Baldur’s Gate 3 has left me with one burning question: why can’t I help the poor wounded Mind Flayer?

Baldur’s Gate 3 has left me with one burning question: why can’t I help the poor wounded Mind Flayer?
Baldur's Gate 3

(Image credit: Larian)

Every D&D player worth their salt loves a good Mind Flayer – myself included. So of course, the second I spotted the wounded Mind Flayer lying outside the fallen Nautiloid ship in Baldur’s Gate 3, I felt compelled to help them. Alas, no matter the options you choose, it seems there’s just no way to nurse the poor dying illithid back to health without sacrificing yourself in the process.

I learned this the hard way. It doesn’t matter whether you roll well in the dialogue, or throw all the healing potions you’ve collected at their feet, the illithid remains incurable.

The illest

Baldur's Gate 3

(Image credit: Larian)

Needless to say, I was livid about this, as would any sweet-talking bard be. As you no doubt saw during the final fight aboard the flame-engulfed Nautiloid Spelljammer, an illithid would indeed make a powerful ally. And while there is a way to make friends with one such Mind Flayer later in the story – and even some strange tentacle-based romancing to be had – why couldn’t we have helped this one out here?  

And it’s not just me who’s mad about the inability to heal them. People have been complaining about it online for years. It seems forums have been alive since 2020 asking whether there’s any way to save the sweet Flayer, but the lamenting seemed to have fallen on deaf (dev) ears.

To clarify, and also in the interest of a segue – for anyone confused as to my use of they/them pronouns for Mind Flayers – on my journey into illithid lore I discovered that most don’t tend to identify as a specific gender, and are actually sexually hermaphroditic. I imagine the concept of sex and gender would seem wholly primitive and unnecessary to an inconceivably intelligent pandimensional being. 

Essentially, our tentacled friend is above such arbitrary constructs. And rightly so, when their level of brainpower stretches far beyond that of any being across the whole of the Forgotten Realms.

It’s this mind-boggling level of intellect that makes coming close to a Mind Flayer, let alone helping one (wounded or otherwise), such a dangerous activity. 

You see, illithid brains are far-reaching. Generally connected to a hub or “elder” brain consisting of the innumerable minds of their ancestors, they’re an ultra-smart hivemind. Already you see why helping one would mean nothing against the mass of minds entwined within their psyche. Such a collective consciousness is just too much for wee mortal brains to comprehend.

Even mind Flayer names are formed of thoughts and images, and are far too complex to even be expressed in words. This puts illithids on an entirely different level to humans, orcs, and the rest. Even elven kind pale in comparison to a mind so vast. We are to them as ants or, more aptly, cattle are to us. Since their brains are so large and their will for dominance is so tremendous, they see us as inferior beings. Only fit as breeding stock to harvest the most sumptuous of snacks for themselves and their tadpole babies: the juicy brains of lesser beings.

That is not to say illithids don’t value their charges. You will almost always find a Mind Flayer in the company of several thralls. These mind-control beings are bound to them, and there is evidence of some becoming quite attached, even mourning their thralls. 

Mind Flayers are even known to give small gifts and trinkets to their breeding stock to amuse them in their downtime. Knowing this, and understanding that the Baldur’s Gate 3 narrative is rather far-reaching, is what got me into a mess in the first place.

But why can’t I help?

Baldur's Gate 3

(Image credit: Larian)

“They wrap their meaty tentacles tenderly around your head, and deign to devour the practically superfluous brain you’ve offered them in order to heal themselves. Game over.”

Approaching the “creature” with its dwindling health bar, there were three potential ways this interaction could swing: Fuck, marry, or kill. 

I’m kidding. Sort of. Either you take them out with a swift curb stomp; you use your saving throws to resist their waning calls to the illithid spawn in your cranium; or you give in to the hentai-fuelled temptations and lean in for a kiss. I’ll give you one guess which option I chose.

The illithid, sadly, is not interested in replacing its likely depleted company thralls. Not in the state it’s in currently. Even if you put all your points into maxing out your wisdom and intelligence, the moment you give in, they wrap their meaty tentacles tenderly around your head, and deign to devour the practically superfluous brain you’ve offered them in order to heal themselves. Game over.

Essentially, their presence seems to serve only as a vehicle for the player to exact some form of revenge on the evil anti heroes that infected their brain with a flesh-eating parasite. Understandable. But what if I’m into that? What if I want to live out my days without a worry as a Mind Flayer thrall?

The major difficulty in designing something to the latter effect, is the necessity for an entirely new mode of gameplay. How in the hells do you let the player have any autonomy when playing as a thrall? Moreover, how do you represent a character whose mind is connected to a collective consciousness more vast than any of us have ever experienced, with only the limited technology we have today? 

Well, there’s an interesting new challenge for some Baldur’s Gate 3 DLC. I’m hoping this gives someone an idea for a weird little indie game, at least, because I’d really like to see how that would play out. Badly, at a guess.

Here are some Baldur’s Gate 3 tips and tricks to keep you on the right side of life and death

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Katie is a Hardware Writer over at PC Gamer, but she also moonlights as a freelance reviewer on occasion. Besides earning a Game Art and Design degree up to Masters level, she is a designer of board games herself and an avid TTRPG Games Master as well.

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