Illithid (starting race)

From NetHackWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
For the NPC monster also known as an illithid, see mind flayer.

The illithid (also known as a mind flayer) is a playable race of monster that appears in EvilHack and SlashTHEM.


First introduced in version 0.4.0, EvilHack portrays illithids as an ancient race with psychic abilities and natural spellcasting ability, but they are physically weak compared to other beings.[1]

Illithids are a chaotic race, and can be played as a Convict, Infidel, Priest, or Wizard.

Racial benefits and restrictions

Player illithids have infravision, and gain more power generation per level than even elven characters. They possess a natural psionic attack that can confuse and kill and is tied to spell power use, but is not considered a spell for the purposes of interactions with the Amulet of Yendor; metal helms block the ability to use the psionic wave, and illithids that have their race changed lose the ability until they return to normal (i.e., in the case of crowning as an Infidel, it is lost indefinitely).

Illithids start out with intrinsic psychic resistance and telepathy, and gain flight at level 12 like their more "wild" mind flayer brethren.

Illithids have a single extra tentacle attack that behaves exactly like the tentacle attack from a mind flayer, set up in such a way that it will automatically not be used if attacking something the player should not touch unprotected (e.g., cockatrices). Mind flayers and other monsters with psychic resistance are immune to intelligence drain from brain-eating attacks, and a player illithid is likewise immune to having their own brain eaten (but not to any other effects, such as possibly-fatal illness from a zombie bite).

Attribute caps

Strength Dexterity Constitution Intelligence Wisdom Charisma
Illithid 10 20 12 22 22 16

Illithids have exceptional agility and mental prowess that surpass even elves, but are the weakest among playable races in terms of physical strength.

Price adjustments

The following price adjustments are used for illithid interactions with racial shopkeepers:

Shopkeeper's race
Human/Other Elf Dwarf Orc Gnome Illithid Centaur Nymph Giant
Illithid ×1 ×2 ×2 ×1 ×32 if INT is ≤14
×43 if INT is 15-17
×1 ×32 ×43 if CHA is ≥15
×53 if CHA is <15

Of note is that player illithids are the only race not subjected to a 1000% markup from illithid shopkeepers.

Starting equipment

In addition to normal starting equipment for their role, illithids always start with the psionic wave ability; in previous versions, a "spellbook" of the ability would be included in the initial inventory of any non-Convict illithid.


The illithid's psychic resistance makes them immune to zombification, providing insulation against one of the biggest early-game threats in EvilHack's revamped zombies. However, they can still die as a result of the bites being poisoned, and their low strength and constitution caps make them incredibly frail. Their carrying capacity is also quite low, making a bag of holding an even more vital resource for them due to the weight reduction.

Early wishes for illithids often include gauntlets of power to offset their low strength, with bone and wood as popular choices of material due to being lighter and spellcaster-friendly. Stone is also viable in this regard and even provides an extra point of base AC, though it is heavier compared to other materials; this is somewhat offset by keeping them worn where possible.


Of note is that in notdNetHack, the Illithanachronounbinder is a role flavored as an illithid that was born from a larva taking over a suitable host belonging to the selected starting race.


Illithids, also known as mind flayers, are derived from Dungeons & Dragons, where they appear in all editions - the illithid is considered "Product Identity" by Wizards of the Coast. Creator Gary Gygax stated that one of his inspirations for the monster was the cover painting of the Titus Crow book The Burrowers Beneath by Brian Lumley.

Illithids are introduced in the very first 1975 issue of TSR Games' official newsletter, The Strategic Review; they were included in the Eldritch Wizardry supplement for the original white box edition of Dungeons & Dragons, and further appear in the first edition's Monster Manual. The 3rd and 3.5 editions additionally introduce playable illithids. The various Dungeons & Dragons settings and many other works featuring them present many conflicting stories about their origins: one common thread is that illithid society seeks to rebuild their former empires, wherein all other species were their slaves. As a result, they view any sentient creature as worthy only of being either slaves or food - despite this, they are pragmatic, and will trade with other races who are too strong to be conquered. Illithids also fear undead, as they are immune to telepathic detection and manipulation while lacking brains to consume.

Illithid dwellings are structured around an "Elder Brain", which lives in a pool of cerebral fluid in the center of a city; this pool is also host to the illithid's larvae, which they each spawn en masse two or three times during their lifespan; these illithid larvae resemble four-tentacled tadpoles. Illithid tadpoles that survive 10 years of development are then inserted into the brain of a sapient creature through any cranial orifice; humanoid creatures between 5'4" and 6'2" are preferred as hosts, with the most desirable host races including humans, drow, elves, orcs, gnolls, and goblinoids.

Upon being implanted, the larva undergoes "ceremorphosis", growing and consuming the host's brain before absorbing and restructuring the host's physical form, and becomes a physically mature (but mentally young) illithid over the course of a week - this process is irreversible unless the larva is detected and removed within about thirty minutes of injection. Illithids "born" from ceremorphosis can occasionally take on some mannerisms and other elements of the absorbed host creature's former mind. All illithids have their brain extracted upon death and taken to the Elder Brain's pool to be added to the collective that the Brain represents, which they believe to be a form of immortality - this also makes the Elder Brain a vast library of knowledge that other illithids can call upon.

Psionic potential is integral to illithid identity - they typically communicate through psychic means, projecting thoughts and feelings to each other in a way non-illithids can scarcely comprehend. Their rare forays into written language are known as "qualith", a series of marks consisting of four broken lines that functions like an extremely complex braille; illithids read this by using each tentacle to feel the breaks in the lines and comprehend all four of them simultaneously. In EvilHack, the spellbook of psionic wave is written in a language that only player illithids can comprehend, and other races cannot read the book. Illithids who study wizardry often risk becoming outcasts (somewhat unlike EvilHack illithids), as magical power cannot be absorbed into the Brain, though a limited study is tolerated insofar as it allows illithid society to better understand their enemies - illithids outcast for going too far with these studies often seek another form of immortality through undeath, becoming alhoons.