Unearthed Arcana: Playable Races Githyanki, Eladrin, Githzerai
In this latest Unearthed Arcana, we're getting playable races from multiple places in the D&D multiverse, I talked to Mike Mearls about this new play test material.
Mike Mearls: So Unearthed Arcana for September we're giving you a new race with two sub-races, and a new sub race for the elf. So to start with the new race we're doing the Githyanki, and Githzerai. They have been a part of D&D since the early '80s. I think Fiend Folio first addition, came out in '80, or '81. So they're very iconic to the game. They have really an interesting back stories.
Mike Mearls: And we had people ask now and again for those races. So the key to the Gith is they're planer creature. Githyanki live in the Astral Plane. The Githzerai live in Limbo, and they have very structured societies. They both kind of have a feel of Sparta, historical Sparta. That, if you're born a Githyanki, or Githzerai you're raised from birth for a very specific purpose.
Mike Mearls: In this case your purpose is to defeat Mind Flayers. Both the Gith hate the Mind Flayers. Mind Flayers once enslave them, and millennia ago they broke free. And to this day the reason Mind Flayers are stuck in the Underdark hiding away, is 'cause as soon as they make their presence known, the Githyanki, Githzerai show up and kill them all. It's a war genocide, the Gith don't want any Mind Flayers to exist.
Mike Mearls: And so they're keeping this very powerful force at bay, even though they themselves are not the nicest people. And so their idea is Githyanki are very much warriors. They're really good fighters. They can also delve into magic. The Gith as a whole get a bonus to intelligence. They get a plus one bonus to intelligence, then plus two to strength with Githyanki, 'cause they're very much trained as warriors.
Mike Mearls: It's a case really their culture really shapes them. 'Cause it is a very specific focus culture, and the Githzerai a similar band. They get a plus two bonus to wisdom, 'cause they train as monks. They're very lawful, but they live in Limbo. The realm of pure chaos, as almost a test. They bring law to this very chaotic realm.
Mike Mearls: And they get some minor ... Their psionic abilities, but reflect them with spells. We basically chose spells that get across the psionic abilities that they have. They are kind of built similar to Tieflings. In that they get some benefits, then they get the abilities, they gain levels. They get the ability to cast a certain number of spells innately.
Mike Mearls: The Eladrin is the new elf sub-race we're doing, and this one's kind of interesting, because in the DMG we had an update of the Eladrin based on the fourth edition Eladrin. And we didn't really put much thought into their story. We just sort of juked the mechanics we found before. But now as we flushed out the Feywild, we think of the Eladrin as coming from the Feywild, or these Eladrin.
Mike Mearls: There's the entire pantheon of different types of Eladrin, but the Eladrin ... We say just Eladrin, without any modifier. As just the humanoid, the type of elf. We think of them as the elves who live in the Feywild. And we're ... They reflect the Feywild, 'cause they are ... Not it's primary inhabitants, but they're very iconic as inhabitants of the Feywild.
Mike Mearls: In that they have extremes of emotion, and they go through what they think of as different seasons. There're four seasons the Eladrin experience emotionally. And each one brings out a different personality. So an Eladrin in spring is joyful. An Eladrin in summer is wrathful. An Eladrin in autumn is friendly, and contended. And an Eladrin in winter is mournful.
Mike Mearls: Your character literally changes your ... If you want, but you should 'cause it's fun. You literally change your role playing trait, and your flaw. Based on which season your character is in. And your character season also changes the magic you can use.
Mike Mearls: So the idea behind it is to take basically a little slice of the Feywild, and bring it into a character. Where your character has these huge mood changes, and personality shifts based on their mood, because they're Fey. They're flighty. Whereas a Red Cap represents one emotion, murderous rage, an Eladrin represents all emotions, but all emotions taken to an extreme.
Mike Mearls: And so, we really wanted to reflect that through the game mechanics. Where literally the cantrip you can use, is based on your character's mood, and personality. And that you might have different flaws, and different character traits based on which season your character is currently in. And there's no mechanic for changing seasons. It's just purely based on the player's call to say, "Well this is how I'd react." Or, "This is how this would make me feel." Or, "This is my character's state of mind."
Mike Mearls: So, it's kind of this interesting thing you might decide if you're in a fight, "Okay well my character's now gonna be in summer." Right? I'm gonna be wrathful, and then the challenge, and I think the fun role playing hook is you can definitely play it like, "Okay now the fight's over, and we won. So my character's gonna shift into autumn, and be welcoming, and contented." Or you could say, "No, my character's still stuck in summer. He still wants to get into a fight, 'cause we just had this fight, we won." So who's next right?
Mike Mearls: It's really up to the player to decide how you want to portray the character. Do you want to make the seasons more reflective of what's going on? And I always try to pick the right season for the situation, 'cause that's how my character is. Or do you want to run it counter to type, and say, "Okay, no. This could be a problem. My character might be in summer, we need to talk to someone. And I just want to bowl this guy over. Why is he resisting me? The more he resists, the angrier I get."
Mike Mearls: 'Cause I'm Fey, I'm from the Feywild, that's what I do. All my emotions go to the extreme. So, I really want to play an Eladrin, and it's one of those things that I'm writing, and I'm like, "I hope I don't completely goof this up, 'cause I really want this to work." 'Cause I want to eventually publish it, so I can play one. Now I can play whatever I want on my home campaign.
Mike Mearls: But I think it really goes to the idea of the philosophy of building new folk for people to play, is to give them new roles to play. That you otherwise couldn't, within our existing array of elves, dwarves, and so on.
You can try out the new Unearthed Arcana playtest materiel at the D&D website right here.