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First appearanceFiend Folio (1981)
AlignmentUsually Chaotic Neutral

The Githzerai are a fictional humanoid species in the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game. The Githzerai were introduced by Charles Stross in the first edition Fiend Folio (1981). Stross borrowed the names Githzerai and Githyanki from two fictional species created by George R. R. Martin in his 1977 science fiction novel Dying of the Light.

Githzerai are extraplanar humanoid creatures that reside on the Plane of Limbo.

Publication history[edit]

The githzerai were created by Charles Stross for the Fiend Folio Tome of Creatures Malevolent and Benign (1981).[1] They were originally introduced as monsters, but they are a playable character race in the Planescape campaign setting, and have been detailed further in D&D 3.0 and 3.5.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition (1977–1988)[edit]

The githzerai first appears in the first edition Fiend Folio (1981). In the indexes Charles Stross is listed as the creator of this fictional race.[2]

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition (1989–1999)[edit]

The githzerai appears first in the Monstrous Compendium Outer Planes Appendix (1991),[3] and is reprinted in the Monstrous Manual (1993), which includes the githzerai rrakkma band and the githzerai zerth.[4]

The githzerai was further detailed in the first Planescape Monstrous Compendium Appendix (1994).[5] The Planewalker's Handbook (1996) presented the githzerai as a player character race.[6]

The githzerai is also presented as a playable character race in Player's Option: Skills & Powers (1995).[7]

Dungeons & Dragons 3.0 edition (2000–2002)[edit]

The githzerai first appears in the Psionics Handbook (2001), and then in this edition's Manual of the Planes (2001).[8]

Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 edition (2003–2007)[edit]

The githzerai appears in the revised Monster Manual for this edition (2003), and was further detailed as a player character race in the Expanded Psionics Handbook (2004) (along with the psionic githzerai)[9] and as a character class in Complete Psionic (2006).[10]

Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition (2008–2014)[edit]

The githzerai appears in the Monster Manual for this edition (2008), including the githzerai cenobite, the githzerai zerth, and the githzerai mindmage.[11]

The githzerai player race was first detailed in the back of the Monster Manual. A more balanced version of the race was previewed in the August 2009 issue of Dragon Magazine, and the Githzerai was officially released in March 2010 in the Player's Handbook 3.

The home plane of the githzerai was also changed from Limbo (which does not exist in this edition) to the Elemental Chaos.

Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition (2014–)[edit]

The githzerai appear in the Monster Manual for this edition (2014), along with their kin the "Githyanki" in the "Gith" section of the book. The creatures provided are the "Githzerai Monk" and the "Githzerai Zerth".

In this edition the githzerai's homeworld returned to Limbo, with the Elemental Chaos being removed in this edition and Limbo being restored.

The githzerai appear as a playable race, along with their sister race the githyanki in the 5th edition expansion Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes.[12]


The githzerai is considered a "Product Identity" by Wizards of the Coast and as such is not released under its Open Gaming License.


Githzerai are descended from the same race of ancient illithid thralls as their cousins, the githyanki. Their name means "those who spurn Gith".


Githzerai hunt within the wild chaos of Limbo, and grow thin but hardy crops within the islands of stability they create with their mental powers. They live about twice as long as humans. It isn't specified if they lay eggs or give birth to live infants.

The githzerai are distrustful toward all other races. They hate githyanki and illithids above all else. They have a bitter rivalry with the slaadi who share their home plane, but will cooperate with the froglike monsters against common threats.


Githzerai primarily live in fortresses, monasteries, and cities on the plane of Limbo, though they also maintain fortresses on the Prime Material Plane. Foreigners in githzerai settlements will find themselves constantly watched and scrutinized, and they are never permitted outside of prescribed areas unless accompanied by a githzerai escort.

Shrak'kt'lor is the largest city of the githzerai, with a population of around two million. It is the military center of the race. In the background of the computer game Planescape: Torment, Shrak'kt'lor fell due to a division in the beliefs of the githzerai there, and the city drowned during a githyanki assault.

The Floating City is the spiritual capital of the githzerai, home to Zaerith Menyar-Ag-Gith, the immortal wizard-king who rules the githzerai people. Zaerith is served by spies and infiltrators, so the Floating City is a center for both the magical arts and the roguish arts.

Arsanith is a legendary githzerai monastery deep within the chaos. All those who have glimpsed enlightenment are welcome there, even githyanki.

Sanzerathad is another githzerai settlement, this one barely surviving in the chaotic wilds.

Zerth'Ad'lun is a monastery that teaches the art of zerthi or zerthin, in which monks are said to be able to peer into the future. In the 4th edition Manual of the Planes, the monastery of Zerth'Ad'lun has become the city of Zerthadlun, now the largest of all githzerai cities.

Githzerai fortresses on the Material Plane are particularly strong, with walls of adamantine rising from plains that have crumbled to dust, with no plants or animals for miles. This may be because of the land's reaction against the chaotic matter of the fortresses, or some effect conjured by githzerai wizards.

Typical physical characteristics[edit]

Githzerai resemble humans, but are slightly taller and thinner. Their features are sharper, their faces are longer, and their eyes range from gray to a catlike yellow color. They stand a little over six feet tall and weigh approximately 160 pounds. Their skin is rough and yellow (occasionally shading to brown or green) and their hair is russet, although males commonly shave their heads or retain only a single braid in back, with carefully controlled facial hair. Females often keep their hair in tight buns or braids. Their ears are pointed.


Githzerai are pragmatic to a fault, but unlike their githyanki cousins they are not evil. They are usually chaotic neutral, neutral, or lawful neutral. As focused as they are, some find it difficult to see them as chaotic, but while they are fiercely loyal to their race and their leaders, theirs is the loyalty of free beings, not the servility of slaves. They prize individual freedom above all else.

"Better the heartfelt devotion of a free soul than the grudging obedience of a slave" is a common githzerai saying.


The githzerai are a severe people. They dress in somber colors, eschew jewelry, never smile, and care nothing for art or music. They're a closed-mouthed, xenophobic people, seldom trusting other races with their secrets. Seldom will they use two words when they can make do with only one. Beneath their stoic facades, though, fierce passions burn: their hatred for illithids and their githyanki cousins, and their desire to protect their race on their adopted home plane. To the githzerai there are three truths: the githyanki and illithids will be their mortal enemies forever; no one will ever be permitted to threaten the survival of their people; and no one will ever enslave them again.

  • Rrakkma bands (rrakkma means "vengeance" in the githzerai tongue) are bands of warriors who roam the planes, searching for and destroying illithids.
  • Gith-attala, loosely translated as cousin-hunters, are githzerai devoted to hunting githyanki.

Monastic traditions unite the githzerai race, emphasizing rigorous training for their bodies, minds, and souls.


Githzerai seldom worship any gods. When their ancestors were slaves, the only "higher" beings they were permitted to know of were their illithid masters. The gods their ancestors worshiped before then are long since forgotten. In the present day, they primarily seek inner enlightenment rather than relying on other beings to grant it to them. They believe that by mastering the chaos of their plane they can create perfect internal order, which will lead them to enlightenment. They honor the immortal wizard-king of their race, but do not worship him.

Githzerai do revere the spirits of their ancestors. Of those, the greatest of their ancestors is Zerthimon, who some believe dwells in the realm of the spirits, leading his people to greatness through visions. Others believe he may return one day to lead them in person. Zerths are a major religious sect led by fighter-mages who preach Zerthimon's return, believing they will be the first chosen to assist him when he comes.

Githzerai see religion as an entirely personal choice, and do not seek to impose their beliefs on others. They rarely worship any deity, but some few may revere deities such as Zuoken (most commonly), or sometimes Kord or even Vecna.


Githzerai speak Gith, a language they share with the githyanki.


Githzerai history was the same as githyanki history until shortly after the ancient illithid empire was thrown down under the leadership of the legendary heroine, Gith. When Gith announced an Eternal Crusade that would lead her people to conquer the planes in a fanatic attempt to exterminate the illithids once and for all, however, many of the githyanki dissented. The most vocal among these was the war hero Zerthimon, who said that no war could end the illithid threat forever. Instead, the people should retreat into introspection, seeking to learn more about themselves so that they could grow in wisdom and strength. He claimed that Gith had become a tyrant no better than the illithid slavemasters she replaced. For a time, Gith tolerated Zerthimon's dissent, but her hand was forced when the loyalists of Gith came to blows with Zerthimon's followers, and a civil war erupted that vastly reduced the githyanki population and reduced at least one world to ashes. Gith and Zerthimon met in single combat, and some say Zerthimon fell that day, while others say he triumphed and elected to spare Gith's life. In the end, neither faction was able to continue the war any longer, and the githyanki retreated to the Astral Plane, while Zerthimon's followers, the githzerai, retreated to Limbo.

In other media[edit]


  1. ^ Interview with Charles Stross by Sevendead blog.
  2. ^ Turnbull, Don, ed. Fiend Folio (TSR, 1981)
  3. ^ LaFountain, J. Paul. Monstrous Compendium Outer Planes Appendix. (TSR, 1991)
  4. ^ Stewart, Doug, ed. Monstrous Manual (TSR, 1993)
  5. ^ Varney, Allen, ed. Planescape Monstrous Compendium Appendix (TSR, 1994)
  6. ^ Cook, Monte. The Planewalker's Handbook. (TSR, 1996)
  7. ^ Niles, Douglas and Dale Donovan. Player's Option: Skills & Powers (TSR, 1995)
  8. ^ Grubb, Jeff, Bruce R. Cordell, and David Noonan. Manual of the Planes (Wizards of the Coast, 2001)
  9. ^ Cordell, Bruce R. Expanded Psionics Handbook (Wizards of the Coast, 2004)
  10. ^ Cordell, Bruce R. and Christopher Lindsay. Complete Psionic (Wizards of the Coast, 2006)
  11. ^ Mearls, Mike, Stephen Schubert, and James Wyatt. Monster Manual (Wizards of the Coast, 2008)
  12. ^ Hoffer, Christian (8 February 2017). "'Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes' to Add New Monsters and Playable Races to Dungeons & Dragons".

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]