• The VOIDRUNNER'S CODEX is LIVE! Explore new worlds, fight oppressive empires, fend off fearsome aliens, and wield deadly psionics with this comprehensive boxed set expansion for 5E and A5E!

Planescape My Notes about the Githzerai

So this is a little of reviewing things about the Githzerai from across the various editions, mainly 2e Planescape and some of the more recent things from 5e, with some ideas of my own. The details about the Githzerai have changed a bunch across editions, and there's even a change from within 5e, whereas their counterparts the Githyanki have mostly stayed consistent. Githzerai have generally been more of the player option, as they were one of the "core 3 races" in Planescape through the Campaign Boxed Set and Planewalkers Guide, Githyanki were in the Guide of the Astral Plane and were more of a "requires DM approval" as a race.

The main backstory
The Githzerai being an offshoot of the Gith race who separated from the Githyanki lead by Gith following their leader Zerthimon who had a less militant view of things. Planescape Torment calls this the Pronouncement of Two Skies, which lead to the civil war between the Githzerai and Githyanki. Zerthimon was killed in the conflict, but is still revered by the Githzerai who migrated to Limbo (though it was the Elemental Chaos in 4e).

The Githzerai themselves
For the most part the Githzerai are a less militant people compared to the Githyanki, they've traditionally have been of non-evil alignments where as the Githyanki have traditionally been Lawful Evil. But 1e and 2e they've been traditionally Chaotic Neutral with Planescape using any non-lawful alignment, and 3e to the early part of 5e generally saying they're Lawful Neutral. Some of this is because in 3e with the Monk class (and it's alignment restriction) returning to D&D where they doubled down on Githzerai being Monks, and some influence from Planescape Torment and its recruitable party member Dak'kon. While 5e ultimately dropped alignment restrictions from all classes, there was a poll asking for the typical Githzerai alignment and most picked LN as they were brought up by 3e's interpretation. Later 5e Githzerai like all humanoid races are of "any alignment" and are less forced into being Monks because of floating ability bonuses.

2e Githzerai were generally types that kept to themselves and are what could be described as being paranoid libertarians. While 3e they were a monastic people who were all into meditation and enlightenment, 5e generally carried on with that description. Psionics have very much been a part of the Githzerai, despite support and the mechanics for Psionics varying across editions.

So my interpretation especially with the later 5e changes, is that they Githzerai are not a monolith, some Githzerai are mystics with a ascetic lifestyle, others aren't and clearly do their own things. Ascetism is hardly something for all Githzerai, especially as highlighted by Factol Karan (who's probably a Barbarian in 5e terms) of the Xaositects, a faction isn't mentioned in the 5e Planescape book, but could be seen as merging with the Revolutionary League to form the Hands of Havoc. I think it's more a matter of each Githzerai seeking enlightenment in their own individual ways. There are Githzerai wanderers and uniters (as shown in PS 5e), Githzerai commoners, some like Dak'kon (from PS:T) or Zhaeve (from Neverwinter Nights 2), others like Factol Karan or the mad scientist Cahm'Fel (from Tales of the Infinite Staircase).

Githzerai Appearance
Githzerai in 2e looked more "Human" than Githyanki but were described as being pale skinned. Starting from 3e they started to look less Human and to almost indistinguishable from the Githyanki. In 5e they're described as being yellow, green or brown with spotted skin, I personally have it being spreckled skin in a variety of the skin tones mentioned across editions, including light grey. Though they don't describe the noses, they are often drawn having small noses just like the Githyanki. Personally I'd have the Githzerai with bigger less pinched noses, and less shrivelled up gaunt features to have them be more distinct from the Githyanki.

Githzerai society
Shra'kt'lor and the Floating City are the biggest cities of the Githzerai, though they've often been described as living in Adamantite Fortresses or Monasteries all scattered through out Limbo. The ruler of the Githzerai is the Wizard King Zaerith Meynar-Ag-Gith, in 2e he seemed to be very much like the Lich Queen Vlaakith in that he existed to enforce racial level limits for the Githzerai. I very much see this interpretation of him as being just another tyrant. He's mostly ignored in 3e and 4e, but brought up again in 5e. Tome of Foes describes him as being the successor of Zerthimon. His body can't move at all, but he's awake as a powerful being of magic and psionics who's guarded and tended by his disciples. I clearly like that interpretation over the vague Tyrant King interpretation.

Monks (in 2e they were Rogues) are a path that many Githzerai take, if they were a caste, though I wouldn't use that term as Githzerai aren't as caste-based as the Githyanki are, the Monks are the Brahmin of Githzerai society. They do hold importance for the Githzerai who choose those approaches to enlightment. Because they live in Limbo it's often ones body that is the most reliable weapon or tool one can use. Much like how Githyanki have their silver swords, Githzerai many warriors, especially their Zerths (the counterpart to the Githyanki Gish) use a material from Limbo called Karach.

The Anarch's Guild from Planes of Chaos is a Sect/Minor Faction (and referenced in 5e's Monsters of the Multiverse as simply Githzerai Anarch) that teaches those with the right talent the ability to reshape the essence of Limbo to their will. They were mainly a NPC only faction, but do allow non-Githzerai to join their ranks. The Anarch's Guild is quite instrumental in keeping all of those Githzerai settlements up with their Chaos-Shaping abilties. In 3e terms they are likely Psions who specialize in the Metacreation Discipline.

Githzerai outside of Limbo
Sigil and many of the planar metropolises and Gatetowns across the Outland have significant populations of Githzerai. The Githzerai from those places often don't hold many strong ties to Skra'kt'lor or any of the fortresses in Limbo. The Githzerai diaspora is quite vast, and despite them being described as insular in the past, they aren't, or at least they aren't compared to the Githyanki who don't have the same widespread diaspora across the planes. Intermixing the Githzerai with other species is not that uncommon, especially among their diaspora.

Githzerai military capabilities
The Githzerai do not have the same military capabilities as the Githyanki do, they don't have Red Dragons or fleets of warships they can use. Githzerai sometimes do work with the Slaadi that they share Limbo with, but it's nothing compared to the Red Dragon pact with Tiamat. Because chaos-shaping or adaption is the way to travel across Limbo, most don't really on vehicles or warships. Though in some cases they do use submarine like vehicles in Limbo. The Githzerai prefer guerilla tactics against their foes like the Illithids. Rrakma bands operate in this manner, and a Rrakma band can often work with local help across the Material Plane when it comes to fighting the Illithids. Sometimes the Githzerai do fight aggressive Slaadi in Limbo as necessary, but most of the time they ignore each other.

The Githzerai do have access to "nukes", they've used a Psionic Bomb to go nuclear on the Githyanki before on the world of Athas. Centuries ago the Githzerai's Psionic Bombs destroyed the Githyanki foothold on Athas, and mutated the surviving Githyanki into shattered remnants of their former selves, and it may have been responsible for the prevalence of creatures with Psionic abilities on Athas. Some theorize they might have use such bombs on Krynn to reduce the Illithids into beings called Yaggols. The after affects of the Psionic Bombs are generally cause consequences the Githzerai do not want to deal with unless they need to use them as a last resort.

Typical Githzerai class choices (5e)
- Alchemist, Battlesmith. Artificers are not common among Githzerai of Limbo due to the ever-shifting nature of the plane, but some incorporate Karach as an element of their creations.
Barbarian - Zealot, Wild Magic. The more unruly of those who became Zerths sometimes take up certain Barbarian paths.
Bard - Lore, Creation, Dance, Swords. Some have taken to the teachings of the Anarch's Guild to shape more than just Limbo, while others combine art with the practice of honing their bodies.
Cleric - Knowledge, Peace, Trickery. Githzerai don't typically worship any Gods (Zuoken being the most common of those who do), though some follow Zerthimon as an example and get divine powers from enlightened understanding of philosophies.
Druid - Moon, Dreams. On Limbo and other planes their conception of the natural world is quite different from many other places. Though the understanding of reality as something that's malleable has lead to some Githzerai becoming Druids.
Fighter - Champion, Battlemaster, Psi Warrior, Eldritch Knight. The path many Zerths take are often as Psi Warriors or Eldritch Knights.
Monk - Any. Almost all of the Monk ways are followed by the Githzerai, to the point that many theorize that many of the Monk traditions were originally codified by the Githzerai as the first disciples of each tradition. Githzerai teachings perscribe the well-honed body and mind as the most reliable weapon one can use.
Paladin - Vengeance, Ancients, Glory, Watchers. Zerths and Rrakma hunters do swear oaths in name of Zerthimons teachings against the eternal threats to the Githzerai
Ranger - Horizon Walker, Hunter, Fey Wanderer. Githzerai who travel the planes often become Rangers, many dedicated members of Rrakma bands are Rangers themselves.
Rogue - Arcane Trickster, Scout, Soulknife. Some Zerths and Rrakma hunters become Rogues.
Sorcerer - Wild Magic, Abberant Mind. The nature tendecies toward Psionics or to the every-changing nature of Limbo often lead to many Githzerai being Sorcerers of these paths.
Warlock - Great Old One, Hexblade. Githzerai Warlocks tend to form pacts with the powers of Limbo such as the Slaad lords Ygorl, Renbuu and Ssendam (best covered under Great Old Ones).
Wizard - Evocation, Divination, Transmutation, Bladesinging, Illusion. Many Githzerai study and practice arcane magic, most of them are of the more mystically included paths, but some Zerths take up something like Bladesinging.

Psion - Any. The Githzerai talent for Psionics covers all disciplines and forms. Though Metacreation has a special place with the Anarch's Guild.
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad

Shra'kt'lor city of seven concentric rings of granite walls and massive iron gatehouses, is unofficially the political capital of the Githzerai in Limbo. Shra'kt'lor is a fortress for the Githzerai with cramped living conditions, a military stronghold where they are vigilant against whatever threats may come. Outsiders can come and go to the outer rings of Shra'kt'lor as they please, but the further one gets in the inner circles the more they are watched by the Githzerai. Many needing an escort to even wander those areas. Martial skill is most valued among those in Shra'kt'lor, and brigades of foreign mercenaries do live outside the rings.

The central circle of Shra'kt'lor is forbidden to almost all as a great council of the Githzerai meet and reside here to decide the course the Githzerai people will take. It's thought that the Wizard-King Zaerith in a state that is neither alive, dead or undead resides in a well protected chamber inside the central circle. Shra'kt'lor is often seen as a joyless place with only the Great market of Shra'kt'lor offering anything else. It's in the great market that many portals to the rest of the planes are connected to. Groups such as the Defenders of the Githzerai, the Wizard-King's Guard, and the Rrakma Disciples have there headquarters in Shra'kt'lor.

While most of the residents of Shra'kt'lor are Githzerai, some residents outside of the rings are Neraphim: toad-like humanoids thought to have being the original template for the forms the Slaad were shackled to, and among the outer rings some Planetouched such as Chaonds and Cansin can be found living among the Githzerai.

The Floating City
The religious capital of the Githzerai, in many ways the Floating City is the opposite of Shra'kt'lor, which is the home of the Anarch's Guild, the Zerth Order and the Disciples of the High Sciences. The Floating City is a much more open place consisting of tall spires and citadels connected by walkways. The Githzerai will still watch outsiders in the Floating City, but it is done more subtly here, escorts are only required among the most sacred places.

Wizards, Psions, Clerics and other magically inclined Githzerai tend to live in the Floating City, where others are trained in their teachings. Some of the greatest mystical Githzerai masters from the Floating City go on to teach in academies like Strixhaven or the Arcane University of Sigil. The Great Archive of Zerthimon's teaching is found within the sacred vaults, kept on circular tablets. In many of the towers the Disciples of the High Science enlessly experiment with magic and psionics, working on many secret projects such as the Great Transposition or Psionic Bombs.

The Wizard-King Zaerith is also thought to rule from the Floating City too, but the truth is that his chamber and most loyal disciples can teleport to any location of Limbo they desire. There are many teleportation circles and arcane gateways, and one can travel not only around the Floating City but to other Githzerai cities and strongholds across Limbo.

Githzerai are the majority of the residents in the Floating City, but there's a sizable population of Planetouched such as Chaonds and Cansin.

Zerth'ad'lun is the greatest monstery of the Githzerai, where Monks in the Cenobites of Zerthimon have their headquarters. Zerth'ad'lun is a far more secret location, and only those with a guide from the Cenobites can easily find it. The fighting art of the Githzerai cenobites is known as Zerthi, and its students are tested here to see where their paths as Monks take them. Most of the other groups of Githzerai rarely have anything to do with Zerth'ad'lun except for a few select members from the Zerth Order. The current sensei Belthomias, who counts a few non-Githzerai as his students, is the supreme authority here; where none of the concerns of Wizard-King Zaerith ever reach its admantine walls.


Interesting stuff!

Hey, In a modern (say, 2024 D&D+) context, is there really enough difference between a Githyanki and a Githzerai to have them be mechanically separate things (say, as a PC species)?


Trust the Fungus
Interesting stuff!

Hey, In a modern (say, 2024 D&D+) context, is there really enough difference between a Githyanki and a Githzerai to have them be mechanically separate things (say, as a PC species)?

If we assume that subraces in D&D are inevitable and indispensable, I 110% prefer for Githyanki and Githzerai to be subraces of a base Gith race. Among a handful of others that also center around their relationship to the Gith Civil War.

Interesting stuff!

Hey, In a modern (say, 2024 D&D+) context, is there really enough difference between a Githyanki and a Githzerai to have them be mechanically separate things (say, as a PC species)?
Going by the playtest documents, I'd say having different resistances and spell abilities represented in a table with 2 columns for abilities, like the revised Tiefling, is enough for subraces of the species. Which they're close enough for with the Githzerai and Githyanki.

But others like Goblins, Hobgoblins and Bugbears are too different to be presented as subraces of the same species.


Follower of the Way
Given you mentioned Dak'kon, what do you make of his story's claim that Shra'kt'lor was destroyed? Was this far enough in the past that the city has been rebuilt, or perhaps the destruction was only partial?

Do the githzerai still make use of karach blades?

Given you mentioned Dak'kon, what do you make of his story's claim that Shra'kt'lor was destroyed? Was this far enough in the past that the city has been rebuilt, or perhaps the destruction was only partial?

Do the githzerai still make use of karach blades?
Dak'kon was being manipulated by the Nameless One, and the Unbroken Circle of Zerthimon he had, was a fabrication made by the Nameless One. Not counting that Shra'kt'lor has been mentioned in both 3e and 5e, this is my own canon trying to make across editions work together.

As for Karach blades, I mention that they use Karach.


Dusty Dragon
Dak'kon's class is an interesting question in 5e.

EK: maybe, but his magic seemed too potent for that
Warlock (hexblade). Maaaaybe?
Bladesinger: seems the best fit, but would need to be reflavored
College of sword: hmmmm not really?

another interesting - doesn't quite fit but still cool - option would be the 3rd party "way of the arcane hand" monk, which is basically a monk 1/3 caster (and who casts spells with slots, not ki!)

Karach is a material based on Chaos-Stuff that comes from Limbo, it's a metal-like substance that is neither truly solid or liquid that can be shaped by the will of one attuned to it, Karach does tend to shift it's shape and form slightly and it does change colours (though with a metallic sheen) from time to time, sometimes based on emotions. Unlike pure Chaos-Stuff, Karach can exist outside of Limbo. Only the Anarch's Guild knows how to create Karach, and it's a closely guarded secret. Thus the Anarch's Guild controls where and who gets to use Karach.

Zerths are the ones who most commonly are gifted with weapons made of Karach, as a Zerth who proven that they know oneself are given a Karach weapon in ritual attended by those in the Zerth Order and the Anarch's Guild. Some Githzerai Warlocks, such as those who've taken up the pact of the blade do wield Karach weapons, but it is extracted from their own souls. Similarly enough some Soulknife Rogues are infused with Karach in their blood.

Unrefined Karach does find it uses in the hands of Githzerai Artificers, who sometimes incorporate the material with their creations. Most Githzerai rarely use firearms because blackpowder is quite unreliable in Limbo, but some Rrakma Hunters do use such weapons on the Material Plane as the loud noises of firearms are quite intimidating to the Grimlock Thralls in the service of Illithids. Githzerai Artificers have made a form of Volatile Karach that serves as a costly replacement for blackpowder that works in Limbo, the Elemental Planes and other planes.

A typical pure Karach weapon has the following:
Rare Magic Item, requires attunement
This weapon grants a +1 bonus to hit and damage, and does an additional 1d6 psychic damage on a hit. During a short or long rest, the wielder can shape a Karach weapon into any weapon they're proficient in.

Some Karach weapons have even greater capabilities, but these are only given to those who've reached the highest ranks among the Zerth Order.

Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads