One of the most popular D&D monsters is more complicated to implement than it sounds. What are the secrets of a good Mind Flayer session?
One of the most popular monsters in Dungeons and Dragons it’s the mental skinner, and for good reason. Beyond its name, the recognition of Strange things, The Mind Skinner has been a mainstay of D&D for several issues. The fascinating lore behind the monster fuels the imagination with unique abilities seen nowhere else in the bestiary and a reputation for lethality. In fact, many Dungeon Masters may want to integrate a mind flayer into their campaign, but if so, they may want to do it with careful consideration. The Mind Flayer is much harder to pull off than it sounds.
Much of the Mind Skinner lore makes him the perfect villain for a campaign. Once masters of an Illiterate empire, Mind Flayers share a hive mind mentality and worship a central elder brain as they seek to conquer the free will of the other races. Their origins are related to the evocative Underdark, and with each with a personal appetite for brain-eating, all the lore that surrounds them sets them up as the ideal evil for everything from a side quest to being the big baddie of an entire Campaign.
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In terms of their actual stat block in Monster Manuel, Mind Flayers inhabit the difficult-to-balance middle ground. With a challenge rating of seven, they could be a deadly encounter for a group of four level four people or an easy encounter for a group of four level eight people. What’s even more complicated is that the CR system does not accurately encapsulate the abilities of the mind flayer because it fights in such a unique way that it relies heavily on its environment.
The Tentacled Mind Flayers D&D He has everything from long-distance to mid-range and melee skills. Innate abilities and spell casting such as telepathy, detect thoughts and levitate prepare them to navigate in almost any environment. They can cast Dominate Monster to turn a group against itself, and their Mind Blast ability can potentially stun an entire group from a distance at once. In melee, their tentacles allow them to damage and grab an opponent. Once captured, they can use Brain Harvest to deal massive damage and instant death. Similarly, the plane shift can be used offensively to completely eliminate a PC from combat.
With relatively few hit points or poor armor class, an encounter with a Mind Flayer can be too easy if DMs aren’t careful. The trick is to plan your surroundings well and give the mind flayer the right number of minions. As masterminds, Mind Flayers lend themselves to psychically control other creatures such as ogres. Their telepathic and evil ways would lead them into an alliance with demonic entities such as a succubus. All of these factors can increase the CR of the encounter quite easily, so constantly keep in mind how they are integrated.
The most important thing is to consider the outcome of the mind flayer’s combat options and consider how much fun they can be for your players. The mind blast ability awesome option is one of the mind flayer’s most powerful options, but at a meta-level, it can also create a boring encounter where stunned players do nothing but saving throws on their turn. . Similar to using the flat shift offensively, try to reserve those options for when the mind flayer really needs them, and only under a circumstance where combat won’t drag on for too long after they’re employed.
Setting up those melee attacks with the tentacles and brain extraction really does give Mind Flayers their flavor, but they’re hard to pull off if players aren’t hindered. The key to giving the Mind Flayer allies is that those allies can occupy the rest of the party while the Mind Flayer attempts to devour the brain of a lone PC. Such an instance can be an adrenaline-pumping dramatic moment for players as they fight to save their ally, and it’s a unique experience only a mind flayer can create.
In the end, recognizing what is unique about the mental skinner is the key. Appreciate the monster on its own merits rather than throwing it out like a generic monster and a session built around it can really shine. Done right, combat with a Mind Skinner can be downright mind-blowing.
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