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According to 5e lore, the Mind Flayer / Illithid lore reproduces via ceremorphosis: a tiny illithid-creature eats its way into the (sentient) target's brain, forcing transformation to occur some time later.

Under what conditions is this either preventable &/or entirely reversible (Regeneration or Mind Protection rings, restorative / regenerative spells, back-up clones, polymorphs... anything at all)? Is there, once again, nothing lower level than Wish to solve this?

This is valuable for DMing & story-construction: many transformed illithids might / would / could miss their previous existence (such as an Illithid Arcanist and mindwitness.) If such a reversal is possible, it would be fine to know.

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    \$\begingroup\$ In this answer I outline many sources from many editions where Illithids are described. These may help find an answer here. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 22, 2020 at 1:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ Is the lore you cite from 5e or from general lore? Would you prefer this to be about dungeons and dragons lore in general and not 5e specific? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Jul 22, 2020 at 3:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch i prefer 5e, but any information on illithid aberration returning from their mutation-transformation would be useful at this point. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 22, 2020 at 4:12

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Once a humanoid has fully transformed into a mind flayer, the original humanoid is dead and their body is destroyed.

In the AD&D 2e sourcbeook Monstrous Arcana: The Illithiad, p.11, asserts that most normal means are ineffective at restoring their original form:

Ceremorphosis completely replaces the original tissue of the victim with illithid tissue; when the transformation is complete, the original victim is dead. Cure disease, remove curse, raise dead, restoration, resurrection, and / or similar spells cannot reverse this process.

D&D 3e's Lords of Madness, p. 63, states:

Spells such as cure disease and remove curse have no effect; only a heal spell can save a victim undergoing ceremorphosis.

In most cases, the only way to guarantee the tadpole is slain is to crush or incinerate the victim's head. At that point, resurrection, true resurrection, or raise dead come into play.

In other words, while you can stop the transformation before it completes using a heal spell (this also works against other parasitic creatures like the Spawn of Kyuss), once the transformation is completed, the original humanoid is dead and their original body is destroyed; none of the original body remains.

The Illithiad and Lords of Madness don't go into any futher detail, but it stands to reason that anything which can resurrect someone without the original body might work. It's not explicitly stated, but true resurrection or clone may allow this. Wish and miracle can traditionally do just about anything, as can Divine Intervention.

A Ring of Mind Shielding (5e DMG p. 191) absorbs your soul whenever you die while wearing it. Since the process of becoming a mind flayer essentially just kills you and destroys your body, this would let your soul survive within the ring, but restoring your original body would be its own challenge.

A substance known as laethen allows a mind flayer to retain some of their original memories. It's described in Monstrous Arcana: Dawn of the Overmind, p.56. Their body becomes that of a mind flayer, but their original mind is retained. However, they need to take the substance before being transformed, and it only works 40% of the time. You could probably polymorph them back into their original form somehow.

A mind flayer mental illness known as partialism can occur, where part of the original memory is retained, but it's usually only a small amount.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Deep D&D lore, good stuff here. Story then: "expecting illithid invasion, a wizard has flesh of various friends enchanted & preserved. Later, his brood become rebel flayers - and one makes 13th lvl, so they all clone up and self-suicide-slaughter". These 'renewed humanoids' are really messed up - having been aliens with no souls for quite a while. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 22, 2020 at 15:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TimofTime If you're DMing, you can always just declare "sure, it works that way". Canon is interesting but the DM is allowed to invent their own systems. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 22, 2020 at 18:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ So, what happens canon-wise with a clone made from pre-illithid flesh? Would such a humanoid body remain catatonic? Beyond insane? Just an empty shell of a body? I would love to know, t.b.h. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 23, 2020 at 1:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TimofTime The Illithiad considers that ceremorphosis kills the original creature. A clone produced later, if it could be done, would just be an inert human body which you can raise dead to bring back the original human with none of the mind flayer's memories. However, the DM doesn't have to follow the suggestion in the Illithiad. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 23, 2020 at 6:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ In your first quote, is it supposed to read "complete" or was that a typo of "completely"? \$\endgroup\$
    – NathanS
    Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 8:35
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Clone would work if it is completed before ceremorphosis, at which point the original creature dies and the clone activates. True Resurrection would work afterwards, since this is a case where the original body has been destroyed.

Either of these spells would restore the original creature to life, but neither would affect the illithid itself.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks! This is brilliant. There are a few 'soul' type questions, of course. Example, if the illithid doesn't use the soul, a Reincarnation cast (on a pre-harvested part) would make the original person that could meet the illithid that stole their body. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 30, 2023 at 19:23

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