Is any of Mike Merls's "Illithid Empire stuff" in Tome of Foes?

"Let us create vessels and sails adjusted to the heavenly aether, and there will be plenty of people unafraid of the empty wastes." — Kepler
The Book-House: Find Spelljammer products.

Moderators: night_druid, Big Mac

Post Reply
User avatar
Big Mac
Giant Space Hamster
Posts: 22750
Joined: Sun Jun 15, 2008 3:52 pm
Gender: male
Location: London UK
Contact:

Is any of Mike Merls's "Illithid Empire stuff" in Tome of Foes?

Post by Big Mac » Tue Jun 12, 2018 10:07 am

In the long lead up to Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes, Mike Mearls did a pair of videos for D&D Beyond where he spoke about the Illithid spelljamming empire and how the Gith destroyed it.

I later found out that Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes was going to have chapters about various conflicts in the D&D Multiverse and that the illithid/Gith conflict was the subject of one of those chapters.

There was later a revelation that the Giff would be in Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes, but I didn't hear anything about the empire that Mike Mearls had spoken about before.

I was kind of hoping that a few existing or new illithid Spelljammer planets might get a namecheck as far-away places where major battles or defeats had taken place.

A friend told me he had the book, and I asked him to have a look, but he couldn't find anything. Then we got interrupted and I lost the opportunity to ask more questions.

Aside from the Giff referenence, has anyone seen anything about Spelljammer in Tome of Foes? And is any reference to the make-up of the former Illithid empire? Or is this stuff that Mike Mearls was talking about content that might have been cut from the book?
David "Big Mac" Shepheard
Please join The Piazza's Facebook group, The Piazza's Facebook page and The Piazza's Google + community and follow The Piazza's Twitter feed so that you can stay in touch.
Spelljammer 3E Conversion Project - Spelljammer Wiki - The Spelljammer Image Group.
Moderator of the Spelljammer forum. My moderator voice is green.

ripvanwormer
Black Dragon
Posts: 3218
Joined: Fri Apr 03, 2009 7:14 pm
Gender: male

Re: Is any of Mike Merls's "Illithid Empire stuff" in Tome of Foes?

Post by ripvanwormer » Fri Jun 15, 2018 1:31 am

Big Mac wrote:
Tue Jun 12, 2018 10:07 am
Aside from the Giff referenence, has anyone seen anything about Spelljammer in Tome of Foes?
Aside from a brief mention that githyanki ships are powered by helms, no, I don't see anything specific to Spelljammer in the book. The giff are described as spacefaring, but there's no explanation for how that could be possible or what it entails.
And is any reference to the make-up of the former Illithid empire? Or is this stuff that Mike Mearls was talking about content that might have been cut from the book?
Illithids are mentioned in passing as enemies of the gith races who had enslaved them long ago, but the focus in Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes is on the gith, not the illithids.

The reason for this is that illithids already got a chapter in Volo's Guide to Monsters, which does have a bit on their empire, though it doesn't mention any specific planets. Volo's Guide has it that the ancient illithid empire existed primarily on the Astral Plane, from which they used planejamming nautiloids to "harvest intelligent humanoids from hundreds of worlds." After Gith's rebellion, which we're told lasted less than a year, "Only the mind flayers that had infiltrated the worlds of the Material Plane survived."

Jaid
Fire Giant
Posts: 1081
Joined: Tue Jun 17, 2008 4:26 am

Re: Is any of Mike Merls's "Illithid Empire stuff" in Tome of Foes?

Post by Jaid » Fri Jun 15, 2018 9:19 am

wait, one year? seriously? the entire gith rebellion took one year?? that's it??????

....

well, not like i was planning on using their flavour text anyways. but seriously, in an empire that size, it should take more than one year for a person on one "end" of the empire to hear something from the other "end", let alone make the shift from being a bunch of random slaves to a full-fledged army. the writers knew that back when they wrote up the unhuman war because i know they mention the fact that in some spheres the war is "over" for some groups while in other spheres it continues to rage on for years afterwards even though it may have officially ended because word hasn't reached those places that the main backbone of the s'cro fleet was defeated and so forth, so the s'cro in those areas haven't left to regroup but also haven't been defeated (or rather, the fleets of orcs, goblins, kobolds, etc that they command have not been defeated).

User avatar
night_druid
Radiant Dragon
Posts: 6116
Joined: Sun Jun 15, 2008 9:08 pm
Gender: male

Re: Is any of Mike Merls's "Illithid Empire stuff" in Tome of Foes?

Post by night_druid » Fri Jun 15, 2018 11:17 am

Jaid wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 9:19 am
wait, one year? seriously? the entire gith rebellion took one year?? that's it??????
Kinda my reaction, too. Unless the gith rebels managed to sneak into a military outpost and detonate some sort of superweapon that wiped out 99.99999% of the illithid empire, I just don't see it. I sorta expect something lasting generations, perhaps even with Gith herself having to swap bodies to survive the long war.
Moderator: Spelljammer, Kingdoms of Kalamar. My moderator voice is green

User avatar
Big Mac
Giant Space Hamster
Posts: 22750
Joined: Sun Jun 15, 2008 3:52 pm
Gender: male
Location: London UK
Contact:

Re: Is any of Mike Merls's "Illithid Empire stuff" in Tome of Foes?

Post by Big Mac » Sat Jun 16, 2018 2:16 pm

ripvanwormer wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 1:31 am
Big Mac wrote:
Tue Jun 12, 2018 10:07 am
Aside from the Giff referenence, has anyone seen anything about Spelljammer in Tome of Foes?
Aside from a brief mention that githyanki ships are powered by helms, no, I don't see anything specific to Spelljammer in the book. The giff are described as spacefaring, but there's no explanation for how that could be possible or what it entails.
Thanks. That's pretty much what my other friend was able to find before he got interrupted.

I guess he must have found everything.
ripvanwormer wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 1:31 am
Big Mac wrote:
Tue Jun 12, 2018 10:07 am
And is any reference to the make-up of the former Illithid empire? Or is this stuff that Mike Mearls was talking about content that might have been cut from the book?
Illithids are mentioned in passing as enemies of the gith races who had enslaved them long ago, but the focus in Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes is on the gith, not the illithids.

The reason for this is that illithids already got a chapter in Volo's Guide to Monsters, which does have a bit on their empire, though it doesn't mention any specific planets. Volo's Guide has it that the ancient illithid empire existed primarily on the Astral Plane, from which they used planejamming nautiloids to "harvest intelligent humanoids from hundreds of worlds." After Gith's rebellion, which we're told lasted less than a year, "Only the mind flayers that had infiltrated the worlds of the Material Plane survived."
I'm kind of disappointed by that (not by Volo's Guide to Monsters but by the fact that Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes does not have the chapters that explain conflicts in the D&D Multiverse that I was expecting. I figured there would be 50 percent story on the illithids and 50 percent story on the followers of Gith.

And while I like the Giff, I would have preferred to have seen the Pirates of Gith officially tied into the Githyanki, as part of some sort of privateers sent to hunt down illithids in Wildspace and requisition ships and helms to help with the "war effort".

What you said about Volo's Guide to Monsters would also seem to explain why Spelljammer fans keep talking about the Astral Sea. It conflicts with the description that Mike Meals was giving about the origins of the illithids. It's almost as if there are two WotC designers who are both doing different things with the illithid empire concept...and not talking to each other.

I know that the 3e book Monster Manual V had illithids using nautiloid ships to travel to the Far Realm. So illithids travelling the planes in ships is not a new thing. And even Spelljammer had the Pirates of Gith travelling to the Astral Plane on spelljamming ships. So it's not a new concept.

It might also make some sort of sense for Githyanki to kill illithids in the Astral Plane and then take over their astral bases to use as their own.

But I don't think that mind flayers being mostly based in the Astral Plane works as well as mind flayers travelling around the crystal spheres...as a mechanism for having mind flayers spread to many or most D&D worlds.

If Mike Mearls's D&D Beyond videos are actually the "official way that WotC is going to go with this" then I hope they clear this issue up in a future book.
David "Big Mac" Shepheard
Please join The Piazza's Facebook group, The Piazza's Facebook page and The Piazza's Google + community and follow The Piazza's Twitter feed so that you can stay in touch.
Spelljammer 3E Conversion Project - Spelljammer Wiki - The Spelljammer Image Group.
Moderator of the Spelljammer forum. My moderator voice is green.

User avatar
Big Mac
Giant Space Hamster
Posts: 22750
Joined: Sun Jun 15, 2008 3:52 pm
Gender: male
Location: London UK
Contact:

Re: Is any of Mike Merls's "Illithid Empire stuff" in Tome of Foes?

Post by Big Mac » Sat Jun 16, 2018 2:31 pm

night_druid wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 11:17 am
Jaid wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 9:19 am
wait, one year? seriously? the entire gith rebellion took one year?? that's it??????
Kinda my reaction, too. Unless the gith rebels managed to sneak into a military outpost and detonate some sort of superweapon that wiped out 99.99999% of the illithid empire, I just don't see it. I sorta expect something lasting generations, perhaps even with Gith herself having to swap bodies to survive the long war.
Well they do have that vague travel time stuff in Planescape, where you can travel long distances in the Astral Plane in a fairly short amount of time. But the mathematics seems very improbable.

You would almost need Gith to develop a network of spies/saboteurs that was similar to the French Resistance in WWII...ahead of that year long rebellion.

The year long rebellion would need to be the time taken for the war to spread from one side of the Astral Plane to the other side...with GIth's followers using tactics that were so effective that they prevented any illithids from spreading news of the rebellion.

What Mike Mearls was saying on D&D Beyond seemed to suggest that the illithids we see in D&D products are small pockets of survivors that escaped the rebellion and that the githyanki hunt them down and kill them all if they find them. That implies that the githyanki are a lot better at killing mind flayers than illithids are at killing githyanki.

I don't think I saw anything about tactics, but if you look at things logistically, illithids need to eat brains. If the githyanki could besiege them and stop them gaining access to slaves, they would eventually starve to death.

If the githyanki located an illithid slave colony on an asteroid in wildspace, dropped things that killed the slaves and shot down every nautiloid that tried to take off, would the illithids be able to last for a year?
David "Big Mac" Shepheard
Please join The Piazza's Facebook group, The Piazza's Facebook page and The Piazza's Google + community and follow The Piazza's Twitter feed so that you can stay in touch.
Spelljammer 3E Conversion Project - Spelljammer Wiki - The Spelljammer Image Group.
Moderator of the Spelljammer forum. My moderator voice is green.

ripvanwormer
Black Dragon
Posts: 3218
Joined: Fri Apr 03, 2009 7:14 pm
Gender: male

Re: Is any of Mike Merls's "Illithid Empire stuff" in Tome of Foes?

Post by ripvanwormer » Sat Jun 16, 2018 3:33 pm

Big Mac wrote:
Sat Jun 16, 2018 2:16 pm
I know that the 3e book Monster Manual V had illithids using nautiloid ships to travel to the Far Realm. So illithids travelling the planes in ships is not a new thing. And even Spelljammer had the Pirates of Gith travelling to the Astral Plane on spelljamming ships. So it's not a new concept.

It might also make some sort of sense for Githyanki to kill illithids in the Astral Plane and then take over their astral bases to use as their own.
Even 2nd edition lore (Dawn of the Overmind) had it that the illithids ruled the Astral and Ethereal Planes completely but only ruled "several" crystal spheres on the Prime Material. And the CHAINMAIL article "Underground Scenarios" in Dragon #294 said that the illithids invaded Zarum from the Astral Plane, returning there with gith slaves rather than remaining on the Prime Material to rule.

Though what The Unbroken Circle of Zerthimon referred to as "the False Worlds" were probably on the Prime Material Plane. The Field of Husks must have been on the Prime, anyway, since nothing grows on the Astral Plane. I suspect both the Field of Husks and the Blasted Plains were on Penumbra (the Blasted Plains might just be what the Field of Husks were called after the gith were done with them).
Last edited by ripvanwormer on Sat Jun 16, 2018 4:34 pm, edited 2 times in total.

User avatar
night_druid
Radiant Dragon
Posts: 6116
Joined: Sun Jun 15, 2008 9:08 pm
Gender: male

Re: Is any of Mike Merls's "Illithid Empire stuff" in Tome of Foes?

Post by night_druid » Sat Jun 16, 2018 4:32 pm

Big Mac wrote:
Sat Jun 16, 2018 2:31 pm
Well they do have that vague travel time stuff in Planescape, where you can travel long distances in the Astral Plane in a fairly short amount of time. But the mathematics seems very improbable.
Unless the Gith war was a Plutonian Year, I think it was too short. I have similar complaints with sci fi where they take galaxy-wide wars and reduce them to really short frames (the 3-year Clone Wars, looking at you :P ). Longer wars gives more time for more stories, for characters to be involved with more important events, and leave them time to recover and rest between grand campaigns. And to plan their next grand conquest, gather supplies, etc.
You would almost need Gith to develop a network of spies/saboteurs that was similar to the French Resistance in WWII...ahead of that year long rebellion.
Certainly. I imagine Gith ran around for a long, long time before actual fighting broke out winning over people, making allies, and such.
The year long rebellion would need to be the time taken for the war to spread from one side of the Astral Plane to the other side...with GIth's followers using tactics that were so effective that they prevented any illithids from spreading news of the rebellion.
Genghis Khan used similar tactics and it took well over a year for him to conquer China. I personally mark "1 year rebellion" down as either another myth or merely counts the final battle of a grand, century-long campaign.
What Mike Mearls was saying on D&D Beyond seemed to suggest that the illithids we see in D&D products are small pockets of survivors that escaped the rebellion and that the githyanki hunt them down and kill them all if they find them. That implies that the githyanki are a lot better at killing mind flayers than illithids are at killing githyanki.
We've known that for many years, really ever since the illithid empire was envisioned. Were the Gith united and not suffering under a civil war, its possible they might have already exterminated the last illithid outposts but their own infighting has made that goal all but impossible now. The illithids are now probably stronger than the two combined, but too scattered and isolated to take the fight to the gith.
If the githyanki located an illithid slave colony on an asteroid in wildspace, dropped things that killed the slaves and shot down every nautiloid that tried to take off, would the illithids be able to last for a year?
A single asteroid outpost? Sure; but that's just a small siege, not a campaign against an illithid-controlled world like Glyth, Falx, or even Penumbra. Those places likely have enough non-illithid populations to be completely self-sufficient and immune to any blockade the gith could muster. I can't imagine the gith managed to besieged every city, throughout the entire empire, all at once, from nowhere. That's a ludicrous amount of man-power, coordination, and supplies to handle that across just one country, much less across a multitude of worlds, particularly those as large as Penumbra.

The only way I could see that working would be if Gith wasn't a person: it was a virus that infected the non-illithid population. Spread by mental contact, no cure, no defense. A gith-infected slave meanders into an illithid city, and by morning the entire slave population is now gith and in full revolt. I suppose that could work, and by the end of the year, the Gith virus had mutated to a point where it was no longer contagious and instead stabilized as the Gith race we know today.
Moderator: Spelljammer, Kingdoms of Kalamar. My moderator voice is green

ripvanwormer
Black Dragon
Posts: 3218
Joined: Fri Apr 03, 2009 7:14 pm
Gender: male

Re: Is any of Mike Merls's "Illithid Empire stuff" in Tome of Foes?

Post by ripvanwormer » Sat Jun 16, 2018 4:34 pm

As for the question of how long the rebellion against the illithids took, this is The Seventh Circle of Zerthimon:
Planescape: Torment wrote:*Know* that the Rising of the People against the *illithid* was a thing built upon many turnings. Many were the People who lived and died under time's blade while the Rising was shaped.

The Rising was shaped upon a slow foundation. Steel was gathered so that it might mark *illithid* flesh. A means of *knowing* the movements of the *illithids* were established, at first weak and confused, then stronger, like a child finding its voice. When the movements were *known,* then the *illithids* were observed. In observing them, their ways of the mind were *known.*

When the ways of the *illithid* were *known,* many of the People were gathered and taught in secret the means to shield their minds, and the way to harness their will as weapons. They were taught the scripture of steel, and most importantly, they were given the *knowing* of freedom.

These things were not learned quickly. The *knowing* of much of the ways was slow, and in all these things, time's weight fell upon all. From the *knowing* of one's reflection in a steel blade, to the *knowing* of submerging the will, to the *knowing* of seeing itself. All of these things and more the People built upon. In time, they came to *know* the whole.
What Volo's Guide to Monsters says is "Eventually, the gith revolted. Whether the mind flayers became decadent or the gith discovered a weakness, none can say. What is known is that after centuries of domination, the mind flayer empire collapsed in less than a year. The gith rose up, slaughtered their masters, and destroyed almost all traces of the illithids' astral domains."

The narrative voice in Volo's Guide (Volo, I guess, or Elminster) seems skeptical about this narrative. "A few skeptics suggest that the entire narrative of the gith victory rings false. How could a slave race overpower the mind flayers? Where are the signs of this great struggle? Perhaps the gith didn't actually win. Perhaps, instead, the mind flayers moved themselves and their works into the future to avoid being overrun. That theory would explain the mind flayers' disappearance and the absence of any ruins from their empire. Few folk take such talk seriously, yet no one can be sure exactly what the illithids are and are not capable of." So if "the mind flayer empire collapsed in less than a year" sounds too pat, that might be deliberate.

Post Reply

Return to “Spelljammer”