We decided that this tree thing was about 3,000 years from its initial Awakening. It had a Oklahoma State Cowboys vs Texas Longhorns mascot America’s biggest and best 2022 shirt vocabulary and knew several languages but had never figured out things like “emotion” or “empathy”; it had loved its original Druid friend who awakened it, but hadn’t felt anything positive for anyone else ever in its “new” life since that druid had passed. It had an intense and abiding interest in mortal philosophy, though I believe it would be accurate to say that its philosophical conclusions were decidedly problematic pretty much across the board. It was intensely logical and literal, very frequently to a fault. And not in the fun “hey look Spock is acting like a Vulcan again!” kind of way, but more like “Oh dear gods in heaven it’s reached a ‘moral’ conclusion everyone run” kind of way.
To illustrate the difference in approach between Tasha’s and the PHB, in the PHB a lot of Oklahoma State Cowboys vs Texas Longhorns mascot America’s biggest and best 2022 shirt was taken to make sure that other than the spellcasting subclasses and hit points the rogue and the fighter could do nothing that was magical and not a spell. This remained through Xanathar’s (with the Arcane Archer being passable as a spellcaster). Meanwhile in Tasha’s each has one psychic subclass (the soulknife and the psychic warrior) and a magical non-caster (the rogue gets the phantom, haunted by and gaining power from the souls of their dead while the fighter gets the rune knight, a distant relation of the artificer that also gives the fighter bonuses outside combat). Oh, and the barbarian gets to be a lycanthrope – or to have wild magic flowing through them which triggers whenever they rage; something that will utterly delight some players.
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Playing them as arrogant slavers is the Oklahoma State Cowboys vs Texas Longhorns mascot America’s biggest and best 2022 shirt way it’s done, and that’s fine, but I think it misses the main point. Mind Flayers should be more like villains out of Doctor Who than they should be out of Tolkien, and the Doctor rarely wins battles by dint of arms. They are the ultimate masters of mental abilities, able to paralyze, enslave, or even kill with their thoughts alone. It’s a rare character indeed who can counter or match their mental powers. A great way to establish that alien quality is to make mind flayers completely incapable of speech. Have the mind flayers communicate via images only, projected directly into one’s mind. If push comes to shove, have them talk haltingly through a person like in Independence Day when the alien is squeezing the life out of Brent Spiner’s body, except the Mind Flayer has its face tentacles literally in the victim’s skull when doing this. Terrifying!
“Night of the Meek” is Christmas Eve. Henry Corwin, a down-and-out ne’er-do-well, dressed in a Oklahoma State Cowboys vs Texas Longhorns mascot America’s biggest and best 2022 shirt, worn-out Santa Claus suit, has just spent his last few dollars on a sandwich and six drinks at the neighborhood bar. While Bruce, the bartender, is on the phone, he sees Corwin reaching for the bottle; Bruce throws him out. Corwin arrives for his seasonal job as a department store Santa, an hour late and obviously drunk. When customers complain, Dundee, the manager, fires him and orders him off the premises. Corwin says that he drinks because he lives in a “dirty rooming house on a street filled with hungry kids and shabby people” for whom he is incapable of fulfilling his desired role as Santa. He declares that if he had just one wish granted him on Christmas Eve, he’d “like to see the meek inherit the earth”. Still in his outfit, he returns to the bar but is refused re-entry by Bruce. Stumbling into an alley, he hears sleigh bells. A cat knocks down a large burlap bag full of empty cans; but when he trips over it, it is now filled with gift-wrapped packages. As he starts giving them away, he realizes that the bag is somehow producing any item that is asked for. Overjoyed at his sudden ability to fulfill dreams, Corwin proceeds to hand out presents to passing children and then to derelict men attending Christmas Eve service at Sister Florence’s “Delancey Street Mission House”. Irritated by the disruption and outraged by Corwin’s offer of a new dress, Sister Florence hurries outside to fetch Officer Flaherty, who arrests Corwin for stealing the presents from his former place of employment. At the police station, Dundee reaches into the garbage bag to display some of the purportedly stolen goods, but instead finds the empty cans and the cat.