Githyanki and Githzerai in Dungeons & Dragons

Todd Kenreck: Many, many years ago, in the multiverse of DND, the Githyanki and the Githzerai rose up against their masters, the Mind Flayers. I talked to Mike Mearls about what makes the Gith unique and their history.

Mike Mearls: So, how did the Githyanki revolt? That is a really important question, because we don't know. Nobody knows. The Githyanki aren't talking. We know that the Mind Flayers had this empire that spanned the world of the material plane, which prompts a lot of really interest cosmological questions, of which no one really is answering right now.

And I don't mean that just in terms of us as creators, like the gods don't talk about it. the records we have, that you find in world don't ... Like no one really talks about it. And there's a lot of suspicion and kind of we think creatively what may have happened. The multiverse is a very different place back then.

But what we do know, is that the Gith overthrew the Mind Flayers somehow. And remember, we think of Mind Flayers, are actually talking about the Elder Brains. They toppled their empire, and there's a few interesting things that fall out of that. Not much of that empire remains. There are not Mind Flayers ruins all over the place. You'd expect that they'd be everywhere, but they're not.

And the Gith, after they won, immediately fell into in-fighting. The Githzerai and the Githyanki started fighting amongst themselves, they splintered. The Githyanki were much more warlike. The suspicion is that they were the warrior cast. That the Mind Flayers, the Elder Brains, used them as their enforcers as their rank and file troops. And they've essentially been preserved in that state ever since. Both literally because they dwell in the astral plane, where time does not pass.

The astrals is a timeless realm. You experience moment to moment, but time doesn't cause any changes. Like I can take something in the astral plane and break it, and it remains broken. But I don't age. If I just take that object and leave it, it doesn't decay; nothing about it changes. It's a realm, really, of stasis. So it's not quite accurate to say it's a timeless realm, it's really more a place of stasis.

So, they not only then are they still, you know, they don't age, but their culture really hasn't changed. And it's a warrior culture. So they are very much focused on destroying the Mind Flayers, whenever they pop up. They send out parties to destroy them. And they are also fixated on Vlaakith of the Lich Queen. The Lich Queen was not their original leader. There was a leader named Gith, who lead the uprising and defeated the Mind Flayers. She then went to strike a deal in Hell with Tiamat, and didn't come back, but Vlaakith came back.

And since then, Vlaakith's been in charge. No one's really sure what happened to Gith. Vlaakith had a great story she told the Githyanki that everything's fine, Gith will come back. I'm just minding the store, 'til then, do what I say. And no one's really clear why Tiamat struck a deal with Vlaakith or Gith. But what we do know now, is she is pledge red dragons to help the Githyanki.

Now, if you're a red dragon, and you're in this timeless realm-less stasis, and you're serving a bunch of humanoids, that's not exactly the best place to be. Dragons want to age, they like getting older, they get bigger and more powerful. And they also get bigger treasure hoards. So this is actually a really big deal that dragons are serving Githyanki, not only doing what they're told, but they're not aging, they're not getting more powerful. And they're not accumulating their own personal treasure hoards, which is an important part of what dragons do to prove their worth to Tiamat.

But now Tiamat has ordered these dragons to do it, so I guess that's okay with her. But still it rankles. So, now you have this very militarized society that has a purpose that is, you know, to exterminate the Mind Flayers. They raid the material plane. They raid worlds, take what they want. They don't really make things. They aren't creators. The Githyanki don't produce art. They don't produce a real culture. They're somewhat hollow. They are a device that has this very focused purpose, and that's it.

And that's why in some ways cosmically, they are kind of a side show. They're not like the great empires of humanity, the Thayans, the Netheres, and the [Suel Imperian 00:04:23] of Gray Hock. You know, these cultures that wrought enormous magic and enormous power, and power to destroy entire worlds. Githyanki have never even come close to that. So they're an interesting group of folk. They're so fixated on their ancient enemies that that's all they really do. And if they don't have someone to fight, they don't really have much purpose to live. It's a very decadent culture they have in many ways.

Because they don't have a need to work when they're in the astral, when they're in Tu'narath, their city, they don't need to grow food, they don't need to make new things. Nothing breaks unless they break it. Now the Githyanki being quite violent often break things, it's a nice distraction. But Vlaakith essential is just keeping the busy and keeping them fixated on the Mind Flayers.

And no one's really quite sure what, if there's an end point to this, or if Vlaakith is just content to be in this very secure position, surrounded by an army of incredibly well trained, powerful, psionic warriors, or if there's an end game. If there's a destination for all this plotting and planning, and this society that she's built and set into stasis. And for all we know maybe Gith is going to come back, we don't know.

It's those kind of cosmic questions that keep people like [inaudible 00:05:39] up at night, pondering over what might happen next, what could throw the balance of the cosmos out of whack. If Gith reappears what is that mean? Do the Githyanki become much more aggressive? So the Githyanki, they were once human. We know that much. They have leathery skin, and they don't look, the look human-ish. But they are a bit warped and distorted. Mainly because of the magic of the Mind Flayers that to make them better warriors and better masters of psionic power.

And so if you were to see a Githyanki, you'd immediately recognize, he just looks different from a human. They lay eggs for instance, right, that's another way their altered. The Githzerai back when the Mind Flayers were defeated, they really were acting in reaction to the formation of the Githyanki society.

The Githzerai felt like that the war was over. They didn't want to just keep obeying Gith's edicts or Vlaakith's laws. So they left. They fought amongst themselves, Githyanki and Githzerai, and the Githzerai were not defeated to the point that they were destroyed, but they had to retreat into limbo. And their focus, they are also like the Githyanki focused on destroying Mind Flayers.

And they live monastic lives. They live in limbo, the realm of pure chaos, the plane of chaos, and bring order to it. They are very orderly minds. And they are philosophers, but more like warrior philosophers. They are also have a psionic talent. And they are also warriors. They're monks on armed combat is their focus. But they are more militarized in order to survive within limbo, rather than being militarized almost in essence of lack of anything other direction given to them by their leaders.

So, and they still, they're not on good terms with the Githyanki. But they are not quite at the level of open warfare that they used to have. And in many ways they don't necessarily have any more insight into the Githyanki and what actually happened to the Mind Flayers than anyone else did. Gith led the uprising, and so when the Githzerai left, they were just, you know, rank and file troops essentially.

Todd Kenreck: When did this deal happen with Gith? Did this happen before the Mind Flayers disappeared or after?

Mike Mearls: It was after. We know that much. And that was sort of another interesting element to it, of if the Mind Flayers were so powerful, where were the dragons? And we know at that point Tiamat was in Hell. She had been imprisoned there.

Todd Kenreck: Thank you Mike Mearls for sitting with me and talking about the Gith. I am Todd Kenreck, thank you for watching.




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