The Gith can cause quite a bit of confusion as it is the name of a race that has split between two distinct factions, the Githyanki and the Githzerai. They share a common background and history, escaping from the control of the mind flayers, but tensions within split the race into two with one living in the Astral Plane and the other residing in the Everchanging Chaos of Limbo. This split has caused them to hate each other, hunting each other down, and the mind flayers who enslaved them, without mercy.
The Gith make their debut in the Fiend Folio (1981) and are quite powerful foes to face off against. The Gith were once evil humans that the mind flayers captured and enslaved using their psionic powers. They were held in bondage for untold eons until they developed their own powers and ability, and escaped the control of the mind flayer. The one who led this bloody revolution against their masters was known as Gith, and so the entire race named themselves the Gith in honor of their rebellion leader.
There is little information explaining exactly why the two branches of Gith split, but they have hated each other since the beginning and are in a Githyanki-Githzerai war. Of course, that doesn’t take up their whole attention as the Githyanki, who reside on the Astral Plane, love to kill mind flayers and humans. We understand the mind flayers, if we were psionically enslaved for eons, we’d pry want to start cutting off tentacled heads too, but their absolute hatred for humans seems weird. Maybe it’s just because they were originally evil humans and old habits die hard?
The Githzerai, who reside on Limbo, are not as excited about killing mind flayers and often have an on-again, off-again truce with them with a few skirmishes here and there. We are kind of on the side of the Githyanki in this situation, but at least the Githzerai won’t immediately kill you if you are a human.
Both of the Gith have lairs on the Material Plane, though they prefer living outside of it. The Githzerai reside on the Outer Plane of Limbo, rarely traveling from their massive adamantine strongholds. The Githyanki reside in the Astral Plane in imposing castles ruled over by supreme leaders who have a very strict cap on how powerful they can get. You might wonder why they are only allowed to get so strong, and it’s because they have a queen who hates the idea of sharing. Known as the Lich-Queen, she is said to kill anyone who gets too powerful, so that none can threaten her rule over the Githyanki.
Before we talk about their differences, let’s first go over what they both share. They are both people gifted with psionics, as in everyone who can call themself a Gith can use psionics. The Githzerai are only slightly stronger than the other when it comes to using their mind to blow your head off, but it's pretty close as they only get an additional defense mode that “relies on their super-ego to build an unassailable haven for the brain.” Apart from vaguely written psionic rules, the Gith also can plane shift onto the Material Plane where they construct lairs and go out in small patrols throughout the subterranean tunnels where they prefer to reside.
Let’s now look at what makes them unique. The Githyanki are warriors and focus on being fighters and magic-users, though the most powerful among them are anti-paladins who are known as Knights. They can easily be spotted because they all wear armor and wield swords, and as they get stronger and more important to their supreme leader, the nicer the equipment they get. The strongest among them are given the signature weapon of the Githyanki, a silver sword. These silver swords are +3 two-handed swords which, when used against a creature who projected into the Astral Plane, has a 1 in 5 chance of cutting their silver cord and killing them instantly. It’s a bit fancier than a simple silver sword an adventurer might pick up to kill a therianthrope, and if a Githyanki is killed, and their sword stolen, the thief will be hunted across the planes.
You might be thinking that you can take on a few Githyanki knights, especially since the Lich Queen kills the strongest among them before they can get past 11th level fighter, but you forget that a knight needs a steed. You might be ready for a horse, but you definitely aren’t ready for a red dragon. In return for a place to live and lots of treasure, red dragons serve as Githyanki mounts on the Material Plane and act as transport for their troops. Ancient and old red dragons serve loyally, offering their firepower when it comes to helping out the Githyanki and the destruction of all humans, and mind flayers.
Looking at the Githzerai, they aren’t quite as fearsome as their kin since they don’t get dragon mounts, but they are still powerful adversaries. They are focused on being more monastic warriors, with simpler weapons and garb. While they are still focused on being fighters or magic-users, there is a chance you can stumble across a powerful monk Githzerai. Of course, much like how the Githyanki have a Lich Queen to ensure that no one gets too uppity, the Githzerai have an undying Wizard-King who allows his followers to get up to 16th level as a fighter or 23rd level as a magic-user before he starts killing people. Maybe they have more in common than we thought.
The Gith take a sudden turn in this edition and a new form of Gith is introduced before the others in the Monstrous Compendium Spelljammer Appendix (1990) with the Pirate of Gith. The Pirates of Gith are cruel individuals who, instead of escaping to the Astral Plane or Limbo, ran off to the arcane space, the void between the worlds of the Material Plane in the Spelljammer campaign setting.
The pirates like to cruise around in spelljammers, taking what they want, when they want, and from whomever they want in Wild Space, often making their lairs inside of asteroids. They believe only the strong will survive and are noted to be solely carnivores who don’t much care how they consume meat, so long as it isn’t petrified into stone, even going so far as to eat their own kind. While they lack psionic attack forms like their kin, they do have a few abilities that allow them to plane shift and use ESP.
It’s not until the release of the Monstrous Manual (1993) where the Gith are explored and features the Gith, a reprint of the Pirate of Gith, the Githyanki, and the Githzerai. Yes, you read that right, the Gith are completely separate from the Githyanki and Githzerai and it’s not looking great for this fractured race as a whole.
The Gith are described as grotesque humanoids that look like an elf and a reptile got down and dirty. They seem to be an outlier compared to the others, as there is no mention of an escape from enslavement by the Mind Flayers, and if it wasn’t for the creature being called the Gith, one might think they have no relation to the others at all. In fact, they are actually the ancient descendants of Githyanki in the Dark Sun setting, though that isn’t revealed until a year later in the Dark Spine (1994) adventure. They are hunched over humanoids with deformed hands with only three fingers and a thumb with sharp claws. Their preferred weapon of choice is to use special spears that are tipped with obsidian to hack and slash their way through their enemies, often employing the strategy of more is better as opposed to any actual strategy.
We do see a slight similarity with the rest of their kin as they can use psionics, though they are fairly weak at it. Only the most powerful of their kind get psionics, with the strongest among them becoming the leader of their tribes. That’s about the extent of their similarities to the rest of their kind as the rest of their society is strange. They are known to reproduce by laying eggs, with females laying up to 6 eggs in a clutch, and that the Gith watch over hatcheries containing hundreds or thousands of nests of their kind. With so many young to feed, you have to wonder what they eat. Much like the Pirate of the Gith, they are solely carnivores, eating any living creature they can find, though they prefer to eat the flesh of humans and demihumans above all else.
Going back to the well-known Gith, the Githyanki and the Githzerai, not much changes from the previous edition. Githyanki are the sadistic and cruel warrior race of the Gith, and they are, or at least were, the most loyal to Gith the one who freed them from the mind flayer. In fact, their name, Githyanki, means sons of Gith. There’s no mention of what happened to this Gith, though their Lich Queen is never named, instead, she is merely a cruel demi-goddess that drains the most powerful Githyanki of their life. It wouldn’t be the most ridiculous idea to think that Gith is their Lich-Queen, though it’s never hinted at, beyond the fact that Gith is now specifically called a female.
To go along with the normal lore of the Githyanki, we are also given a detailed look at the Githyanki ecology, and there is no mention of them laying eggs. There are highly valued roles within their society thanks to the strange effects of the Astral Plane. The G"lathk are farmers who must try and grow all sorts of crops in the Astral Plane, basically a giant void that isn’t very conducive to growing crops. After them are the Mlar who wield magic not to destroy but to build. They are responsible for the strange structures and buildings that make up the buildings and lairs, shaping their magic to create structures.
The final specialized group are the Hr'a'cknir who have an affinity for the psychic powers that flow throughout the Astral Plane and all the other weird energy that goes along with it. The Hr’a’cknir can harness these exotic energies, augmenting them in different ways to help them further their craft. Though what their craft is, isn’t mentioned, we are just led to assume the Hr’a’cknir can occupy any role in a Githyanki society.
The Githzerai are the last of the Gith and are more human-like in appearance and are the only ones who aren’t evil. The Githzerai formed after Gith freed them from the mind flayers, but their founder, Zerthimon, thought she was too cruel to be a proper leader. While Zerthimon would die in battle, it was his sacrifice that freed them from the control of Gith. Many of the Githzerai believe this is the moment when Zerthimon ascended to godhood and they are waiting for his return when he would usher them all to a new paradise.
This religion is led by the Zerths who see themselves as the true believers of their god. The problem is that until he returns, they will be persecuted by the Wizard King that rules over them. This guy still doesn't let anyone grow too powerful to challenge his authority, and having a god arrive to take his people home probably wouldn’t be a great thing for him. He has tried in the past to remove the idea of the Zerths and Zerthimon, but it always comes back.
The Githrezai now have a special forces unit that seeks out and assassinates mind flayers throughout the planes, so it looks like their peace with the mind flayers has ended. You’d think that’d make the Githyanki happier with them. Named the Rrakkma, they are well trained and serve one purpose: eliminate all mind flayers. The Githrezai see the illithids as the root cause behind the split of the Gith, thus cursing them to the bitter war that has raged ever since their liberation. They are highly respected within Githrezai society and only the strongest among them have any hope of joining.
A bit more information is given on the Githzerai in the Planes of Chaos (1994), a sourcebook for the chaotic Outer Planes like the Abyss, Pandemonium, and Limbo, where the Githzerai have set up their cities. The most interesting thing revealed is that their wizard king is given a name and several titles. Known as god-king or Great Githzerai, Zaerith Menyar-Ag-Gith, resides in Shra’kt’lor where he watches over the city and the generals who plan attacks on the Githyanki to make sure their rivals never grow in enough power to wipe them all out.
In the book A Guide to the Astral Plane (1996), the Githyanki are the Astral Plane's featured inhabitant. More information is provided on the deal between Githyanki and the red dragons, and it is the reason why Gith, the savior of the Gith people, is no longer in the picture, and it turns out she didn’t become the Lich Queen that is currently running things. Gith had an apprentice, Vlaakith, who tried to help her make a deal with the slaadi so that they might decimate and slaughter the Githzerai who escaped to Limbo. Unfortunately for Gith, it failed but Vlaakith had another idea. If Gith descended into the Nine Hells, she could approach Tiamat with an offer. Gith did just that, speaking to Tiamat and Tiamat’s consort, a red great wyrm named Ephelomon. No one knows what deal was struck, but Gith was never seen again and Ephelomon announced to Vlaakith that Gith wanted her to lead and take over, to further the empire across the multiverse with the help of red dragons.
There are a few other exciting things to learn in the book, like the origin of the Gish, the Githyanki fighter/wizard multiclass who holds a high standing in Githyanki society. Their astral home is detailed, known as Tu’narath. It resides in the body of a long-dead god whose corpse floats endlessly in the deep Astral Plane. They have a wide variety of unique spells they have created to help them survive the dangers of the Astral Plane, like a spell that stops them from aging whenever they exit the plane. The last bit from this book is that Lich Queen isn’t Vlaakith, but rather a descendant of hers. The Githyanki serve their queen without hesitation, following her guidance like fanatic worshipers of a god or cult leader. Some compare this devout relationship to that of slave and master, finding it odd that the Githyanki would be so willing to put themselves in a position where part of their individuality is removed from them.
The Githyanki and Githzerai first show up in the Psionics Handbook (2001) and are reprinted in the Manual of the Planes (2001) and the 3.5e Monster Manual (2003). This edition only features the two Gith who are at odds with each other, leaving the Pirate of Gith and the Gith behind them. Little changes for these militant races, they hate each other, they hate the mind flayers, Githyanki love decorating their armor in gems and beads, and the Githzerai think that the Githyanki are just evil marauders who must be stopped.
Githyanki tactics include ambushing their prey and using their psionic ability to brain-melt their enemies. They prefer fighting in melee combat, and they still wield their silver swords, but now they appear like liquid silver when drawn. These weapons require an expert to even wield them right as the blade’s shape flows and shimmers while they are fighting. They can use these blades to either murder you, or cut your silver cord if you happen to be astrally projected to the Astral Plane. If they only damage your cord, you must succeed on a low Fortitude saving throw or be yanked back to your body on the Material Plane, which isn’t the worst option. If they sever the cord, then it’s game over and you die in the Astral Plane and your body dies in the Material Plane.
The Githzerai reside in their fortress monasteries in Limbo where they train their mind and body, honing them into a lethal force so that no Githzerai ever need to fear being oppressed and enslaved. These monks are continuing their war against the Githyanki and the mind flayers, relying more on their psionics and their natural talents instead of using armor and weapons when they fight.
Before we move too deep into 3.5e, the Githzerai appear in Dragon #281 (March 2001), the same month that the Psionics Handbook is released. The article, Calm Amid the Storm by Bruce R. Cordell, is a teaser for their new sourcebook on psionics and dives deep into the life in Githzerai monasteries as well as featuring two prestige classes that a DM could give a Githzerai or offer to a player if they can brave the dangers of Limbo. There are dozens, or maybe hundreds, of hidden monasteries in Limbo, and Githzerai do not automatically join a monastery at birth. Instead, they must seek out monasteries, either by word of mouth or by researching in dusty old libraries. Those Githzerai who do decide to join a monastery, as many are commoners who reside in the cities on Limbo, must prove themselves to the monastery by taking on quests or tasks. Even outsiders are allowed to join certain monasteries but must prove themselves. This test could be taking down a chaos beast, killing a gang of slaadi, or some other task that the monastery sets in place for you. Upon completion, you are allowed to join and must spend several months training in the monastery before you are one of them and can get access to their prestige class.
The two monasteries presented in this article are the Monastery of Zerth’Ad’Lun and the Monastery of Finithamon. Zerth’Ad’Lun is a well-respected and well-known monastery that is easy to find due to how prestigious it is. Monks who succeed at this monastery are known as Zerth Cenobites where they follow the Rule of Zerth’Ad’Lun, called zerthin. It is a practice of peering into the future and enhancing one’s martial abilities, they can step forward in time, stop their body from aging, and gain a bonus to their attack rolls as they can see their opponent’s next movements. Finithamon, on the other hand, is a very secretive monastery with almost no living Githzerai ever hearing about it, and those who do assume it to have been destroyed decades ago. The monks attempt to learn the teaching of arcalos, a method of fighting and slaying spellcasters. They can strike out with their body, causing spellcasters to become mute or deaf, make them forget their spells, and even redirect spells back at the caster. They see the chaos of Limbo as the same chaos that wizards and sorcerers command and their triumph over Limbo is their triumph over spell-casters.
The Githzerai continue to get some love as more information on playing them is in Killing Cousins by Chris Thomasson in Dragon #306 (April 2003). In this article, it details the Gith-attala, those select few Githzerai who specifically hunt down Githyanki instead of the rrakma who hunt down the illithid. The Gith-attala are a secretive group who prefers to stick to the shadows and watch the Githyanki from afar before making an attack, striking when their prey is at their weakest and when they can do the most damage. They don’t often attack their cousins unless they are sure of the outcome of the battle as they are a small organization with a limited number and losing a single strike force can be devastating to their ultimate goals. To go along with the Gith-attala, the article also provides weapons, items, feats, and player character information to play as a Githzerai, which involves you skipping certain class levels and gaining Githzerai powers so that you are not too powerful compared to the rest of your group. A starting Githzerai character gains a +2 boost to their Dexterity but takes a -2 blow to their Intelligence, which is a bit rude. Nowhere had we read that the Githzerai lacked intelligence or that they were dumb, they had been portrayed as these great sages, which harkens to Wisdom, but still.
Not to be outdone, the Githyanki appear in Dragon #309 (July 2003) in the mega-article Incursion: A World Under Siege where they are given a 30+ page expose on how you can incorporate a Githyanki incursion into the material world into your campaign, detailing likely plot elements that can arise in such a campaign. Starting with the basics of why the Githyanki are attacking, maybe because they wish to retake their old homeworld or maybe they wish to completely wipe out the illithid on a world and just see the surface dwellers as pests in their way. This invasion focuses on the Lich-Queen opening a portal from the Astral Plane to the Material World and sending a massive fleet of astral ships loaded with thousands of soldiers and weapons of war. Red dragons take to the sky, helping the githyanki invade the kingdoms, burning any resistance to ash. This incursion could be a backdrop for a level 1 to 20 campaign as the party slowly pushes the Githyanki out of the world, and then take the fight to the Lich-Queen in the Astral Plane, defeating her greatest warriors, and maybe ending her tyranny over the Githyanki people.
Released alongside this was Dungeon #100 (July 2003) and in this milestone edition, the adventure The Lich-Queen’s Beloved by Christopher Perkins, combines the information from Incursion and provides the endgame campaign for high-level play. In this adventure, the party is given the challenge of infiltrating the Githyanki city of Tu’narath, built on the body of a dead god, and take on the Lich-Queen, Vlaakith CLVII, a direct descendant of the original Vlaakith, and destroying her phylactery.
In the 3.5e Expanded Psionics Handbook (2004), a revised and updated book to the 3e Psionics Handbook, the two Gith races are given information so that they can be played as player characters. Githyanki are self-assured in their abilities, arrogant and cruel with other races, always seeking ways to increase their power and wealth. They are given a +2 bonus to Dexterity and Constitution while their Wisdom takes a -2 penalty. The Githzerai, on the other hand, laconic and suspicious of others, always expecting the worst. They rarely form attachments and can only rely on themselves. They are given a major +6 bonus to Dexterity, +2 to Wisdom, but take a -2 penalty to Intelligence, making it so they trust their intuition and rarely think about things too logically.
The Planar Handbook (2004) features the Githyanki city of Tu’narath, describing in great detail where to go and what to do when you go to visit, not that the Githyanki allow outsiders. Built on the remnants of a dead god, it is split into a variety of distinct sections based on where you are on the body. A city made of iron and stone, its architecture reflects their militaristic society and is tightly packed and teeming with Githyanki. The various districts include space for artisans, the military, merchants, farming, and even a large section for red dragons. The head of the body is where Susurrus, the Palace of Whispers, is located and where the Lich-Queen Vlaaktih resides. There is also information on a powerful artifact the Lich-Queen controls known as the scepter of Emphelomon which is what allows the Githyanki to get along so well with red dragons. If it were to be destroyed, their pact would dissolve and the red dragons would be free of their service to them, because of that, you shouldn’t be too surprised when you learn that the Lich-Queen always keeps this scepter on hand.
A few additional Githyanki are detailed in the Monster Manual IV (2006), which provides information for Githyanki Soldiers, Gish, and Githyanki Captains. The soldiers are considered the common fighting force of the Githyanki, though they prefer to fight on their terms and in ambushes. The Gish are war wizards who blend magic and martial ability into a singular form, often leading small squads of soldiers into battle, though they often stick to the rear where they act as support. Githyanki Captains are the ones who lead raids against other settlements, often on the back of a red dragon, the older the dragon, the higher-ranked captain is astride it.
Their lore doesn’t change, but rather we do learn that none of the Githyanki have any idea that Vlaakith is consuming powerful Githyanki. They simply know that she summons the best among them, probably granting them special tasks, and because they have no idea what she truly does, she has been allowed to rule for over a thousand years. Their culture is one of self-sufficiency, they have no desire to worship a deity, though that isn’t stopping Vlaakith from trying to ascend to godhood. Even Gith, the one who led the revolt against the mind flayers, is only revered as a great heroine, and never as someone worth worshiping.
The Gith appears in the Monster Manual (2008) and each race has three distinct stat blocks, pulling on lore from the previous editions. Nothing changes from what we know about these creatures, with the Githyanki still being the brutal xenophobes they have always been living on the Astral Sea and the Githrezai, their monastic cousins, now hiding out on the Elemental Chaos, which swallowed up Limbo in the 4th edition.
The Githyanki Warrior is the frontlines fighter of the Githyanki forces, using their telekinetic ability to grab on to their enemies so they can stride up and start laying into their immobilized targets with ease. The Mindslicer prefers to stick to the sidelines where they use their psionic powers to blast their opponent’s mind, scattering their thoughts and making it more difficult for them to fight effectively. The Gish is an elite warrior that combines ranged and melee strikes to destroy their enemies. They conjure stars to shoot out at their enemies and then strike out with their weapons once they soften up defenses. The Githyanki are rarely found fighting alongside other creatures, but occasionally they will have a red dragon as an ally.
The Githzerai, while slightly weaker than the Githyanki, are still impressive warriors on the battlefield, using their monastic training to bring down enemies. The Cenobite are natural warriors, striking at enemies with their fists and causing them to be stunned while the Cenobite’s allies just swarm around them while their target is helpless. The Zerth, on the other hand, will stick to the edges of the battlefield, but instead of just throwing ranged attacks in, they pick and choose what opponents they want separated, and then teleport them to outside the battle. This could be to get them alone so all their friends can beat them down, or simply so that they force the opponent to have to run back into battle from far away. The last of the Githzerai warriors are the Mindmages who refuse to get their hands dirty and simply blast out with their mind or hurl bolts of elemental energy at their enemies until they finally give up. Since the Githzerai now reside in the Elemental Chaos, they have a much closer relationship with the primal elements and can even be found hanging out with elementals.
Speaking of the elements, in the 2008 Manual of the Planes, the Githzerai are given a bit more information about their new home in the Elemental Chaos. They are not native to this realm of entropy, but rather fleed here when they split from the Githyanki. They have set up settlements across the Elemental Chaos, though they aren’t particularly welcoming to travelers, but are willing to give aid, unlike many others out there. In the largest of their settlements, Zerthadlun, many Githzerai spend their time meditating on the balance of order and entropy, testing themselves against the chaos that swirls around them and threatens to destroy everything. The city is constantly being attacked by the efreeti in the City of Brass, but it has held strong for thousands of years with no sign of it falling soon.
The Githyanki also make an appearance and continue to be a race of cruel people that believe all others are inferior to them. They are one of the major dangers of the Astral Sea, leading raids and attacking ships for the glory of combat and to prove their strength over others. Many Githyanki are seeking portals in the Astral Sea so that they can continue their war against the Githzerai and the mind flayers, though they aren’t particular if they happen to take down a merchant’s astral skiff. Tu’narath is still the greatest of the Githyanki settlements and is still ruled over by the Lich-Queen Vlaakith. Few outsiders are ever allowed to see the settlement or even know where it is, and those that do visit are restricted to only a single section in the city. Those that try to skirt these laws, or share information with others, are killed in as painful a manner as possible.
Leading up to the release of the Player’s Handbook 3 (2010), when the Githzerai become a player character option, Dragon #378 (August 2009) provides a look at how to roleplay as a Githzerai. Strangely, options to play as a Githyanki never come out, probably because they are made out to be irredeemably evil. The Githzerai and Githyanki were once a singular race under the grasp of their mind flayer overlords, forced to be a feeding stock, to be used for hard labor, and even the subject of psionic experimentation. Many believe they look nothing like the forerunners, the people they were before being enslaved by the mind flayers, and have lost all of their history from before their oppressors.
As the mind flayers grew more powerful, they also grew more complacent. They allowed the forerunners to grow more numerous and failed to realize that they had developed secret powers and cabals. There were rebellions before, but they all failed until a warrior, Gith, rose out of the ranks of a rebel force and was able to achieve victory after victory against the mind flayers. The more she won, the more of the forerunners that she was able to save and the fewer mind flayers she was forced to fight against. It took years and decades of hard-fought wars before the mind flayers were so depleted in numbers that they were little threat to the forerunners, but she refused to stop this genocide against their former oppressors.
This was when Zerthimon rose to oppose her. He taught the Gith that their crusade was just another form of bondage, that Gith, despite all she had done for the race, was becoming a cruel tyrant that would force all of them to serve at her pleasure. She didn’t take this threat to her power well and struck down Zerthimon and attempted to destroy all his teachings. This fractured the race, those who served Gith became the “children of Gith” or the Githyanki, while those who followed Zerthimon became “those who spurn Gith” or the Githzerai. They warred for decades until they tottered on the edge of oblivion and the two sides retreated, the Githyanki to their astral fortresses and the Githzerai to their monastic traditions in the Elemental Chaos.
Zerthimon’s teachings remain a major tenet for the Githzerai and give all Githzerai monasteries and settlements a common philosophical agreement. This allows them to easily work together with each other, even if they practice Zerthimon’s teachings in different ways. Some believe in following the spirits of the forerunners, seeking out the lost knowledge of who they once were so that they might better understand who they became, while others are focused on finding balance in the chaos, seeking ways to guide their race to a union with the Githyanki. No matter what a Githzerai follows though, they all hold the teachings of Zerthimon in high esteem and respect.
In Player’s Handbook 3, the Githzerai are a playable race and their statistics make them a perfect candidate for all the psionic classes released in this sourcebook. They gain boosts to their Wisdom as well as either Dexterity or Intelligence, get some defenses against mental effects that would leave them confused or controlled by others, as well as the ability to use their mind to protect them from harm. An answer that has been burning in us since we first saw the Githzerai is finally answered, and it's that they purposefully grow their beards in weird ways and keep it carefully maintained. It’s a point of pride for a Githzerai male to shave their head and grow facial hair in patches, while the women either wear their hair in very tight buns or decorate them in braids and with beads. We’re glad they finally mentioned their weird hairstyles, we were too scared to ask directly.
In The Plane Below: Secrets of the Elemental Chaos (2009) and in The Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Plane (2010), the Gith are given even more focus to their settlements and societies. The Githzerai, in The Plane Below are striving to perfect themselves, trying to reach a type of enlightenment that will harmonize themselves with the universe. The Githyanki, in The Plane Above, which takes much of the information presented in Dragon #377 (July 2009), are still focused on living a heavily regimented life of violence. They act more like they are soldiers in a great war than like a true civilization of freed people, which earns them scorn from the Githzerai who think they are too scared to face finding their way through individuality.
The books also reveal more information about the struggles between Zerthimon and Gith, that when they battled against each other, Zerthimon wasn’t actually killed. Instead, he won the battle against Gith but spared her life, allowing her to live while he and his allies fled to the Elemental Chaos to be free of her tyranny. Zerthimon’s final fate is largely unknown, but it’s said that he led his followers for decades before one day he simply disappears. Some think he found a greater form of enlightenment, joining with the multiverse and becoming a divine form of pure energy. Others think he simply died, as all mortals will and that it has been so long that history has made the events muddled. The last idea of his whereabouts is that when he came to the end of his life, he took part in a horrific ritual to extend his life and became a lich, much like Gith. Realizing he had become that which he had fought against, he exiled himself to a forgotten place in the chaos where he dwells still.
Gith, on the other hand, has a much more defined story. When she lost to Zerthimon, she brought her people, the Githyanki, to the Astral Sea where they could gather up their forces and continue their war against the mind flayers. Realizing her people would need allies, she approached her advisor, Vlaakith, and asked for her counsel. Vlaakith had long thought on this and had already decided that they should join in with Tiamat, a goddess of vengeance herself, who could help them continue their unending war. Vlaakith then met with Tiamat and made a pact that granted support from the chromatic dragons and in exchange Tiamat would gain Gith’s soul, and all the souls of future Githyanki leaders, like Vlaakith. Even the Lich-Queen, Vlaakith CLVII, owes her soul to Tiamat upon her death, though she has been constantly fighting against that eventual end and her transition to a lich has further kept her alive far longer than she should’ve been.
Some of the Githyanki thinks she is being clever, but others worry what this might mean to their pact with Tiamat or it might change things for them. Regardless of what they think of her being a lich, all worry what might happen if the Lich-Queen becomes a goddess, as many believe that that is her ultimate goal. The Githyanki would become split again, this time those who follow the Lich-Queen in her godhood, and those who carry on the memory of Gith who fought against all oppressors.
Found in the Monster Manual (2014), the Githyanki and Githrezai are both introduced and their lore remains the same with a few changes here and there. Vlaakith, the evil Lich-Queen, still rules over the Githyanki with an iron fist on the Astral Plane, though this time it is the original Vlaakith and not a descendant, which makes her terrifyingly old. The Githzerai are back to living on Limbo so that they can sharpen their mind and rely on the teachings of Zerthimon.
The Githyanki enjoy fighting in close combat and have a few psionic abilities that allow them to teleport closer to their enemies as they carve through them with their greatswords. As the warriors get stronger, they may eventually become a Knight, arming themselves with a +3 silver greatsword and gaining the ability to plane shift and use telekinesis. The Githzerai Monks are those just starting on their journey to enlightenment and have a few psionic defenses to protect them from attacks. They enjoy punching things, and as they get more in tune with their philosophy, they become stronger and gain the title of Zerth, which allows them to plane shift and tap into the power of illusions to kill their opponents.
The beginnings of the Gith don’t change much from the previous editions, though in Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foe (2018), we find out that Zerthimon never leaves the confrontation with Gith, the original rebellion leader against the mind flayers. He was struck down in their conflict, but another Githzerai, Menyar-Ag, the Great Githzerai, lead the exodus of the Githzerai into Limbo and is still alive to this day. Menyar-Ag resembles a decrepit corpse, but he is still alive in the mind and is capable of tremendous feats of magic and psionics.
Not only do we find out that Zerthimon dies, but we also learn, again, that the Githyanki are born from eggs, though it's never talked about for the Githzerai, one has to imagine they have a similar method of reproduction. Since the Githyanki reside in the Astral Plane, where no aging can occur, the eggs are brought to crèches in the Material Plane and secreted away, guarded by red dragons who are in service to the Githyanki until they become adults. Once the eggs are hatched, the young Githyanki are forced to fight and train until they adults, with almost half of them dying before they get so far. When the Githyanki are ready to prove themselves and join the rest, they must hunt down and kill a mind flayer, no easy task since a mind flayer is CR 8 and they are only CR 3. Each warrior needs their own mind flayer, and so it might take them months before they can gather enough heads to present to Vlaakith and become a true member of the Githyanki.
The Gith continue their war against each other, still fighting over the divisions that formed when Gith and Zerthimon fought. The Githyanki keep to their strict hierarchy and one day hope to be the supreme leader of all the multiverse, much like how the mind flayer had assumed control and been the supreme leaders for the eons the Gith were enslaved. The Githzerai simply wish to become balanced with the universe, living lives of rigid order and peace. There has been a new sect that came into existence trying to help the two reunite known as the Sha’sal Khou. They are a secret organization, as neither side is interested in truly reunifying through peace, and so they are slowly trying to change the hearts and minds of the Githyanki and the Githzerai, though it is a slow process with little to show for their efforts so far.
Since their conception the Gith has been divided into the Githyanki and the Githzerai, each following a philosophy that controls their life. The Githyanki rely on following their Lich-Queen and her orders in life, never truly throwing off the shackles of being oppressed, even if they are oppressed by their own. The Githzerai struggle with finding their individuality. They are fighting against the chaos and entropy of the multiverse, slowly honing their bodies so that they will never become oppressed again. Between these two, neither has truly found a way to survive at peace with the multiverse as they are controlled by their past, when they were once slaves to the mind flayer. Even now, they spend their waking moments planning revenge against them, hoping to hunt down every one of them.
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More about Dungeons & Dragons OnlinePost: "A people split between the planes of existence, the Gith are engaged in a bloody civil war – History of the Gith" specifically for the game Dungeons & Dragons Online. Other useful information about this game:
- The Tale of the Canon Cannon
- A 4th Type of Encounter: Introducing the Terrain Encounter, combing Skill Challenges, Combat, Chases
- How to scare the bejeezus out of the party with Polymorph / Shapechange
- Don’t focus on doing accents for your characters, focus on doing VOICES
- My older brother (a 35 year old, fully grown man) is both combative with other players AND passive during gameplay. The other PCs are becoming combative toward him in turn. Can’t boot him from the game because I live with him and one of the other players. The situation sucks and I need help.
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