"...across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us. "
- H.G. Wells, War of the Worlds
"CREEPING HORROR...From the depths of time and space!"One of the possible origins for mind flayers has always been extraterrestrial (or maybe ultraterrestrial). Given that, its easy to give them more of a pulp sci-fi veneer--to add a little Amazing Stories chrome to the basic Weird Tales model. This is exactly what I've been playing with for my Strange New World fantasy pulp setting, so cue the theremin...
- Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957) poster
The horrific beings known as mind flayers came to earth after despoiling--and possibly destroying--their native world. They came seeking raw materials and rare elements needed in the manufacture of their star-faring saucer-ships, but these cold beings of intellect, evolved even beyond the need for speech, began to change unexpectedly upon exposure to humanity. After millennia, appetite was reawakened in them.
The subtle psychic flavors of human emotions are like nectar to their once utterly logical minds, particularly the various permutations of fear. But the greatest delicacy, beside which the purely mental morsels pale, is the visceral pleasure of consuming raw human brains. Preferably, fresh from the skull of a still-living victim.
Mind flayers typically descend on rural areas--isolated farmhouses, or sometimes even small towns. Acquisition parties of 1d6 mind flayers move forth and use their mental abilities to dominate the minds of their victims (those who fail a save vs. spell) and summon them from their homes. They lead their prey back to their saucer-ships where they may consume them at their leisure--after an aperitif of terror. On those who prove resistant to their psychic command, they use their ray-pistols to stun (on a failed save vs. paralysis) for 2d4 turns, or to kill, searing for 5d6 radiation damage.
Once victims are aboard the mind flayer vessel, rescue becomes more difficult. The vessels' silvery hulls are virtually impervious to normal weapons--conventional explosives and even many magical attacks are unable to penetrate them.
It has been suggested that mind flayers may have a preference for women captives. A sinister connection has been drawn between this and the fact that all recorded mind flayer encouters have seemed to be with males--in so much as the sex of an alien being can be determined accurately.
Mind flayers can't be appealed to for mercy, or reasoned with. Humans are no more than cattle to them. It has been theorized that only magic, a force that seems beyond their understanding, limits their predations on man.
Art by Doug Stambaugh.