Gith, Variant (5e Race Variant)
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Upon the Blasted Plains, Zerthimon told Gith there cannot be two skies. In the wake of his words, came war.
So it came to pass that the People had achieved victory over their *illithid* masters. They *knew* freedom. Yet before the green fires had died from the battlefield, Gith spoke of continuing the war. Many, still filled with the bloodlust in their hearts, agreed with her. She spoke of not merely defeating the *illithids,* but destroying all *illithids* across the Planes. After the *illithids* had been exterminated, they would bring war to all other races they encountered.
In Gith's heart, fires raged. She lived in war, and in war, she *knew* herself. All that her eyes saw, she wanted to conquer.
Zerthimon spoke the beginnings of that which was against Gith's will. He spoke that the People already *knew* freedom. Now they should *know* themselves again and mend the damage that had been done to the People. Behind his words were many other hearts of the People who were weary of the war against the *illithid.*
*Know* that Gith's heart was not Zerthimon's heart on this matter. She said that the war would continue. The *illithid* would be destroyed. Their flesh would be no more. Then the People would claim the False Worlds as their own. Gith told Zerthimon that they would be under the same sky in this matter. The words were like bared steel.
From Zerthimon came the Pronouncement of Two Skies. In the wake of his words came war.
-- The Sixth Circle of Zerthimon
The gith, much like their former slavemasters, are superficially humanoid. They are generally taller and more-slender than humans, but their bodies have a much higher muscle density, which combines with their lower mass to make them inhumanly quick. Gith have long, pointed ears, flattened noses set high on their faces, and scaly, spot-like markings across their faces, shoulders, and torsos. Their skin is usually in various shades of yellow, brown, and green, and their hair is usually either black, red, or brown. Male gith can grow facial hair, but most gith don't have hair anywhere below the head.
Githyanki tend to wear garish, flamboyant clothing, jewelry, and armor, crusted with silver and gemstones. They let their hair grow long and pleat it in elaborate braids, weaving ornaments into its length. Githzerai prefer simpler clothing, mostly plain robes or practical scale armor. Most male and some female githzerai either shave their heads completely bald or wear a lock of their hair in a tonsure or pony-tail. Githzerai have a long tradition of tattoos and body art, and most githzerai have at least one pictogram printed on their skin as a record of some past achievement or personal revelation.
The origins of the race that once called itself "the People" are lost forever. Their ancestors were mentally enslaved by insidious otherworldly invaders known as the illithid, and then twisted and mutated to suit the purposes of their cruel masters. The People served the mind flayers as hard physical laborers, forbidden to use complex tools or metal, as battle thralls against other races the illithid sought to conquer, and as food for a race that must make use of humanoid brains to feed or reproduce. After unknown generations of this treatment, however, members of the People began to be born who were able to resist the hypnotic powers of the illithid. Even more gradually, they learned to shield the minds of others, slowly building up cells of individual gith free of the mental domination of the mind flayers and amassing the resources to launch a mass revolt.
The two most prominent leaders of these rebels were Gith and Zerthimon. Gith was one of the illithids' mightiest battle-thralls, gifted with a powerful intellect, a talent for strategy, and a mastery of many forms of warfare, as well as a hot, passionate temperament and a fierce, charismatic capacity for leadership. Gith not only survived the brutal life of a battle-thrall, but thrived in it, reveling in the fury of battle and the thrill of conquest.
Zerthimon, by contrast, was a former laborer who had rediscovered the lost secrets of self-determination and metalworking while laboring in the fields of discarded corpses created by the Empire's constant need for sapients to consume. He was the spiritual leader of the rebellion, teaching the People how to protect their minds from the illithids and applying his genius to the arts of organization and logistics, stockpiling metal arms and carefully monitoring the nascent rebellion for any signs of treachery.
Despite their differences, the two leaders were very close friends, and, though neither subrace of modern gith likes to admit it, possibly lovers. Their strengths complemented one another well, and when the war against the illithid began it was tremendously successful. After a great victory upon the Blasted Plains, the few surviving mind flayers were forced to flee through time and space, scattered across the cosmos.
However, what should have been the greatest victory in the history of the People was inevitably tainted by what followed. Gith, drunk with victory, wanted to spur the People to chase the illithids, exterminating them utterly, before moving to conquer every world in the multiverse, to slake her endless thirst for war and to ensure that the People, after enslaving all other life, would never be slaves again. Zerthimon disagreed, arguing that such a path would lead the People to corruption and ruin, making them no better than the mind flayers they had defeated. He wished for the People to instead begin rebuilding, to try to regain the culture they had lost in their eons of servitude and pursue peaceful enlightenment.
The disagreement, the fabled "Pronouncement of Two Skies," is the moment at which the People fractured into the githyanki and the githzerai. The two factions came to blows, the former following Gith and the latter Zerthimon, and the scene of the People's greatest triumph became the place at which they turned upon one another. Exactly who won the day is unknown, with accounts contradicting one another. The githzerai claim that Zerthimon defeated Gith, but spared her and shepherded his people into Limbo, while the githyanki insist that Gith cut down Zerthimon with the sword he had made for her and, in a spasm of grief, withdrew her forces to the Astral Plane. Whatever the specifics, the gith race had completely splintered that day, never to be united again.
Gith herself is revered by her people, the githyanki, as a martyr. Their histories claim she willingly went to serve Tiamat the Dragon Queen in the Nine Hells of Baator to secure powerful allies for her people, and to this day githyanki retain something between a truce and an alliance with red dragons, in stark contrast to their attitudes towards all other forms of sapient life. Her chief subordinate, Vlaakith, who brokered the deal, assumed control of the githyanki afterwards, leading them in the plunder and conquest of many worlds from their cities on the Astral Plane. Some darkly whisper that Gith's sacrifice was nothing of the kind, and that Vlaakith sold her master into slavery in exchange for the secrets of undeath. Her descendants, all of them also named Vlaakith, ruled over the githyanki for generations before one of them achieved lichdom a millennium ago. Now, she reigns supreme as the Immortal Lich Queen of her people, forcing them to worship her to the exclusion of all other divinities as she attempts to achieve true godhood. Her paranoia and the cravings of her undead nature drive her to consume the souls of any githyanki that grow too powerful, a fate her people are indoctrinated and brainwashed into regarding as an honor and a service to their race.
The githzerai, meanwhile, established a series of cities and monestaries in Limbo, bending the chaosstuff into orderly well-defined matter by the force of their will, and maintaining it through careful psychic effort. There are many folk legends about Zerthimon's fate. Some claim he simply died, as all beings die, his body forming a peaceful tomb of quiet solitude as it was put adrift through the Chaos of Limbo. Other say that he achieved enlightenment, rising above mortality to become a being of pure mental energy, from whence he gently guides his people still towards a similar state of perfect transcendence. A few dark rumors claim he became a lich to avoid death but, horrified at his own weakness, fled into hiding, where he struggles with his unnatural thirsts and seeks to guide his people in secret without revealing what has become of him, for fear they would abandon his teachings if they knew the truth. Which of these is true (or, indeed, if any of them are true) is unknown.
Githyanki live in a series of outposts and cities within the Astral Plane. From there, they ride out in their otherworldly vessels and upon their red dragon steeds to pillage material planes, taking back slaves, precious goods, and other plunder to their home ports. Because mortal creatures don't naturally age in the Astral Plane, githyanki raise their young in "creches" anchored in various Prime Material Planes, where they are trained as warriors, mages, psions, weapon and armorsmiths, food producers, and other useful professions according to demonstrated aptitudes. Such training is cruel, but usually not to the point of actually risking the children's lives. Once a githyanki has slain an illithid, it is considered to have "come of age," and is welcomed into society as an adult. Such a slaying is often a communal effort, or the result of allying with other creatures to accomplish the task.
Githyanki culture glorifies war and violence. Even those who do not fight for a living, such as fungus farmers or architects, are seen as valuable because their efforts help serve the war machine. Githyanki are expected to worship the lich-queen Vlaakith to the exclusion of all other divinities, and to follow a racist ideology that holds almost all other races in contempt. It is the right of the superior race to take what they wish from their inferiors. Although they do maintain some trade relationships and make short-term alliances with other races, it is usually with a mutual relationship of suspicion and hostility. The only exceptions are the red dragons, in recognition of Gith's martyred sacrifice. The most powerful mentalists and leaders among the githyanki are known as gishes.
Githzerai dwell in fortress-monasteries and cities in the chaotic plane of Limbo, islands made stable and real by the orderly thoughts and wills of their inhabitants. There, monks, ascetics, and others impose strict, regimented lifestyles on the inhabitants to maintain oases of calm in the howling seas of chaosstuff. Rarely, they establish monasteries on Prime Material worlds for their own purposes, and either individual or bands of githzerai sometimes perform the peculiar devotion of travelling the cosmos hunting illithids, swearing oaths not to return to their people until they have slain a mind flayer for every member of their company.
Githzerai culture is meritocratic, with the most accomplished scholars, mightiest warriors, and wisest elders taking leadership roles within the community. Although not necessarily hostile towards the idea of faith, it is rare for githzerai to worship gods. Instead, they prefer the private pursuit of enlightenment, as well as reverence for the example set by particularly virtuous or heroic individuals from their race's past, such as the hero Zerthimon. Githzerai communities are generally cold and unfriendly to outsiders, particularly if they prove disruptive, though they are unlikely to be openly hostile or violent. The greatest githzerai psionic adepts are known as zerths, who are expected to lead the community and maintain the order and stability that literally holds their society together.
Neither subrace places a great premium on family, instead raising children communally. However, while githyanki are unlikely to even know their parents' names, githzerai do at least tend to be aware of who their relatives are and what they have accomplished.
Githyanki and githzerai hate one another with a black and bitter passion. It is virtually unheard of for the two to interact without open violence. However, both races hate the mind flayers still more. Both subraces of gith will ally with almost anyone, including one another, to strike against illithids, though they will quickly return to fighting one another if they succeed. A small faction of gith, the Sha'sal Kohu, seek the reunification of their race, though they are despised and rejected by both portions of it, and even some outsiders feel that the movement has been penetrated too deeply by outside influences seeking to use it for their own goals and ambitions to ever achieve its purpose.
Despite their violent estrangement from one another, the gith share a common language and naming system.
Male: Baarya, Dak, Fiden, Greth, Kalla, Klavya, Saath, Shraak, Zith, Zomm
Female: Amith, Adaka, Ezhelya, Immilzin, Iliss, Izera, Olavya, Ummon, Usamm, Uweya, Ysviden
Former slaves of the illithids, the quick-bodied gith are split between the fierce, plundering githyanki and the disciplined, contemplative githzerai.
Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 2.
Age. Gith naturally live to be about one-hundred and fifty years old, reaching adulthood at the age of twenty. Githyanki can be much older than their apparent biological ages due to living in the timeless space of the Astral Plane, though this is somewhat curbed by their violent culture.
Alignment. Most githyanki are of some evil alignment, and most githzerai are of some lawful alignment. Individuals avoiding these broad patterns exist, but often feel pressure to conform or leave their societies.
Size. Gith are taller than most humans, standing six feet high or more. Their bodies very slender and emaciated, weighing much less than an average being of their stature, but their musculature is very well-developed. Your size is Medium.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
Reject Bondage. All gith share a cultural legacy of horror at being enslaved. If an effect would cause you to gain the charmed or restrained condition, you have advantage on all saving throws associated with it.
Psionic Power. Gith were bred by the illithids as slaves, and possess some of their former masters' advanced mental abilities. You know the mage hand cantrip, though the hand is always invisible. Once you reach 3rd level, you can cast the Jump spell once per long rest. These abilities count as Psionic, and the spellcasting ability for these spells is determined by your subrace.
Languages. You can speak, read, and write Gith and Common, though a gith of a subtype other than your own would consider you to have a very thick accent.
Subrace. The gith race is divided into two culturally-distinct entities: the githyanki and the githzerai. Choose one of the two subraces.
Ability Score Increase. Your Intelligence score increases by 1.
Trained Mind. The Githyanki creches are cruel, but comprehensive, and they teach their students how to travel the Astral Plane. Once you reach 5th level, you can cast the misty step spell once per long rest. Once you reach 7th level, you may cast the nondetection spell once per long rest, targeting only yourself. These abilities count as Psionic. Intelligence is your spellcasting ability for these spells and for the other spells you know from the Psionic Power ability.
Born Raider. You gain proficiency in either the Athletics or the Intimidation skill.
Ability Score Increase. Your Wisdom score increases by 1.
Focused Mind. Githzerai revere discipline, and they teach their students to harness the power of the will to wield their natural psionics. Once you reach 5th level, you can cast the see invisibility spell once per long rest. Wisdom is your spellcasting ability for this spell and for the other spells you know from the Psionic Power ability.
Contemplative Upbringing. You gain proficiency in either the History or the Persuasion skill.
When creating a gith character, you can use the following table to help flesh out your character. Use this table in addition to or in place of your background's.
|1||After years of training in my creche, I've set out to prove my maturity by killing an illithid. Allying with these inferior creatures is a reasonable means to that end.|
|2||I've been marooned on this world ever since a lucky shot blew my astral vessel to smithereens. Though part of me still wishes to return to my kin on the Astral Plane, I've made a life that I've come to enjoy here in the material universe, and I'm uncertain whether I really want to go back.|
|3||A rare silver sword, a gift from Vlaakith herself, was stolen from my cadre by a being from this world. I've come here to get it back, and I'll do anything it takes to do so.|
|4||I follow the philosophy of Sha'sal Kohu: the belief that the gith subraces should reunite into one race. Because of this, I am hated and mistreated by almost all gith. Ironically, considering my intentions, my closest friends are thus other humanoids.|
|5||I've been forced to flee my own people because Vlaakith sensed my natural potential and moved to destroy me before my career had even begun. I'm not sure what I hate more: my own kind for hunting me, or these beasts I have to live alongside to survive.|
|6||I am a githvyrik: an individualist gith who refuses to identify as either githzerai or githyanki. I have my own odd perspective on things, though the manner in which I wield my powers causes others to mistake me for a githyanki.|
|1||My instructor has sent me to this world to learn from its inhabitants. I respect their practical experience, but am profoundly discomforted at their disorderly ways.|
|2||I am the sole survivor of an illithid-hunting party that met a nasty fate. I've sworn not to return home until I've killed not only an illithid for myself, but for every one of my fallen friends.|
|3||In the past, one of my instructors maintained a close friendship with a Prime. Now, she has asked me to travel for a time with one of his descendants or students, who is one of my fellow party members, to maintain the generational tie.|
|4||I have a naturally disorderly temperament, and I've chosen to leave my people rather than threaten their stability. I enjoy my newfound freedom, though I still feel the occasional twinge of longing for home.|
|5||I have an insatiable thirst for knowledge, and I love to compile information, but I'm not the best writer. I periodically bring my copious notes on my adventures back to the libraries of my people, to mixed reception.|
|6||I am a githvyrik: an individualist gith who refuses to identify as either githzerai or githyanki. I have my own odd perspective on things, though the manner in which I wield my powers causes others to mistake me for a githzerai.|