Last Updated on January 22, 2023
Welcome to our guide to the Gith. In this article, we’re going to be covering the origins of this species, their great schism into the Githyanki and Githzerai, and how to make a Gith character for your next Dungeons & Dragons 5e campaign.
Who Are the Gith?
Ever since they shattered their chains, bringing the millennia-old mind flayer empire to its knees in a string of bloody rebellions, the Gith have been a species divided.
Locked in an eternal struggle between the warlike, piratical Githyanki and the cerebral, disciplined Githzerai, the Gith are easily among the coolest D&D subraces.
They blend martial and psionic prowess together, making both flavors of Gith dangerous foes.
Whether you like the idea of the interdimensional space corsair Githyanki – who ride red dragons, hunt illithids throughout the planescape, and serve a lich queen who rules from a throne made of mind flayers skulls – or the Githzerai, who have honed their psionic gifts to such a razor’s edge that they created vast, permanent temples from the chaotic, ever-shifting plane of Limbo itself and if you have a copy of Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, I strongly recommend considering playing a Gith for your next 5e character.
The History of the Gith: Enslavement, Rebellion, Schism
Long ago (or possibly very far in the future; time outside of D&D’s prime material plane tends to do its own thing), the Illithid empire stretched from one end of the multiverse to the other.
Countless species were conquered, forced into slavery, used as food, or most likely both.
The forebears of the Gith were among the many species bound in servitude to the Mind Flayers.
Some sources (the Planescape sourcebook, A Guide to the Astral Plane, for one) suggest that the Gith may even have originally been human, but countless generations bound to the eldritch will of the mind flayers (not to mention the fact that hanging out for millennia either on the Astral Sea or in one of the many other seriously weird planes beyond the relative stability and comfort of the material world is probably gonna do something to you) altered them dramatically.
The Gith had no real identity of their own for many centuries until one of them (whose name was also Gith, confusingly enough) arose to lead a violent, highly successful rebellion that both freed the Gith from bondage and from which the Mind Flayer empire never recovered.
Baldur’s Gate III: Gith Front and Center
The plot of Baldur’s Gate III chooses to focus heavily on the conflict between the Githyanki and the surviving mind flayers.
In the game’s cinematic intro, we even see a mind flayer ship attacked, finally being forced to flee into the abyssal plane (or possibly the Nine Hells) by three Githyanki riding red dragons.
Seriously, if green space pirates taking down a giant evil teleporting squid ship on dragonback isn’t enough to convince you to run a Planescape campaign, I don’t know what will.
After winning their freedom, however, the newly liberated Gith immediately fell to infighting.
With Gith herself missing after a risky diplomatic mission to the Nine Hells in the hope of securing the aid of Tiamat, the Queen of Evil Dragons, the Gith quickly splintered into two distinct subraces, each with a very different idea of how to use their newfound freedom.
The Githyanki: Pirates on the Astral Sea
The Githyanki subrace arose from the slave class of Gith who served the mind flayers as raiders, slavers, and muscle.
Motivated by revenge and the sentiment that, with so much of their history and freedom taken from them, they were justified in taking whatever they wanted from anyone else, the Githyanki became pirates, raiders, and slavers themselves.
Like all Gith, they have developed their own psionic abilities, specifically honing them to enhance their martial prowess.
They ride red dragons (a gift from Tiamat) or huge, metal, interdimensional pirate ships (y’all have seen Treasure Planet, right? Well, it’s like that, but way more metal), which they use to launch raids from their home citadel of Tu’narath in the Astral Plane.
Their ruler, the lich-queen Vlaakith, sits atop a throne of mind flayer skulls (which augments her own psionic powers and has a seat made from the leather of an elder brain – so freaking cool) and continues to wage an unending, bloody war against the remnants of the mind flayer empire.
Her warriors are psionic knights, whose blades strike their opponents’ minds as hard as they cut through flesh and bone.
Of course, if it were just the mind flayers that the Githyanki had to contend with, the war might have been over centuries ago.
Arguably far more dangerous than their old masters, however, are the Githyanki’s cousins: The Githzerai.
The Githzerai: Fortress Minds in the Heart of Limbo
In the wake of Gith’s rebellion, while she and her trusted lieutenant Vlaakith plotted a way to end the war against the Illithid empire, an opposing faction grew within their ranks.
Some Gith, led by a wise, charismatic scholar called Zerthimon, challenged Gith’s plans and leadership, arguing that the way forward for their species lay not in warfare but in isolation and study.
They went as far as to claim that Gith herself was evil, no better than the tyrannical mind flayers from whom they’d sacrificed so much to escape.
Almost immediately, the Gith were plunged into a bitter civil war as the Githyanki led by Vlaakith fought the newly emerged Githzerai led by Zerthimon.
Zerthimon was killed in the ensuing conflict, and his followers fled into the plane of Limbo – a roiling mass of pure, inhospitable chaos.
There, under the leadership of a powerful Githzerai called Zaerith Menyar-Ag-Gith, they constructed vast, permanent temples and fortresses from the mutable chaos of the plane.
Zaerith is a being so utterly entrenched in psionic contemplation that he rests at the heart of Limbo, still undying after countless lifetimes, a living corpse god of the Githzerai sustained by his terrifying psionic powers.
Unlike the Githyanki, the Githzerai prefer to remain in Limbo, focusing on mastering the disciplines of psionics over the more barbaric methods of war.
However, they do not isolate themselves completely – often sending war parties of tacticians and spellcasters to thwart the machinations of both the Githyanki and the Mind Flayers throughout the material plane and beyond.
Gith Abilities and Traits: Making a Gith Character
Whether you decide to play one of the warlike Githyanki or the contemplative Githzerai, all Gith share the same common characteristics.
Ability Score Increase. Your Intelligence score increases by 1.
Age. Gith reach adulthood in their late teens and live for about a century.
Size. Gith are taller and leaner than humans, with most a slender 6 feet in height. Your size is Medium.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and Gith.
Defined by their highly martial society, nearly all Githyanki are formidable warriors, trained from an early age to leverage both psionic powers and edged weapons.
- Ability Score Increase. Your Strength score increases by 2.
- Alignment. Githyanki tend toward lawful evil. They are aggressive and arrogant, and they remain the faithful servants of their lich-queen, Vlaakith. Renegade githyanki tend toward chaos.
- Decadent Mastery. You learn one language of your choice, and you are proficient with one skill or tool of your choice. In the timeless city of Tu’narath, githyanki have bountiful opportunity to master odd bits of knowledge.
- Martial Prodigy. You are proficient with light and medium armor and with shortswords, longswords, and greatswords.
- Githyanki Psionics. You know the Mage Hand cantrip, and the hand is invisible when you cast the cantrip with this trait.
- When you reach 3rd level, you can cast the Jump spell once with this trait, and you regain the ability to do so when you finish a long rest. When you reach 5th level, you can cast the Misty Step spell once with this trait, and you regain the ability to do so when you finish a long rest.
- Intelligence is your spellcasting ability for these spells. When you cast them with this trait, they don’t require components.
Githyanki Character Concepts
The Best Classes for a Githyanki Character in 5e
With a mixture of strength, intelligence, and combat-focused psionic powers, Githyanki lend themselves to half-caster classes that focus on bringing added versatility to the traditional “wear platemail, hit stuff” approach of a traditional fighter.
The option that fits most neatly with a Githyanki build is the Psi Warrior Fighter – a subclass that was officially introduced as one of three psionic player subclasses in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.
A Psi Warrior is a fighter who augments their physical might with psi-infused weapon strikes, telekinetic lashes (one of the classic psion abilities from earlier editions), and barriers of mental force.
Psi Warriors get a pool of Psionic Dice (like the Battle Master Fighter’s Superiority Dice) that gets bigger (going from d6s all the way up d12s at 17th level) as they improve and lets them access a few interesting psionic abilities – including a mental shield that reduces incoming damage, a psychic strike which boosts your outgoing damage, and a way to up your movement speed not unlike a Monk’s Ki.
Other cool thematic (although not necessarily mechanical) options for Githyanki include the Eldritch Knight (once again, a fighter with some Int-based spellcasting), the Horizon Walker Ranger, and the Oath of the Watchers Paladin.
From their fortresses within Limbo, the Githzerai hone their minds to a razor’s edge by means of an intensely monastic, scholarly lifestyle.
- Ability Score Increase. Your Wisdom score increases by 2.
- Alignment. Githzerai tend toward lawful neutral. Their rigorous training in psychic abilities requires an implacable mental discipline.
- Mental Discipline. You have advantage on saving throws against the charmed and frightened conditions. Under the tutelage of monastic masters, githzerai learn to govern their own minds.
- Githzerai Psionics. You know the Mage Hand cantrip, and the hand is invisible when you cast the cantrip with this trait.
- When you reach 3rd level, you can cast the Shield spell once with this trait, and you regain the ability to do so when you finish a long rest. When you reach 5th level, you can cast the Detect Thoughts spell once with this trait, and you regain the ability to do so when you finish a long rest.
- Wisdom is your spellcasting ability for these spells. When you cast them with this trait, they don’t require components.
Githzerai Character Concepts
The Best Classes for a Githzerai Character in 5e
Githzerai have more powerful psionic abilities than their Githyanki cousins, although from an optimization perspective, there are a lot fewer class options that make use of both Intelligence and Wisdom, so you’re at risk of “wasting” a bonus here or there.
Unless you decide to use some custom lineage options (in which case, the Soulknife Rogue or Aberrant Mind sorcerer are both great choices here, especially if you pick up either the Telekinetic or Telepathic feat at 1st level), then Githzerai are probably best off playing Wisdom-based classes like Druids (just imagine all the truly weird creatures that someone who lives in Limbo could wild shape into), Monks, or even Rangers.
Githyanki and Githzerai Appearance: Get the Gith Look
Whether or not they were once humans, elves, or some other species lost in the primordial past, the Gith look fundamentally alien and stick out like a sore thumb whenever they visit the material plane.
All Gith are tall and gaunt with greenish-yellow skin, pointed ears, and flat, snakelike noses.
While Githyanki tend toward being slightly taller and more heavily built than their slender, slightly shorter Githzerai cousins, this is more likely the result of nurture rather than nature.
Githyanki tend to dress in outlandish leather webbing beneath elaborate half-plate armor – all very much inspired by the original art for the Dark Sun setting.
Their aesthetic sits firmly between Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter books and the sensibilities of Terry Gilliam.
Githzerai, on the other hand, have a much more monastic feel to their dress and weaponry. If only I could think of a good visual reference for an order of mentally disciplined warrior monks from space.
Both Githyanki and Githzerai names tend to be mononyms, with the Githyanki preferring harsher sounds and longer names often broken up by apostrophes. Githzerai on the other hand tend to have shorter names.
Masculine Githyanki Names: Elirdain, Gaath, Ja’adoc, Kar’i’nas, Lykus, Quith, Ris’a’an, Tropos, Viran, Xamodas
Feminine Githyanki Names: Aaryl, B’noor, Fenelzi’ir, Jen’lig, Pah’zel, Quorstyl, Sirruth, Vaira, Yessune, Zar’ryth
Masculine Githzerai Names: Dak, Duurth, Ferzth, Greth, Hurm, Kalla, Muurg, Nurm, Shrakk, Xorm
Feminine Githzerai Names: Adaka, Adeya, Ella, Ezhelya, Immilzin, Izera, Janara, Loraya, Uweya, Vithka
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I played my first tabletop RPG (Pathfinder 1e, specifically) in college. I rocked up late to the first session with an unread rulebook and a human bard called Nick Jugger. It was a rocky start but I had a blast and now, the better part of a decade later, I play, write, and write about tabletop RPGs (mostly 5e, but also PBtA, Forged in the Dark and OSR) games for a living, which is wild.