Unearthed Arcana took a step back from Dungeon Master-level rules and hopped back over the screen to the player’s side of things this month – but it seems they may have over shot a bit and landed out among the planes! This time we’re getting material from the ethereal Astral Plane, the roiling chaos of Limbo, and the seasonal extremes of the Feywild with a new race and new subraces for 5th Edition player characters: the Githyanki, Githzerai, and Eladrin!
The Gith, former slaves of the mind flayers and divided into the Githyanki and Githzerai, have been a part of Dungeons and Dragons lore for decades, with the Githyanki famously featuring on the cover of 1st Edition AD&D’s Fiend Folio. They haven’t always been available as player characters, but with this UA they’re making their charge for 5th Edition. The Gith, being the actual new race, is rather straightforward. Standard Speed, standard language load-out of Common plus their own tongue, that sort of thing. They do get a +1 to Intelligence, though, which puts the species as a whole into candidacy for playing Wizards.
The Githyanki subrace then goes on to gain a +2 to Strength. They gain an extra language of their choice, as well as an extra skill/tool proficiency of their choice, thanks to Decadent Mastery. They gain proficiency with light and medium armors because of Martial Prodigy. Githyanki Psionics lets them use the mage hand cantrip, adding the jump spell at 3rd level and misty step at 5th level. Intelligence is used for these abilities.
The Githzerai subrace instead gain a +2 to Wisdom. Their Monastic Training grants them +1 to AC so long as they are not wearing medium or heavy armor and not using a shield. Their Githzerai Psionics also let them use the mage hand cantrip, but their 3rd and 5th level spells are shield and detect thoughts respectively. Githzerai cast these magical abilities using Wisdom.
The basics of the Gith are solid; there’s nothing fancy, but the addition of another race that’s always going to get the boost to Intelligence is quite welcome. As for the subraces, both seem very focused along certain paths, which makes a certain amount of sense considering the lore of their respective cultures. The Githyanki’s +2 Strength is going to lean them towards martial classes, or at least more martial builds of magic users, particularly with their added armor proficiencies. They do get a little more flexibility with a language and skill of their choice, though. Githzerai, meanwhile, are almost stereotypically leaning towards Monk . . . but that’s been the case for a long time across multiple editions, and with their +2 Wisdom there could be a few quirky ‘zerai who go the way of the Cleric or Druid, maybe.
The Psionics abilities are interesting. They’re structured along the same path as the infernal magic of a Tiefling, and as Mike Mearls explicitly calls out in the video attached to the article they’re meant to showcase the natural psionic abilities of the race through the use of existing cantrips and spells. They’re appropriate for their respective subraces, and we know the power level works thanks to the Tiefling model, but it’s an interesting way to do it. I kind of want to build some Gith Mystics now to see how they work out.
Final thoughts on the Gith? Like any race or subrace that gets a +2 to a characteristic, the Gith have a definite feeling of slight inflexibility, or more charitably a definite feeling of preferences. They’re overall solid, though, and accomplish the feat of establishing a feel for the race/subraces without much in the way of new rules, which makes them more likely to function. I think they’ll definitely need some playtesting to see how well they interact with other options on the table, but I think they’ll be alright.
The Eladrin haven’t been around as long as the Gith have, but they’ve got a decent pedigree of their own from first appearing as part of 2nd Edition AD&D’s Planescape setting. They’ve wandered a bit since then, eventually making their way to player character-hood in every edition since. In 4th Edition they were there at the start as a core race in the first Player’s Handbook. Now, escaping from the 5th Edition DMG to try and become a fully usable option, they’re a subrace of Elves.
As the subrace of Elves that live in the Feywild, the Eladrin get everything that all Elves get. In addition they gain a +1 to either Intelligence or Charisma, whichever the player chooses. They have the ability to Fey Step, teleporting up to 30 feet once per rest, their signature 4e ability. With Shifting Seasons they gain a cantrip determined by what season they align with, which they can choose to change at the end of every rest. Autumn gains friends, Winter gains chill touch, Spring gains minor illusion, and Summer gains fire bolt. The Eladrin use either Intelligence or Charisma for these cantrips, whichever is higher.
The most interesting thing about the Eladrin, though, is a roleplaying device: the Four Seasons. As appropriate for the extremes of the Feywild in which they live, the Eladrin have four broad emotional states, each tied to a season. When struck with a moment of contentment, sorrow, joy, or wrath the Eladrin’s personality shifts to the seasons of Autumn, Winter, Spring, and Summer respectively. Each season carries with it separate tables for both Personality Traits and Flaws, although of course you could create your own for either option. At the player’s discretion, when they feel their character is feeling the right emotions and falling into the correct mindset, change which season they’re tied to and thus change their defining personality trait and flaw. What you get is a character of shifting and intense emotions and actions, as fickle as the fey from any old story.
Honestly? I think they nailed it with the Eladrin. They’re extremely flexible both mechanically and narratively, and I can see them playing a wide variety of classes. Four Seasons is a very interesting roleplaying tool, and the entire subrace is packed with flavor. Plus, if you watch the video in the article, you can plainly see that Mearls is quite excited about the Eladrin; that’s exactly the kind of enthusiasm we should want in our game designers.
While only time (and playtesting) will tell for sure if these options actually get published, this time I’d wager that they will, potential minor tweaks aside. Obviously, you shouldn’t take my word for it. Take a look at them yourselves, and make some characters (there might be a Meet the Party in the future, we’ll see). Try not to get lost in the Astral Sea, Limbo, or Feywild, but if you do maybe you’ll get lucky enough to find some Gith or Eladrin adventurers to help you home.