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So Illithids trigger ceremorphosis by inserting a tadpole into a subdued creature (lovely), but do the tadpoles have a name other than tadpoles?

As far as I can see my 5th edition books only use the word tadpoles, which makes me think they don't have a specific name, but I am curious in case anyone else is aware of anything from previous editions or elsewhere (or has found something in the 5e content that I have just missed).

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    \$\begingroup\$ How is "Illithid tadpole" or "Mindflayer tadpole" not specific enough? Are you looking for a term exclusive to Illithid tadpoles, such as "kittens" or "puppies"? \$\endgroup\$ Jul 13, 2020 at 12:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PixelMaster For example mindflayer is the 'common' term, but Illithid is the real term. I am wondering if there is a similar thing for these tadpoles. Plus I really don't like the word tadpole, the more I say it the less it means. And yes, something that just refers to these creatures unambiguously. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Jul 13, 2020 at 12:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Remember that "Illithid" is just "mind flayer" in Undercommon \$\endgroup\$
    – NathanS
    Jul 13, 2020 at 12:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Of course they have names. That sucker is 24 of 21... Or is that 22 of 21? They all look alike \$\endgroup\$
    – Fering
    Jul 13, 2020 at 18:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Nice try Larian, we've already seen the tooltips [TADPOLE POWER] \$\endgroup\$
    – Cireo
    Jul 13, 2020 at 23:21

2 Answers 2

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Illithid tadpole is used when it may not be clear from context that mind flayer young are being described.

Otherwise, just “tadpole" seems to be the consistently used term.

From the AD&D 2nd Edition Monstrous Manual (pg. 251):

Mind flayers live about 125 years. They are warm-blooded amphibians, and spend the first 10 years of life as tadpoles, swimming in the elder-brain pool until they either die (which most do) or grow into adult illithids. On an irregular basis, adult illithids feed brains to the tadpoles, which do not molest the elder-brain. Illithids are hermaphroditic; each can produce one tadpole twice in its life.

From the 3.5e Monster Manual V, concerning the Madcrafters of Thoon, a race of creatures that was once Illithid (pg. 121-122):

Though the madcrafters of Thoon are no longer mind flayers, they have a similar life cycle. The asexual madcrafters give birth to thousands of tadpoles in a spawning pool deep within the nautiloid vessel (not the same pool the Thoon elder brain lives in). The tadpoles feast on each other in a frenzy of cannibalism punctuated by long periods of group torpor. [...]

Like a traditional mind flayer elder brain, a Thoon elder brain subsists on tadpolelike immature mind flayers.

Additionally, the 3.5e book Lords of Madness contains 45 occurrences of tadpole and its various forms. I won't reproduce all of them here.

From the 4e Monster Manual (pg. 189):

A mind flayer begins life as a small, tentacled, tadpolelike parasite that invades the skull of a helpless humanoid victim, devours its brain, and then subverts the body to its own use.

In addition to the ceremorphosis mentioned in Volo's Guide to Monsters, we have a few more references in 5e material.

From the description of the Neothelid (VGtM, pg. 181):

On rare occasions, an illithid colony collapses, typically after an external assault, and the elder brain is killed. When that happens, the colony’s tadpoles are suddenly freed from their fate. They no longer serve as food, and in turn are no longer fed by their caretakers. Driven by hunger, they turn to devouring one another. Only one tadpole survives out of the thousands in the colony’s pool, and it emerges as a neothelid.

From Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage:

Very rarely, an illithid tadpole transforms an individual into an ulitharid rather than an ordinary mind flayer.

From Waterdeep: Dragon Heist:

Qrr’zarq comes from a colony of mind flayers in Undermountain that wants to implant Xanathar with an illithid tadpole and, through a magical process called ceremorph­osis, turn the beholder into a thrall. Qrr’zarq is waiting for an opportunity to implant the tadpole while Xanathar is alone and asleep.

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There isn't an official name for a mindflayer tadpole. But sticking with known Undercommon words, I like:

"ilsenarint" - (Brain Taster)

This is from the Undercommon words ilsen (brain) and arint (taster).1 These Undercommon words are often used to label illithids, assigning them "names" of a sort in that tongue, so properly "Ilsenarint" might be what some non-illithid names a particular illithid they’ve encountered. (Illithids themselves communicate telepathically and so have purely telepathic names.) But it's a good choice for naming the tadpoles.

  1. Owen K. C. Stephens, "By Any Other Name: Races of the Underdark", Dragon magazine, vol. 281, March 2001. Note: This issue was published by Wizards of the Coast; Paizo didn't take over publication of Dragon until 2002.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ To clarify is “ilsenarint” an officially used compound of “ilsen” and “arint” from some canonical media, or are you making a conjecture that those two words would be compounded to describe mind flayers? \$\endgroup\$ Oct 21, 2022 at 9:10
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    – Community Bot
    Oct 21, 2022 at 9:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't know if this is any way a true answer, but I do love it! \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Oct 21, 2022 at 9:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov “ilsen-” and “-arint” are suggested as entries in a scheme to randomly generate illithid names in Undercommon by rolling once or twice on a prefix table and then rolling once or twice on a suffix table. “Ilsenarint” would be the result for rolling 1-2 on a d6, 4 on a d12, and 1 on another d12 under this system, and does mean “brain taster.” There is no suggestion that it would be used for the tadpoles; the idea in the article is rather to use it as a non-illithid’s name for an illithid. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Oct 21, 2022 at 14:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri It’s true that these are suggested as Undercommon words to use to label illithids, but it’s meant as a way to produce names for individual illithids, rather than an official name for the tadpoles. Still, it’s a really good suggestion. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Oct 21, 2022 at 14:32

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