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[Repost from WotC forums] Aberration Psychology 101

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(Originally posted by Potato_Dragon from http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/19616342/A_take_on_aberrations...)

Tentacled Thought Processes

I was inspired by what I wrote earlier to think about what aberration psychology might be like. This assumes that they are mostly native to the far realms, and that they're not actually insane - they just appear that way from a typical humanoid perspective. Note also that at the time of writing I this hadn't read Lords of Madness or seen much in the way of anyone else's ideas (I don't frequent the D&D boards). So, without further ado, here's what I came up with:


No need to fear individual death. Most aberrations are asexual and reproduce by budding, creating offspring which are near-clones of themselves. And not just physically, as they retain most of their parent's memories as well. Thus, while they're (usually) far from suicidal, they can rest easy knowing that they live on in their offspring in an almost literal sense. And also, killing another being, whether on purpose or by accident, is usually not a big deal for similar reasons.

Pain and injury are your friends. The healing process helps replace old tissue, making one healthier and longer-lived. Plus, it's actually enjoyable as long as one doesn't overdo it.

Personal attachments make no sense. While they sometimes work together, beings that live in the far realms rarely encounter each other again once the task is over. And objects tend to get lost forever quite easily. So things like love, friendship, and keepsakes are self-destructive and often deranged.

Gravity is bad. In the far realms, what passes for gravity is usually weak and often nonexistent. In the mortal realm, the constant, crushing presence tends to make them irritable. Not only that, but it usually restricts their movement capabilities in ways that they don't care for.

Structure is worse. In the far realms, the environment changes in constant, predictable (to them) ways, which is the natural order of things and a great comfort. In the mortal realm, things barely change at all, and it's very difficult to predict how or when. This causes memory problems, which can be frustrating (see below).

Their memory works backwards. Sort of. An aberration has nearly perfect factual memory but virtually no event memory. (For example, one might remember that they have done something X number of times but not when or under what context.) Whenever one needs to know what happened before, it guesses what happened based on the facts it knows and the current situation and environment, essentially "predicting" the past. At the same time, it constructs the likely future in its mind, based on the current situation and its goals for the future, creating imagery that is just as real to them as a humanoid's memories of his/her tenth birthday party. This drives them to insure that these "memories" become real. Sometimes they "remember" the details of the future wrong, but it's not like humanoid memory isn't infallible as well. While in the mortal realm, they're outright wrong very frequently, and not being able to rely on one's "memory" can be very frustrating.

The mortal realm is broken. It needs to be fixed. It is a very harsh, confining, and oppressive place. And most of the beings there actually like it that way! Some of them may decide to take things into their own tentacles in order to try to make things better. Mortals need to be changed so that they're physically and/or mentally more like aberrations - for their own good. Failing that, it's best to put them out of their misery. Not always right away, though, since aberrations tend to be very multitask oriented and usually have other goals - since these beings actually like being oppressed, one might as well put them to slave-work for awhile first. Some might even take on the near-impossible task of transforming the mortal realm itself, or at least parts of it. This is probably not a foolish endeavor - they aren't the only ones doing this, and they will live on even after their inevitable fall (see #1 above), so someday their combined efforts may make the mortal realm a much better place for everyone. It's worth a shot, anyway.

Aberrations can go insane too. But just because one thinks it likes our world (which does happen occasionally) doesn't mean it thinks or acts like a humanoid, any more than a dog that thinks it's a human actually thinks or acts like a human. Or like just because an orc wants to be a cat doesn't mean he/she actually understands what it's like to be a cat. So the "insane" ones may often be more approachable, but they're still usually dangerous from our perspective.

The Mind of the Flayer
Well, I was just trying to go with some fairly generic stuff that could easily apply to all aberrations. Of course different species would have some different and more specific attitudes, much the way orc culture is very different than elf culture. However, I decided I probably shouldn't deal with that until I know what the 4e fluff on some of those creatures are - it might have changed.

Though I did have some ideas about mind flayers. They're probably different from most because they're not native to the far realms. Rather, a being similar to an elder brain ended up in the mortal world by accident, their kind never does on purpose because they are immobile and mostly helpless on our world. Anyway, it managed to survive by absorbing a frog or something and taking on a few amphibian attributes, so it could survive in the water and spawn brain-eating tadpoles. This latter ability was amusing but mostly useless, until one of them encountered a sentient being (perhaps a lizardfolk?) and partially fused with it. With trial and error, it discovered that mammalian humanoids gave the best results, creating "children" who were a mix of aberration, amphibian, and mammal.

Mind flayers themselves are physically adapted to the mortal realm rather than the far realms, and most have never been to or desire to go to that place. Thus, their mentality is probably less alien more understandable than most. Basically, their society works like this - the elder brain is the real aberration, and it spawns by budding (like most aberrations do). These buds are carried away by the 'flayers to form the core of new communities. The elder brain also produces the tadpoles, which are used to create its illithid "children" (actually transformed humanoids). These children seek to have all manner of experiences and personal accomplishments, including things that would be considered extremely selfish or evil by our standards - they don't discriminate. They seek out these things for the sake of the EB, though they're not consciously aware of it. Upon dying, the others return them to the elder brain to be absorbed if possible. In this way, the elder brain frees select mortals from their overly-restricted existence, and then the favor is returned when it absorbs the memories of their experiences from the corpses - the EB cannot actually do or experience very much in this world on its own. And the mind flayers believe that they live on in some matter after death through the EB. This is a cycle that is a great benefit everyone, including the mortals transformed into 'flayers (see below), or so they think, anyway.

And of course both the illithids and the EBs have the typical aberration attitude towards mortal races - better off transformed or dead, and since they like being oppressed, might as well enslave some of them for awhile to help accomplish one's personal goals first. And since a strange side effect of the tadpole-creation process causes mind flayers to need a diet of mostly gray matter (perhaps they slowly "eat" parts of their own brains and need replacement tissue?) might as well keep some around for food before killing them as well.

I'm aware that since at least 2nd edition mind flayers were from the distant future, and they went back in time to escape the end of the universe. Or something like that. Meaning the accident that brought the proto-EB to our universe hasn't even happened yet. Also, if any of this contradicts Lords of Madness, the 2nd ed book (Illithiad, I think?) or whatever fluff appears in 4e, this could be considered an alternate take on them.

Oh, one more thing I just thought of. I'm guessing that the flayers of thoon (MM5) went to the far realms and were changed a bit both mentally and physically by the experience - and "thoon" is their name for the overall essence/quality of that place. (Thoon is all!) They've taken up the task of trying to transform the mortal world itself - much like some of the more zealous natives of the far realms - because this is the only good and right thing to do. They are more alien than the "normal" ones. My take, anyway.

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