of the elder brains.