While in [City Name], the party notices a group of three people gathered around a town well (read: water cooler) dressed in identical workplace uniforms. They intentionally keep their voices down and appear to be engaged in workplace gossip. However, getting closer to eavesdrop reveals that they are discussing something much more unsettling.
“I’ve already tried voicing my concerns to HR, but they won’t listen,” one says.
“I’m just going to pretend to be sick tomorrow and stay home then. No way I’m falling into that trap,” says another.
“Ugh, I’m all out of sick and vacation days. What am I supposed to do now!?” bemoans the third.
If the party interrupts their conversation, the worried workers will open up about what has them all so troubled.
“Tomorrow, we have a professional development seminar at our workplace. I know…a PD seminar, in and of itself, sounds awful, but that’s not even the real problem. The real problem is that the gentleman coming in to present on behalf of Psionic Synergy Solutions is…well…a mind flayer.”
The woman explains how their boss already knows this about the presenter, but he can’t argue with the guy’s track record of 100% increase in worker productivity (“results are results!” he says).
“I have a friend,” she continues, “who works at another business in town. They had PSS (Psionic Synergy Solutions) present to them just last week, and she hasn’t been the same. She just…drools and stares off…mindlessly talking about how ‘work is life’ and such things. I think it’s clear what this mind flayer is doing; he’s using mind control to make everyone corporate drones, and he needs to be stopped.”
If the party agrees to take care of things, then she will direct them to [Name of Tavern] where the mind flayer has allegedly been staying.
Never Stop Networking
Upon entering the tavern, the party sees the mind flayer casually sitting at a table, sharing an ale with a few other patrons. The townsfolk are enamored by the mind flayer’s words; it sounds like the party has just walked in during one of his motivational spiels.
“…and that’s why teamwork is crucial,” he says, bringing his hands together and interlocking his fingers/tentacles, “a company’s success can only be guaranteed if every cog in the system does its part.”
Everyone nods. An insight check or detect magic spell reveals that these bar patrons are (surprisingly) not being mind controlled but are simply feeling inspired by his words.
“It’s true!” the bar owner says, “I don’t know where this tavern would be without my cooks and mixologists. They’re like my family.” He starts to sniffle, and one of the workers gives him an encouraging pat on the back.
“It’s a beautiful thing,” the mind flayer says, “so many businesses tragically fail because they don’t operate as a family with the success of the business as the #1 priority in life. Workers are the lifeblood of a company and, without them, the beating heart of commerce goes into cardiac arrest.”
The party can approach the mind flayer and ask him questions. Despite his frightening tentacle face and ominous glowing eyes, he is incredibly charming and confident (obviously: he was able to win over this crowd without even using his mind control powers).
The mind flayer will outright deny any accusations of using nefarious means to motivate workers.
If the players talk to him long enough, he will take out a flask from inside his suit and drink from it. If asked what it is, he says that it’s his nutritious “protein shake” and reminds his audience that maintaining a healthy body is key to enjoying a healthy life.
A perception check (DC 15 or higher, since it’s not easy to see) reveals that the liquid in the flask is thick and grey, and a player with any background knowledge of mind flayers can insight that he is drinking blended brains.
If the party tries to fight the mind flayer here, the bar patrons and owner will get upset, calling the city guards to come in and arrest you.
However, the party can choose to stealth upstairs and investigate the mind flayer’s room where they can find more answers and incriminating evidence.
While walking upstairs, the party notices a bulletin board on the tavern wall. In addition to the usual postings there like job requests and flyers for upcoming events in the local community, there are a few posters of missing people; all of them, strangely enough, worked as motivational speakers. If the party turns around and interrogates the mind flayer about these disappearances, he will play dumb:
“It is indeed unfortunate that motivational speakers are being targeted. However, it’s important work that must be done in the name of good business, and I, for one, will not back down simply out of fear that I too might be targeted next. Some things, like enterprise, are bigger than ourselves.”
Once the party ascertains what room belongs to the mind flayer (they could use an investigation check to find a slime trail, since healthy mind flayers produce slime), players can lockpick the door and break in.
Nothing in the room looks too surprising. In the closet are identical suits hanging up side by side. There are also various briefcases and bags, easels with boards depicting improved performance output through charts/graphs, etc.
A successful investigation check will help the party uncover a journal hidden beneath the mattress. Opening the journal, however, triggers a trap, casting Suggestion on that player. If the player fails the wisdom saving throw, then they will suddenly feel overwhelmed by a sense of guilt, saying something like, “this is morally wrong, guys. We have to go downstairs right now and tell Mr. Mind Flayer that we were snooping.” The player then struggles against the other members of the party to complete this action.
Reading the journal is challenging since it is written in Deep Speak and requires translating through magical means or smuggling the book out of the room and getting it read by a local scholar.
When read, the journal sounds more like a memoir mixed with a “How To” book. It outlines a 5-Step Program for a mind flayer to completely dominate a city’s economy.
- Kill and consume the brains of all local motivational speakers, learning their methods/public-speaking practices and eliminating the competition
- Present to companies with large staffs, casting mind control and making them obedient and dedicated workers
- Let 100% success rate spread via word-of-mouth and land more gigs
- Take complete control of the entire working population of a city
- Overthrow and seize ownership of all businesses in the name of the Elder Brain
Enter the Flay
If the party has read the plan and reveals it to those around the mind flayer, then the bar patrons will now support the players in their fight by taking cover and throwing beer steins/whatever else is available in the tavern (if these ranged attacks hit, then deal something small like 1d4 bludgeoning damage).
The mind flayer, once he is “caught red-handed”, seeks out a diplomatic approach unless a player immediately starts swinging on him.
“I know you’re probably thinking I’m evil for doing this, but hear me out first,” he says, holding up his hands and showing that he means no harm. “Yes, the workers will be under mind flayer control, but we won’t hurt anyone. If anything, we will do the opposite. Everyone can have a job in our new economy. They can take pride in their work and go home at night with a stable income. Both business and the individual will flourish. How does that sound?”
An insight check reveals that he is, in fact, being honest. With this new information, the players are now faced with an ethical dilemma: let this city’s working class continue to toil on their own, or have them become blissful corporate slaves to an articulate mind flayer?
As the DM, you can make this eventual choice a little harder by having the players (upon first entering the town) notice many poor, homeless/jobless people sitting and suffering on the city streets. Maybe the mind flayer’s solution, albeit extreme, is what the people need?
If the party chooses to fight, then the mind flayer will not hold back, even going so far as to try and cast mind control on select tavern patrons, forcing them to fight the party on his behalf. You can use this generic mind flayer statblock or the one below.
Once defeated, everyone previously affected by the mind flayer’s control will “snap out of it” with no recollection of his presentation or being controlled in the first place.
Searching the suit/briefcase of the fallen mind flayer reveals the following:
- A small metal case filled with business cards for “Psionic Synergy Solutions”
- 300 GP
- A Psi Crystal (although the mind flayer wouldn’t need to rely on such a tool himself, it appears to be a memento he brought with him from his plane of origin)
- A flask that’s half-filled with liquified grey matter (ew…)