On page 173 of Volo's it states that an Elder Brain "sprawls within a vat of viscous brine" but also that it "dwells in a dimly glowing brine pool, filled with foul brackish water".

It also states that "if forced outside its brine pool, an elder brain will swiftly expire"

Since Sage Advice says Purify Food and Drink may be used to desalinate sea water here, would it be possible to kill off an Elder Brain by purifying the brine from its pool or vat?


1 Answer 1


Clever, but not likely.

Purify Food and Drink states:

All nonmagical food and drink within a 5-foot-radius sphere centered on a point of your choice within range is purified and rendered free of poison and disease.

Mileage may vary with DMs, but whether or not the brine pool that the elder lives in would be considered Drink is suspect. It also requires that it be entirely contained within a 5' radius sphere and there are no dimensions for that brine pool.

How big is the pool?

But given the following description of the Brine Pool (MM, 221), it seems unlikely that it is such a small pool.

Most illithids belong to a colony of sibling mind flayers devoted to an elder brain- a massive brain-like being that resides in a briny pool near the center of a mind flayer community.

It is very unlikely that this "Ultimate expression of Illithid domination"(Volos, 173) is forced to live in a 5' radius pool at the center of the community - and anything larger than 10' won't be able to be purified.


Nowhere in the description of the Brine does it say it is poisonous or filled with disease - just that it is foul and brackish. That doesn't mean you can't drink it, and without it stating Poisonous or Diseased, Purify Food and Water wouldn't affect or change it.

But a DM could rule otherwise, but probably shouldn't.

If it was 5' radius pool AND your DM considered the water in that Drink (that is also currently poisonous or diseased) for a PC, then it may be possible to do this. But it's very much a DM dependent design and decision, but the above information does suggest that the pool is too large and without language on the Brine being Poisonous or Diseased, there just isn't enough to allow this against such a powerful and legendary creature.

In support of alternate rulings, see the Water Weird (with a caveat)

The Water Weird (MM, 299) has the following property that isn't in it's stat block but is in the description:

A water weird loses its evil alignment if its waters are cleansed with a purify food and drink spell.

This does imply that Purify Food and Drink does do more than the spell description alone - however, this is also a case of specific beats general. The general rules of Purify Food and Drink have strict limitations (and no upcast options to expand them) - but the Water Weird has a specific reaction to the casting of the spell. A DM may choose to allow a similar reaction by the Elder Brain, but this is purely in homerule territory and all should be aware of the difference in effect (an alignment change for a CR 3 monster vs an end-state for a CR 14).

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 3:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ "purified and rendered free of poison and disease" suggests that both are done independently. Also, there's absolutely nothing preventing you from purifying a single 5-foot-radius sphere out of a larger pool. That having been said, if anything, the brackish water would count as drink for the Elder Brain, in which case it probably counts as pretty pure already. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Barden
    Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 19:06
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ You could also argue that the water is imbued with magic, as indicated by the fact that it is dimly glowing. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 23, 2019 at 14:58

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